Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Superstorm: Water force coffins out of graves in Maryland
After having leveled huge swathes of New York City and the East Coast as it rampaged through the region on Monday night, superstorm Sandy inflicted a final indignity as it caused coffins to rise from their graves.
At one cemetery in Crisfield, Maryland, two caskets, one silver and the other bronze, rose up from the ground as the sheer force of the water unleashed by Sandy swelled the ground.
Powerful enough to dislodge the cement slabs that covered the graves, the sad sight indicated the indiscriminate bombardment that mother nature brought to reign over the U.S. Atlantic coastline.
The most devastating storm in decades to hit the country's most densely populated region upended man and nature as it rolled back the clock on 21st-century lives, cutting off modern communication and leaving millions without power as thousands who fled their water-damaged homes wondered when, and if, life would return to normal.
Superstorm Sandy killed at least 50 people, many hit by falling trees, and still wasn't finished. It inched inland across Pennsylvania, ready to bank toward western New York to dump more of its water and likely cause more havoc last night.
'Nature,' said New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, assessing the damage to his city, 'is an awful lot more powerful than we are.'
More than 8.2million households were without power in 17 states as far west as Michigan.
Nearly two million of those were in New York, where large swaths of lower Manhattan lost electricity and entire streets ended up underwater - as did seven subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn at one point.
The New York Stock Exchange was closed for a second day from weather, the first time that has happened since a blizzard in 1888.
The shutdown of mass transit crippled a city where more than 8.3million bus, subway and local rail trips are taken each day, and 800,000 vehicles cross bridges run by the transit agency.
Images from around the storm-affected areas depicted scenes reminiscent of big-budget disaster movies.
In Atlantic City, New Jersey, a gaping hole remained where once a stretch of boardwalk sat by the sea. In Queens, New York, rubble from a fire that destroyed as many as 100 houses in an evacuated beachfront neighborhood jutted into the air at ugly angles against a gray sky.
In heavily flooded Hoboken, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, dozens of yellow cabs sat parked in rows, submerged in murky water to their windshields. At the ground zero construction site in lower Manhattan, seawater rushed into a gaping hole under harsh floodlights.
One of the most dramatic tales came from lower Manhattan, where a failed backup generator forced New York University's Langone Medical Center to relocate more than 200 patients, including 20 babies from neonatal intensive care.
Dozens of ambulances lined up in the rainy night and the tiny patients were gingerly moved out, some attached to battery-powered respirators as gusts of wind blew their blankets.
Airports were shut across the East Coast and far beyond as tens of thousands of travelers found they couldn't get where they were going.
John F Kennedy International Airport in New York and Newark International Airport in New Jersey will reopen at 7am this morning with limited service, but LaGuardia Airport will stay closed, officials said.
Sandy began in the Atlantic and knocked around the Caribbean - killing nearly 70 people - and strengthened into a hurricane as it chugged across the southeastern coast of the United States.
By last night it had ebbed in strength but was joining up with another, more wintry storm - an expected confluence of weather systems that earned it nicknames like 'superstorm' and, on Halloween eve, 'Frankenstorm'.
Atlantic City's fabled Boardwalk, the first in the nation, lost several blocks when Sandy came through, though the majority of it remained intact even as other Jersey Shore boardwalks were dismantled.
What damage could be seen on the coastline Tuesday was, in some locations, staggering - 'unthinkable,' New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said of what unfolded along the Jersey Shore, where houses were swept from their foundations and amusement park rides were washed into the ocean. 'Beyond anything I thought I would ever see.' - DailyMail
Skeletal Remains Found in Tree Roots Upended by Hurricane
A homeless woman made a spooky Halloween’s eve discovery on the Upper Green: bones from a centuries-old human body unearthed by a giant oak tree toppled by Superstorm Sandy.
The woman, Katie Carbo, made the discovery around 3:15 p.m. near the corner of College and Chapel streets. Visible among the roots of the tree is the back of skull, upside down, with its mouth open (pictured). It is still connected to a spine and rib cage.
Carbo called police, who confirmed the discovery. Detectives headed to the scene to investigate.
Sgt. Anthony Zona said the police do not suspect foul play. He noted that that part of the Green long ago served as a burial ground.
“That body has probably been there a long, long time,” Zona said.
“Twenty-four years on the job,” he added, “and different things just happen all the time.” Continue reading / photos at New Haven Independent
Colonial British America: Essays in the New History of the Early Modern Era
Vision in the Sky: New Haven's Early Years, 1638-1784
Is paranormal activity on the increase? More ghost sightings reported to police
Ghosts are spooking the streets of South Wales, if reports to police are to be believed.
A list of supernatural sightings released by South Wales Police on the eve of Halloween reveal that hauntings are on the increase.
Those fearing visits from the afterlife may be concerned to learn that officers were called to five ghoulish incidents in the past 12 months, an increase of two from figures released the previous year.
Since 2007 there have been three reports made to police in Cardiff, four in Swansea, one in Bridgend and one in Rhondda Cynon Taf.
Wayne Spurrier is the director of Haunted Happenings who run ghost hunting tours in Margam Park and Abergavenny’s Skirrid Inn.
He said: “South Wales is very haunted. We have experienced activity whenever we have held events in Wales.
“I guess people have to be fairly frightened to call the police but in our experience nobody has ever been hurt by a ghost.
“I explain the presence of a ghost as a repeat of something that happened in the past, an event or movement that is being repeated, that hasn’t gone away.
“Somebody might see a soldier on horseback wielding a sword coming towards them, but they are not in danger, it is just an image of something that happened in that spot many years earlier.”
Wayne added: “We also hear from people who have maybe seen someone lying injured on the side of the road, but when they’ve approached them the person has disappeared.
“Something like that could easily trigger a concerned member of the public to call the police.”
Exorcising demons from possessed souls and removing poltergeists from Welsh homes are two of the more unusual jobs taken on by the Bishop of Monmouth.
Bishop Dominic Walker, is a trained exorcist and said clergy across his diocese deal with two or three cases of “property possession” at any one time.
He said: “When people turn to us for help they’re normally fairly desperate.
“We get people saying ‘we’ve got a ghost, we’ve got poltergeist activity, I feel there’s a presence in my house which I don’t like’ and people get very disturbed.”
Last year South Wales Police revealed the force had received three reports of zombies and two of werewolves being spotted in neighbourhoods. There were also two sightings of vampires and six sightings of witches.
Speaking at the time, Superintendent Tony Smith said: “South Wales Police does get the odd weird and wonderful call, but residents and visitors needn’t worry about a supernatural invasion just yet. At the moment, we’re still in the business of keeping South Wales safe from crime rather than zombies or werewolves.” - Wales Online
Haunted Newport and the Valleys (South Wales Paranormal Researc)
A Grim Almanac of South Wales
Flat-Earthers still exist
Members of the Flat Earth Society claim to believe the Earth is flat. Walking around on the planet's surface, it looks and feels flat, so they deem all evidence to the contrary, such as satellite photos of Earth as a sphere, to be fabrications of a "round Earth conspiracy" orchestrated by NASA and other government agencies.
The belief that the Earth is flat has been described as the ultimate conspiracy theory. According to the Flat Earth Society's leadership, its ranks have grown by 200 people (mostly Americans and Britons) per year since 2009. Judging by the exhaustive effort flat-earthers have invested in fleshing out the theory on their website, as well as the staunch defenses of their views they offer in media interviews and on Twitter, it would seem that these people genuinely believe the Earth is flat.
But in the 21st century, can they be serious? And if so, how is this psychologically possible?
Through a flat-earther's eyes
First, a brief tour of the worldview of a flat-earther: While writing off buckets of concrete evidence that Earth is spherical, they readily accept a laundry list of propositions that some would call ludicrous. The leading flat-earther theory holds that Earth is a disc with the Arctic Circle in the center and Antarctica, a 150-foot-tall wall of ice, around the rim. NASA employees, they say, guard this ice wall to prevent people from climbing over and falling off the disc. Earth's day and night cycle is explained by positing that the sun and moon are spheres measuring 32 miles (51 kilometers) that move in circles 3,000 miles (4,828 km) above the plane of the Earth. (Stars, they say, move in a plane 3,100 miles up.) Like spotlights, these celestial spheres illuminate different portions of the planet in a 24-hour cycle. Flat-earthers believe there must also be an invisible "antimoon" that obscures the moon during lunar eclipses.
Furthermore, Earth's gravity is an illusion, they say. Objects do not accelerate downward; instead, the disc of Earth accelerates upward at 32 feet per second squared (9.8 meters per second squared), driven up by a mysterious force called dark energy. Currently, there is disagreement among flat-earthers about whether or not Einstein's theory of relativity permits Earth to accelerate upward indefinitely without the planet eventually surpassing the speed of light. (Einstein's laws apparently still hold in this alternate version of reality.)
As for what lies underneath the disc of Earth, this is unknown, but most flat-earthers believe it is composed of "rocks."
Then, there's the conspiracy theory: Flat-earthers believe photos of the globe are photoshopped; GPS devices are rigged to make airplane pilots think they are flying in straight lines around a sphere when they are actually flying in circles above a disc. The motive for world governments' concealment of the true shape of the Earth has not been ascertained, but flat-earthers believe it is probably financial. "In a nutshell, it would logically cost much less to fake a space program than to actually have one, so those in on the Conspiracy profit from the funding NASA and other space agencies receive from the government," the flat-earther website's FAQ page explains.
It's no joke
The theory follows from a mode of thought called the "Zetetic Method," an alternative to the scientific method, developed by a 19th-century flat-earther, in which sensory observations reign supreme. "Broadly, the method places a lot of emphasis on reconciling empiricism and rationalism, and making logical deductions based on empirical data," Flat Earth Society vice president Michael Wilmore, an Irishman, told Life's Little Mysteries. In Zetetic astronomy, the perception that Earth is flat leads to the deduction that it must actually be flat; the antimoon, NASA conspiracy and all the rest of it are just rationalizations for how that might work in practice.
Those details make the flat-earthers' theory so elaborately absurd it sounds like a joke, but many of its supporters genuinely consider it a more plausible model of astronomy than the one found in textbooks. In short, they aren't kidding.
"The question of belief and sincerity is one that comes up a lot," Wilmore said. "If I had to guess, I would probably say that at least some of our members see the Flat Earth Society and Flat Earth Theory as a kind of epistemological exercise, whether as a critique of the scientific method or as a kind of 'solipsism for beginners.' There are also probably some who thought the certificate would be kind of funny to have on their wall. That being said, I know many members personally, and I am fully convinced of their belief."
Wilmore counts himself among the true believers. "My own convictions are a result of philosophical introspection and a considerable body of data that I have personally observed, and which I am still compiling,” he said.
Strangely, Wilmore and the society's president, a 35-year-old Virginia-born Londoner named Daniel Shenton, both think the evidence for global warming is strong, despite much of this evidence coming from satellite data gathered by NASA, the kingpin of the "round Earth conspiracy." They also accept evolution and most other mainstream tenets of science.
Conspiracy theory psychology
As inconceivable as their belief system seems, it doesn't really surprise experts. Karen Douglas, a psychologist at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom who studies the psychology of conspiracy theories, says flat-earthers' beliefs cohere with those of other conspiracy theorists she has studied.
"It seems to me that these people do generally believe that the Earth is flat. I'm not seeing anything that sounds as if they're just putting that idea out there for any other reason," Douglas told Life's Little Mysteries.
She said all conspiracy theories share a basic thrust: They present an alternative theory about an important issue or event, and construct an (often) vague explanation for why someone is covering up that "true" version of events. "One of the major points of appeal is that they explain a big event but often without going into details," she said. "A lot of the power lies in the fact that they are vague."
The self-assured way in which conspiracy theorists stick to their story imbues that story with special appeal. After all, flat-earthers are more adamant that the Earth is flat than most people are that the Earth is round (probably because the rest of us feel we have nothing to prove). "If you're faced with a minority viewpoint that is put forth in an intelligent, seemingly well-informed way, and when the proponents don't deviate from these strong opinions they have, they can be very influential. We call that minority influence," Douglas said.
In a recent study, Eric Oliver and Tom Wood, political scientists at the University of Chicago, found that about half of Americans endorse at least one conspiracy theory, from the notion that 9/11 was an inside job to the JFK conspiracy. "Many people are willing to believe many ideas that are directly in contradiction to a dominant cultural narrative," Oliver told Life's Little Mysteries. He says conspiratorial belief stems from a human tendency to perceive unseen forces at work, known as magical thinking.
However, flat-earthers don't fit entirely snugly in this general picture. Most conspiracy theorists adopt many fringe theories, even ones that contradict each other. Meanwhile, flat-earthers' only hang-up is the shape of the Earth. "If they were like other conspiracy theorists, they should be exhibiting a tendency toward a lot of magical thinking, such as believing in UFOs, ESP, ghosts, the Devil, or other unseen, intentional forces," Oliver wrote in an email. "It doesn't sound like they do, which makes them very anomalous relative to most Americans who believe in conspiracy theories." - Yahoo
Life's Biggest Questions, Vol. 1: Astronomy and Space Sciences including the 2012 Phenomenon, Faces on Mars, Astrology, the Flat Earth Society, and More
Worlds of Their Own: A Brief History of Misguided Ideas: Creationism, Flat-Earthism, Energy Scams, and the Velikovsky Affair