9/23/2014

Ok... let's roll um...


Are They Really More Righteous?


New research shows that religious and non-religious people are equally likely to misbehave. The only difference between the groups is that religious people show stronger emotional reactions to moral and immoral deeds.

“To our knowledge, it’s the first study that directly assesses how morality plays out in people's everyday lived experience," said Dr. Linda Skitka.

Dr. Skitka is a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the co-author of a paper describing the research, said in a written statement.

For the study, a team of researchers, recruited 1,252 men and women between the ages of 18 and 68. 

The team was led by psychologist Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Hofmann of the University of Cologne in Cologne, Germany, 

The study participants, all of whom were from the U.S. or Canada, completed an initial survey to indicate their level of religiosity -- from "not at all" to "very much." The survey also showed where the men and women fell on the political spectrum, from "very liberal" to "very conservative."

Next, the subjects received surveys via text message five times a day for three days. In these surveys, the men and women described any moral and immoral acts they had committed, witnessed, been the target of, or heard about within the past hour -- examples included "I gave a homeless man an extra sandwich that I had," or "I caught my teenage son looking at hard core porn." 

For each act, they described what had happened and how they had felt about it.


Furthermore, no difference was found between liberals and conservatives. 

People reported committing good deeds more often than bad ones, and reported hearing about bad deeds more often than good ones.

The researchers also found that people who benefited from good deeds often "paid them forward," doing something good for someone else later on.



9/22/2014

Not Being Gay... is normal?


Sean Hannity (above, but just who is he?) reacted to child abuse charges against Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings by expressing concerns that the government might start interfering with what parents can teach their children. 

Specifically, he’s concerned that parents will be prohibited from teaching their kids that “being gay is not normal.”

“This is my problem with liberals. Here’s where my fear goes,” Hannity said. “You guys want to tell parents what they can and cannot do — for example, is it going to become illegal if a parent teaches the politically correct view that being gay is not normal?”

“My problem here is, do parents have the right to instill their values in their children? My problem is we send these kids off to school. Maybe they’re taught that God is dead, or maybe they’re taught that it’s okay to have sex. Maybe they’re taught values that contradict what the parents are teaching, whatever it happens to be — you know Heather has two mommies, daddies, roommates — that’s the government circumventing parental values,” he explained referencing the children’s book about same-sex families.

“Look, some people disagree on the gay lifestyle because of religious views. If they teach their kids, is the government going to come in one day and say, ‘That’s wrong, that’s immoral’?”

Hannity similarly responded when New Jersey passed a law protecting minors from ex-gay therapy, asking, “Is there freedom of religion anymore, or is that banned in New Jersey?” 

He has also previously attacked individuals like Kevin Jennings, founder of GLSEN and former Assistant Deputy Secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, for “promoting homosexuality” in schools.


Note:  One of the great benefits of being born and/or living in this country is that we can enjoy freedom of speech as guaranteed under the US Constitution.  This free speech presupposes that we have free thoughts as well which may/may not be the case.  

Why?  

If we try to convince our children how to think or what to think at a very early age then that is more than like what they will do and how they will think for the rest of their lives.  

And, those would be our views not their views. 

We should teach them how to think and to look at all sides of an issue equally and then make up their mind…

Just Who I Wanted To See


Amazon Destruction


The rate of destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has increased for a second year running.

Brazilian government figures show deforestation was up by 29% in the 12 months up to the end of July 2013.

Satellite data showed that almost 6,000 sq km (2,315 sq miles) of forest were cleared during that period.

The largest increases in deforestation were seen in the states of Para and Mato Grosso, where most of Brazil's agricultural expansion is taking place.

More than 1,000 sq km (390 sq miles) have been cleared in each state.

Last year, the Brazilian authorities said there had been a 28% rise in deforestation.

That reversed several years of decline.

The worst year since the Brazilian government began tracking deforestation was 2004, when almost 30,000 sq km (11,580 sq miles) of forest were lost.

Besides agricultural expansion, the rebound in deforestation is due to illegal logging and the invasion of public lands adjacent to big infrastructure projects in the Amazon, such as roads and hydroelectric dams.

To date, there have been identified approximately 56 000 species of plants (described), 1 700 bird species, 695 amphibian species, 578 mammal species and 651 reptile species.

Rainforests cover almost 60% of the entire area of Brazil at 477 698 000 hectares, which is equal to 1 844 394 square miles or just under 3 million square kilometers. This means that Brazil is home to a third of the world’s rainforests, making it one of the most intriguing and beautiful lands on earth.

The dense rainforests of Brazil consume an enormous amount of the world’s Carbon Dioxide and release Oxygen in return. However, when they are destroyed, the trees release the Carbon as greenhouse gases, with huge implications for earth and its atmosphere.

Most of the rainforest areas in Brazil are concentrated within the Amazon Basin, which is particularly humid, with year-round precipitation, making for the ideal ‘jungle’ environment.

The destruction of great swaths of the Brazilian Amazon has turned scores of rare species into the walking dead, doomed to disappear even if deforestation were halted in the region overnight, according to a new study.

Forest clearing in Brazil has already claimed casualties, but the animals lost to date in the rainforest region are just one-fifth of those that will slowly die out as the full impact of the loss of habitat takes its toll.

In parts of the eastern and southern Amazon, 30 years of concerted deforestation have shrunk viable living and breeding territories enough to condemn 38 species to regional extinction in coming years, including 10 mammal, 20 bird and eight amphibian species, scientists found.

The systematic clearance of trees from the Amazon forces wildlife into ever-smaller patches of ground.


Though few species are killed off directly in forest clearances, many face a slower death sentence as their breeding rates fall and competition for food becomes more intense.

9/19/2014

T. G. I. F. Solitude







Still Active While Sleeping

The brain is still active while we are asleep, say scientists, who found people were able to classify words during their slumber.


Researchers from Cambridge and Paris introduced participants to a word test while awake and found they continued to respond correctly while asleep.

The sleeping brain can perform complex tasks, particularly if the task is automated, the study says.
Writing in the journal Current Biology, the research team set out to study the brain's behavior while awake and during sleep.

Using an electroencephalogram (EEG), they recorded the brain activity of participants while they were asked to classify spoken words as either animals or objects by pressing a button.

Participants were asked to press a button in their right hand for animals and in their left hand for objects.

This allowed researchers to track the responses and map each word category to a specific movement in the brain.

Then participants were asked to lie down in a darkened room with their eyes closed and continue the word classification task as they drifted off to sleep.

Once asleep, a new list of words was tested on participants to ensure that the brain had to work out the meaning of the words before classifying them using the buttons.

Their brain activity showed they continued to respond accurately, the researchers said, although it happened more slowly.

At the time, the participants were completely motionless and unaware.

Sid Kouider, from the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, said: "We show that the sleeping brain can be far more 'active' in sleep than one would think.

"This explains some everyday life experiences such as our sensitivity to our name in our sleep, or to the specific sound of our alarm clock, compared to equally loud but less relevant sounds."

He added that it was possible for people to perform calculations on simple equations while falling asleep and then continue to identify those calculations as right or wrong during a snooze.

Any task that could become automated could be maintained during sleep, he said. But tasks that cannot be automated would stop as sleep took over.

Their research could lead to further studies on the processing capacity of our sleeping brains, the study said.


"Research focusing on how to take advantage of our sleeping time must consider what is the associated cost, if any, and whether it is worth it," Mr Kouider said.

9/18/2014

Chilean Charged With Killings

A member of Chile's parliament has been charged with the killing of three left-wing militants during the dictatorship of Gen Augusto Pinochet.

Rosauro Martinez (above) was an army captain at the time of the incident in 1981.

He led a patrol in southern Chile in search of members of the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR), which sought to overthrow the Pinochet regime.

A gun battle followed in which at least 11 people died, but the exact details of what happened remain a mystery.

Mr Martinez says he followed army protocol, but some former conscripts who were with him at the time say he used excessive brutality.

The 64-year-old member of the conservative National Renewal party has been a Congressman since the early 1990s, when Gen Pinochet relinquished power and Chile returned to democracy.

In June, he was stripped of his parliamentary immunity.

That paved the way for his arrest in city of Valdivia on Thursday - the 41st anniversary of the coup that launched Gen Pinochet's 17-year rule.

"Chile needs more truth and more justice so we never live the horror of dictatorship again," said government spokesman Alvaro Elizalde.

Some 3,200 people were killed and 38,000 others tortured during Gen Pinochet's rule, according to the government.


Free Spirit Spheres

In the pristine Canadian coastal rain forest of Vancouver Island sits—or, more aptly, floats—a resort unlike any other. The suspended spherical tree houses of Free Spirit Spheres offer a unique lodging accommodation that has to be seen to be believed.

Each sphere is suspended high within the trees to give an uncommon shift to your senses. All pods are equipped with four attachments above and below, which are suspended to three trees by three vertical ropes.

This setup allows the perfectly spherical structures to hang stably. The trees produce a triangle, with the sphere hovering directly in the center. This allows for ample sway of motion in the treetops, yet very little movement of the enclosure itself. The engineering is simple yet remarkable.

Each of the structures is connected to what is known as the “door tree” by a suspension bridge, which in turn is connected to a spiral stairwell that leads back to the forest floor. The appearance as well as the experience of the stay is wholly unique, and would have to be experienced to be truly understood.


Refusing To Go


Forty-three veterans of one of Israel’s most secretive military intelligence units – many of them still active reservists – have signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of innocent residents.

The signatories include officers, former instructors and senior NCOs from the country’s equivalent of America’s NSA or Britain’s GCHQ, known as Unit 8200 – or in Hebrew as Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim.

They allege that the “all-encompassing” intelligence the unit gathers on Palestinians – much of it concerning innocent people – is used for “political persecution” and to create divisions in Palestinian society.

The largest intelligence unit in the Israeli military, Unit 8200 intercepts electronic communications including email, phone calls and social media in addition to targeting military and diplomatic traffic.

The signatories say, however, that a large part of their work was unrelated to Israel’s security or defence, but appeared designed to perpetuate the occupation by “infiltrating” and “controlling” all aspects of Palestinian life.

Written in uncompromising language the letter states: “We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories.”

They add: “The Palestinian population under military rule is completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself. In many cases, intelligence prevents defendants from receiving a fair trial in military courts, as the evidence against them is not revealed.”

Accompanying the letter – published in the Israeli media on Friday, and organised several months before the recent Gaza war – are a series of testimonies provided by the signatories to Yedioth Ahronoth and shared with the Guardian.


A common complaint, made in both the testimonies and in interviews given by some of the signatories, including to the Guardian this week, is that some of the activities the soldiers were asked to engage in had more in common with the intelligence services of oppressive regimes than of a democracy. Read more:

9/17/2014

Hump Day Art

Timothy M. Parker, Artist






























































Peaceful Pastels 
by
Majeed 
Badizadegan





























Woman With Cancer Gets Fired


A Pennsylvania community is rallying around a woman who was fired from her job at an oral surgeon's office following her diagnosis with cancer.

Carol Jumper, who lives in Hopewell Township, Pennsylvania, was diagnosed with cancer impacting her pancreas, liver and ovaries in August. 

According to her fiance, Jumper received a letter from her boss, Dr. George Visnich, in which the oral surgeon said he was laying her off without compensation. 

Raging Chicken Press published the letter on Sunday.

"The symptoms of the disease, the pain medications you will need and the side effects of the chemotherapy will be significant and distracting,” reads the handwritten note, which bears Visnich's letterhead. "You will not be able to function in my office at the level required while battling for your life. Because of this, I am laying you off without pay as of August 11, 2014."

The letter continues, "Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you fight this horrible disease. 

Thanks for your time at Visnich Oral Surgery. I hope your battle is swift, smooth, and successful!"

Smerigan told the Beaver Countian that his fiancee worked for Visnich for more than 12 years.

"He didn’t even call her, he hasn’t even called her once since she got sick," Smerigan said.

Visnich's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment by The Huffington Post. 

However, Larry Kelly, an attorney for Visnich, told the Beaver County Times that the doctor laid off Jumper so unemployment benefits could be claimed, describing the dismissal as a "humanitarian thing."

"He’s trying to help this woman and he’s made out to be a villain," Kelly said, claiming that his client wrote the letter “with the understanding that when she is feeling better, she can come back to work.”

Current and recovering cancer patients are protected against job discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act so long as the individual is able to perform the job's essential functions.

Visnich's letter went viral in the area after one of Jumper's friends posted it on her Facebook page. 

Since then, community members have organized a number of fundraisers on behalf of Jumper, and formed a "Bumpers Buddies" Facebook page to rally support.


“She’s a good lady, and we’re just doing what we can to help her out,” John Barkovich, a friend of Jumper's, said.