Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

Archive for the 'People' Category

New column for the CSI: Counterclockwise

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I started to write a new column for the renewed website of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, a great honor as CSICOP was one of the initiatives that led me to write, among other things, this very blog (and a major skeptical website in Brazil). And as a Brazilian, I will try to write more about things around here, thus the title, ‘Counterclockwise’, referring to a common misconception. Water can drain counterclockwise in this hemisphere.

For my first column, I wrote about the photo above. The man in sunglasses is Francisco “Chico” Xavier, one of the most respected mediums and religious leaders in Brazil. What seems to be simply someone covered in a white sheet in the center is allegedly the ectoplasmic materialization of sister Josefa. Yes, we had materialization seánces taken very seriously in Brazil in the 1960s. And they are still taken seriously by many.

Be sure to read the whole story about Spiritualism in Brazil: Alive and Kicking.

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“My name is Darwin, not Darlose!”

Dana Carvey is "DARWIN"

“DARWIN: First came action-packed Sherlock Holmes now comes action-packed Darwin. From Dana Carvey & Spike Feresten’s new show ‘Spoof.’”

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Secret UN meeting about aliens? Exopolitics exposed

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Our cosmic ambassador being spanked… and enjoying it? First things first. A couple of years ago, the news of “a secret meeting that allegedly occurred at the New York office of the United Nations discussing UFOs/extraterrestrial life” made the rounds, publicized by Michael Salla of the Exopolitics movement.

This story has now been exposed, and quite entertainingly, from an exemplary piece of critical investigation to the wonders – and dangers – of the digital age on privacy. Don’t miss the whole investigation on Reality Uncovered, by Stephen Broadbent. Here’s a summary:

It all started with Clay Pickering claiming he had attended a classified Navy meeting. He posted two photos of the event he himself had taken. Most importantly, “our source was there”, Pickering wrote.

This source is “Source A”, the allegedly “active-duty officer in the United States Navy with a long and illustrious career, spanning nearly 40 years at sea” who, “liaises with Extra Terrestrial races on behalf of the UN”. You read that right, Source A is our cosmic ambassador. Or so the story by the Exopolitics crowd goes.

Michael Salla himself replied to Pickering’s message saying Source A was important. Little did they know these little pieces of information would finally expose who Source A was, and just how bad is Exopolitics’ fact-checking.

John JeddyHi” quickly pointed out that this classified event was conducted at the New York Athletic Club with the New York Council of the Navy League. Any non-member who paid $60 could attend. “At least that price included open bar with wine, beer and soft drinks!”, John joked.

Pickering self-aggrandizing story had been exposed almost instantly. But remember, Pickering claimed our cosmic ambassador was also there. And this was a public event of the Navy League, which posted 100 photos of it on their website.

John and now Andy Murray scoured these photos in search of suspects, in “a simple, yet brilliant piece of investigative skill”, as Broadbent nicely put it. They ended up with three suspects. How to find which was “Source A”?

It would not be that hard since Source A has met with several Ufologists. One of them finally pinpointed Source A in this photo. But they still didn’t have a name.

By the lapel pin in that photo, however, they found he was from the New York Naval Order Commandery. Some further investigation and… this piece of writing by Broadbent is just great:

“In an ideal world, a world where scriptwriters make the rules perhaps, he would find another photo of the person identified as being Source A and he would be sporting a name tag. Of course, such things only happen in the movies and poorly written novels, don’t they?

No, no they don’t.”

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Yes, our cosmic ambassador was there last year, wearing a name tag, available on Flickr. Our cosmic ambassador has been found. And he’s Richard Theilmann.

As I repeat: read the whole detailed story on Reality Uncovered, as they go from the identification to finally fact-check Source A’s story with the so many details Theilmann has gladly put on the Internet about his own life, under his own name. That even includes an embarrassing photo of him in a “male slave” outfit being spanked, taken from his myspace account.

This investigation has been publicized a few days ago, and already we have some reactions. First, there’s no doubt they did a wonderful job, and Source A is indeed Richard Theilmann. Pickering and Salla have not refuted and Salla has already implicitly confirmed the identification.

Then, all the holes in Source A story. He is clearly not our cosmic ambassador. Salla grasps for straws and claims that Bruce Maccabee, who by the way, confirmed the identification, had also told that he met Theilmann in his reserved Navy lab, which would mean he was an active-duty officer with security credentials.

Broadbent of RealityUncovered promises to tackle these and other elements in the next installment of the series. I can’t wait to read it.

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Vaccine and Autism: The Facts in the Case

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Darryl Cunningham Investigates, and illustrates, “The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield”. [hat tip to friend Cyntia Beltrão]

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Get your Drunk History right: Nikola Tesla

And the most amazing thing is: it’s all true. [via Strange Attractor]

PS.: Apologies for the lack of updates lately. More posts soon to follow!

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