Daily Archives: July 10, 2011

Russian orchestra conductor fired ‘because of remarks about Vladimir Putin’

Arkadyev, who publicly called the movement “odious and baneful,” said the local Kremlin-backed authorities had also found an anti-Putin article he had written on the internet a few years ago and had discovered that he had been among the first to sign an online petition demanding that Mr Putin exit politics.

The conductor of one of Russia’s major orchestras has claimed he was fired because of his outspoken remarks about Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister.

Telegraph | Jul 10, 2011

By Andrew Osborn, Moscow

Mikhail Arkadyev, the outgoing conductor of Vladivostok’s Pacific Symphony Orchestra, said he was told his contract would not be renewed after he spoke out against his professional trade union joining a new political movement widely thought to be part of Mr Putin’s campaign to regain the Russian presidency next year.

“I was unexpectedly informed that my annual contract would not be renewed,” the 53-year-old conductor told the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.

“I was not told why, but I believe my refusal to have anything to do with the All-Russian People’s Front (Mr Putin’s movement) played a part.”

Mr Arkadyev, who publicly called the movement “odious and baneful,” said the local Kremlin-backed authorities had also found an anti-Putin article he had written on the internet a few years ago and had discovered that he had been among the first to sign an online petition demanding that Mr Putin exit politics.

Mr Putin’s spokesman denied the conductor’s dismissal was linked to his remarks about the prime minister’s new movement however, claiming that Mr Arkadyev had been told of his dismissal before the latest scandal erupted.

The recruitment process for Mr Putin’s new movement has been controversial in the extreme with the bosses of state-run organisations such as Russian Railways pledging to automatically sign up their employees to the pro-Putin movement without balloting them. Mr Putin has not revealed whether he will run for the presidency in March or let incumbent Dmitry Medvedev serve a second term.

The creation of the new movement, ostensibly to overhaul Mr Putin’s ruling United Russia party, has been widely seen as a sign that Mr Putin is laying the ground for a third term in the Kremlin however. A top Kremlin apparatchik claimed last week that Mr Putin had been sent to rule Russia “in its hour of need” by God, fuelling an already potent Soviet-style cult of personality around the former KGB agent.

Roman-era shipwreck reveals ancient medical secrets


The aquarium recreated in the museum, where several vials and containers, (still sealed), are preserved Photo: EMANUELA APPETITI

A first-aid kit found on a 2,000-year-old shipwreck has provided a remarkable insight into the medicines concocted by ancient physicians to cure sailors of dysentery and other ailments.

Telegraph | Jul 9, 2011

By Nick Squires in Rome

A wooden chest discovered on board the vessel contained pills made of ground-up vegetables, herbs and plants such as celery, onions, carrots, cabbage, alfalfa and chestnuts – all ingredients referred to in classical medical texts.

The tablets, which were so well sealed that they miraculously survived being under water for more than two millennia, also contain extracts of parsley, nasturtium, radish, yarrow and hibiscus.

They were found in 136 tin-lined wooden vials on a 50ft-long trading ship which was wrecked around 130 BC off the coast of Tuscany. Scientists believe they would have been used to treat gastrointestinal complaints suffered by sailors such as dysentery and diarrhoea.

“It’s a spectacular find. They were very well sealed,” Dr Alain Touwaide, from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington DC, told The Sunday Telegraph. “The plants and vegetables were probably crushed with a mortar and pestle – we could still see the fibres in the tablets. They also contained clay, which even today is used to treat gastrointestinal problems.”

The pills are the oldest known archaeological remains of ancient pharmaceuticals. They would have been taken with a mouthful of wine or water, or may have been dissolved and smeared on the skin to treat inflammation and cuts.

Historians believe the presence of the medicine chest suggests that the ship may have had a doctor on board, or at least someone trained in rudimentary first aid. The chest also contained spatulas, suction cups and a mortar and pestle.

The vessel was transporting amphorae of wine, glassware, ceramics and oil lamps when it sank in 60ft of water between the Italian mainland and the island of Elbe.

“We still don’t know whether it was Roman, Greek or Phoenician, nor do we know whether it was a long distance trading ship operating throughout the Mediterranean or a coastal vessel,” said Dr Touwaide.

He said the discovery showed that medical knowledge contained in ancient Greek texts, and later in the writings of Roman scholars such as Pliny, was being put into practise in the Roman Empire.

The ship was discovered off the port of Piombino in 1974 and the wooden medicine box was found in 1989, but it is only now that scientists have been able to use DNA sequencing technology to analyse the contents of the pills.

The analysis was carried out in conjunction with Italian researchers from the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage in Tuscany.

Gino Fornaciari, a paleo-pathologist from Pisa University, said: “As well as understanding how the ancient Romans treated each other, we are learning more about what illnesses they suffered from.”

The Romans derived much of their medical knowledge from the ancient Greeks and doctors used a range of sophisticated instruments. Excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum, the two towns destroyed by Mt Vesuvius in AD79, have found surgical knives, hooks and tweezers as well as bronze rectal speculums, used to conduct examinations, and forceps for delivering babies.

Hypnotist principal faces questions after suicides

Two of the 36 students he hypnotized later committed suicide

Kenney acknowledged conducting the sessions after being warned by his boss to stop such one-on-one hypnosis with students at school.

MSNBC | Jul 10, 2011

By MITCH STACY

NORTH PORT, Fla. — High school principal George Kenney acknowledged using hypnosis to help people: students who needed to relax before tests, a basketball player having trouble making free throws and even school secretaries who wanted to quit smoking.

But now the popular 51-year-old principal’s future at North Port High School is in question since it came to light that he had hypnotized two students before their separate suicides this spring. There is no indication their deaths were any more than a tragic coincidence. However, Kenney acknowledged conducting the sessions after being warned by his boss to stop such one-on-one hypnosis with students at school.

Most students, teachers and fellow administrators at the southwest Florida school were aware that Kenney was a trained hypnotist who would eagerly help those who sought him out for sessions, according to a school district report. Students looked forward to his demonstrations in a psychology class and at other school events.

In April, according to the Sarasota County School District report, he hypnotized a 16-year-old student to help him better focus on a test. The next day, the boy committed suicide. Kenney was put on leave in May when the boy’s parents, who had given their permission for the sessions, raised concerns after his death.

The administrator’s situation then got stickier when an investigation showed that he had also hypnotized another student five months before her May 4 suicide, initially lied about it and had defied three separate verbal warnings to stop the sessions with students.

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Florida High School Principal Lied About Hypnotizing Students Who Later Died

A 134-page independent investigative report released by the district last week includes an interview with Kenney, who acknowledged defying the orders and then lying.

“I’m not saying I used great judgment all the time here,” he told an investigator. “I think I used poor judgment several times.”
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But the report also reflects the support and affection Kenney enjoys at the 2,300-student high school, about 90 miles south of Tampa. Two Facebook pages, one with more than 1,600 fans, have been created to support Kenney, principal of North Port High since its opening in 2001. Some students who were hypnotized say it helped them with sports and academics.

Many students and staff credit him with guiding the school through a time of grief. In March, before the two suicides, a 16-year-old football player was killed in a car crash, which followed the traffic death of a teacher killed driving to school in November.

Kenney is the “glue that just holds the school together,” said his administrative assistant, Dianna McLaren.

Kenney declined to comment through his attorney, Mark Zimmerman, who said there is no “causal connection” between the hypnosis sessions and the suicides. Both students had sought Kenney’s help with test anxiety and had signed permission slips from their parents, Zimmerman said. In the case of student Brittany Palumbo, her mother was present during the session.

“It sort of conjures up a feeling of mind control, which of course is not what hypnosis is,” Zimmerman said. “This was hypnosis as a relaxation and focus technique to aid in test and athletic performance.”

Zimmerman said Kenney initially misspoke when he told an administrator that he had not had a session with Palumbo, and never intended to hide it.

Kenney was more than a hobbyist when it came to hypnosis. He wrote four books about using hypnosis in defeating test anxiety and mastering baseball and basketball skills. He trained at a Florida hypnosis center and was a member of the National Guild of Hypnotists and the National Board of Hypnosis Education and Certification. He told investigators he has worked with around 36 students — with parental permission — in the past couple years, mostly on test anxiety, athletic performance and anger management. He also worked with several of the school’s sports teams, staff members and their families.

“Dr. Kenney isn’t doing any hocus-pocus,” Ann Brandenberger, a psychology teacher at the high school, told an investigator. “That is just what this has been blown into.”

According to the report, Kenney would have people close their eyes and visualize something serene as he talked them into a state of “deep relaxation,” then would suggest to them that they will feel calm and focused before a test, sporting event or other activity.

Gerald Kein, director of the National Board of Hypnosis Education and Certification, described hypnosis as “bypassing the critical factor of the conscious mind,” creating an “open-mindedness” to new ideas.

Kein said that to his knowledge Kenney didn’t violate any of the board’s rules about treating children. Rules call for written permission from parents and urge parental involvement in the sessions. Kein said a hypnotist shouldn’t work with anyone who clearly needs help from a licensed medical professional. Kenney said he had no indication that either student who later committed suicide was suffering from mental illness.

“I think the whole thing is ludicrous. I think it’s ridiculous,” said Kein, who is also director of the Omni Hypnosis Training Center in DeLand, Fla., one of the places where Kenney trained. “From what I understand, he just worked on motivation with these young people, motivation and test anxiety and allowing them to be the very best they can.”

School district spokesman Gary Leatherman said school officials will wait to see whether the North Port police decide to prosecute Kenney under a decades-old state law that requires a doctor’s reference for hypnosis as therapy. After that, the district superintendent will decide what, if any, punishment he should receive.

Kenney’s attorney said he’s working in the school district offices pending the outcome of the investigation and looks forward to getting back to his post at the high school.

Met Office warns of a cold and rainy summer


Spectators were forced to get out umbrellas at the Scottish Open – and the weather doesn’t look set to improve much (Pic: Getty)

Our soggy summer could also be the coldest for 18 years with forecasters warning of a miserable start to the school holidays.

metro.co.uk | Jul 10, 2011

The Met Office said the average central England temperature in June was just 13.8C (57C) – the coldest since 1991, which saw 12.1C (54F).

July has so far averaged 15.8C (60F) and if, as forecasters warn, the rest of the month and August do not improve, the average for June to August will be just 15.1C (59F).

That means this year would be the coldest summer overall since 1993, which averaged 14.9C (59F) from June to August.

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Rain has fallen across most areas regularly since the drought ended at the start of June, with 83.1mm (3.27in) on average across Britain in June with more following this month.

This summer is also the dullest since 2008, with June’s 180.8 sunshine hours the lowest for three years.

Although London could nudge 25C (77F) today, most of the country will see just 16C to 19C (61F-66F).

‘We forecast a ‘brolly and sunblock’ summer and the brolly has certainly been needed lately,’ said Jonathan Powell of Positive Weather Solutions.

‘I expect the mixed summer to continue with a real mixed bag of washout days with torrential rain and dry days with pleasantly warm sunshine.’

“Black propaganda” helps to keep Area 51 secrets


Recent declassified documents have helped to shed light on the facts behind the myths of Area 51

Sweetman believes that – along with strict secrecy – “black propaganda” helps to keep Area 51’s secrets.

“There were certainly deliberate disinformation campaigns to generate a lot of noise about UFOs back in the 1950s and 1960s to cover secret flights of planes like the U-2, and then again in the late 1970s and early 1980s to link Area 51 to UFOs through ‘fake’ documents and eyewitness accounts of alien technology – and even alien bodies.”

Just how covert is the infamous US air base? New files show that even Presidents don’t always ‘need to know’ its activities

independent.co.uk | Jul 5, 2011

The (very) secret history of Area 51

By Mark Piesing

No one on the ground or in Pakistan’s air defence spotted Area 51’s latest toy as it kept watch on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on the night of the US raid that killed the Taliban leader.

Rather than one of the UFOs that the wilder fringes of the internet believe the military has stashed away at America’s top-secret military site in Nevada, this “toy” was actually the latest Star Wars-type drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), developed at the base whose existence Uncle Sam only barely admits.

Named the “Beast of Kandahar” after it was snapped at Kandahar air base in Afghanistan back in 2009, this stealthy grey batwing-shaped long-distance reconnaissance drone, officially known as the RQ-170 Sentinel, was a throwback to Area 51’s golden age before the advent of the spy satellite put the spy plane out of business.

While for the post-X-Files generation Area 51 will always be associated with conspiracy theories from aliens to time machines, for journalists such as Annie Jacobsen its purpose was – and, indeed, is – to develop and test the latest kit from the military industrial complex that helps to maintain America’s superpower status.

“Area 51 was the single most important Cold War facility as it was set up to push science faster and further than the Soviet Union,” says Jacobsen, author of Area 51: An Uncensored History. “On one side of the road the Nevada test site was preparing for the Third World War, and on the Area 51 side they were trying to prevent it by developing air-surveillance technology.

“Today, it is doing the same job competing with whoever America sees as its enemy, whether North Korea, Iran or China.”

Yet for Jacobsen one of the strangest things about Area 51 is that even in the age of WikiLeaks and Google Earth, she has “not seen anything ever leak out of Area 51”, almost as if “the base is in a permanent state of lockdown”.

Sitting on the edge of a dried-up lake bed cradled by mountains, only 90 miles or so from the fantasy world of downtown Las Vegas, it is perhaps not surprising that it is hard to separate the myth from the fact of Area 51, or Groom Lake, as old-timers have traditionally called it. Even “Area 51” sounds like an exercise in branding, as do its other names of Dreamland, Paradise Ranch or Homey Airport. And there is something sinisterly not-quite-real about the “use of deadly force authorised” signs that stand guard on the base’s perimeter. Which can be found just inside the 4,687 square miles of the Nevada Test and Training Range and right next to the 1,350 square miles of the Nevada Test Site, where hundreds of nuclear weapons were exploded above and below ground until the test ban treaties of 1963 and 1996.

However, recent declassified documents have helped to shed light on the facts behind the myths of Area 51, from the U-2 spy plane missions that helped to unlock the secrets of the Soviet Union in the 1950s to the groundbreaking stealthy A12 that was obsolete before it even first served its country, and the record-breakingly fast recon plane the SR-71 Blackbird, which helped to spot North Vietnamese missile bases in the late 1960s and 1970s; and from the beginnings of stealth technology to the development of the F-117 stealth fighter itself, which was one of the few allied aircraft able to penetrate the air defences around downtown Baghdad and then bomb accurately. Also brought to light was the test flying of “acquired” Soviet MIG fighters in mock combat situations, which led to the founding of the Top Gun pilot programme made famous by the 1980s film of the same name.

The isolation of the base may be one good reason why the Beast of Kandahar was discovered on the opposite side of the world and not in Nevada. Along with the ability to time testing activities for when spy satellites have

already passed the base it also allows for the capacity to “go underground” to avoid prying eyes. Yet for Annie Jacobsen it is the “need to know” principles of the special-access “black” programmes that run out of the base that account for the cloak of secrecy that has been maintained even in the age satellite photography. These principles were developed from the “mother of all black projects”, the Manhattan Project, which saw the creation of the world’s first nuclear bomb during the Second World War.

And sometimes, like in a blockbuster movie, even the President doesn’t need to know.

According to Jacobsen, during the 1994 enquiry into allegations of human radiation experiments during the Cold War, “certain records involving programmes at Area 51 were kept from President Clinton because he didn’t have a need to know”.

For ex-Area 51 radar man Thornton D Barnes, founder of the Area 51 veterans’ association Roadrunners Internationale, the need to know meant that “everything was compartmentalised”, with only a small number of highly screened workers allowed to remain permanently on the base. Everyone else had to fly in from Vegas to “prevent fresh faces showing up in the local communities and drawing attention to something that might be going on”.

“Venturing into an area or showing an interest in something while lacking a need to know instantly banned an individual from the Area and the programme.”

And that wasn’t all.

“We were often away from our families Monday through Thursday and we couldn’t tell them where we were or what we did.

“Even now we have retired, we don’t ask each other questions about what we did unless we know that it has been declassified.”

According to Bill Sweetman, editor-in-chief of defence technology for Aviation Week, simply “pulling out the plug” and “supergluing USB ports” has also helped to keep these black programmes disconnected from our interconnected world.

“Along with the traditional black techniques of the need to know and using a small number of slightly frightened people, these programmes have either now been disconnected from the internet or have never been connected to it in the first place, and the resulting ‘air gap system’ has prevented them from being compromised by Chinese hackers, like so many other programmes have been.”

So successful are the secrecy techniques that it’s clear that we are going to see more – not fewer – of these black programmes.

However, Sweetman believes that – along with strict secrecy – “black propaganda” helps to keep Area 51’s secrets.

“There were certainly deliberate disinformation campaigns to generate a lot of noise about UFOs back in the 1950s and 1960s to cover secret flights of planes like the U-2, and then again in the late 1970s and early 1980s to link Area 51 to UFOs through ‘fake’ documents and eyewitness accounts of alien technology – and even alien bodies.”

The goal, he believes, was originally to mask the rebuilding of the base and then to stop people “asking why is there this huge secret and expensive military base in the middle of the desert”.

Annie Jacobsen has real fears about the “lack of respect for the constitution” that this level of secrecy can entail. The construction in 2007 of a new hangar twice the size of any other at Area 51 and another large hangar in 2010 meant that something was going on – but the public doesn’t have a need to know.

It is possible to look at the Beast of Kandahar for clues as to what the new project might be, or even at the stealthy Special Forces Black Hawk helicopters that were also revealed or even compromised by the Bin Laden raid. The size of the hangars suggests that it could be early prototypes of the $4bn next-generation American bomber programme that are already being put through their paces down on Groom Lake.

Whatever it is, the Beast of Kandahar is only the shape of things to come.

‘Area 51: An Uncensored History’ by Annie Jacobson is published by Orion (£20)

A British Area 51?

If there is a British Area 51 then it is Area 51, says Nick Cook, former aviation correspondent of and now aerospace consultant for Jane’s Defence Weekly and author of The Hunt for Zero Point. “Britain is just too small to have such a secret flight testing facility”, he argues. “Boscombe Down is the closest thing we have to it, but the A303 runs right alongside so when a highly top secret US spy plane – that still hasn’t been identified – crashed in 1994 it quickly made national headlines.”

As a result he believes Britain has cultivated a special relationship with the Americans in stealth technology. In the late eighties it became public knowledge the “RAF had an exchange programme with Area 51 that involved a small number of RAF pilots training on the F117 Stealth fighter. Then in the Nineties there were rumours of a joint US and UK stealth programme out at Groom Lake”. While those stories have trailed away Bill Sweetman believes that this special relationship has carried as he has only recently heard fresh rumours of a “black exchange programme” for RAF pilots out at Area 51.