Sep 27, 2011

Will James Arthur Ray EVER Be Sentenced?

Well... I think he will... presently. But I sure do understand the frustration of the families and friends of the deceased -- let alone the many, many, many people who have suffered physical, emotional, and financial damage at the hands of this lunatic. Due to Kelly's health issues, Judge Darrow said in a hearing yesterday that he will not reschedule the presentencing hearing before the middle of October.

Attorney Tom Kelly, still recovering from treatment for a heart condition, appeared alone in court and outlined the defense's difficulties in arranging schedules, both their own and that of the many witnesses they intend to present at a pre-sentence hearing.

Kelly said his doctor has cleared him to defend a client in a jury trial that begins Oct. 19, but emphasized that he was also ordered to be on light duty. He said he needs a second procedure that has not yet been scheduled.

The re-emergence of Kelly prompted Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk to suggest that the proceedings could resume immediately, even offering to forego a scheduled family vacation the week of Oct. 7-15. Saying that the state has made a strong showing, both in arguments and pleadings, of "the need to move this case forward," Polk said she would be fine with the previous scheduling, which would have started the pre-sentence hearings on Wednesday.

Darrow, though, said he would not set the hearings and sentencing, which will require at least six court days, to begin before Oct. 15, adding that perceptions that the delays have been solely caused by defense maneuverings were somewhat inaccurate.

Notice the use of the weasel word "somewhat." In other words it's essentially accurate, if not entirely. I don't know if Mark Duncan is quoting Darrow or if that phrasing points to his own subconscious understanding of how much the defense team, of which he seems so enamored, is playing the system here. They play it well. And having read both the motion for continuance and the response I'm not at all surprised the defense got their continuance. I think Darrow was between a rock and a hard place on that one. Kelly even openly threatened to use this as yet another appellate issue in his reply. Personally, I think Judge Darrow is well aware of how litigious Ray's defense is and no judge wants his case overturned on appeal. So he's given the defense a lot of leeway and not a little rope to hang themselves. And they have, repeatedly.

Aside from granting the continuance, Judge Darrow denied several of the defense's other motions. He denied a motion to seal Tom Kelly's affidavit to protect his private medical data, in the interest of a transparent legal process. He is, however, allowing the defense time to provide a redacted copy. He denied their motion to have much of the prosecution's evidence for the presentencing hearing excluded, as discussed here. And he denied the defense's request to seal the support letters for the presentencing hearing because they "inadvertently" failed to redact the contact information of the letter writers. Yes, they copped to having screwed that up royally.

Aside from their error in, once again, broadcasting the addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of private citizens, I can understand why they'd want to hide those letters from public view. They totally betray the weakness of their hand going into the presentencing hearing. Far from demonstrating support from over a hundred people, in some cases multiple letters are from the same people, it's not clear in many cases how old the letters are and if that support is still forthcoming, and some of the most supportive letters are totally whack.

It's also not clear how well the defense's witness list is holding up. I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the foot-dragging is about the crumbling of support for Ray going into the mitigation hearing. The letters are not as represented. And I have a sneaking suspicion that their witness lineup isn't either. It's already officially gone from twenty-seven to nineteen. And in their motion for continuance they repeatedly hedge on the number of witnesses described. They use the word "several" as in this footnote:

Several of these witnesses had flown into Prescott at their own expense for the hearing that was scheduled for Monday, September 19, 2011, and were present in Prescott on Monday.

Strictly speaking, several means more than two or three but not many. If they're using the term appropriately, that's considerably fewer than nineteen.

Later in the document they refer to an unspecified "number."

Undersigned counsel from Munger, Tolles & Olson had not been in direct communication with any witnesses prior to today, as Mr. Kelly was handling all witnesses, but upon reliable information believe that a number of these witnesses are not available during the week of September 26.

Such vagaries bode ill for Ray's defense. There's a whiff of desperation and more than a small sense that their long list of supporters is evaporating. That's not to say that Ray doesn't have steadfast support. He definitely does, but among the more telling details is the fact, noted by many, that only his mother and brother are scheduled to testified -- not his father. Weird.

One letter-writer whose support for Ray appears to be unflagging is coming under scrutiny by some of Ray's former students. Bill Harris, he of Holosync fame, received a letter from Connie Joy and an earful from Nancy Ogilvie. The details can be found in this thread on Joy's Facebook page. I note that Joy graciously referred him to my blog for background. Were he to read through my coverage of the trial -- and I'm not holding my breath -- he'd learn some interesting things. Among them, the fact that Ray misused the Holosync meditation CDs, which is to say, not in accordance with the warnings provided by Holosync. And when Dennis Mehravar testified that he experienced exactly the kind of "severe overwhelm" the Holosync FAQ warns is possible through overuse, Ray's attorney Luis Li mocked him mercilessly for not being able to handle a relaxation tape.

On the plus side, the additional downtime will allow the prosecution to scrutinize this crazy batch of letters and possibly challenge the inconsistencies. Meanwhile, they appear to have assembled a strong contrary case, which Judge Darrow has signaled he wants to hear. Connie Joy will be appearing for the prosecution and will testify to, among other things, Ray's attempt to slime his way out of refunding the prepayments for events he canceled. I wrote about this bit of blatant chicanery here.

In a sense it's not surprising that the sentencing is dragging on forever. This whole trial has happened in slow motion. From the long, involved, and thoroughly compelling case the prosecution presented, to the numerous stall tactics of the defense, to a closing argument by Luis Li that caused me to age ten years. (Dear God that was surreal.) During the trial itself I think I sort of became one with the proceedings. I spent those months in a kind of fugue state, unaware of the passage of time, and almost unconcerned as to whether or not it ever ended. The process itself was so fascinating and so consuming.

Sure, I find it sickening that Ray remains free to tweet his sanctimonious platitudes and extol the virtues of expensive coffee and tea -- despite having convinced numerous students not to "poison" themselves with coffee. (Yeah. He's a hypocrite. So what else is new?) I also think he just looks sort of sad and desperate with his new website and other attempts to reinvent himself, while simultaneously claiming that he's too broke to pay his mortgage or his lawyers. (!!!) This path he's on may be long and a little desultory but I firmly believe it will end in the clink.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Sep 25, 2011

Shel Silverstein's Vision Serpent

Today is Shel Silverstein's birthday and there doesn't seem to be any escape from Silverstein hagiography. That's probably due in part to a well timed pub date for this new collection of his work from HarperCollins. No lover of Shel Silverstein, I. I think I've made my views on the thoroughly offensive Giving Tree very clear. But this image really grabbed me when I was reading Andrew Sullivan earlier today.

I immediately thought that it was very evocative of Mayan hieroglyphs I've seen. Something about a squat, little person with a convoluted tangle of images rising in front of him put me in mind of a number of Mayan reliefs. I did a bit of digging and I think it was this image, specifically, that was jogged in my memory, because the parallels are really quite striking.

An umbrella in Silverstein's drawing is positioned where the emerging head is in the relief. Underneath that, his flag is in the same position as the extended hand in the Mayan apparition. The hat on the stick in the lower quarter of the tangled image is in the same position as one of the swirls and has a similar, small swirl directly under it. The hot dog in the bun is incredibly evocative of the bowl out of which the shaman's vision unfolds. And, of course, Silverstein's drawing includes a "vision serpent" perched at the very top.

There are more parallels between the images than can be easily described but spend a little time comparing the two and they emerge. Assuming Silverstein was not deliberately alluding to that relief, it's positively eerie.

Boa Constrictor
by Shel Silverstein

Oh, I'm being eaten
By a boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
A boa constrictor,
I'm being eaten by a boa constrictor,
And I don't like it one bit.
Well, what do you know?
It's nibblin' my toe.
Oh, gee,
It's up to my knee.
Oh my,
It's up to my thigh.
Oh, fiddle,
It's up to my middle.
Oh, heck,
It's up to my neck.
Oh, dread,
It's upmmmmmmmmmmffffffffff...

For more background on Mayan Shamanism and the meaning of images like the above, I highly recommend the excellent Shaman's Secret by Douglas Gillette.

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Sep 21, 2011

James Ray: I'm Sorry, Now Give Me Probation!

James Ray must be getting very, very nervous. Know how I know that? He's all apologies and remorse all of a sudden.

A self-help author convicted of negligent homicide expressed extreme remorse for the deaths of three people following an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony he led and vowed never to conduct another one, a probation officer wrote in a presentence report obtained by The Associated Press.

. . .

Ray told the probation officer that he was responsible for the sweat lodge but that he is not a threat to society. He said he wanted to apologize to the victims' families but he hasn't been allowed to contact them, nor did he think it was appropriate to do so at an earlier time.

I guess it was also inappropriate for him to contact the families of the dead and dying when they were rushed to area hospitals after his 2009 sweat lodge. And it would have been positively crass to hand over their identification and paperwork to medical personnel so that they could be admitted as something other than Jane and John Does. And Ray would never have been so forward as to call 911 just because people had stopped breathing. If James Ray knows anything, it's how to respect other people's boundaries when they're in a life and death crisis.

Here I was thinking it was self-absorption and a complete lack of consideration for the health and safety for people who'd forked over thousands of dollars for his expertise and care. In fact, it was just a tremendous sense of propriety. Apparently, it's just good manners to let people die alone without your meddling. Who knew?

Ray also knew better than to bum everyone out during the evening soiree hours after Colleen Conaway plunged to her death. The last thing anyone wants to hear when they're sipping champagne at a black-tie affair is that someone they know is lying on slab. I mean, what a downer. Ray knew that and he put the comfort of the other attendees ahead of his own selfish desire to blurt out the horrible truth that someone who'd paid him thousands of dollars had spent the day as a Jane Doe in the county morgue. And he certainly wasn't going to interfere by contacting her family. Ray has really just been a gentleman to the last.

The family members of the deceased disagree, of course:

"He abandoned his followers when they needed him the most," said Neuman's son, Bryan. "He has shown absolutely no remorse, no compassion and no humanity. I didn't know monsters like Mr. Ray even really existed until after this tragedy."

In letters that prosecutors want considered at sentencing, friends and family of the victims described Ray as a sociopath who blatantly disregarded repeated concerns. Brown's brother said he cannot move past the images of his sister gasping for breath and, like others, struggles to explain the deaths to his small children.

Eh, sociopath, gentleman, potato, potahhto...

But, hey, he's sorry and he won't hold any more dangerous activities. Of course, dangerous activities are his metier. The man could turn a game of cards into a bloodsport. What he'll do without the firewalks, the rebar bending, the cement block karate chopping, and the blindfolded mountain hikes, that are the tools of his trade I can't imagine.

Oh, here we go: James Ray TV:

Over the last few months I’ve really tried to concentrate on how I could offer more to my loyal followers. Each day I find myself answering questions from friends wanting to know how to get more out of life, or how to get through a trying time. James Ray TV will be my way of saying Thank You for your support. It will allow you to ask those questions and have me myself answer them through video feed. I look forward to interacting with you and hope that you would check back for this added feature.

Yes, he himself will answer all those questions you've been dying to ask him when he wouldn't give you the time of day. Access, baby, access. And you won't even have to show off your cleavage and wait for a dream teamer to tap you on the shoulder and let you know you're his dinner date for the evening.

Yes, just in time for his mitigation hearing and sentencing, Ray has completely retooled his website. I just looked at it yesterday and it didn't look like this. (Please, use restraint when viewing. The last thing you want to do is give him page views and income.) I am a little curious about permissions when it comes to the use of Oprah and Larry King voice-overs taken from their shows. Why do I think that they might not want to have their proprietary material used to promote a convicted felon? Hmmm... We'll have to take a wait and see posture on that one but I'm not sure that's kosher.

But, look, Ray is putting his best foot forward as he faces Judge Darrow and attempts to prove that he should be given probation and returned to his life of, um, "teaching." Not to worry, Your Honor. No more cooking people to death or breaking their limbs. He'll just be interacting with them through the magic of streaming video on his snazzy new site. Safe. Contained. And contrite.

Meanwhile, his defense team is moving forward with their attempt to stop everything in its tracks. Their motion for continuance hasn't been uploaded yet, but Judge Darrow's order for the prosecution to promptly respond has. One gets the feeling he'd like to move this along. As per Mark Duncan, he did not seem to take kindly to the defense's oral argument for continuance in yesterday's hearing.

After an attorney's health emergency shattered the scheduling of James Arthur Ray's presentence hearings, Judge Warren Darrow decided to get the proceedings back on track beginning next week, despite a defense request for a longer delay.

Tom Kelly, Ray's local counsel, was treated over the weekend and on Monday for a heart condition. And even though his co-counsel, Luis Li, argued that Kelly's presence in the courtroom for the presentence hearings was critical, Darrow recalled that, during the four months of Ray's trial that ended in a conviction on three counts of negligent homicide, at least three other highly qualified attorneys were in court.

"To say that Tom Kelly has to make all the decisions," Darrow said during a telephonic scheduling hearing Tuesday, "is just too much."

Jeannika also asks some hard questions as to why this needed to be continued at all, as her research did not find the necessity of having an Arizona attorney in the courtroom for this proceeding.

According the rules of the Arizona Supreme Court ::: nonresident attorneys who want to to appear as counsel (pro hac vice) simply need to comply with Rule 38(a).

This basically means any out of state lawyer with the proper credentials and fees (Translation: ALL of James Arthur Ray's MTO folks) simply completes a pro hac vice form and sends it ::: along with the fees ::: to the State Bar of Arizona. They don't need an Arizona Lawyer on their team ::: don't need nada beyond a client that is ::: all they need to do is show up for trial.

Camille Kimball explains that it may not be that simple and that Kelly may be a little nervous about those fancy-schmancy LA lawyers operate under his imprimatur while he's convalescing.

First there is the slightly sticky wicket that Tom Kelly, as Arizona counsel, would have taken on the burden to be answerable to Arizona authorities for the actions of the California contingent, whether he was present to keep an eye on them or not:

. . .

Even if lead counsel objects to going forward without Tom Kelly’s presence, the Court has the discretion to require him to proceed. If it is brought to the Court’s attention that Tom Kelly was prepared to handle a particular aspect of the mitigation (and Lead Counsel was unprepared to do so) it might be a good reason to ask for a continuance.

I think that last sentence that is the one I would put my money on. If Luis Li, Truc Do and the rest of the crew were not the ones who'd been studying up on these witnesses and this particular procedure, Darrow could reasonably conclude it would be an insult to justice to leave a defendant at the mercy of lawyers making it up on the fly through no fault of their own.

No lawyer, me. I'm just a concerned citizen who would have liked to see this fiasco brought to a close in time for my birthday. But, at this point, I will gladly settle for seeing James Ray sentenced before the second anniversary of his sweat lodge from hell on October 8.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

James Ray Hearing: New Dates and More Objections

Sentencing has been rescheduled for October 6; a day that is not my birthday. The mitigation and presentencing hearing is now scheduled to begin September 28. Worse, word on the street is that the defense intends to object to the new schedule. As per Tom McFeeley, they are claiming that Tom Kelly needs more time to prepare. Being hospitalized for a heart ailment certainly prevented him from appearing yesterday but how did this sudden, health emergency prevent him from being prepared for the previously scheduled dates? Did the dog eat his homework, too?

Once again, I find myself stunned by the slap-dash approach of this expensive, high-power defense team. They always seem to be whining that they've been caught flat-footed by an under-resourced, small-town DA's office. So overwhelmed are they that they can't even find the time to black out the addresses and phone numbers of private citizens on publicly posted documents.

They've got bigger problems with those letters from James Ray's supporters, too. I've been picking my way through them and there are some things that don't add up. I noticed a discussion on Connie Joy's Facebook page that raises some serious questions. Many of the letters were written last fall before the the trial began. It's unclear whether support from some of those letter writers is still forthcoming. From some of the comments in that thread, I would guess not.

I myself noticed that a lot of the letters were dated from September 2010. A number of them don't address the sweat lodge tragedy at all. Some of them aren't even dated and don't address the tragedy. There's no telling when those letters were written. Some of them aren't even letters. They're single paragraph blurbs. Considering that Ray has an extant, if widowed, web page that sports a testimonial blurb from a woman whose death he caused, as well as at least one from a woman who has written a letter for the prosecution, leave say, I'm dubious about undated, nonspecific testimonial blurbs.

The support letters run the gamut. I haven't read them all but what I've read raises considerable concern. One, for instance, contains the following paragraph:

I've had a personal saying that I've shared with both of my children throughout their lifetime and it is exactly as follows:
"If you come home dead, I don't care who's fault it was!"
and what I use as an example to each of them is this: If you are walking down the street and you stop at a intersection, when the light turns green do you walk? NO! You wait, You look around, When it's clear you then walk! Then I remind them how many people see a green light and they start walking (with absolutely no regard for cars or buses). When I am out driving my own car with my children and we are sitting at a light, I'll often point out a stranger and we will make a game of it as we each take a guess ahead of time if a given person will look or walk. Can you guess what happens in most cases? They walk! (without looking). To me personally, it seems like such a common sense thing to do (to look around to make sure it is safe to walk.) I can hardly believe myself that people don't feel the need to do this.

Get it? If some driver runs a red light and hits you, it's your fault, kiddo, because you trusted that they'd be law abiding and pay attention to traffic signals. "Walk on the green, not in between," just isn't gonna cut it. Driving and walking defensively is certainly good advice, in and of itself, but Charlene D of Toronto, Ontario takes it about ten steps further. If her children fail to take responsibility, not only for their own behavior, but for irresponsible, drunk, or otherwise errant drivers, it's their own damn fault if they get hit. And she won't be bothering to seek justice for the vehicular homicide of her own children. So don't expect it.

That letter is just nutty enough to qualify as a bona fide letter of support for the recently convicted James Ray. The message: You're responsible for everything that happens to you even if it's caused by the  irresponsibility of others. Implied: Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman should have left the sweat lodge even though they were delirious from the totally irresponsible levels of heat and humidity and the fact that they were repeatedly told that their delirium was a normal and desirable state.

Like Bob Proctor, Charlene D seems incapable of recognizing the inconsistency of blaming the victims of bad acts for their deaths while simultaneously absolving Ray of responsibility for the legal predicament he finds himself in. In the topsy-turvy world of this rabid "law of attraction" set, people who are hit by drivers who run red lights aren't victims. They're responsible for everything that happens to them. But those felonious drivers are being victimized by those who prosecute them and it's all just horribly unfair.

I'm amazed that I was able to keep reading after that particular letter but I did. And then I stumbled on the letter from one Jack Lane -- not to be confused with Jack LaLane. What immediately struck me about this letter is that Lane claims of to be a combat veteran of the "US Military," but he never says what branch of the military he served in. He claims to have won "Distinguished service medals," plural, but he never says how many of these high honors he received and doesn't appear to know that the Distingished Service Medal is the name of an award and is always capitalized. He claims to have "participated in campaigns such as Desert Storm, Somalia, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan." So he's been busy. But operations in Pakistan are strictly unofficial. We are not at war with Pakistan. In fact, it's purportedly an ally. The killing of Osama bin Laden earlier this year on Pakistan's soil has created major problems because it brought clandestine missions into the open. That someone who claimed to be a Staff Sergeant in the Special Forces of some unnamed (???) military branch would just throw out something about serving in Pakistan is extremely suspect. But even if I accept that a combat veteran wouldn't specify what branch or know how to write out the name of an award or claim to have fought in a country we're not fighting with, I still find it about impossible to buy that James Ray cured his PTSD -- let alone his somehow only recently diagnosed "bi-polar" disorder.

My bullshit meter thus pegged, I took a break from the James Ray is a great guy letters.

I would advise against anyone with a weak heart or a blood sugar disorder even attempting to read those letters but I do recommend the memorandum from Sheila Polk's office. In it she calls for a maximum, consecutively served sentence of three years for each count. She also argues that Ray make restitution for the State's costs in excess of $67,000 and for the expenses of family members and witnesses during the trial. Go, Sheila!!

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Sep 20, 2011

48 Hours Mystery -- West Memphis 3: Free

In case you missed the new 48 Hours Mystery on the WM3, I have posted the show in its entirety above. Much of it is a rehash of their earlier coverage but the new interviews with Damien Echols, his wife Lorri Davis, and Jason Baldwin are incredibly heartening. It's wonderful to see that Echols has gotten some color. His skin looked like alabaster on the day of his release. And Jason Baldwin has won a whole new level of admiration from me. His joy and optimism after having lost half his life to the criminal justice system of Arkansas are amazing. He has proved himself to be a man of honor and integrity. He could have gotten a reduced sentence, all those years ago, if he'd testified against his friend. He refused. And torn between his desire to see a just verdict in a new trial and the certainty of saving Echols's life with the plea deal, he chose to save a life. Has the absurdity of putting this man behind bars for murder ever been more glaringly apparent?

The written coverage from CBS underscores the absurdity:

This is what justice in Arkansas looks like: On Aug. 19, 2011, Judge David Laser in Craighead County released three men who had spent the last 18 years in prison, one of them on death row. But as part of an unusual plea agreement, the three men -- Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley -- who insist they are innocent, had to first plead guilty to three counts of murder.

It struck more than a few observers in the packed courtroom that morning that the surreal spectacle had very little to do with justice. As one of the newly freed men, Jason Baldwin, later described it, "When we told prosecutors we were innocent, they put us in prison for life. Now when we plead guilty, they set us free!"

The county prosecuting attorney Scott Ellington's actions didn't help clear up matters either. He said publicly that he still believed these men were guilty of one of the most heinous crimes in the state's history: the brutal murder of three 8-year-old boys in 1993. And yet, he made them all sign a waiver promising not to sue the state.

Nope. It's still not justice. But at least three innocent men are finally free.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Sep 19, 2011

James Ray Hearing Vacated Due to Illness

What part of next Monday is my birthday don't these people understand?! James Ray was scheduled to be sentenced that day, but justice has been delayed... again.

Supporters of a self-help author convicted in the deaths of three people after an Arizona sweat lodge ceremony will have to wait to testify in an effort to convince a judge that James Arthur Ray deserves a lenient sentence.

An attorney in the case had a medical emergency, prompting the cancellation of a weeklong hearing that was supposed to start Monday, Yavapai County Superior Court officials said.

. . .

This week’s hearing hasn’t been rescheduled. Ray was scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 26, and it’s unclear whether that will go forward as planned.

Word is that Tom Kelly has been hospitalized and because he is Ray's Arizona counsel, the law requires his presence. Luis Li and Truc Do, in addition to being almost inconceivably annoying, are out-of-towners.

Sybil: Well, Basil, guess who's just called to cancel at twelve minutes past seven.
Basil: Who?
Sybil: The Coosters
Basil: What!? All four?
Sybil: Marvellous, isn't it?
Basil: Aagh! What did they say?
Sybil: One of them's ill.
Basil: Well, let's hope it's nothing trivial.

~ from Fawlty Towers, "Gourmet Night"

The whole thing seems a little too convenient. Delaying the inevitable seems to be the stock in trade of Ray's defense and their previous motion to have the mitigation hearing vacated was denied. I certainly don't wish Mr. Kelly any ill. I'm actually a little concerned that he may have been poisoned. Organophospates in his coffee, perhaps?

In the meanwhile, there's lots of fun reading in new court documents. Let's see... The defense moved last week to exclude the letters collected by the prosecution attesting to Ray's dirtbaggyness.  (Background on those letters can be found here.) The prosecution has responded to their motion explaining that the rules of evidence are different in non-capital cases and that the "purpose of a presentence hearing is to ensure that the sentencing judge is fully informed as to the character of the individual." Ouch. That could hurt.

I remain confused as to how it is that the defense was unaware that Mary Latallade had met Ray and attended JRI events, as per the claim in their motion to exclude all that troublesome truth-telling. She was using her married name of Bryson when she attended the 2008 Spiritual Warrior event that nearly killed her, but her experience was spelled out in the her letter which was immediately disclosed to the defense. Their attention to detail continues to impress.

Also fun is the newly uploaded document containing the letters from Ray's supporters, some of whom are slated to testify in the mitigation hearing... should that ever happen.

It's piles of verbiage and I've only skimmed the reams of letters about the wonders of the "law of attraction" and Ray's teaching of it. But some really fun bits pop to the surface. For instance, the personal note to Ray that brackets the first letter:

Dear Mr. Ray,
I have searched hard to try to find an email address for you on the web (and failed.) During my search I glimpsed the furore about the deaths of three people and the only conclusion I could draw from it was that the media hates successful people. I dismiss it all.... I wish you peace and the strength to fight the subversive elements that are ready to denigrate your name.

Seriously? You're gonna open with that?

Yes. That's right. James Ray is a victim... of a hate campaign, really. No one understands that better than Ray. But this tragic martyr would forgive all of us who know not what we do.

James Ray is just like Jesus... except that Jesus never cooked anyone to death.

It's amazing how the whole "law of attraction" you're never a victim and you're solely responsible for your own reality thing evaporates when it's the people who teach it who find themselves in those merciless crosshairs.

No one does this doubletalk better than Bob Proctor. He's holding fast to his previous public statements in his letter of support.

I have offered, on a couple of occasions, to go to his court and testify in [Ray's] favor. I am of a firm opinion that although he is responsible for the work he does, he is definitely not responsible for the actions of others. I believe one of the glaring weaknesses in our educational system is that people are not taught to take responsibility for their own lives. It is obvious that if one person was free to walk out of the sweat lodge, every person was free to walk out of the sweat lodge and to punish James for someone else's actions, in my opinion, is a miscarriage of justice.

In a tragic situation like this, it would be very easy to get emotionally upset and feel someone has to be blamed. This was a terrible accident and I don't really believe anyone is to blame. I would urge you to permit James Ray to walk away from this situation and deal with himself and God in his own way.

So no one's to blame except the delirious and unconscious people in Ray's "hellacious hot," not "weeny-ass sweat lodge." He's not really saying it's their fault, though. Really, he blames society for not educating people properly about personal responsibility. But it's no one's fault.

I think Proctor's so good at this gobbledygook because he's not smart enough to realize that he's contradicting himself. But the cognitive dissonance for those of us with critical thinking skills is almost physically painful.

He's quite certain, though, that it's not James Ray's fault. I mean what did he do other than create the hottest sweat lodge ever conceived of by mortal men and shame people into staying in it when they tried to crawl to the door?

It can't be his fault. He did nothing! In particular, he didn't use the cell phone in his hand to call 911 when he learned that people weren't breathing. He knew better than to take responsibility for other people's stuff, including their unconsciousness and lack of respiration.

Proctor is slated to testify in the mitigation hearing. His name can be found on the list provided by the defense along with other luminaries like Genpo Roshi, a Buddhist priest who was disrobed over a sex scandal and "habitual abuses of power." So that should help. (The State's list is here.)

Salty has a rundown of some of the other defense witnesses here. Another fun revelation in that article is a link to a page from Ray's "decaying website" that includes a testimonial from Liz Neuman -- a woman he was convicted of cooking to death. Um... Clean-up on aisle 10, people!!! It's not enough to widow the page. You have to actually delete the damn thing. Unbelievable.

In addition to exploiting the sentiments of a dead woman, Ray, through his attorneys, has once again violated the privacy of private citizens in uploaded court documents. This time its his own witnesses. None of the address and contact info is redacted from the letters of support. Carelessness? Stupidity? Malice? I'm never sure.

Comments on this entry are closed, on this blog. If you wish to comment, please find this and all newer blog entries crossposted on Celestial Reflections.

Sep 16, 2011

WM3 on 48 Hours Mystery

CBS 48 Hours Mystery, which profiled Johnny Depp's interest in the West Memphis Three a year and ago will be doing a follow-up report. It will air Saturday, Sept. 17, at 10:00 PM Eastern Time. I know I already have my DVR set. More info can be found on the CBS website here.

When three men convicted of murdering three young boys were released from Arkansas prisons last month, it made headlines. This Saturday, "48 Hours Mystery" will air a comprehensive report on the case, including the first television interviews with two of the men known as the "West Memphis 3." Correspondent Erin Moriarty, who has been working this story for four years, offered a preview on "The Early Show."

Watch a preview of this "48 Hours Mystery" episode

Jason Baldwin, Moriarty reported, is beginning his life at age 34, doing the kinds of simple things most of us take for granted, such as getting his driver's license and enjoying the outdoors.

Baldwin told CBS News, "The first thing I did? Oh, I just smiled and got, like, a thousand hugs from everybody, you know?... I smiled so much that my face actually hurt from it, you know, but it is a good thing. ... It just felt like everything was alright. Like, here's the time to begin, you know?"

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Sep 15, 2011

Om the Dome for Fifty One Days

William Henry has been, for some time, calling on people to "Om the Dome" of the US Capitol. Henry's interest in the underlying symbolism in DC architecture, particularly in the Capitol Rotunda, I've discussed previously here, here, and here. An attack on that symbolism is underway by far right Christian groups who are organizing a prayer event called DC40.

The Reformation Prayer Network, led by Cindy Jacobs, and the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, headed by John Benefiel, have joined together to produce a nation-wide event called “DC40.″  The goal of DC40 is to effect “eternal change in our nation’s capitol so our elected officials can govern from a new position of uncompromising light and understanding as we change the spiritual atmosphere over Washington DC forever.” This effort is variously named DC40, Forty Days of Light Over D.C., and 51 Days of Reformation Intercession.

The change DC40 wants to make is electing leaders who fear the Christian God and “find that compromise is not the way” as it is impossible to “compromise with unrighteousness.” The “uncompromising light” refers to a statement released by Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, which says God’s word should be the legal authority in the United States and Christians should acknowledge no other,  “no power to purpose or accept any compromise of the promises of God, and we declare illegal in the earth any action or any people, Nation or nations that undertake what is contradictory to the Word of God.”

DC40 will, in particular, take aim against the Goddess Columbia.

As a first step, DC40 is taking aim at Columbia, patron goddess of the United States. Benefiel says America is “cursed” for living under a Pagan goddess whom he alternatively calls  Columbia or Baal.  Benefiel went on to say naming the capitol after Columbia and having Her statue atop the capitol building “gives her a legal right to mess things up in our nation’s capital” and is the reason legislators “go crazy” when they arrive there.   DC 40 says it is renaming the District of Columbia to the District of Christ to reclaim it for Jesus and urges the nation to repudiate Columbia.  Benefiel says that the only way to solve our country’s current problems is to divorce ourselves from our nation’s Pagan trappings.

Pagan groups are organizing counter events, including daily devotions to this patron goddess of the US.

Bloggers Hecate and Literata, both of whom live in the Washington DC area, are calling for Pagans to make daily devotions to Columbia and to pray to Her to help this country preserve its foundational commitment to religious liberty.

“I will be spending this time making a daily devotion to her, not against these conservative Christians, but in hopes that they and I might find ways to live peaceably together in a nation that values religious pluralism,” writes Literata.

Hecate echos this call and adds other steps Pagans can take, ” I propose to seriously ward my Bit of Earth, my own tiny temple to Columbia. I propose to, a number of times between now and November 11, 2011, circle the United States Capitol, sprinkling, inter alia, rosemary and warding the beautiful statue of Columbia that presides over, and directs energy into, the United States Capitol. I propose to write to my Senators and Congress person, on paper that I’ve charged and with ink that I’ve mixed with sacred herbs, and ask them to disavow this hateful group of Dominionists. I propose to ask my own Circle if we can do some protective magic. I propose, as Summer slips into Autumn and as the Veils Between the Worlds begin to thin, to call upon all of my ancestresses and ancestors, especially those who have worked to make America the Home of the Free, and ask them to block what the Dominionists are doing to this country and to my beloved City on a Hill. I’m an urban Pagan and I propose to do magic to sustain my urban area. And because I don’t enjoy being merely reactive, I intend to do some magic to strengthen Columbia’s hold over her own city, to help everyone who lives here to see the benefits that she brings to her polis, to increase her influence over this landbase.”

I find it interesting that this resurgence in attention to the iconography that is so evident in DC emerged just as I was getting ready to move back to the area. Notably Dan Brown's Lost Symbol, which I enjoyed, apparently spurred renewed interest in Masonry. But nearer and dearer to my heart is the more in depth William Henry material. I've always known there was a lot of Masonic and Pagan symbolism hidden in plain sight in the Capitol but it's only recently that the I've become aware of the magnitude of the ideas that have been woven into this particular "navel" of the world.

I just started Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval's newly released Master Game, which is a somewhat updated version of their earlier book Talisman. I'm loving it. And looking at the vintage posters of Columbia, what strikes me most is what I now see is transparently borrowed from the French revolution. The liberty or Phrygian cap and Graeco-Roman garb is a dead giveaway. From The Master Game:

In street festivals staged during the French Revolution, the 'goddess Reason' was routinely personified by an actress garbed with a tricolor red, white and blue veil and wearing the so-called Phrygian cap . This same little red cap was in great vogue with the general public in the early part of the Revolution and was worn especially by the sans-culottes ('without culottes'), the most zealous faction who partook  in the thousands guillotine executions in Paris and throughout the country.

The Phrygian cap is the typical headwear of two well-known pagan deities: the goddess Cybele and the god Mithras.

Cybele was the one of the [sic]  great mother goddesses of antiquity and, more particularly at one stage of Roman history, whose 'republic' the French revolutionaries tried to emulate. As the name of her cap suggests, her cult origins were in ancient Phrygia (modern Turky). In statuary she was routinely associated with two lions, either depicted harnessed to her chariot or flanking the ceremonial throe used by the high-priests of her cult. Medieval and Renaissance scholars frequently identified her with the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis.

As per Hancock and Bauval, Isis made a stunning appearance after the destruction of the Bastille.

The day after the storming of the Bastille an enterprising local contractor, Monsieur Pierre-François Palloy, took it upon himself to mobilise a workforce of 800 citizens to dismantle the hated prison stone by stone. The work was so well done that within a month most of the structure had been reduced to rubble with only a small part of the perimeter wall and foundations still intact.

At this point something curious occurred. The suggestion was made and for a while taken seriously, that the stones of the Bastille should be salvaged in order to construct a replica of an ancient Egyptian pyramid on the site. And although the project later stalled for lack of funds, the core idea of making a symbolic connection with ancient Egypt persisted behind the scenes. If a pyramid could not be managed something less would have to suffice. Thus it was that on 10 August 1793 a group of revolutionaries ceremoniously installed a large statue of the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis where the Bastille had formerly stood. Depicting the goddess seated on a throne flanked by two lions, the statue had been conceived by Jacques-Louis David, the famous artist and propagandist of the revolution. It was to be one of the props in a macabre republican feast hastily put together in order to celebrate the decapitation of King Louis XVI six months previously and the forthcoming guillotining of Queen Marie-Antoinette still tow months ahead.

The sculptors, François Marie Suzanne and Pierre Cartelier, did not have sufficient time to cast the statue in the preferred medium of bronze so they simply moulded it in plaster and colored it with bronze paint. From the bare nipples of the 'goddess Isis' could be seen water being ejected into an open basin below the statue. Known as the 'Fountain of Regeneration' the general idea was for the crowd of people to pass in procession in front of 'Isis' and drink 'from her fertile breasts the pure and salutary liquor of regeneration'.

That this country is similarly steeped in Egyptian, Pagan, and alchemical symbolism, cannot be plausibly disputed. Yes, we owe a lot to those cheese-eating surrender monkeys.

Convinced against all evidence that this is supposed to be a "Christian nation" radical reformationists seek to overthrow the very not Christian underpinnings laid down by our founding fathers. And their choice of dates is no accident. Their 51 days of scheduled prayer will end on 11/11/11; a date many dispensationalists believe may coincide with Armageddon.

So there has never been a better time to "Om the Dome" and honor the archetypal road-map that has been provided for us in the nation's Capitol. This country was founded on the idea that state religion was a form of spiritual oppression. I'm convinced that their notion of "liberty" was far more profound than most people realize.

These folks, on the other hand, are terrifying:

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Sep 14, 2011

James Ray New Trial Motion DENIED

Not surprised, but relieved all the same, that Judge Darrow has rejected James Ray's motion for a new trial. As discussed here, Ray's attorneys had argued for a new trial alleging prosecutorial misconduct.

Without elaboration, Judge Warren Darrow on Wednesday denied a new trial for motivational speaker James Arthur Ray.

Ray, 53, was convicted in late June on three counts of negligent homicide in the deaths of Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman after an October 2009 sweat lodge ceremony at a retreat center near Sedona. He faces the possibility of as long as nine years in prison.

Rejected last week was a request from Ray's attorneys to vacate the mitigation and pre-sentencing hearing scheduled for next week. From their motion, it appears that they were operating from the assumption that the new trial motion would be a granted. They have made no travel plans for witnesses and claim that scheduling at this point would be a hardship. Bill Hughes argued in the prosecution's objection to the request that they've had plenty of time to plan for the long scheduled hearing and that any further delays in sentencing are denying justice to the family members of the victims. It's a great read.

I noted that in Mark Duncan's write-up of today's decision, he mentions that Ray's attorneys will "present as many as 19 witnesses on Ray's behalf." That's down a bit from the 27 they'd previously claimed would appear. Prosecutor Sheila Polk plans to present 7 witnesses and 11 friends of the deceased to rebut assertions that he's a really great guy.

The hearing -- which follows Judge Darrow to his new courtroom digs in Prescott -- remains scheduled for September 19-23 with sentencing on September 26. That last also happens to be my birthday. I know what I want for a birthday present this year.

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Sep 7, 2011

Enda Kenny Smacks Down Vatican Parsing

Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny gave his first formal response to the Vatican yesterday and he shows no sign of backing down.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has stood by his assertion that the Vatican attempted to frustrate a state inquiry into clerical child sex abuse. In its response to the Cloyne report at the weekend, the Vatican described as “unfounded” the Taoiseach’s Dáil claim that it attempted to frustrate an inquiry into abuse “as little as three years ago”.

However, speaking at Fine Gael’s ‘think-in’ at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Galway yesterday, Mr Kenny said the Murphy Commission had requested information and assistance from the Vatican in 2006, 2007, and 2009, and that, in each case, those requests were either refused or rejected.

He stressed that, as the Murphy Commission is a statutory commission of inquiry, nothing less than full co-operation is required. “And anything less than full co-operation in my opinion is unwarranted interference,” he said.

It will be interesting to see if the Vatican will continue to parse Kenny's statements or deal with the substance. Because so far their response has been to nit pick the language in Kenny's blistering attack on the Vatican's credibility following the Cloyne report. As has been the case far too often in regards the sex abuse scandal, the Vatican has absolved itself with legal technicalities. There is something deeply alarming about an institution the purpose of which is making moral pronouncements falling back on legalese when their own moral infractions are exposed.

I think it was probably the obfuscatory nature of the legal minutia that Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore was referring to when he complained that the Vatican's response was "very technical and legalistic."

Speaking in Dublin, [Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin] said: “The Vatican responded to the questions they were asked and some of the questions were about norms and legislation. It is a bit unfair to say that they gave technical answers – they were technical questions.”

It seems to me that the Vatican and its defenders are doing the same diplomatic dance they've always done and the current Irish Government has walked off the dance floor. They've dispensed with diplomatic niceties. They've dispensed with subtlety entirely and are putting the anger of the Irish people in extremely blunt terms. It's a politically safe maneuver because they've so well captured the mood of a people sick to death of slick responses to a very serious problem.

Hitting back at demands by Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin for "specifics" regarding Government assertions that the Church deliberately frustrated investigations into child rape as recently as three years ago, the Tánaiste said Rome should focus on rooting out paedophilia.

"The specifics, let’s be clear about the specifics: children were abused — that’s specific. Let’s not be distracted, let’s not miss the point. No loose charges were made," he said.

"There was the most horrific sexual abuse of children perpetrated by clerics. The Catholic Church did not deal with that as it should have dealt with it. Let’s not be distracted. The Taoiseach and the Government stand over what was said."

In a brilliant column, Fergus Finlay lays what is so thoroughly frustrating and infuriating about the Vatican's posture in this whole affair and why the Irish Government needs to continue to stand firm and not be sucked into an argument on the Vatican's terms.

Gimlet eyes. Sharp-faced lawyers.

Read it in all its painful, pathetic and absurd detail. Then tell me if you can see any real compassion there, any real humility, any real pain at the suffering of victims and survivors. No. It’s 25 pages long and — to be generous about it — roughly a page is all it takes to outline the Catholic Church’s feelings of sorrow and shame at the abuse perpetrated by its priests and covered up by its bishops. The other 24 pages were written by lawyers trying to win on a technicality.

And since it was published they, and their apologists who have been all over the media all weekend, have been demanding that the Government should respond to their specifics with more specifics. Like some sharp-suited lawyers in the tv version of a courtroom drama, they have tried to put the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste on the defensive with page after page of wearying technicalities.

. . .

When it comes to divorce, or family planning, or abortion, the Church has never felt the need to be silent, or to take its lead from teacher unions or the Association of Social Workers. Why in the name of God did the Church feel the need to be led by others in its duty of protecting children?

Yes, it's amazing how proactive the Vatican is on the truly important issues like making sure women remain second class citizens and how cautious and slow they are when children's safety is at stake. If nothing else, they've made their priorities abundantly clear.

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Sep 4, 2011

Vatican Responds to Angry Irish Government

The Vatican responded yesterday to the charges of the Irish Government. They have quite predictably deflected the criticism and rejected any claim that the Vatican can be blamed in any way for the failures in Cloyne.

I find it interesting that a response which was expected before the end of August was delivered instead in early September... on a Saturday. If the Irish news cycle is anything like ours in the US, that's a textbook method of making a story disappear. (There's a reason politicians post bad news on Friday afternoons.) And here in the US, where the priestly abuse scandal is keenly followed, it's a holiday weekend. The Vatican couldn't have planned it better if their intent was to bury the story in US news markets. I don't think it will work, however. The Irish Government wasted no time in responding to the Vatican's report.

Prime Minister Enda Kenny, yet to formally reply to the statement, has said he stands by his criticism of Church leadership and its handling of the clerical sex abuse scandal in the Cloyne diocese.

“I do not regret my response to the report when I made that statement to the Dail (Irish parliament) in July, I will respond fully in due course,” said Kenny at a Cavalry Remembrance Day ceremony at the Curragh Army Camp.

Deputy Prime Minister Gilmore, leader of the Labor Party, has also responded to the Vatican statement and reminded the Church that the protection of children should be of the utmost importance for Church and State.

. . .

He added: “Some of the argumentation put forward by the Holy See was very technical and legalistic.

“The government’s concerns were never about the status of church documents but rather about the welfare of children.

At specific issue is a letter sent in 1997 by then Nuncio Cardinal Darion Castrillon Hoyos. The Vatican response diminishes the role of the letter and claims it was misinterpreted.

The Vatican became embroiled in the latest Irish church scandal after revelations about a 1997 letter, from the then papal nuncio to Irish bishops, a year after reporting guidelines were enforced to enhance child protection.

The correspondence stated that the bishops' policy was "merely a discussion document" and that the Vatican had serious moral and canon reservations about mandatory reporting of clerical abuse.

But the Vatican says that taken out of context, the comments in the letter from Archbishop Luciano Storero to Irish bishops "could be open to misinterpretation, giving rise to understandable criticism."

But it's the Vatican that seems to have a very selective reading of the Cardinal Hoyos's views on cooperating with civil authorities.

Surprisingly, the Vatican response Saturday cites a 1998 speech Castrillon Hoyos delivered to Irish bishops on dealing with sexual abuse in which he stressed that the church and its priests "should not in any way put an obstacle in the legitimate path of civil justice." The Vatican said his speech showed that civil law and church law can operate in parallel.

The response doesn't, however, cite the rest of Castrillon Hoyos' speech, in which he resoundingly criticized the Irish mandatory reporting policy, said it should be revised and that such reporting requirements risked that "the image of the bishop can be turned into more of a policeman than a true father."

He acknowledged that such crimes need to be dealt with quickly, but warned against "obsessive" pursuit of accused priests by bishops because of the damage it can do to the priests, whose souls, he said, were "at the center of the affair." [emphasis added]

"If he is guilty, we must, before anything else, be involved with his conversion," Castrillon Hoyos said. "If as often happens, he is a victim of calumny, we must help him to prove his innocence and carry this cross."

Such statements are emblematic of the Church's reflexive protection of abusive priests at the expense of the children they abuse.

As recently as 2001, Castriollon Hoyos was actively advocating the protection of abusive priests from the law. As I reported here, he sent out a letter to bishops extolling the virtues of a French bishop who refused to turn an abusive priest over to civil authorities. He has also claimed that the letter was approved by none other than Pope John Paul II.

It's history like that that fills so many of us with incredulity when the Vatican repeatedly pronounces itself blameless in the continuously unfolding sex abuse scandal.

A pdf of the full text of the Vatican's response is available from Irish Times.

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Sep 2, 2011


Has King Arthur's round table been found in Scotland?

The King's Knot, a geometrical earthwork in the former royal gardens below Stirling Castle, has been shrouded in mystery for hundreds of years.

Though the Knot as it appears today dates from the 1620s, its flat-topped central mound is thought to be much older.

Writers going back more than six centuries have linked the landmark to the legend of King Arthur.

. . .

"The finds show that the present mound was created on an older site and throws new light on a tradition that King Arthur's Round Table was located in this vicinity."

We may have been a seafarin' people since before we were even human.

A team of researchers that included an N.C. State University geologist found evidence that our ancestors were crossing open water at least 130,000 years ago. That's more than 100,000 years earlier than scientists had previously thought.

Their evidence is based on stone tools from the island of Crete. Because Crete has been an island for eons, any prehistoric people who left tools behind would have had to cross open water to get there.

The tools the team found are so old that they predate the human species, said Thomas Strasser, an archaeologist from Providence College who led the team. Instead of being made by our species, Homo sapiens, the tools were made by our ancestors, Homo erectus.

Will we find the God Particle in time for Christmas?

The hunt for the Higgs particle is well ahead of schedule, say researchers at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Earlier this year they said they would either discover the Higgs or confirm it does not exist by the end of 2012.

Now, because the machine is working so well, an LHC spokesman, Professor Guido Tonelli, has told BBC News that the search could be completed much sooner.

The Higgs Boson is the particle that in the physics "Standard Model" allows other particles to have mass.

Discovery or elimination of the particle is one of the LHC's major objectives; and it could come as early as Christmas 2011.

Edgar Cayce, look out! The sleeping artist is here. A nocturnal painter believes he may be receiving artistic guidance from the spirit world.

Being an artist is so easy, Lee Hadwin can do it in his sleep, but when he is awake, the 37-year-old, who got a D in art at school, cannot paint or draw to save his life.

He discovered his nocturnal talent aged four, when he began to sleepwalk and draw on his mother’s furniture.

. . .

Since then, he has produced almost 200 sleep-pictures, selling them to collectors such as illusionist Derren Brown, with one piece fetching a six-figure sum. He does not know why he can draw only in his sleep but believes it may be spirits communicating from the other side.

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Gardens in spaaaaaaaaace!

Astronauts on the first manned missions to Mars could tend “kitchen gardens” of salad and vegetables onboard spaceships, scientists claim.

Experts say the crops would not only give crews healthy food to eat during the long journey to the red planet, but would also improve the atmosphere onboard by producing oxygen and removing carbon dioxide.

In addition, the plants suggested as suitable by a NASA scientist would require minimal tending and not take up much room on spacecraft.

Bad pizza in spaaaaaaaaace!

Domino's pizza has announced plans to conquer the final frontier by opening the first pizza restaurant on the Moon.

Domino's Japanese arm has proposed a branch on Earth's nearest galactic neighbour is the latest escalation in a pizza publicity war.

Rival chain Pizza Hut set the bar high in 2001 by delivering a pizza to astronauts orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station, but Domino's fought back last year in a series of events to mark the 25th anniversary of its arrival in Japan.

Diamonds are forever.

A newly discovered alien planet that formed from a dead star is a real diamond in the rough.

The super-high pressure of the planet, which orbits a rapidly pulsing neutron star, has likely caused the carbon within it to crystallize into an actual diamond, a new study suggests.

The composition of the planet, which is about five times the size of Earth, is not its only outstanding feature. [Illustration of the diamond alien planet]

The planet's parent star is a special kind of flashing star known as a millisecond pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star formed from a supernova. The entire system, which is only the second of its kind ever discovered, is located about 4,000 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Serpens (The Snake).

Chimera alert! Spider goats developed for the military.

Researchers genetically engineered goats to produce milk which is packed with the same protein as silk spiders.

Once this is milked out it can be spun out and weaved into a material that is ten times stronger than steel.

The fabric can then be blended with human skin to make what the scientists hope will be tough enough to stop even a bullet.

Dutch researcher Jalila Essaidi said the ‘spidersilk’ project was called ’2.6g 329m/s’ after the weight and the velocity of a .22 calibre long rifle bullet.

An elephant never forgets. And elephants are smarter than we know.

Kandula, a seven year old Asian elephant living in Washington D.C.’s National Zoo, has proven that elephants are as smart as those that spend a lot of time around them have believed. In an experiment carried out by researchers at the zoo, the little elephant figured out all on his own, without resorting to trial and error, how to go get a cube to use as a footstool to help him reach some food that was just out of reach. The research team, led by Preston Foerder of the City University of New York, has published the results of their study on PLoS ONE.

Other animals (besides humans) such as chimpanzees and dolphins have demonstrated in various ways that they are capable of dreaming up solutions to problems in their head and then carrying them out. Called “aha” moments by researchers, such thinking, a form of insight, is one of the hallmarks of higher intelligence. Most people who have ever worked with elephants will attest to the fact that they are indeed intelligent creatures; though no one (at least in the research community) had ever witnessed an elephant using insight to solve a problem. This has perplexed scientists for several years, and has caused them to study the seeming paradox. It appears now that the team working with Kandula has seen it in action, that previous research had been attacking the problem from the wrong angle.

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