UFO ROUNDUP

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Volume 9
Number 8
February 25th, 2004

Editor: Joseph Trainor

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TWO DEAD IN A BIZARRE "FAYETTE FACTOR" CASE

The Fayette Factor, plus Friday the Thirteenth, proved to be a lethal combination in Lexington, Kentucky (population 260,512) last week.

"A domestic-violence shooting that spiraled into a six-hour standoff killed a Lexington woman, a firefighter and wounded at least three others yesterday (Friday, February 13, 2004). After hours of negotiations, police blasted chemical agents into a home in rural southern Fayette County," Kentucky.

(Editor's Note: The Fayette Factor refers to the startlingly high incidence of paranormal events in the USA associated with places named after the Marquis de Lafayette. For more, see UFO Roundup, volume 9, number 6, "1977: The Fayette Factor," page 14.)

"Pat Hutchinson, 45, was apprehended about 9:45 p.m. He is accused of fatally shooting a woman in the house. She is thought to be his wife of 13 years, Fontaine, 60."

"The first black female Lexington firefighter ever-- and the third firefighter to die in the line of duty, Brenda Cowan, 40, had just been promoted to lieutenant on Tuesday," February 10, 2004.

"Last night Fire Chief Bill Hendricks' eyes welled with tears as he recalled pinning on her badge."

"The other firefighter that was shot, Jim Sandford, was in stable condition last night, said Lexington Fire Dept. Major Greg Stapleton. A third firefighter, Mike Souder, suffered an apparent sprain and was treated and released."

"A Lexington police officer also was injured in a car wreck traveling to the scene."

"Hutchinson told the Herald-Leader that he shot Fontaine and the paramedics because he was staging a coup against human clones."

"'You're about to see Armageddon,' said Hutchinson, who spoke calmly about a vast conspiracy involving UFOs, human clones and the CIA."

"'I started with my wife,' he said, 'I shot her in the head. She's got a radio sticking in her skull.'"

"Hutchinson talked to the Herald-Leader by phone around 4:30 p.m. after the shootings. A reporter trying to reach neighbors called him by accident."

"Yesterday's event began at 3:45 p.m. when emergency units descended on the house at 8645 Adam Lane, near Exit 99 off (Interstate Highway) I-75 after a neighbor called, reporting that a woman had been shot there, police said."

"When Cowan and Sandford approached the home, they were gunned down, police said."

"Four other paramedics who were trapped inside their vehicle asked for emergency response units to evacuate them safely."

"The area and the barricade was filled with dozens of police, fire and emergency personnel."

"Two helicopters landed on the interstate" highway. "I-75 South was blocked at the Clays Ferry exit and at the Athens-Boonesboro Road, stalling traffic for miles."

"For the next few hours, police negotiated with the man to come out of the house. By 7:26 p.m., (electrical) power was cut at the interstate, blackening the area around his house. The power cut took out floodlights around his home and left one visible light on the front porch."

"About an hour later, police blasted six chemical agents into the house, according to police conversation on the monitor."

"A separate party of officers, equipped with shotguns and search dogs, headed for the woods surrounding the house around 8:45 p.m. They fired at least six more rounds, according to the monitor. Officers also reported hearing coughing inside the house and running water."

"Each time a (chemical) round was fired, the pop echoed throughout the woods."

"Hutchinson endured an hour and a half of the chemical agents which irritate eyes, skin and nasal passages."

"At the University of Kentucky Hospital earlier that evening, Mayor Teresa Isaac, Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson and various city officials arrived. Cowan was pronounced dead at 5:35 p.m., about a half hour before the coroner's van pulled up to the emergency room entrance."

Brenda Cowan "was a Union County native and the sister of former UK (University of Kentucky) basketball star Fred Cowan."

"Cowan's pastor, the Rev. Richard Gaines of Consolidated Baptist Church, was consoling firefighters yesterday evening in the Third Street station."

"Fontaine Hutchinson, the woman thought to have been killed at the house, found joy in simple things such as cats, orchids and a brief stint with a storied band of trapeze artists, the Flying Wallendas."

Fontaine "cultivated wild and domestic orchids at her home."

"Fontaine was divorced from the late Lt. John Keene Van Houten-Gurnes, a retired Lexington police officer who died last year." (See the Lexington, Ky. Herald-Leader for February 14, 2004, "Bizarre dispute erupts. Firefighter shot, killed," page 1. Many thanks to Rose Vrabel for this newspaper article.)

(Editor's Comment: I'm just glad Kentucky police caught this guy before "the voice in the refrigerator" told him to take his guns and his Clone War to nearby Fayette Mall.)

FIGHTER PLANES CHASE UFOs IN CALIFORNIA?

"Two Navy fighter jets rattled North Bay residents at dusk Thursday," February 5, 2004, "roaring loudly while flying tight circles over Petaluma (population 54,548)," a suburb north of San Francisco, "for several minutes."

"The F-18s came from Lemoore Naval Air Station, south of Fresno, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). But FAA officials said they don't know why the planes were in the Bay area."

"Efforts to contact officials at Lemoore were unsuccessful."

According to ufologist Daniel Wilson, "On Friday, February 6, 2004, at 6:36 p.m., a cigar-shaped UFO was reported at Solvang (population 5,332), approximately 260 miles (416 kilometers) south of Petaluma."

"'It was quite a show,' said Mike Gose, manager of Petaluma's municipal airport. 'I'm going to get a lot of calls about this.'"

"Gose said he called the federal radar facility that tracks aircraft in the region. They said the flight was authorized but wouldn't say what the planes were doing."

"Walt Smith, the FAA's regional director, said an FAA official in Petaluma reported the jets flying at medium altitude--about 5,000 to 10,000 feet (1,500 to 3,000 meters)--in contrast to the witnesses who reported the planes as low as 1,000 feet (300 meters)."

"The planes roared over Petaluma at about 5:40 p.m. and circled concentrically in opposite directions over town. They circled so tightly that at times they were sideways, one pulsing its afterburner and leaving a bright tail of flame behind."

"Smith said the afterburner, not the altitude of the jets, was the cause of the tremendous noise."

"At about 5:45 p.m., the planes headed south and disappeared."

"Some residents said their houses shook from the roar of the planes."

"Unnerved callers were concerned that the fighters could be tracking possible terrorist activity. Others initially thought a plane was crashing."

"'They must have been trying to make a show of force or something,' said resident Tom Burrows, 'I doubt somebody would be practicing...over the treetops over the town, just for the hell of it.'"

"Petaluma police dispatchers were heard to tell callers they had no explanation for the flyovers."

"Judy Mazzeo and her husband thought a plane might be crashing and ran outside to see the jets circling over their Petaluma home."

"'I really thought something terrible was happening,' she said, 'It was practically like they were buzzing us.'"

"Gose speculated that someone might have violated restricted airspace before landing in Petaluma and the F- 18s were scrambled as a precaution. A similar scenario played out after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when two planes were followed by fighter jets into Petaluma. The fighters were checking out the two planes, one of which flew too close to Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield (population 96,178)."

Mysterious sonic booms and air maneuvers were also reported in southern California.

"The shaking, rattling and booming that's been going on around Barstow (population 21,119)," a small city 120 miles (200 kilometers) northeast of Los Angeles, "lately is no cause for alarm, according to an Edwards Air Force Base spokesman."

"The unusual noises were the result of (U.S.) Air Force jets flying at supersonic speeds in testing corridors north of town. John Haire, chief of media relations at Edwards, said the base hasn't been doing many more supersonic flights than usual but current weather conditions could cause the sonic booms to carry more easily."

"The booms could be louder and more noticeable to Barstow residents because it has been colder and more moist recently, Haire said."

"'It doesn't mean a test acceleration,' he said, 'It's just normal, routine-type stuff.'"

"Pilots at Edwards fly new F/A-22 Raptors, as well as F-15 and F-18 fighters that can fly at supersonic speeds, in two designated flight corridors north of Barstow. One of these has its southern border about a mile from town, Haire said."

"In addition to Edwards, sonic booms could be associated with other military installations in the area."

"But Peggy Shoaf, a spokeswoman for the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, said her base hasn't done any supersonic flight testing lately."

"As for any role Fort Irwin might have in recent sonic booms, Major Chris Belcher, a spokesman for the post, said the Army doesn't have supersonic aircraft."

"Planes sometimes do fly at supersonic speeds at the post, however, and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada coordinates such flights."

"Air Force Master Sgt. Charles Ramey, a spokesman for Nellis, identified Edwards as the most likely cause of recent booms. Ramey also echoed Haire's comments about cold. moist air relaying the noise better than hot dry air." (See the Petaluma, Cal. Press-Democrat for February 6, 2004, "Two Navy F-18s roar and thunder over Petaluma," and for February 6, 2004, "Sonic booms shock, rattle Barstow." Many thanks to Daniel Wilson for these newspaper articles.)

UFO ACTIVITY RISES IN BRAZIL'S PANTANAL

There has been a sharp upsurge of UFO sightings, including daylight discs, in the Pantanal rain forest of Brazil's southwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul.

According to Brazilian ufologist Brunilda Barros, "Just over 100 cases have been catalogued by the Centro Brasileiro des Pesquisas de Discos Voadores or CBPDV (Translated: Brazilian Center for the Investigation of Flying Saucers --J.T.)."

"My cousin Maria Victoria and her family live in Tres Lagoas," Brunilda reported, "And she says Mato Grosso do Sul is an area of major UFO activity, specifically in the (state) capital, Campo Grande, and the Pantanal."

"The most recent UFO sightings were in Bela Vista and Corumba. Also, a number of motorists driving on the (Highway) BR-262 between Aquiduana and Miranda saw round luminous objects hovering above the palm trees. A silver disc was seen hovering in daylight over the Fazenda Bodoquena (farm), just off the highway."

"Daylight discs were also seen at the beginning of February (2004) in the southern part of the state (Mato Grosso do Sul--J.T.), especially by the people living between Nova Alvorada do Sul and Dourados. Other UFOs were sighted in Seminario, Sidrolandia and in Tres Lagoas, not far from the Fuerza Aerea Brasileira (Portuguese for Brazilian Air Force--J.T.) base that protects Campo Grande." (Muito obrigado a Brunilda Barros por esos casos.)

MYSTERY BOOM AND UFO JOLT AREQUIPA, PERU

"Peruvian scientists are puzzled by the cause of a powerful earth tremor in the region of Arequipa," Peru's second largest city, located in the Andes 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) south-southeast of Lima, the national capital.

"Supposedly, the boom and subsequent quake were caused by 'an unidentified bright object.' Dr. Armando Minaya, chairman of the Geophysical Institute of Arequipa, confirmed this assumption."

"A powerful earthquake, measuring 3.5 on the Richter scale, was reported in the mountain region near Arequipa on Monday, February 2, 2004. Local campesinos (field workers--J.T.) informed the institute that they had seen 'a bright object plunging to the ground' midway up a mountainside. Witnesses claim they heard 'a major explosion' and noticed smoke rising from the mountainside."

"A team of scientists were sent to the site of the mysterious impact. The scientists claimed that it might have been a large meteorite, since there were no signs of any earthquake damage in the immediate vicinity." (See the Peruvian newspaper La Republica for February 4, 2004. Muchas gracias a Monica Gaetano de Silva para esto articulo de diario.)

MYSTERY BOOMS HEARD BY THOUSANDS IN INDIA

"The director-general of the Institute of Seimsological Research, Dr. Janardan Negi, has clarified that the blasts being heard in parts of Saurashtra (state in western India) during the past week were just underground tremors."

"Allaying people's fears, who suggested another major earthquake in the making, Dr. Negi said the blasts were caused by 'sonic booms' by overflying jet aircraft."

"Two loud explosions were heard and a tremor was felt in the Gondal, Jetpur and Rajkot regions, near Ahmedabad, at 9:10 and 9:15 p.m. on the morning of (Wednesday) January 28, 2004."

(Editor's Note: Gondal, Jetpur and Rajkot are in the Kathiawar Hills, located about 250 kilometers (150 miles) west of Ahmedabad.)

"Also there were reports from Jamanagar and Dwarka in Saurashtra of loud reports at 10:15 and 10:20 a.m."

"Recalling similar reports of explosive sounds that appeared on September 22 (2003) in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and various districts of the state, Dr. Negi said the Indian Air Force (IAF) had admitted to them being 'sonic booms' caused by low-flying fighter planes."

"The IAF confirmed that noise from a boom could be heard up to hundreds of kilometers away."

"Although some of the shallow earthquakes could also produce blasting sounds due to cracking or the movement of rocks, it is quite different from the 'sonic booms' being caused by jets, Dr. Negi said."

"'In fact, the movement of rocks starts a sound wave which can be further carried by the air,' Dr. Negi explained, 'Such sounds generated by the earth are loud and deep-sounding, emanating from inside the earth.'" (See the Times of India for January 30, 2004, "Blasts in Saurashtra due to 'sonic booms.' Many thanks to Daniel Wilson and Krishnari Bai Dharapurnanda for this newspaper article.)

UFO PHOTOGRAPHED IN PLYMOUTH, UK

"A city-based photographer has captured an image" of a UFO "while trying out his new hi-tech digital camera at night."

"It shows what can only be described as 'an unidentified flying object' hovering about St. Budeaux," at Plymouth in the southwestern corner of UK.

"Another, equally stunning snap shows the same brightly-illuminated object tilted at a different angle."

"UFO experts are highly delighted by the pictures, and the Royal Navy today asked the Herald to supply them with the photos--because they want to study them."

"Plymouth-based ufologist Bob Boyd has called the snaps among the "Best Five" pictures of a UFO he has ever seen in 25 years of spotting the phenomenon."

"Mr.Boyd, chairman of the Plymouth UFO Research Group, said: 'It's the real thing.'"

"He claimed the pictures had been examined by a photographic expert who confirmed it was genuine."

"The man who took the photographs, a dockyard worker living in St. Budeaux, didn't realise what he had snapped until he got home and inspected his photos."

"A Plymouth City Airport spokesman said it was 'highly unlikely' it was a commercial flight. Mr. Boyd does not know of anybody else reporting the UFO but said: 'That doesn't mean nobody saw it.'" (See the Plymouth Herald for February 19, 2004, "UFO sighted over city." Many thanks to Louise A. Lowry for this newspaper article.)

BIG FEMA MANEUVERS REPORTED IN TEXAS

Large-scale maneuvers to combat terrorist activities were conducted last week in Texas by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

"Simulated terrorist attacks and natural disasters will erupt in Texas later this week as part of a national homeland security preparedness drill."

"The Texas exercise will feature a simulated explosion of a portable nuclear weapon in Cotulla (population 3,614)," a small town on Interstate Highway I- 35 about 100 miles (60 kilometers) south of San Antonio. Plus "a simulated radiation leak at the Comanche Peak power plant in Glen Rose (population 2,112)," a town at the intersection of Highways 67 and 144, located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southwest of Fort Worth.

The third FEMA exercise consists of "a simulated Category 4 hurricane in Corpus Christi, Tex. (population 277,454)" on the Gulf of Mexico.

"The U.S. Northern Command is coordinating the drill, set to occur Thursday and Friday (February 19 and 20, 2004). It's been dubbed Operation Unified Defense 04."

"Much of the drill will concentrate on command post communication and coordination, not first responders in the streets, and there will be little activity apparent to the general public, said Col. Gene Pino of the U.S. Northern Command."

"'We hope and pray the day will never come that we face a real disaster like the one we will be simulating,' Governor Rick Perry said Tuesday (February 17, 2004), announcing the exercise. But if these kinds of catastrophic events do occur, officials need to be prepared to respond, he said."

"The drills will involve more than 50 federal, state and local organizations, mainly in Texas, Alaska, Colorado, Virginia and the area around Washington, D.C. Military personnel and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will be heavily involved."

"One reason the tiny town of Cotulla (best known as "The Heart of the Texas Brush Country"--J.T.) was chosen as the site for the simulated deadly nuclear explosion is its location along Interstate 35, between San Antonio and Laredo. Officials are working on ways to maximize response capabilities in this region of the state, said Jack Colley, head of the state (Texas) Division of Emergency Management."

"Elsewhere in south Texas, the hurricane simulation will take place in Corpus Christi." (Which, by the way, is the birthplace of actress Farrah Fawcett--J.T.)

"Jay Kimbrough, the governor's homeland security director, said emergency planners are preparing for a scenario in which terrorists might use a catastrophic weather event as a cover or a diversion to launch a terrorist act."

"'It's these kinds of scenarios that are being played out. The idea is that catastrophic events could very well be an opportunity for somebody to further complicate our lives,' he said." (See the Longview, Texas News-Journal for February 18, 2004, "State taking part in homeland security drill." Many thanks to Jim Danvers for this newspaper article.)

IKE AND THE ALIENS

Fifty years ago, "on February 20, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower interrupted his vacation in Palm Springs, California to make a secret nocturnal trip to a nearby Air Force base to meet two extraterrestrial visitors."

"Or maybe not. Maybe Ike just went to the dentist. These's some dispute about this."

"The Ike-met-with-ETs theory is advanced by Michael Salla, a former American University professor who now runs the Peace Ambassadors Program at AU's Center for Global Peace."

"The Ike-went-to-the-dentist theory is advanced by the folks at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kansas (population 6,543). And by James M. Mixson, a dentist, professor of dentistry and historian of presidential dental work."

"Just to make things more interesting. On the night in question, the Associated Press reported this: 'Pres. Eisenhower died tonight as a result of a heart attack in Palm Springs.'"

"Two minutes later, the AP retracted this bulletin and reported that Ike was still alive."

"Indeed, Ike was alive. And he continued living until 1969. But in the decades since his death, his activities on the night of February 20, 1954 have become fodder for strange theories about alien beings."

"Some facts are beyond dispute: Eisenhower was on a golf vacation in Palm Springs on February 20, 1959. After dining that night, he made an unscheduled departure from the Smoking Tree Ranch where he was staying. The next morning, he attended a church service in Los Angeles. Also that morning, his spokesman announced to the press that Ike had visited a dentist the previous night because he'd chipped a tooth while eating a chicken wing at dinner."

"Salla, who has a Ph.D. in government from the University of Queensland in his native Australia, doesn't believe it. He figures the dentist trip is just a cover story. He believes Ike went to Edwards Air Force Base where he met with two ETs with white hair, pale blue eyes and colorless lips."

"These aliens--nicknamed 'Nordics' in UFO circles because they resemble Scandinavian humans--traveled to Edwards from another solar system in a flying saucer and, Salla says, they spoke to Eisenhower."

"'There was telepathic communication,' says Salla, 45, as he sits in his suburban Falls Church (Virginia) living room. 'It's as though you're hearing a person but they're not speaking.'"

"The 'Nordics' offered to share their superior technology and their spiritual wisdom with Ike if he would agree to eliminate America's nuclear weapons."

"'They were afraid we might blow up some of our nuclear technology,' Salla says, 'and apparently this does something to time and space and it impacts on ET races on other planets.'"

"Ike declined the ETs' offer, Salla says, because he did not want to give up the nukes."

"Sometime later in 1954, Ike reached a deal with another race of ETs, known as 'the Greys' (Zeta Reticulans--J.T.), allowing them to capture earthling cattle and humans for medical experiments, provided that they returned the humans safely home. Since then, Salla says, the 'Greys' have kidnapped 'millions' of humans."

"Salla, author of The Hero's Journey Through a Second American Century, published his extraterrestrial theories in a new book, Exopolitics: Indications of the Extraterrestrial Presence, and an article on his 'Exopolitics' Web site."

(Editor's Note: UFO Roundup readers can access Salla's Web site at http://www.exopolitics.org)

"For much of the 1990s, Salla studied conflict resolution and tried unsuccessfully to apply this knowledge to prevent war in East Timor and the Balkans, he says. Frustrated, he began looking for an ET connection to human misery and, he says, he found evidence of ET visitations--including the Ike encounter--on the Internet."

"Meanwhile, he taught at the School of International Service at American University. In 2003, he founded the university's Peace Ambassadors Program, described on AU's Web site as 'a summer program that combines study, meditative practices and prayer ceremonies at related Washington D.C. sites aimed at promoting individual self- empowerment and Divine Governance in Washington, D.C.'"

"Salla stresses that his ET research is not connected with his work at AU's Center for Global Peace. The folks at the Center for Global Peace are also quite eager to stress this fact."

"Meanwhile, the question remains: Did Ike really meet with extraterrestrials fifty years ago?"

"'Not to our knowledge,' says Jim Leyerzapf, an archivist at the Eisenhower Library. 'There's nothing in the archives to indicate that.'"

"Then Leyerzapf burst out laughing."

"He has heard these things before. 'We've had so many requests on this subject that we have a person who specializes in this.'"

"That person is archivist Herb Pankratz."

"'He specialized in transportation,' Leyerzapf says, 'and we decided to add UFOs to that. He does trains, planes, automobiles--and flying saucers.'"

"The library fielded dozens of questions about the alleged Ike/ET meeting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when several UFO books advanced the theories, Pankratz says."

"'It's interesting how these stories have changed,' Pankratz noted in an email. 'Initially, the accounts claimed the president made a secret trip to Edwards Air Force Base to view the remains of aliens who had crashed at Roswell, N.M. in 1947. Later stories then claimed he had actually visited with live aliens."

"Pankratz doesn't buy either theory. He believes the dentist story, and he cites James Mixson, the dentist historian and professor at the University of Missouri-- Kansas City School of Dentistry. Mixson's article, 'A History of Dwight D. Eisenhower's Dental Health,' was published in the November 1995 issue of the Bulletin of the History of Dentistry" and "is the definitive work on Ike's teeth."

"Citing the U.S. Surgeon General's records on Ike's medical and dental history, opened to researchers in 1991, Mixson reported that on the fateful night of February 20, 1954, Ike chipped the porcelain cap of his 'upper left central incisor' and it was repaired by Dr. Francis A. Purcell D.D.S."

"Alas, Dr. Purcell is unavailable for comment. He died in 1974, according to Pankratz."

"The lack of a dental record from Purcell's office,' Mixson wrote, 'has helped fuel belief in this UFO encounter.'"

"But Mixson added quickly, 'the President had well- documented difficulties with this crown.'"

"Indeed, the crown, which was installed in July 1952, was chipped and repaired in December 1952, the February in question and again in July 1954 when the president's dentist, Col. James M. Fairchild, replaced it with a 'slim thin-cast gold-platinum thimble crown.'"

"That may be more than you ever wanted to know about Ike's dental work. If not, Mixson goes on at some length, quoting a long, lyrical passage written by Col. Fairchild on this troublesome presidential incisor."

"Meanwhile, there's another perplexing question: Why did the AP report that Ike died that night?'"

(Editor's Comment: Good question! Especially since Ike suffered a very real heart attack the following year--in 1955.)

"'Somebody was fooling around and it went out,' Pankratz says, 'It wasn't supposed to go out but it did.'"

"Ike never made any public statement about meeting

ETs, Pankratz says. But did he perhaps spill the beans to his family?"

"Ike's son, John S.D. Eisenhower, is a retired Army bigadier general and author of several books on history, including General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence."

"Asked via email if his father had ever mentioned meeting with aliens, Eisenhower responded with a short but emphatic reply: 'No.'"

"He declined to comment further." (See the Washington Post for February 19, 2004, "Ike and the Alien Ambassadors." Many thanks to Jim Hickman for forwarding this newspaper article. And be sure to check out Jim's Web site, The Hickman Report, at http://www.thehickmanreport.com)

(Editor's Comment: Here's my theory on what happened. During the meeting at Edwards, President Eisenhower, a notorious ladies man, got a little fresh with Jelu the space princess. Jelu whirled and punched him in the mouth. That's how the porcelain crown got chipped. The Secret Service went and fetched Dr. Purcell, who treated the president at the air base. That's why there's no patient record in Dr. Purcell's office files. As for the phony AP "heart attack" bulletin. That was a pre-prepared cover story to be released if the aliens had flown away with Ike and the U.S. government been forced to explain the president's sudden disappearance.)

GEOLOGISTS INTRIGUED BY MARTIAN SOIL

"The first look beneath the Martian surface has shown that the soil composition changes dramatically with depth and hints that trace amounts of water have been present recently or may even be there now, researchers said Thursday," February 19, 2004.

"The Opportunity rover has spent the past three days examining a 4-inch (10-centimeter) deep trench it created with its front wheel in Meridiani Planum. While the spectroscopic data has not yet been beamed back to Earth, microscopic images have presented new puzzles for the team at the Jet Propulsion Center in Pasadena, California, to contemplate while they wait for the data."

"Pictures of the wall of the trench show it is composed of sand-sized grains of red rock cemented together. The cement could have been forced by minute amounts of water rising to the surface, bringing with it salts that would act as a cement, said JPL geologist Albert Yen."

"The pictures of the wall show that small spheres present on the surface--nicknamed Martian blueberries--are also present underground, embedded in the matrix of the soil. To the team's surprise, however, the underground spheres are brighter and shinier than those on the surface."

"'We're not sure what is going on here,' Yen said."

"The bottom of the trench, in contrast, is so finely grained that individual grains do not show up in the microscopic images, Yen said."

"Halfway around Mars at Gusev Crater, the Spirit rover wriggled its wheels slightly on the surface, revealing the top layer of soil to be much stickier than expected."

"'The surface layer is different from the layer underneath it,' said geologist Dave Des Marais of NASA's Ames Research Center, 'and some stuck to the wheel. We're very interested in why the surface material is sticky.'"

"To take a better look," the JPL team used "Spirit's front wheel Saturday," February 21, 2004 "to excavate a trench similar to that produced by Opportunity."

On Sunday, February 22, 2004, "Spirit was sending back data from the 3-inch (7.5-centimeter) trench it studied with a microscopic imager and a Mossbauer spectrometer, an instrument that measures the composition and abundance of iron-bearing minerals."

"Scientists hope the minerals show whether the Red Planet's environment once held water to support life."

"Spirit is expected to begin driving today (Monday, February 23, 2004) toward the crater Bonneville." (See the Duluth, Minn. News-Tribune for February 20, 2004, "Rovers' images hint at trace amounts of water on Mars," page 5A; and USA Today for February 23, 2004, "Rover searches trench for water on Mars," page 3A.)

READER FEEDBACK:

SAW MYSTERY VAN IN PENSACOLA, FLORIDA BACK IN 2002

Concerning the mysterious silver-grey van cruising around the USA, reader Maxx writes, "I airbrush T-shirts around the country for a living, and a year and a half ago, I saw your silver mystery van in a flea market just east of Pensacola, Florida."

"I don't see what the big deal is. I even talked to the guy who owns it. He sells military surplus stuff, i.e. patches and clothing and what-not. He's an older guy, probably early sixties, has a salt-and-pepper beard, and a bit paunchy around the middle. Nice guy, all in all."

"I asked him about his unusual array. A lot of it, I might add, didn't exactly look legitimate. And he said it's a hobby of his. I asked him if he's seen anything, and he replied, 'Of course.'"

"There was a lot of radio equipment in there, as well. I also might add that there are a couple of pretty nice flea markets and swap meets in the Phoenix (Arizona) area--Greyland Park and Shop and Mercado on, I think, 53rd Street. Try looking for this guy there."

(Editor's Comment: Maxx, your description sounds like the "Lone UFO Hunter" who's been seen behind the wheel of the van. It strengthens the argument that the van's owner is simply an unusual hobbyist. But then UFO Roundup gets letters like the following...)

MORE THAN ONE VAN IN ARIZONA?

Concerning the same topic (See UFO Roundup, volume 9, number 5 for February 4, 2004, "Mystery van seen by many in Arizona," page 4), Mike Fortson writes, "I mailed my friend in Prescott Valley, Arizona the picture of the van shown on the (UFO INFO Web) site and the brief story about two weeks ago. She claims there were no windows on the passenger side of the van. Also, there were more 'satellite dishes,' four to be exact. And also, there was a strange-looking antenna that resembled a refrigerator coil that was approximately four feet (1.3 meters) tall."

"She claims the van pictured is NOT the van she saw that day."


From the UFO Files...

400: ALARIC AND THE SWORD OF DESTINY

This is how it ended. Or maybe it's how it all began.

After 127,000 years, it's kind of hard to tell.

So back we go to 125,000 B.C., to the royal palace of the long-gone kingdom of Valusia, where Kull of Atlantis has just finished his epic battle with the Reptoids.

"A wave of dizziness left him shaken. The faces turned to him, pallid and wonderingly, swirled and mingled in a ghostly fog. He felt the blood from his wound trickling down his limbs, and he knew that what he was to do, he must do quickly or not at all."

"His sword rasped from its sheath."

"'Brule, are you there?'"

"'Aye!' Brule's face looked at him through the mist, close to his shoulder, but Brule's voice sounded leagues and eons away."

"'Remember our vow, Brule. And now, bid them stand back.'"

"His left arm cleared a space as he flung up his sword. Then with all his waning power he drove it through the door into the jamb, driving the great sword to the hilt and sealing the room forever."

"Legs braced wide, he swayed drunkenly, facing the horrified councilors. 'Let this room be doubly accursed. And let those rotting skeletons lie there forever as a sign of the dying might of the serpent. Here I swear that I shall hunt the serpent-men from land to land, from sea to sea, giving no rest until all be slain, that good triumph and the power of Hell be broken. This thing I swear--I--Kull--king--of--Valusia.'"

And so Kull's steel broadsword remained pinned in the door, its keen blade seemingly impervious to rust, its pommel marked with a curious design--five stars aligned in a row. And there it remained, right through the Cataclysm that put an end to the world-age the Hindus call the Tetra Yuga.

Flash forward into our present Kali Yuga, to 530 B.C. as we reckon time. In a city once known as Saturnia and now called Rome after the warrior-hero Romulus, the king, Tarquinius the Proud, entertains a strange visitor, an old woman from Cumae, a town recently conquered. She stands unbowed in his great hall, clutching a pile of scrolls in her wrinkled arms.

"Sire, I offered you twelve books prophesying the future of Rome. I asked for three hundred pieces of gold. You refused," the old woman said. "I destroyed three of the books and returned with the nine. Again I asked for three hundred pieces of gold. Again you refused. Three more I destroyed. There are only six left. This is my final offer."

"All right, Sibyl, you've made your point," Tarquinius said, leaning back on his marble throne. "How much do you want?"

"The same amount I requested before. Three hundred pieces of gold."

"How do I know these prophecies of yours are worth such a price?"

"The books predict the fate of Rome far into the future," the Sibyl replied, her voice a disturbing cackle. "From a kingdom to a republic to an empire. To be followed by conquest and a long dark age."

"Conquest!" Tarquinius bellowed, "Who will conquer Rome!? And when? Give me the scoundrel's name...if you dare!"

"I will give you a prophecy," the Sibyl said, with a taut smile. "Fear him who is born in a river and who is laid to rest in a river."

Tarquinius frowned. Born in a river!? Laid to rest in a river!? This sounds like a total crock to me, he thought. But...I don't know. You never can tell. These sorceresses delight in obscure prophecies.

"And when will this churl appear at my gates?" he asked.

"Fear not, O king. He will not appear for many centuries. Not until long after we both are dead." The Sibyl's eyes twinkled with merriment. "You have naught to fear...from him."

"Very well, I shall purchase these books of yours."

"A wise decision, Sire."

And so we flash forward again, this time a leap of 800 years, to 370 A.D., to a wooden house on Fir Island, at the mouth of the Danube River, in what is now Romania. The wife of Balthi, a Visigoth chief, has just given birth to a baby boy. The beaming father names him Alaric.

Raised as a warrior, Alaric entered the service of Rome in 388 as one of the Federati. These were Gothic militia who fought at the side of the Roman legions in defense of the Empire's borders.

In 394, Alaric was promoted to general by the Roman emperor Theodosius, who was then under attack from the usurper Eugenius. Alaric defeated the rebel army at the battle of Frigidus in southern Switzerland. As a reward, Theodosius promised him the post of Minister of War in Rome, which would have given the Visigoth general command of all the Empire's legions.

But then, the able and valiant Theodosius died suddenly in 395. The Empire was divided between his two sons, the mentally-retarded Arcadius and the dissolute Honorius. Their rapacious prime ministers immediately plunged the Empire into civil war.

Not only was the offer of a ministry withdrawn, neither Arcadius nor Honorius would honor their father's promise to pay the Visigoths for their recent military service. So Alaric met with his brother-in-law Ataulphus and another leader, Radagaisus, and they resolved, in the words of the Gothic historian Jordanes, "to seek new kingdoms by their own labor than to slumber in peaceful subjection to the rule of others."

So the Federati invaded Greece, sidestepping Athens and conquering Corinth, Argos and Sparta. Then Arcadius landed in the Balkans and, thanks to the last capable Roman general, Stilicho, drove the Visigoths out of the Peloponnesus.
While holed up in the mountains, Alaric had a strange supernatural experience which changed his life.

On March 21, 400 A.D. Alaric and his men were fording a river, when they were hailed by a pair of Druids at the edge of a sacred grove. They invited Alaric to enter the grove...alone.

Alaric accepted the challenge. It was not until after sunset, when the fires were lit in the Visigoth camp, that he emerged from the grove, strange mists clinging to his armor, and hefting a steel broadsword.

"What happened?" Ataulphus asked, "You've been gone all day."

"It--it all seems like a dream," Alaric muttered, gazing at the broadsword. "The Druids--they led me to this cave. They bade me enter it alone. They said there I would find the Sword of Destiny." He seemed like a man just awakened from a deep sleep. "I remember fashioning a torch. Then I followed this winding cavern deep into the earth. I came upon the strangest thing. It was a door. It looked like wood, but it was made of stone. Stalactites covered it on either side. This sword was jutting from the door. I grabbed the handle and pulled. It-It came out quite easily. I was very much surprised. I hefted it, testing its weight, swinging it through the cobwebs. The blade seemed to flash in the torchlight. What a magnificent weapon! I thought. And then...I don't remember. It was night, and I was walking toward the fires. And you called out to me."

"Look!" Radagaisus pointed at the symbol on the pommel. "Five stars. It is the sign of Valusia."

"Valusia!" Ataulphus cried, "Why, man, the sea waves have rolled above the spires of Valusia for untold centuries!"

Alaric's brow knotted in deep thought. "But wasn't there a tale...a tale long ago...a wizard of the Picts conjured up a mighty warrior in far-off Caledonia (Scotland--J.T.). He led those Pictish barbarians to victory over the Twentieth Legion. They say he was a king of the lost Valusia--"

"That was almost five hundred years ago! Surely you don't think--"

Suddenly, a booming voice emanated from the grove. Some said it was a roll of thunder, but to Alaric and the men closest to him, the words were quite clear.

"Break off all delays, Alaric. This very year thou shalt force the Alpine barrier of Italy. Thou shalt penetrate to the city of Rome."

From that day on, Alaric, who had been a defender of Rome, became one of her most determined enemies.

In 410 A.D., after the assassination of his enemy- turned-friend Stilicho and the massacre of Gothic civilians living in Italy by the treacherous Honorius, Alaric rallied 300,000 Federati to his banner and swept down the peninsula.

Finally, on August 24, 410 A.D., wielding the Sword of Destiny, Alaric led his men, now called the Vandals, against Rome's Salarian Gate. They cut down the Roman legionnaires and loyal Visigoths guarding the gate, knocked the great wooden doors from their hinges, and poured into the Forum.

However, Alaric did not live to savor his victory. A couple of months later, he came down with "a strange fever" and died.

To ensure that Alaric's grave would not be disturbed, Ataulphus had his men dam Italy's Busento River. Alaric was laid to rest in the muddy riverbed. Once he was buried, the Vandals destroyed the temporary dam, letting the flood sweep over their leader's grave.

And so, Alaric, who was "born in a river" (the Danube) was "laid to rest" in another river (the Busento), just as the Sibyl had prophesied 800 years earlier.

But Europe had not seen the last of the Sword of Destiny. (See Gods and Spacemen in Greece and Rome by W. Raymond Drake, New American Library, New York, N.Y., 1976, pages 128, 129, 140 and 141; King Kull by Robert E. Howard and Lin Carter, Lancer Books, New York, N.Y., 1967, page 54; and the Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1910 edition, "Alaric," pages 470 to 472.)

Well, that's it for this week. Join us in seven days for more UFO, Fortean and paranormal news from around the planet Earth, brought to you by "the paper that goes home- -UFO Roundup." See you next time.

UFO ROUNDUP: Copyright 2004 by Masinaigan Productions, all rights reserved. Readers may post news items from UFO Roundup on their Web sites or in news groups provided that they credit the newsletter and its editor by name and list the date of issue in which the item first appeared.

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