Sunday, October 23, 2011

Knowledge Quiz, No. 23

I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.

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Knowledge Quiz, No. 23

The answers are at the bottom.

1. Who invented the cell-phone?

2. What is the capital of Jordan?

3. Who was Mary Cassatt?

4. Who is the world's most read novelist?

5. Who created the first photograph?

6. What is Hadrian's Wall?

7. Whose final words were, Either this wallpaper goes, or I do?

8. What was The Ark of the Covenant?

9. Who was the first Prime Minister of India?

10. Who were the Anasazi ?

11. Who was Hammurabi ?

12. From what is tequila made?

13. What is a stent?

14. Who founded the French city of Marseilles?

15. What was the biggest boat-lift (evacuation by sea) in history?

16. Who painted the famous painting, The Potato Eaters?

17. What type vegetable is a pumpkin?

18. What is a bog?

19. Who invented bubble gum?

20. Who wrote the poem, Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me ?

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1. Although mobile phones and radio phones have a long and history going back to the Reginald Fessenden (1866-1932) ship-to-shore radio telephone in 1906, the modern hand-held cell phone has existed since 1973. It's inventor was Martin Cooper (1933- present), an American researcher working for Motorola. He is also the first person to make a public cell phone call. The call was made on April 3, 1973. Cooper has stated that watching Captain Kirk use his communicator on the television show, Star Trek, inspired him to develop the handheld mobile phone.

2. The capital of Jordan is Amman.

3. Mary Cassatt (1844 -1926) was a famous American Impressionist painter and printmaker. Cassatt often created images of women with particular emphasis on the bond between mother and child. Her paintings have sold for as much as 2.9 million dollars. In 1966, Cassatt's painting The Boating Party, was reproduced on a US postage stamp. And, in 1943 during World War 2 there was a Liberty Ship named after her, the SS Mary Cassatt.

4. It is mystery writer, Agatha Christie (1890-1976). Her 85 books are estimated to have sold between 2 billion and 4 billion copies. William Shakespeare (1564-1616) is the most read playwright and is also estimated to have sold between 2 billion and 4 billion copies or his 47+ plays.

5. The world's first known photograph was created by Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (1765-1833) in 1825. The photo was created by using a daguerreotype, the first commercially successful photographic process. The process was developed by Frenchmen Louis Daguerre (1787-1851) and Niépce. The image was a direct positive (not from a negative) made in the camera on a silver plated copper plate. The surface of a daguerreotype was like a mirror, with the image made directly on the silvered surface. It was very fragile and could be rubbed off with a finger. Among Niépce's other inventions was the Pyréolophore, the world's first internal combustion engine. It was patented in1807.

6. Hadrian's Wall (Latin:Vallum Aelium ) was a defensive fortification in Roman occupied Britain. Begun in AD 122, during the rule of Emperor Hadrian, it was the first of two fortifications built across Great Britain. (The second is the less well-known Antonine Wall.) No one knows for sure why Hadrian's Wall was constructed but it was the most heavily fortified border in the Roman Empire. The wall was 80 Roman miles long (73 miles or120km) stretched the entire width of that portion of the British island. But, its width and height varies. A significant portion of the wall still exists, particularly the mid-section, and much of the length of the wall can be travelled on foot by using the Hadrian Wall Path. It is the most popular tourist attraction in northern England.

7. Either that wallpaper goes, or I do were the final words of novelist, essayist and playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900). Wilde died of cerebral meningitis in Paris on November 30, 1900. Wilde was initially buried in the Cimetière de Bagneux outside Paris, but in 1909 his remains were reburied in a specially-designed tomb inside the city of Paris at the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

8. The Ark of the Covenant (Ārōn Hāb’rīt or Aron Habrit) was a chest described containing the 2 stone tablets on which The Ten Commandments were inscribed. According to the Biblical Book of Exodus, the Ark was built at the command of God, in accordance with the instructions given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Biblical account states that during the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, the Ark was carried by the priests some 2,000 cubits (a cubit is between 52.3 and 52.9 cm in length) in advance of the people and their army. According to the Biblical book1Kings 8:6-11, during the construction of King Solomon's Temple, a special inner room called Kodesh Hakodashim (Holy of Holies) was prepared to receive and house the Ark. When the Temple was dedicated, the Ark was placed in the room. In 586 BC, the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon's Temple. There is no record of what became of the Ark. In addition, there are no ancient non- Biblical references to the Ark.

9. The first Prime Minister of India was Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964). He is often referred to as Panditji, (a recognized expert) Nehru was an Indian statesman who was not only the first but also and longest-serving Indian Prime Minister (1947–1964). One of the leading figures in the Indian Independence Movement during the 1930s and '40s, Nehru was elected by the Indian National Congress and re-elected when the Congress Party won India's first general election in 1952. Nehru contributed to the establishment of an Indian secular democracy. Today, India is the world's biggest democracy.

10. The Anasazi (aka: Ancient Pueblo People or Ancestral Pueblo Peoples) were an ancient Native American culture centered in the present-day "Four Corners" (where the states of Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado meet) region of the U.S. The Anasazi lived in undergrown structures and cliff-dwellings called pueblos designed so that they could lift up entry ladders during enemy attacks. Archaeologists referred to one of these cultural groups as the Anasazi, although the term is not preferred by contemporary Pueblo people. The word Anaasází is Navajo for "Ancient Ones" or "Ancient Enemy", and in general, the modern Pueblo people claim these ancient people as their ancestors.

11. Hammurabi (ʻAmmurāpi, "the kinsman is a healer") was the sixth king of Babylon and the first king of the Babylonian Empire from c.1792 BC to c.1750 BC. The date of his birth is unknown, but he died in c.1750BC. Although his empire controlled all of Mesopotamia at the time of his death, his successors were unable to maintain his empire. Hammurabi is known for the set of laws called Hammurabi's Code, one of the first written codes of law in history. The laws were inscribed on stone tablets (stelae) which stood over eight feet tall (2.4 meters) and were discovered in Persia (Iran) in 1901. Owing to his reputation in modern times as an ancient law-giver, a "picture or sculpture of Hammurabi's (although no one knows what he actually looked like) is in many government buildings throughout the world.

12. Tequila is made from the blue agave plant which grows primarily in the area surrounding the Mexican city of Tequila located in the highlands (Los Altos) of the western state of Jalisco. Tequila is most often made at a 38–40% alcohol content (76–80 proof). Mexican laws state that tequila can be produced only in the state of Jalisco and limited regions in the states of Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit and Tumaulipas. Mexico has claimed the exclusive international right to the word "tequila" and threatens legal action against manufacturers in other countries.

13. A stent is an artificial 'tube' inserted into a natural passage or conduit in the human body. The function of a stent is to prevent or counteract a localized flow constriction caused by constriction or disease, or to allow a surgery to be performed.

14. Humans have inhabited Marseille and its environs for almost 30,000 years, but the modern city of Marseille, the oldest city in France, was founded by the Ancient Greeks as a outpost and trading port in 600BC. The original Greek name of the Mediterranean port city was Massalia. Today, Marseille is the second largest city in France with a population of 852,395.

15. It is a little known spontaneous heroic effort in New York City after the attack on 9/11. A flotilla of large boats and small rescued 500,000 persons off the Island of Manhattan in 9 hours. It was the largest sea evacuation in history, even bigger than the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II in which 350,000 persons were evacuated during a 14 day period.

(If you want to see a brief video narrated by Tom Hanks concerning the event, it is at: )

16. The Potato Eaters ( in Dutch: De Aardappeleters) is a painting by the Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh. He painted it in April 1885 while in Nuenen, Netherlands. Van Gogh stated that he wanted to depict peasants as they really were. So, he deliberately chose coarse and ugly models, thinking that they would be natural and unspoiled. The painting is in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.

17. A pumpkin is a type of squash and is native to North America. Pumpkins typically have a thick orange or yellow shell creased from the stem to the bottom. Technically, it is of the genus Cucurbita and the family Cucurbitaceae which also includes gourds.

18. A bog is a wetland that accumulates acidic peat, a deposit of dead plants material. Bogs occur where the water at the ground surface is acidic. Water flowing out of bogs has a characteristic brown color because of the plant matter it contains. Bogs are extremely sensitive habitats and of importance for biodiversity.

19. Walter Diemer (1904-1998) invented bubble gum in 1928. Diemer worked as an accountant for the Fleer Chewing Gum Company in Philadelphia and in his spare time experimented with new gum recipes. He accidently created a batch of gum that was less sticky than regular chewing gum and had the ability to stretched more easily. Fleer marketed Diemer's creation under the name Double Bubble and Diemer himself taught Fleer salesmen how to blow bubbles using his creation. Diemer's bubble gum was so successful that it sold over a million and a half dollars worth of gum in the first year. Walter Diemer never patented his invention so he never received royalties for his invention. His wife said that he didn't seem to mind and that knowing what he'd created was reward enough for him.

20. The poem, Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me,was written by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). It is a lyric poem and was first published posthumously in Poems: Series 1 in 1890. The poem is about death. Dickinson personifies Death as a gentleman caller who takes a leisurely carriage ride with the poet to her grave. The poem is printed below:

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Republican Presidential Candidates: What Fools These Mortals Be

Many people are working very hard at not being surprised at anything people say during a political campaign. But, the rhetoric by Republican Presidential candidates and the crowds they attract has bordered on outrageous. It seems that long ago we crossed what I always took to be the barrier between the reasonable and absurdly preposterous. It probably all started with the faulty idea that every dumb notion should be reported, its presence be made known, and considered as a possible truth. Also, the fact that many of these idiocies go unchallenged encourages more of the same, lowers the level of political discourse and ultimately permits ignorance to be equated with genuine intelligence .


Take for example, a CNN report that Texas Governor Rick Perry's wife, Anita, maintaining with a straight face that her son had been wronged by President Obama. In South Carolina, Rick Perry's wife Anita said that she could sympathize with the plight of the unemployed because her son was forced to resign his job at Deutsche Bank to take a more active role on his father's presidential campaign. Anita Perry blamed the Obama administration for her son having to resign his position. "My son had to resign his job because of federal regulations that Washington has put on us," Mrs. Perry said while campaigning for her husband in South Carolina, after a voter shared the story of losing his job. "He resigned his job two weeks ago because he can't go out and campaign with his father because of SEC regulations," she continued, referring to the Securities and Exchange Commission. "He has a wife... He's trying to start a business. So I can empathize." She added a few minutes later, "My son lost his job because of this administration." What makes it worse that there was no challenge or outrage at Anita Perry absurd allegation.

It no longer makes a difference if preposterous or crazy statements that have no basis in reality are uttered. The media is now required to report unchallenged, and by doing so, validate it.


In the race to the bottom is Herman Cain. Somewhere in the density of his so-called brain, he has to understand that he has no chance of becoming President or dividing the solidly Democratic vote of the African-American community which he claims that he can do. Cain has proved to be arrogant, dismissive and profoundly ignorant. Nevertheless, the anti-Obama Republican is a crowd-pleaser to the mostly white crowds when he displays his ignorance.

Herman Cain wrote last December in a RedState column titled "The Perfect Conservative" that Jesus was killed by a "liberal court". The column claimed Jesus was a conservative because "he helped the poor without one government program. He healed the sick without a government health care system. He fed the hungry without food stamps," wrote Cain. "For three years He was unemployed, and never collected an unemployment check." Cain then describes Jesus' death saying, "But they made Him walk when He was arrested and taken to jail, and no, He was not read any Miranda Rights. He was arrested for just being who He was and doing nothing wrong. And when they tried Him in court, He never said a mumbling word. He didn’t have a lawyer, nor did He care about who judged Him. His judge was a higher power.The liberal court found Him guilty of false offences and sentenced Him to death, all because He changed the hearts and minds of men with an army of 12.

Wrong! Jesus was anti-establishment and a reformer who wanted to change social custom and the law - the classic definition of a liberal. The maintainers of the status quo (conservatives) were the Roman authorities and the High Priests. Furthermore, Cain who approves of the death penalty conveniently side-step the issue that Jesus was falsely accused and convicted. As such, Jesus become a prime example of the injustice of the use of the death penalty.


In another Herman Cain display of ignorance, during a CNN debate, Cain recently criticized the Occupy Wall Street protesters, saying, " Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself." The audience then broke into loud cheers. "I still stand by my statement," he added."They might be frustrated with Wall Street and the bankers, but they're directing their anger at the wrong place," he added. "Wall Street didn't put in failed economic policies. Wall Street didn't spend a trillion dollars that didn't do any good. Wall Street isn't going around the country trying to sell another $450 billion. They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration."

Wrong! First of all, there is about 9% unemployment, and when factoring in those who have given up finding a job or those who are under-employed, the percent doubles. Secondly, years of de-regulation, lack of financial oversight, unscrupulous banking and corporate actions, the shipping of jobs overseas, and the failed economic policies by the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress brought about the economic collapse. There simply are no jobs! Nevertheless, the crowd roared their approval of Cain's remarks.

In a rare challenge to the misinformation and to his credit, in response, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas criticized Cain for blaming the people who have been hurt by the financial crisis through no fault of their own. "I think Mr. Cain has blamed the victims," he said. "There's a lot of people that are victims of this business cycle. We can't blame the victims. But we also have to point -- I'd go to Washington as well as Wall Street, but I'd go over to the Federal Reserve. They create the financial bubbles." Most the media did not report Ron Paul's comments.


Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, who once equated being gay with bestiality was asked by a gay serviceman in a Republican Presidential candidate's debate about the repeal of the military's policy that said that gay and lesbian service-people could not serve openly in the military. “In 2010, when I was deployed to Iraq, I had to lie about who I was, because I’m a gay soldier, and I didn’t want to lose my job,” said Stephen Hill, whose image was projected on a large TV screen in the debate hall. After he identified himself as gay, the audience booed him. “My question is, under one of your presidencies, do you intend to circumvent the progress that’s been made for gay and lesbian soldiers in the military? Santorum launched into an impassioned defense of re-instating the anti-gay policy. “I would say, any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military,” he said. “And the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege… and removing (the policy) I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military’s job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.” Applause grew in the audience as Santorum added, “We need to give the military, which is all-volunteer, the ability to do so in a way that is most efficient at protecting our men and women in uniform. And I believe this undermines that ability.” The crowd in Orlando cheered wildly at Santorum’s answer.

Wrong! Not one Presidential candidate did the right a decent thing to do under the circumstances- to remind the audience that the serviceman is placing his life on the line to defend American lives and liberties and that booing him for his sexuality is both unconscionable and uncalled for.

Santorum was asked about the boos the next day on Fox News. He said he did not hear the boos in the debate hall and said if he had heard the boos, he would have “said don’t do that; this man is serving our country.” Funny, everyone else heard the boos!


Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said on a radio show that the GOP's strategy for reducing "the Democratic advantage" should be to marry off all the single mothers who "look to the government for help. Look at the political base of the Democratic Party: It is single mothers who run a household," he told Tony Perkins, president of the Christian conservative think tank Family Research Council. "Why? Because it’s so tough economically that they look to the government for help and therefore they’re going to vote. So if you want to reduce the Democratic advantage, what you want to do is build two parent families, you eliminate that desire for government."

Wrong! The main problem Santorum would face in efforts to reduce the number of single mothers in the country is that he opposes all forms of family planning, abortion and sex education efforts. The former Pennsylvania senator supports a federal abortion ban, even in cases of rape and incest. He voted down funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs, supported the Title V "abstinence-only" program that forbids the discussion of contraception, and opposes insurance coverage of birth control and abortions for low-income women.

Santorum also voted for measures that would increase the financial burden on single mothers, thereby making them more dependent on government services. He supported the "family cap" in 1995 that forbid states to give mothers on welfare more financial assistance after the birth of a child, and he voted against the Family and Medical Leave Act which would have ensured 12 weeks of unpaid leave for women to care for their new babies.

However, Santorum continually insists that his hypothesis that one-person families are going to be the downfall of the economy, the Republican Party and of America.


At a debate in South Carolina sponsored by NBC, Governor Rick Perry was asked about the death penalty and 234 executions that have occurred in that state during his governorship. That is more than any other Governor in the history of the US. And, Perry has never commuted or reduced a sentence involving capital punishment. In response, the crowd applauded their approval of what Perry did. Perry, asked about their response, attributed the crowd’s reaction to its understanding of justice and support of capital punishment.

Wrong! Perry has been repeatedly presented with evidence that should have challenged his sweeping assertions that "the state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear (criminal justice) process in place" and he has repeatedly brushed challenges and pleas aside. When, in 2004, new advances in arson science seemed to prove that death row inmate Cameron Todd Willingham had not, in fact, murdered his three children via arson, Perry denied a stay of execution. And when the Texas Forensic Science Commission, after taking the unprecedented step of reexamining the case, seemed on the verge of posthumously exonerating Willingham, Perry took the also unprecedented step of replacing three members of the commission. In 2010 when Texas Monthly helped spring an innocent man, Anthony Graves, from death, Perry pointed to the case as proof that the system works. Which is true if your definition of a functioning criminal justice system is one in which courts wrongly sentence an innocent man to death and it is up to a journalist to prove the man innocent and to help secure his release.

NBC newsman, Brian Williams, asked Perry, "Have you struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?" Perry was unequivocal: "No sir, I've never struggled with that at all."


At a GOP debate in Florida sponsored by CNN, Texas congressman Ron Paul was asked a hypothetical question about a 30-year-old man who is uninsured but contracts cancer. Should that man be allowed to die? Crowd members cheered at the question and then started shouting "Let him die!". Paul said, “What he should do is whatever he wants to do and assume responsibility for himself,” adding, “That’s what freedom is all about, taking your own risk. This whole idea that you have to compare and take care of everybody…” Then Paul suggested churches and charities and not the government should step in to care for the hypothetical patient.

It is a personal issue for Paul, whose 2008 campaign manager was uninsured and died of cancer. Paul, a physician, helped raise money to cover his staffer’s medical bills, but he has rejected that his position against giving insurance to the uninsured is callous. It has to do with freedom, he told reports in Washington.

Wrong! It has to do with wealth. It is also always cruel and wrong to place personal and arbitrary personal ideology ahead the welfare of others on both religious and ethical grounds. What Paul is saying is that everyone has an equal opportunity to take charge of his or her life. That is simply not true. The wealthy (like Paul) understand how to manipulate the system to their personal advantage to create more wealth, to create power, and be able to manipulate the lives of others. It is the responsibility of this government to insure LIFE, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And, as to cash-strapped churches and charities stepping in to save lives instead of government, from where do they get the money?


During a Presidential debate in Las Vegas, the two Republican front-runners for the nomination for President, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, alternately proposed that Americans behind on their mortgages should be pushed out of their homes faster, and by defending an exotic tax reform proposal that closely resembles the one in the fantasy world video game, SimCity. "Don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom," Romney said when asked by the Las Vegas Review-Journal what he would do to jump-start the floundering housing market. "Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up." The administration, Romney said, "has slow-walked the foreclosure process ... that has long existed and as a result we still have a foreclosure overhang." (Last year, one out of nine Las Vegas homes received a foreclosure notice. And, Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto sued Bank of America in August, accusing it of foreclosing on homes without proper authority.)

Wrong! Good for the banks; not good for the people. No jobs; increasing homelessness. Welcome to The Great Depression of 2012!


If you tell a big lie enough and keep repeating it,

people will eventually believe it.

Joseph Goebbles

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Unholy Alliance

God, The Fundamentalists and The Republican Party

Freedom of religion is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or religious community to manifest religion or belief in practice, worship and observance. The concept is generally recognized also to include the freedom to change religions or not follow a religion at all. The freedom to leave or discontinue membership in a religion or religious group (in religious terms called apostasy) is also a fundamental part of religious freedom, covered by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.

The extreme right in the U.S. objects to membership in the United Nations.

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The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom written by Thomas Jefferson in 1779 says: "[N]o man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

Those sentiments also found expression in the First Amendment of The Constitution of The United Sates as part of The Bill of Rights which says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."

From its inception, the United States has been a polytheistic nation. In 1776, there were Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Deists, Native American religion adherents, those who practiced Voodoo, animalists, agnostics and atheists. Among the skeptics and Deists were many of the Founding Fathers including Jefferson, Franklin and Paine.

There is no religious requirement to be President of The United States. The only requirements are that a person must be 35 years of age or older, a natural born citizen of the United States and must have been a permanent resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years. Additionally, a candidate must not have served more than one previous term as president, not have been impeached by the Senate, and not have participated in a rebellion against the United States.

The religious right which has aligned itself with The Republican Party consistently and falsely inserts a religious qualification to be President. It also endorses Presidential candidates based on the candidate's religion and the candidate's religious prejudices, views and practices.

At what was billed as the Values Voters Summit during which front-running Republican Presidential candidates appeared, Christian extremist Bryan Fischer, the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, insisted that only a true Christian can serve in the White House. He also made a passionate case against the imposition of Sharia law in the United States, called homosexuality, among other things, a “threat to public health,” insisted that Muslims and Christians don’t worship the same God, called Mormonism "a cult", and argued that there had not been a major terrorist attack on American soil because crowds at Major League Baseball games often sing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. “Major League Baseball has converted our stadiums into cathedrals".

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Bryan Fischer is wrong on a number of counts.

· There are several definitions of a cult: 1.a system of religious beliefs and ritual, 2. a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious, 3.the object of such devotion c : a usually small group of people characterized by such devotion . According to definition no. 1, all religions are cults including The Southern Baptists of which Fischer is a member. According to no. 2, the notion of unorthodoxy and spuriousness is totally subjective. And, no religion that has 5.5 million adherents in the U.S. alone is not a cult.

· Muslims claim that they are the descendants of Abraham and Hagar's offspring Ishmael. As such, they worship the same God as Jews and Christians do, but use a different name.

· There is absolutely no threat of instituting Islamic Sharia Law in the U.S. It is a fear tactic used by the right wing and the Fundamentalists which perpetuates fear of Muslims in the U.S. and is an indirect insult aimed at the heritage of Barack Obama who is not a Muslim.

· Being gay is not a threat to public health. Smoking, excessive drinking, reckless driving, impure air and water, natural disasters, etc., are. And the Fundamentalists have aligned themselves with a party that wants to do away with The Environmental Protection Agency, The Center for Disease Control, auto emission standards, FEMA, etc.

· There has been no recent terrorist attack because of U.S. vigilance and intelligence efforts.

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The United States is not a Judeo-Christian nation. Yet, as late as 1991 in an election speech aimed at placating the religious right base of The Republican Party, Former Republican President George H. W. Bush said that it was.

The Fundamentalists still insist that it is. Many fundamentalists view Catholics as non-Christians and Mormons as a cult. Many of the religious right reserve the right to determine who is a Christian and who is not based solely on their prejudices and their own religious views.

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The Fundamentalists and the Republican Party use each other. The political party placates the religious right and fosters its intolerant social agenda in exchange to their money and votes. The Fundamentalists get recognition as a political force which is far in excess of their numbers. And, are moving the U.S. closer to being their vision of a semi-theocratic Judeo-Christian nation. It is a marriage made in hell.

To make matters worse, the Fundamentalists selectively use passages of Christ's message to push their message of their version of Christianity. Consider the following partial list:

· The Fundamentalists have aligned themselves with a political party which refuses to tax the rich and they remain silent on that issue. But Jesus said, I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Matthew 19:23-24) And, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6: 19-21)

· The Fundamentalists have aligned themselves with a political party that has cut back on children's medical care, education, services, etc. And, they remain silent on the issue. But Jesus said, And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. (Mark 9:42)

· The Fundamentalists make a big show of their religiosity praying in public, on the media, at prayer rallies, and in packed stadia. Often, these events are also political rallies. But Jesus said, But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:6)

· The Fundamentalists constantly judge other people, particularly if they are gay. However, Jesus said nothing about being gay. The taboo against homosexuality is in The Old Testament in the story of Onan. It is not a story about being gay. When Onan had sex with the female Tamar, he withdrew before climax and "spilled his seed (semen) on the ground" because any child of his born would not legally be considered his heir. This he did several times and was sentenced to death by Yahweh for this wickedness. (Genesis 38:8-10) However, the story of David and Jonathan is often interpreted as a gay relationship and God punished neither of them.

The Old Testament also condones surrogate motherhood (Sarah and Hagar), permits slavery, forbids the eating of pork, and requires circumcision- all of which the Fundamental literalists ignore.

But, Jesus did say, Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew

· The Fundamentalists have no problem with the death penalty citing The Old Testament saying, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But Jesus said, You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5 43-48)

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The idea that the motto of the United Sates should be In God We Trust is of recent origin. In God We Trust was adopted as the official motto in 1956 in response to "godless" Communism and McCarthyism. The phrase appears in the final seldom sung stanza of The Star Spangled Banner and has appeared on U.S. coins since 1864. The phrase is derived from The Bible. Several psalms contain it or derivations of it, Psalms 20,56 and 62. By selecting a phrase of The Bible, the U.S. has endorsed one religion over all others and has violated The First Amendment of The Constitution which says, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion….

The original Pledge of Allegiance did not have the words "under God" in it. On February 12, 1948, Chaplin Louis A. Bowman (1872–1959) led the Sons of The American Revolution in swearing the Pledge with two words added, "under God." He stated that the words came from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in spite of the fact that not all manuscript versions of the Address contained the words "under God". Responding to pressure from The Catholic Church and patriotic organizations at the height of McCarthyism, a Republican Congress passed legislation inserting the words "under God" in the Pledge and President Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican signed the bill into law on Flag Day, June 14, 1954. Many objections have been raised since the addition of the phrase "under God" to the Pledge in 1954. Critics contend that a government requiring or promoting this phrase violates protections against the establishment of religion guaranteed in The First Amendment. On November 12, 2010, in a unanimous decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston affirmed a ruling by a New Hampshire lower federal court which found that the pledge's reference to God doesn't violate students' rights because no child is forced to say the Pledge.

Legal challenges in the 1950s were brought by the Jehovah Witnesses, a religion whose beliefs forbid swearing loyalty to any power other than God and who objected to policies in public schools requiring students to swear an oath to the flag. They are exempt from saying the Pledge and from military service. Controversy surrounding various beliefs, doctrines and practices of Jehovah's Witnesses has led to opposition from local governments, communities, and other religious groups. Eisenhower was one of Jehovah Witnesses. He changed religions and became a baptized Presbyterian the same year (1953) that he was nominated by the Republicans for President.

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Make no mistake about it, The Catholic Church is a right-wing religion and often makes common cause with The Fundamentalists. There have been numerous instances of Bishops directing parish priests to instruct congregations under threat of ex-communication to vote for political candidates who are anti-abortion (code for voting Republican). Churches permit pro-Republican leaflets to be distributed just outside the doors of churches after Sunday mass. The Church threatens ex-communication for any Catholic politician who is in favor of a women's right to choose. The same thing applies to gay issues and gay marriage. Interestingly, when it comes to creating poverty, child neglect, violations of labor rights, wars of convenience ("unjust wars") and capital punishment, to all of which the Catholic hierarchy say their opposed but all of which are part of current Republican policies, there is no threat of excommunication.

It is no accident that the five most conservative Supreme Court justices are both Republicans and Catholics. For the first time in history, there is no Protestant on The Supreme Court. Catholics make up 23.9% of the American populations; Protestants make up 51.3%.

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Fundamentalists are the religious descendants of those who created the Salem Witch Trials. In fact, they still believe in witches and demonic possession. They are literalists who have no understanding of symbolism or metaphor. They either don't know, choose not to know, or do not care about science, the history of The Bible, knowledge of other religions, The Constitution, or individual liberties. They persist in the notion that the Earth is about 6000 years-old, there was a world-wide flood, and that the Sun stood still at the battle of Jericho. They have made common cause with right-wing Jews and Israelis because they believe that it will hasten Armageddon, the end of the world, and The Last Judgment. They blame natural disasters and terrorist attacks on the wickedness of the American people and the wrath of God. They perpetuate fear, ignorance and intolerance in the name of their own concept of The Creator. They are indeed The American Taliban. Unfortunately the Republican Party, the political right and the media have all embraced them and have granted them legitimacy. And, we are in for a rough ride until once again they are beaten back into dark hole that spawned them.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Knowledge Quiz, No. 22

I dislike the term trivia. No knowledge is trivial. All information contributes to the whole of an intelligent human being. And, it is an essential part of critical thinking. That is why I did not call this a Trivia Quiz. Instead, I am calling it a Knowledge Quiz.

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Knowledge Quiz, No. 22

The answers are at the bottom.

1. Who holds the world's record for hours in front of a television camera?

2. Who founded The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints (Mormon) religion?

3. What is the new name of the nation formerly known as Burma?

4. What causes cholera?

5. Why was The Eiffel Tower built?

6. Upon what play was the musical Carousel based?

7. What is a samovar?

8. What do koalas eat?

9. Where did the Word War II Battle of the Bulge take place?

10. Who created the Peanuts comic strip?

11. Who was Medusa?

12. Who painted the painting called The Raft of The Medusa?

13. What was the first battle fought between iron-clad ships?

14. What is a muckraker?

15. What was The Marshall Plan?

16. What were Jesus' last words on the cross before he died?

17. What is a tel (as in the name of the city, Tel Aviv)?

18. What is a diphthong?

19. Who wrote The Stranger?

20. How many major active volcanoes are there in Italy?

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1. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the person with most hours in front of a television camera is US television host, Regis Philbin. He has logged over 16,000 hours on American TV airwaves. After 28 years as the co-host of a popular morning talk show and a number of other shows, the 80-year-old has announced that he will stop most of his television activities for health reasons.

2. Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805-1844) was an American religious leader and the founder of the Latter Day Saints movement. Smith was a city planner, military leader, polygamist, theocrat, and political activist. Beginning in the early 1820s, Smith said he saw visions in some of which he said an angel (Mormoni) directed him to a buried book of golden plates which were inscribed with a history of ancient Christian American-Indian civilizations. In 1830, he published as The Book or Mormon which he claimed was the English translation of these plates. He then organized branches of a church which he founded. In early 1844, he announced his candidacy for President of the United States. That summer Smith was criticized in print by disaffected Smith followers who opposed Smith's polygamy. Violent conflict followed and Smith surrendered to the governor of Illinois where Smith lived at the time. The governor promised that Smith would be safe but Smith was murdered. Joseph Smith is regarded by his followers as a prophet of God.

3. The new name of Burma is Myanmar. Officially, it is known as the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. The name change was mandated in 1989 by a military junta that took over the country in 1962. The renaming remains a controversial and contested issue. The name Burma is derived from the Burmese word "Bamar" which is the colloquial form of the word, Myanmar.

4. Cholera is an infection of the small intestine. It is caused by the bacteria known as Vibro cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily through drinking water or food is contaminated by the diarrhea from an infected person or by the feces of an infected but asymptomatic person. Antibiotics are beneficial in those with severe disease. Worldwide cholera affects between 3 and 5 million people a year and causes up to 130,000 deaths a year.

5. The Eiffel Tower (in French: La Tour Eiffel; nickname: La dame de fer, the iron lady) was built in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 Exposition Universalle, a World's Fair in honor of the centennial of the French Revolution.. The tower is the tallest building in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world. It is named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel. Three hundred workers joined together 18,038 pieces of iron two and a half million rivets. The tower has become a symbol of both Paris and France.

6. The Richard Roger (1902-1979) and Oscar Hammerstein II (1895-1960) musical, Carousel, was based on the Ferenc Molnár (1878-1952) play, Liliom, written in 1909. the story's local was changed from Budapest to the coastline of Maine. Carousel opened on Broadway in 1945 and was both a critic and audience hit. It ran for 890 performances and has been revived many times. Richard Rogers called Carousel his favorite of all of his musicals and Time magazine called Carousel the best musical of the 20th Century.

7. A samovar is a heated metal container used to heat and boil water . The word samovar is Russian and literally means self-boiler. Although associated with Russia, samovars are used in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, in the Middle East and in Kashmir (India). Because the heated water is commonly used for making tea, most traditional samovars have an attachment on the tops of their lids to hold and heat a teapot. Though antique and ornate traditional samovars heated with coal, many newer samovars use electricity.

8. The koala which is native to Australia lives almost entirely on eucalyptus leaves.

9. The Battle of the Bulge took place the Ardennes during1944-1945. The Ardennes is a region of extensive forests, rolling hills and ridges formed within Ardennes mountain range. It is primarily in Belgium and Luxembourg, but a small portion of it extends into France. Most of the fighting took place in Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge was the largest and bloodiest battle that fought in World War II in Europe between the Allis and Germany.

10. Peanuts is an American Comic strip created, written and illustrated by Charles Monroe "Sparky" Schulz (1922-2000). The strip ran in newspapers from 1950 into early 2000. Peanuts was one of the most popular and influential in comic strip history. At its peak, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages.

Two days before Schulz died, Congressman Mike Thompson introduced a bill to award Schulz the Congressional Gold Metal, the highest civilian honor the United States legislature can bestow. The bill passed the House (with 24 Congressmen not voting only one voting no, Ron Paul) And, the bill was sent to the Senate where it passed unanimously on May 2, 2000 President Bill Clinton signed the bill into law on June 20, 2000. On June 7, 2001, Schulz's widow Jean accepted the award at a public ceremony on behalf of her late husband.

11. According to Greek mythology, Medusa (which means "guardian" in Greek) was a Gorgon, a monster from beneath the earth. Medusa was a frightening creature with snakes writhing on the top of her head in place of hair. Gazing directly upon Medusa would turn onlooker to stone. She was beheaded by the hero Perseus who used her head as a weapon until he gave it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield.

12. The painting The Raft of the Medusa (French: Le Radeau de la Méduse) is an oil painting done in 1818–1819 by the French painter and Theodore Gericault (1791–1824). The large painting depicts a moment in the aftermath of the wreck of the French naval frigate Medusa. The vessel which ran aground off the coast of modern Mauritania on July 5, 1816. At least 147 people were set adrift on a hurriedly constructed raft and all but 15 died in the 13 days before the rescue. Those who survived endured dehydration, starvation, cannibalism and madness. The event became an international sensation. The dramatic painting is in The Louvre in Paris.

13. The American Civil War Battle of Hampton Roads, Virginia, often referred to as the Battle of the Monitor and Merrimack was the first combat encounter between 2 iron-clad warships. It was fought over two days, March 8–9, 1862. It resulted in a draw because neither vessel won. The battle received worldwide attention and it had an immediate effects on navies around the world. However, the first iron-clad warship, La Gloire, was created by the French in 1860. Great Britain followed with HMS Warrior in 1861.

14. The word muckraker is used in connection with reform-minded and investigative journalists who wrote for magazines and newspapers. They emerged in the U.S. around 1900 and continued to be influential until World War I. Since then, the term is used for either a journalist who writes as a watchdog on vital issues or takes an adversarial or an alternative position on contemporary issues. The purpose of those positions is to advocate reform and change. The term muckraker is a reference to a character in allegorical book by John Bunyan (1628-1688) Pilgrim's Progress (1678) and to "the Man with the Muck-rake" who rejected salvation to focus on filth. The term became popular after President Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) referred to the character in a 1906 speech.

15. The Marshall Plan (officially known as The European Recovery Program, or ERP) was an American program to aid European recovery after its devastation during World War II. The U.S contributed monetary support to help rebuild European economies in order to combat the spread of Soviet-style communism. The plan was in operation between1948 and 1952 and was extremely successful. The initiative was named after Secretary of State, George Marshall (1880-1959).

16. Jesus' last words on the cross before he died were, Father, into your hands I commit my spirit. (Luke 23:46)

17. Tel (or tell) is a term applied to a city mound. When a ancient city began to fall down, its residents knocked down the walls and build on top of the rubble. Over time the level on which the city is built rises on this mound. That mound is then called a tel. Any city's name that starts with the word tel has been built on at least one pre-existing city. In addition, some tels are abandoned and destroyed ancient cities that are mounds that time has covered over with earth and/or sand.

18. A diphthong (from a Greek word literally meaning "two sounds" or "two tones") is two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. It is also known as a gliding vowel. Diphthongs often form when separate vowels are run together in rapid speech during a conversation. Examples of diphthongs in English are the words, cow, hay, eye, and boy.

19. The classic Existential novel, The Stranger (in French, L’Étranger), was written by Albert Camus (1913-1960). It was published in French in 1943. The novel's content explores various philosophies including absurdism, determinism, nihilism and stoicism. The story also examines the topics of colonialism, free will, the importance of the physical world, and the meaninglessness of life.

20. There are 3 major active volcanoes in Italy. They are Mount Vesuvius, Mount Etna, and Mount Stromboli. Vesuvius last erupted in 1944; Etna last erupted from 1991 to 1993; and Stromboli last erupted in 2003.

Monday, October 3, 2011

News You May Have Missed, No. 25

1. A female employee at a federal building in Washington, D.C., was rushed to the hospital after suffering serious injuries from sitting on an exploding toilet. The plumbing malfunction took place at the General Services Administration (GSA) Building in Washington, D.C. After the incident, an internal memo distributed to the building, which warned workers against using the facilities was leaked to the public. It said, "DO NOT flush toilets or use any domestic water. Due to a mechanical failure, there is high air pressure in the domestic water system that resulted in damage to toilets. The engineering staff is working to correct the issue. There has been damage to flushed toilets that has resulted in injuries. We will announce when the issue is resolved." The exploding toilet was not the work of a practical joker. Water flowing through a city's pipe systems is sent at a higher pressure because it often travels long distances. This water needs to be slowed down once it reaches its destination, so a malfunction in the pressure-reducing valve can lead to some messy results. "The closer you are to the source pump, the higher the pressure will be," said Larry Rothman, Roto-Rooter's director of plumbing. Chuck White, Vice President of Technical and Code Services for the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association said that while he's never seen an exploding toilet himself, it is something you read about in the plumbing textbooks."If you're not careful about how you release pressure, the contents of that bowl will come up like old faithful," White said. "Plus, you would have the surprise factors." The injuries to the woman whose name has not been released are not considered life threatening.

2. Women who drink two or more cups of coffee a day are less likely to get depressed, research suggests. It is not clear why it might have this effect, but the authors believe caffeine in coffee may alter the brain's chemistry. Decaffeinated coffee did not have the same effect. The findings which were published in Archives of Internal Medicine come from a study of more than 50,000 US female nurses. The experts are now recommending more work to better understand the link. They also say it is certainly too soon to start recommending that women should drink more coffee to boost mood. The Harvard Medical School team tracked the health of the women over a decade from 1996 to 2006 and relied on questionnaires to record their coffee consumption. Just over 2,600 of the women developed depression over this time period. More of these women tended to be non- or low-coffee drinkers rather than frequent coffee consumers. Compared with women who drank one cup of caffeinated coffee or less per week, those who consumed two to three cups per day had a 15% decreased risk of developing depression. Those who drank four or more cups a day cut their risk by 20%. But, regular coffee drinkers were more likely to smoke and drink alcohol and were less likely to be involved in church, volunteer or community groups. They were also less likely to be overweight and have high blood pressure or diabetes. Even after controlling for all of these variables, the trend of increasing coffee consumption and lower depression remained. The researchers say their findings add weight to the work of others which found lower suicide rates among coffee drinkers. They suspect caffeine is the key player - it is known to enhance feelings of wellbeing and energy.

3. A new study by UCLA life scientists found that the oxytocin receptor gene (OXTR) is a strong predictor of optimism and self-esteem. It appears that if a person is missing certain nucleotides at a specific location on that gene, you're much more likely to see the glass as half full. If you have them, the researchers say that you are likely to have "substantially lower levels of optimism, self-esteem and mastery, and significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms" than your more fortunate brethren. The survey has been hailed as a breakthrough, but its basic message that humans are born with a tendency toward a "happiness quotient" comes as no great surprise. The "happy gene" is a popular concept and there is a substantial amount of data which leads to the conclusion that about half of our sense of well-being is inherited. Other scientists claim that a different gene (5-HTTLPR) regulates the neurotransmitter serotonin, also known as the "happy hormone."

4. The cuddly, cute, laid-back koala male make a loud, grumbling bellow. Now scientists have discovered the anatomy behind the strange sound that males make during mating season. Male koalas have very long vocal tracts, structures in their throats that produce the sounds. Their vocal tract anatomy is so unusually specialized that they are able to make sounds that make them sound far larger than they are larger. A study reported in the Journal of Experimental Biology used medical imaging to reveal that a male koala's voice box, or larynx, sits very low in its throat. This "descended larynx" was thought to be a uniquely human feature, something which allows humans to make the sounds needed for human speech. In 2001, scientists found that red deer also had a descended larynx. Its discovery in koalas now supports the theory that it evolved in even more branches of the evolutionary tree, probably to allow males to distinguish themselves vocally from females. The researchers studied the koalas at a sanctuary called Lone Pine in Queensland, Australia.

5. An ATM that dispenses gold instead of cash is the latest gadget for investors in China. China's first gold ATM will start operating during the Chinese National Day holidays, and will dispense blocks of gold in different sizes. "After the outbreak of the financial crisis, everybody in China became very enthusiastic to purchase and invest in gold," Zheng Ruixiang of the Gongmei Group told Reuters. The company plans to operate 2,000 gold ATMs across the country. Similar machines have been introduced in Europe, the United Arab Emirates and Las Vegas in the USA.

6. An openly gay U.S. Congressman is now the first Representative to be an a gay parent. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) is a proud father of a newborn baby. Polis and his partner, Marlon Reis, sent out an announcement about the arrival of their son, Caspian Julius, who is 8 pounds, 12 ounces. "Baby and parents are doing well, baby has learned to cry already! No gifts please, just nice thoughts for Caspian, humankind, the planet, and the universe!" read the announcement. Polis and Reis have declined to comment on whether it was a surrogate pregnancy or an adoption. Polis is a co-sponsor of the Every Child Deserves A Family Act which would "ban discrimination in adoption or foster care placement based on the sexual orientation, marital status or gender identity of the potential parent, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of the child". According to the Family Equality Council, there are 1 million LGBT parents raising 2 million children in the U.S.

7. A ban on some foreign tourists in the cannabis-selling coffee shops of the Dutch border city of Maastricht has been instituted. However, the ban does not apply to visitors from Germany and Belgium who are the majority of foreign customers. Critics of the policy say the ban contravenes EU policies of equality and the freedom of movement. City authorities say the influx of tourists buying soft drugs is threatening public order and causing major traffic problems. But, coffee shop owners say the ban won't work and will hurt the local economy. The move comes ahead of a proposed nationwide crackdown currently being discussed in the Dutch parliament. There are about 700 coffee shops in the Netherlands. The cultivation and sale of soft drugs in them is still illegal but has been decriminalized. An estimated 6,000 people visit Maastricht's coffee shops every day and most are making a quick trip across the nearby borders of both Belgium and Germany. Hi-tech security scanners have been set up to check passports and ID cards, and police will carry out random checks. The European Court of Justice ruled last December that Dutch authorities could bar foreigners from cannabis-selling coffee shops because they were combating drug tourism.

9. Sex outside marriage and sex that occurs under out-of-the-norm circumstances may increase the risk of penile fractures, said study researcher said Dr. Andrew Kramer, a urologist at the University of Maryland Medical Center. The researchers said that the heightened risk appears to be due to the unconventional situations and the nature of the sexual acts. Men in the study who had suffered penis fractures commonly were having sex in unusual settings, including in restrooms or at work, when the injury occurred. The majority were having extramarital affairs. In such atypical situations, sex may be rushed and involve unusual or awkward sexual positions, Kramer said. "All these factors could make the man less able to protect his penis from an unexpected sudden downward thrust leading to the fracture," Kramer said.
A penile facture, or "broken penis" is an injury that occurs to the erect penis. There are no bones in the penis. The "fracture" refers to tearing or laceration of a fibrous membrane called the tunica albuginea, which surrounds the spongy tissue in the center of the penis. A "fracture" is followed by hemorrhaging, swelling and loss of erection. While previous research has focused on the physiological mechanism of the facture, and how to surgically treat it, no study has looked at exactly what men were doing when they broke their penises. Kramer's study aimed to fill this gap. Kramer studied 16 cases of penile fractures treated at the University of Maryland Hospital between 2004 and 2011. While penile factures are rare occurrences, they may be underreported due to the potentially embarrassing circumstances surrounding the injury, Kramer said. He reported his findings in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

10. California's governor has signed a bill that that will prevent local governments from banning male circumcision. Governor Jerry Brown's office announced Sunday that the Democrat signed AB768, a bill written in response to a ballot measure proposed in San Francisco. Backers of a ban collected more than 7,700 signatures to put a measure on the November ballot in San Francisco to outlaw the circumcision of most male children. It was later blocked by a judge. They had argued that circumcision is an unnecessary surgery that can lead to sexual and health problems later in life. Those against the ban say it is an important religious practice for many Jews and Muslims, that it can reduce the risk of cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, that is an accepted medical procedure, and that it infringes on the rights of parents to provide what they think is the best medical care possible for their children.