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A free floating commentary on culture, politics, economics, and religion based on a passionate commitment to the truth and a desire graciously to refute that which is contrary to it….
"He must hold firm to the sure word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to confute those who contradict it."
--Titus 1:9, Revised Standard Version
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Twice in the last few months I’ve encountered writers taking note of this shift, and both have made a similar (and provocative) point: The decline of cults, while good news for anxious parents of potential devotees, might actually be a worrying sign for Western culture, an indicator not only of religious stagnation but of declining creativity writ large.
The first writer is Philip Jenkins, a prolific religious historian, who argues that the decline in “the number and scale of controversial fringe sects” is both “genuine and epochal,” and something that should worry more mainstream religious believers rather than comfort them. A wild fringe, he suggests, is often a sign of a healthy, vital center, and a religious culture that lacks for charismatic weirdos may lack “a solid core of spiritual activism and inquiry” as well.
The second writer is Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder, venture capitalist and controversialist, who includes an interesting aside about the decline of cults in his new book, “Zero to One” — officially a book of advice to would-be entrepreneurs, but really a treatise on escaping what he regards as the developed world’s 40-year economic, technological and cultural malaise.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch History Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Even with their technological head start, the U.S. and its allies are coming late to this battle for hearts and minds. Social media’s volume, velocity and verisimilitude have left the U.S. struggling to counter it and mine the communication for reliable information.
By the end of this year, the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union projects that 55 percent of the world’s 2.3 billion mobile broadband subscriptions will be in developing countries, where unemployed youth can use them to access messages from Islamic State and other extremists.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Media Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * General Interest Photos/Photography * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
In the eight years since, Facebook’s News Feed — that LED-lit window through which we glimpse news, memes and snatches of other people’s lives — has not exactly gotten less controversial. But the nature of that controversy has fundamentally changed. Where early college users raged against sharing, and seeing, too much information — of being subsumed, in effect, by the social media noise — our anxieties today frequently involve getting too little of it. Facebook’s latest changes to the News Feed, announced just last week, are essentially tooled to give users more content, more quickly.
Both concerns relate to control. Whether we see too much content or too little, everything we see in Facebook’s News Feed is determined by an algorithm — an invented mathematical formula that guesses what you want to see based on who posted it, where it came from, and a string of other mysterious factors known only to the programmers and project managers who work on it.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Media Psychology Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
In a grim assessment of the Ebola epidemic, researchers say the deadly virus threatens to become endemic to West Africa instead of eventually disappearing from humans.
"The current epidemiologic outlook is bleak," wrote a panel of more than 60 World Health Organization experts in a study published Tuesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.
"We must therefore face the possibility that Ebola virus disease will become endemic among the human population of West Africa, a prospect that has never previously been contemplated."
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The United States and several Middle East partners pounded Islamic State targets in Syria Tuesday with waves of warplanes and Tomahawk cruise missiles in an aggressive and risky operation marking a new phase in the conflict.
A statement issued by the U.S. Central Command early Tuesday said that a “mix of fighter, bomber, remotely-piloted aircraft and Tomahawk” cruise missiles destroyed or damaged multiple Islamic State targets in several parts of Syria, where a civil war has been raging for more than three years.
The U.S. statement said “partner nations,” including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, “participated in or supported” the operation. The involvement of these regional allies are key for the legitimacy and logistics of the operation.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Religion & Culture Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Terrorism * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Middle East Iran Iraq Syria * Religion News & Commentary Inter-Faith Relations Other Faiths Islam Muslim-Christian relations * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
“My sense of the big picture is that we’re moving toward laws like the one in Illinois, which accepts that the demand for surrogacy isn’t going away but recognizes the hazards and adds regulations and protections,” said Joanna L. Grossman, a family law professor at the Hofstra University law school.
The Illinois law requires medical and psychological screenings for all parties before a contract is signed and stipulates that surrogates be at least 21, have given birth at least once before and be represented by an independent lawyer, paid for by the intended parents.
The law allows only gestational surrogacy, in which an embryo is placed in the surrogate’s uterus, not the traditional kind, in which the surrogate provides the egg. In addition, it requires that the embryo created in a petri dish must have either an egg or a sperm from one of the intended parents.
“That eliminates some of the concerns about designer babies,” Professor Grossman said.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Politics in General State Government * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
I’m at the Cambridge University college that Charles Darwin attended before heading off on a ship to change the world’s views about the origin of the species, particularly the evolution of humans.
Darwin’s theories have been used and abused for many things in the past century or two — to promote racism and defeat racism, promote competition and encourage cooperation, to treat humans as objects and see them as special, to believe humans are machines and to say they have free choice, to attack religion and advance religion (particularly through a movement sometimes known as ‘theistic evolution”).
A conference at Christ’s College in Cambridge, organized by The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion and sponsored by the Templeton Foundation, is actually titled “The uses and abuses of biology.”
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For many farmers in the UK it was this year's weather that helped give them their best harvest in living memory.
But in the future it will be technology that helps them get the most from every acre.
With the global population predicted to be nine billion by 2050, experts believe we will need to produce 70% more food.
Edd Banks is one of the growing number of farmers in the UK now practising precision farming.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The United States has made the same mistake in evaluating fighters from the Islamic State that it did in Vietnam — underestimating the enemy’s will, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.
Clapper’s comments came in a telephone interview Wednesday, in which he summarized the elements of a new National Intelligence Strategy released this week. Clapper also answered some broader questions about intelligence issues confronting the country.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Religion & Culture Science & Technology Violence * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy The U.S. Government Foreign Relations Politics in General Terrorism * International News & Commentary Africa Middle East * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
The story of how the Central Intelligence Agency came to operate a secretive program of rendition, detention, and interrogation under President George W. Bush has been made public by a number of investigations into the abuses that resulted. In 2007, the Red Cross detailed the methods used to interrogate suspects at CIA-run “black sites.” In 2010, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility strongly criticized the Bush administration lawyers who wrote the legal memos permitting the CIA to use torture. And last year, the Constitution Project Task Force on Detainee Treatment—a nonpartisan group that included a number of former military and intelligence personnel—analyzed what is known about mistreatment of detainees and the policy decisions that led to such ugly consequences.
Now a new report is expected from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which is charged with overseeing the activities of the CIA.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Law & Legal Issues Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy The U.S. Government Foreign Relations Politics in General * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
When astronauts describe the feeling of sailing around space, looking at our planet from hundreds of miles above, they often invoke the phrase “orbital perspective,” a shorthand for the emotional, psychological, and intellectual effects of seeing “the Earth hanging in the blackness of space.” This experience is characterized by not merely awe, but, as astronaut Ron Garan puts it, “a sobering contradiction. On the one hand, I saw this incredibly beautiful, fragile oasis—the Earth. On the other, I was faced with the unfortunate realities of life on our planet for many of its inhabitants.”
This tension was particularly poignant on 9/11, when the effects of violence on Earth were actually visible from space, as captured in the photograph above. At the time, three people were not on Earth: Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Tyurin and Vladimir Dezhurov, and American Frank Culbertson, making Culbertson the only American not on Earth during the 9/11 attacks.
Over the course of that night and into the following few days, Culbertson wrote a letter to those at home, and his words echo that orbital perspective Garan describes. “It’s horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point,” he wrote. “The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche.”
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Google’s search engine makes it wonderfully easy to locate stuff on the web, whether it’s in a news article, a corporate website, or a video on YouTube. But that only begins to describe Google’s ability to find information. Inside the company, engineers use several uniquely powerful tools for searching and analyzing its own massive trove of data.
One of those is Dremel, a tool that helps Google’s employees analyze data stored across thousands of machines, at unusually fast speeds. What’s more, Dremel lets the Google team to manipulate all of this data using a language very similar to SQL, short for Structured Query Language, the standard way of grabbing information from databases.
Like most of its custom-built tools, Dremel is only available inside Google. But now, the rest of the world can hack data a little more like Google does, thanks to Quest, a Dremel-like query engine created by Theo Vassilakis, one of the lead developers of Dremel at Google, and Toli Lerios, a former engineer at Facebook. The tool is one of a growing number of that seek to mimic the way web giants like Google and Facebook rapidly analyze enormous amounts of online information stored across hundreds or even thousands of machines. This includes everything from a project called Drill, from a company called MapR, to a sweeping open source platform called Spark.
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It has been a little more than three years since the Kansas Cities — both Kansas and Missouri — won a national competition to be the first places to get Google Fiber, a fiber-optic network that includes cable television and Internet running at one gigabit a second. That is about 100 times as fast as the average connection in the United States (on which it would take about two-and-a-half minutes to download 612 kitten photos).
But be careful what you wish for. After a few million in waived permit fees and granting Google free access to public land, the area is finding out that Google Fiber is so fast, it’s hard to know what to do with it.
There aren’t really any applications that fully take advantage of Fiber’s speed, at least not for ordinary people. And since only a few cities have such fast Internet access, tech companies aren’t clamoring to build things for Fiber. So it has fallen to locals — academics, residents, programmers and small-business owners — to make the best of it.
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Can the U.S. compete internationally? Its companies can. Its workers cannot.
That is the key finding from a new survey of Harvard Business School alumni that delves into their views of the U.S. business environment to see where the nation thrives and where it falters.
The survey shows the business executives see, on one hand, an uncompetitive K-12 education system, a poor tax code and a broken political system. On the other hand, they see high-quality capital markets, sophisticated management systems, pathbreaking universities and a vibrant environment for entrepreneurs.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Globalization Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
You can find his brief bio there and he has a Youtube channel there and there is still more here. Why should you dig into this? Well, take a look at this 2007 video and see:
New York state, Minnesota and Washington, D.C., all have pending legislation that would legalize the practice of commercial surrogacy—paying someone to have a baby on your behalf. Reproductive technology has made surrogacy possible since the 1980s, but it remained relatively rare until recent years as the technology improved and the legalization of same-sex marriage increased the number of childless couples eager to have children.
The Catholic Church has long opposed surrogacy, whether paid or unpaid. Nowadays, with increasing pressure for the legalization of paid surrogacy, the church has found itself with an unfamiliar ally: feminists.
The Catholic Church and women's rights groups are accustomed to clashing over policy matters involving contraception and abortion. But now the two camps can often be found working hand in hand when it comes to protecting both women and children from being exploited in the growing and largely unregulated fertility industry.
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St Paul seems an unlikely commentator on mobile technology, but he offers some pertinent thoughts in his letter to the Corinthians. He wrote that while on Earth we perceive God as though “through a lens dimly or darkly” but one day in heaven we will see Him "in full, face to face”. For St Paul, looking through a lens was clearly inferior to taking that glass away and standing face to face in direct contact.
As we hold up our mobile devices, in some ways we create a mediated experience. With a screen between us, we choose to see through glass and forego the ability to be totally present. Yes, we may then have photos to show others, or save for later, but we missed the unrepeatable moment ourselves - and was that a price worth paying?
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Ever since rivers have been dammed, destroying the migration routes of salmon, humans have worked to create ways to help the fish return to their spawning grounds. We've built ladders and elevators; we've carried them by hand and transported them in trucks. Even helicopters have been used to fly fish upstream.
But all of those methods are expensive and none of them are efficient.
Enter the salmon cannon.
The device uses a pressure differential to suck up a fish, send it through a tube at up to 22 mph and then shoot it out the other side, reaching heights of up to 30 feet. This weekend, it will be used to move hatchery fish up a tributary of the Columbia River in Washington.
Read it all and enjoy the video also.
Filed under: * Culture-Watch Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources * General Interest Animals * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Kibera, Kenya (CNN) -- Heaps of trash pile up for miles in Kibera, a district of Nairobi that houses nearly 1 million people and is one of the poorest slums in the world. Aluminum shanties fill the horizon, and an odor of urine cuts through the air. A man trots through the narrow, unpaved streets on a camel. If you make your way through this crowded maze, however, you will find the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy, a free public school for girls and, recently, a few boys. Peek in through the windows, and you'll see a sight that seems incongruous next to the grimy chaos outside.
In this school, where there is no electricity and temperatures often top 90 degrees, dozens of students in neat wool uniforms are sliding their fingers across touch screens, reading a lesson on their Amazon Kindle e-reader. The students, who range in age from 14 to 20, are cheerful, welcoming and quick to share the genres of books they like to read in both Swahili and English. Their school is one of 28 participating in a program with Worldreader, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco that provides modern technology -- usually Kindles -- to improve literacy in the most impoverished parts of the world.
By expanding access to education in areas where books are a scarce resource, the Worldreader team is trying to break the cycle of poverty, one electronic page at a time.
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As usual with Facebook, this is not the whole story. For one, it has begun tracking users’ browsing history to identify their interests better. Its latest mobile app can identify songs and films playing nearby, nudging users to write about them. It has acquired the Moves app, which does something similar with physical activity, using sensors to recognise whether users are walking, driving or cycling.
Still, if Facebook is so quick to embrace – and profit from – the language of privacy, should privacy advocates not fear they are the latest group to be “disrupted”? Yes, they should: as Facebook’s modus operandi mutates, their vocabulary ceases to match the magnitude of the task at hand. Fortunately, the “happiness” experiment also shows us where the true dangers lie.
For example, many commentators have attacked Facebook’s experiment for making some users feel sadder; yet the company’s happiness fetish is just as troubling. Facebook’s “obligation to be happy” is the converse of the “right to be forgotten” that Google was accused of trampling over. Both rely on filters. But, while Google has begun to hide negative results because it has been told to do so by European authorities, Facebook hides negative results because it is good for business. Yet since unhappy people make the best dissidents in most dystopian novels, should we not also be concerned with all those happy, all too happy, users?
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Law & Legal Issues Psychology Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Stock Market * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Like J, with his effortless mastery of big data, these children do not need adult approval before they do things; they are already masters of their world and it is the older generations who must catch up. The millennials grew up with the magical manichean world of Harry Potter and its avuncular headmaster Dumbledore; Generation Z has Katniss Everdeen, the bow-wielding heroine of The Hunger Games, who defies the totalitarian oppressors and starts a revolution.
It will be interesting to see where this generation lands politically — not Ukip, because most have social media friendships that span continents, but will they morph from single-issue activism into democratic party politics or will they, like Everdeen, overturn the existing order? If I were running a political party I would be quite worried about a generation of tech-literate, global-thinking teens raised on a diet of dystopian fiction and the Kardashians. They don’t have much reason to trust adults. And even more alarming, thanks to 3D printers — which they will have mastered long before their parents — they will be able to bypass the arms manufacturers and print their own guns.
Universities and colleges should also be quite apprehensive about Generation Z — there is a growing number of gifted teens who are beginning to wonder whether they will get anything out of university other than a mountain of debt. For the millennials the partying was worth the pain of student loans that they probably won’t pay off before they draw their pension; but for the value- conscious younger generation the idea of education for its own sake is less appealing.
After all, they have online universities and TED talks; any curious teen can probably find a decent liberal arts education online without having to spend a penny on tuition.
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Research shows that children are best brought up in families where a mum and dad are present. The role of fathers in the nurture of their children is unique and cannot be replaced by other so-called ‘male role-models’ or, indeed, an extra ‘mother’.
Research tells us that children relate to their fathers differently than to their mothers, and this is important in developing a sense of their own identity....
None of this should detract from the heroism of single parents. They should be provided with every support by the State and by local communities.
There is, however, a big difference between children growing up without fathers because of death or family breakdown, and actively planning to bring children into the world who will not know one of their biological parents and where such a parent will never be part of the nurture of these children.
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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
The vast majority of respondents to the 2014 Future of the Internet canvassing anticipate that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by 2025, with huge implications for a range of industries such as health care, transport and logistics, customer service, and home maintenance. But even as they are largely consistent in their predictions for the evolution of technology itself, they are deeply divided on how advances in AI and robotics will impact the economic and employment picture over the next decade.
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Two Americans with Ebola received at least half of the world's supply of a drug that might be able to change the course of the deadly virus.
Some people are asking how to allocate additional doses of this drug and whether it was ethical to give those drugs to American missionaries when they weren't available to West Africans suffering from or fighting the outbreak.
The World Health Organization will convene a panel of medical ethicists early next week to discuss the use of such experimental treatments. The group will probably decide how to allocate medications should more become available.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Health & Medicine Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Africa America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
“We should not be surprised if parents who have ordered a baby and rented a woman’s womb refuse it at birth if it is not healthy and perfect,” said an article published in the Vatican’s semiofficial newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
“In fact if a child becomes a product to buy, it is obvious that as with any acquisition it must meet with the buyer’s approval.”
The strongly worded commentary was written by prominent Catholic feminist and regular contributor Lucetta Scaraffia, who argued the child’s rejection was to be expected in the “explosive mix” of consumerism combined with a “throwaway culture.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Will robots ease our toil or become a tool for automation and oppression? People who care about technology seem sharply divided, and passionate, about the topic.
The Pew Research Center asked 1,900 technology experts if robots will help or hurt the workforce over the next 10 years. Nearly half (48%) envision a future in which robots displace significant numbers of workers. The remaining 52% say automation will not displace more jobs than it creates by 2025.
But the numbers were just the starting point for some heated opinions.
“We, as a society, have a lot of decisions to make,” said study co-author Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Internet Project. “There’s going to be a lot of debate.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
A Russian crime ring has amassed the largest known collection of stolen Internet credentials, including 1.2 billion username and password combinations and more than 500 million email addresses, security researchers say.
The records, discovered by Hold Security, a firm in Milwaukee, include confidential material gathered from 420,000 websites, ranging from household names to small Internet sites. Hold Security has a history of uncovering significant hacks, including the theft last year of tens of millions of records from Adobe Systems.
Hold Security would not name the victims, citing nondisclosure agreements and a reluctance to name companies whose sites remained vulnerable. At the request of The New York Times, a security expert not affiliated with Hold Security analyzed the database of stolen credentials and confirmed it was authentic. Another computer crime expert who had reviewed the data, but was not allowed to discuss it publicly, said some big companies were aware that their records were among the stolen information.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Globalization Law & Legal Issues Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary Europe Russia * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Starting this September, every single K-12 student in Great Britain will start taking classes in computer programming. That is, kids at the age of five will take programming, and they won’t stop until they’re 16 at least. A majority of these children will be using the free online learning platform Codecademy, says co-founder Zach Sims. Ditto France, Estonia and Buenos Aires.
In China, Codecademy, which has programming lessons contributed by more than 100,000 people from around the world, has been cloned multiple times.
Meanwhile in the U.S., where education is controlled by the states, fewer than 20 even recognize computer science as a science; the rest consider it an elective.
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It may have seemed like the makings of a perfect opening night: perhaps popcorn, soda, great seats, the whispering of an excited crowd as the lights went down for a midnight first peek at "Guardians of the Galaxy."
The previews rolled, and then ... whaaaat?
"omg," one moviegoer tweeted. "they started playing rise of the guardians instead of guardians of the galaxy."
How in the galaxy did that happen?
"EVERYONE IN THE THEATRE IS CRYING," the tweeter added.
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Pattaramon [ Chanbua] was promised 300,000 baht ($9,300) by a surrogacy agency in Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, to be a surrogate for the Australian couple, but she has not been fully paid since the children were born last December.
She said the agency knew about Gammy’s condition four to five months after she became pregnant but did not tell her. It wasn’t until the seventh month of her pregnancy when the doctors and the agency told her that one of the twin babies had Down syndrome and suggested that she have an abortion just for him.
Pattaramon recalled strongly rejecting the idea, believing that having the abortion would be sinful. “I asked them, ‘Are you still humans?’ I really wanted to know,” she said Sunday.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Globalization Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Marriage & Family Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary Asia Thailand Australia / NZ
Students in the UK can now get graduate degrees in cyber-spying approved by the masters of the craft at the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters, the British counterpart of the US National Security Agency. Students at the University of Oxford and five other universities can get masters in cyber-security signed off by the best eavesdroppers in the country, the BBC reported.
While the NSA gets most of the headlines, Edward Snowden has accused the Government Communications Headquarters of being far worse than their American cousins. “Their respect for the privacy right, their respect for individual citizens, their ability to communicate and associate without monitoring and interference is not strongly encoded in law or policy,” Snowden told The Guardian. “They enjoy authorities that they really shouldn’t be entitled to.” Among the tactics that GCHQ is accused of is using sex to entrap people via “honey traps” and smearing hackers online.
Yet the government has defended the agency to the hilt.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Education Science & Technology Young Adults * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
Should a fertility treatment clinic implement a policy requiring patients to use only ethnically or racially matched gamete donors? If the idea of such a policy already triggers some element of moral revulsion, you need not read further. But for argument’s sake, here’s why a controversial policy that was in effect until last year at Calgary’s only fertility clinic, and which requires patients to use racially matched sperm donors, is morally, ethically, and legally objectionable.
The policy suggests that a child is disadvantaged by not having an ethnically matched parent. This is a dangerous idea that stigmatizes children who are part of ethnically mixed families. Besides, there is not a shred of evidence that suggests the welfare of a child born (with or without donor gametes) to a person of different ethnicity or race is diminished by the mere fact of that difference.
Individuals who do not have fertility issues are free to seek out partners of any race, colour, ethnicity or creed for procreation purposes. Why then should those seeking fertility treatment be limited to ethnically matched donors? Such limitation stifles patient choice and makes a mess of the ethical and legal concept of autonomy, which is fundamental to medical decision-making in our society. Indeed, it violates professional practice guidelines issued by the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, which stipulate that patients should “be provided with the opportunity to consider and evaluate treatment options in the context of their own life circumstances and culture.” Simply put, decisions regarding a future child’s ethnicity should be made by parents, not by doctors.
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Children Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Marriage & Family Science & Technology * International News & Commentary Canada * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
Like many people, I trust Google to find me answers to everything from the mundane to the medical. Now, after a decade in which our increasing obsession with social media brought our computers out of the study and into the living-room, more of us are turning to the internet even when our question is emotional or irrational. The result: two decades after the birth of the web, our search histories have become a mirror to every aspect of our lives.
“Someone once said that what you look for is way more telling than information about yourself – this is something Google and other search engines understood a long time ago,” says Luciano Floridi, the Professor of Philosophy and Ethics of Information at the Oxford Internet Institute.
“Future generations will be able to trace our interests as a society just by looking at what we were looking for. Even if we don’t find the information, it doesn’t matter. Who we are, how we represent ourselves, how the world feeding back a mirror image of ourselves shapes our idea of ourselves – this is as old as philosophy, but today has a completely new twist. The online and offline are becoming more and more blurred, and that feeds back into our self-perception.” (If that sounds pseudy, then think of the example of a recruiter Googling someone who’s applied for a job: does the person on Twitter better represent who they really are, or the person on their best behaviour in the interview room?)
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Health & Medicine Philosophy Psychology Religion & Culture Science & Technology * International News & Commentary England / UK
I think that the boggle line also tells us something about belief. We each of us have what we could call a belief continuum, with taken-for-granted obvious truths at one end (in August, it does not snow in New York City) and whacked-out possibilities at the other (the tooth fairy, a Cubs triumph in the World Series). When we draw a line between the plausible and the ridiculous — our boggle line — I think we become more confident about the beliefs on the plausible side of the line. You are, the boggle line tells you, a sensible, reasonable person. You do not believe in that. So a belief in this — well, a sensible person would take that seriously.
We know already that asserting one kind of belief shapes one’s willingness to commit to another. Benoit Monin, a professor of organizational behavior and psychology at Stanford, and his colleagues have found that when people do something that affirms their lack of prejudice, like disagreeing with blatant racism or expressing willingness, in a laboratory experiment, to hire a black person instead of a white one, that reasonable moral action seems to license them later to express views that seem racist. Seeing yourself as morally reasonable might allow you to make morally risky choices.
So perhaps rejecting the extreme position (I don’t believe in that) might make a less extreme, but still uncertain, commitment seem more plausible. Indeed, you can make a case that this is why heresy is so important. “What people do not believe is often more clearly articulated than what they do believe,” the sociologist Lester R. Kurtz wrote in 1983, “and it is through battles with heresies and heretics that orthodoxy is most sharply delineated.” The sociologists would explain that if this is true, it is because people unite most profoundly in opposition to a common enemy.
Read it all from the NY Times Op-ed.
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So much soot belched from the old power plant here that Mike Zeleny would personally warn the neighbors.
“If the wind was blowing in a certain direction,” Mr. Zeleny said, “we’d call Mrs. Robinson down the street and tell her not to put out her laundry.”
That coal plant is long gone, replaced by a much larger and cleaner one along the vast Saskatchewan prairie. Sooty shirts and socks are a thing of the past.
But as with even the most modern coal plants, its smokestacks still emit enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, the invisible heat-trapping gas that is the main contributor to global warming. So this fall, a gleaming new maze of pipes and tanks — topped with what looks like the Tin Man’s hat — will suck up 90 percent of the carbon dioxide from one of the boilers so it can be shipped out for burial, deep underground.
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For several weeks prior to the scheduled lift-off of Apollo 11 back in July, 1969, the pastor of our church, Dean Woodruff, and I had been struggling to find the right symbol for the first lunar landing. We wanted to express our feeling that what man was doing in this mission transcended electronics and computers and rockets.
Dean often speaks at our church, Webster Presbyterian, just outside of Houston, about the many meanings of the communion service.
“One of the principal symbols,” Dean says, “is that God reveals Himself in the common elements of everyday life.” Traditionally, these elements are bread and wine—common foods in Bible days and typical products of man’s labor.
One day while I was at Cape Kennedy working with the sophisticated tools of the space effort, it occurred to me that these tools were the typical elements of life today. I wondered if it might be possible to take communion on the moon, symbolizing the thought that God was revealing Himself there too, as man reached out into the universe. For there are many of us in the NASA program who do trust that what we are doing is part of God’s eternal plan for man.
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A woman in her late 20s came to see me recently because her back hurt. She works at a child care center in town where she picks up babies and small children all day long.
She felt a twinge in her lower back when hoisting a fussy kid. The pain was bad enough that she went home from work early and was laid out on the couch until she came to see me the next day.
In my office she told me she had "done some damage" to her back. She was worried. She didn't want to end up like her father, who'd left his factory job in his mid-50s on disability after suffering what she called permanent damage to his back.
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A new US geological survey indicates that some parts of the US are at an increased risk of earthquakes, especially along the east coast.
New seismic hazard maps updated for the first time since 2008 show highest risk west but also increased risk east.
"The eastern US has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments," the report states.
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The AIDS community is in shock over the news that dozens of its members were aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight that was apparently shot down Thursday. The sorrow is particularly widespread over the death of , a Dutch researcher and advocate, who played a pivotal role in the AIDS movement for more than three decades.
"We've lost one of the giants in our field," says Dr. , who heads the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Initiative. "We've lost a voice that I don't think is easily replaced."
Colleagues of Lange said his career embodied some of the most important shifts in the way scientists have approached the fight against HIV/AIDS: He gave patients and advocates more of a say in setting the research agenda, and he worked with governments and businesses to ensure that breakthroughs in treatment become available to even the poorest patients.
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Pro-Russia separatists who are believed to have used the “Buk” antiaircraft missile system to shoot down a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine probably needed Russian assistance to operate it, senior U.S. officials said Friday.
The Russian-designed missile system, also known as an SA-11, “is a sophisticated piece of technology, and it strains credulity to think that it could be used by separatists without at least some measure of Russian support and technical assistance,“ Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon.Read it all.
Iran is discussing with the IAEA its development of exploding bridgewire (EBW) detonators, which are safer and more controllable than other detonators and are used by other countries in nuclear weapons. Iran says that their EBW detonators are for oilfield applications. Iran has provided materials to the IAEA, and the IAEA has not come to any conclusions yet.
The IAEA was investigating PMD long before the JPOA went into effect and has many more questions. The EBW discussion is a first step, but the IAEA would like a more systematic approach. However, they leave the door open to piecemeal discussions, requesting further information on neutron transport modeling and calculations (how neutrons split atoms – in a reactor or a bomb) and a site visit to Parchin, where explosives experiments may have been done to give information that is useful only for a bomb.
For the past six months, both sides have stuck by their word as expressed in the JPOA. They are closer to an agreement than ever before.
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As long as that phone is acting as a kind of electronic umbilical cord, parents can tell themselves their children are safe.
But increasingly the smartphone itself is an instrument of harm. Such is the case with a 16-year-old Houston girl named Jada, who entered the spotlight as she publicly confronted the evidence that she had been raped at a party by at least one other teenager. She says she passed out after drinking a beverage that was spiked and only learned of the crime after her classmates began tweeting photos and videos taken of her unconscious, partly nude body. (Houston police are investigating; no one has been charged.)
What happened next is remarkable in ways that instill faith in the human spirit and at the same time provoke disgust at the depravity and lemming-like behavior that teenagers with smartphones are capable of.
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Mass surveillance of UK citizens is taking place without proper safeguards and in breach of people’s rights to privacy, it was claimed this week.
The British intelligence services share personal communications data collected by the US authorities on a “vast scale” — including on “a very substantial number of people located in the UK,” lawyers claimed at a hearing in London.
The claims came at the start of a landmark challenge to the legality of government intelligence-gathering before the normally secret Investigatory Powers Tribunal, which investigates complaints about the conduct of the security and intelligence services, often behind closed doors.
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For many families, the tablet has become the central, shared computing device in the home. It’s a hub for learning, for entertainment, and for staying connected. But what if your tablet was even more interactive? What if it woke up when you came home, recognized your face, and suggested a couple of things you might want for dinner? What if, when asked a spoken question, it could tailor its answer directly to you, instead of just offering a blanket response?
A new device called Jibo can do these things, and it could mark the next step in group computer interaction in the home. But Jibo isn’t a tablet at all: It’s a robot.
Specifically, Jibo is a social robot. You talk to it, ask it questions, make requests. It talks back, provides answers, and takes care of grunt work like setting reminders or scouring the web. It’s meant to act as a helper and a partner in a variety of household experiences, much like a physical embodiment of Siri, Google Now, or any of the voice-activated concierge services available on our smartphones or tablets.
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One in three cases of Alzheimer's disease worldwide is preventable, according to research from the University of Cambridge.
The main risk factors for the disease are a lack of exercise, smoking, depression and poor education, it says.
Previous research from 2011 put the estimate at one in two cases, but this new study takes into account overlapping risk factors.
Alzheimer's Research UK said age was still the biggest risk factor.
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Cyberspace has become shorthand for the computing devices, networks, fibre-optic cables, wireless links and other infrastructure that bring the internet to billions of people around the world. The myriad connections forged by these technologies have brought tremendous benefits to everyone who uses the web to tap into humanity’s collective store of knowledge every day.
But there is a darker side to this extraordinary invention. Data breaches are becoming ever bigger and more common. Last year over 800m records were lost, mainly through such attacks.... Among the most prominent recent victims has been Target, whose chief executive, Gregg Steinhafel, stood down from his job in May, a few months after the giant American retailer revealed that online intruders had stolen millions of digital records about its customers, including credit- and debit-card details. Other well-known firms such as Adobe, a tech company, and eBay, an online marketplace, have also been hit.
The potential damage, though, extends well beyond such commercial incursions. Wider concerns have been raised by the revelations about the mass surveillance carried out by Western intelligence agencies made by Edward Snowden, a contractor to America’s National Security Agency (NSA), as well as by the growing numbers of cyber-warriors being recruited by countries that see cyberspace as a new domain of warfare. America’s president, Barack Obama, said in a White House press release earlier this year that cyberthreats “pose one of the gravest national-security dangers” the country is facing.
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Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.
Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.
Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.
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If the greatest living American were a tree, it would probably be the chestnut. Nat King Cole sang about it. Abraham Lincoln probably built his log cabin from it. The telegraph era, which required tall poles of strong wood, was enabled by it.
In the first half of the 20th century, however, the American chestnut fell victim to a fungus unintentionally imported from China, and the tree that once dominated the forest canopy of the eastern U.S. all but disappeared. Now it is on the cusp of a comeback, a testament to America's scientific ingenuity.
For years, scientists tried without success to develop a strain of chestnut tree that was immune, using traditional hybridization methods to instill resistance from Chinese chestnut trees into the American variety. Now plant scientists have found a way to develop a chestnut tree that fights off the fungus.
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Today is Saturday. This is evident on the face of my sleep-deprived neighbor, here in the fluorescent hallway, shifting her whining toddler impatiently from one hip to the other, scowling at the elevator doors which refuse to open. It is also evident in my own frustration at being obliged to wait several minutes before embarking on errands—jingling the keys in my pocket and watching the painfully slow sequence of floor numbers on the elevator panel. I am caught in the human traffic jam that visits my 20-story building every weekend.
Why the hold up? I live in a historically Jewish building in New York City. On most days, its two elevators service each section of this rather monolithic structure—just enough to keep up with the flow of residents going up and down. But come Friday evening, one of the cars is switched into Shabbos mode, meaning that it stops at every single floor automatically, backing the tenants up like resentful clogs in beige-yellow arteries. It does so for religious reasons, since many observant Jews avoid pressing electric buttons on Shabbat.
Read it all from the Atlantic.
Graduates around the world gather at the end of spring for one final lesson: the commencement speech.
It’s a time when luminaries from business, politics and the arts deliver wisdom (and humor) to students eager for the next stage. Susan Wojcicki recalled watching the first item uploaded to Google Video—a purple, furry puppet, dancing and singing in Swedish—with no idea what to think. Until her children saw it—and cheered. Marc Benioff shared that time he did “what all lost thirty-somethings do: travel to India.”
We’ve pulled together memorable addresses from 2014 (with a splash from the speeches of yore). Did we miss any? Tell us what you think in the comments.
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Many will tell you that we can save the planet by switching from gas-guzzling automobiles to electric cars. But Zack Rosen says there’s a better way. He’ll tell you the impact would be greater if we just switched from virtual machines to Linux containers.
Virtual machines are those things that let anyone run software on the massive cloud computing services offered up by the likes of Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Rather than setting up its own computer servers, a startup like Netflix or Pinterest can build almost its entire operation atop virtual servers running in the cloud–pieces of software that work much like a real machine. But Rosen believes we can seriously reduce the world’s energy consumption if we swap these virtual machines for containers, a suddenly red-hot cloud computing technology that fits neatly into the open source Linux operating system, the OS of choice on the modern web. Among other things, containers can run large software applications in significantly more efficient ways.
Citing multiple studies on power used by cars and data centers, Rosen estimates that, with so much of our software running on cloud services and other operations that use virtual machines, we have a better chance of saving the planet if we just embrace containers. “They’re an order of magnitude more efficient,” says Rosen, whose company, Pantheon, has long used containers to run its online service, a kind of website publishing platform. “I think you can say–with an absolute straight face–that the containerization of software applications in the age of the cloud will save more CO2 emissions than electric cars.”
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This is a worthy challenge. If God’s creative activity is primarily a matter of redirecting nature from the outside to produce what could not otherwise have come into being, it is entirely fair to reject him as a Gnostic demiurge who makes the natural order as arbitrary as atheist neo-Darwinism makes consciousness. And neither the flaccidly emotive “god concept” of liberalism nor the mechanical and anthropomorphized semi-deity of literalism is immune.
The Christian response to Nagel demands a regrasping both of God as transcendent creator — hence unchangeable, impassible, simple, eternal, etc. — and as mysteriously incarnate. The latter is not just the logically necessary prelude to atonement and the solution for human sin but an essential part of God’s relation to his created order, which is fulfilled, not violated, by his entry into it.
A Christianity that properly understands both creation and Incarnation, and remembers itself as the greatest engine of scientific curiosity in human history, may be properly undaunted by evidence of evolution, and uncowed by atheistic bullyragging. Christ is the Truth. Accordingly, his revelation may bring us into deep concord with the veracities of the world he created and redeemed.
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Slippersnails, olives, periwinkles, tulips - thousands of species of sea snails live in saltwater off the Lowcountry, uncounted millions of creatures.
If they all were wiped out by an ecological catastrophe it would take out the "base line" food of the marine food chain, the food eaten by foraging fish that in turn are eaten by larger fish. It would starve the ocean, the economies and the people who depend on it.
That's not a dire prediction linked to climate change. It's already starting to happen as the ocean gets more acidic. And for the Lowcountry, ocean acidification might not even be the real threat. It might be what scientists call the one-two punch of acidification and low oxygen in the estuaries, the nursery for the shellfish we eat - shrimp, oysters, clams.
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[NEDA] ULABY: Shows [like many at present] where nearly everyone on the planet sickens and dies appeal to scholar Nancy Tomes.
NANCY TOMES: Oh, I couldn't be happier.
ULABY: Tomes studies the history of epidemics. She wrote a book called "The Gospel Of Germs." She says science-fiction and horror often reflect contemporary fears. So during the Cold War, for example, we saw movies about big, scary, nuclear-related monsters. Now she says we worry about our bodies turning against us. In an age of gluten allergies, genetically modified food and mad cow disease.
TOMES: From what you buy in the grocery store, to what you may be breathing when you walk down the street.
ULABY: Not to mention the viral spread of terror cells in viruses attacking our computers.
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Nowadays, just about everyone says that everything in our homes will soon be connected to the internet. And some companies, including Google, Apple, and Amazon, are actually making it happen, offering internet-connected televisions, smoke alarms, and thermostats.
But Pandora has been actively pushing this idea even longer than most. Since at least 2006, the company has been working on ways to expand its free online streaming radio service beyond the personal computer. It started with mobile phones, and before long, Pandora was in the car, on the television, and even in the kitchen. In 2011, thanks to a partnership with Samsung, it became the first music service you could use via the refrigerator–for better or for worse, the abiding symbol of the “smart home.”
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Canadian surgeons are confident they could soon perform what has never before been attempted anywhere in the world — face transplants in children.
The highly complex surgeries, which have so far only been performed in adults, are now “technically feasible” in children and could be life transforming for those with devastating facial deformities and disfigurements for whom no other reconstructive alternatives exist, a team from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children reports in the journal, Plastic Surgery.
But the risky surgeries are fraught with profound ethical and moral challenges, including issues surrounding personal identity, informed consent and the possibility of “future resentment,” the team writes.
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Diana Navarro loves to code, and she's not afraid to admit it. But the 18-year-old Rutgers University computer science major knows she's an anomaly: Writing software to run computer programs in 2014 is - more than ever - a man's world.
"We live in a culture where we're dissuaded to do things that are technical," Navarro said. "Younger girls see men, not women, doing all the techie stuff, programming and computer science."
Less than 1 percent of high school girls think of computer science as part of their future, even though it's one of the fastest-growing fields in the U.S. today with a projected 4.2 million jobs by 2020, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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The militant group that exploded on to the scene in Iraq this year has been carefully cataloging its list of brutalities over recent years in an annual report published online, according to a think tank that has analyzed the latest publication.
The report from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — known as ISIL or ISIS — records in explicit detail the number of assassinations, suicide bombings, knifings and even “apostates run over,” according to the analysis by the Institute for the Study of War.
The report doesn’t trace violence only. It also tracks “apostates repented,” a reference to winning over fellow Sunnis in areas that the group has seized.
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In a generation, we have shifted from parents trying to stop teenagers slumping in front of the TV to young people losing all interest in the box. US teens are so occupied with social networks and mobile video that they watch only about 21 hours of broadcast TV a week.
The ad industry is suffering from attention deficit disorder – the audience that once sat obediently in front of TV spots lovingly devised by its creatives is hard to pin down. Millennials are out there, on their phones and tablets, but they are as likely to be tweeting angrily about a brand as noticing its ads in the content stream.
“I am nervous about us all being out of a job a year from now if Reed Hastings [chief executive of Netflix] takes over the world,” Laura Desmond, chief executive of Starcom MediaVest, one of the largest advertising buying agencies, told a Cannes gathering. Netflix, the video streaming service, and cable TV network HBO rely on subscription fees alone and do not carry ads.
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I am sure you have all had this experience at one time or other, but this friend and parish member died suddenly and I received the news early this morning. He was 69 and looked fine when I saw him on Sunday. One never knows what any day will bring.
It is still a shock to the system. Please Keep Marsha Blandenburg and this family in your prayers.
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Air Force veteran Charles Fitch is alive today, most likely because of "personalized" cancer treatment that used to be the stuff of science fiction, all thanks to cancer research and treatment based on genomics.
In regards to medicine, genomics basically refers to the analysis of a individual's complete set of DNA, or genome, and how to treat diseases based on the mutations or other changes that have occurred to genes in the sequence.
Fitch, a 53-year-old grandfather who lives in Mount Pleasant, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in June 2011, a few weeks after he started having chest pains. Lab results showed that he had a low, and later plummeting, level of platelets in his blood.
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The ban on texting while driving is expected to come up for a vote at the Legislature on Wednesday, after members of both bodies reached a compromise.
Three members from the House and three from the Senate met on Tuesday to discuss what versions of the texting while driving ban they will agree on to send back to the bodies for a final vote. They agreed on leaning toward the House's version, which applies to all drivers; the Senate's was geared toward those with beginner's permits.
But there is a holdup as lawmakers work on clearing up a technicality. Once that's done, the bill will go back to both bodies for a vote.
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RNS: Fair enough. Then how does your view of scripture inform the sexuality debates today? Would your approach to the Bible allow, for example, the blessing of monogamous, lifelong same-sex relationships?
NTW: Monogamous, lifelong same-sex relationships were known in the ancient world as well as in the modern—there is plenty of evidence, despite what people sometimes say. When Jesus reaffirms the traditional Jewish standards of sexual behavior (he was talking in a Jews-only context where people would know what his shorthand sayings meant), and when Paul, speaking in a largely Gentile context, spells out a bit more clearly what is and what isn’t part of the new-creation lifestyle for those “in Christ,” this way of life was always counter-intuitive in that world, as it is again today.
But it’s important that we do not reduce the Bible to a collection of true doctrines and right ethics. There are plenty of true doctrines and right ethics there, of course, but they come within the larger thing, which is the story of how the Creator is rescuing and restoring the whole creation, with his rescue and restoration of humans at the heart of it. In other words, it isn’t about “do we allow this or that?” To ask the question that way is already to admit defeat, to think in terms of behavior as a set of quasi-arbitrary, and hence negotiable, rules.
We must ask, with Paul, “This new creation God has launched in Jesus—what does it look like, and how can we live well as genuine humans, as both a sign and a means of that renewal?” We need to remind ourselves that the entire biblical sexual ethic is deeply counter-intuitive. All human beings some of the time, and some human beings most of the time, have deep heartfelt longings for kinds of sexual intimacy or gratification (multiple partners, pornography, whatever) which do not reflect the creator’s best intentions for his human creatures, intentions through which new wisdom and flourishing will come to birth. Sexual restraint is mandatory for all, difficult for most, extremely challenging for some. God is gracious and merciful but this never means “so his creational standards don’t really matter after all.”
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Consumers’ willingness to pay for digital content is in danger of being held back by their rising spending on internet access, according to a new forecast that raises questions about the media industry’s hopes for streaming music and video subscriptions.
The report from consultancy PwC, to be released on Wednesday, estimates the total size of the industry will grow to $2.15tn by 2018. But the fortunes of the market’s three segments will vary, with internet access revenues growing faster than both consumer spending and advertising.
That suggests internet providers such as Time Warner Cable and AT&T will be poised to capture a growing share of industry revenue. Streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify , the latter of which had Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as its most popular music artists last year, will also be well-positioned to lead growth in consumer spending, as they capture subscribers willing to pay for round-the-clock access to movies, television shows and music.
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For decades, women with multiple sclerosis have noticed that they tend to do better while they are pregnant. That has led to an experimental drug for the disease that's based on a hormone associated with pregnancy.
The hormone is a form of estrogen called estriol. It's abundant in a woman's body only when she is pregnant. Adding estriol to treatment with an existing MS drug cut relapses by 47 percent in a of 158 women presented at the American Academy of Neurology meeting in April.
The result is "quite remarkable," says , an author of the study and a neurologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. It suggests that estriol could greatly enhance the effectiveness of current MS drugs, Voskuhl says. Those drugs, which are designed to modulate the immune system, can cost up to $60,000 a year.
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[The split off of ISIS]... was the first time in the history of the world’s most notorious terrorist organization that one of the affiliates had publicly broken with the international leadership, and the news sent shock waves through the online forums where jihadists meet. In no uncertain terms, ISIS had gone rogue.
That split, in June, was a watershed moment in the vast decentralization of Al Qaeda and its ideology since 9/11. As the power of the central leadership created by Osama bin Laden has declined, the vanguard of violent jihad has been taken up by an array of groups in a dozen countries across Africa and the Middle East, attacking Western interests in Algeria and Libya, training bombers in Yemen, seizing territory in Syria and Iraq, and gunning down shoppers in Kenya.
What links these groups, experts say, is no longer a centralized organization but a loose ideology that any group can appropriate and apply as it sees fit while gaining the mystique of a recognized brand name. In short, Al Qaeda today is less a corporation than a vision driving a diverse spread of militant groups.
Read it all and there is more on this today there.
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Jeremy Hunt is to issue new guidance making it clear to doctors that sex-selective abortion is "unacceptable and illegal".
The health secretary and GMC will close what MPs have described as an "utterly preposterous" loophole used by prosecutors to avoid bringing charges.
The guidance is expected to say that doctors who carry out abortions based on the sex of an unborn baby and pre-sign abortion forms are breaking the law.
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Fernando Corbató didn't intend to unleash havoc when he helped create the first computer password at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the early 1960s.
"It's become kind of a nightmare," says the 87-year-old retired researcher. "I don't think anybody can possibly remember all the passwords."
Passwords are a bane to computer and smartphone users and a security threat to companies. On Wednesday, eBay Inc. EBAY -0.73% urged its 145 million users to change their passwords because of a data breach. But if the past is a guide, few people will heed the warning.
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Contemporary American Christians are faced with their own creation. Their individualistic and democratic views idealize the religious entrepreneur. Moreover, their distrust of hierarchy and institutions combines with a lack of commitment to organic unity (this is a newer development).
The state of the divinity school doesn’t help matters, either. The seminary, in its classical form, is where one engages in deep, orthodox theological study under the authority and spiritual formation of the Church. Obviously, this classic ideal is increasingly rare in the United States these days. As history has shown, seminaries have abandoned orthodoxy, become hyper-academic without thought to spiritual formation, have been reduced to degree factories, or have removed the Church in favor of the parachurch or nondenominationalism.
Many American seminaries languish. Thus, the streams which should feed and guide the theologically curious are insufficient. Making matter worse, social norms encourage more trust in the internet than in the Bride of Christ. Instead, seekers look to ecclesiastically untethered and academically undisciplined smooth talkers for spiritual guidance and insight. Welcome to the Anti-Seminary.
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If you had been anywhere near the southern end of London Bridge... [recently], you might well have seen an unusual crowd of people emerging from one of the city's oldest places of worship, Southwark (pronounced Suthark) Cathedral. Not just robed clerics from the Anglican and other churches and representatives of other faiths: there were also medical students of many ethnic and religious backgrounds and some of their teachers, plus a larger group of Londoners who were moved by the proceedings even if they did not very often frequent cathedrals.
What took place today was an annual service of thanksgiving, established in recent years to commemorate people who donate their bodies for medical teaching and research. For the families of some donors, it may be the first opportunity they have to acknowledge and celebrate their loved ones in a public setting. The service was in some ways quite conventional, with cosy old Anglican hymns such as "For all the saints, who from their labours rest..." But it also had some original features; medical students walked forward with flowers as a choir sang a "Funeral Ikos" or an anthem by the late Sir John Tavener, a religious composer who converted to Orthodox Christianity and was also interested in Sufism.
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The Justice Department on Monday accused five members of the Chinese military of conducting economic cyber-espionage against American companies, marking the first time that the United States has leveled such criminal charges against a foreign country.
Industries targeted by the alleged cyberspying ranged from nuclear to steel to solar energy, officials said. The hacking by a military unit in Shanghai, they said, was conducted for no other reason than to give a competitive advantage to Chinese companies, including state-owned enterprises.
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The announcement by Quebec radio host Joel Legendre that, later this summer, he and his male partner, Junior Bombardier, would become the parents of twin baby girls has received much media attention. It’s reported that the babies were conceived using “an ovum bought from an American [gamete] bank” (if only one ovum was used, they are identical twins, if two, they are sibling twins) and are being carried by a Quebec surrogate mother, who became pregnant though in vitro fertilization (IVF) paid for by the Quebec government healthcare fund (RAMQ). What ethical issues does this scenario raise?
How should we view surrogate motherhood?
Quebec’s Civil Code provides that surrogate motherhood contracts are null and void ab initio, that is, cannot be enforced. That reflects the view that surrogacy is contrary to public policy and, therefore, not to be condoned or facilitated. Paid surrogacy degrades and exploits women, especially under-privileged ones who become a “breeder class”, commodifies children, and denigrates human reproduction.
- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/surrogate_motherhood_creates_an_ethical_minefield#sthash.V24fFEst.Na6AyEv9.dpuf
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The rise of the Internet means that lies and misunderstanding now spread around the world faster than the truth, Lord Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has warned.
An increasing reliance on instant communications, effectively means that people should expect their words to be routinely misinterpreted, he said.
It has also changed the way people communicate, making it less and less common for people to be able to see those they are talking to, he said.
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A Chinese weapons supplier on Friday rejected claims that it sold Syria chlorine gas, an unusual statement from a tight-lipped company that reflects Beijing's desire to distance itself from chemical weapons.
In a statement, China North Industries Corp. said a "comprehensive review" of company records revealed that it has never exported chlorine or chlorine products to Syria. The company, known as Norinco, said it is "a responsible major international defense company" that conforms to the Chinese government's goals on non-proliferation.
The statement followed a report Tuesday from the group Human Rights Watch that documented what it said were signs of the use of chlorine gas in northern Syria in April. Images on the group's website showed yellow canisters with the markings "CL2," the chemical symbol for chlorine gas, and "NORINCO." Chlorine is lethal in high concentrations and was used in chemical warfare as early as the World War I.
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It happens quickly—more quickly than you, being human, can fully process.
A front tire blows, and your autonomous SUV swerves. But rather than veering left, into the opposing lane of traffic, the robotic vehicle steers right. Brakes engage, the system tries to correct itself, but there’s too much momentum. Like a cornball stunt in a bad action movie, you are over the cliff, in free fall.
Your robot, the one you paid good money for, has chosen to kill you. Better that, its collision-response algorithms decided, than a high-speed, head-on collision with a smaller, non-robotic compact. There were two people in that car, to your one. The math couldn’t be simpler.
This, roughly speaking, is the problem presented by Patrick Lin, an associate philosophy professor and director of the Ethics + Emerging Sciences Group at California Polytechnic State University....
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The National Security Agency might be tracking your phone calls. But private industry is prying far more deeply into your life.
Commercial data brokers know if you have diabetes. Your electric company can see what time you come home at night. And tracking companies can tell where you go on weekends by snapping photos of your car’s license plate and cataloging your movements.
Congress and the administration have moved to rein in the National Security Agency in the year since Edward Snowden disclosed widespread government spying. But Washington has largely given private-sector data collection a free pass. The result: a widening gap in oversight as private data mining races ahead. Companies are able to scoop up ever more information — and exploit it with ever greater sophistication — yet a POLITICO review has found deep reluctance in D.C. to exercise legislative, regulatory or executive power to curb the big business of corporate cybersnooping.
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Across the world there is a precise fit between social unfairness and the power of the priesthood,” Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, has said. “In countries whose governments are fair and effective the influence of the clergy fades.
“The most devout nations have more crime, more infant deaths, more mental illness and less social mobility. Chaos and credulity go together.” Professor Jones, who will speak on science in the Bible at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival next month, said that his intention was not to engage in an atheist attack on religion, but instead to discuss its origins — and what, if anything, that can tell us about why and how it developed.
“There is lots of consistency,” he said. “Look at hunter-gatherers and agriculturalists. Hunter gatherers often have a god, but generally it is god up there who makes rains come and plants grow. He is not an interfering god, he doesn’t deal with individuals and say, ‘You’ve sinned, go to Hell’. As soon as you get farming, there is a complete swing. He becomes an interfering god, and says you must follow these rules and if not you are in trouble.”
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Americans have something of a science problem. They swallow, for example, about $28 billion worth of vitamins each year, even though the Annals of Internal Medicine recently concluded that “[m]ost supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death, their use is not justified, and they should be avoided.” Americans often fear swallowing genetically modified plants (and Vermont recently required labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs), though GMOs have “been consumed by hundreds of millions of people across the world for more than 15 years, with no reported ill effects,” according to the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Other opinions are closer to astrology than science. Some deny a link between HIV and AIDS or confidently assert a connection between cellphone usage and cancer. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), during the last presidential campaign, contended that the HPV vaccine causes “mental retardation.” (And, yes, about a quarter of Americans believe in astrology.)
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so the big-bang theory is verified not only by the Bicep evidence, but also from decades of data on the microwave background radiation in space ("embers of the big bang") as well as high-energy particle collisions from the Large Hadron Collider (a tiny-scale simulation of the big bang). It also fundamentally does not conflict with scripture. So why do so many deny it?
The culprits might be "scientific atheists," a small but vocal group of thinkers who employ science to claim that there is no God. Some argue that the universe came into existence all on its own. In particular, physicist Lawrence M. Krauss's 2012 book "A Universe from Nothing" insists that the big bang occurred within a complete emptiness, and thus there is no need for a "God." But the key assumption of Mr. Krauss's conjecture is flawed and at odds with modern cosmology. The big bang did not occur in "nothing." It had to be spawned in some kind of pre-existent medium, known by physicists as "quantum foam," though we don't know exactly what it is.
Despite the damage scientific atheists are doing to public opinion, the truth is that—at least with respect to big-bang cosmology—science and faith are not at odds. For it was the story in Genesis that inspired the big bang's founder to discover how the universe came to be. And it was Genesis that provided the stimulus for the first mathematical calculations that led to the "primeval atom." The 51% of Americans who deny the big bang—if they do so because they think the theory conflicts with faith—should come to trust our science.
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At this moment in history, we have catapulted ourselves to a crossroads of two possible paths for mankind. We have developed the technology and amassed the financial capability to go either way. The direction we take cannot result from inertia but rather intentional choice.
The time for that decision is urgently upon us.
This choice will be informed by our technology, our financial systems and our policy, but it must also be indisputably steered by the overarching moral compass innate to all of us.
The crossroads is defined by science. Since 1988, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientists have aggregated peerreviewed evidence of climate change. The latest 5th Assessment Report leaves no room for doubt. Due to human activity, you and I are today breathing air that contains 400 ppm of CO2 for the first time in human history.
Read it all and note that the speech was given last night.
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Breakthroughs in IVF could ‘threaten our humanity’ by prompting parents to demand designer babies, Robert Winston has warned.
The fertility pioneer said that he feared a time when the rich could alter the appearance and ability of children by tinkering with their genes.
And he claimed a ‘toxic’ climate had been created by the desperation of childless couples and the pace of scientific developments in the booming IVF industry.
Warning of a resurgence in eugenics, the broadcaster and Labour peer said there was a ‘real risk that we could see that kind of attitude in our humanity occurring again’.
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Some current and former Republican lawmakers from South Carolina say that climate change does pose a threat, but that more regulations aren't the solution.
"The assessment that came out today is another reminder that climate change is going to present real challenges for the Lowcountry, and the nation as a whole," said U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, South Carolina's former governor. "I've watched rising sea levels play out at our family farm in Beaufort over the last 50 years, and I think others in our area could also point to impacts they've seen.
"As Congress confronts these challenges, I think we should be searching for solutions that embrace free market principles, rather than increasing already burdensome government regulations," he said.
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Netflix is now paying two major internet providers for a more direct path into the homes of all those people watching movies and TV shows on its popular video streaming service.
This week, the company announced it has reached an agreement with Verizon to connect its service directly to the ISP’s network, a deal similar to the one Netflix reached with Comcast in February. In the past, Netflix delivered its service into Comcast and Verizon through middlemen networks — “transit networks” that provide the backbone for the internet. But in order to ensure that its video streams arrive in homes without too many hiccups, it’s following in the footsteps of Google and Facebook, building a straighter path into ISPs.
The rub is that Netflix doesn’t want to pay. Netflix has been loudly complaining about this sort of deal, saying that Comcast unfairly forced the agreement after allowing transmit network links to “clog up.” Comcast, Netflix says, is setting itself up as a gatekeeper that can charge whatever it likes for access to American homes.
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This past week was 25th National Infertility Awareness Week, an effort by RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association to raise awareness of the condition experienced by one in eight U.S. couples of childbearing age. Since they began this campaign much has changed in the way we discuss fertility, and more men and women now feel free to speak openly about their reproductive challenges and know how to find help. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been matched by more affordable treatment options or more supportive public policies.
Something very similar has occurred in the Jewish community. Men and women have begun to address infertility, sharing their own stories and those of their congregants, stripping the stigma away from infertility and making what was once a very private ache a communal one. And yet no large donor or organization has risen up and offered this growing chorus support.
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He is a movie star who shot to fame on a motorcycle in “The Lost Boys.” She is a California massage therapist from a prominent East Coast family. Four years ago, with his sperm, her eggs and the wonder of in vitro fertilization, they produced a child.
From there, the tale gets very, very messy.
For the last two years, Jason Patric and Danielle Schreiber have been waging what has become one of the highest-profile custody fights in the country — one that scrambles a gender stereotype, raises the question of who should be considered a legal parent and challenges state laws that try to bring order to the Wild West of nonanonymous sperm donations.
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Full-time U.S. employees are upbeat about using their computers and mobile devices to stay connected to the workplace outside of their normal working hours. Nearly eight in 10 (79%) workers view this as a somewhat or strongly positive development.
These findings are from Gallup Daily tracking interviews, conducted March 24-April 8, 2014, with 3,865 U.S. workers employed full-time by an employer.
While a strong majority of working Americans view the ability to work off-hours remotely in a positive light, far fewer say they regularly connect with work online after hours. Slightly more than one-third (36%) say they frequently do so, compared with 64% who say they occasionally, rarely, or never do. The relatively low percentage who check in frequently outside of working hours nearly matches the 33% of full-time workers who say their employer expects them to check email and stay in touch remotely after the business day ends.
Read it all from Gallup.
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Nearly a decade of research had brought them here: Doctors would, on this day last week, insert a chip into the brain of a man four days shy of his 23rd birthday. The chip would connect by wire to a port screwed into the man’s skull. A cable would link the port to a computer.
The computer was programmed to decode messages from the brain and beam their instructions to strips of electrodes strapped around the man’s forearm. The electrodes were designed to pulse and stimulate muscle fibers so that the muscles could pull on tendons in his hand.
If it all worked, a man who was paralyzed from the chest down would think about wiggling his finger, and in less than one-tenth of a second, his finger would move.
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So what does it matter to the Jesus’ wife fragment that this scrap of John is forgery?
Well, it’s never a good sign for a text of doubtful authenticity to be found in the company of a sure forgery.
More directly: Multiple experts agree that the fragment of John and the Jesus’ wife papyrus are written in the same hand, using the same ink and even the same writing instrument.
Simply put: If one is a forgery, they’re both forgeries.Read it all.
Google said Monday that its self-driving cars are now capable of maneuvering through city streets, a more complex challenge than the highway driving the project initially focused on.
The project, launched in 2009 as one of Google’s first long-term “moonshot” research initiatives, has logged about 700,000 autonomous driving miles using roughly 24 sensor-loaded Lexus RX450h vehicles. That is up from more than 300,000 miles in August 2012, the last time Google issued an update. Google said it has caused no accidents so far when its vehicles are in self-driving mode.
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Maybe RoboCop is closer to becoming a reality than you think.
Engineers at Clemson University are trying to get research moving to create a robot capable of responding to a violent attack at a school, such as what happened at Sandy Hook or Columbine.
"This will save lives," said Dr. Juan Gilbert, presidential endowed professor and chairman of the Human-Centered Computing Division at Clemson.
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The highest-grossing animated film of all time is Disney’s “Frozen.” The second highest is Pixar’s “Toy Story 3.”
One common denominator between them: The same man is in charge of both companies.
Ed Catmull may not be a household name, but you’ve seen his movies -- and his imagination. He helped create the entire field of computer animation.
“As a child, my heroes were Walt Disney and Albert Einstein,” Catmull said. “So I basically wanted to be an animator, but when I left high school, I didn’t know how to proceed. There were no schools for it.”
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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Movies & Television Psychology Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
...for many, it’s no longer good enough to just “be yourself” online, and selfie lovers want to put their best face forward.
"The days of that bare fresh face, no retouching, are kind of behind us. I think we're all moving into an era that it's so easy to do," image and fashion consultant Lori Ann Robinson said.
Like millions of people, Triana Lavey loves taking selfies, but doesn’t always love the result. She uses the Perfect365 app to touch up her photos now, but she used to hate the way she looked so much that she underwent a radical transformation, all to look better online.
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Efforts to fix the notorious Heartbleed bug threaten to cause major disruptions to the Internet over the next several weeks as companies scramble to repair encryption systems on hundreds of thousands of Web sites at the same time, security experts say.
Estimates of the severity of the bug’s damage have mounted almost daily since researchers announced the discovery of Heartbleed last week. What initially seemed like an inconvenient matter of changing passwords for protection now appears much more serious. New revelations suggest that skilled hackers can use the bug to create fake Web sites that mimic legitimate ones to trick consumers into handing over valuable personal information.
The sheer scale of the work required to fix this aspect of the bug — which makes it possible to steal the “security certificates” that verify that a Web site is authentic — could overwhelm the systems designed to keep the Internet trustworthy.
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CareerCast is out with their annual ranking of the 10 best and 10 worst jobs for 2014, and let's just say that math and science guys everywhere are about to high-five.
Nine out of 10 of the best jobs fell into the STEM career category (science, technology, engineering and math), with the "numbers guys," in particular, locking in 3 of the top 4 spots.
"This absolutely verifies the importance of STEM careers," said Tony Lee, publisher of CareerCast.com and JobsRated.com.
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Understanding the Christian faith in the light of current scientific theories is a vital topic for anyone seeking to commend Christ today. The highly-publicized recent debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye “the Science Guy” is a case in point, as is the choice to focus on this topic for the recent Mere Anglicanism conference.
With my background in physics, it is a subject that has long interested me. In engaging these conversations, it is important to remember that scientists study a disordered world. It has fallen into sin, death, and destruction, which we know from Scripture are not part of God’s long-term plans for His creation. But this fall is something that probably cannot be detected scientifically. Scientists can only study what they “see” and then draw inferences from that. They observe, for instance, that entropy (disorder) always increases in natural events, but cannot know scientifically that this must be a temporary crisis that will be resolved in the new heavens and new earth that will last forever.
Read it all (page 3).
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I am (or try to be) a partisan of pluralism....But this respect is difficult to maintain when these institutions will not admit that this is what is going on. Instead, we have the pretense of universality — the insistence that the post-Eich Mozilla is open to all ideas, the invocations of the “spirit of free expression” from a school that’s kicking a controversial speaker off the stage.
And with the pretense, increasingly, comes a dismissive attitude toward those institutions — mostly religious — that do acknowledge their own dogmas and commitments, and ask for the freedom to embody them and live them out.
It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.
I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.
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I appreciate the spirit (if you will) of... [Barbara Ehrenreich's] argument, but I am very doubtful as to its application. The trouble is that in its current state, cognitive science has a great deal of difficulty explaining “what happens” when “those wires connect” for non-numinous experience, which is why mysterian views of consciousness remain so potent even among thinkers whose fundamental commitments are atheistic and materialistic. (I’m going to link to the internet’s sharpest far-left scold for a good recent polemic on this front.) That is to say, even in contexts where it’s very easy to identify the physical correlative to a given mental state, and to get the kind of basic repeatability that the scientific method requires — show someone an apple, ask them to describe it; tell them to bite into it, ask them to describe the taste; etc. — there is no kind of scientific or philosophical agreement on what is actually happening to produce the conscious experience of the color “red,” the conscious experience of the crisp McIntosh taste, etc. So if we can’t say how this ”normal” conscious experience works, even when we can easily identify the physical stimulii that produce it, it seems exponentially harder to scientifically investigate the invisible, maybe-they-exist and maybe-they-don’t stimulii — be they divine, alien, or panpsychic — that Ehrenreich hypothesizes might produce more exotic forms of conscious experience.
Especially since, by definition, the truly exotic is not likely to repeat itself for the convenience of a laboratory technician. There are kinds of numinous experience that can be technically investigated, in the limited sense that Ehrenreich (rightly) suggests is insufficient to understanding them — you can put a praying or meditating person in a brain scanner and see which areas of their brain seem to be involved in the journey into the mystic, you can look for ways to attempt to recreate those brain states, you can link similar experiences to medical conditions and hallucinogens, etc.
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In Silicon Valley, where personal quirks and even antisocial personalities are tolerated as long as you are building new products and making money, a socially conservative viewpoint may be one trait you have to keep to yourself.--The opener of a front page article from Friday saying so much more than the author thinks
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When Dennis Schimpf was growing up the amount of photographs he appeared in were “few and far between.”
“Now kids at 9 or 10 years old are having daily pictures,” he said.
Schimpf is a plastic surgeon at Sweetgrass Plastic Surgery in Summerville, working in cosmetic surgery.
A recent study released by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) shows that there has been an increase in cosmetic procedures – and the survey finds that the selfie trend is the cause for this increase. The selfie trend refers to the action of someone taking a photo of his or herself and posting online on popular social media websites and smartphone applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.
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