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SWIFT August 22, 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Hairy Chap in the News Again, I Sniff Desperation, At Last, Perhaps a Doubt?, Bentley in a Bind, The ADE651 Detector, Please, and In Closing…

Monkey

When some folks get themselves revved up on a specific farce, they can’t stop. One such unfortunate, a former Las Vegas promoter named Tom Biscardi, is currently wondering whatever happened to his two “partners” who accepted from him a $50,000 advance on future earnings that were to be earned from exhibiting the frozen body of a bogus Bigfoot. Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, the genuine bipeds from Georgia who claimed to have found and chilled the Bigfoot body, are now being pursued by Biscardi, whose money they seem to have absconded with once the frozen "corpse" was revealed to be a hoax. Really? Wow!

Table of Contents
  1. Hairy Chap in the News Again

  2. I Sniff Desperation

  3. At Last

  4. Perhaps a Doubt?

  5. Bentley in a Bind

  6. The ADE 561™ Detector

  7. Please

  8. In Closing…



HAIRY CHAP IN THE NEWS AGAIN

Monkey

When some folks get themselves revved up on a specific farce, they can’t stop. One such unfortunate, a former Las Vegas promoter named Tom Biscardi, is currently wondering whatever happened to his two “partners” who accepted from him a $50,000 advance on future earnings that were to be earned from exhibiting the frozen body of a bogus Bigfoot. Matthew Whitton and Rick Dyer, the genuine bipeds from Georgia who claimed to have found and chilled the Bigfoot body, are now being pursued by Biscardi, whose money they seem to have absconded with once the frozen "corpse" was revealed to be a hoax. Really? Wow!

Biscardi hired an investigator, Steve Kulls, to look into the matter. Now, he won't confirm where the “body” is, but it was apparently moved from Georgia to Indiana. Upon examining the object, Kulls discovered that the proposed expensive DNA tests were not needed; you see, a rubber monkey-suit would not properly respond to such advanced techniques. To provide a transitory impression of authenticity, the Georgia bipeds had stuffed the suit with various body-parts that gave off impressive olfactory evidence that might have deterred a less zealous investigator than Mr. Kulls.

Biscardi

When Mr. Biscardi was asked how he could have been fooled by such a hoax, he offered that it was hard to tell, because the thing was encased in a block of ice. That triggered a few memory synapses in my head, and I recalled that in October of 1969, when I was a resident of New Jersey, an exhibit at the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown had attracted my attention. It was what appeared to be a hairy human-shaped figure about six feet tall. I say “appeared to be” because the thing was frozen inside a huge cloudy block of ice, visitors viewed it from an overhead scaffolding, and it was poorly lit – perhaps for good reason. All I could have really said about it was that it looked like an old fur coat with legs…

My friend Ivan T. Sanderson, a naturalist who was very interested in Bigfoot matters, having coined the word, “cryptozoology,” lived in New Jersey, north-west of my home, and I contacted him immediately. He arrived the next day, and took a great interest in this exhibit, despite what I found to be very shaky evidence and no validation at all. Much to my dismay, I now discovered that a few years before this, he’d already chosen to accept and endorse the validity of this farce, and had also supported a true “critter” nut, Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, formerly of the Royal Academy of Sciences in his native Belgium. Up until that point, I’d respected Ivan’s opinions, but we parted company on this. And to think that I’d spent a couple of days at his home in Warren County, where he’d taught me how to handle and fire a .45 automatic…

But, back to the present incarnation of this fake. As it presently stands, fraud charges could be filed against Dyer and Whitton in what could be either a criminal or a civil case. Biscardi apparently freely gave them the money, so that will please the lawyers immensely, I’m sure. Or was he a part of the scam…? One has to wonder, since Dyer and Whitton's web site – BigfootTracker.com – has categories for merchandise handling leprechauns, Loch Ness Monster, unicorns, dinosaurs, and Jimmy Hoffa or Elvis Presley sightings…




I SNIFF DESPERATION

The sordid Sniffex farce continues to drag on. The "pump-and-dump" scheme involving the silly device, which was promoted internationally as a critical breakthrough in the War on Terror and was actually purchased by federal and state agencies here in the USA and by corresponding government agencies abroad, has resulted in more charges. Paul Johnson, 60, president of what the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission [SEC] describes as a “shell company” that manufactured the hand-held “bomb detector,” has now been officially charged with fraud and with violations of the securities registration and anti-fraud provisions. In one instance Johnson had drafted and issued thirty-three news releases, one of which falsely claimed that tests by an independent facility – the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology [NMIMT] – showed that the Sniffex could actually detect explosives. That was a blatant lie. Those tests were conducted by Johnson himself, and were farcical. The NMIMT, when I inquired there, refused to tell me anything about the tests, hiding the embarrassing fact that they had become part of the cover-up. The U.S. Navy and the DOE also did tests – these ones properly designed and conducted, unlike those at the NMIMT – but those agencies were glad to share their results with me.

But what’s really comical about this matter is that Johnson’s attorney – a Bill Mateja – has apparently been taken in by his own clients claims! Asked for his comments, he said:

My client vehemently denies the allegations. We look forward to our day in court. We believe we will be able to establish that Sniffex is a legitimate bomb-detection device.

Dream on, Lawyer Bill. The Sniffex is a fake, a fraud, and a swindle. The only thing it detects is a sucker who thinks he’s smarter than Mr. Johnson, or a lawyer who has chosen to believe his client while having zero scientific knowledge about the subject. As a matter of fact, our only fear now at the JREF is that the court may be unable to design a proper test of the useless stick, which has no functioning parts, no power source, and no electronics of any sort, despite the claim that it puts out an electromagnetic field that can detect gunpowder and other explosives as far away as 300 feet. We offered Paul Johnson the JREF million-dollar prize, but he chose to sue us instead, and lost that bet, as well. Talk about a loser!

How much was lost? As a result of Johnson’s lies, the price of Sniffex stock went from 80 cents to $6 a share – a 750% increase – and the company’s market value reached $474 million at the peak of the scheme. When the SEC – finally! – moved in, the stock dropped out of sight, and the investors had lost thirty-two million dollars.

Also charged by the SEC was Sniffex promoter Mark Lindberg, 40, who is now subject to a forfeiture order that requires him to pay $6.2 million. At one point, in one single operation, he’d sold two million shares for a net personal gain of more than $300,000. He’s pleaded guilty to securities fraud in a separate case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office, being accused of involvement with a group that manipulated at least three other “penny stocks.” In such a pump-and-dump scheme, stock promoters will disseminate false or exaggerated information regarding a company’s business prospects. Such misinformation creates demand for the company’s stock, and the stock price soars. Perpetrators then quickly sell their shares and pocket the resultant profits. Between May 2005 and April 2006, these defendants engaged in such a fraudulent promotional scheme intended to inflate the share price and trading volume in Sniffex stock, the SEC says.

What was formerly Sniffex Incorporated is now known as Homeland Safety International, but the culprits are the same, and by any names, they’re being charged.




AT LAST

We’d pretty well concluded that the heavy day we put in videotaping the preliminary tests of the paranormal claims made by one claimant from the UK who said he spoke telepathically to children, had been a waste of our time and efforts. The subject performed so badly that it seemed useless for the producers to use the material they obtained. Lo! We’ve just heard from them, and it seems that they will be using the footage, after all:

I was the researcher on the Million Dollar Mind Reader programme that was filmed for the Extraordinary People strand on Channel FIVE about Derek Ogilvie, initially for UK television. After a year of tedious scheduling problems in placing this programme I am pleased to announce that it is due for transmission on 9th October 2008 at 9pm. Hooray!

I admit that I received this news with mixed feelings. Though we were the only people to subject Ogilvie’s claims to a proper double-blind procedure during his visit to this side of the Atlantic, we are well aware of the slant that might be given to such a programn through “creative” editing and choice of material. Readers will be familiar with this very common affliction from the recent Australian TV series starring Richard Saunders, who will soon prepare for us a summary and report of the series, and how editing entered into the overall message. When the UK’s Channel FIVE asked me for my observations on the decision to air the segment in which the JREF was involved, and wanted my current opinion of Ogilvie’s “psychic gifts,” I sent them this:

So far as our investigation is concerned, Derek Ogilvie has no "psychic gift" whatsoever to evaluate. He had formally applied for our million-dollar prize, and his subsequent demonstration – the protocol for which he approved and accepted without reservation – was a total failure, his score being exactly what would be expected by chance guessing. I believe that his claims have never before been subjected to a simple, direct, examination of this nature. Please note that Mr. Ogilvie offered no objections to the procedure, either before or after the demo, though I hear that through his remarkable powers of creative hindsight he has now discovered subtle factors that he says explain his failure. This is standard operating procedure in such cases.

As always, we stand prepared to repeat a test of Mr. Ogilvie's claim.

We have not been involved in testing other similar claims involving babies or non-verbal children, anywhere in the world, nor have we heard of any.

In any case, we’ll ask our UK readers to tune in to Channel Five on October 9th at 9pm, and perhaps burn a DVD of the item for the JREF Video Library. Thanks!




PERHAPS A DOUBT?

Colin Ross

Okay, friends, you think you’ve seen every sort of claim that could be thrown at the JREF to challenge the million-dollar prize. Most have been preposterous, silly, irrational, and/or astonishing. Now we have one that is all of those, and it comes from Dr. Colin A. Ross, a psychiatrist from Richardson, Texas. He has published 130 papers in peer-reviewed journals, most of them dealing with trauma and dissociation, and is very active in preaching about secret government mind control. He says he has researched the CIA for twenty years, particularly in respect to operatives there who have become deceased:

I have in my possession about 80 of the 149 sub-project files which I obtained through FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] filing requests with the CIA on each deceased investigator of interest… brain electrode implants were done by the CIA with intelligence funding and combined brain implants with large numbers of drugs including hallucinogens… MKULTRA [a secret mind-control project by the CIA] alone included four sub-projects on children, one was conducted at the International Children's Summer Camp in Maine by an unwitting investigator. The MKULTRA sub-project file in my possession for this project states that "the CIA's interest in this research was in establishing contact with foreign nationals of potential future operational use by the CIA. The children who served as subjects in the project were as young as eleven years old."

Well, Dr. Ross has now formally applied for the JREF prize, and has sent us a video of his “power” at work. He says he can send out an invisible “beam” from his eyes that can cause his computer to issue a sound. I sent all his submitted data to several of the expert JREF colleagues for evaluation, and I will eventually discuss here their very cogent observations. However, Dr. Ross might very well have had a sudden attack of common sense tinged with hard reality; we’ve just received this note:

Dear James Randi,

After doing further testing, I have satisfied myself concerning two points:

1. There is definitely an EM [electromagnetic] beam emerging from the eyes that has higher amplitude and distinct electrophysiological properties compared to the field emerging through the forehead.

2. The tone in my neurofeedback [computer] system is being triggered by eye blink artifact not by the EEG signal.

I need to do more work on modifying my system to eliminate movement artifact before I can do the preliminary test. This will most likely require a higher impedance electrode and may take a few weeks or a few months. I will get back to you in that time frame.

My goal is to set up a system where artifact can be ruled out to our joint satisfaction.

Thanks.

Colin Ross

Our experts had objected that any eye-movements by Dr. Ross would trigger his computer program, and perhaps he’s now aware of this and it seeking to guard against this. You see, he wears a set of goggles adjacent to his eyes, equipped with a sensor that would almost inescapably be activated by eyeball movements…

We await further developments – in “a few weeks or a few months”…




BENTLEY IN A BIND

At randi.org/joom/content/view/203/27/#i1 we had an item about evangelist Todd Bentley. It appears that he has been less-than-Christian recently. It’s not his rambling, contradictory sermons, not his criminal and drug-using past, not the face piercings, nor the neck-to-knee tattoos. No, Bentley failed his flock in the accepted, old fashioned way: he consorted with a woman to whom he was not married. Like regular folks, sinners, you know. He’s now taking a year’s time-out from his job of preaching morality and the Ten Commandments, to reflect on how Satan got to him. The news was officially delivered by an official letter from his church, Fresh Fire Ministries, in what is surely the most carefully-crafted phrasing I’ve ever encountered:

We have discovered new information revealing that Todd Bentley has entered into an unhealthy relationship on an emotional level with a female member of his staff.

That was what followed a much more reassuring – but ominous – note from the same source just three days before:

Todd and Shonnah Bentley are presently experiencing significant friction in their relationship and are currently separated. We want to affirm that there has been no sexual immorality on the part of either Todd or Shonnah, nor has there ever been.

Oops…

Bentley claims to have raised 20 people from the dead. Is #21 coming up in a year…? Hey, Swaggart did it…




THE ADE 561™ DETECTOR

As with the “Sniffex” device mentioned above, the ADE 561™ “detector” detects nothing; it’s another handle-with-a-stick dowsing rod that is powered by gullibility and the Ideomotor Effect. The ads for it claim, under the heading “Portable Explosives and Narcotics Detection,” that it

…incorporate(s) the long range electrostatic attraction of highly charged ions for the effective identification of even the most difficult substances. Unlike trace detectors that are limited by the need to have actual physical contact with the item sampled, the ADE 561™ tm sets a new standard for ion detection unlike any product on the market today.

Pause. This text is wrong, silly, irrational, fictional, stupid, misleading and fraudulent. The device does none of this. It’s a stick on a swivel, and the text is written by an uneducated idiot or by a team of uneducated idiots. But it’s this part of their ad that may provide an excellent opportunity for a case of outright fraud:

The ADE 561™ was developed with the support of international Law Enforcement, Drug Enforcement, Military and CID Agencies. The ADE 561™ is now in service with these agencies globally.

Now, that they won’t be able to prove! Our friend Richard Saunders in Australia, hearing of the promotion of this scam, and having conducted tests of the thing himself, wrote to the suppliers:

The reason I contacted you because I was most concerned to hear that these “detectors” had been sold to the Lebanese Army for use in sniper detection and landmine detection. I have a contact in the Lebanese military and he showed me soldiers detecting explosives with them. I set up a simple test whereby I had five boxes. One contained TNT. I then placed the card-carrying part of the ADE651 into a rucksack onto the operatives back. I had three ADE 561™'s. For one of the carriers I removed the card so it was effectively blank, on another unit I disconnected the cable – so it shouldn't work at all – and on the 3rd unit the cable was actually connected, with the proper card inserted. After seeing the video of this unit and the demonstration by the soldiers, I would have thought this was an easy test for them to pass.

Twenty soldiers in all tried the test. Every one FAILED.

The Lebanese army paid nearly one million USD for these units. I asked my contact what the response of the senior military officers was at the conclusion of my test. He said simply, “Not good.”

I have also just learned that ten of these “ADE 561™” units have been sold in Niger in Africa, and that the Iraqi Police have nearly 100 units. I have also obtained a quantity of the specimen cards that go into the reader, allegedly to program the unit to look for a particular substance. How can a company sell this rubbish that puts brave soldiers’ and police officers’ lives at risk? The website for the supplying company is www.atscltd.com.

I hope you find this information useful and if you feel I can assist any further please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards, Richard

We’ll keep you apprised of any progress or responses…




PLEASE

As you’ve been informed, our buddy and JREF friend Robert Lancaster has had a stroke and is currently hospitalized. His wife Susan is providing updates on his condition, and I ask you to go to tinyurl.com/5ltkon to see the outpouring of love that well-wishers have offered Bob and Susan.

Bob’s definitive work via www.StopSylviaBrowne.com and www.StopKaz.com is so effective, that I decided to leave these two specialties to him. He is a resounding force in the skeptical world, and has fought the Bad Guys effectively and diligently. Much more than that, he’s one of the Good Guys, our friend and colleague. We at the JREF have personally contributed to covering Bob’s heavy expenses, to spare the Lancasters the burden that might await them upon his emergence from the hospital. As you’ll see, the prognosis for his recovery is uncertain, but very hopeful. I’ve had other friends recover quite well from strokes which have left them somewhat impaired, but still active and with a renewed zeal for life.

Please, contribute. Our friend Bob needs us, he’s someone who we value highly, and he would do the same for us. Those of you who have been impressed by Bob may have never actually met him; you may only know him through his great work. That’s all the evidence you should need to know that he’s one of us, and someone who deserves assistance.

As most of you will know, a special fund has been set up for Bob to defray the cost of his medical expenses – some, but not all of which – will be handled by his insurance, and to ensure that his family does not have to leave his bedside during this ordeal.

http://www.skepticsunite.com/

My sincere thanks!




IN CLOSING…

Yes, the Galapagos was an enchanted place to be, but our description and account will have to await another SWIFT. We’re ‘way behind in our duties because we took a week off, so though we’re glowing from the experience, it will be something you can only anticipate hearing about…

We’re back in the office, I’m going to DragonCon, and then to NYC…


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