AuthorTopic: Knarf's Knewz Channel  (Read 1532583 times)

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Astronomers have spotted the universe’s first molecule
« Reply #12450 on: April 17, 2019, 05:07:42 PM »


The universe’s very first molecule, thought to be created after the big bang, has been detected in space for the first time. Helium hydride (HeH), a combination of helium and hydrogen, was spotted some 3000 light-years from Earth by an instrument aboard the airborne Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), a telescope built into a converted 747 jet that flies above the opaque parts of Earth’s atmosphere.

HeH has long been thought to mark the “dawn of chemistry,” as the remnants of the big bang cooled to about 4000 K and ions began to team up with electrons to form neutral atoms. Researchers believe that in that primordial gas, neutral helium reacted with hydrogen ions to form the first chemical bond joining the very first molecule.

In 1925, chemists synthesized HeH in the lab. In the 1970s, theorists predicted that the molecule may exist today, most likely formed anew in planetary nebulae, clouds of gas ejected by dying sunlike stars. But decades of observations failed to find any, casting doubts on the theory.

To find the elusive molecule, astrochemists search for characteristic frequencies of light it emits, particularly a spectral line in the far infrared typically blocked by Earth’s atmosphere. But a far-infrared spectrometer aboard SOFIA allowed them to find that signature for the first time, in a planetary nebula called NGC 7027 (pictured above), the researchers report today in Nature. The result shows this unlikely molecule—involving typically unreactive helium—can be created in space. With this cornerstone confirmed, it appears that the evolution of the following 13 billion years of chemistry stands on firmer ground.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/astronomers-have-spotted-universe-s-first-molecule
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Re: Astronomers have spotted the universe’s first molecule
« Reply #12451 on: April 17, 2019, 05:17:01 PM »
They also just "photographed" a Black Hole for the first time!  BFD.  In the words of Arthur...

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/u7BBytJYBYc" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/u7BBytJYBYc</a>

RE
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E R protest - live, as they block London bridges for fourth day
« Reply #12452 on: April 18, 2019, 04:39:41 AM »
First three people believed to have been charged over protests plead not guilty in court and are remanded in custody for a month

Climate change activists are already out in force and the first people thought to have been charged over the Extinction Rebellion protests are due in court as the demonstrations enter a fourth day.

Commuters were forced to weave between crowds of demonstrators on London’s Waterloo Bridge this morning, which has been completely closed to traffic.

Police said more than 100 people were arrested on Wednesday, bringing the total to almost 400 as protests also continue in Parliament Square, Oxford Circus and Marble Arch.

Two men, aged 29 and 35, and a 51-year-old woman are expected to appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court later today after allegedly climbing on top of a train at Canary Wharf station in east London on Wednesday.

British Transport Police said the trio have been charged with obstructing trains or carriages on the railway by an unlawful act contrary to Section 36 of the Malicious Damage Act 1861.

Follow how the protests develop throughout the day
Key Points

    Three climate activists charged over train demonstration in London refused bail after pleading not guilty in court
    Extinction Rebellion organisers are expecting 'thousands more rebels' to join demonstrations over Easter weekend
    ​Extinction Rebellion: Who are the climate change activists and what are their aims?

18 minutes ago
Two police officers were caught on video dancing in the centre of a large crowd of protesters in central London last night.
 
The pair can be seen throwing their hands in the air as they dance along to shouts of "we love it, we love it" in Oxford Circus.
 
Waterside Cafe Wildlife Garden shared the video on Twitter alongside the message "police solidarity with Extinction Rebellion at Oxford Circus! Brilliant!"


55 minutes ago

Three people have pleaded not guilty to charges relating to climbing on top of a train during climate change protests and have been remanded in custody until next month.

The two men and a woman appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Thursday morning in relation to the incident during Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests at Canary Wharf station in London the previous day.

They have not been granted bail and will remain in custody until they are next due to appear at court on 16 M

ETC...

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/extinction-rebellion-protest-london-live-climate-arrest-traffic-delay-a8875851.html?utm_source=reddit.com
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A man was taken into police custody Wednesday evening after he walked into St. Patrick's Cathedral with four gallons of gasoline — some of which spilled onto the floor — lighter fluid, and lighters, police said.

Police investigators said the man, whose identity has not been released as of this writing, pulled up on 5th Avenue in his minivan and walked around the area before going back to his vehicle and bringing in two cans of gasoline, a plastic bag with the lighter fluid, and two extended lighters.



Cathedral security confronted the man when he entered. He spilled gasoline on the floor as he turned around, the NYPD said, but no fire was ever started.

According to the NYPD, when police caught up with the man on the street and questioned him, he gave inconsistent answers and claimed he was cutting through the cathedral to get to Madison Avenue after he ran out of gas. Police said they checked his car, saw it was not out of gas, and took him into custody.

The man's motive was unclear, but officials said he was known to police. No charges have been confirmed as of this writing as police question the man.

The incident happened just two days after a massive fire swept across the top of Paris's soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, collapsing its spire and damaging that cathedral. The NYPD said the Manhattan cathedral had heightened security since that blaze.

Police said other people were inside the church, which was open at the time he entered.

Authorities were investigating whether the man is emotionally disturbed.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, which was built in 1878, has installed a sprinkler-like system during recent renovations and its wooden roof is coated with fire retardant.

https://www.ny1.com/nyc/all-boroughs/news/2019/04/18/st-patricks-cathedral-attempted-fire-incident
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 (CNN)Journalists are battling a rising tide of hatred, violence and persecution around the world, an international watchdog has warned, as authoritarian regimes clamp down on press freedom and leading democracies including the United States slide down the global rankings.
Releasing its annual Press Freedom Index after a tumultuous 12 months for the media, Reporters Without Borders sounded the alarm over an "intense climate of fear" for reporters, and condemned attacks on press outlets by world leaders including Donald Trump.
The US slid three places to 48th in their global rankings, dropping below Botswana, Chile and Romania and entering the category of "problematic" regions for press freedom. Norway claimed the top spot for the third consecutive year, ahead of Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands, and North Korea climbed off the bottom of the table.
But the index painted a dire scene for the profession, illustrating an overall decline in journalistic independence and safety around the world in 2018. Just one in four countries were labeled as having a good or satisfactory situation for the media, while journalists face a difficult or very serious situation in 71 nations, the rankings showed.

"It's a really worrying picture," Rebecca Vincent, director of the UK bureau of Reporters Without Borders -- also known by its French acronym, RSF -- told CNN. "It's never been a more dangerous time to be a journalist, and press freedom has never been under greater attack than it is now."
The murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Turkey, the arrest of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar and the targeting of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa in the Philippines headlined a series of high-profile cases of violence or persecution against reporters in 2018.

And Vincent highlighted the global spread of suppression and violence against journalists, which has crept into corners of the world previously considered safer havens. "It's not just the places anymore that are traditionally thought of as being hostile, it's everywhere now -- including democracies," she said.
Just 15 countries, 11 of them European, were classed as maintaining a good situation for journalists. At the other end of the table, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan fell, and Turkmenistan slumped to the bottom.
Americas and European nations fall
Europe is "no longer a sanctuary for journalists," RSF said, following the murders of reporters in Malta, Slovakia and Bulgaria.
The governments of Italy, Poland and Bulgaria were criticized for targeting journalists through threats or legislation, while the group raised concern over retribution against investigative reporters by organized crime figures.
The UK rose seven places to 33rd, one spot below France, while Germany rose two places to 13th -- but their improvements were partly influenced by the dramatic falls of Central and Eastern European countries including Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, RSF said.

Hatred of the media was called "a leading characteristic of the angry 'Gilets Jaunes' (Yellow Vest) protests in France," and Poland's populist government was criticized for turning state-owned media "into its mouthpiece."
North and South America saw the biggest regional decline, dragged down by the poor performances of the US, Brazil and Venezuela. Nicaragua dropped by 24 places after physical attacks on journalists covering protests against President Daniel Ortega's government.

The governments of Italy, Poland and Bulgaria were also criticized for targeting journalists through threats or legislation.
Several authoritarian regimes, including Russia and China, fell in the rankings, and the Central African Republic saw the largest single-year drop, falling 33 places to 145, after three Russian journalists were killed in the volatile country.
But more positive news came from Ethiopia, which rose by 40 spots after bringing its longstanding war with neighbor Eritrea to an end.
Trump's rhetoric condemned as threats rise
RSF had previously warned that 2018 was a deadly year for journalists, with 80 killed around the world.
The US joined the list of the most dangerous countries for journalists last year, following the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Maryland that killed five people.
And RSF rounded on Donald Trump, whose anti-media rhetoric -- including in the aftermath of the shooting -- was blamed for partially fueling the rises in violence and hostility.

"Amid one of the American journalism community's darkest moments, President Trump continued to spout his notorious anti-press rhetoric, disparaging and attacking the media at a national level," the group said. "Simultaneously, journalists across the country reported terrifying harassment and death threats, online and in person."
"Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection," they added.
Trump's election and presidency have helped create a "strongman model" that has reverberated around the world and fueled an increase in violence, Vincent said. "The heavy-headed approach towards the media, and the media-bashing rhetoric, it matters ... these politicians bear some responsibility for this violent climate."
Bomb threats were sent to newsrooms in the US last year and a BBC cameraman was attacked in February at a rally held by Trump, who frequently lambasts individual news outlets on Twitter and in interviews.
"If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger," RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

Trump's downplaying of his intelligence agencies' conclusions over Khashoggi's murder, as well as the lack of international sanctions against Saudi Arabia, were criticized. The CIA has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the killing, according to sources, while the Saudi government denies involvement.

"So far there have not been serious political consequences for Saudi Arabia," Vincent said. "We haven't seen any action beyond the rhetorical level."
But Vincent praised "courageous individuals" carrying out reporting in a dangerous climate, and noted that such cases have led to a greater discussion about the role of the media. "If there is a silver lining, there is a recognition now of the importance of press freedom and the importance of courageous investigative journalism," she said.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/18/us/reporters-without-borders-2019-index-intl/index.html
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Facebook says it uploaded email contacts of up to 1.5 million users
« Reply #12455 on: April 18, 2019, 05:02:04 AM »
(Reuters) - Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it may have “unintentionally uploaded” email contacts of 1.5 million new users since May 2016, in what seems to be the latest privacy-related issue faced by the social media company.

In March, Facebook had stopped offering email password verification as an option for people who signed up for the first time, the company said. There were cases in which email contacts of people were uploaded to Facebook when they created their account, the company said.

“We estimate that up to 1.5 million people’s email contacts may have been uploaded. These contacts were not shared with anyone and we are deleting them,” Facebook told Reuters, adding that users whose contacts were imported will be notified.

The underlying glitch has been fixed, according to the company statement.

Business Insider had earlier reported that the social media company harvested email contacts of the users without their knowledge or consent when they opened their accounts.

When an email password was entered, a message popped up saying it was “importing” contacts without asking for permission first, the report said.

Facebook has been hit by a number of privacy-related issues recently, including a glitch that exposed passwords of millions of users stored in readable format within its internal systems to its employees.

Last year, the company came under fire following revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm, obtained personal data of millions of people’s Facebook profiles without their consent.

The company has also been facing criticism from lawmakers across the world for what has been seen by some as tricking people into giving personal data to Facebook and for the presence of hate speech and data portability on the platform.

Separately, Facebook was asked to ensure its social media platform is not abused for political purposes or to spread misinformation during elections.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-facebook-privacy/facebook-says-it-uploaded-email-contacts-of-up-to-1-5-million-users-idUSKCN1RU06R?il=0&utm_source=reddit.com
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Offline knarf

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The Green New Deal isn't socialism. It's what the Founding Fathers wanted
« Reply #12456 on: April 18, 2019, 05:11:09 AM »
 (CNN)The Green New Deal is a bold and controversial legislative initiative proposed by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, designed to address four pressing challenges facing American society that have thus far eluded solution.
They are: reforming our extremely expensive and inefficient health care system; reducing our currently unprecedented levels of economic inequality; rebuilding our aging infrastructure; and recovering our global leadership role to combat the existential threat posed by climate change. If we fail to address and resolve these problems, all talk of America as a "city on a hill" needs to cease.

The great advantage of the Green New Deal initiative is that it forces and focuses a much-needed debate about the role of government in defining our agenda as a people and a nation. At present, however, critics on the right are attempting to short-circuit that debate by arguing that the Green New Deal is socialism, a loaded label with potent un-American associations for many.
Whatever you might think about the Green New Deal, it is not socialism. As Casey Stengel loved to say, you can look it up. Pick your dictionary: the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Random House. They all say the same thing. Socialism is a political theory based on the principle of government ownership of the means of production; in short, the abolition of private property.

Advocates of the Green New Deal are not proposing anything of that sort. Far from being un-American, what they are proposing is a collective response to our common problems with deep roots in American history, all the way back to the American founding. The operative word then was not "socialism" but -- members of the GOP might wish to sit down to hear this -- "republicanism."

The framers of the Constitution did not believe they were creating a democracy, a word that in the late 18th century still carried tainted implications of mob rule. They were, instead, creating the first nation-sized republic in modern history, an updated version of the Roman Republic in the classical era. The Latin "res publica" means "public things."
A republic located sovereignty in the people-at-large rather than monarchs claiming divine right, so power flowed upward from below rather than downward from above. In this republican framework, government became "us" rather than "them" (though at the time the original version of "us" did not include women, African-Americans, Native Americans, or adult males without property).
From the very beginning, there were critics who challenged the claim that "We the people" referred to a collective or public interest shared by all American citizens. This is what the most vocal opponents of the Green New Deal get wrong when they call the plan "socialist" -- they fail to realize that pursuit of a collective good is the very essence of the Founding Fathers' vision for America. There is an alternative vision. It includes: the Antifederalists, who lost the debate over the Constitution in 1787-88; the leaders of the Confederate States of America; the captains of industry who dominated the first Gilded Age; the Southern defenders of Jim Crow and enemies of the civil rights movement; and the current corporate leaders of our second Gilded Age. What ties all these apparently different groups together is an anti-government ethos with libertarian implications and deep-seated reluctance to share resources with multiple versions of "them."

If we were to compose a list of spokesmen for "us," it would include the following: from the founding era, George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, John Marshall, Gouverneur Morris and the younger James Madison; from American presidents, the two greatest Republicans, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, and the greatest Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt; among unelected leaders, virtually all the advocates for women's rights, and Martin Luther King Jr. It is a list whose monuments dominate the landscape of the National Mall, though the opponents of the Green New Deal can legitimately claim the Tidal Basin and Thomas Jefferson, the chief prophet of "self-government."

All this helps explain why the Green New Deal affords an opportunity to engage in an argument that we in America need to have. It is, in fact, our occasion to participate in the longest ongoing argument in American history. It is not an argument between socialism and capitalism. It is an argument about what we mean in the Pledge of Allegiance when we mumble the words "and to the republic for which it stands." It is an argument about what we mean, really mean in these troubled times, by "We the people." In our Trumpian moment, that is a volatile but vital question that we need to face squarely.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/18/opinions/green-new-deal-not-socialism-ellis/
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'Exhausted' polar bear found 700km from home in Russian village
« Reply #12457 on: April 18, 2019, 05:18:08 AM »
Environmental activists have blamed climate change for appearance of polar bear in the Kamchatka Peninsula

Residents of a village in Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula have been stunned by the sight of a polar bear prowling for food hundreds of miles from its usual habitat.

Russian media reported on Wednesday that the exhausted-looking animal apparently traveled from Chukotka to the village of Tilichiki on Kamchatka, some 700km (434 miles) south.

Environmentalists said the bear could have lost its sense of direction while drifting on an ice floe.

“Due to climate change, the Arctic is getting warmer, hunting environment gets smaller and less convenient,” said Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace. “The ice is receding, and polar bears look for new ways to survive. And the easiest way is coming to people.”

Locals were making the bear feel welcome, giving it fish, media reported.

Videos posted online showed the animal moving past residents, showing no aggression.

Authorities in Kamchatka were preparing a rescue effort later this week. They plan to use a sedative to put the bear to sleep and then airlift it to Chukotka in a helicopter.

Polar bears’ dependence on sea ice makes them highly vulnerable to global warming. Shrinking Arctic ice cover could increasingly deprive them of their usual prey, seals.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/18/exhausted-polar-bear-found-700km-from-home-in-russian-village
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Biometric Exit is already used at 15 US airports



he Department of Homeland Security says it expects to use facial recognition technology on 97 percent of departing passengers within the next four years. The system, which involves photographing passengers before they board their flight, first started rolling out in 2017, and was operational in 15 US airports as of the end of 2018.

The facial recognition system works by photographing passengers at their departure gate. It then cross-references this photograph against a library populated with facesimages from visa and passport applications, as well as those taken by border agents when foreigners enter the country.

The aim of the system is to offer “Biometric Exit,” which gives authorities as good an idea of who’s leaving the country as who’s entering it, and allows them to identify people who have overstayed their visas. Quartz notes that US authorities have traditionally relied on airline flight manifests to track who’s leaving the country.

Since the introduction of the current system, facial recognition identified 7,000 passengers who overstayed their visas on the 15,000 flights tracked. The US Customers and Border Protection (CBP) estimates that over 600,000 people overstay their visas every year, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of a 10-year ban from entering the US.

Critics argue that building up a database of millions of people’s photographs is a threat to civil liberties. Once you have the database, it would be easy to share it with other agencies, effectively turning it into a search tool for all law enforcement.

The current iteration of the system first entered trials in 2017 on a single flight between Atlanta and Tokyo. It was originally planned to roll out more widely at the beginning of 2018, but its implementation was fast-tracked by the Trump administration and was expanded to more airports in the summer of 2017.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/4/18/18484581/us-airport-facial-recognition-departing-flights-biometric-exit
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Climate change is hitting hard across New Zealand, official report finds
« Reply #12459 on: April 18, 2019, 05:32:02 AM »
The major focus on climate change in Environment Aotearoa 2019, a stocktake on New Zealand’s environment released today, is a welcome change.

The report describes an environment that faces serious pressures, including species at risk of extinction, polluted rivers and streams, the loss of productive land as cities expand, and climate change.

On climate change, the report is more detailed and hard-hitting than past reports have been.

New Zealand’s global share of emissions

New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are high internationally. In 2015, New Zealanders produced 17.5 tonnes of greenhouse gases (measured as carbon dioxide equivalent) per person, 33% higher than the average of 13.2 tonnes from industrialised countries.

In the latest figures from 2017, gross emissions rose 2.2% from 2016 and remain 23% above 1990 levels. The immediate causes are clearly stated: high emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture and sharply rising emissions of carbon dioxide from transport.

The report is silent on the root causes of rising emissions, including ineffective government action and community attitudes that rank climate change as a relatively low priority. Instead it states:

    Our high per-person emissions are reversible if we adopt policies, technologies, or other means that reduce our production of greenhouse gases.

But this obscures the story of 30 years of policy work on climate change and 11 years trying to make New Zealand’s Emissions Trading Scheme work.

An earlier report on climate change did not foresee the flood of vehicles entering the country. This has now given New Zealand the highest rate of vehicle ownership in the OECD. New Zealand has 4.36 million vehicles, up half a million since 2015, but lacks the regulations found in many other countries, such as CO₂-linked registration fees and fuel efficiency standards. With a flood of cheap, high-emission used imports, it is no surprise that New Zealand’s transport emissions continue to rise.
Known unknowns

A key function of this latest report is to identify knowledge gaps. An important one for New Zealand is the relative strengths of different carbon sources and sinks, for example by different types of vegetation, soils and agricultural practices.

As emphasised recently by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, New Zealand is still focusing too much on plantation forestry as a short-term fix for our emissions problem. It is a risk because it creates a carbon liability for the future, as well as exposure to diseases and fires. Its true environmental impact is not well understood.

The section on current climate impacts could not be more clear.

    Climate change is already affecting Aotearoa New Zealand. Changes include alteration to temperature, precipitation patterns, sea-level rise, ocean acidity, wind, and sunshine.

New Zealand’s temperature has increased by 1ºC since 1909. While this is close to the global average, it is less than the global land average which has increased by 1.4ºC. New Zealand is protected to some degree by the Southern Ocean.

Warm days have increased and frosts decreased. Soils have dried, glaciers have melted, sea levels have been rising, the oceans have warmed and acidified, and sunshine hours have increased. No surprises so far. Climate science predicts an increase in extreme rainfall events, but this has not yet been detected statistically. At one-third of the measured sites, extreme wind has decreased, whereas an overall increase in wind is expected.
New Zealand not immune to climate change

If anything, the section on current impacts is too conservative. The data stops in 2016 before the epic years of 2017 and 2018, which saw many extreme weather events of all types. These were linked in part to El Niño, which raises global temperatures, and in part to an extreme Southern Annular Mode, an indicator whose strengthening is itself linked to climate change.

Few New Zealanders will forget the sequence of ex-tropical cyclones, 1-in-100-year floods, the sight of the Southern Alps without snow or the Port Hills on fire.

The report’s final section covers future impacts in the most forceful official statement seen yet. It lays out a blizzard of impacts in all areas of the environment, country, economy and infrastructure, including coastal flooding, erosion, tsunami risk, liquefaction risk and saltwater intrusion.

    All aspects of life in New Zealand will be impacted.

The way forward

The uncertainties are clear. We don’t have a clear idea of the rate of future emissions, or the impacts under different emission scenarios. Some of the most important impacts, such as sea-level rise, are also the most uncertain. The report notes that information on cumulative and cascading impacts is limited. Climate change has the capacity to undermine environmental efforts elsewhere.

Polls show a rising awareness of climate change and a hunger for stronger action. The Zero Carbon bill is expected to go to select committee before June, but even when passed, emissions will not start falling until the mid-2020s, with the heavy lifting left to the 2040s and future emission reductions technologies.

A recent report on New Zealand’s transition to a low-emission economy outlines many more immediate actions. Let’s hope that this report, along with the public pressure from the School Strike 4 Climate and Extinction Rebellion movements, give the government the courage to act decisively.

https://theconversation.com/climate-change-is-hitting-hard-across-new-zealand-official-report-finds-115661
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Offline Ashvin

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Re: The evidence that Jesus ever existed is weaker than you might think
« Reply #12460 on: April 18, 2019, 06:14:23 AM »
Before the European Enlightenment, virtually all New Testament experts assumed that handed-down stories about Jesus were first recorded by eye witnesses and were largely biographical. That is no longer the case.

Assuming that the Jesus stories had their beginnings in one single person rather than a composite of several—or even in mythology itself—he probably was a wandering Jewish teacher in Roman-occupied Judea who offended the authorities and was executed.  Beyond that, any knowledge about the figure at the center of the Christian religion is remarkably open to debate (and vigorously debated among relevant scholars).

Where was Jesus born? Did he actually have twelve disciples? Do we know with certainty anything he said or did?

As antiquities scholarship improves, it becomes increasingly clear that the origins of Christianity are controversial, convoluted, and not very coherent.

1. The more we know the less we know for sure. After centuries in which the gospel stories about Jesus were taken as gospel truth, the Enlightenment gave birth to a new breed of biblical historians. Most people have heard that Thomas Jefferson secretly took a pair of scissors to the Bible, keeping only the parts he thought were historical. His version of the New Testament is still available today. Jefferson’s snipping was a crude early attempt to address a problem recognized by many educated men of his time: It had become clear that any histories the Bible might contain had been garbled by myth. (One might argue that the Protestant Reformation’s rejection of the books of the Bible that they called “apocrypha,” was an even earlier, even cruder attempt to purge the Good Book of obvious mythology.)

In the two centuries that have passed since Jefferson began clipping, scores of biblical historians—including modern scholars armed with the tools of archeology, anthropology and linguistics—have tried repeatedly to identify “the historical Jesus” and have failed. The more scholars study the roots of Christianity, the more confused and uncertain our knowledge becomes. Currently, we have a plethora of contradictory versions of Jesus—an itinerant preacher, a zealot, an apocalyptic prophet, an Essene heretic, a Roman sympathizer, and many more —each with a different scholar to confidently tout theirs as the only real one. Instead of a convergent view of early Christianity and its founder, we are faced instead with a cacophony of conflicting opinions. This is precisely what happens when people faced with ambiguous and contradictory information cannot bring themselves to say, we don’t know.

This scholastic mess has been an open secret in biblical history circles for decades. Over forty years ago, professors like Robin S. Barbour and Cambridge’s Morna Hooker were complaining about the naïve assumptions underlying the criteria biblical scholars used to gauge the “authentic” elements of the Jesus stories. Today, even Christian historians complain the problem is no better; most recently Anthony Le Donne and Chris Keith in the 2012 book Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity.

2. The Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses. Every bit of our ostensibly biographical information for Jesus comes from just four texts – the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Though most Christians assume that associates of Jesus wrote these texts, no objective biblical scholars think so. None of the four gospels claims to be written by eyewitnesses, and all were originally anonymous. Only later were they attributed to men named in the stories themselves.

While the four gospels were traditionally held to be four independent accounts, textual analysis suggests that they all actually are adaptations of the earliest gospel, Mark. Each has been edited and expanded upon, repeatedly, by unknown editors. It is worth noting that Mark features the most fallible, human, no-frills Jesus—and, more importantly, may be an allegory.

All of the gospels contain anachronisms and errors that show they were written long after the events they describe, and most likely far from the setting of their stories. Even more troubling, they don’t just have minor nitpicky contradictions; they have basic, even crucial, contradictions.

3. The Gospels are not corroborated by outside historians. Despite generations of apologists insisting Jesus is vouched for by plenty of historical sources like Tacitus or Suetonius, none of these hold up to close inspection. The most commonly-cited of these is the Testimonium Flavianum, a disputed passage in the writings of ancient historian Flavius Josephus, written around the years 93/94, generations after the presumed time of Jesus. Today historians overwhelmingly recognize this odd Jesus passage is a forgery. (For one thing, no one but the suspected forger ever quotes it – for 500 years!) But defenders of Christianity are loathe to give it up, and supporters now argue it is only a partial forgery.

Either way, as New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman points out, the Testimonium Flavaniummerely repeats common Christian beliefs of the late first century, and even if it were 100% genuine would provide no evidence about where those beliefs came from. This same applies to other secular references to Jesus–they definitely attest to the existence of Christians and recount Christian beliefs at the time, but offer no independent record of a historical Jesus.

In sum, while well-established historic figures like Alexander the Great are supported by multiple lines of evidence, in the case of Jesus we have only one line of evidence: the writings of believers involved in spreading the fledgling religion.

4. Early Christian scriptures weren’t the same as ours. At the time Christianity emerged, gospels were a common religious literary genre, each promoting a different version or set of sacred stories. For example, as legends of Jesus sprang up, they began to include “infancy gospels.” As historian Robert M. Price notes, just as Superman comics spun off into stories of young Superboy in Smallville, Christians wrote stories of young Jesus in Nazareth using his divine powers to bring clay birds to life or peevishly strike his playmates dead.

Early Christians didn’t agree on which texts were sacred, and those included in our New Testament were selected to elevate one competing form of Christianity, that of the Roman Church over others. (Note that the Roman Church also proclaimed itself “catholic” meaning universal.)

Our two oldest complete New Testament collections, Codex Siniaticus and Codex Vaticanusonly go back to the beginning of the fourth century. To make matters worse, their books differ from each other – and from our bibles. We have books they don’t have; they have books we don’t have, like the Shepherd of Hermas and the Gospel of Barnabas.

In addition to gospels, the New Testament includes another religious literary genre—the epistle or letter. Some of our familiar New Testament epistles like 1 Peter, 2 Peter and Jude were rejected as forgeries even in ancient times; today scholars identify almost all of the New Testament books as forgeries except for six attributed to Paul (and even his authentic letters have been re-edited).

5. Christian martyrs are not proof (if they even were real). Generations of Christian apologists have pointed to the existence of Christian martyrs as proof their religion is true, asking “Who would die for a lie?” The short answer, of course, that all too many true believers have died in the service of falsehoods they passionately believed to be true—and not just Christians. The obvious existence of Muslim jihadis has made this argument less common in recent years

But who says that the Christian stories of widespread martyrdom themselves were real? The Book of Acts records only two martyr accounts, and secular scholars doubt that the book contains much if any actual history. The remaining Christian martyr tales first appeared centuries later. Historian Candida Moss’ 2014 book The Myth of Persecution gives a revealing look at how early Christian fathers fabricated virtually the entire tradition of Christian martyrdom—a fact that was, ironically enough, largely uncovered and debunked by later Christian scholars.

6. No other way to explain the existence of Christianity? Most people, Christians and outsiders alike, find it difficult to imagine how Christianity could have arisen if our Bible stories aren’t true. Beyond a doubt, Christianity could not have arisen if people in the first century hadn’t believed them to be true. But the stories themselves?

Best-selling New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman believes that the biblical stories about Jesus had their kernel in the person of a single itinerant preacher, as do most New Testament scholars. Historian Richard Carrier and David Fitzgerald (co-author of this article) take an opposing position—that the original kernel was a set of ancient mythic tropes to which unsuspecting believers added historical details. Ehrman and Carrier may be on opposite sides of this debate, but both agree on one important fact: the only thing needed to explain the rise of Christianity is the belief fostered by the rival Christian preachers of the first century.

Witchcraft, bigfoot, the idea that an American president was born in Kenya, golden tablets revealed to a 19th century huckster by the Angel Moroni . . . we all know that false ideas can be sticky—that they can spread from person to person, getting elaborated along the way until they become virtually impossible to eradicate. The beginnings of Christianity may be shrouded in mystery, but the viral spread of passionately-held false ideas is becoming better understood by the year.

Keeping Options Open

University of Sheffield’s Philip Davies—who believes that Christianity probably began with a single Jesus, acknowledges that the evidence is fragile and problematic. Davies argues that the only way the field of New Testament studies can maintain any academic respectability is by acknowledging the possibility that Jesus didn’t exist. He further notes this wouldn’t generate any controversy in most fields of ancient history, but that New Testament studies is not a normal case.

Brandon University’s Kurt Noll goes even further and lays out a case that the question doesn’t matter: Whether the original Jesus was real or mythological is irrelevant to the religion that was founded in his name.

That is because either way, the Christ at the heart of Christianity is a figure woven from the fabric of mythology. The stories that bear his name draw on ancient templates imbedded in the Hebrew religion and those of the surrounding region. They were handed down by word of mouth in a cultural context filled with magical beings and miracles. Demons caused epilepsy. Burnt offerings made it rain. Medical cures included mandrakes and dove blood. Angels and ghosts appeared to people in dreams. Gods and other supernatural beings abounded and not infrequently crossed over from their world to ours.

Who, in the midst of all of this, was Jesus? We may never know.


https://www.rawstory.com/2019/04/evidence-jesus-ever-existed-weaker-might-think/

Don't get Ashvin started on Jesus. Trust me when I say he knows enough about this topic to write circles around this author.

Jesus the myth is way more important than Jesus the man, at this point in human existence, as far as how it impacts our behavior. Jesus isn't the problem. His fan club is the problem.

Thanks for saying this, Eddie, so I can maintain a sense of humility. But yeah, you're right...

I have listened to David Fitzgerald go on and on about this "mythicist" view, and his uncommon views never get more logical or accurate.  He is desperately trying to bring attention to his book "Nailed" because legitimate scholars won't give him the time of day. No one even bothers to debate him.

It's unfortunate that the term "myth" itself has become so negative, i.e. calling something a "myth" is the equivalent of calling it fundamentally false or inaccurate. Part of the reason JP is so popular is because he is returning people to the view that our core mythology is fundamentally true in many ways. It is more true than the "objective world" we perceive and study.

Jesus the man is extremely important because Jesus the myth centers around the idea of the ultimate transcendent principle becoming instantiated in the individual human being, and that IS the Gospel.

Offline Ashvin

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Re: The evidence that Jesus ever existed is weaker than you might think
« Reply #12461 on: April 18, 2019, 06:25:21 AM »

6. No other way to explain the existence of Christianity? Most people, Christians and outsiders alike, find it difficult to imagine how Christianity could have arisen if our Bible stories aren’t true. Beyond a doubt, Christianity could not have arisen if people in the first century hadn’t believed them to be true. But the stories themselves?

Best-selling New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman believes that the biblical stories about Jesus had their kernel in the person of a single itinerant preacher, as do most New Testament scholars. Historian Richard Carrier and David Fitzgerald (co-author of this article) take an opposing position—that the original kernel was a set of ancient mythic tropes to which unsuspecting believers added historical details. Ehrman and Carrier may be on opposite sides of this debate, but both agree on one important fact: the only thing needed to explain the rise of Christianity is the belief fostered by the rival Christian preachers of the first century.

Witchcraft, bigfoot, the idea that an American president was born in Kenya, golden tablets revealed to a 19th century huckster by the Angel Moroni . . . we all know that false ideas can be sticky—that they can spread from person to person, getting elaborated along the way until they become virtually impossible to eradicate. The beginnings of Christianity may be shrouded in mystery, but the viral spread of passionately-held false ideas is becoming better understood by the year.

Also, this idea is ridiculous. The best example he has is Mormonism, and there is NO evidence that the central ideas of the LDS church will be instantiated in ALL of the political, legal, social and cultural institutions of the Western world. In fact there is plenty evidence this will never happen.

The biblical stories don't have to be 100% historically accurate for the unprecedented success of Christianity, but they MUST be on a completely different plane of existence than other "popular" narratives.

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Windborne Microplastics Are Everywhere
« Reply #12462 on: April 18, 2019, 07:07:52 AM »
Plastic gets around. Previously, researchers had discovered fragments of microplastics in the world's most remote locations, like the depths of the Marianas Trench and Antarctica. New research has shown that microplastics rain down on the pristine peaks of the Pyrenees mountains.

The researchers found a daily rate of plastic pollution falling from the sky in the Pyrenees was comparable to the amount raining down on Paris and Dongguan, a large industrial city in China, NPR reported.

"It was incredible how much microplastic was being deposited," said Deonie Allen, a researcher at EcoLab in the School of Agricultural and Life Sciences in Toulouse, France, as reported by National Geographic. There were no obvious sources for the microplastics within 60 miles, said Allen, the lead author of the study published Monday in Nature Geoscience.

The study is the first of its kind to show the how far microplastics can travel on the wind. Scientists had previously thought that atmospheric microplastic pollutants would rise up and settle again near the cities and industrial hubs where they originated.

The researchers looked at computer models of wind patterns to pinpoint the source of the microplastics, but none was found within a 60-mile radius of the region — which is sparsely populated and without commercial, industrial or large agricultural centers. While scientists know how dust gets blown and travels from the Sahara to Europe, they know very little about how microplastics move.

"We don't have this sort of material in nature," said Deonie Allen, as NPR reported. She noted that microplastics vary in shapes and density, which might alter how long they remain wind-borne. The researchers also suspect that rain or snow carries some particles down to the ground, but they don't need precipitation to fall to Earth, according to NPR.

Microplastics, which measure less than one-fifth of one-inch, have been shown to affect the health and reproductive systems of marine life. In fact, they were present in every marine mammal that researchers looked at in a recent British study. Microplastics also contaminated the drinking water, according to The Guardian.

The new study suggests that humans will not only consume microplastics, but also inhale them. "We ... don't know what they do to humans," said Allen to NPR. "They're a brand new [type of] pollution, but there's so much of it and it's increasing so fast that it's something we really need to start learning about."

Yet, there are some things we do know. Microplastics smaller than 25 microns can enter the human body through the nose or mouth and those less than five microns can end up in lung tissue. And, we know that microplastics tend to be sticky and accumulate heavy metals like mercury and persistent organic pollutants, including materials with known health impacts, according to National Geographic.

To make matters worse, the researchers say that atmospheric plastic pollution is nearly impossible to clean up, so the only solution is to produce less plastic, according to Science.

https://www.ecowatch.com/microplastics-wind-health-2634780390.html?rebelltitem=2#rebelltitem2
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Parents facing fines of up to $3000 for not vaccinating their children
« Reply #12463 on: April 19, 2019, 04:42:53 AM »
Authorities in the United States have issued the first ever fines for parents refusing to vaccinate their children amid a measles outbreak.

There have been 329 cases of the disease in New York since the outbreak began last October, though it is unclear how many cases are current, reports ABC News.

The city's health department announced that the three non-vaccinated people failed to comply with the Commissioner's Emergency Order mandating measles vaccination.

The department reports that 44 additional cases were added since last week’s emergency order.

They’re now facing fines of $1,000 ($1400 AUD).

To stop the spread of the virus New York officials ordered adults and children aged six months and older who live, work or go to school in four Brooklyn postal codes to receive the vaccine within 48 hours.

Four more schools have been shut down for failing to comply with mandatory vaccine orders.

ABC reports "disease detectives" are investigating cases of unvaccinated children. The cases will go to a hearing, where the parent will be fined.

Failing to appear at the hearing or respond to the summons will result in a $2,000 ($2800 AUD) fine.

The city is struggling to contain the outbreak, which is centered in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighbourhoods in Brooklyn.

Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot told Fox News: "Because of measles’ long incubation period, we know this outbreak will get worse before it gets better.

"However, we can turn the tide by people getting vaccinated, especially before Passover when families and communities will gather. We urge everyone to protect their children and their fellow New Yorkers by getting vaccinated immediately."

https://honey.nine.com.au/2019/04/19/09/45/new-york-parents-facing-fines-for-unvaccinated-children-measles-outbreak?ocid=Social-9Honey
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Climate change protesters block access to French multinationals
« Reply #12464 on: April 19, 2019, 05:03:31 AM »
 PARIS (Reuters) - Climate activists blocked hundreds of employees from entering the headquarters of French bank Societe Generale, state-run utility EDF and oil giant Total on Friday, environmental group Greenpeace said.

Greenpeace said it was protesting against the companies links to the oil and gas industry, which the group says is a driving force in global warming.

They plastered giant posters of President Emmanuel Macron carrying the slogan "Macron, President of Polluters" and a banner reading "Scene of Climate Crime" on the glass facade of Societe Generale, Reuters TV images showed.

Police pepper-sprayed one group blocking the bank's main entrance in a sit-down protest.

Some protesters taped themselves together while others cuffed themselves with plastic ties to metal poles to make it harder for police to dislodge them.

Employees in business suits milled around outside their offices. "I just want to get inside and on with my work," one frustrated bank employee said.

A Societe Generale spokesman declined to comment. An EDF spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

The protest came as Total chief executive Patrick Pouyanne, chief executive of Angola's state oil company Sonangol, and the chairman of of the Libya National Oil Corporation were due to attend an annual oil summit in Paris.

Greenpeace and action group Les Amis de la Terre (Friends of the Earth) have previously criticised Societe Generale for their financial role in oil and gas projects, in particular the Rio Grande LNG gas project in the United States.

Friday's protest echoed a series by the Extinction Rebellion group of climate-change campaigners in London this week that have caused transport snarl-ups in the British capital.

Teenage protesters staged an emotional protest, weeping and singing, at political inaction on climate change near London's Heathrow Airport on Friday.

https://flipboard.com/topic/activism/climate-change-protesters-block-access-to-french-multinationals/a-6HYkTzJeRiSUFrAspB_PFQ%3Aa%3A773461103-53eb23eb11%2Freuters.com
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