CVIndependent

Sun02252018

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Kevin Fitzgerald

On Friday, Aug. 9, more than 500 followers and believers of UFOlogy and the extra-terrestrial contact movement gathered for the first Contact in the Desert conference at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center.

Over three days—through Sunday, Aug. 11—35 experts on these belief systems are offering lectures, workshops and panel discussions.

Although the auras of spirits were not visible to the naked eye, vendor tents ruffled in the strong desert winds, and participants sought out shelter from the hot sun as the first day's activities wore on.

For more information, visit contactinthedesert.net. Below are a few photos of the conference experience.

Contact in the Desert is “a gathering of the superstars of UFOlogy.”

That’s how spokesperson and lecturer Michael Luckman described the event, slated for Friday, Aug. 9, through Sunday, Aug. 11, at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. Organizers hope Contact in the Desert—which will feature lectures, workshops and interactive experiences conducted by 32 renowned experts in the topics of UFO sightings, extra-terrestrial contacts and proactive ET-signaling—will become an annual event.

“More than 400 military personnel have given videotaped depositions worldwide saying that UFOs are real. They’ve had sightings and encounters,” said Luckman, “When so many military eyewitnesses come forward, there really is very little left to debate.”

Luckman is also the founder of Cosmic Majority, which calls on “the governments of the world to implement an early warning detection system designed to reduce the growing meteor and asteroid threat.”

Contact in the Desert comes on the heels of the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure, which brought researchers and government/agency witnesses from 10 countries to Washington, D.C., to testify before six former members of the U.S. Congress on April 29 through May 3. Organizers said the purpose of the hearing was to present evidence supporting the truth of an extraterrestrial presence engaging the human race, and a government policy to embargo that truth.

“There’s no question anymore that we’re being visited,” Luckman said. “Exactly who they are, whether they all come from the same place, how friendly they are. … These are all matters for speculation.”

Such speculation will certainly be the focus of Contact in the Desert activities. Highlights of the three-day event include: Friday’s lecture entitled “UFOs: A 21st Century Approach” by author Richard Dolan; a panel discussion, “Are We Alone? The Right To Know,” on Saturday hosted by conference headliner and emcee George Noory, of the syndicated AM radio show Coast to Coast; and a Sunday night “Field Work Experience and Training Event” conducted by Steven Greer involving the practice of his personal CE-5 contact protocols—“signaling techniques” he developed as the founder of the center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CSETI).

Joshua Tree National Park, which is slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island and sits in close proximity to the Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, has reportedly been the site of more than a dozen reported UFO sightings since 1968.

Worldwide sighting reports reveal that many of these incidents take place in the vicinity of earthly military bases.

“UFOs have been spotted in nuclear-weapons storage facilities,” said Luckman. “But, in my opinion, it’s not for any bad reason. These are like UFO peacekeeping forces that are surveilling and keeping us from blowing our planet up.”

With its wide open vistas of the night desert skies, the Joshua Tree Retreat Center is a perfect locale for the UFO community to come together. Participants can discover, contemplate and discuss the myriad issues raised by the basic question of whether other highly intelligent and technologically advance civilizations exist beyond our solar system—and, if they do, what impact contact with those beings would have on our planet.

Contact in the Desert has been scheduled to coincide with the Aug. 11 onset of the Perseid Meteor Shower. As event press-information rep Susan von Seggern told us, all participants at the conference will be invited to gather outdoors around 11 p.m. to share in “a true intergalactic experience … when meteors will appear to ‘rain’ into the majestic desert sky from the constellation Perseus.”

Contact in the Desert takes place Friday, Aug. 9, through Sunday, Aug. 11, at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, 59700 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Advance registration starts at $225, or $200 per couple; meals and optional tours are extra. For more information, visit www.contactinthedesert.net.

Brandon Viloria, 8, was running wind sprints in 95-degree weather at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday (July 10) outside of the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. His mother, Shannon, was by his side.

What would possess a kid to do such a thing? Turns out Brandon is the current California boxing champion in the 8-to-10-year-old, 55-pound bantam weight class, and he was slated to compete at the 12th Annual Desert Showdown tournament at Fantasy Springs this weekend.

“He’s got to drop 1.4 pounds right now so that he can make his weight limit at the weigh-in,” explained his father, Dominic. “We’re trying to become the Desert Showdown champion now.”

Brandon’s commitment and determination is typical of the aspiring boxing champions who have converged on the Coachella Valley in July to compete in boxing coach and promoter Ralph Romero’s dream event. As the USA’s second-largest amateur boxing tournament, the Desert Showdown has become a normal step for many amateur boxers as they try to climb to the top.

Beyond the roughly 600 participating fighters’ skill level, the fact that they are learning the discipline and focus required by a boxer’s demanding lifestyle can be a valuable reward in itself.

“With this tournament, everything’s for the kids,” says promoter Romero. “They’re the ones who take the hits. I’m just here to guide them—help them do right, get through high school, go to college, make a career. School first, boxing next. That way, if they get out of boxing, they’ve got something to fall back on.”

Director of the Coachella Valley Boxing Club, Lee Espinoza—who trained the world champion brothers Julio and Antonio Diaz, and has 22 fighters competing in this year’s tourney—concurs.

“I started training kids 33 years ago, and I had just three boys to work with,” recalls Espinosa. “Today, guys I trained when they were 6 years old have 6-year-old sons. They’re doing fine, and that’s great.”

As Thursday’s weigh-in drew to a close, one happy competitor stepped off the scale. With tired smiles and “No. 1” hand signs, the Viloria family celebrated their chance to capture a Desert Showdown belt: Brandon had made his weight.

Scroll down for the photo gallery, and watch this story at CVIndependent.com for more photos throughout the weekend.

Over the last decade in the Coachella Valley (and Riverside County overall), there has been a seismic political shift that is not related to the proximity of the San Andreas Fault.

In 2004, as the presidential election drew near, the Republican Party in Riverside County held a voter-registration advantage of 12.5 percentage points over the Democratic Party.

Four years later, that Republican advantage had dwindled to slightly more than 5 percentage points. And in 2012, as the race between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney neared its climax, the Democratic Party had narrowed the gap to just 4.5 percentage points.

According to data released on May 20 by the California Secretary of State, that differential is now just 4.1 percentage points.

It’s no surprise that many political insiders in Riverside County attribute the Democrats’ surprising wins at the polls last November—Obama actually beat Romney by almost 11,000 votes in the county, and Dr. Raul Ruiz edged out incumbent Rep. Mary Bono Mack to get elected to Congress—to the party’s effective voter-enlistment drive over the last decade.

“When we opened our headquarters five years ago (in Cathedral City), we realized that one of the most important activities we could pursue was voter registration,” explained Elle Kurpiewski, the manager of the aforementioned headquarters and a former president of the Democrats of the Desert. “Our facility plays host to 11 different Democratic clubs and organizations in the region; we sponsor a booth at the weekly Thursday night Palm Springs Village Fest; and in 2008, we had 27 semi-permanent voter-registration sites established.”

Other factors have impacted the registered-voter landscape, too. One was the California online voter registration legislation that took effect in 2012 and is credited with enabling some 800,000 new voters statewide to join the electoral rolls prior to the 2012 general election. This new registration method proved particularly effective in attracting eligible voters among the young and minority groups, favoring Democrats statewide by a 2-to-1 margin over Republicans. (There are no specific numbers for Riverside County available yet.)

“Our only concern was whether online registration would actually work: Would voters be able to navigate the system successfully to get registered?” Kurpiewski said. “What we want is that people take advantage of their constitutional right to vote. If it works and helps stop registration fraud, then we’re in favor of it.”

Another major factor is the rapid growth of the Latino population statewide. According to the California Department of Finance, by early 2014, Latinos will outnumber white people by early 2014. Along with the Latino segment’s rapid growth comes these political realities: While only 44 percent of eligible Latino voters in the state had registered, more than 60 percent of them identified themselves as Democrats; meanwhile, only about 15 percent said they were Republicans, according to the Public Policy Institute of California in an analysis released earlier this year.

Therein lies both an opportunity and a challenge for the two major political parties.

“I always say that the Republican Party in Riverside County has three ongoing and equally important goals: voter registration, fundraising and get-out-the-vote efforts,” said Randon Lane, chairman of the Republican Party of Riverside County. “I will speak to any organization, representing any constituency, about the Republican Party message and values. Right now, it’s important for us to get outside the box to attract both new voters to register as Republicans, and convert those who may not completely understand our message and are registered now with other major parties.”

Kurpiewski said local Democrats have made specific efforts to reach Latino communities in Coachella, Indio and Mecca. “But our focus is not just the Latino community; we care about everyone. In all ethnic communities, we enlist participants who are members of that community and have skills and expertise unique to their community. They know their neighbors and can identify the areas where our voter registration outreach will succeed. Our whole thing is working together with the communities that make up Coachella Valley, and that has made us successful in turning this valley blue.”

All eyes are now on the 2014 Riverside County Board of Supervisors race between challenger V. Manuel Perez, a Democrat, and Republican incumbent John Benoit. Just how much of the voter-registration focus in Riverside County will be on recruiting Latino citizens?

“There are a lot of shared voter concerns that we speak to as a party in our outreach efforts, whether at meetings, via social media or direct mail,” said Lane, “but particular voter segments have their specific issues that we want to address. The Republican Party wants to speak to the Latino community’s concerns, just as we need to address concerns in the black, Asian, white or any ethnic constituency where voters will consider supporting the Republican Party.”

Kurpiewski said local Democrats are in the process of starting a major voter-registration drive this month. “I’d rather not share details, because we don’t want to give opposing parties a preview of our strategy, but we are very confident that this effort will enable us to accomplish everything we can to help V. Manuel Perez to get elected, and also to keep U.S. Congressman Raul Ruiz in office,” she said.

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