Why was Bigfoot investigated by the FBI?

bigfoot

Bigfoot is one of those classic bits of urban folklore that will consistently and persistently pop up. The latest example concerns the release of some records by the FBI, but before we get into that let’s do a quick summary of some Bigfoot history highlights.

Bigfoot Legends

The name “Bigfoot” dates to the discovery of a trail of oversized footprints in 1958. This was significant because it was the start of the modern craze. It sounds like rather conclusive hard evidence, but in 2002 the New York Times revealed that it was a prank by logger Ray L. Wallace.

There is also the rather famous film shot by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin in 1967. You can see a still image taken from that at the top of this posting. It strikes just the right balance of being sufficient to convince the believers, but is simply not enough to convince the skeptics who take the stance that it is simply a guy in a suit and is another hoax. There is an entire wikipedia page that goes into it all in great detail. There you discover gems such as the many interviews with people who personally knew Patterson and happily describe him as a conman and a liar. Bruising aside all who are quite sure it is real, we have testimony from the guy who sold Patterson an ape suit in 1967, and his wife backs this up. There is also the guy who claims he was in the suit and that it was him, and other witnesses also verify it. Additionally, we also have the details of the guy who tipped off Patterson on the best location to fake it all.

Does that nail it?

Perhaps not.

Actual legends of such ancient creatures do predate the modern legends and associated hoaxes. For example in 1840 Elkanah Walker, a Protestant missionary recorded stories of giants among the Indians living near Spokane, Washington. The Indians said that these giants lived on and around the peaks of nearby mountains and stole salmon from the fishermen’s nets. (Big hairy creatures that live in the mountains and like salmon … er yes, the word you are looking for does indeed begin with B, that’s B as in bear).

Regardless of all this, there are still many who do believe.

What exactly is this latest FBI Revelation?

What we have are exactly 22 pages of letters that date to 1976. (Bigger version here).

These records consist of a sequence of letters and memos …

  • We have a letter that dates to 1976 from a prominent Bigfoot activist called Peter Byrne. He was writing to explain that he had some hair samples that he would like them to analyse. At that time he was not just some random crank, but was the director of the Bigfoot Information Center and Exhibition of Oregon, hence he appears to have gained a bit of traction.
  • Then we have the letter sent back by Jay Cochran Jr., assistant director of the agency’s scientific and technical services division. Within this Mr Cochran explains …“The FBI Laboratory conducts investigations primarily of physical evidence for law enforcement agencies in connection with criminal investigations. Occasionally, on a case-by-case basis, in the interest of research and scientific inquiry, we make exceptions to this policy. With this understanding, we will examine the hairs and tissue mentioned in your letter.”
  • There is also an internal letter confirming that the analysis request was granted. Within that Mr Cochran notes to his colleagues that … “This does not represent a change in Bureau policy” on the basis that the FBI is also interested in … “research and legitimate scientific inquiry
  • Finally there is the reveal, we also have the results of that analysis.

Insert drum roll here, this is the big revelation …

Yep, not Bigfoot, just a sample of deer hair.

The Legend will thrive

There are, and perhaps always will be, those that sincerely believe. Such legends tend to continue perhaps because we love a good mystery and so deep down inside we relish such tales, often spinning them up around many campfires.

If Bigfoot was indeed real, then the possibility that this could be verified also exists. For example, an actual body of one, or bones, or a hair sample. If however it is just a myth, then how exactly do you establish that? This is perhaps the reason for such myths to continue to exist. You can’t disprove it because the “true” believers will simply assert that you looked in the wrong place, or were looking for the wrong evidence, and even if several cases have been proven to have been faked, Bigfoot really does exist.

This is perhaps the way we are with many unverifiable things.

Links for further reading and reference

Greenland Melting, updates

Greenland

Not too long ago I pointed out that Prof Jason Box, the ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, tweeted out the following …

Now that several weeks have passed, where do things stand?

Basically he called it, because this has happened …

Greenland

It is fascinating that Greenland is one of those places that most people do not know very much about. Take for example these questions – is it independent, how many people live there and what language do they speak. If indeed people do live there (hint, yes they do), then what is the capital, etc…

OK, I’ll look it up for you. Yes, it is independent, it was once under Danish control, but in 2009 it gained complete self-rule. Because of that recent Danish history the official language is of course Danish. The total population is an estimated 56,370, and the capital is Nuuk.

(Wikipedia is your friend).

In fact, here is the capital …

How does the melt compare to previous summer melts?

If you check out the National Snow and Ice Data Center, then you will find that their latest update is this …

That perhaps gives you the impression that nothing like this has ever happened before. That’s because it has all been averaged out.

We have in fact seen melt spikes that are akin to what has just happened, and so here is a better representation of it, also via the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this time previous spikes from 2002, 2012 and 2016 are included …

In other words, we have had previous melt events that are very similar in scope and scale, and melt events of even far greater scope and scale, so why all the fuss?

Basically because it it is a new record for this time of year … but only just.

Clearly from the above you can see that 2012 was the big melt year for Greenland. Seeing this latest spike this early means that 2019 could indeed rival it. At this point in time that’s a “perhaps”, and will very much depend upon the weather over the coming months.

Should we be worried?

The short answer is yes.

What is clear is that many subject matter experts are quite worried about what is happening, and so you might now wonder why. It is true that there is indeed enough frozen water in Greenland to raise sea level by 7.2 meters, but seeing that happen will take centuries and not one summer melt season.

Of far more immediate interest is that what is being observed exceeds the absolute worst case scenario within climate models …

In Context

It’s too early in the season to call it, and yet so far this is indeed very worrying. The implication is that net zero by 2050 may be too little and too late.

Meanwhile, Climate Change, the greatest threat ever faced by our species, hardly merits a mention in the news headlines. That tells you a great deal about our priorities. In the longer view, nobody will remember either Trump or Brexit, but everybody will know about Climate Change.

Tweets

Weekly Weird Right-Wing Fundamentalist News

weird

About one year ago cartoonist Rob Rogers was fired by the @PittsburghPG for the “crime” of daring to draw editorial cartoons that mocked Trump. The above is an example of one of his pieces that was deemed to be too offensive. This was after a long 25 year career. His criticism was not simply fiction, it was criticism that was wholly based upon fact and actual events. I need not tell you what the above cartoon is about, you know immediately what it refers to. To observe cartoonists being fired for acts of wholly valid criticism is a milestone that marks the truly weird age we now live in.

It is an era where some utterly irrational and truly obnoxious ideas have been embraced as “fact”, and actual facts are dismissed as “myth”.

Why is it like this, it can’t just be one man?

It is not, he is simply an enabler for much and is only where he is because he has surfed into office on the crest of a wave. The challenge we face is not simply he who I quite frankly cannot be bothered to name, but all those who have carried him into office on their shoulders via a tide of utterly irrational religious/political rhetoric. This is the guy who could see which way the wind was blowing, so rushed in front of the crowd and yelled “follow me”.

We are awash in a constant stream of Ideas that are basically the demonisation of “them” where “they” can be immigrants, or gay people, or simply people who have a different religious or political belief. It persists because it works, and it is also an easy way to express the emotional frustrations so many feel. Each and every week we get more of the same, and so I highlight some of it here with a weekly posting, not to shock you, but to enable you to laugh and mock the utter absurdity of it all.

What happened during the last 7 days?

Homophobia …

  • E.W. Jackson: The Rainbow Flag Is ‘An Accursed Thing’
  • David Lane has some questions: … “Where are ‘equal rights’ for those who believe that homosexual behavior is sin as defined by Holy Scripture? If sexual desire or behavior toward a person or persons of one’s own sex is, on God’s authority, to be considered a vice, who then authorized the State to bless and hallow such vice and evangelize it through public education? Five pagan Supreme Court Justices?
  • Mychal Massie is not a fan of those that are gay: … “It’s a deviant lust of the flesh. The practice of homosexuality is unnatural, amoral and destructive to the spirit, soul, mind, psyche and the personal health of those who choose to become involved in same. It’s men lusting in their souls to sodomize other men and women who lust after other women for sexual defilement.
  • Michael Bresciani warns that … “the deep sin of sodomy … is a depraved act of perversion that ranks close to the unforgivable act of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It is one of only a few sins the Bible describes as an abomination.

Weird new theory regarding bad weather …

Harry Potter is still getting bad press …

  • Michael Brown warns that the demonic spirit of Jezebel is responsible for “radical feminism,” “the aggressive LGBT movement,” … and the Harry Potter books.

Witchcraft …

  • Larry Klayman has released a petition demanding the imprisonment of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi: … “These two witches, banding together, are flying high on their brooms circling the White House, bent on ‘killing’ President Donald J. Trump, his family and colleagues.

The cult of Trump …

  • Right-wing pastor Darrell Scott claims that Trump is actually very humble and self-deprecating.
  • Right-wing pastor Jim Garlow and his wife, Rosemary Schindler Garlow, unfurled an American flag, heaped praise upon President Trump, and sang “Happy Birthday” to the president from a community in the Golan Heights that is set to be renamed “Trump Heights” in the coming days.

Vegetarians are part of a Satanic Plot …

Did Anything else Weird Happen?

Of course. Here is a selection of more weird stuff …

… but it is not all bad news, some good stuff also happened as well. The following highlights that there are decent honourable people out there who do take a stance, and to be clear, the following is not “weird”, but instead reflects human decency and integrity …

News consumption: What are the latest trends?

news media consumption

A poll of of over 75,000 online news consumers in 38 countries was conducted by YouGov. The raw data was then crunched and turned into a Digital News Report by The Reuters Institute. This report has just been published. Within it we gain insights into the progress on new paid online business models, trust and misinformation, the impact of populism, the shift to private messaging apps, and the rise of podcasts.

Who Did this?

The Reuters Institute is the University of Oxford’s research centre on issues affecting news media globally. Think of this as a bridge between daily working journalism and academic study. The name “The Reuters Institute” reflects their core funding coming from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, but they also receive grants from other sources.

What did they find out, what are the most important insights from this?

There is a great deal of detail, hence the best I can do is to simply skin over the surface here. The following bullet points are direct extracts from the report, the sub-headings are my attempt to distill it all into distinct categories.

Who is paying for news and what are the trends?

  • Despite the efforts of the news industry, we find only a small increase in the numbers paying for any online news – whether by subscription, membership, or donation. Growth is limited to a handful of countries mainly in the Nordic region (Norway 34%, Sweden 27%) while the number paying in the US (16%) remains stable after a big jump in 2017.
  • Even in countries with higher levels of payment, the vast majority only have ONE online subscription – suggesting that ‘winner takes all’ dynamics are likely to be important. One encouraging development though is that most payments are now ‘ongoing’, rather than one-offs.
  • In some countries, subscription fatigue may also be setting in, with the majority preferring to spend their limited budget on entertainment (Netflix/Spotify) rather than news. With many seeing news as a ‘chore’, publishers may struggle to substantially increase the market for high-priced ‘single title’ subscriptions. As more publishers launch pay models, over two-thirds (70%) of our sample in Norway and half (50%) in the United States now come across one or more barriers each week when trying to read online news.

What about Facebook, is that still popular, and are other apps rising in popularity?

  • In many countries, people are spending less time with Facebook and more time with WhatsApp and Instagram than this time last year. Few users are abandoning Facebook entirely, though, and it remains by far the most important social network for news.
  • Social communication around news is becoming more private as messaging apps continue to grow everywhere. WhatsApp has become a primary network for discussing and sharing news in non-Western countries like Brazil (53%) Malaysia (50%), and South Africa (49%).
  • People in these countries are also far more likely than in the West to be part of large WhatsApp groups with people they don’t know – a trend that reflects how messaging applications can be used to easily share information at scale, potentially encouraging the spread of misinformation. Public and private Facebook Groups discussing news and politics have become popular in Turkey (29%) and Brazil (22%) but are much less used in Western countries such as Canada (7%) or Australia (7%).

What about Fake News, what specific insights did they have?

  • Concern about misinformation and disinformation remains high despite efforts by platforms and publishers to build public confidence. In Brazil 85% agree with a statement that they are worried about what is real and fake on the internet. Concern is also high in the UK (70%) and US (67%), but much lower in Germany (38%) and the Netherlands (31%).
  • Across all countries, the average level of trust in the news in general is down 2 percentage points to 42% and less than half (49%) agree that they trust the news media they themselves use. Trust levels in France have fallen to just 24% (-11) in the last year as the media have come under attack over their coverage of the Yellow Vests movement. Trust in the news found via search (33%) and social media remains stable but extremely low (23%).

How trusted are the mainstream news outlets?

  • Worries about the quality of information may be good for trusted news brands. Across countries over a quarter (26%) say they have started relying on more ‘reputable’ sources of news – rising to 40% in the US. A further quarter (24%) said they had stopped using sources that had a dubious reputation in the last year. But the often low trust in news overall, and in many individual brands, underlines this is not a development that will help all in the industry.
  • The news media are seen as doing a better job at breaking news than explaining it. Across countries, almost two-thirds feel the media are good at keeping people up to date (62%), but are less good at helping them understand the news (51%). Less than half (42%) think the media do a good job
  • There are also significant differences within countries, as people with higher levels of formal education are more likely to evaluate the news media positively along every dimension than the rest of the population, suggesting that the news agenda is more geared towards the interests and needs of the more educated.

What impact has the Rise of populism had?

  • To understand the rise of populism and its consequences for news and media use, we have used two questions to identify people with populist attitudes, and compared their news and media use with those of non-populists. People with populist attitudes are more likely to identify television as their main source of news, more likely to rely on Facebook for online news, and less likely to trust the news media overall.

Are people avoiding News?

  • More people say they actively avoid the news (32%) than when we last asked this question two years ago. Avoidance is up 6 percentage points overall and 11 points in the UK, driven by boredom, anger, or sadness over Brexit. People say they avoid the news because it has a negative effect on their mood (58%) or because they feel powerless to change events.

What impact is new technology having?

  • The smartphone continues to grow in importance for news, with two-thirds (66%) now using the device to access news weekly (+4pp). Mobile news aggregators like Apple News and Upday are becoming a more significant force. Apple News in the United States now reaches more iPhone users (27%) than the Washington Post (23%).
  • The growth of the smartphone has also been driving the popularity of podcasts, especially with the young. More than a third of our combined sample (36%) say they have consumed at least one podcast over the last month but this rises to half (50%) for those under 35. The mobile phone is the most used device (55%) for podcast listening.
  • Voice-activated smart speakers like the Amazon Echo and Google Home continue to grow rapidly. Usage for any purpose has risen from 9% to 12% in the United States, from 7% to 14% in the UK, from 5% to 11% in Canada, and from 4% to 8% in Australia. Despite this, we find that usage for news remains low in all markets.

What Comes Next?

Friction is a concern, people are increasingly encountering paywalls, so what do they suggest comes next?

Our research suggests there may be a disconnect between current publisher strategies of selling individual titles (for a relatively high price) and consumer desire for frictionless access to multiple brands. Almost half of those who are interested in news (49%) consume more than four different online sources each week – a number that rises significantly for under 35s.

Donation models, such as the one operated by the Guardiannewspaper – and some local news organisations in the United States – have been suggested as an alternative to paywalls, but these still make up a small percentage of the market. In the last year just 3% in the United States gave money to a news organisation, 2% in Spain, and 1% in the UK.

Another alternative could be bundling and aggregation. The Timesof London offers free access to the Wall Street Journal while theWashington Post bundles cheaper access via Amazon Prime. The New York Times is offering a joint subscription with Scribd while Dagens Nyheter in Sweden is partnering with Bookbeat around audio and ebooks.6 These added-value bundles may become more important as markets get saturated and customer retention becomes a burning issue. Growth is harder to come by in the United States, with 40% of new subscribers at theNew York Times now joining up for cooking and crosswords – a different kind of bundling

Waiting in the wings come platform aggregators such as Apple News+, offering a single priced subscription for multiple premium titles for $9.99. Most premium news published have stayed out for now for risk of cannibalising their markets, but the industry will need to address consumer concerns about accessing multiple brands at a reasonable price sooner rather than later.

Further Reading and viewing

Here is a link to the full PDF – (Be warned, it runs to hundreds of pages)

There is also a summary website with details to all the details here.

They have also created the following YouTube summary …

Here is an example of how this report will be used. Because it is too much to digest in one story, theme specific articles will mine data from it. For an example see this Forbes story that has a tight focus on just Fake News.

They have rather a lot of published analysis associated with it all.

Below are some examples.

Explore the data behind the report – Explore the 2019 data and build your own charts. Compare dimensions and data types between or within countries

Podcasts: Who, Why, What, and Where? Nic Newman looks at the motivations for listening to podcasts, as well as the locations and devices that are driving usage

What do People Think about the News Media? Antonis Kalogeropoulos explores how well the news media in different countries are meeting audience expectations

Update: Britt Hermes Wins

Britt Hermes

Back in January 2018 the news was that Naturopathic cancer quack Colleen Huber was attempting to silence criticism of her practices by suing Britt Hermes (pictured above). Britt did not back down, but instead let the case proceed. The latest update is that she has won, the judge has ruled in her favour.

Who is Britt Hermes?

She lays out her story on her well-known blog “Naturopathic Diaries”. Here is an extract …

I used to be a naturopathic doctor. I earned my degree at Bastyr University in 2011 and went on to complete a one-year naturopathic “residency” at a private clinic in Seattle. I then moved to Tucson, Arizona where I practiced alongside other alternative health practitioners. I stayed here until I retired from the profession in 2014. I now live in Kiel, Germany.

I left naturopathy with a bang. In the spring of 2014, I discovered that my boss, also a naturopath, had been importing and injecting a non-FDA approved medication called Ukraine to cancer patients. I resigned from his practice and reported him to the Arizona naturopathic medicine board and the state attorney general. During my final meeting with him, my former boss informed me that he knew he was operating in the “grey zone” and that this was common in the naturopathic profession.

He was right.

Naturopathy is not what I was led to believe. The profession functions as a system of indoctrination based on discredited ideas about health and medicine, full of pseudoscientific rhetoric and loaded with ineffective and dangerous practices. Naturopaths must be highly scrutinized because they have an ongoing history of deceit and exploitation—veiled in good intention.

Since my departure from the profession, I have been working to understand my former biases surrounding naturopathic medicine and why I was drawn to it. I thought I was highly trained and medically competent, but I could not have been more foolish.

I now write about the evidence, or lack thereof, of naturopathic methods and the ethical and educational shortcomings of the fledgling profession

Why was she being sued?

The full story of what happened is well-documented within this posting on the Science Based Medicine website. Again, below is an extract. You can click the link to get the full story …

…In February, 2016, Hermes discovered that her name had been misappropriated in three registered domain names. One, brittmariehermes.com, was a snarky “tribute” website, while the other two redirected the reader to the homepage of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Upon investigating further, Hermes found that one of the eponymous domain names was registered with an email address at the domain natonco.org, the website of an organization called the Naturopathic Cancer Society, a non-profit run by self-appointed cancer expert Colleen Huber, a “Naturopathic Medical Doctor” who practices in Arizona….

…based on her cyber-research, Hermes wrote a post on her blog: “Is dubious cancer ‘doctor’ Colleen Huber cybersquatting my name?” The post chronicled her discoveries about the misappropriation of her name and her efforts to fight back, including the fact that she had to go to the expense of hiring an attorney in the U.S. to assist in reclaiming her name. It also criticized Huber and her quack treatments, her use of a dubious Institutional Review Board (IRB) for her equally dubious research, and her questionable charitable organization. Hermes backed up her criticism of Huber’s research with a reanalysis of the data by Thomas Mohr, an oncology researcher at the Medical University of Vienna….

… Huber doubled down. She hired a German attorney, who sent a cease and desist letter to Hermes…

… Hermes refused and responded to these claims in a second post, “Is Colleen Huber a cancer quack? And more legal thuggery.”…

Huber’s cease and desist letter boomeranged into a fresh round of criticism of her quackery. Our good friend Orac deconstructed Huber’s bogus cancer treatments and her questionable research over on Respectful Insolence. Steve Novella, MD weighed in as well here on SBM. Taken together, their comments left Huber and her research in shreds.

But Huber is nothing if not persistent. Perhaps due to good old forum shopping for a more plaintiff-friendly jurisdiction, Huber has now filed suit against Hermes for defamation in Germany, where there is no protection against SLAPP lawsuits.

Unfortunately for Huber, the boomerang struck again in response to her lawsuit. This time, it was Edzard Ernst, MD, raising anew questions about Huber’s extravagant claims. Orac also posted with an update on Huber’s latest attempt to silence Hermes.

The suit has also prompted an international effort against this attempted suppression of well-documented criticism of naturopathic practices.

Since I do personally know Brett and her husband, I was also posting about this at the time encouraging readers to join the effort and support her.

The Latest Update

From her posting here …

On May 24, 2019, the District Court (Landgericht) of Kiel, Germany ruled against naturopathic cancer quack Colleen Huber in a defamation lawsuit she brought against me….

The final hearing took place on April 3, 2019. During the hearing it became rather apparent that the judge was not having any of Huber’s lawyer’s legal theories. In a last minute attempt before the hearing concluded, Huber’s lawyer made a motion to accuse me of unfair competition against Huber. Per German law, this claim requires that I would be in a competitive relationship with Huber, so I’d have to be a practicing naturopath in the same geographical region as Huber and providing similar goods and services. When Huber’s lawyer noticed that he was not making ground here, he doubled down by claiming that Huber and I were competitors as public speakers! To put it mildly, the judge found these theories to be quite colorful and, rightly so, did not buy it.

In the end, the court fully ruled in my favor, stating that Huber’s points of contention were invalid because my statements were protected speech under Article 5 (1) of the German constitution.

The court concluded that Huber is a public figure as a so-called prominent naturopath in the USA and is therefore not immune from criticism. The court also recognized that naturopathy is a controversial field, especially for alternative treatments for cancer. My criticisms of Huber are therefore entirely legal. Furthermore, the court determined that Huber’s points of contention are my personal opinions and are not malicious. According to the German Supreme Court, an opinion which may include facts has to be judged as an opinion as long as one does not blatantly lie. I had reason to believe that Huber was cybersquatting domains in my name, which I phrased as an open question and not as a statement of fact. In an attempt to reveal the truth to the court, we requested a “subpoena” of the domain name registrant GoDaddy and the website hosting service Wix to provide the original owner of the domains and hosted sites. Huber opposed this motion and, per German law in this special case, the court was not permitted to force GoDaddy to divulge this protected information. Nevertheless, the court ruled 100% in my favor.

Huber has the right to appeal until the beginning of July 2019, which I would zealously fight.

Just to be 100% Clear

This is very much a moral and ethical issue and is not simply a difference of opinion.

The facts are clear, Colleen Huber is a quack who is promoting cancer treatments that do not have any robust scientific evidence. Thomas Mohr, an oncology researcher in Vienna reanalyzed Huber’s data that supposedly supported her treatments. This revealed that the risk of death with Huber’s therapies appeared to be 10 times higher compared to those patients who left her practice to pursue conventional cancer treatments.

Criticism of Hurer’s “treatments” is wholly appropriate and necessary. Attempts to silence and gag such criticism via legal bullying is utterly abhorrent.