Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Skeptical Look at the 25th Annual International UFO Congress (Part 5)

Promoting the movie, The Phoenix Incident

The movie The Phoenix Incident was being promoted, big time, at the UFO Congress. Dr. Lynn Kitei, the major 'Phoenix Lights' promoter, isn't at all happy about this. By mixing in purely fictional elements of the story with actual photos and accounts, the filmmakers are "muddying the waters" concerning the incident. She and I agree about one thing: This movie will just add to public misinformation and confusion about the 'Phoenix Lights.'

After sunset on Friday: While the conference goers were indoors watching the shaky "found footage" of The Phoenix Incident, the Air National Guard was dropping flares again.

The movie received its premiere public showing at the UFO Congress at the close of the Friday session. It's mostly shaky, dark "found footage," left behind by guys who were eaten by aliens. The plot is: as Comet Hale-Bopp passes Earth, it is followed by a companion object, a UFO, which falls to earth and lands in Arizona. Out pour scary aliens, looking somewhat like the creatures in Alien, who start to eat people. Somehow the military covers it all up. The irony is this: while everyone was inside watching the premiere of this silly movie, the Air National Guard was busy dropping flares again over the Barry Goldwater range. And we didn't see them. Most of the people I spoke with afterward did not think the movie was very good, and doubted that it would have much long-term effect on the public perception of this incident.

Dr. Claude Swanson
Theoretical physicist Dr. Claude Swanson gave a very sciency talk on "What the Science of the Torsion Field Can Teach Us About UFOs." According to Dr. Swanson,
a new force was discovered in the 1950’s in Russia called “torsion,” and a research program was carried out over several decades which confirmed that it is a real force and it needs to be included in modern physics. It can explain many of the puzzles facing modern science, including the levitation of UFOs, paranormal phenomena and faster than light travel. Dr. Swanson’s book Life Force-The Scientific Basis describes some of the evidence for this force.

The torsion force, he said, explains the human Aura. Dr. Swanson's talk also touched on Qigong (which kills cancer cells), orbs (which are probably living beings), acupuncture, remote healing, and remote viewing. It's all in the spin of the electron. Woo-hoo!
Emily Trim

Luigi Vendittelli is a UFO researcher from Montreal. He told of an incident where a woman in Montreal has photographed "beings" at close range. For some reason the Montreal police have the photos, but won't release them. Vendittelli introduced Emily Trim, who in 1994 was one of the schoolchildren involved in the famous Ariel School 'UFO landing' incident in Zimbabwe. She spoke on "E.T. Contacts and the Ariel School Incident." Her talk was highly emotional. She was crying as she spoke of encountering ETs floating above the ground. She said that she fell to her knees before one such being, whose face kept changing between that of an alien, and that of a lion. She has also had a conversation with a magic butterfly.
the super-villain on South Park., "Reality."

The audience liked Ms. Trim's talk so much that they gave her a standing ovation. As for me, I'm too much like that super-villain on South Park, "Reality." I'm sorry, I'm sure that Ms. Trim really believes this rubbish, but there is no "reality" in this. You cannot take seriously the account of someone who is in such a highly emotional state, and relates an impossible story. Powerful emotions obviously override all critical thinking and judgement. Accounts like hers belong to religion, not to science.

(to be continued)

25 comments:

  1. I'm not sure how useful it is to point out that however sincere a witness sounds, his/her story cannot be taken seriously if it's literally unbelievable. The pro-UFO crowd will simply reply that aliens, being alien and all, may communicate with humans in very strange ways, use holograms to disguise their true appearance if humans, especially children, might find it disturbing, etc. etc. etc.

    You would do better to concentrate on the sociological aspects of the case. For example, only a couple of nights before this event, a spectacular nocturnal light-show (probably a meteor) over Zimbabwe had primed the locals to have UFOs very much on their minds.

    Also, it's a part of Africa which until recently was under white rule. Emily Trim herself is white, as were many of the other children at the mixed-race school where the sightings took place. I think you'll find that the surprisingly small number of UFOs reported in Africa over the decades broadly follow the pattern that black Africans without sufficient exposure to white culture to know about flying saucers don't see any.

    On a related note, here's a link to a site where this case is discussed very sympathetically indeed:

    http://www.ghosttheory.com/2014/09/17/ariel-school-alien-sighting-20-years-later

    Scroll down to the children's drawings (which portray both the aliens and the UFO extremely inconsistently). Take a good look at the exceptionally detailed drawing on the right in the second row by a child called Fungei Merengere. Now have a look at this picture:

    http://useduniverse.tumblr.com/post/31736049417/the-invaders-a-quinn-martin-production-1967-1968

    A striking resemblance, no? "The Invaders" on TV (does anybody know whether that show was syndicated to Zimbabwe and airing in 1994?), strange lights in the sky - this has all the ingredients of classic mass hysteria. I can't recall the details, but didn't something almost identical happen at a school in the UK in the seventies?

    And finally, here's another even more sympathetic and much more mystical account of the event:

    http://johnemackinstitute.org/1995/03/exploring-african-and-other-alien-encounters/

    The most important quote is in the third paragraph:

    “At first I thought it was a gardener,” one fourth-grader told us. “Then I realized it was an alien.”

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    1. Broad Haven Primary was the school in Wales that had the reputed 1977 landing. Google it, and note the 'Spock' ears of the alien.

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    2. Someone somewhere reported that John Mack had been very brave to visit the Ariel school, etc. It's in what amounts to an outer suburb of Harare. I checked how scary it was with one of my spies, who happens to live just round the corner from one of Unca Bob's many palaces; he was also a Grey's Scout during the Bush War. He said the place has always been entirely quiet and peaceful, and was so even during the war.

      And actually, despite the depradations of the government and ZANU-PF, members and agents of which are fairly easy to spot, the Shona are overwhelmingly good-humoured, gentle and amiable folk. Relations between whites and Africans are by no means tense—vastly less so than between the Shona and Ndebele, or everyone and ZANU-PF—but tend to be socially distant. So it's indeed likely that the Count is correct in suggesting that Miss Trim and her fellow white pupils were more exposed & predisposed to the UFO subculture than their African peers.

      Just for the record & by the way, Zimbabwe ceased to be Rhodesia and 'under white rule' in late 1979. I wouldn't say that was exactly recently. From the look of the flaming Miss Trim, I'd go so far as to guess she was yet to be born at the time. It would be interesting to see any testimony she's produced earlier, to see if/how it's developed.

      —Peter B

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  2. A genuine question for any Ufologists reading this blog. Why, when it comes to 'UFOs' (which, let's face it, has become a synonym for alien spacecraft),has the 'burden of proof' been completely inverted? By this I mean that the most thorough investigations are being done by the sceptics (ie. the gentleman who produced the 30 page document explaining the RB-47 sighting), whilst the Ufologists seem to present some sort of descriptive account, then appeal to some sort of spurious reasoning like 'the witness is sincere/qualified/consistent 40 years later [Travis Walton. ahem]; or no human craft could fly that fast/be that big/suck plasma from the sun. All this for the past seventy years, with not one shred of verifiable scientific data to back it up.

    I appreciate I'm saying nothing new myself, but glossy magazines or websites full of blurred photos, artist impressions and scientifically illiterate speculations do nothing to give you credibility amongst anyone except those (like myself when I was younger, admittedly; and I still would love to witness alien contact) who enjoy a colourful yarn that speaks of a more colourful universe than that given by the dark voids of the cosmos.

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    1. I think you probably cracked it in your last paragraph. (And I'm sure you recognize the religious implications of your final sentence.) But FWIW the reversal of the burden of proof, along with the both ignorant and illogical leap from unfamiliar-thing-in-sky to visiting alien spacecraft, has been with us since the dawn of ufology. This is partly what makes it so entertaining—and makes skepticism fun, too.

      —Peter B

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  3. I was interested in Luigi's claim that he had seen photos that are a game changer, but cannot get them released so he can show us - he hoped that perhaps next year he will be able to do so. It did not seem to get a lot of buzz. Perhaps the Slides Debacle made people cautious about claims about unreleased photos.

    Emily was emotional and I gave her credit for standing in front of an audience. Yet she should not say much because she was under a nondisclosure agreement until the Ariel Phenomenon movie is released. Randall Nickerson, the filmmaker, was there but he could not say much either because he did not want to spoil things before it was released. It seemed that i was listening to a story that was broken off before the punchline. If I had not been familiar with the incident, and could put the film trailer into perspective, I would have had a hard time knowing what they were talking about.

    I could not tell why Emily was so emotional. Was it the original incident? Was it the events in her life that followed? Did she uncover memories after hypnosis? One "researcher" likes to quote John Mack to the effect that the emotion and trauma is evidence of the reality of the experiences. Yet, some who allegedly uncovered memories of ritual satanic abuse had traumatic experiences that were later shown to be false. Emotion is a gauge of emotion, nothing more.

    Robert may be right in comparing it to a religion. Susan Clancey (Abducted) describes abductees as believig in their memories, going through a highly emotional experience, and being baptized into a new technological religion. Certainly, much that was offered at the IUFOC was more religious than scientific. I thought Emily was an example that could have been right out of the book.

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    1. I'm surprised Robert didn't mention that not one but two movies were being promoted at this conference! Though I suppose if they're reduced to using dismal stuff like "I have proof but unfortunately I can't show it to you because of an evil conspiracy by the Canadian police" to fill the time, you can't really blame them. By the way, are we talking about the actual mounties here? Because if we are, it suddenly becomes a lot funnier.

      "The Phoenix Incident" is of course pure fiction, and by the sound of it, an abysmal potboiler that needs all the publicity it can get, but this "Ariel Phenomenon" epic is as yet an unknown quantity. The IMDb doesn't know it exists, even as a film in production, and Randall Nickerson isn't listed as a director, just as an actor who starred in one obscure short in 2005 (and had walk-on parts in a couple of real movies if Randy Nickerson is the same person). The omens are not good...

      What's even more baffling is Ms. Trim's non-disclosure agreement. These are allegedly real events that happened over 20 years ago and have been written about extensively. I don't recall Tom Hanks being forbidden to talk about "Apollo 13" or "Captain Philips" in case he gave away the ending!

      So do we assume that further investigations have recently taken place into this far-from-recent incident, but not even professional ufologists know the results yet because they were conducted by movie-makers looking for a suitably dramatic conclusion to their narrative?

      Robert, these are the things we should know! However sincere the excitable Emily may be about the reality of her experiences, how much of the investigation was conducted by people who specifically wanted her to tell them a story that would make a good movie?

      It also appears that when the film crew started wandering around Zimbabwe telling everybody they were making a movie and anyone who had seen the aliens 22 years ago could be in it, witnesses who had never spoken up before suddenly came forward after all this time with dramatic new evidence! Gee, who could have predicted that might happen?

      By the way, the inestimable Duke of M is correct to surmise that judging by Emily Trim's photo, she wasn't around in 1979. In fact, a quick google search reveals her current age to be 28. These events happened in 1994. I'm sure you can all do the math, and judge how reliable her memories are likely to be.

      I hope you'll be bringing us further updates, because this looks a lot like Roswell all over again! Assuming of course that their crowdfunding drive succeeds and they raise the $80,000 they still need to finish the film - it seems they went over budget because they underestimated the number of previously unknown witnesses who would miraculously pop up the moment "being in a movie" was mentioned.

      Oh dear, we seem to have a situation where nobody gets to see what the supposedly world-shaking evidence actually amounts to until they've paid a goodly sum. Now where have we heard that before...?

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    2. My Dear Count Otto,

      The "Phoenix incident" movie was being promoted by a large exhibit desk in the vendors' room. It was the only movie with a full-time staff on site to promote it. Other movies were promoted by speakers, but none in such a dramatic fashion.

      Sept. 16, 1994 was 21 1/2 years ago, so Emily was either 6 or 7 at the time. Another good reason to not take her account too seriously.

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    3. "[A] story that was broken off before the punchline."

      Ufology in a nutshell. Maybe it will be carved on its gravestone...

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    4. > emotion and trauma is evidence of the reality of the experiences

      It's much older than Mack. Reading Incident at Exeter, I noticed Fuller constantly emphasizing witness emotions, the implication being this meant they were reacting to something rather than spinning yarns. Fuller also was fond of noting animal reactions (which I label "animal witnesses" in my hand-made indexes). These elements come right out of horror movies. (Another indication of why ufology most often resembles entertainment than science.)

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    5. There is a phase going on now whose proponents stress the importance of believing the stories of people who claim to have had a traumatic experience. The idea that a fantasy-prone personality may gain validity so that we don't appear insensitive may not be the best, most scientific approach.

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  4. Some people like to claim that abduction scenarios are similar, but the difference is in the details. Here, one of the children described a little man, in a shiny black suit, with long black hair. I am not sure how often that long black hair is described, but with at least 57 different alien species being catalogued by Clifford Stone, perhaps there is room for variety.

    In any event, one description states that when John Mack visited Ruwa And questioned the children "many former hidden memories came to light." Somehow, that does not surprise me.

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  5. Thanks scherben, for reminding me of the Broad Haven Primary School incident of 1977. I'd forgotten it was part of the UFO flap known as "The Dyfed Enigma" and/or "The Welsh Triangle", which was later shown to be at least partly a deliberate hoax by two men wandering around in silver firefighting suits for a bit of a laugh.

    I'd like to mention one small detail common to both the Welsh and the African incidents. It was claimed both times that the children must be telling the truth because their drawings were "strikingly similar".

    We've already seen that the African kids drew objects which were only "similar" in the sense that they were all more or less generic flying saucers (including the flying saucer from the TV series "The Invaders"). Now let's see how well the young 'uns from Wales did:

    http://i3.walesonline.co.uk/incoming/article10132764.ece/ALTERNATES/s615b/WA1033284.jpg

    Even if we give the lad at the top left the benefit of the doubt and assume he's got his picture upside down, these are NOT all drawings of the same object! If they are, that boy on the far left definitely needs stronger glasses...

    But, as with that Ariel School business, we've got adults, including a UFO "expert", agreeing that the story holds together because the children are apparently sincere, and making such a big deal out of it that the kids might feel it had gone too far for them to back down (see also the Cottingley Fairies and the Salem Witch Trials).

    Anyway, I've been trying to find out more about this unfinished film. I assumed from the lack of such a basic thing as an IMDb page that it was a new project just getting off the ground, but to my surprise I see it's been in production since 2008.

    So the witnesses, who were between 5 and 12 years old in 1994, were given a brief moment in the limelight, forgotten about for 14 years, and then suddenly reminded of that long-ago space oddity and, in some cases, apparently encouraged to obsess about it for the next 8 years! Is that a recipe for confabulating an utterly scrambled batch of pseudo-memories or what? Especially for the youngest witnesses, such as Emily Trim.

    The director stated way back in 2008 that his primary motivation was not the case itself, but his discovery that there existed 4 hours of raw footage of the late John Mack interviewing the children, which could doubtless be edited into a feature-length film.

    It's now 2016 and he hasn't quite finished yet, but in the meantime his star witnesses have been given plenty of time to rehearse. I assume that since Randall Nickerson is obviously an uncritical follower of John Mack, many of these people will have been hypnotically regressed until stories matching Mack's belief-system emerged?

    Two other little points. One: the aliens just happened to land at a time when, very unusually, there were no teachers around because they were all at a staff meeting - what a hugely unfortunate coincidence!

    Two: the only adult still on duty refused to do anything at all to check out a weird and frightening event allegedly happening close to where 62 kiddies, one of them her own child, were playing, because she felt it was more important to stay where she was and guard the small change and sticky buns in the tuck-shop.

    I can only guess at what really happened on that fateful day, but I have my suspicions that naughty children had a lot more to do with it than extraterrestrials...

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    1. There is a more-or-less 'famous' case from the UK of a 10-or-11-year-old girl's abduction, which is due course accrued all kinds of semi-mystical associations and ramifications, and which was exhaustively researched & reported by one of the UK's definitely more famous UFO investigators, which I happen to know was a prank from start to finish. This went on for years. No question of the Cottingley cousins, just plain, good, secret fun, "O my sides" &c. So praps not naughty schoolchildren or even ones caught in mass hysteria, but maybe kids in quiet stitches, when no one was looking. (I am sure this improved race relations no end, insofar as they needed it.)

      I also strongly suspect that the likes of Mack's and Nickerson's interferences have not been any good for some of the 'witnesses', tearful Miss Trim being the egregious example to hand. It really woulld help if someone could sit down and talk to her for a day or two. I've just had an invite to go back to Zim, but am too skint. Anyone up for crowdfunding (assuming she still lives there), guffaw?

      —Peter B

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    2. PS, Count— Our American cousins may need a gloss on "tuck shop". Long time since I heard that word.

      —Peter B

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    3. Emily has a deep connection to Luigi Vendittelli and they have appeared in at least one other conference together. Since he is a self-described abduction researcher it would not surprise me if hypnosis was used, particularly in regard to her continuing experiences and the messages she receives. Again, it was hard to know the details because of the nondisclosure agreements.

      When she was introduced at the 2014 MUFON symposium it was said that Emily was Canadian so a trip to Zimbabwe is not needed. As an added note, MUFON described the Ruwa event as involving 200 school children but I don't know if that is typical sensationalism or if the numbers are growing.

      Even the 62 figure is interesting. 62 children were playing in the field, but what did they experience? The first investigator, Cynthia Hind, reported that she interviewed 10-12 children. As noted above, by the time John Mack arrived and began his own interviews, former memories came to light. Even if he did not hypnotize the children, questioning alone can induce false memories. It would be interesting to learn more about what was asked and answered.

      Hind also noted that there was disagreement about whether the Saucer landed, but could find no indication that it did.

      The presentation was unsettling, but perhaps not in the way intended. Luigi dangled talk of yet another photo that will change ufology. Emily and Randall never quite got to the point. I felt sorry for Emily in some undefined way that is probably better not to try to write about.

      If the children encountered a little man with long black hair who telepathically warned them not to destroy the planet, then the experience had more in common with the space people of the 50's than the grays and the insect hubrids that followed. In any event, the planet has not gotten better since that time. Perhaps the little men need to land again and tell us that they really mean it: stop polluting now. Maybe Orthon would return as well to tell us to live in peace. I would support that.


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    4. Duke, is the 10 year girl abduction the Gaynor Sunderland case? http://www.ignaciodarnaude.com/avistamientos_ovnis/Randles-Whetnall,UFOs%201976,Wales,U.K.-2,FSR79V25N4.pdf

      Count, if I can just play devil's advocate, the differences in the kids' drawings are to be expected considering the spectacular unreliability of eyewitness recall? Not that I'm giving any of the cases credibility. I think the PSH comes into play here.

      Just out of interest, the three cases of landing near schools (Australia, Wales, Zimbabwe), did the UFO take off again? Or was that detail omitted in all the excitement?

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  6. I thought the Phoenix Incident deserved a comment as well. After seeing your picture of the flares, I am sorry I missed that, but my wife is a movie fan. The picture was along the lines of Blair Witch meets Aliens and a lot of people walked out during the film for good reason.

    Still, it was interesting tracking down the viral aspect of the film, and seeing that a lot of people have taken things set up for the marketing far more seriously than it deserves. So perhaps there is some grounds for thinking it just muddies the water even more.

    Maricopa Missing has confused some about the reality of the four hikers featured in the film.

    In fact, some have described it as a drama documentary that is said to recreate actual events.

    A video was released supposedly showing newly released classified footage. The video that is linked on that side has been removed, but its probably the same one that is seen here.

    In any event, the UFO Chronicles caught up with the story and exposed it/ I just don;t know how I missed out on it. Perhaps because I tune out whenever Phoenix Lights are mentioned.

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  7. While trying to find out a bit more concerning these odd goings-on, I discovered an interview recorded last May by Luigi Vendittelli which gave the full story of those elusive "game-changing" photos. I think it's worth sharing.

    Leaving out the extraneous details, it seems that early one morning in 2010, an unidentified woman in Montreal discovered a 3-foot-tall praying mantis lurking outside her front door in the hallway of her apartment building. As you do.

    Because a few days earlier she'd locked herself out and had to force the door with a crowbar, there was a narrow gap in the doorframe. This detail is important because it was through this aperture that she photographed the alien arthropod, being naturally reluctant to open the door.

    By the way, no spaceships were involved, and the woman assumed it was a demon. However, Luigi V knows from his abductees that some aliens are insectoids, therefore it must have been from space, not Hell.

    Anyway, the witness reported this thing to the police, producing as evidence 14 photos, 5 of which are supposedly pretty good, though given that they were taken in such an awkward way, it must be hard to be absolutely sure that there wasn't somebody else out there holding the dummy alien/demon in various positions.

    Anyway, the Montreal police understandably did precisely nothing. A couple of years later, Luigi V was contacted in his capacity as a MUFON investigator by a cop with ufological leanings. MUFON subsequently investigated the pictures for two years and pronounced them genuine.

    Unfortunately, while the lady is quite happy to show the photos to individual MUFON investigators and other True Believers, she feels that her privacy will somehow be compromised or something if she allows the whole world to see them.

    And since the Montreal police force were involved because an official complaint had been made, even though the circumstances were downright surreal, they were obliged to point out that if these photos are ever promulgated or digitally copied without the owner's permission, they'll be forced to treat it as a crime because that's the law, even if they know it's stupid.

    And that's the story of the unseen mystery pictures - watch this space! Though don't hold your breath. The anonymous photographer has been teasing MUFON with the possibility of releasing the photos for at least a year now. Almost as if she knows that once the critical faculties of the whole world are focused on them, they'll go down in flames within hours, and she's putting off the day of reckoning for as long as possible...?

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  8. Thanks to the Count for filling in some of the background. Nobody at the conference seemed like they were holding their breath waiting for the photos. Maybe MUFON does not want to see them released because they would prove that aliens are actually demons rather than the other way around.

    On a related note, the more I thought about Ruwa, the more I wondered about the message that the children telepathically received: to stop polluting the earth. We will ever only get so far discussing the event. Unless Nickerson is willing to release the raw footage of the Mack interviews, we will only have an edited story telling his version of the event. And even with we were given more, it is something we would have to accept as a matter of faith or reject as unproven. Believers will continue to believe. Skeptics will be skeptical. And we would end up debating whether Mack's involvement got us any further to the truth.

    But we can look at what the underlying message. The presenters at the IUFOC talked about the event being life-changing for the children. If a small creature with long black hair emerged from a craft and told me that humans should stop polluting the earth, what would I do with that?

    Would I go to a UFO conference or work in an environmental movement? Would I sign a nondisclosure agreement for a movie or start a project to bring alternative energy and sustainable resources to Zimbabwe?

    But the responsibility does not lie solely with a group who were children at the timely. Are people who believe that contact occurred in Ruwa more likely to work to stop global warming? Should UFO conferences focus on Occupy rather than Disclose? Or do people think the message is a false flag designed to lure us into new age complacency while hubrids take over the planet?

    I would be impressed if the Ariel Phenomenon film documented how contactees took the underlying message and devoted their lives to saving the planet. I could probably find common ground with them over that. I would even have contributed to an Ariel environmental restoration project for Zimbabwe. But nothing was said about that at the IUFOC.

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    1. "If a small creature with long black hair emerged from a craft and told me that humans should stop polluting the earth, what would I do with that?"

      Assume Al Gore had become a fully fledged hippy?

      Seriously, if any event even closely resembling those described happened, well, insert your own 'I'll do whatever' clause. More likely, Mack transferred his own (well meaning, I've no doubt) ideology across to malleable minds.

      The demon idea's even more unhinged than the ETH one.

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  9. I wonder why these UFO Congresses still take place. True, there will always be plenty of people interested in the subject, but has anything really new emerged in, say, the last 10 years, or maybe even in the last 30 years? We seem to regurgitate the same old themes as in the distant past - which is as good indication as any that the subject is dead in the water (or should I say dead in the sky?)

    Does any other country still host UFO conferences these days?

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  10. I wrote a review of the movie - https://iscfc.net/2016/04/20/the-phoenix-incident-2015/. I wouldn't mind the subject matter if the film itself had been even slightly better.

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  11. A propos the Ariel School event, Gilles Fernandez has just produced an interesting paper, at

    http://skepticversustheflyingsaucers.blogspot.fr/2016/06/rencontre-rapprochee-ariel-school-ruwa.html

    Tiz in French, but a Google Translate button is included. Be warned: Goodle thinks the English for "interview" in French is "maintenance".

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Interviews. Might fly?

    —Peter B

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