; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Just the Facts?: China's 'Black Jails' -- Why Aliens Avoid Us -- ‘Zombie’ Disease Afflicts Thousands

Seeking answers inside China's 'black jails'

The phone call came on Friday afternoon. My colleague took the call. I could hear his end of the conversation.

"Your daughter has been what?! Taken... by whom?"

"Please calm down, I can't help you unless you speak slowly. I don't quite understand you..."

"You say your daughter violated the one-child policy... And local officials had her sterilised. She had some sort of forced procedure in the hospital?"

"Wait, okay... I see. This was many years ago. She wants to present evidence to the central government. Okay... and then she disappeared."

Before the conversation was over, I was already starting to gather my things together.

Liu Zhuying's daughter, Zhang Wenfang, had managed to call the night before and tell her mother where she had been taken - to a hotel in southwest Beijing.

I knew about these hotels. We had investigated them back in 2009. Cheap places rented out by the block to officials to set up as ad-hoc prisons, known as "black jails".

They are illegal, of course, with no one imprisoned there given any due process. Most of the people in black jails are not petty criminals, but rather ordinary citizens who have stories of corruption to tell. Precisely because their evidence threatens the government, officials whose interests would be harmed by any revelations go after them.

'Black jails'

We met Mrs Liu one block from the hotel. She had brought a group of friends with her.

As I followed her into the hotel, I noticed tape crossed in X's on the entrance - it was an abandoned building, no longer managed by its owners. There was no electricity. We walked up one floor, up another floor, then to the third floor in the dark. She banged on the makeshift door that blocked off one wing of the building.

"Wenfang! Wenfang!" shouted Mrs Liu, hoping her daughter would answer her call.

Black-clad men opened the door. They tugged Mrs Liu in.

Two years ago, I had knocked on the door of a black jail and had witnessed a woman screaming for help on the other side. I had been unable to stop the men when they shut the door in my face. I was not going to let this happen again - so I stepped over the threshold, and gripped the sill. A moment later, our team - together with the camera - stumbled into the hallway and the men scattered.

The rooms were empty. Mrs Liu's daughter had gone, although one of the men told us that she had been there and was safe.

In these moments, in my experience, two things can happen: the situation can become confrontational and threatening, or the black-clad men spot the camera and disappear.

By and large, people are not fond of being filmed acting like bullies, so the men scattered as we followed Mrs Liu, who by this time was sobbing, screaming, and throwing her arms up into the air.

Her friends - also other petitioners - had entered the building.

"They know black jails are illegal. They hold us here. I was in a black jail," said one man.

"You can't just grab people from the street anymore, you can no longer do this," said another, referring to the new criminal procedure law.

New legislation

The criminal procedure law is due to be passed by China's legislature on Wednesday. Under the new regulation, families must be notified within 24 hours following the detention of a suspect.

Black jails have never been legal, but if police had placed Mrs Liu's daughter somewhere in secret detention, they would now be bound to report it. It means that black jails and other forms of secret detention would not be allowed, except in extraordinary circumstances.

But standing in the hallway, it was very clear to our team that if there will be change, it would not take place overnight.

The petitioners surrounded me. They pressed in close, tugged at my sleeve, handed me photocopies of documents and testimonies they believed would help them in court - if they can ever have their day, that is.

I noticed that not only were many of the people old, but a number of them were on crutches, and I wondered what terrible stories were behind their disabilities.

One of them crumpled down to the dirty cement floor, exhausted from the brouhaha, and just looked up at me, the dirty and worn cardboard sign stating his grievance hung around his neck. These people live desperate existences, and in the back of my head, I knew that at some point, I'd get out of this building, and that I'd go home to central heating, a soft mattress, and a good meal. I did not like the dissonance of all of it.

The inner Confucian upbringing in me also made me feel uncomfortable that anyone in their sixties or seventies would need to appeal to someone like myself - a young woman. Shouldn't it be the other way around?

A sense of piety made me think that in another circumstance, I would go down the hall, boil some hot water, and bring them some tea, the way I would do for my grandmother. Why are they begging me? There was something fundamentally wrong, something topsy-turvy, about elders beseeching the child.

Their old, brown, wrinkled faces crowded in, and I was standing in the middle of this circle, the centre and the hope for them. They were orbiting around me, and the truth was, I knew I was not the harbinger of hope, and felt like a fraud, a misrepresentation.

A real challenge

When we interview people in China, we always make it clear to them that we can only report their story, that we can't change things or make things better for them. And I said this several times to the petitioners on this particular afternoon as a way of apology and embarrassment at my own feeling of helplessness. I could not do anything to change their situation.

We had come here to film visual evidence, to show that the enforcement of China's new criminal code would be a real challenge considering that basic violations of the law took place right in the capital.

Eventually, uniformed police officers arrived at the scene. They ignored the unidentified men who'd been managing the jail and showed no indication that they would shut down the jail.

Despite some efforts to come down on illegal detention facilities and some high-profile raids in recent years, police usually prefer not to get involved with those working in different departments and different jurisdictions. It is easier for them that way, even though I sensed the uniformed officer who dealt with us felt bad for the petitioners, and didn't think we had done anything wrong.

We were ordered to stop filming, and to leave.

Mrs Liu and her fellow petitioners followed us to our car. Different petitioners handed me documents, each one a story of abuse I would look over later back in our office: someone sent to a labour camp for half a year, a house burned to the ground by a local police officer, a farmer's land taken away from him.

To Mrs Liu as we stood by our vehicle, we wished her luck finding her daughter. We repeated again that our report would likely not do her any good.

She didn't care.

She was just thankful that someone had listened to her story, and had cared enough to show up at all. - aljazeera


‘Aliens avoid us for ecological reasons’

An astronomer at one of Russia's largest observatories says he knows why we have failed to make contact with aliens – basically, they are avoiding us.

The reason they are doing that is because they think we are a danger judged by how we treat our planet.

“Aliens believe we are childish idiots,” said Sergey Smirnov, senior research fellow at Pulkovo observatory. “They don’t really like the way we are polluting our planet. Obviously, they warned all the space inhabitants to avoid contacts with the Earth, because our civilization is dangerous and all the secrets they might reveal to us will be used for constructing a new super bomb or poison.”

The scientist added that the Earth could have easily been separated from the rest of the space by some kind of a shield in order to protect the aliens.

The scientist also says Martians probably look a bit like Russian footballer Andrey Arshavin – though the mass media interpreted his words as being a bit more sensational than they actually were.

“I was only poking fun at my favorite footballer, Andrey Arshavin,” Smirnov told RT. “I noticed he had gained weight after training in Britain. The football pitches there are very advanced, but it was hard for him to play with all that excess weight here in Russia, especially in winter. He's slower now. I was just trying to say that conditions in different places can be very different. That is why people sent to Mars will undergo changes. And aliens sent to the Earth will change as well, because they are not used to our conditions.” - RT


Mysterious ‘zombie’ disease afflicts thousands of Ugandan children

Agnes Apio has to tie up her son Francis before she can leave the house. In his state, he is a danger to himself. Where once he walked and talked like a normal child, now he is only able to drag himself along in the dirt. Francis is suffering from “Nodding Disease,” a brain disorder that, according to CNN, afflicts at least 3,000 children in northern Uganda, leaving them physically stunted and severely mentally disabled.

“I feel dark in my heart,” Apio says as waves flies away from her son’s face and mops up his urine after a seizure, “This boy has become nothing.”

“Reportedly the children gnaw at their fabric restraints, like a rabid animals,” says The Daily Tech. The article calls them “zombie children,” having “no cure” and “no future.”

First the victims become restless, can’t concentrate. They say they have trouble thinking. Then comes the nodding, an uncontrollable dipping of the head that presages the disease’s debilitating epilepsy-like seizures. It is this nodding motion that gives the illness its name.

Nodding Disease first attacks the nervous system, then the brain. As the epilepsy-like seizures progress and worsen, the children become less and less like themselves, and more and more distant and blank. Eventually the brain stops developing and the victims’ bodies stop growing. So far, no patients have recovered.

Grace Lagat also has to tie up her children in order to leave the house. Daughter Pauline, 13, and son Thomas are bound hand and foot to keep them from shuffling away and getting lost. Pauline recently disappeared for five days.

Experts are baffled as to what causes the disease, which only occurs in children. Early findings suggest a confluence of the presence of the black fly-borne parasitic worm Onchocerca Volvulus, which causes river blindness, and acute vitamin B6 deficiency.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, onset usually takes place at the age of five or six and progresses rapidly, leaving the victims severely mentally and physically handicapped within a couple of years.

Victims can wander off and disappear. Some 200 “secondary deaths” have been blamed on fires and accidents caused by children with the disease.

Physicians and workers with the Ugandan Red Cross are frustrated by what they see as a lack of urgency in the government’s handling of the disease. After months of lagging, officials have only begun an official tally of cases within the last two weeks.

The situation was already dire when a team from the World Health Organization visited northern Uganda in 2009. CNN quotes one doctor from the team, Dr. Joaquin Saweka as saying, “It was quite desperate, I can tell you. Imagine being surrounded by 26 children and 12 of them showing signs of this. The attitude was to quickly find a solution to the problem.”

Solutions, however, have been slow in coming.

Doctors have been treating the seizures caused by the disease with epilepsy drugs, but their efficacy is limited. The drugs only slow the progression of the disease, but fail to stop it.

Currently, Ugandan government officials say that they are doing everything they can to fight the epidemic. They say that new epilepsy drugs are being tried and special training has been instituted for local health officials. This, they say, is as much as can be done for a disease whose cause and cure are largely unknown.

Saweka said, “When you know the root cause, you address the cure. Now you are just relieving the symptoms. We don’t expect to cure anybody.” - rawstory


Faith healing event disaster

One man died and sixteen others were rushed to hospital after they collapsed at a faith healing event run by a controversial Nigerian televangelist. The Higher Life Conference, which also takes place in Britain and the United States, is staged by Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, who can reputedly perform miracles such as healing the paralysed.

An estimated 150,000 people, among them children and terminally ill patients, travelled to the Greenpoint Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, to attend the three-day Pentecostal event over the weekend.

"Pastor Chris", one of Nigeria's most wealthy evangelist preachers with a global following of millions, is believed to be worth as much as £30 million. Simon Williams, a 56-year-old pastor from nearby Paarl, was taken from hospital intensive care to the event by his family. He collapsed and died from renal failure inside the stadium.

Dr Wayne Smith, head of disaster medicine for Cape Town, said he treated about 30 patients in the stadium's medical centre and sent 16 to hospital. "Some of them had travelled long distances to get there, they had ongoing medical issues and were in a lot of pain," he said. - telegraph


Bigfoot witness interview

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Click for video - Maine Sasquatch sighting in the Allagash (FULL interview!) TeamTazerBigfoot