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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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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.
Read it all.
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.
Read it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Law & Legal Issues Life Ethics Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary Australia / NZ * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources * International News & Commentary Canada * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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.
Read it all.
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet Health & Medicine Psychology Science & Technology * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. Canada * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology Pastoral Theology
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.
Read or listen to it all.
Filed under: * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Science & Technology * International News & Commentary Europe The Netherlands Ukraine
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Foreign Relations Politics in General * International News & Commentary Middle East Iran * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Children Marriage & Family Science & Technology Teens / Youth Violence * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Law & Legal Issues Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Politics in General * International News & Commentary England / UK * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
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.
Read it all.
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Defense, National Security, Military Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Foreign Relations Politics in General * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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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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 * International News & Commentary America/U.S.A. * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Globalization Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Energy, Natural Resources * South Carolina * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
[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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life Housing/Real Estate Market * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Media Religion & Culture Science & Technology Violence * International News & Commentary Middle East Iraq * Religion News & Commentary Other Faiths Islam * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Media Science & Technology Young Adults * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
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.
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal * By Kendall * Christian Life / Church Life Parish Ministry Death / Burial / Funerals * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Science & Technology * South Carolina
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Health & Medicine Science & Technology * Economics, Politics Economy Consumer/consumer spending Corporations/Corporate Life * South Carolina * Theology Anthropology Ethics / Moral Theology
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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Filed under: * Culture-Watch Blogging & the Internet --Social Networking Law & Legal Issues Science & Technology Travel * Economics, Politics Politics in General State Government * South Carolina * Theology Ethics / Moral Theology
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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Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Anglican Provinces Church of England (CoE) CoE Bishops * Culture-Watch Books Religion & Culture Science & Technology Sexuality * Theology Anthropology Apologetics Christology Pastoral Theology Theology: Scripture
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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...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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On a cold shore in the icy archipelago of Svalbard, a relative stone's throw from the North Pole, a small cabin belonging to Svein Nordahl is a hive of activity.
He has no running water and not one of Svalbard's 31 miles of roads stretches as far as Bjørndalen, the small community of scattered shacks where he has made his home. But the isolated outpost has been fitted with some of the highest quality Internet available, allowing Mr. Nordahl and his neighbors lightning-quick access to the World Wide Web.
High-speed broadband is a rare luxury for the 2,600 or so brave souls living here. In the land many consider the northernmost human dwelling in the world, inhabitants cope with inconvenience as a way of life.
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Brendan Eich, the well-known techie who has gotten swept up in a controversy about his support of California’s anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8, is resigning as CEO of for-profit Mozilla Corporation and also from the board of the nonprofit foundation which wholly owns it.
Mozilla confirmed the change in a blog post.
“Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves,” read the post, in part. “We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better.”
Read it all. There is much more here from Reihan Salam and there from Andrew Sullivan.
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New Zealand came first in a global index published on Thursday that ranks countries by social and environmental performance rather than economic output in a drive to make social progress a priority for politicians and businesses.
The Social Progress Index (SPI) rates 132 countries on more than 50 indicators, including health, sanitation, shelter, personal safety, access to information, sustainability, tolerance and inclusion and access to education.
The SPI asks questions such as whether a country can satisfy its people's basic needs and whether it has the infrastructure and capacity to allow its citizens to improve the quality of their lives and reach their full potential.
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The cherished idea of the Twitter universe as a gloriously turbulent and fluid place for debate has taken a major hit, thanks to new research from China.
At the same time, findings from the United States have demolished another plank of common wisdom about digital communications. There is, it turns out, no relationship at all between the number of times an online article is shared and the number of times it is actually read.
In a paper published in March, two Chinese social scientists, Fei Xiong and Yun Liu, of Jiaotong University in Beijing, revealed unexpected results from an in-depth study into how opinions form on social media.
The pair analysed 6 million posts from almost 2.5 million Twitter users during a six-month period. In looking at how Twitter users are influenced by the thoughts of other micro-bloggers, the researchers came to what they termed a ''non-trivial'' conclusion, meaning, pretty much, they aren't.
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China may exempt electric-car buyers from paying purchase taxes as part of expanded state measures to bolster sales of such vehicles after past incentives failed to spur demand, Vice Premier Ma Kai said.
The government may cut or waive the 10 percent auto-purchase tax for new-energy vehicles -- China’s term for electric cars, plug-in hybrids and fuel-cell vehicles -- and slow down the reduction of government subsidies beyond 2015, according to comments from Vice Premier Ma Kai posted on the Chinaev.org website. Ma also urged local governments to help companies develop electric-car rental services.
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A United Nations panel of scientists is joining the list craze with what they call eight "key risks" that are part of broader "reasons for concern" about climate change.
It's part of a massive report on how global warming is affecting humans and the planet and how the future will be worse unless something is done about it. The report is being finalized at a meeting this weekend by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
They assembled the list to "make it understandable and to illustrate the issues that have the greatest potential to cause real harm," the report's chief author, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution of Science in California, said in an interview.
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For most of his life, Kevin Ramsey has lived with epileptic seizures that drugs cannot control.
At least once a month, he would collapse, unconscious and shaking violently, sometimes injuring himself. Nighttime seizures left him exhausted at dawn, his tongue a bloody mess. After episodes at work, he struggled to stay employed. Driving became too risky. At 28, he sold his truck and moved into his mother’s spare bedroom.
Cases of intractable epilepsy rarely have happy endings, but today Mr. Ramsey is seizure-free. A novel battery-powered device implanted in his skull, its wires threaded into his brain, tracks its electrical activity and quells impending seizures. At night, he holds a sort of wand to his head and downloads brain data from the device to a laptop for his doctors to review.
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The saga of MH370, the Malaysian Airlines flight missing for more than two weeks, seems to be entering its final chapter. Earlier this week, engineers developed a method to estimate the plane’s trajectory, and debris appear to have been spotted in satellite images.
While the technique used to track the flight path has been called “groundbreaking,” it actually rests on some fairly old-fashioned physics. In fact, the basic method has been used to conduct satellite search and rescue operations for more than 30 years, predating our always-connected, GPS-enabled world.
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Billions of dollars are flowing into online advertising. But marketers also are confronting an uncomfortable reality: rampant fraud.
About 36% of all Web traffic is considered fake, the product of computers hijacked by viruses and programmed to visit sites, according to estimates cited recently by the Interactive Advertising Bureau trade group.
So-called bot traffic cheats advertisers because marketers typically pay for ads whenever they are loaded in response to users visiting Web pages—regardless of whether the users are actual people.
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U.S. military satellites spied Russian troops amassing within striking distance of Crimea last month. But intelligence analysts were surprised because they hadn't intercepted any telltale communications where Russian leaders, military commanders or soldiers discussed plans to invade.
America's vaunted global surveillance is a vital tool for U.S. intelligence services, especially as an early-warning system and as a way to corroborate other evidence. In Crimea, though, U.S. intelligence officials are concluding that Russian planners might have gotten a jump on the West by evading U.S. eavesdropping.
"Even though there was a warning, we didn't have the information to be able to say exactly what was going to happen," a senior U.S. official says.
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he Vatican Library has begun digitising its priceless collection of ancient manuscripts dating from the origins of the Church.
The first stage of the project will cover some 3,000 handwritten documents over the next four years.
The cost - more than $20m (£12m) - will be borne by Japan's NTT Data technology company.
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From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram and Google, many big Internet successes depend on coaxing people into sharing every last bit of information about themselves and their lives.
But a five-week old social app, Secret, is testing the limits of just how much sharing Silicon Valley thinks is a good thing. That’s because the sharing is done anonymously. And, as it turns out, much of the chatter is about Silicon Valley itself — offering a rare, unvarnished look at the ambitions, disappointments, rivalries, jealousies and obsessions of the engineers and entrepreneurs who live and work there.
Secret, like a number of other recent apps, connects people anonymously through their address books. Messages appear only as from “friend” or “friend of friend.” Juicy posts that receive a lot of likes or comments also appear occasionally, identified simply by the city or state where they originated.
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America’s long-term jobless face huge obstacles in returning to steady full-time employment, with just 11 per cent succeeding over the course of any given year, according to new research that raises alarm bells about structural problems in the US labour market.
The study by Alan Krueger, a Princeton University economist who served as a top economic adviser to Barack Obama between 2011 and 2013, shows that even in good times and in healthy states the long-term jobless are “at the margins” of the labour market with little hope of regaining their footing.
A big spike in long-term unemployment – defined as joblessness extending beyond 26 weeks – has been one of the defining features of the US recession and its aftermath. There were 3.8m long-term unemployed in February 2014, according to the latest labour department data, more than double the pre-financial crisis level of 1.9m in August 2008. The share of the jobless who have been out of work for more than six months has nearly doubled over that timeframe, from 19.8 per cent to 37 per cent.
Read it all (if necessary another link may be found there).
Update: There is more from the Washington post there.
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A North Carolina pastor has established a website with the purpose of seeking questions from the public that he can address in his sermons each Sunday and helps attenders interact during the services.
Known as "WikiWorship," the online project is overseen by United Methodist Reverend Philip Chryst, who is a student at the Duke Divinity School. Individuals submit their questions to Chryst via the website or via email and he addresses them during a worship service he oversees in Wilmington known as The Anchor.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Chryst explained that the origin of WikiWorship comes from a sermon at Duke Divinity School's Goodson Chapel.
Read it all.
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“The demand for rehabilitation robots is very high as societies around the world are aging,” said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund manager at Ichiyoshi Investment Management Co. in Tokyo, who says he is considering buying Cyberdyne shares.
A 54-year-old paraplegic, strapped into a white exoskeleton made by Cyberdyne, recently walked slowly forward -- covering about a foot -- during rehab at Fukuoka University Hospital before collapsing on his physiotherapist. The suit he used has been approved for use as a medical device in Europe, and Cyberdyne said it may seek clearance this month to sell the product in the U.S.
Widespread use of the Cyberdyne device is some distance away. It is presently used in 170 hospitals and nursing homes across Japan, and it costs about 1.8 million yen ($17,700) annually to lease each suit. While founder Yoshiyuki Sankai’s ambition is to make the robots cheap enough for home use, he doesn’t have a specific time frame. For now, a Cyberdyne rehab center south of Tokyo makes them available to individuals at 10,000 yen ($98) per 60-minute training session.
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Especially today, on a day when we deal with the supernatural, we go to church, the supernatural power of God....People are saying to me, why aren’t you talking about the possibility — and I’m just putting it out there — that something odd happened to this plane, something beyond our understanding?--CNN anchor Don Lemon during coverage of the disappearance of Flight 370
...so it is with Monday’s announcement, that gravitational waves which, yes, Einstein again, first posited 99 years ago, actually exist—and that they send ripples out across all of spacetime. That, in turn, confirmed that in the first billionth of a trillionth of a quadrillionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe briefly expanded faster than the speed of light—a speed that’s supposed to be impossible, but in this exceptional case wasn’t. And while it would be nice to understand even more, even that little bit has to leave you feeling gobsmacked.
It’s that way with all thrilling things that make no sense: scaling Mount Everest, breaking the four-minute mile, landing the first man on the moon. Hell, back in 1962, we fiercely defended the greatness of the failed Ranger 4 mission after it crash-landed on the lunar surface but was unable to take even a single picture. Why? Because we had finally put metal on the moon—dead metal to be sure—but we had gotten there and that was enough for the moment.
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Scientists say they have extraordinary new evidence to support a Big Bang Theory for the origin of the Universe.
Researchers believe they have found the signal left in the sky by the super-rapid expansion of space that must have occurred just fractions of a second after everything came into being.
It takes the form of a distinctive twist in the oldest light detectable with telescopes.
Read it all and you may also enjoy BBC explains Big Bang discovery using a sock (a video of about 2 1/2 minutes, watch it all).
There are many varieties of fame. Jesus Christ was the first person to achieve it globally, Clive James wrote, “without conquering the world by violence.” The best kind for a poet to earn, W. H. Auden said, is like some valley cheese — “local, but prized elsewhere.” Yet if all fame, like all politics, is to some degree local, how thoroughly it has been transmitted across the planet and through the centuries has been difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.
Pantheon, a new project from the Macro Connections group in M.I.T.’s Media Lab, is giving that a stab. It has collected and analyzed data on cultural production from 4,000 B.C. to 2010. With a few clicks on its website, which just went live, you can swing through time and geography, making plain the output of, say, Brazil (largely soccer players) or Belarus (politicians). It also ranks professions from chemists to jurists to porn stars (No. 1 is Jenna Jameson; No. 2 is the Czech Republic’s Silvia Saint).
For now, you are legitimately famous, the M.I.T. team has decided, if a Wikipedia page under your name exists in more than 25 languages.
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Professors on University of Wisconsin System campuses occasionally get into trouble for what they say in class, on social media or on the Internet.
Rachel Slocum, a UW-La Crosse assistant professor of geography, urged 18 students in an online course last October to do whatever they could, despite limited access to data for an assignment, because the federal government had partially shut down as a result of a budget impasse.
The message didn't get her into trouble. The way she said it did.
"Hi everyone," she emailed the students "Some of the data gathering assignment will be impossible to complete until the Republican/Tea Party controlled House of Representatives agrees to fund the government."
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A somewhat unusual document landed on my desk a few days ago, in page proofs, sent by Eerdmans, the major Evangelical publisher. It is a book about to be published, written by James K.A. Smith, a decidedly Protestant philosopher on the faculty of Calvin College—How (Not) to be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor. Taylor is the much celebrated Catholic philosopher, retired from McGill University, author of the massive book A Secular Age (2007). Smith is of a younger generation; I have read one of his books before—Thinking in Tongues (2010)—a feisty book billed as a Pentecostal contribution to Christian philosophy, in which Smith criticizes Christian philosophers for cutting the ground from under their own feet by accepting the naturalistic premises of secular philosophy—and then trying to find space for the supernatural that their faith must affirm. Smith (whose Pentecostal allegiance is apparently relatively new) instead suggests that Christian philosophy should from the first “think in tongues”—that is, base itself on the assumption that the world is indeed suffused with Spirit, is precisely what Christianity says that it is. I’m not interested in arguing whether that is a good philosophical method, but it is probably good pedagogy: “I won’t try to dissuade you from your view that we are in France; let me rather show you that we are in America”. (Whatever “tongues” Smith thinks in now, he is still listed as a professor of Reformed theology. So I was reminded of Karl Barth in his feistiest days. Barth once observed that he was completely uninterested in dialogue with Hindus or any people from other religions. He was asked, how then did he know that they were wrong. He replied: “I know it a priori”. This is not my style of thinking, but I must admit to a certain admiration for its Calvinist chutzpah! In the book mentioned here, Smith continues in the same vein, except that he now undergirds his argument with Taylor’s phenomenology of our supposedly secular age.
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The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is the kind of mystery that’s not supposed to be possible anymore. The Information Age is also the age of surveillance, of interconnectedness, of cloud computing, of GPS satellites, of intelligence agencies that can monitor terrorists from space or call in a drone strike from a control console on the other side of the world.
But so far, all the technological eyes and ears of the world have failed to find the missing plane. The Boeing 777 jetliner, with 239 people aboard, silently vanished early Saturday morning on its way to China, disappearing from radar so suddenly and inexplicably that it might as well have flown into another dimension.
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The 25th anniversary of the world wide web will be celebrated around the globe this week.
The milestone will be marked on Wednesday, a quarter of a century since it was first proposed by British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
For anybody under the age of 20 it is hard to imagine what life would be like without the web, which is not to be confused with the internet – a massive chain of networks which the web uses.
But when Sir Tim first submitted his idea while working at Swiss physics laboratory, Cern, the response from his boss was the brief: “Vague, but exciting.”
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In the November 2012 elections, voters of Washington state had to decide on Initiative 522. I-522 would require food sold in the state to be labeled if any of its components were produced by genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Proponents made a necessary distinction between selectively bred plants and animals and those that are GMOs. Selective breeding has been standard practice in agriculture since man began herding animals and growing crops. GMO plants and animals are those that have a genetic makeup that would not occur naturally through normal breeding. For example, a plant that has had a gene inserted that gives it resistance to weed killer and a cow that has been cloned so it is immune to mad-cow disease are GMOs.
It was a contentious battle, with supporters of I-522 telling consumers that genetic engineering has unintended consequences and that ingesting GMO products may make us sick. Proponents insisted that we have a right to know what is in our food.
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The video, posted about a year ago, went viral, and John Biggins, a Cambridge physicist, saw it.
He had been talking with another physicist at Cambridge, Mark Warner, about a project Dr. Warner was working on, an online course to improve physics education in high school. Dr. Biggins brought the chain fountain video to Dr. Warner’s attention and they agreed it was an ideal problem to present to students because it involved Newtonian physics, not some extreme variant of string theory or quantum mechanics.
Then they realized that they didn’t actually understand it.
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Ryan Orbuch, 16 years old, rolled a suitcase to the front door of his family’s house in Boulder, Colo., on a Friday morning a year ago. He was headed for the bus stop, then the airport, then Texas.
“I’m going,” he told his mother. “You can’t stop me.”
Stacey Stern, his mother, wondered if he was right. “I briefly thought: Do I have him arrested at the gate?”
But the truth was, she felt conflicted. Should she stop her son from going on his first business trip?
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Stephen Smith doesn't look like a mad scientist, because he's not one. Not really. He's not even a code guy by training. But he has packed the room at BibleTech, an occasional gathering of coders, hackers, publishers, scholars, and Bible technology enthusiasts. And the standing-room-only crowd is starting to turn on him. No pitchforks and torches. But for once in this collegial, tight-knit retreat, you can feel the tension growing.
They've seen his experiments before. You might have, too. He's the guy who wrote the code to quantify what folks on Twitter gave up for Lent and how the fasts change from year to year (forswearing swearing is up, dropping alcohol is down). He figured out what Bible verses went viral after Osama bin Laden was killed, or at any other time (chances are good that "I can do all things through him who strengthens me" and "For I know the plans I have for you" are doing really well right now), and the most popular saints and mountains in American church names. (Mt. Pisgah beats out Mt. Nebo. And Lutherans almost never call their church "First Lutheran"—though "First" is a fifth of Presbyterian churches.)
If someone releases a new API (code that lets applications interact with each other), or if Google unveils a new tool in beta, or if a new dataset is published online, it's a fairly safe bet that Smith will try to connect it to the Bible. In 2012, Stanford University published a Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World. Smith used it to calculate the time and cost of each of Paul's missionary journeys.
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Canadians are in a funk. Things are better than ever, but people are feeling worse. “The trend lines are disturbing,” EKOS pollster Frank Graves wrote recently, reporting that public pessimism is deepening. “… Only around 10 per cent of Canadians and Americans think the next generation will enjoy a better quality of life.”
Well, maybe they will or maybe they won’t. Meantime, this generation is doing pretty well. Despite recessions, globalization and the inexorable rise of the robots, most of us never had it so good. In 2011, the median real income for Canadian two-parent families with two earners was $100,000 – $13,000 higher than in 2000. The annual average unemployment rate is down to 7 per cent. Despite the soaring cost of housing, nearly 70 per cent of us have an ownership stake in our own homes.
So what’s our problem?...
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Google’s playful primary colors, quirky Doodles and whimsical office spaces are outward expressions of the company’s “Don’t be evil” motto. But the real work Googlers do trying to uphold that mantra goes far beyond flash.
I recently spoke with Ross LaJeunesse, Google’s global head of free expression and international relations, about what the company is doing to address hate speech, free speech and religious freedom online. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Brian Pellot: Why does Google have an entire team devoted to freedom of expression?
Read it all.
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