Saturday, April 29, 2017

Z is for Zika Virus

Image: Wellcome Images, Zika virus particle illustration

The Zika virus, first discovered in 1947, exploded in the media in 2015 because the virus, spread through mosquito bites, can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby, and is suspected of causing the birth defect microcephaly. The virus can also be transmitted through sexual contact. During a Zika outbreak in Brazil between October 2015 and January 2016, the number of reported microcephaly cases rose to 3,500. (Wikipedia)

Image: Marcos Teixeira de Freitas, Aedes Aegypti, the mosquito that transmits the Zika virus

Talk about horrible timing! With the Olympic games scheduled for Rio that summer and travel warnings issued for pregnant women and male sexual partners of women who might get pregnant in the future, several athletes dropped out of the games including 14 high-ranking male golfers, one female golfer, and two tennis stars. (Source)

Image: brar_j, Microcephaly is an abnormal smallness of the head, a congenital condition with incomplete brain development

Since the connection between Zika and microcephaly hasn't been scientifically confirmed, there are many alternative conspiracy theories:

1. Blame genetically modified mosquitos.

A company called Oxitec genetically modified mosquitos so when the modified males mate with wild female mosquitos, their offspring would not survive due to a build up of a particular protein. This was done in an effort to slow down the transmission of diseases like dengue fever and chickungunya The modified male mosquitos were released in Brazil starting in 2011.

The genetically modified mosquitos have an on/off switch: tetracycline. In the labs, mosquitos are fed tetracycline to keep the population alive and multiplying. Once released into the target neighborhoods, without tetracycline, the male mosquitos and their young won't live long.

But guess what? Brazil feeds its food animals antibiotics like tetracycline which then gets into the environment through animal waste. So the question arose on whether or not the genetically modified mosquitos and their offspring were dying off as hoped.

Now, assuming they did survive long enough to bite people, exactly how the bite of genetically modified mosquito translates to birth defects isn't clear to me, but I'll move on because this post is getting too long as it is.

2. Blame pesticides

The pesticide Pyriproxyfen was put into Brazil's water supplies to halt the development of mosquito larvae in 2014, about a year before the microcephaly outbreak. So considering a human pregnancy lasts nine months, the timing is right. Conspiracy theorists claimed other areas of the world dealing with Zika, like Columbia, have not seen outbreaks of microcephaly linked to Zika. (Source)

But not so fast. Columbia isn't a fair comparison. Their Zika cases started in October of 2016, so there's not been enough time for microcephaly to be detected in their pregnant women yet, and many pregnant women have decided to have abortions. (Source) Also, when researchers took another look at a Zika outbreak in French Polynesia in 2013 and 2014, they did find a spike in microcephaly cases. (Source)

Debunkers also point out that pyriproxyfen has been around humans for many years in products like home and lawn pesticides and flea and tick control for pets.

3. Blame vaccines

In 2013, whooping cough (pertussis) was a big problem in Brazil. So in 2014, the Tdap vaccine was mandated for pregnant women. Like the pesticide theory, the timing fits for birth defects to show up about a year later. Some people suspect Tdap because this vaccine has not been tested in pregnant women and has caused brain inflammation in babies and children under 5 (among other concerns). (Source)



And that's all folks! I've enjoyed sharing these conspiracy theories with all of you. I'll still be catching up on returning comments for several days. If I missed returning your comment, I sincerely apologize.

What are you going to spend your extra time on now that the A to Z Blog Challenge is done?

Y is for the Yellowstone Conspiracy

Image: Jerry and Pat Donahoe, Lower Falls at Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park, located in Wyoming, is an active super volcano. Surprised? Think of its popular features: the hot springs and geysers like Old Faithful. The heat for these is provided by magma chambers underground. A chamber of magma recently discovered under Yellowstone is estimated to be able to fill the Grand Canyon eleven times. (Source) That's a lot of magma!

Image: Maarten Otto, Yellowstone hot springs

But you need a lot to be classified as super. A super volcano is one that has erupted 250 cubic miles of magma. According to the park's website, Yellowstone has had at least three such eruptions: The three eruptions, 2.1 million years ago, 1.2 million years ago and 640,000 years ago, were about 6,000, 700 and 2, 500 times larger than the May 18, 1980 eruption of Mr. St. Helens in Washington State.

Image: Eric Vaughn, geyser at Yellowstone

So what's the conspiracy? That if Yellowstone's super volcano erupts, millions of Americans will be shipped off to live in either South America, namely Brazil or Argentina, Africa, or Australia. But don't pack your bags just yet. The volcano is dormant and chances of it erupting are about one in 730,000. (Source)

Have you ever been to Yellowstone? What country would you pick for relocation?

Friday, April 28, 2017

X is for the X-37B Space Plane

Image: The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle on a runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, in June 2009.
Credit: U.S. Air Force
I've never heard of this plane, but according to a post from Live Science ( X-37B Space Plane Returns: 5 Theories About Its Secret Mission by contributor Elizabeth Howell, Oct. 27, 2014), it spent almost 2 years in orbit on a secret mission. A plane in space for 675 days? How wild is that?

And what is it doing up there? Spying on the Middle East? Preparing to bomb something? Maybe, but the problem with these ideas is that adjusting the position of a vehicle in orbit would take a lot of fuel. Other theories like interfering with satellites or spying on the Chinese space station are also problematic, but the space plane could be releasing a satellite of its own.

If you want to see a 3 minute video on this unmanned robotic plane, here's one from

Have you heard of this plane? What do you think it's doing up there?

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

W is for the Watergate Scandal

Image: Watergate Complex, Washinton, D.C. Indutiomarus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The word Watergate or it's derivatives (pick your word-gate) are synonymous with secret, illegal activities.

In 1972, the Democratic National Committee had an office in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. A break-in occurred, five men were arrested, and cash found on the burglars was linked to a slush fund used to re-elect President Nixon.

Image: Tonynetone, famous image of Nixon leaving the White House, often paired with his now infamous quote, "I am not a crook."

It turned out that Nixon and his aides had abused their power, using the FBI, CIA, and IRS to investigate activist groups and their political opponents. Tapes of damaging conversations in the oval office "revealed that Nixon had attempted to cover up activities that took place after the break-in, and (he used) federal officials to deflect the investigation." Nixon resigned before he could be impeached, but received a pardon from his replacement, Gerald Ford. (Source)

Image: Anti-Ford button made for 1976 presidential election, Wikipedia Commons

One of the goals of the Watergate break-in was to install listening devices into the phones. More recently, President Trump accused former President Obama of wiretapping Trump Towers during the 2016 election although no evidence has been found to support his claims. Newsweek posted an article about surveillance on Trump Tower from 2011 to 2013, but this was aimed at a Russian crime ring involved in money laundering, sports gambling and extortion, not Trump. 

Have you seen the movie All The President's Men or studied the Watergate Scandal?

V is for Vaxxed, the movie

Image: Vaxxed--From Cover-Up To Catastrophe, the movie poster

Note added on April 28, 2017: This post is part of a month-long series on conspiracy theories for the A to Z blog challenge.

The question of whether vaccines, in particular the MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine, cause autism was answered, right? A CDC study published in 2004 showed no connection. In 2010, Andrew Wakefield's 1998 paper that did suggest a connection was redacted by The Lancet and his medical license was revoked. Ding, dong the witch is dead! Go ahead lads and lassies, get your shots, worry-free.

Fast forward to 2016 and there's a new independent film about MMR and autism, Vaxxed, that was kicked out of the Tribeca Film Festival. Interviews with Robert Di Niro show a man in conflict. He has a son with autism. He wanted the film to start a conversation, but it wasn't to be.

Sparked by curiosity, Vaxxed is shown to audiences willing to band together and rent theater space. A DVD is put on Amazon, and a pirate copy ends up on YouTube. It's kicked out of more film festivals. What is in this movie that has people so excited?

The film centers on two men: Brian Hooker and William Thompson. Dr. Hooker, a bioengineer at Simpson University, has an autistic son and wanted data from the CDC to try and prove vaccines were responsible. He was frustrated for 10 years before receiving phone calls from CDC scientist Dr. William Thompson. Thompson was one of the co-authors from the CDC's 2004 paper that discredited the autism/vaccine connection.

Thompson thought the statistical data did show a link between autism and African American boys who were developing normally until they got their MMR vaccine around 12 to 15 months. Thompson made sure Hooker got the data. Hooker started recording their phone calls without Thompson's knowledge. The movie Vaxxed centers on bits of these phone conversations, parents' stories of their children who developed autism after their MMR shot, and a revelation that the CDC "threw out" data to hide the link between autism and the MMR vaccine.

If such fraud is true, this would be huge! Imagine if the CDC knew that there was a risk of giving kids autism with a vaccine and decided not to say anything for over ten years as the rates of autism spiraled ever upward. And that's not all! The results from this 2004 study were used to refuse compensation to parents with autistic kids trying to sue the government in vaccine court. Massive fraud in all directions. Republican congressman Bill Posey called for a congressional investigation. President Obama granted Thompson whistleblower status. (Source) Wow, why wasn't the media all over this incredible story?

Several reasons. The director of Vaxxed is none other than Andrew Wakefield. The film was declared anti-vaccine propaganda and dismissed by critics and scientific experts. Dr. Hooker published a paper on this data, but like Wakefield's paper, it was redacted--this time due to conflict of interest (he had tried to sue to get compensation for his son's autism) and doubts about the validity of his work. (Source)

The rate of autism in the US is now at 1 in 45 kids. (Source) Whether you believe vaccines are involved or not, that's scary.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for Ultra, MKUltra

Image: Evan

The CIA has made several appearances on the A to Z of conspiracy theories from possible involvement in 9/11 (B post) and the JFK (J post) assassination to definitely using nasty weapons such as the heart-attack gun (C post).

Today they're back again, this time with another true conspiracy. MKUltra was a code name for a program using U.S. and Canadian citizens as subjects for covert mind control and interrogation research. It started in the 1950s, continued through the 1960s, and was made public in 1975 by Congress and the Rockefeller Commission. Supposedly, the program was scrapped (most of the files were destroyed in 1973), but some think the research continued.

According to Wikipedia, MKUltra experiments involved the use of drugs (in particular LSD), hypnosis, sensory deprivation, isolation, verbal and sexual abuse, and other forms of psychological torture. Research occurred at colleges, universities, hospitals, prisons, and pharmaceutical companies.

Candidates believed to be victims of this CIA mind control program:

1. Sirhan Sirhan, the man convicted of assassinated Robert Kennedy

2. Jim Jones, leader of a cult in Jonestown, Guyana who convinced his members to commit mass suicide.

Image: Pato

3. Jim Hendrix's manager and former M16 agent, Michael Jeffrey, killed the guitar wunderkind with pills and wine while under mind control.

4. Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon

5. John Hinkley, the man who shot at president Ronald Reagan

6. Robert Bardo, who shot actress Rebecca Schaeffer

7. Lee Harvey Oswald, the man held responsible for JFK's assassination

Incidentally, Chapman, Hinkley, Bardo, and Oswald were all in possession of J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye when they pulled the trigger with their fingers. Conspiracy theorists believe parts of the text were used to pull the "triggers" in their minds.

Image: DVD cover of movie version of Firestarter

MKUltra has another connection to popular fiction: inspiration for Stephen King's Firestarter. Remember the experiments that Charlie McGee's parents participated in and the sinister branch of government called The Shop?


New York Magazine: The 70 Greatest Conspiracy Theories in Pop-Culture History

Frank: The Most Unbelievable Conspiracy Theories

Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis

Image: Participants in Tuskegee Study

Attribution: By Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Public Health Service. Health Services and Mental Health Administration. Center for Disease Control. Venereal Disease Branch (1970 - 1973). [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male started with good intentions. In the 1920s, estimates of syphilis in the population at reproductive age were high--35%. The treatment at the time involved heavy metals mercury and bismuth, but the cure rate with such medicine was less than 30%. Side effects of these toxic materials were bad and sometimes fatal.

In 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression started. Funding for the original program was cut, so in 1932, the decision was made to simply study the progression of the disease with about 400 negro men with syphilis and 200 without syphilis (the control group).

Image: Doctor draws blood from participant

Attribution: Wikipedia Commons

Despite urban myths to the contrary, no one was injected with syphilis, but the subjects were promised free treatment, meals, and burial insurance without knowing their diagnosis, what treatments they would receive, or what other treatments might be available. This lead to several abuses.

Spinal taps were performed without anesthesia to study the neurological effects of the disease. When penicillin became available in the 1940s as a safe and effective treatment to replace the dangerous heavy metals, the study participants were not informed. In fact, the decision was made to deliberately keep these men from receiving penicillin in order to continue the study in 1936, 1940, and again in 1947.

Even when the ethics of the study were questioned in 1968, the CDC "reaffirmed (the) need for study and gained local medical societies' support." Which societies, you ask? Both the AMA (American Medical Association) and the NMA (the largest and oldest national organization representing African American physicians and their patients)!

Image: Depression Era poster 

Attribution: Wikipedia Commons

And that's not all. Since the men with syphilis were not aware of their diagnosis, they did not know they could pass the disease to their wives through sexual contact. They did not know that their children could be born with the disease.

The study lasted 40 years.

Finally, a press leak in 1972 ended the study for good, but it was too late for the victims. Besides the men who died from untreated syphilis, 40 wives contracted the disease and 19 children were born with congenital syphilis.

After the study was made public, laws were put into place to protect participants in medical studies so that they would have informed consent, knowledge about the treatments received, and knowledge about alternative treatments. A settlement of ten million dollars was awarded to the victims for lifetime medical benefits and burial services. President Bill Clinton issued an apology. The Tuskegee University National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care was established.

Have you ever heard of this study? What bit surprised you the most? That the men didn't even know they had syphilis? That penicillin was denied to them? Or that the CDC supported the study even as late as 1969?


Wikipedia, Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment

The New Social Worker: The Tuskegee Syphilis Study and Its Implications for the 21st Century

CDC: The Tuskegee Timeline

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for Snowden--Big Brother is Real

Image: Laura Poitras / Praxis Films [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Edward Joseph Snowden, former CIA and NSA computer analyst, leaked classified information from the National Security Agency in 2013, revealing global surveillance programs watching cell phone records and cell phone location, keyscore analysis of things people did on the internet including their email, Google, and Yahoo. Gamers using Second LifeXbox Live and World of Warcraft were monitored as they "attempted to recruit would-be informants from the sites". "The NSA was shown to be tracking the online sexual activity of people they termed "radicalizers" in order to discredit them." They even spied on their own "love interests", businesses like major oil companies, and charities like UNICEF. There was a special budget to pay U.S. technical companies for secret access to their communication networks. And that's just scratching the surface.

After releasing thousands of documents to three journalists in Hong Kong, Snowden went into hiding, eventually ending up in Russia where he was granted asylum through 2020. (Wikipedia)

Do you think about surveillance when you surf the web or while talking on your phone? Do you cover up your electronic devices's camera in case someone's watching? If you haven't seen the film, Snowden, I highly recommend it (once you adjust to Joseph Gordon-Levitt assuming a deep accent, that is.)

Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for the Reptilian Elite

Image: Schristia

In 1988, Paula Abdul released Forever Your Girl including the song, "Cold Hearted", with the lyrics "He's a cold-hearted snake, look into his eyes..."

Reptile are cold-blooded, slithery, alien things. They eat sweet, cuddly mice whole. It was a snake that tempted Eve with the apple.

Then came David Icke, who released his book in 1998 called The Biggest Secret, claiming that "many prominent figures belong to the Babylonian Brotherhood, a group of shapeshifting reptilian humanoids who are propelling humanity toward a global fascist state, or New World Order. The reptilians use the rings of Saturn and the Moon, all reptilian constructs, to broadcast our "five-sense prison": an "artificial sense of self and the world" that humans perceive as reality." (Wikipedia)

It's The Matrix meets Men in Black meets V. Whoa!

Image: still shot of Jane Badler as Diana, queen of the alien badies from V, the 1984 TV series

Hey, am I crazy or does she kinda look like Paula Abdul? Hm...

So who are the reptile elite among us? Trump? Queen Elizabeth? Justin Beiber? You tell me.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for Quintinshill Rail Disaster

On May 22, 1915 an error with the Quintinshill signal box (pink) near Gretna Green in Dumfriesshire, Scotland caused a southbound troop train (green) to smash into a stationary train (orange) and then a northbound sleeper train (purple) to hit the southbound one. Trains holding goods (grey and blue) were also nearby. Gas from the lighting system of the troop train ignited and set all the trains on fire. Around two hundred died, mostly men in the troop train. It was the worst rail disaster in British history at the time.

Image: Gif from By Emoscopes, Tevildo [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

So what's the conspiracy angle? The signalmen present that day were tried and convicted for culpable homicide, released from jail the following year, and re-employed by the same railway company (though not as signalmen). This led to speculation that the railway company and the government (who was running the railways in war time) used the signalmen as scapegoats, letting them take the fall for what was actually the rail company and government's responsibility. (Wikipedia)

Another controversy was that some of the troops trapped in the blaze were either shot (mercy killings) and/or committed suicide. A BBC documentary was released that confirmed the mercy killings in 2015. 

Quite a sad story, no matter who was responsible.

Q is one of the hardest letters during the A to Z challenge. What's your Q today?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

P is for Prohibition Poison

Image: Mike Schmid

Prohibition went into effect on Jan. 1, 1920. With no means to acquire alcohol legally, bootleggers went into action and speakeasies flourished. When authorities blocked the import of alcohol from Canada, bootleggers turned to another source: industrial alcohol meant for paints, solvents, fuels, and medical supplies.

Image: Elgin County ArchivesSt. Thomas Police officers with confiscated bottles of liquor, likely taken from a bootlegger. This picture was likely taken in the basement of the St. Thomas City Hall, ca. 1926.

By 1925, perhaps 60 million gallons of industrial alcohol were stolen annually, renatured to a drinkable form, and sold illegally. The federal government decided to put a stop to it by forcing manufactures to add "kerosene and brucine (a plant alkaloid closely related to strychnine), gasoline, benzene, cadmium, iodine, zinc, mercury salts, nicotine, either, formaldehyde, chloroform, camphor, carbolic acid, quinine, and acetone." Another deadly ingredient was methyl alcohol in a large amount--"up to 10 per cent of the total product".)

After many people came to the ER and died, a New York medical examiner had his toxicologist examine samples of the illegal alcohol, which revealed the above list of poisons. In 1926, twelve hundred people got sick from the poisoned alcohol and 400 died in New York City alone. The next year 700 died in NYC. By the time prohibition ended in 1933, an estimated 10,000 people were killed across the nation.

Learn more from my source: Slate, The Chemist's War: The Little Told Story Of How The US Government Poisoned Alcohol During Prohibition With Deadly Consequences by Deborah Blum.

So if the bartender asks, "What's you poison?" you should reply, "What's yours, buddy? What's yours?"

Anyone remember when one of the characters in Water For Elephants dies of alcohol poisoning?


In support of Joylene Butler, who broke a hip right before her book release, let me share this:

Available today for the first time in eBook form -

Maski: Broken But Not Dead
By Joylene Nowell Butler
Psychological Thriller
$4.99 eBook ISBN 9781939844385

An IPPY Silver Medalist! 

To the Breaking Point... 

When Brendell Meshango resigns from her university professor position and retreats to her isolated cabin to repair her psyche, she is confronted by a masked intruder. His racial comments lead her to believe she is the solitary victim of a hate crime. 

However, is all as it appears? After two bizarre days, the intruder mysteriously disappears but continues to play mind games with her. Taught by her mother to distrust the mainstream-based power structures, and with her stalker possibly linked to a high level of government, Brendell conceals the incident from the police. But will her silence keep her safe? 

Then her beloved daughter, Zoë, is threatened and Brendell takes matters into her own hands. To save Zoë, Brendell searches for the stalker and confronts not just a depraved madman but her own fears and prejudices. 

“Joylene Nowell Butler gets straight to the story, taking you from one happening to the next and keeps you turning the page.” - Martha A. Cheves, author

“A psychological thriller filled with suspense, action and drama...” - John Bell, 93.1 CFIS-FM: Prince George, BC

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Joylene, Métis, is the author of Dead Witness, Broken But Not Dead, and Break Time. She and her husband and their two cats reside in Canada for the summers and Nayarit for the winters. They believe life should be an adventure.

Purchase Links: Barnes & Noble / Kobo / iTunes / Amazon

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

O is for Owl Worship

Image: By Aarkwilde (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons (The owl statue is on the left.)

The conspiracy theory: Once a year, the richest men in the world gather at a place called the Bohemian Grove to worship at the scaly toes of a gigantic owl statue.

Here's some factual tidbits from Wikipedia:

Bohemian Grove is a 2,700 acre campground in Monte Rio, California owned by a private men's club known as the Bohemian Club, and they do host an annual get together of bigshots from businessmen, university presidents, media moguls, and U.S. government officials including ex-presidents.

They're not supposed to conduct business on these retreats, but the Manhattan Project was discussed in 1942. Military officials and J. Robert Oppenheimer were present.

The notion of owl worship comes from their Cremation of Care ceremony where they release their worries and embrace fun. Along with pyrotechnics, there was a recording inside the statue to dictate the ceremony. Guess whose voice was used for several years? Walter Cronkite.

Sounds like fun to me. Who do you think might attend these days?