April 28th, 2011
By: Tom Leonard
A bizarre spate of television presenters dissolving into on-air gibberish has sparked claims that the U.S. military could be to blame.
In four high-profile cases, the latest involving fast-talking Judge Judy, the presenters have started off speaking properly but have then descended into undecipherable nonsense – looking confused and unstable.
The frequency of the ‘attacks’ – and the fact that recorded examples of the mental meltdowns have been popular on websites – has led to conspiracy theorists pointing the finger at shadowy government experiments.
A popular theory being circulated online blames the U.S. Military’s supposed research into using microwaves as a mind control weapon.
America has never admitted conducting such research but proponents say the effects – produced by microwave signals stimulating the brain with fake images and voices – exactly mimic those displayed in the recent on-air breakdowns.
As to why the Pentagon might be targeting U.S. television presenters, the microwave theorists are less clear.
The phenomenon, which has provided internet video sites with some of the oddest footage for months, has now claimed one of America’s most highly paid broadcasters.
Judith Sheindlin, the fast-talking judge on Judge Judy, was taken to hospital on Wednesday after she began speaking a nonsensical string of words during a live recording of her courtroom TV show.
Studio insiders said Sheindlin, who earns £28 million a year for a show that is the most watched programme on American daytime TV, was sitting on camera and ‘started saying things that didn’t make any sense’.
Sheindlin then announced she needed to stop as she didn’t feel well and asked a crew member to call an ambulance.
The 68-year-old lawyer was released from hospital the following day but a spokesman said medical tests had not revealed what caused her garbled speech and double vision.
Her verbal breakdown is the fourth such recent case and the odd coincidence has prompted feverish speculation over the cause.
No video has been released of the Judge Judy incident but footage of the other three has rapidly gone viral on the internet.
The first victim was Serene Branson, a Los Angeles reporter for CBS, who delivered a completely incoherent piece to camera on the Grammy music awards last month.
The presenter was unable to get out her words and continued to struggle to speak for around 10 seconds outside the Staples Centre before producers cut to a video.
She said later: ‘My head was definitely pounding and I was very uncomfortable, and I knew something wasn’t right. I was terrified and confused.’
Her doctor later said she had suffered a complex migraine whose symptoms mimic a stroke.
Her case was followed by a Canadian news reporter whose report on his country’s contribution to the military campaign in Libya suddenly collapsed into gibberish.
Mark McAllister of Global Toronto News told viewers that the Canadian defence minister had confirmed that ‘more than sifty four 18 fighter jets are spending about as much as 20 and ready to assist 600 hundred, hundred deployed over the an-amount needed’.
His piece-to-camera went on to become even more odd before he signed off.
His employers later confirmed there had been no problem with the autocue but McAllister had also suffered from a migraine.
In January, Sarah Carlson of WISC-TV in Wisconsin was also struck. She started out fine in her report on Wisconsin’s challenge to Barack Obama’s health care reforms, but it soon became apparent that she was having trouble forming words and the camera switched to a startled-looking co-presenter.
Unlike the others, Carlson, 35, has a history of seizures, but America’s army of conspiracy theorists are unconvinced by the medical explanations.
February 16th, 2011
By: Catherine Donaldson Evans
When CBS Los Angeles reporter Serene Branson suddenly fumbled her words and appeared to lose the ability to speak during her live Grammy’s coverage Sunday night, many chalked it up to an embarrassing gaffe.
But many now believe that Branson suffered a mild stroke or other neurological problem during the post-awards show telecast.
The station’s website initially said that Branson was checked by paramedics after the episode and her vital signs were normal, so she was sent home with a colleague. Monday evening, however, the station reported on air that Branson had gone to see a doctor for testing. She was said to be resting at home.
Watch a video on the incident from the “Today” show. Article continues below.
A number of experts believe Branson should have immediately gone to the hospital following the episode, even though her vital signs were normal.
“She could have recovered and had perfectly normal function, normal vital signs and gone home. Not the right thing to do,” NBC chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman told the “Today” show on Tuesday. “This could be a harbinger of more things to come.”
Her symptoms point to what could be a serious neurological problem.
“Stroke is the number one possibility,” Dr. John Krakauer told CBS News. Krakauer, an associate professor of neurology and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said that about 50,000 people under the age of 50 have a stroke every year.
Krakauer, Snyderman and others believe Branson could have experienced a miniature temporary stroke called a transient ischemic attack, or TIA.
“This is in real time what I would call a transient ischemic attack or a mild stroke,” said Snyderman. “Something has happened to the circuitry of her brain such that she cannot speak.”
Dr. Keith Black, the head of the department of neurosurgery at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center, said a TIA is caused by a blockage of blood flow to the brain.
“This is what we’d call a classic neurological event,” he told “Today.” “She was obviously aware that she was having difficulty.”
A stroke of any kind can also cause sudden vision loss, dizziness, difficulty walking, numbness in the face and loss of feeling on one side of the body, according to the American Heart Association. Distorted speech is a tell-tale warning sign.
“Well, a very heavy du-burtation tonight,” Branson said incomprehensibly during the Grammy Awards, grinning. The slurring worsened quickly, and her chatter deteriorated into gibberish.
Drugs and alcohol can be ruled out, explained Snyderman, partly because of Branson’s “stellar history” and partly because the video of the event paints another picture.
“The right side of her face gets a little weak, and if you watch her eyes, you can see she senses something is wrong,” she told “Today.”
Branson may also have had a small seizure caused by a brain tumor, infection, blood clot or other health problem, according to experts.
No matter what happened, the TV reporter will have to be closely monitored by doctors, since neurological occurrences like a TIA can raise the risk of a full-blown stroke later.
“She’s going to have a long-term relationship with a neurologist,” explained Snyderman. “This is not something where doctors will say, ‘Oh, okay, fine. You’re okay.’”
The Los Angeles CBS station said Branson appreciates the concern shown by the public and hopes to return to work soon.