Archive | December 11, 2013

Is There Really A War on Christmas? Evangelical Christian Author Says No

War_on_ChristmasWell, that depends on who you talk to.

If you go on over to  Fox Nation, you can bet your stocking there is. If you watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, it’s a seasonal running gag. But what of the people who actively celebrate the Christmas
holiday? You’d be surprised to find just how militant Christians aren’t about the celebration
of the Winter Solstice.

VIA USA Today

Nothing in evangelical Christian author Rachel Held Evans’ five years of blogging has gone as viral as her simple little flowchart to determine if one is being persecuted during the Christmas season.

“Did someone threaten your life, safety, civil liberties or right to worship?” it asks. No. “Did someone wish you happy holidays?” Yes.

“You are not being persecuted,” it says.

At last count, the post had attracted more than 700 comments, the vast majority in agreement with her.

Call it the backlash against the “war on Christmas” camp — a number of evangelicals distancing themselves from those concerned that the department store greeter said “happy holidays,” that the Nativity scene is gone from the local courthouse, that classrooms are hosting “winter parties.”

“God became flesh and lived among us, and if that’s not enough for people, I think they’ve missed the point,” said Evans, who lives in Dayton, Tenn., and wrote last year’s best-selling book, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.”

Still, the idea that there’s a national war on Christmas is going strong.

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Impartial Media Matters, But Is It Possible?

A human’s understanding of the world is dependent upon their perspective. It’s incredibly hard to argue otherwise. Any notion of “impartiality” is defined by your particular interpretation of the definition of that word. Broadcast media can only provide a point of view and, in my opinion, is far more honest if it keeps that in mind.

The weirdness of being able to broadcast radio and television signals across vast distances seems to have confused the logic of the pre-internet world. The rise of “broadcast media” throughout the 20th Century brought the idea that someone could be “impartial” and “objective” when relating their story. It was an incredibly important concept and some people even believed it was possible.

This short debate is cut from my podcast, predated the awful Jimmy Savile revelations and initially appeared on another podcast called Radio Talk in 2011:

Belief in this absurd notion that “journalists” can somehow detach themselves from their perspectives was used to justify various Governments restricting the number of broadcasting licences allowed in their territories.… Read the rest

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Satan Is Good, God Is Bad: Our Shifting Moral Compass and Why Atheists Are Throwing the Devil Under the Bus

Rolling_Stones_Sympathy_for_the_DevilDerek Murphy writes at Holy Blasphemy:

I went to Skepticon 5 expecting a group of heretics that would get a kick out of my inversed reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost, which claims that Satan is the hero of the story (which was actually the mainstream reading before it became the “mistaken reading”, and is now coming into vogue again by top Milton scholars).

I was surprised to find that Satan makes atheists uncomfortable. Atheists already have a huge image/perception problem, with the religious proclamations that people can’t be good without God and that therefore all atheists are “evil.” Christians already think of atheists as nearly synonymous with Satanists; hence atheists have an uncomfortable relationship with Satanists and don’t want to be associated with the Devil.

Even more so than the term “Atheist”, “Satanist” has an immediately powerful negative connotations. And on the one hand, I definitely think that those people who wish to create a secular political and social force big enough to stand up to religious groups that are trying to make their faith-based beliefs govern the private lives of the rest of us, need to think about how they are perceived because it does impact the message being shared.

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Chinese Man Commits Suicide At Mall After Girlfriend Refuses To Stop Shopping

deadDeath by overwhelming and inescapable consumerism? Via Gawker:

A man who was fed up with his girlfriend’s incessant Christmas shopping responded to her request for one more look around a mall shoe store by leaping seven floors to his death.

The 38-year-old, identified as Tao Hsiao, had been shopping with his girlfriend at the Golden Eagle International Shopping Center in Xuzhou, China, when she asked to check out one last shoe store.

Having been inside the mall for five hours, Tao had reached his limit, and reportedly insisted that they leave immediately. “He told her she already had enough shoes, more shoes that she could wear in a lifetime and it was pointless buying any more,” an eyewitness was quoted as saying.

Surveillance footage shows Tao angrily hurling the shopping bags and jumping over the railing onto the cosmetics section below. A spokesman for the shopping center says that the man died instantly upon impact.

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The NSA Isn’t The Only One Playing Games: Enter Xylem

Screen Shot 2013-12-11 at 9.44.55 AM

“Shall we play a game?”

Via Computer World:

The U.S. Department of Defense may have found a new way to scan millions of lines of software code for vulnerabilities, by turning the practice into a set of video games and puzzles and having volunteers do the work.

Having gamers identify potentially problematic chunks of code could help lower the work load of trained vulnerability analysts by “an order of magnitude or more,” said John Murray, a program director in SRI International’s computer science laboratory who helped create one of the games, called Xylem.

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The Occult On Wall Street: The Art Of Financial Astrology

zodiac

The Telegraph claims that a surprising number of mainstream investment bankers make decisions based on astrology. Can you envision this growing into a quasi-religious cult?

Donald Bradley’s method of foreseeing changes in the market involved assigning a numerical value to the position of the planets and stars and plotting the values on a graph. The peaks and troughs of that line should, in theory, plot “turns” in the fortunes of stocks, bonds and commodities. It sounds utterly mad, but the model has been described by market watcher Peter Eliades as “eerily accurate”.

I wanted to do a statistical analysis of his method and use it if it worked,” says Crawford. Back in the library, Crawford found records of the Dow Jones going back to 1885 and a book outlining the details of planetary positions. After comparing the two, he was impressed.

So Crawford began using astrology alongside his technical analysis. Over the years, Crawford found his predictions working out so well that, in 1977, he set up business as a full-time astrological adviser.

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David Simon Speech: ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’

David Simon at Rising Tide 2011Best known as the creator of seminal TV series The Wire, David Simon gave an impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, and how capitalism has lost sight of its social compact. This is an edited extract via The Guardian:

America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.

There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know.

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Study Suggests That Meditation Changes The Body’s Gene Expression

buddhaVia ScienceDaily, how changing your mind changes your body:

A new study by researchers in Wisconsin, Spain, and France reports the first evidence of specific molecular changes in the body following a period of mindfulness meditation.

The study investigated the effects of a day of intensive mindfulness practice in a group of experienced meditators, compared to a group of untrained control subjects who engaged in quiet non-meditative activities. After eight hours of mindfulness practice, the meditators showed a range of genetic and molecular differences, including altered levels of gene-regulating machinery and reduced levels of pro-inflammatory genes, which in turn correlated with faster physical recovery from a stressful situation.

“Interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain.

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