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Nathan Oelker

"PROOF of Heaven" debunked by SCIENCE

Proof will anger many people

Eben Alexander’s book “Proof of Heaven” is proof of hallucination, not Heaven, according to Michael Shermer at “Scientific American,” in a hilarious comment that’s adding to the criticism of this interesting publishing phenomenon.

Alexander, a neurosurgeon, who wrote a book claiming a trip to Heaven occurred while he was in a coma caused by E. coli bacterial meningitis, has had some success with “Proof of Heaven,” with space in a “Newsweek” story and shows like “Fox & Friends” to lend him a platform. However, the story behind Alexander’s trip and his qualification as a neurosurgeon—a career detail that’s supposed to legitimize his claim—and questions of accuracy have been brought into question by a combination of other investigators.

Aside from deciphering the fact that Alexander’s experience was a case of “hallucination, not heaven,” Esquire writer Luke Dittrich also calls into question not exactly what Alexander experienced, but how he experienced it. Additionally when delving into Alexander’s reputation as a neurosurgeon, several legal troubles are uncovered. The most damaging is perhaps from a doctor who was on duty in the ER when Alexander arrived in 2008. Dr. Laura Potter describes how she “had to make the decision to just place him in a chemically-induced coma.” But that’s not how Alexander relates the tale.

In “Proof of Heaven,” Alexander describes the E. coli coma, but there is no indication in the book that it was Laura Potter or that it was her, and not the bacterial meningitis, that caused his coma or whether the physicians maintained his coma in the days that followed through the use of anesthetics.

Alexander also describes how his mind was basically decaying during this time, leaving him with an “all-but-destroyed brain.” Alexander argues that with his mind not working correctly, he was not conscious and therefore able to travel to different realms like Heaven. Basically, he argues that his brain was not capable of conjuring dreams or hallucinations.

Potter comments that the manic, agitated state displayed by Alexander, occurring whenever he was weaned off anesthetics during his first days of coma, would meet her definition of conscious. “Conscious but delirious,” she says.

Alexander though, unsurprisingly, asks Dittrich not to bring up discrepancies in the story. The neurosurgeon turned author’s Twitter account has been silent, but he affirmed to the “Today” show that he stood by “every word” in the book and criticized the “Esquire” story as “cynical” and “cherry-picked.”

“Stealth Wear” can combat future surveillance

Adam Harvey’s counter-surveillance fashion could be in your future wardrobe

“Stealth Wear” could become the newest, must-have fashion item as drones, advances in facial recognition technology, and the introduction of devices like Google Glass proliferate or attain frightening ubiquity. The recent leaks concerning clandestine government surveillance attributed to Edward Snowden, are only adding to the controversy that could make counter-surveillance fashion a crucial component of your future wardrobe.

Enter Adam Harvey, an artist and design professor at the School of Visual Arts and an early creator of stealth wear, acknowledges that that counter-surveillance clothing sounds like something from a science fiction novel, however, “The science-fiction part has become a reality,” according to Harvey, “and there’s a growing need for products that offer privacy.”

Here are the details on Harvey’s counter-surveillance clothing: his garments include a series of hoodies and cloaks that use reflective, metallic fabric that has been repurposed to reduce a person’s thermal footprint. In theory, this limit’s a person’s visibility to aerial surveillance vehicles that utilize heat-imaging cameras to track people on the ground.

Harvey has also developed a purse with extra-bright LEDs that can be activated when someone is the subject of unwanted photography—the effect produces a washed-out blur to ruin intrusive photographs. Finally, Harvey has also created instructions for hair and makeup styling that might keep a camera from identifying someone beneath an elaborate disguise. This technique is known as CV Dazzle, from “computer vision” and dazzle,” a type of camouflage used during World War II to disrupt detection on the size and shape of warships.

Harvey has likened his work and related work of others, to the inclusion of rivets in denim jeans. “That was a practical way of making them more durable,” Harvey said. And just as denim was developed as a durable fabric for miners to wear, Harvey says that stealth wear, “is an updated way of thinking about making your clothes more resistant to your environment and adapting them to protect you a little bit more.”

Harvey’s creations have not yet been thoroughly tested by intelligence firms or security experts, and most are still concepts unprepared for mass production. However, he says he hopes that awareness of his designs might “empower you to control your identity a little more.”

In addition to Harvey, the National Institute of Informatics in Japan has developed a visor outfitted with LEDs, whose light remains invisible to the wearer but blinds camera sensors and blurs the details of the wearer’s nose and eyes better than a pair of sunglasses. Also, Todd Blatt, a mechanical engineer in New York, is working on a lens cap accessory for people who don’t want to be recorded while interacting with someone who is wearing Google Glass.

However, currently there isn’t much of a market or demand for these products, and dreams of protecting people this way are outpacing current physical realities. Additionally, the fact that people are walking around wearing these interesting garments involves more discussion for the societal impact on communities and cities. In the end, it’s all really interesting stuff that can hopefully be utilized if we can’t turn back the tide of intrusive personal privacy violations.
 

Edward Snowden silent no more: Releases first statements in eight days

Snowden attacks the Obama administration from his hideout in Moscow

Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs, has broken his silence with a letter to the Ecuadorian government where he threatened to release more information. This marks the first time that the world has heard from Snowden since he fled to Moscow from Hong Kong over a week ago.

Snowden, in his letter, accused the Obama administration of deception in an effort to prevent him from locating political asylum and for also “leaving me a stateless person” by revoking his U.S. passport.

Snowden’s letter, which was undated and surfaced through WikiLeaks, was sent to President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, one of the countries where Snowden is currently seeking asylum.

Correa said in an interview published on the Guardians website on Monday that giving Snowden a temporary pass to fly to Moscow was “a mistake on our part” and that Snowden was now Russia’s problem.

“Are we responsible for getting him to Ecuador? It’s not logical,” Correa said.

In his letter, Snowden blasted the U.S. government for trying to illegally prosecute him for revealing Prism, the NSA’s electronic surveillance program, and made it clear that he would not be silenced.

“While the public has cried out support of my shining a light on this secret system of injustice, the Government of the United States of America responded with an extrajudicial man-hunt costing me my family, my freedom to travel, and my right to live peacefully without fear of illegal aggression,” Snowden wrote.

“I remain free and able to publish information that serves the public interest,” Snowden said in his letter.

“No matter how many more days my life contains, I remain dedicated to the fight for justice in this unequal world. If any of those days ahead realize a contribution to the common good, the world will have the principles of Ecuador to thank.”

Snowden’s letter also lashed out at President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden for pressuring Ecuador to deny him asylum.

“This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile,” he said.

“Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right,” Snowden said. “A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum … Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.”

Nanda Chitre, U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman, rejected Snowden’s allegation that he was marooned, “since he is still a United States citizen and his country is willing to take him back. As the State Department has already said, the U.S. government is prepared to issue individuals wanted on felony charges a one entry travel document to return home,” she said.

A GLOBAL CHASE
Snowden’s pursuance has had more action and turns so far than the best thriller one could hope to write. Snowden currently faces charges of espionage in the United States, and he’s still believed to be staying in a transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. He went to Russia after leaving Hong Kong, which is where he went after first fleeing Hawaii.

Now the question is where he will go next, and there are several clues. WikiLeaks, who has taken up his cause, released another statement saying that Snowden was asking for asylum in several countries, including Russia, China, Brazil, India, Ireland, Iceland and Ecuador.

Despite the high profile of the final request, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador was quoted as saying that his country could not consider granting asylum unless Snowden was on Ecuadorian territory.

WikiLeaks also said on Monday that Snowden has prepared more requests, for countries including Austria, Bolivia, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela. These documents were given to a Russian official at Sheremetyevo and delivered to their respective embassies in Moscow.

Unemployment situation gets better: Good news for Millennials

By better, I mean the rate fell, not that it increased—it improved from an objective perspective

Let’s break this down into two easy categories:

NEWS:

The situation is improving…slowly, because stuff is moving…slowly
Because some weekly economic reports have been encouraging, U.S. factories are making more orders of stuff to sell. Spending at retail businesses rose in May, showing that people are spending more on said stuff. Consumer confidence is also at its highest point in 5 ½ years, so people feel good about buying stuff. Higher home sales and prices are signaling a steady housing recovery, and that people feel better about buying houses as containers for their stuff.

NUMBERS:

Unemployment benefits are being sought by less people as of last week, moving positively with a recently moderate pace of jobs growth. The number of unemployment benefit seekers fell 9,000 to a seasonally adjusted 346,000 last week, demonstrating that the job market is still improving.

Additionally, the Commerce Department said consumer spending increased 0.3 percent last month, after a revised 3.0 percent drop in April (formerly thought to be 0.2 percent). So now the country’s reached a stage of retrospective equilibrium in regards to sluggish movement.

The four-week average for new claims, which irons out week-to-week volatility, declined 2,750 to 345,750 according to the Labor Department, which neared the 338,000 five-year low that the average touched last month.

Employers also added 175,000 jobs in May, almost matching the per mensem gain for the past year. The unemployment rate was 7.6 percent, down from 8.2 percent a year later, and steady job gains could help the economy expand later this year, because growth was only 1.8 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter, down from a previous estimate of 2.4 percent.

Steady job gains could help the economy expand later this year. Growth was only 1.8 percent at an annual rate in the first quarter, the government said Wednesday, down from a previous estimate of 2.4 percent.

The capitalistic cycle of stuff is continuing, so rest-assured that you will still be able to find stuff and get money to buy more stuff for your stuff.
 

Samuel Otero accused of sending nude pix to ex-roommate’s family

If “Otero” doesn’t ring a bell, it will after you read this

Samuel Otero has an unintentional good lesson for the rest of us: be careful who you sign a lease with, and think harder before exchanging your nude pictures to a roommate for free rent.

As insane as it might sound, a man in Lake County, Florida finally learned this lesson after he moved out from the apartment he shared with Otero last August. According to police, Otero started texting the victim constantly after the latter left in a display of annoying harassment.

Otero proceeded to send the nude pictures to the victim’s co-workers and girlfriend. According to CFNews13.com, police said that Otero even left one of the naked photos in the victim’s grandmother’s car.

As if these events weren’t insane enough, the crazy really converged on Monday when Otero threatened a murder-suicide, planning to shoot the victim and himself if the two couldn’t be together.

Otero was finally arrested on Tuesday on charges of stalking, and later released on $5,500 bond. While this certainly makes for a good cautionary tale, there are some much better ones out there.

For example, in England this past March, James White, a student at the University of York, was banned from pet ownership for eight years after drunkenly frying up his roommate’s hamster.

Second, in Florida last December, Thomas Hahn was arrested for allegedly shooting his roommate dead in their Volusia County home during an argument over the correct method of pork chop preparation.

Finally, last May, Alexander Kinyua, 21, a student at Morgan State University achieved Dahmer-like status when he admitted to murdering his roommate Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie, then eating his brain and heart.

Boston Marathon bomber suspect indicted by grand jury

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces 30 counts

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been indicted on 30 criminal counts by a federal grand jury, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. The jury has charged Tsarnaev for killing four people and using handmade bombs. 19 of the 30 counts carry the possibility of the death penalty.

Tsarnaev is one of two ethnic Chechen brothers accused of orchestrating the double bombings on April 15 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The Tsarnaevs are accused of setting off two homemade pressure-cooker bombs amid the crowd of thousands. The explosions killed three people and injured at least 264.

The Tsarnaevs laid low for three days afterward as the authorities reviewed tips and surveillance footage, but were formally identified after the FBI released photos on April 18 with the hope of obtaining public assistance.

The fourth murder victim was a university police officer, who died in a gun fight with the Tsarnaevs on April 19 as authorities rushed to apprehend them. Tamerlan died after that gunfight, just hours before his brother’s arrest. Police took Dzhokhar into custody on April 19 after finding him hiding in a boat in the backyard of a home in nearby Watertown, Massachusetts.

Tamerlan was buried in a rural Virginia cemetery, after a large amount of secrecy and protest.

Dzhokhar, who was badly injured in the gun battle that killed his brother, has been held in a prison hospital west of Boston since his capture.
 

Levitating magician Dynamo: Sorry everyone, it was only an illusion

Levitation also subject to lame, crowd-sourced investigation

Extremely sorry to disappoint all the kids out there who aspire to perform magic for professional employment upon reaching adulthood, but the recent levitation stunt by Dynamo, the magician who appeared to levitate alongside a double-decker bus in London earlier this week, was in fact, not really levitating.

This is what we call, an illusion by Dynamo, hence the reason that people in this entertainment profession are often called “illusionists.”

Not “allusionists,” get your vowels right.

Anyway, people who had much more time on their hands than I do participated in and/or coordinated a crowdsourced investigation on Australia’s news.com.au Facebook page to analyze the stunt, which was sponsored by Pepsi Max. This is what the digital snooping revealed: Dynamo’s “arm” was actually a steel prosthetic fastened to the top of the bus. A harness was used to lift Dynamo into position, and his hand was hidden from view by being tucked inside.

Furthermore, a video of the stunt was dissected as well for tell-tale details.

“His fingers don’t move in the clip and there are no people around when he hovers up and down the bus,” the work stated. “In fact, at second glance the arm attached to the bus looks pretty phony.”

Um, ya think?

And of course, Dynamo’s not the first entertainer to do such things. Johan Lorbeer, a German illusionist and street performer has been hanging off structures in many types of interesting locations, including the sides of buildings since 2002.

A photo of one of Lorbeer’s fake arms was displayed to back this up, but like magicians do, Dynamo refuses to tell his “secret.”

But it’s still astounding how with all millions of potential viral videos on the web, this one ends up making the big splash despite its lameness. But hey, if Nik Wallenda can get so much attention by walking on a wire, then there’s all kinds of room for more bus-hangers, hand-walkers, hot air balloonists, or monkey dog-riders.

In fact, just adding the “-ist” suffix to your title can draw attention. Try that as well. At any rate, this droll attempt for attention in our obessively, ADHD culture will certainly help Dynamo make a wider name for himself for about three minutes.

Pot-fed pigs lead to "higher" quality ham

Weed feed diet experimentation done in Washington state

Pot-fed pigs lead to “higher” quality ham

Weed feed diet experimentation done in Washington state

Customers grunt and snort waiting for it, but these aren’t regular potheads who make pig noises when under the influence, these are actual pigs. Pig farmer Jeremy Gross and Seattle butcher William von Schneider have been feeding this experiment which has been fueled by the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington state.

“He’s like ‘let’s see what kind of flavor it gives it.’ So we ran it and it gave good flavor,” Gross said. “It’s like anything else, what you feed them is what they’re going to taste like. It’s almost like a savory alfalfa-fed cow or alfalfa-fed pig.”

These cuts of pot-fed pig are selling for premium prices at von Schneidau’s Seattle Pike Place Market butcher shop: $17 a pound for bacon and $16.90 a pound. At the shop, cuts from the pot pigs are marked with a marijuana leaf image.

And while pot legalization inspired this flavor test, it’s also an experiment in recycling and sustainability. The pigs are fed marijuana excess—roots, stems, and other parts not used for consumption—from a medical marijuana dispensary, thereby utilizing von Schneidau’s belief in locally-sourced, sustainable food.

The pig’s diet has also provided the perfect platform to promote these ideas, as the pigs’ diet has also attracted international attention. A German television crew documented a recent weed feed drug delivery for the for a science show, and Gross hosted their presence while von Schneidau has already been interviewed by them several times.

Sustainability is practiced by both men. Gross’ pigs at his farm were being fed recycled byproduct even before the current practice. In fact, the only way he can make a profit with his pigs is through free food he collects from a local distillery and brewery. Gross dishes out barrels of distillery wheat “mash” every day, mixed with a fortification of a veterinarian-created nutrient mix. And with the state-legalized system in place, it provides a great outlet for spare pot parts.

“Absolutely, it’s a good opportunity to help people get rid of their waste,” said von Schneidau, who wants to start a privately-owned mobile slaughterhouse.

However, the meat won’t get people high. Sorry, but it’s only a flavor infusion.

But how does it taste?

“It tastes like the best pork chop you’ve ever had,” said Matt McAlman, who runs Top Shelf Organic, the dispensary providing the pig’s weed feed.

But while this topic and word-play are fun, John P. McNamara, a professor at Washington State University’s Department of Animal Sciences, doesn’t find the activity humorous.

“Of all the crazy things I’ve seen in my 37-plus years, this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said, adding that the federal government must sign off on such a practice after extensive review. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to its website, “approves the additives or drugs that are used in feed products.”

However, while the FDA must do so for animals that will be part of the food supply, Gross is only feeding the marijuana mix to three pigs. And according to him, there are no apparent effects on the pigs, saying that “already all pigs do is sleep and eat.”

Nelson Mandela on life support

Mandela subject of prayers and vigils for the South African people

Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid leader and former president, is reported to be on life support in a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa. Mandela has been battling a recurring lung infection since his hospitalization on June 8, but government spokesperson Mac Maharaj has decline to comment on Mandela’s condition, citing doctor-patient confidentiality.

Since Sunday, authorities have described Mandela’s condition as critical, and President Jacob Zuma has even canceled his visit to Mozambique, where he was supposed to attend a summit, after visiting Mandela Wednesday night.

“Doctors are doing everything possible to ensure his well-being and comfort,” said Zuma in Johannesburg. Describing his visit, he added, “Given the hour he was already asleep. We were there, looked at him, saw him and then we had a bit of discussion with the doctors and his wife. I don’t think I’m in a position to give further details. I’m not a doctor.”

Wishes and prayers are also being sent toward Mandela, with candlelight vigils being held outside the hospital for the 94-year-old founding father of South Africa’s multiracial democracy. The attendees have also hung balloons and stuffed animals within view, and the nation remains on edge as police barricade the street leading to the hospital’s main entrance.

Signs of support and sadness are also being displayed. “We need you!” says one. “We love you tata, get well soon!” says another, using the Xhosa word for father to refer to Mandela.

“He’s going to feel a lot better when he sees these signs,” said David Manaway, Mandela’s grandson-in-law, who came to collect some items on Wednesday.

Mandela became an international figure against oppression as he spent 27 years in prison for protesting against apartheid, South Africa’s former legal system of racial segregation overseen by minority white rule. He was released in 1990, and elected as the country’s first black president in 1994, the same year that the nation’s final all-whites parliament voted itself out of existence.

Mandela has faded from the spotlight since then, retiring from public life in 2004, but the 1993 Nobel Prize-winner remains immensely popular as a hero of worldwide democracy. Mandela has not been seen in public since the July 2010 World Cup soccer final in South Africa, and has been hospitalized four times since December, mainly for a pulmonary condition that has affected him for years.

“He is our hero. He is my mentor, my father. He is everything to me,” said Kuda Nyahumzvi. “But when it is his time, we wish his soul could just rest. He spent so long in jail and struggling.”

Chris Wakube, upon urging by his mother, brought a card for Mandela. He said, “We are in the midst of history, and I want to be there, to be part of what will happen to our grandfather. He has done everything for us.”

While South Africans pray for the best, Mandela’s family and the South African government are hoping for an easy and dignified transition. An archbishop stopped by the hospital and conducted prayers, calling for “a quiet night and peaceful, perfect end” for Mandela.

“Fill them with your holy courage and gift of trusting faith, and take away their fears so that they may dare to face their grief,” said Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, who joined Mandela’s family at the hospital. “And uphold all of us with your steadfast love so that we may be filled with gratitude for all the good that he has done for us and for our nation, and may honor his legacy through our lives.”

Currently however, funeral arrangements are not part of the discussion for Mandela, who turns 95 in July.

Daaa Blackhawks: Victory and Amazing Aftermath

Hawks return to Chicago for Stanley Cup celebrations

With the score tied one-to-one at the end of the second period of Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, things were extremely suspenseful for Chicago’s beloved Hawks as they fought the Boston Bruins for their second championship in two years.

But then the magical third began, and in a stunning turnaround in front of a crowd of 17,565 on enemy ice, the Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland scored two goals in seventeen seconds to become the new titans of American hockey. These idols of the ice crushed the Bruins chances for the Cup, and Patrick Kane was also crowned as the reigning MVP.

The aftermath in Chicago was so awesome that ecstatic fans went on looting rampages throughout the city. 23 people were arrested and Ald. Michele Smith says that 31 businesses were damaged by the jubilant revelers, but for the most part, like near Wrigley Field, the crowds of thousands were basically peaceful.

Meanwhile in the suburbs, neighbors of Coach Joel Quenneville TP’d his Hinsdale home in celebration. The same thing happened three years ago, and again he took it in stride, getting out of his limousine, shaking hands, and taking pictures with local well-wishers.

Finally the victors landed at O’Hare around 4:00am this morning, greeted by crowds scarcely held back. The celebration proceeded from the airport to Rosemont where the Hawks partied with fans, then to The Scout bar in the South Loop for a private party with their families. On 13th and Wabash the brown paper-covered windows did little to deter fans from a glimpse of Chicago’s renewed heroes.

The Rahm Emmanuel took a ride to The Scout as well, and was graceful to the defeated in our collective victory: “The City of Chicago is thrilled to congratulate our own Chicago Blackhawks on their hard-fought victory, once again bringing the Stanley Cup back to their sweet home Chicago. Our best wishes go out to the Bruins and the city of Boston for a well-played series. In the past few months, the people of Boston have showed how they can pull together and the Bruins have represented that same spirit, demonstrating what makes Boston a truly world-class city…The City of Big Shoulders stood shoulder to shoulder with the Blackhawks all season and we are all looking forward to welcoming them home as champions.”

The hockey gods are certainly looking down upon their humble, Big-Shouldered, Chi-town servants this sacred Tuesday, blessing our humid, rain-battered, gray-clouded city with their ethereal grace in preparation to the big Friday victory bash announced by Emmanuel.