The 592-page analysis by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released yesterday, also makes clear the uneven toll extracted by extreme weather, because its effects can be magnified by a lack of resources to plan for disasters and cope with their aftermath. Read full story from scientificamerican.com
NYC Schools Want To Ban ‘Loaded Words’ From Tests
New York (CNN) — Divorce. Dinosaurs, Birthdays. Religion. Halloween. Christmas. Television. These are a few of the 50-plus words and references the New York City Department of Education is hoping to ban from the city’s standardized tests.
The banned word list was made public — and attracted considerable criticism — when the city’s education department recently released this year’s “request for proposal” The request for proposal is sent to test publishers around the country trying to get the job of revamping math and English tests for the City of New York.
New York (CNN) — Divorce. Dinosaurs, Birthdays. Religion. Halloween. Christmas. Television. These are a few of the 50-plus words and references the New York City Department of Education is hoping to ban from the city’s standardized tests.The banned word list was made public — and attracted considerable criticism — when the city’s education department recently released this year’s “request for proposal” The request for proposal is sent to test publishers around the country trying to get the job of revamping math and English tests for the City of New York. Read full story from ktvz.com
Arrested were Daniel R. Hess, 45, and his live-in girlfriend, Lacey K. Day, 30, of 728 Mount Tom Road, Marietta. The couple was charged with third-degree sexual battery after allegedly assaulting a 15-year-old girl on three occasions beginning in late 2010.
“We’ve been conducting the investigation for about the last two weeks. It came to our attention through another public service agency within the county,” said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks. Read full story from newsandssentinel.com
The moss-covered monolith has three faces and appears to be roughly 4,000 years old, based on dating of other relics sprinkled about the site, which is called Gardom’s Edge.
“The stone is a singular, very striking feature in contrast to the landscape,” said astronomer Daniel Brown of Nottingham Trent University in the UK. “It’s definitely not a Space Odyssey alien relic. It’s far more mundane and tricky.”Read full story from wired.com
One of these men owned slaves, another created laws to regulate – but not ban - slavery. The third’s chief spokesman even ordered slaves to obey their masters, religious scholars say.
Most modern people of faith see slavery as a great evil. Though the three great Western religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – disagree on many matters, most of their contemporary followers condemn slavery.
Yet there was a time when Jews, Christians and Muslims routinely cited the words and deeds of their founders to justify human bondage, scholars say.
At times, religion was deployed more to promote the spread of slavery than to prevent it. Read full story from cnn.com
Retrospective: BBC’s ‘A Ghost Story For Christmas’
Britain’s adoption of Halloween as a season for all things ghoulish is a relatively recent phenomena, gathering momentum by minute gradations, but still is somewhat fleeting compared to the glorious renditions accorded to that season by our friends in the U. S. of A. This has little to do with any discontent at larkish shenanigans generally, nor prudishness at a festival so rooted in things Pagan, naught a scintilla with disinterest in all things macabrely malignant. It has simply to do with the fact that for Brits, Christmas – with its long, dark nights – has long been established as the time for fear and it’s been that way multos annos. In terms of what we would today consider popular culture, the man most directly responsible for this unlikely paradigm is a chap known in his own lifetime, affectionately, as ‘Boz’. Mr. Charles Dickens, like many a Victorian, was obsessed with the supernatural. As editor of ‘All the Year Round’, one of Victoriana’s most popular ’zines, he published not only his own unheimlich offerings, but a plethora of others by some of the best in the genre. The most important of these, by far, was Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. But the techniques Le Fanu pioneered – the slow escalation of narrative, the meticulous use of suggestion, the excessive under-statement, the well-used psychological underpinnings, the almost obsessive use of folklore would prove far less important in his own lifetime than they were to become to his most renowned protégé – M.R. James, who always placed Le Fanu “absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories”. Read full story from brutalashell.com
Ringside seats for the lunar eclipse can be found in Alaska, Hawaii, northwestern Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and central and eastern Asia. Over the contiguous United States and Canada, the eastern zones will see either only the initial penumbral stages before moonset, or nothing at all.
Over the central regions of the United States, the moon will set as it becomes progressively immersed in the Earth’s umbral shadow. The Rocky Mountain states and the prairie provinces will see the moon set in total eclipse, while out west the moon will start to emerge from the shadow as it sets. Read full story from space.com
The cottage was discovered near Lower Black Moss reservoir in the village of Barley, in the shadow of Pendle Hill.
Archaeologists brought in by United Utilities to survey the area found the building under a grass mound.
Historians are now speculating that the well-preserved cottage could have belonged to one of the Pendle witches. Read full story from bbc.co.uk
Psychology lecturer is also a practicing Wiccan
Laura Wildman-Hanlon, a practicing Wiccan, is not your Hollywood witch. She doesn’t wear a pointed hat or have green skin, and she certainly doesn’t turn men into frogs. This she says, is not at all what real Wicca and witchcraft are about.
“Wicca is a modern form of witchcraft,” said Wildman-Hanlon, office manager for the psychology department at the University of Massachusetts. “It’s more of a religious component. It is earth-based spirituality that acknowledges the divine in many forms.” Read full story from dailycollegian.com
Black, atheist and living in the South
(CNN) – Benjamin Burchall first realized how different his experience in the South was going to be while looking for something to watch on television on a Sunday night.
“I couldn’t find anything on television but religious programming,” says Burchall, 38, a former Christian minister and agricultural consultant who moved from Long Beach, California, to Atlanta for work, “And I thought, ‘Oh my God, where am I? Is this all that is on television here?’”
And he quickly found other differences from West Coast living.
“I was not used to meeting someone for the first time and having their first question be ‘what church do you go to?’”
Burchall’s proud response to such queries was, “None.” He is part of an increasingly visible minority – black atheists living in the Bible Belt. Read full story from cnn.com
Camp Pendleton Cross Does Not Honor Non-Christian Fallen Marines
The United States military is highly diverse. According to a 2010 analysis, many different Christian denominations are represented in the ranks, but some personnel are Humanist, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan or followers of other traditions. One survey found that as many as 25 percent cited no religious preference at all.
Thus, when a group of marines at Camp Pendleton erected a large cross on their California base as an unofficial memorial to soldiers wounded or killed in combat, they left out a lot of their comrades. A cross may honor Christian service personnel who died, but it doesn’t include those of other faiths and those who follow no spiritual path at all. Read full story from opposingviews.com
The study, conducted by Rice University and the University at Buffalo, found that these scientists affiliate with churches for both social and personal reasons. Additionally, the scientists indicated a strong desire to prepare their children to make educated decisions about their personal religious preference. Read full story from cnn.com
The Medical Power of Ritual
Harvard researcher Ted Kaptchuk trained for five years in traditional Chinese medicine, but then became one of the leading researchers into the placebo effect. In his hands, the fact that patients with some kinds of illnesses get better with dummy pills is a gateway into the ways that other aspects of medicine, including the capacity of doctors to generate feelings of hope, are overlooked in our technology-obsessed health care system.
This morning, Kaptchuk is out with his latest salvo in this research: a study that showed that patients with irritable bowel syndrome improved more if they were given inert sugar pills – even though they were told the pills had no active ingredients and the bottles were labeled “placebo.” Fifty-nine percent of patients who got the obviously fake pill got adequate symptom relief, compared to 35% of those who got nothing. In a press release put out by the Public Library of Science, the medical journal that published the study, Kaptchuk’s co-author, fellow Harvard professor Anthony Lembo, says: “I didn’t think it would work. I felt awkward asking patients to literally take a placebo. But to my surprise, it seemed to work for many of them.” Read full story from forbes.com
An atheist view of December
“Christians don’t deserve a monopoly on holiday cheer,” reads a simple yet loaded statement on the American Atheists’ website.
But how could Christians monopolize a holiday that is based on their beliefs?
It turns out that traditions associated with Christmas have morphed into social norms adopted even among nonbelievers.
Everywhere you turn there are decorations, cookies, and music. But for many of the 5% of Americans who say they don’t believe in God, December is not that different from what it’s like for those affiliated with a Christian religion. Those who don’t believe in the reason behind the holiday still celebrate the season’s concentration on values, family, and kindness. Read full story from cnn.com
The X-rays are helping to build up a 3D picture of this ferocious predator, called a pliosaur, which terrorized the oceans 150m years ago.
The 2.4m-long (7.9ft) fossil skull was recently unearthed along the UK’s Jurassic coast, and is thought to belong to one of the biggest pliosaurs ever found.
The scans could establish if the giant is a species that is new to science.
Pliosaurs are aquatic reptiles belonging to the plesiosaur family. Paddle-like limbs would have powered their huge bulky bodies through the water, and they had enormous crocodile-like heads, packed full of razor-sharp teeth. Read full story from bbc.co.uk
Villagers in Bugarach, population 189, told The Daily Telegraph these visitors believe that the end of the world corresponds with the conclusion of the Mayan calendar on Dec. 21, 2012, and that the Pic de Bugarach, highest mountain in the Corbieres wine region, could provide some sort of sanctuary. Read full story from msnbc.msn.com
Do Supernova Explosions Impact Earth Every Few Hundred Million Years?
A University of Kansas research team is exploring the energy of cosmic rays and a possible link to massive prehistoric extinction events. Fossils and cosmic rays appear to have nothing in common. But Adrian Melott, a professor at the University of Kansas, is doing work with high energy cosmic rays to investigate the possibility that one may be linked to the other.
“There are a lot of things that can happen to the Earth that would cause it to get hit by more high-energy cosmic rays,” says Melott. “A supernova fairly nearby (within about 30 light-years) is an obvious one. Another one would be a gamma ray burst in our galaxy that’s pointed at us. And some people think that as we move up and down in the disc of the galaxy, when we get to the top we would get hit by more high-energy cosmic rays. So we don’t know. We have a general idea of the effects on the atmosphere, but people haven’t modeled it very much. Normally they don’t matter, because most of the cosmic rays that hit us are medium and low energy.” Read full story from dailygalaxy.com
Genome of Mystery Human Relative Revealed by 30,000 Year-Old Fossil
A 30,000-year-old finger bone found in a cave in southern Siberia came from a young girl who was neither an early modern human nor a Neanderthal, but belonged to a previously unknown group of human relatives, called “Denisovans” after the cave where the fossils were found, who may have lived throughout much of Asia during the late Pleistocene epoch.
Although the fossil evidence consists of just a bone fragment and one tooth, DNA extracted from the bone has yielded a draft genome sequence, enabling scientists to reach some startling conclusions about this extinct branch of the human family tree. Read full story from dailygalaxy.com
Slideshow: Winter Solstice, lunar eclipse met by Druids at Stonehenge (photos)
The winter solstice, lunar eclipse combination may have been a wonder to some, but for Druids at Stonehenge it was a significant spiritual experience. The winter solstice occurs when the Earth’s axis is tilted the furthest from the sun and marks the first official day of winter. The day is often referred to as midwinter and the winter solstice is marked by being the shortest day and longest night. Winter solstice 2010 occurred on December 21, 2010 at 6:38 pm ET. The lunar eclipse of 2010 ushered in the solstice as the eclipse was completed by approximately 5:00 am, December 21, 2010. Read full story from examiner.com
There won’t be a total lunar eclipse this far north on the sky’s dome until December 21, 2485.
That’s because this eclipse is happening almost simultaneously with the December solstice – which in 2010 occurs on December 21 – when the sun will be southernmost for this year. Remember, a totally eclipsed full moon has to lie exactly opposite the sun. The winter sun rides low to the south now, as it crosses the sky each day. So this December full moon is far to the north on the sky’s dome. It rides high in the sky – much like the June solstice sun. Read full story from earthsky.org
It brings pleasure to those engaging happily in it, and grief to those who don’t.
Both war and Facebook are rooted in it.
We first become aware of it as toddlers, and spend the rest of our lives either trying to perfect it, wondering why we can’t, or both.
And until individuals understand its evolutionary underpinnings, we’ll never learn how to truly get along with each other.
It’s called ethnocentricity: the tendency to measure other groups according to the values and standards of our own, especially with the belief that one’s own group is superior to others. Read full story from naplesnews.com
Murphy, the author of “Zombies for Zombies: Advice and Etiquette for the Living Dead,” says Americans’ appetite for zombies isn’t fed just by sources such as the AMC hit series “The Walking Dead” or the countless zombie books and video games people buy.
Our zombie fascination has a religious root. Zombies are humans who have “lost track of their souls,” Murphy says.
“Our higher spirit prevents us from doing stupid and violent things like, say, eating a neighbor,” Murphy says. “When we are devoid of such spiritual ‘guidance,’ we become little more than walking bags of flesh, acting out like soccer moms on a bender.” Read full story from cnn.com
Ending ‘Don’t Ask’ Will Take Time
Congress has repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but the task of lifting the ban against gays serving openly in the military would likely take months, officials said.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said in a statement after the Senate voted Saturday to end the policy that he would “approach this process deliberately.”
Once the change becomes law with President Barack Obama’s signature, the military will need to revise policies and regulations that govern everything from leadership training to standards of conduct. And before the policy officially ends, the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must sign a letter certifying that the changes wouldn’t affect military readiness. Read full story from wsj.com
President holds pre-meeting with select tribal leaders
WASHINGTON – A select group of tribal leaders from some of the 565 federally-recognized tribal nations invited to join President Barack Obama at his Dec. 16 tribal summit were summoned to meet with the president a day before the main event.
The White House announced the evening of Dec. 15 that 12 tribal leaders had met earlier in the day with the president in the Roosevelt Room. The meeting was closed to other tribal leaders, as well as press.
The president was in the room for approximately 15 minutes. His aides listened to tribal leaders speak for much longer, according to sources familiar with the event. A photo of the session was taken by a White House photographer while the president was in the room.
The first myth to die is the idea that everyone feels bad when the weather gets foul. It turns out that most people might fall into one of four categories when it comes to their moods and weather, say researchers who have studied more than 2,000 Germans by way of daily questionnaires about their moods and other happenings in their lives.
“We saw differences and we actually categorized people according to their differences,” said Jaap Denissen of Humboldt University in Berlin. He and his colleagues have submitted their latest work, an expansion of an earlier study, to the journal Emotion. Read full story from discovery.com
A strange discovery by quantum physicists at the University of California Santa Barbara means that an object you can see in front of you may exist simultaneously in a parallel universe — a multi-state condition that has scientists theorizing that teleportation or even time travel may be much more than just the plaything of science fiction writers.
Until this year, all human-made objects have moved according to the laws of classical mechanics, the rules governing ordinary objects. Toss a ball in the air and it falls back to Earth. Drop a coin from your roof and it falls into your yard. But back in March, a group of researchers designed a gadget that moves in ways that can only be described by quantum mechanics — the set of rules that governs the behavior of tiny things like molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles.
If the sun’s gravity could be used to create a giant telescope, people could send and receive intensely magnified signals that could allow us to call an alien civilization, some researchers propose.
According to Einstein’s general relativity, the sun’s behemoth mass warps space-time around it, which actually bends light rays passing by like a giant lens. If a detector was placed at the right focal distance to collect the light, the resulting image would be extremely magnified. Read full story from msnbc.msn.com
Celebrate the return of the light with ice lanterns
The way light refracts through ice is fascinating. Forget the science — it’s just plain fun to look at. Flickering light, captured inside an ice lantern, adds a warm and distinctive ambiance to any winter setting. And the gentle glow of fire and light cutting through the dark of winter can take the chill out of the coldest days — at least in spirit.
In Norse mythology, the space where the worlds of fire and ice meet is the place of creation — a place of light, air and warmth. With the arrival of winter solstice and the sun on its slow return, ice lanterns are an easy and fitting way to welcome brighter days.
The formula is simple: Add water to any mold and set it outside or in the freezer. Five-gallon buckets work well if you like the look of a traditional lantern. If you prefer globes, balloons are the way to go. Start now, and with a few supplies and a little patience, you’ll have your own creation ready in time for Christmas or New Year’s Eve. The amount of water you’re freezing and the air temperature will affect how long it takes to make your lantern. The more science you apply — tap vs. distilled water, temperature variances, thin vs. thick walls — the more varied outcomes you can achieve. Read full story from alaskadispatch.com
We all know that the summer solstice, the moment when the sun reaches its most southerly point in the sky, falls on the longest day. So it seems logical that the day would coincide with the earliest sunrise and the latest sunset of the year. But the earliest sunrise tends to happen in early December, while the latest sunset is on another day in early January.
This phenomenon is created by a combination of the Earth’s oval-shaped orbit and its tilt of 23.5 degrees, says Professor Fred Watson, astronomer-in-charge of the Australian Astronomical Observatory.
“These two things together have a real effect on the sunrise and sunset times and they skew them so you don’t have the longest day, the earliest sunrise and the latest sunset all on the same day,” Watson explains. Read full story from abc.net.au
My Take: Religious Cities are Among the Most Violent
In one of the more jarring passages in God is Not Great, the celebrated atheist Christopher Hitchens writes of being asked a “straight yes/no question” by the conservative Jewish broadcaster Dennis Prager. Hitchens was to imagine seeing a large group of men approaching him in a strange city at dusk: “Now – would I feel safer, or less safe, if I was to learn that they were just coming from a prayer meeting?”
Hitchens’ answer, of course, is that he would feel less safe. And the rest of his polemic, which is subtitled “How Religion Poisons Everything,” is an extended attempt to explain why.
Whether religious people are more prone to criminality than unreligious people is, of course, an empirical question. So in some sense it doesn’t make all that much sense to argue about it. Just go instead and look at the data. Read full story from cnn.com
Fact and fiction of Paganism
THE cult film The Wicker Man has a lot to answer for. It featured a naked Britt Ekland tempting virgin cop Edward Woodward on a remote Scottish island before he is burned alive as a sacrifice to appease their Pagan Gods because of a crop failure – a bit different from your average Christian harvest festival. Now there are calls for Paganism to be put on the school curriculum. Should we be worried? Mike Kelly reports
THERE are many misconceptions about Paganism. The most obvious one is that it is somehow related to devil worship or satanism.
One of the reasons for this is an item of jewellery Pagans wear as a symbol of their beliefs – most commonly a pentacle or pentagram, a five-pointed star in a circle. For them it represents perfect balance and wisdom. Read full story from sundaysun.co.uk
Katy Guest: We wish you a merry Solstice. Or whatever…
The next time two smartly dressed young people knock at your door, keep you chatting as if they’re casing the joint and then ask you whether you really understand the true meaning of Christmas, try this: invite them in, brew up some hot mead, and explain to them patiently about a time 2,000 years ago when early Christians went in search of an arbitrary date on which to celebrate an event of middling theological importance in their fledgling religion.
Sitting around a festive Yule tree (redolent of the Norse god Ullr), decorated in tiny, glittering symbols of the end of darkness and the return to light, watch their little faces light up as you share seasonal offerings of meat and sprouts, in communion with the seasonal generosity of nature. Soon they will understand the true meaning of the Winter Solstice. Read full story from independent.co.uk
Four in 10 Americans Believe in Strict Creationism
PRINCETON, NJ — Four in 10 Americans, slightly fewer today than in years past, believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago. Thirty-eight percent believe God guided a process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms, while 16%, up slightly from years past, believe humans developed over millions of years, without God’s involvement. Read full story from gallup.com
Mysterious craft and lights around the airbases of Woodbridge and Bentwaters in Suffolk were reported around Christmas 1980.
BBC Suffolk’s Mark Murphy presented a special 30th anniversary radio show from the forest in December 2010.
Mr Murphy promoted his favourite theory, but questions remained. Read full story from bbc.co.uk
Bones found on island might be Amelia Earhart’s
NORMAN, Okla. – The three bone fragments turned up on a deserted South Pacific island that lay along the course Amelia Earhart was following when she vanished. Nearby were several tantalizing artifacts: some old makeup, some glass bottles and shells that had been cut open.
Now scientists at the University of Oklahoma hope to extract DNA from the tiny bone chips in tests that could prove Earhart died as a castaway after failing in her 1937 quest to become the first woman to fly around the world.
“There’s no guarantee,” said Ric Gillespie, director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, a group of aviation enthusiasts in Delaware that found the pieces of bone this year while on an expedition to Nikumaroro Island, about 1,800 miles south of Hawaii. Read full story from yahoo.com
The 5,000-year-old Stone Age tomb is older than the pyramids, and over 32,000 people worldwide applied to witness last year’s magnificent winter solstice.
The tomb’s chamber lights up when the sun rises on a winter solstice morning. It is the only time of the year when the tomb lights up with natural sunlight. Read full story from irishcentral.com
Christmas wrapped up in many cultures
I grew up singing in Greek and English Silent Night and Deck the Halls With Boughs of Holly, but why we are decking the “halls” at all? Each year at this time (December), we take the time to decorate our homes during the festive holiday season, hanging baubles on the Christmas tree and placing holly and ivy around the house. But how many of us stop to wonder why we participate in such traditions?
There are countless myths and legends as to why we place a pine tree in our home and hang wreaths on our doors during the winter holiday season.
The festivities of Christmas originate in the fourth century, when Pope Julius I declared that Dec. 25 would be the celebration of Christ’s birth. This can be seen as an attempt to Christianise Pagan rituals during the darkest days of the year and, as such, much of the folklore surrounding Christmas decoration originates from Pagan tradition. Read full story from thestarpress.com
Christmas no matter the origin is the most important commercial season of the year. Without the centuries old tradition of exchanging gifts the national economy would be dealt a terrible blow.
Thousands of businesses would go bankrupt. You would be astonished to discover the real truth about the most of all Christian holidays. Anyone can discover the real truth about the pagan origins of Christmas simply by looking up the word and all its accouterments and symbols in the major encyclopedias and history books with the Internet it’s even easier. Read full story from godanriver.com
what can we do now? You and I and all living things
Freeport, Ill. — This is the time of the winter solstice when all people north of the equator experience the shortest days of the year. From earliest times, the turning point to longer days has been a time for celebrations – something that all people around the world have in common.
People have more in common with each other than celebrations. David Suzuki, a highly acclaimed geneticist, in his book, “The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature” explains that it is a scientifically supported fact that each of us is quite literally air, water, soil and sunlight. We have fundamental elements of life in common with other people and with all living things on our planet. And it is a web of living things that maintains these fundamental elements of life. Read full story from journalstandard.com
Celebrating paganism with a winter solstice
A solstice is the celebration of the sun’s rebirth. Every year, Sudbury’s pagan community celebrates a summer and winter solstice, noting the longest and shortest days of the year.
Kristan Cannon-Nixon, one of five organizers who helps run both annual events, said its a way for pagans of all denominations to celebrate their beliefs together, and celebrate the shifting of seasons as it’s happening.
She said it’s “absolutely beautiful” that people who hold varying beliefs can get along at one celebration. Read full story from northernlife.ca
Black Plants and Twilight Zones: New Evidence Prompts Rethinking of Extraterrestrial Life
Astronomers have long searched for a planet that could harbor life outside our solar system. When reports came in earlier this fall of the not too hot, not too cold exoplanet Gliese 581g, it was like the answer to a dream. “If it’s confirmed, I think it’s definitely the planet we’ve been waiting for, for a long time,” says Rory Barnes, an astrobiologist at the University of Washington who wasn’t involved in the research.
The wait may continue for a while. Soon after University of California, Santa Cruz, astronomer Steven Vogt and his collaborators reported the “Goldilocks” exoplanet, a rival Swiss group said it could not find evidence for Gliese 581g in its own data set. Confirming the new find, based on 11 years of subtle and indirect telescope-based measurements, could require several more years. Read full story from scientificamerican.com
Why haven’t we found aliens yet?
The question of whether or not we are alone in the galaxy is one that has fascinated everyone from mathematicians to conspiracy theorists.
But, if extra-terrestrial life forms are abundant in the Universe – as some people believe – why have they not been in contact?
From Doctor Who to Superman, ET to Marvin the Martian, fiction has regularly brought aliens to Earth as friends or enemies but, as yet, no-one has proved they have ever seen an alien apart from on film or TV. Read full story from bbc.co.uk
EcoAlert: Ancient 2-8 Million Year-Old Forest Discovered in Canada’s Arctic
Ohio State University researchers and their colleagues have discovered the remains of the northermost forest buried by a landslide that lived on the island two to eight million years ago, when the Arctic was cooling. The remains could offer clues to how today’s Arctic will respond to global warming.
The Ohio State team believe the trees — and exquisitely preserved – will help them predict how today’s Arctic will respond to global warming. They also believe that many more such forests could emerge across North America as Arctic ice continues to melt. As the wood is exposed and begins to rot, it could release significant amounts of methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere -and actually aggravate global warming. Read full story from dailygalaxy.com
Lunar eclipse and solstice to overlap
This year’s winter solstice -an event that will occur Tuesday -will coincide with a full lunar eclipse in a union that hasn’t been seen in 456 years.
The reappearance of the celestial eccentricity holds special significance for spiritualities that tap into the energy of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and a time that is associated with the rebirth of the sun.
“It’s a ritual of transformation from darkness into light,” says Nicole Cooper, a high priestess at Toronto’s Wiccan Church of Canada. “It’s the idea that when things seem really bleak, (it) is often our biggest opportunity for personal transformation. Read full story from montrealgazette.com
’Tis our season
Some stores no longer put up a tree because they say it represents Christmas and not the whole “holiday season” in general. However this is not completely true, contrary to popular belief. The use of tree and lights began way before the birth of Jesus. Not in any way desecrating Christmas, I’m just shining a candle light on the subject.
The origin of the Christmas tree and lighting up our houses are ancient traditions that date back to more than 4,000 years in Egypt with palm branches celebrating the 12 months of the sun with a 12-day festival during the winter solstice. Evergreens, mistletoe, holly and ivy are the few plants alive during the cold winter months and are ancient symbols of eternal life which gave our ancestors hope for the coming months. Read full story from northjersey.com
Column: Local Mars Hill Church pastor Mark Driscoll bashes yoga and ‘Easternism’
Last fall, Dr. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, received national attention for an article he posted on his website arguing that Christians should not practice yoga. His argument was that yoga is rooted in the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Therefore, he believes that practicing yoga is corrupting to people that consider themselves Christians.
I guess you can lump yoga together with religion. However, most people just show up for their one-hour class at the local health club and then go back to their busy lives when it’s over. It is not necessary to debate the merits of Christianity versus another religion because commercialized American ‘yoga’ has hardly any religious significance. Making yoga into the enemy of Christianity is silly and paranoid. Read full story from nwasianweekly.com
Statue ‘Cemetery’ Found Near Egyptian Tomb Two statuary fragments recently uncovered at the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III in Luxor. On the left is the head of the baboon god, Hapi, and on the right are the legs of another red granite statue. (Photo: SCA)
Egyptian archaeologists believe they have found a type of cemetery of broken and damaged ancient statues near the northern side of the funerary temple of King Tut’s grandfather on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor.
A team excavating the site, which has recently yielded many statues, has unearthed two red granite statue fragments.
One is part of a larger statue of Amenhotep III, believed to be the grandfather of King Tutankhamun, and features two legs. The other is a 2.73-meter (9-foot) high head of the god Hapi. Read full story from discovery.com
A Winter’s Tale: Afghans Take Pride In Turning Away Occupiers
Afghans have a winter tradition that goes back centuries — they put hot coals in a pot under a table and put a quilt over that. It’s called a sandali. Everyone sticks their feet under the blanket and the freezing temperatures don’t seem so bad — as long as you don’t leave the table. Stories help pass the time
“We’d sit around the sandali and my grandfather told stories while we ate raisins and dried mulberries.” says Sayed Mushtaba Frotan, a 54-year-old former guerrilla fighter. Read full story from npr.org
Fish Thought to Be Extinct for 70 Years Rediscovered
In 1940, a hydroelectric dam was constructed in northern Akita Prefecture, Japan. The project, it was known at the time, would destroy the only native habitat of the black kokanee salmon by making the waters too acidic for the fish to survive. Still, developers went ahead with their plans.
A concession was made to protect the species: 100,000 eggs were transported to nearby Lake Saiko. Unfortunately, the transplanted eggs did not hatch and the species quickly became extinct. At least, that’s what was thought.
Now, a new discovery suggests that a small population of kokanee salmon may have survived. Read full story from treehugger.com
The Holy Thorn tree on Wearyall Hill is thought to have been planted by Joseph of Arimathea nearly 2,000 years ago.
Wendy Plumtree, who lives nearby, said: “It’s like one of those moments where you close the door again and open it to see if your eyes are deceiving you.” Read full story from bbc.co.uk
A church ‘brought to its knees’
GORE Township – Deep in the woods of the lower Laurentians, tucked into one corner of a gravel road that goes nowhere in particular, in a place so remote as to be without power lines, there is a church. Rather, there was a church.
St. John’s Shrewsbury, built in 1858 and the last remaining building of a village that vanished decades ago, was an Anglican church until Saturday.
Shortly before noon that day in what is now part of the municipality of Gore, St. John’s was deconsecrated in a ceremony that also involved the sprinkling of holy water in its cemetery to cleanse the grounds of all traces of “the craft of Satan” or human malice.
Witches, waves of misguided ghost-hunters and self-proclaimed spiritualists, along with common vandals, have swarmed the church in recent years. Read full story from montrealgazette.com
The Christian aid agency collects thousands of toys every Christmas through its Toy Mountain campaign.
But a Salvation Army volunteer who was helping put together toy hampers for less fortunate children says he was given strict orders not to put certain toys in those hampers. Read full story from ctv.ca
Chaplains Worry About Careers If ‘Don’t Ask’ Is Lifted
While most military personnel see no problem serving with openly gay comrades, some military chaplains are bristling. Many of the 3,000 chaplains are evangelical and believe repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy may affect how they do their jobs.
Ronald Crews, a retired Army colonel and chaplain, works with active chaplains from his evangelical denomination. A few months ago, he began asking military chaplains what they thought about repealing don’t ask, don’t tell. One response in particular bothered him. The chaplain had just returned from a briefing by a general about the impact of changing the policy and asked if the military would protect him if he asserted that homosexuality is a sin.
“And the response he received from this four-star general was, ‘If you cannot accept the changes coming, you have an option: You can resign your commission,’ ” Crews says. Read full story from npr.org
I do understand the point that these commenters are trying to make. With anti-environmentalists gunning for us greenies at every turn (metaphorically speaking, for now at least), there is a danger that the movement for sustainability could descend into infighting and ideological warfare, akin to the infamous “Judean People’s Front” scene in the Life of Brian. (Look it up on YouTube if you don’t get the reference.) Read full story from treehugger.com
A Krampus Christmas, the Original Santa
Most children are excited about the arrival of Santa, the jolly old fellow in the furry red suit who travels around the world on Christmas night bringing gifts to all the children who have been nice and leaving switches and coal for all the children who have been naughty.
In fact, the modern American concept of Jolly old St, Nick, or Santa Claus is an amalgamation that has its roots in Old Germanic paganism.
Christmas is loaded with Germanic and northern European traditions, some of which, in different forms predate Christianity’s arrival in northern Europe. The use of Evergreen trees, Yule logs and hanging mistletoe are a few of these traditions. Mistletoe was once known for killing “Baldr”, the Norse god of light and beauty. Of course today, we use it as an excuse to steal a kiss. Thank goodness things do change. Read full story from riverdalepark.patch.com
WSPA released a video on Monday that shows reindeer in distress when herded and transported, and while at the slaughterhouse.
“The film that we are showing is particularly shocking now that Christmas is upon us, but it clearly shows the cruel reality that reindeer are exposed to,” Roger Pettersson, secretary general of WSPA Sweden, said in a statement on Monday. Read full story from thelocal.se
Mum’s poltergeist fears
A YOUNG mum is calling in an exorcist amid fears she is sharing her new home with a poltergeist.
Student midwife Holly Taylor and her two-year-old daughter Willow will no longer sleep at the apartment in Pemberton town centre after a terrifying series of events.
And few people the 22-year-old has told are doubting her because many have witnessed ghostly goings-on too. Read full story from wigantoday.net
And though fewer of them are still with us, members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association don’t want to disband, association president Art Herriford tells the Associated Press. Read full story from npr.org
“Myself and others have found that we are sitting in silence and being forced to participate in religious practices that I/we do not agree with,” Valentich said in her letter she sent council members by e-mail Sunday evening. “I am asking that this practice stop or be replaced with a non-sectarian prayer so as not to promote Christianity over other religions or non-religion.”
In 2008, the Chillicothe City Council conducted brief discussions on the role prayer should play in its meetings after the city of Greenfield received letters from the American Civil Liberties Union asking its council stop prayer at its meetings. Read full story from chillicothegazette.com
Healing thyself: Does psychedelic therapy exploit the placebo effect?
My last post talked about the depressing lack of progress in treatments for depression and other common psychological disorders. Talking cures and antidepressants alike are subject to the “dodo effect,” which decrees that all therapies are roughly as effective—or ineffective—as one another. The dodo effect implies that treatments harness the placebo effect, the patient’s expectation of improvement. Claims that one therapy beats all the others often reflect researchers’ favoritism, called the “allegiance effect”.
After reading the post one of my smart-ass students asked, “What about psychedelic therapies? Are those subject to the dodo and allegiance effects, too?” Good questions. He knew that, although bashing conventional psycho-treatments, I’ve written positively about psychedelics’ therapeutic potential. Does my reporting reflect countercultural allegiance to psychedelics and distrust of clinical psychology, psychiatry and Big Pharma? Maybe a little. But I’ve also pointed out the risks of drugs such as DMT and LSD as well as the role of suggestion in shaping psychedelic trips. Read full story from scientificamerican.com
Volcanic Eruptions May Have Wiped Out Neandertals
A cave in the northern Caucasus Mountains may hold a key to the long-standing mystery of why the Neandertals, our closest relatives, went extinct. For nearly 300,000 years the heavy-browed, barrel-chested Neandertals presided over Eurasia, weathering glacial conditions more severe than any our own kind has ever faced. Then, starting around 40,000 years ago, their numbers began to decline. Shortly after 28,000 years ago, they were gone. Paleoanthropologists have been debating whether competition with incoming modern humans or the onset of rapidly oscillating climate was to blame for their demise. But new findings suggest that catastrophic volcanic eruptions may have doomed the Neandertals—and paved the way for modern humans to take their place.
Researchers led by Liubov Vitaliena Golovanova of the ANO Laboratory of Prehistory in Saint Petersburg studied the deposits in Mezmaiskaya cave, located in southwestern Russia. First discovered by archaeologists in 1987, the cave once sheltered Neandertals and, later, modern humans. Analyzing the various stratigraphic layers, the scientists found layers of volcanic ash that, based on the geochemical composition of the ashes, they attribute to eruptions that occurred in the Caucasus region around 40,000 years ago. Because the cave preserves a long record of Neandertal occupation preceding the ash layers but no traces of them afterward, the team surmises that the eruptions devastated the locals. Read full story from scientificamericans.com
The most intriguing of these questions is: Who owns the stuff of a religion? When my Christian and Jewish friends adopt and adapt yoga postures are they stealing something? Who owns Christmas? Who owns the Buddha? Who owns Jesus? Read full story from cnn.com
WRIGHT WAY: Holiday lights and ho, ho — huh?
When I was a child the most enchanting thing about Christmas was the colorful array of lights that decorated the holiday season. The appeal of a fluffy, jolly old man who lived at the North Pole knowing whether I was bad or good also brought a sense of wonder to my winter wonderland.
Those displays of holiday lights combined with someone coming down the chimney with a bag of toys, however, were not as fascinating as the origin of those Christmas lights and who initially was on the rooftops of primitive little children.
For example, in his book “4,000 Years of Christmas,” Earl W. Count said, “The bright fires, the giving of presents, the merrymaking, the feasting, the processions with their lights and song — all these and more began in Mesopotamia three centuries before Christ was born.” Read full story from clevelandbanner.com
Corals Reefs Will Be Wiped Out By 2050, Expert Says
First the news was that if we don’t change our habits around fishing, all the world’s fisheries will be wiped out by 2050. Now, experts guess that if we don’t significantly change our interaction with the ocean, coral reefs will be all but wiped out by that same time. J.E.N. Veron, former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, writes that human pollution of the water, as well as human-generated carbon dioxide emissions which are causing ocean acidification and rising ocean temperatures are rapidly killing off corals. He notes that without a radical change in our behaviors and priorities, we will be left with a bleak future for the oceans, and consequently, ourselves. Read full story from treehugger.com
Can Green Visionaries and Eco Realists Coexist?
When I wrote about the UK government’s apparent redefinition of ‘zero carbon homes’, an anonymous commenter noted how amusing it is “when governments figure out that it’s much harder to actually do something, than to say you’re going to do it.” And that got me thinking—given the urgency of climate change, peak oil and resource depletion, we need radical visions and bold plans to create a better world. But then we also need people who can actually help get us there. Unfortunately, being visionary and being realistic are often seen as mutually exclusive. Read full story from treehugger.com
Starry Starry Starry Night: Star Count May Triple
The universe may glitter with far more stars than even Carl Sagan imagined when he rhapsodized about billions upon billions. A new study suggests there are a mind-blowing 300 sextillion of them, or three times as many as scientists previously calculated. That is a 3 followed by 23 zeros. Or 3 trillion times 100 billion.
The estimate, contained in a study published online Wednesday in the journal Nature, is based on findings that there are many more red dwarf stars — the most common star in the universe — than once thought.
But the research goes deeper than that. The study by Yale University astronomer Pieter van Dokkum and Harvard astrophysicist Charlie Conroy questions a key assumption that astronomers often use: that most galaxies have the same properties as our Milky Way. And that conclusion is deeply unsettling to astronomers who want a more orderly cosmos. Read full story from npr.org
It is wrong to deny that yoga has its origins in Hinduism
A 2002 survey of Americans showed that more than half the population expressed an interest in practicing yoga, and a 2004 news report claimed that there were nearly 15.5 million yoga practitioners in the country. Nearly 77% of the practitioners of yoga are women, and half of the yoga enthusiasts have a college degree.
In the small college at which I teach in rural Virginia, at which participation in at least one form of physical education is required, yoga classes are the first to fill up – not aerobic dance, not fitness walking, and certainly not weight-lifting. Yoga Journal, the most popular magazine for yoga enthusiasts, now has a paid circulation of 350,000 and a readership of more than 1,000,000. Yoga has indeed been embraced by Americans. Read full story from guardian.co.uk
Slainte! Ireland’s Viking Heritage
One day while searching for I can’t remember what in my foot-thick Webster’s, which has been my word go-to since high school, I stumbled upon a most interesting linguistic factoid. Every single question word in the English language (who, what, where, when, which, and why, plus whose, whither, whence, whom and even how) has a Viking origin. It makes sense.
Picture this: a Viking raiding ship has just dropped anchor and hordes of bloodthirsty marauders have come ashore. They chase down one poor fellow and bombard him with questions. Who are you? What place is this? Where is your leader? When did he leave? Which way did he go? Why won’t you tell us where the gold is? And the clincher: How many men are hiding in the forest?
It doesn’t take much to imagine the scene, especially since Hollywood has done us the favor of putting it up on the big screen countless times. Huge, helmeted Viking warriors wreaking havoc on a sleepy pastoral setting provide spectacular action footage and big box office returns. However, it was not so entertaining a scenario some twelve hundred years ago in Ireland. Read full story from irishcentral.com
The hidden cost of Christmas
In Bangkok the shopping centres already have their indoor and outdoor plastic Christmas pyramids out, the jingles emanate from the Starbucks and skywalks, strings of lights hang from the trees along walkways and windows of bakeries are spray-painted with counterfeit frost. Aggressive Christmas cheer, over a month early, is everywhere. The popularity of the Christian festival celebrating the birth of Jesus, though, is hard to reconcile with the fact that less that 1 percent of Thailand’s population is Christian – unless you consider that it has always been more of a cultural and seasonal celebration than a religious one, and that commercialisation and economic potential are business values that are easily globalised. And yet, beyond making tourists feel at home, what is the relevance of Christmas to Thailand? Read full story from bangkokpost.com
The Christian leaders had created the app to promote a document that urges opposition to abortion and gay marriage and support for religious liberty, among other positions. Read full story from cnn.com
Deep Water Corals Dead and Dying; Gulf Oil Spill to Blame (Video)
While the news coverage has died down, the lingering impacts on wildlife of the Deep Horizon oil spill are still being uncovered. That includes what’s going on far under the surface of the water to deep sea corals. Researchers from Penn State have discovered that seven miles southwest of the disastrous wellhead is a huge bed of dead and damaged corals, and it is suspected that the damage is thanks to the spill. Read full story from treehugger.com
Gary McCullough, director of Christian Newswire, says he is annoyed and bothered by the latest atheist attacks on Christmas and the story of Christ’s birth. He asserts that Christians have already won the culture war by using their principles to “co-opt” rituals and holidays in America and abroad.
“We take them over, we make them our own and we mock their pagan roots,” insisted McCullough. Read full story from christianpost.com
Seneca President Robert Odawi Porter has announced that the nation filed application documents with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Nov. 30 for the license to operate the Seneca Pumped Storage Project at Kinzua Dam.
Seneca will be competing for the permit against the current owner, FirstEnergy Corp. of Akron, Ohio. The current 50-year license to operate the pumped storage project expires in 2015. Read full story from indiancountrytoday.com
He passed away in June, and I know from working with other families that the first holidays after a death are often layered with sadness. Last year, I wrote a column about one of our final conversations with my dad while he was still lucid.
This year, remembering some of what he said has helped us through our grief. As I mourn him, all the things I’ve said to people as a pastor over the years are coming toward me, now. It’s strange and beautiful to be on the receiving end of comfort. Holidays are special markers in communities, large and small: who is still with us, how we have changed, where are we now, who we are becoming. Read full story from gloucestertimes.com
World AIDS Day 2010: Rates of new HIV infections are slowing, but what now?
Scores of cities and communities all over the world will dim the lights this December 1st to mark World AIDS Day as part of the Light for Rights campaign which focuses on human rights, HIV and AIDS.Significant progress has been made in advancing access to HIV prevention, treatment, support and care over the past ten years, but putting human rights approaches at the centre of the response is crucial to further progress. The 2010 Global Update on the AIDS Epidemic by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) shows that in 2009 the pace of new infections had declined by almost 20% compared to 1999, but still outpaces treatment success by two to one. There are still major gaps in the implementation of human rights commitments at national and regional levels according to the report. For many people living with HIV – and the people most affected by it – human rights can help to guarantee access to health services, work, education and community participation. Read full story from worldaidscampaign.org
This month we’ll lead off with news of a spectacular lunar eclipse that will be visible from all of North America during the night of Dec. 20-21. This is going to be a beauty with totality lasting for an hour and 12 minutes. We will be able to see the entire eclipse from beginning to end. Mark your calendars because this won’t happen again for North America until April 2014. Read full story from dchieftain.com
Answers In Genesis, which built and operates the religious-themed attraction, plans to build a full-scale wooden replica of Noah’s Ark based on biblical descriptions. Read full story from wlwt.com
What does it mean to be human?
Calling someone a “Neanderthal” in the heat of an argument may not be such an insult after all. Last May, scientists announced they had completed a draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome, and found evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred, likely sometime 80,000 to 50,000 years ago when modern humans left Africa and ventured into Eurasia — Neanderthal territory. Those encounters left a mark in the modern gene pool: As much as 4 percent of the DNA in people with European or Asian ancestry may be Neanderthal DNA, the researchers reported in Science.
The discovery of our intimate history with Neanderthals received tremendous press last spring, but another implication of the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome also deserves attention, says the study’s lead author, Richard Green, a genome biologist now at the University of California at Santa Cruz. “The hope is to be able to use the Neanderthal [genome] to shine a flashlight on recent evolution in humans,” he says.
Until now, scientists had been limited to comparing human DNA to the DNA of our closest living relative, the chimpanzee. It was impossible to know, however, when any detected difference arose in our evolutionary history: Did it occur right after the split with the chimp lineage (sometime about 8 million years ago), in australopithecines, in other now-extinct species in the genus Homo? Or is it a change only found in Homo sapiens? By comparing our genome to that of Neanderthals, researchers can now look for the genetic changes that make modern humans unique among all hominins. Read full story from earthmagazine.org
Olmecs to Toltecs: Great ancient civilizations of Mexico
It always strikes me when I travel in Mexico how many foreign visitors don’t know the Olmecs from the Toltecs, never mind the Totonacs. Most of what we’ve learned about Mexico’s ancient cultures begins and ends with the Aztecs and the Maya. Those justly renowned civilizations arose relatively late in the country’s history, building on traditions that came before and incorporating influences from other peoples near and far.
Mesoamerica at its height was home to more than 25 million people. The 280 languages still spoken in Mexico today show that despite shared traditions and influences, many distinct civilizations arose because of geography, climate and contact with other cultures. Read full story from sfgate.com
New York Catholics, furious about an atheist-sponsored billboard calling Christmas “a myth,” lashed out with a counter-attack today — a billboard of their own that defends the celebration of the birth of Christ.
The billboard erected by the Catholic League went up near the New York side of the Lincoln Tunnel, at Dyer Avenue and 31st Street, in a bid to offset the anti-Christmas billboard at the tunnel’s New Jersey entrance. Read full story from nypost.com
Seeking to detect mysterious, ultra-high-energy neutrinos from distant regions of space, a team of astronomers used the Moon as part of an innovative telescope system for the search. Their work gave new insight on the possible origin of the elusive subatomic particles and points the way to opening a new view of the Universe in the future. Read full story from redorbit.com
Radiation Rings Hint Universe Was Recycled Over and Over
Most cosmologists trace the birth of the universe to the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. But a new analysis of the relic radiation generated by that explosive event suggests the universe got its start eons earlier and has cycled through myriad episodes of birth and death, with the Big Bang merely the most recent in a series of starting guns.
That startling notion, proposed by theoretical physicist Roger Penrose of the University of Oxford in England and Vahe Gurzadyan of the Yerevan Physics Institute and Yerevan State University in Armenia, goes against the standard theory of cosmology known as inflation.
The researchers base their findings on circular patterns they discovered in the cosmic microwave background, the ubiquitous microwave glow left over from the Big Bang. The circular features indicate that the cosmos itself circles through epochs of endings and beginnings, Penrose and Gurzadyan assert. The researchers describe their controversial findings in an article posted at arXiv.org on November 17. Read full story from wired.com
Sacred run and sacred paddle provide solemn memorial for Massachusetts Natives
BOSTON – “I hope our ancestors regain some of their pride stripped from them here on this island that is now a sewer treatment plant for the City of Boston. I am honored they watched over us,” wrote Annawon Weeden, Wampanoag, who finished a 20-mile sacred paddle Oct. 30 to memorialize the internment of indigenous people on Deer Island in Boston Harbor in 1675 as well as the path they were forced to travel: 12 miles by roads, 20 miles by river to the open sea and then to barren Deer Island.
A cheer went up in the crowd of more than 150 people who had gathered in the meeting hall, the sacred paddlers’ destination, at the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Facility, when they recognized that Troy Phillips, Nipmuc, had entered the room. “They’re here, they’re here,” was shouted by many for the people knew how dangerous the journey was for all the paddlers and runners and they had already waited several hours later than expected. Read full story from indiancountrytoday.com
Nearly 160 women turned out for two events, the first all-day Women’s Forum, and an evening Women’s Caucus Reception where they decided to make issues affecting women and children a higher national priority.
“I’m so excited about the NCAI Women’s Caucus. Finally our women – the life givers, culture bearers and caregivers of our nations – have a national voice,” said Susan Masten, co-president of Women Empowering Women for Indian Nations, who co-chaired the caucus with NCAI Secretary Juana Majel Dixon. Read full story from indiancountrytoday.com
Bizarre Insects Inspire Unintentionally Surreal Art
In the first half of the last century, a German blacksmith named Alfred Keller began crafting some of the most surrealistic, alien-seeming sculptures the world had ever seen — delicate works which took months to complete. These incredible creations, meticulous in detail, rivaled even the most imaginative pieces from contemporary artists — but they weren’t inspired by some absinth-induced vision or fit of madness. Indeed, Keller’s muse was nature itself — and these bugs are quite real.
As an employee of Berlin’s Natural History Museum, Keller was charged with creating lifelike models of insects to be placed on display — a challenge he took very, very seriously. The master artisan worked tirelessly fashioning his creepy, crawly creations from common materials, producing breathtaking works that did incredible justice to the real thing. Read full story from treehugger.com
The exhibition also includes a never before seen portrait of the author alongside belongings and literary work from her family – one of Britain’s most renowned literary dynasties. Read full story from dailymail.co.uk