Monday, November 7, 2011

White House replies to the "Disclosure Petition" - No ETs!

When the Obama administration launched its "We the People" petition program, they probably never expected to get a petition like this. Signers were promised that the administration would give a formal response to any petition gathering 5,000 signatures within 30 days. One of the very first petitions to qualify for a response was the so-called disclosure petition, whose title says "we petition the obama administration to: formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race - Disclosure."

The petition was written by Stephen Bassett of the Paradigm Research Group, who also proclaimed July 8 to be World Disclosure Day. It states,
We, the undersigned, strongly urge the President of the United States to formally acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race and immediately release into the public domain all files from all agencies and military services relevant to this phenomenon.
This goes well beyond a request for simple "disclosure," to release all documents. It presupposes that the U.S. government is involved in ongoing contact with extraterrestrials, and demands that the Obama administration acknowledge that fact. However, the petition quickly gathered enough signatures to qualify, creating a dilemma for the White House. All they can do is deny that they are meeting with extraterrestrials on a daily basis, and the denial further inflames the conspiracy flames. For a government agency to address UFO claims in any way is an automatic no-win situation. If you say they're not a real mystery, and you get a controversy over that. On the other hand, if you say that they are mysterious and challenging, you stir up an even bigger controversy, and many people suspect (quite correctly) that you have been nibbling peyote or something. Read Lee Speigel's Huffington Post article on the petition dilemma.

On Nov. 7, the White House finally issued its response to the Disclosure Petition, which reads, in part:

Thank you for signing the petition asking the Obama Administration to acknowledge an extraterrestrial presence here on Earth.
The U.S. government has no evidence that any life exists outside our planet, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted or engaged any member of the human race. In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public's eye.
As far as I can tell, this response is 100% correct and accurate. However, as you might imagine, this is not going down well in certain places. PRG states simply, "The response was unacceptable." They promise to have more to say about it soon.

The White House's threshold for a petition response has since been raised to 25,000, but the change is not retroactive. However, Bassett was urging his followers to raise the signature count over 25,000 anyway, as a demonstration of their strength. The final signature count was 12,078.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Phoenix Lights Return

On March 13, 1997 the Phoenix Lights became a sensational UFO story, when bright, slowly-falling lights were seen in the sky across the Phoenix metropolitan area, and across much of southern Arizona. They were determined quite definitively to be flares dropped by A-10 Warthog aircraft,  in a training exercise at the Barry Goldwater Range in southwest Arizona. This was actually the second UFO incident reported that evening across Arizona. The first incident, involving a V-shape of lights, may have been aircraft lights, but is in any case not relevant to this discussion. Some UFO promoters deliberately confuse the two, showing the video of the second incident (dramatic but easily explained) while describing the first (less certain identitfication, but no good photos or videos).

On the evening of Friday, Oct. 28, four bright lights in the sky were reported and photographed at a high school football game in Scottsdale, Arizona (Phoenix metropolitan area). The lights were shown by broadcaster Mark Mancuso on Accuweather. The video used to be at , however that video has apparently been pulled (probably because it made Accuweather a laughingstock, and the broadcaster is now in the woodshed). However, as Ian Ridpath notes in a comment below, you can still find that video on the Accuweather website if you search for it another way:

You can also see the "UFOs" in another video below:

It's not hard to see the similarity to the parachuting flares of the Phoenix lights. There was a lot of speculation that these might be flares attached to sky divers, but can we do better than just speculate?

Sometimes a little investigation goes a long way. SkyFOX helicopter pilot Rick Crabbs (Fox Channel 10 in Phoenix)said, "I was at the location where those skydivers were coming in ... Friday night, so that's exactly what happened -- there were some skydivers," he said. "And they did have pyrotechnics on their ankles. There were four of them, and if you look at the video, you can see four different lights."

The skydivers were at an event called the "Halloween Balloon Spooktacular" at the Salt River Fields. Looking at the schedule of activities for that event, we find:
•9:00pm Arizona Skyhawks performance with sky divers in lighted suits and pyrotechnics  

The Arizona Skyhawks are indeed a professional skydiving team that sometimes uses pyrotechnics.

But for some "journalists," wild speculation is more gratifying than a little bit of actual research.