; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fortean / Alternative News: Tasmania UFO Mystery, 'Majority Report' Reality and Saint's Head Sold

Tasmania UFO sighting remains a mystery

A Tasmanian man has described as "spooky" an unexplained flashing object he saw in the night sky above Launceston last week.

The lights flashed white and green for several minutes before turning out in the sky high above the tree line, he told the Launceston Examiner.

Brendon Hill first saw the flashing lights above Mayfield on Thursday night from his backyard balcony at Riverside.

He then witnessed the same lights on Saturday night.

"On Thursday I dragged my three mates outside to show them and they were bewildered - none of them could describe what they saw or could come up with an explanation of what it was," Mr Hill said.

Mr Hill looked at the site of the flashing lights through his binoculars the next day and said he could not see anything that would generate the same pulsing light.

"There are no buildings or towers in that area that could generate that much light - it was very strange how I couldn't see anything during the day," he said.

On Saturday about 9pm Mr Hill saw the flashing lights again and this time caught them on his video camera.

"It made my hair stand up on my neck," he said.

"It seems so unhuman, it doesn't resemble anything I have seen before and after seeing it with my own eyes it feels very spooky."

A Bureau of Meteorology Launceston spokesman said no sightings of Mr Hill's description were reported to the office.

However, there were reports of the Aurora Australis - or southern lights - which sends bright green and red lights flashing across the sky .

"The Aurora is more of a swirling, wave-like look across the whole sky: it does not sounds like his description," the spokesman said.

Launceston Air Traffic Control also did not have any reportings of the lights.

The Australian Defence Department was unable to comment.

Mr Hill said he had no reason to believe it was anything man-made.

"I don't mind if it turns out to be something really boring because it would put my mind at ease," he said.

"It's annoying not knowing what it was. My mind keeps ticking over trying to figure out what it could be." - smh

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Terrorist 'pre-crime' detector field tested in United States

Planning a sojourn in the northeastern United States? You could soon be taking part in a novel security programme that can supposedly 'sense' whether you are planning to commit a crime.

Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) programme designed to spot people who are intending to commit a terrorist act, has in the past few months completed its first round of field tests at an undisclosed location in the northeast, Nature has learned.

Like a lie detector, FAST measures a variety of physiological indicators, ranging from heart rate to the steadiness of a person's gaze, to judge a subject's state of mind. But there are major differences from the polygraph. FAST relies on non-contact sensors, so it can measure indicators as someone walks through a corridor at an airport, and it does not depend on active questioning of the subject.

The tactic has drawn comparisons with the science-fiction concept of 'pre-crime', popularized by the film Minority Report, in which security services can detect someone's intention to commit a crime. Unlike the system in the film, FAST does not rely on a trio of human mutants who can see the future. But the programme has attracted copious criticism from researchers who question the science behind it.

So far, FAST has only been tested in the lab, so successful field tests could lend some much-needed data to support the technology. "It is encouraging to see an effort to develop a real empirical base for new technologies before any policy commitments are made," says Tom Ormerod, a psychologist in the Investigative Expertise Unit at Lancaster University, UK. Such testing, he adds, could lay the groundwork for a more rigorous randomized, controlled, double-blind study.

According to a privacy-impact statement previously released by the DHS, tests of FAST involve instructing some people passing through the system to carry out a "disruptive act". Ormerod questions whether such role-playing is representative of real terrorists, and also worries that both passengers and screeners will react differently when they know they're being tested. "Fill the place with machines that go ping, and both screeners and passengers start doing things differently."

In lab tests, the DHS has claimed accuracy rates of around 70%, but it remains unclear whether the system will perform better or worse in field trials. "The results are still being analysed, so we cannot yet comment on performance," says John Verrico, a spokesman for the DHS. "Since this is an ongoing scientific study, tests will continue throughout coming months."

Some scientists question whether there really are unique signatures for 'malintent' — the agency's term for the intention to cause harm — that can be differentiated from the normal anxieties of travel. "Even having an iris scan or fingerprint read at immigration is enough to raise the heart rate of most legitimate travellers," says Ormerod.

Steven Aftergood, a senior research analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, a think-tank based in Washington DC that promotes the use of science in policy-making, is pessimistic about the FAST tests. He thinks that they will produce a large proportion of false positives, frequently tagging innocent people as potential terrorists and making the system unworkable in a busy airport. "I believe that the premise of this approach — that there is an identifiable physiological signature uniquely associated with malicious intent — is mistaken. To my knowledge, it has not been demonstrated," he says. "Without it, the whole thing seems like a charade."

As for where precisely FAST is being tested, that for now remains a closely guarded secret. The DHS says that although the first round was completed at the end of March, more testing is in the works, and the agency is concerned that letting people know where the tests are taking place could affect the outcome. "I can tell you that it is not an airport, but it is a large venue that is a suitable substitute for an operational setting," says Verrico - nature


Skull found in back yard of Brooklyn house

While most were pottering around in the garden, enjoying the sunshine this weekend, one police officer was guarding a three-foot mound of earth.

Earlier on Saturday, workmen, digging in a backyard in Brooklyn, New York, had unearthed part of a skull, pieces of vertebrae and a few teeth.

Current owner of the 19th-century, three-story brownstone, Sean Green, didn't seem too disturbed by the grisly find however.

'Growing up in New York, not much surprises me,' he told the New York Times. 'Of course, there’s a skull in my backyard.'

Just who the remains belong to or how old they might be is today still a mystery. But by Saturday evening anthropologists from the medical examiner's office were at the scene examining the area.

Floodlights were assembled so they could continue into the night.

The house, which sold for $950,000 in 2004, on Greenpoint's Kent Street, was built in 1856.

A physician, Moses H Seley, lived there from 1905 when he arrived in the city from Russia, until his death in 1967, aged 89, according to his New York Times obituary.

Dr Seley practiced out of the home. There are other houses from the same period on the street and a church dating back to 1853.

Mr Green's neighbors didn't appear too worried by the find either.

'Everybody will be talking about this for the next three years,' Chris Mottalini, a 32-year-old photographer, told the Times.

'It makes sense that there would be a body or two buried in these backyards,” he said. “It doesn’t mean there was foul play.'

Another June Sung, 29, who is planning to get married in her back garden later this year told the paper: 'I hope we don’t find anything in our backyard.

'That would derail the wedding plans.' - dailymail


Saint's head sells for 3500 Euros

Visitors queue for the auction in Co Meath at which St Vitalis's head was sold for €3,500. Ciara Wilkinson

THE reputed head of 14th-Century Italian saint St Vitalis of Assisi is on its way to the US after being sold for €3,500 at auction.

It was purchased by an unnamed phone bidder in Los Angeles during the sale in Duleek, Co Meath, yesterday.

St Vitalis was a Benedictine hermit and, following his death in 1370, he became known as the patron saint of those suffering from genital disease.

According to legend, the monk was a promiscuous youth -- but then repented.

In a bid to atone for his sins, he went on many pilgrimages to shrines and other holy places in Italy and Europe, before spending the rest of his life in poverty near Assisi.

The skull of the saint, enshrined in an antique glass case, had been in the keeping of a Co Louth family for many years.

It was included in an antique auction at Annesbrook House in Duleek by Oldcastle auctioneer Brendan Matthews.

Bidding for the skull opened at €2,000 and rose in €100 stages, before being sold in less than a minute for €3,500 to an unnamed phone buyer.

The sale had generated widespread international interest, according to Mr Matthews. "We received phone calls from all over the world about this -- from all sorts of crackpots and oddballs. We received about 100 different bids in advance," he said. - independent


Monkey 'witch'?

"In an incident described as 'barbaric' by the Community-led Animal Welfare (Claw), residents chanted 'kill that witch!'," The Star newspaper reported on Monday.

It reported that the monkey wandered into the settlement last week Monday, May 23, and was pelted with stones, shot at by police, and then burnt to death.

The monkey fled the mob and temporarily found shelter in a tree, but was pulled out, put in a bucket and doused in petrol.

"Someone struck a match. (The monkey) got out of the bucket and dropped down dead. They continued throwing stones at it," Kagiso resident, Tebogo Moswetsi was reported as saying.

Moswetsi was woken up by friends on Monday morning and told about the monkey. They said it was going around Kagiso "talking to people".

He said he joined in the case as he was curious. He was the resident that climbed the tree and brought the monkey down.

"I feel guilty, I shouldn't have taken it down from that tree. I dropped it down after someone poured petrol on it. I had no choice," Moswetsi said.

Claw manager, Cora Bailey, arrived at the scene and said she was devastated.

"I felt devastated. You could barely tell it had been a living creature. There were very small children who looked very confused and frightened."

Bailey explained animals fell victim to superstition, especially because they did not understand that such animals wander into townships because their natural habitat was destroyed or it was separated from its troop.

"It was a quest to find a family," she said.

Johannes Bapela, also a Kagiso resident, called Bailey after calls to police failed to deliver results, he told The Star.

"They beat it up, then set it alight. I couldn't sleep that night because it was too traumatic," he said.

He called the claims of witchcraft "totally baseless" and added it was more mob mentality than anything else.

Warrant Officer Solomon Sibiya could not confirm that police shot at the animal, the newspaper reported.

"I enquired, but I don't think it's something that was reported," Sibiya was quoted as saying. - timeslive