T. G. I. F. Solituide

ADON Not Here, Ba'al Is

Archaeologists working in Israel have discovered an ancient cult complex where people, who lived thousands of years ago, might have worshiped a "god" know as Baal.

The complex was unearthed at the archaeological site of Tel Burna, located near the Israeli city of Kiryat Gat. It's believed to date back 3,300 years.

Though more excavation needs to be conducted, the archaeologists said the site is believed to be quite large, with the courtyard of the complex measuring more than 50 feet on one side.

Researchers said the site has already yielded artifacts that seem to confirm the complex’s cultic past. These include enormous jars that may have been used to store tithes, masks that might have been used in ceremonial processions, and burnt animal bones that hint at sacrificial rituals.

Itzhaq Shai, director of the Tel Burna Excavation Project, told Live Science that it wasn't entirely clear which god the complex was dedicated to. But he called Baal -- which ancient Middle Eastern cultures worshipped as a fertility god -- the "most likely candidate.” 

Another possibility, according to UPI, is that members of the cultworshipped a female god, like the ancient war goddess Anat.

Baal, also rendered Baʿal, a North-West Semitic title and honorific meaning "master" or "lord" that is used for various gods who were patrons of cities in the Levant and Asia Minor, cognate to Akkadian Bēlu. A Baalist or Baalite means a worshipper of Baal.

"Baal" may refer to any god and even to human officials. In some texts it is used for Hadad, a god of thunderstorms, fertility and agriculture, and the lord of Heaven. Since only priests were allowed to utter his divine name, Hadad, Ba‛al was commonly used.

Baʿal (bet-ayin-lamedh) is a Semitic word signifying "The Lord, master, owner (male), keeper, husband", which became the usual designation of the great weather-god of the Western Semites.

In Hebrew, the word ba'al means "husband" or "owner", and is related to a verb meaning to take possession of, for a man, to consummate a marriage. The word "ba'al" was used in many Hebrew  phrases, denoting both concrete ownership as well as possession of different qualities in one's personality.

The words themselves had no exclusively religious connotation; they are honorific titles for heads of households or master craftsmen, but not for royalty. The meaning of "lord" as a member of royalty or nobility is more accurately translated as Adon in Semitic.


Expansion Curtailed

NEW YORK (AP) — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. cut its revenue outlook for its current fiscal year as it announced it is scaling back its expansion plans for its supercenters next year and stepping up investments in its online operations.

The world's largest retailer, blaming an overall tough economy, now expects annual sales to be up 2 to 3 percent for its fiscal year ending in January. That is down from its earlier guidance of sales growth at the low end of a 3 to 5 percent range.

Wal-Mart's diminished outlook increases concern about prospects for the critical holiday shopping season that kicks off late next month. It also comes on the same day that the government reported that September retail sales retreated from the prior month.

Wal-Mart is a barometer of consumer spending and its challenges reflect the continued struggles of its low-income shoppers who still feel squeezed by stagnant wages and reduced government food stamp benefits. It's also being tripped up by its own merchandising mistakes. 

As a result, Wal-Mart's namesake business, which accounts for 60 percent of its total business, hasn't reported growth in a key sales measure in six straight quarters.

Wal-Mart's shift away from its supercenters toward small stores and online also underscores how it must respond aggressively to a new era of shopping: Consumers are increasingly moving to mobile devices, while at the same time they're seeking the convenience of small stores.

It marks a big shift for Wal-Mart, which rose to power by rapidly expanding its supercenters that sell everything from pharmacy items to apples and jeans. The company said that it will add between 26 million and 30 million net retail square feet worldwide next year, a decrease from this year's expected 32 million to 34 million square feet. 

The company said it now plans to open 60 to 70 supercenter stores during its next fiscal year, down from the planned 120 this year. As a result, it's reducing its estimated range for capital spending next year to $11.6 billion to $12.9 billion, down from the expected $12.5 billion to $13 billion.

It's also conducting a major review of its U.S. Wal-Mart business and will update investors on its plans early next year, executives said.

"We'll give customers the choices they want and need by integrating digital and physical retail," said Doug McMillon, Wal-Mart's CEO and president, who took over the reins from Mike Duke in February. "We won't be just a store on the street. We'll support our customers' lives with them in the driver's seat, to save them money and time."

McMillon said that while Wal-Mart is facing some economic headwinds, he also noted there's a lot of room to improve store operations.

In the short term, that means keeping items that shoppers want in stock and speeding up checkout lines. Wal-Mart said it will open more cash registers than ever this holiday shopping season. It also needs to get better with its prices.

"There's no excuse for us not to be doing better," McMillon said.

Note:  Years ago, the A&P Grocery Store Chain rapidly expanded like Walmart and after several years, the curtailed expansion too and eventually went bankrupt because the "overhead" ate them up... 

Let me see...

How They Operate

Mitch McConnell (above), the Kentucky Republican who will likely be our next Senate majority leader has an astounding ability to lie, dissemble, and misrepresent himself to voters, according to Michael Tomasky special correspondent The Daily Beast and editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

In a recent debate he routinely said “my position is X”.

So this is how, with a 30-year Senate record that you’d think you might be able to boast about, you win reelection: By completely misrepresenting who you’ve been for the last six years, and by saying “Obama” every 45 seconds.

Misrepresentations were numerous, but let’s just zero in on student loans.McConnell responded that the Senate had taken care of the issue in a bipartisan fashion. But it didn’t. And McConnell said publicly at the time that he was against Warren’s plan because it was “designed to fail” since it would raise taxes on rich people.

McConnell similarly talked out of both sides of his mouth on the minimum wage, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and other issues.

If he wins, Kentuckians will have the pleasure of knowing who their senator voted for in 2012 while he spends the next six years positioning himself to the right of Exxon-Mobil (which at least supports a carbon tax) and blocking any attempt to do anything about global warming.

McConnell’s real lie, had to do with Obamacare. As you may know by now, he said yes, sure, keep Kynect, the state’s roaringly successful health-insurance exchange set up under the health-care law.
After all, it’s “just a website.”

This was the moment when I was wondering how Grimes’s head could possibly stay in one piece. As McConnell well knows, Kynect is not just a website. 

It’s a state health-care program that citizens happen to be able to access through a website. 

Kentuckians go on to the Kynect website to see what types of insurance coverage are available to them under the Kynect program, which exists solely because of Obamacare.

It’s amazing, the audacity of it.

Given that half a million Kentuckians have signed up for insurance through Kynect, isn’t this just a little more important?

What’s worse is that he knows he can get away with saying something like that because he is well aware that the explanation of why he’s lying is a little complicated for the average voter to take in.

And, therein lies our problem…  the average voter does not care about what politicians say or do, all they care about is what is the government going to do or not going to do for them.

For the average American, it is life as usual no matter which Political Party is in power at the moment.  Americans do the best that they can to survive.

The wealthy slide through because they are wealthy, hiding most of their money in offshore bank accounts to avoid paying taxes while at the same time claim to be proud Americans.

The poor slide through because the government will always be put in a position to take care of them and their families as the price we pay for being a Democratic Republic.

The middle class assumes the burden and will always assume the burden but again, they are simply focused on trying to acquire as much as they can and do not really care which Political Party is in control because in reality both parties are composed of the elite and wealthy; they belong to the same clubs and attend the same parties and vacation in the same locations; they just have a slightly different approach to keeping their wealth and helping out the rest of us.


Hump Day Art

Zander Olsen’s Tree, Line project is 

almost preposterously simple. 

He wraps segments of tree trunks in 

white linen so that, when photographed 

from a particular distance, this 

negative space lines up 

perfectly with its surroundings. 

Jailed For Not Believing

Recently reported in the news was this interesting article…

Barry Hazle is an atheist who was incarcerated for a year due to a drug charge before he was released on parole. As a condition of his parole, however, Hazle was required to attend a 90-day residential drug treatment program. Although Hazle did not object to attending such a program, he did object to the fact that he was assigned to a 12-step program with explicitly religious content referring to “God” and a “higher power.” 

As Hazle wrote in an official challenge to this placement, “I have committed myself to a full and lasting secular recovery and complete abstinence from illegal drugs,” but he objects to “forced participation in any spiritual/religious activities.”

Despite his objections, Hazle remained in the religious 12-step program, all while unsuccessfully trying to get transferred to a secular program. A little over a month after he entered the program, however, the program complained that Hazle was “sort of passive aggressive.” Hazle was charged with a parole violation, arrested, and incarcerated for another 100 days.

Though the state later claimed that he was removed from the 12-step program due to his own behavior, a federal judge rejected this claim, explaining that the state’s “argument rings hollow in light of the undisputed facts showing that Plaintiff was only ‘disruptive’ in the program ‘in a congenial way.’”

Bravo for the Judge but can you believe how all this intelligent minded, well intentioned people simply act without thinking…  or, without thinking it through completely.

And, here is the real wonder of it all…  the article on Hazle continues with the following:

…the Constitution forbade the state of California from placing him in a religious program against his will in the first place. As the Supreme Court explained in the 1947 case Everson v. Board of Ed. of Ewing.

Boy, this revelation is a zinger and clearly someone did not do their homework.  But, we are not done yet, because the article continues with this mind boggler:

…the federal appeals court which oversees California was even more direct. “For the government to coerce someone to participate in religious activities,” the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit explained in Inouye v. Kemna, “strikes at the core of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” So Mr. Hazle could not be given a choice between participating in a religious program or being put back behind bars.

When will it ever end, asked rhetorically.

Unethical Marketing Techniques

The following is an excerpt from a recent Huffington Post article:

Ever wonder why your iPhone seems to slow down after a few years? Why the once-amazing device gets cranky and struggles to perform basic tasks or load apps?

The answer lies in Apple's software, and it's a key part of the company's strategy to keep millions of people buying new iPhones.

Apple releases a new mobile operating system every year, and that keeps a powerful cycle in motion. Each fall for the last few years, people have rushed to download the latest and greatest version of iOS, which is designed for -- and, as a result, works best on -- the newest hardware that is also released around the same time. In the months leading up to the release, many app developers furiously update their apps for the latest operating system.

But, this is not a new phenomenon that we are experiencing but a marketing strategy that has worked over and over again for years.

Microsoft follows the same strategy with their Windows OS and do the manufacturers of computers like Dell who have to develop larger and harder HDD’s in order to keep up with the latest and greatest programs taking up more and more space.

But again, nothing new.

In 1980, I was in Business Grad School and we were informed by our Marketing instructors that it would be our jobs in the future to convince people to buy our products knowing they did not need them nor could they afford them.  We were also told about a strategy called, “built in obsolescence.”

This engineering concept simply stated means teach your engineers to design products and have them build so that they will need to be replaced in 3-5 years because they no longer function correctly.

But this concept has underlying ethical issues, so the change took place to build better and better products that needed to be replaced but not because they were worn out but because they needed to be upgraded in order to function better than they did before.

No ethical concerns here…


Transracial Parenting

Mom of three Rachel Garlinghouse joined HuffPost Live Tuesday to talk about the challenges that come along with parenting children of another race.

Garlinghouse and her husband decided to adopt children after she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 

All three of their children are black, and since mom and dad are white, Garlinghouse says her family doesn't have the privilege of being "color blind."

"When my family walks into a room, everybody knows my kids are adopted," she told host Marc Lamont Hill. "Everybody knows I'm white. Everyone notices my kids are black. 

There's no holding hands, there's no tolerance. There's none of that. That is the first thing people see. My kids have seen color since they were 2 years old. They know they're brown and I'm pink."

The hardest part, Garlinghouse says, is preparing her children for the racism they might encounter down the road -- something she does not have the experience to do alone.

"I'm white. I have to go to the community that we've created around ourselves to help because truly when you adopt transracially, it does take a village," she said. "I am not enough for my children to prepare them for the racism they're going to encounter because I haven't experienced it myself. I have to go to those we've surrounded ourselves and say, 'Hey, I need help with this.' Transracial parenting, it takes humbleness and it takes help."

She said that she has a mentor that has been with the family for over two years and has been invaluable.

"I wanted a long standing relationship with someone who could help me parent my children." Garlinghouse said. "She's not only mentoring the girls, she's mentoring me. It's been an incredible experience."

Today, approximately 40 percent of adoptions in America are transracial — and that number is growing. In decades past, many American parents of transracial adoptions simply rejected racial categories, raising their children as though racial distinctions didn't matter.

"Social workers used to tell parents, 'You just raise your child as though you gave birth to her,' " Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, tells NPR's Neal Conan. "An extreme majority of transracially adopted kids ... grew up wishing they were white or thinking they were white, not wanting to look in mirrors."

Pertman's organization has conducted extensive research on transracial adoption in America. He says turning a blind eye to race wasn't good for anybody. "We don't live in a colorblind society," he says.

Are We There Yet?

NK Labor Camps

UNITED NATIONS (AP)€” North Korea publicly acknowledged the existence of its labor camps, an admission that appeared to come in response to a highly critical U.N. human rights report earlier this year.

Diplomats for the reclusive, impoverished country also told reporters that a top North Korea official has visited the headquarters of the European Union and expressed interest in dialogue, with discussions on human rights expected next year.

North Korea's deputy U.N. ambassador Ri Tong Il said the secretary of his country's ruling Workers' Party had visited the EU, and that "we are expecting end of this year to open political dialogue between the two sides." The human rights dialogue would follow.

In Brussels, an EU official confirmed a recent North Korea meeting with the EU's top human rights official, Stavros Lambrinidis, but said any dialogue currently planned is limited to rights issues.

Choe Myong Nam, a North Korean foreign ministry official in charge of U.N. affairs and human rights issues, said at a briefing with reporters that his country has no prison camps and, in practice, "no prison, things like that."

Click on image to enlarge

But he briefly discussed the "reform through labor" camps. "Both in law and practice, we do have reform through labor detention camps, detention centers ” where people are improved through their mentality and look on their wrongdoings," he said.

Such "re-education" labor camps are for common offenders and some political prisoners, but most political prisoners are held in a harsher system of political prison camps.

The North Korean officials took several questions but did not respond to one about the health of leader Kim Jong Un, who has made no public appearances since Sept. 3 and skipped a high-profile recent event he usually attends.

The officials said they don't oppose human rights dialogue as long as the issue isn't used as a "tool for interference." Their briefing seemed timed in advance of the latest resolution on North Korea and human rights that the EU and Japan put to the U.N. General Assembly every year.


The Fix Is In

A fix is set for all major currencies every day by taking the median price of trades that occur 30 seconds before 4 p.m.

London time, and 30 seconds after. 

The exchange rates set by the fix determine the prices that most big investors will pay. 

They're also used by banks to value their positions.

Bloomberg first reported in June that banks and selected trading partners were colluding to trade at certain rates in order to try to influence the day’s fix so they could sell currencies to clients at an elevated or deflated level.

Traders shared a private online chat room to communicate about trades that would affect the fix.

The key to understanding the currency trading scandal is the difference between the fix, and fixing.

The fix is institutionalized, normalized, transparent, and important to regulators, traders, and investors.

Fixing, according to the Times report of the DOJ investigation, was institutionalized and normalized.

It was transparent, if you were in the chatroom. 

It was important to some traders, seemed to be tolerated by regulators, and apparently was unknown to investors.

In short, fixing corrupted the fix.

There’s a reason the head of the Bank of England said in March that the currency scandal was “as serious as Libor, if not more so.”

The foreign exchange market is the largest and most liquid in the world. Daily volume is $5.3 trillion, and prices are quoted to four decimal places. 

The harm in this case -– beyond the notion of sullying fair markets -– is mostly to very large currency funds, and is hard to quantify.

Speaking to Bloomberg in June, the London School of Economics’ Tom Kirchmaier went straight to the theoretical: “Any rigging of the price mechanism leads to a miss allocation of capital and is extremely costly to society.”

Retail clients are hurt in the currency exchange market by absurd fees and unfavorable exchange rates.

There is a way the behavior of the banks under investigation reflects the behavior across financial markets. 

When the scandal first broke, the Financial Times’ Izabella Kaminska pointed out that big traders concentrating transactions within a short time to move markets is a characteristic of most markets. 

“In some sense,” she wrote, “that’s what trading is about.”

The difference here is that this wasn’t just traders using these tactics to boost their own portfolios, but to beat clients to the punch and make them buy for more and sell for less.

I know I left it somewhere....