Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Scientists Say Climate Change is Already Here

If you think of climate change as a hazard for some far-off polar bears years from now, you're mistaken. That's the message from top climate scientists gathering in Japan this week to assess the impact of global warming.
In fact, they will say, the dangers of a warming Earth are immediate and very human.
The polar bear is us, says Patricia Romero Lankao of the federally financed National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, USA, referring to the first species to be listed as threatened by global warming due to melting sea ice.
She will be among the more than 60 scientists in Japan to finish writing a massive and authoritative report on the impacts of global warming. With representatives from about 100 governments at this week's meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they'll wrap up a summary that tells world leaders how bad the problem is.
The key message from leaked drafts and interviews with the authors and other scientists: The big risks and overall effects of global warming are far more immediate and local than scientists once thought. It's not just about melting ice, threatened animals and plants. It's about the human problems of hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war, becoming worse.
The report says scientists have already observed many changes from warming, such as an increase in heat waves in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Severe floods, such as the one that displaced 90,000 people in Mozambique in 2008, are now more common in Africa and Australia. Europe and North America are getting more intense downpours that can be damaging. Melting ice in the Arctic is not only affecting the polar bear, but already changing the culture and livelihoods of indigenous people in northern Canada.
Past panel reports have been ignored because global warming's effects seemed too distant in time and location, says Pennsylvania State University scientist Michael Mann. This report finds It's not far-off in the future and it's not exotic creatures. it's us and now, says Mann, who didn't work on this latest report.
The United Nations established the climate change panel in 1988 and its work is done by three groups. One looks at the science behind global warming. The group meeting in Japan beginning Tuesday studies its impacts. And a third looks at ways to slow warming.
Its reports have reiterated what nearly every major scientific organization has said: The burning of coal, oil and gas is producing an increasing amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. Those gases change Earth's climate, bringing warmer temperatures and more extreme weather, and the problem is worsening. The panel won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, months after it issued its last report.
Since then, the impact group has been reviewing the latest research and writing 30 chapters on warming's effects and regional impacts. Those chapters haven't been officially released but were posted on a website. The key message can be summed up in one word that the overall report uses more than 5,000 times: risk. Climate change really is a challenge in managing risks, says the report's chief author, Chris Field of the Carnegie Institution of Science in California. "It's very clear that we are not prepared for the kind of events we're seeing."
Already the effects of global warming are "widespread and consequential," says one part of the larger report, noting that science has compiled more evidence and done much more research since the last report in 2007.
If climate change continues, the panel's larger report predicts these harms:
·         Violence: For the first time, the panel is emphasizing the nuanced link between conflict and warming temperatures. Participating scientists say warming won't cause wars, but it will add a destabilizing factor that will make existing threats worse.
·         Food: Global food prices will rise up to 84 percent by 2050 because of warmer temperatures and changes in rain patterns. Hotspots of hunger may emerge in cities.
·         Water: About one-third of the world's population will see groundwater supplies drop by more than 10 percent by 2080, when compared with 1980 levels. For every degree of warming, more of the world will have significantly less water available.
·         Health: Major increases in health problems are likely, with more illnesses and injury from heat waves and fires and more food and water-borne diseases. But the report also notes that warming's effects on health is relatively small compared with other problems, like poverty.
·         Wealth: Many of the poor will get poorer. Economic growth and poverty reduction will slow down. If temperatures rise high enough, the world's overall income may start to go down, by as much as 2 percent, but that's difficult to forecast.
According to the report, risks from warming-related extreme weather, now at a moderate level, are likely to get worse with just a bit more warming. While it doesn't say climate change caused the events, the report cites droughts in northern Mexico and the south-central United States, and hurricanes such as 2012's Sandy, as illustrations of how vulnerable people are to weather extremes. It does say the deadly European heat wave in 2003 was made more likely because of global warming.
Texas Tech University climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who was not part of this report team, says the important nuance is how climate change interacts with other human problems: It's interacting and exacerbating problems we already have today.
University of Colorado science policy professor Roger Pielke Jr., a past critic of the panel's impact reports, said after reading the draft summary, it's a lot of important work ... They made vast improvements to the quality of their assessments.
Another critic, University of Alabama Huntsville professor John Christy, accepts man-made global warming but thinks its risks are overblown when compared with something like poverty. Climate change is not among the developing world's main problems, he says.
But other scientists say Christy is misguided. Earlier this month, the world's largest scientific organization, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, published a new fact sheet on global warming.
It said: Climate change is already happening. More heat waves, greater sea level rise and other changes with consequences for human health, natural ecosystems and agriculture are already occurring in the United States and worldwide. These problems are very likely to become worse over the next 10 to 20 years and beyond.
Texas Tech's Hayhoe says scientists in the past may have created the impression that the main reason to care about climate change was its impact on the environment.
We care about it because it's going to affect nearly every aspect of human life on this planet, she says.
An overwhelming majority of scientists agree that global warming is happening and human activity is the cause. Yet several prominent global warming skeptic organizations are actively working to sow doubt about the facts of global warming.
These organizations play a key role in the fossil fuel industry's disinformation playbook, a strategy designed to confuse the public about global warming and delay action on climate change. That is because the fossil fuel industry wants to sell more coal, oil, and gas even though the science clearly shows that the resulting carbon emissions threaten our planet.
Here's a quick primer on several prominent global warming skeptic organizations, including examples of their disinformation efforts and funding sources from the fossil fuel industry. Many have received large donations from foundations established, and supported, by the fossil fuel billionaire Koch brothers who funnel millions of dollars to the US Republican Party..
American Enterprise Institute
The conservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has routinely tried to undermine the credibility of climate science, despite at times affirming that the “weight of the evidence” justifies “prudent action” on climate change. AEI has aligned itself with the Republican Party
For years, AEI played a role in propagating misinformation about a manufactured controversy over emails stolen from climate scientists, with one AEI research fellow even claiming, t here was no consensus about the extent and causes of global warming. A resident scholar at AEI went so far as to state that the profession of climate scientist threatens to overtake all on the list of most distrusted occupations.    
AEI received $3,615,000 from ExxonMobil from 1998-2012, and more than $1 million in funding from Koch foundations from 2004-2011.

Americans for Prosperity

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) frequently provides a platform for climate contrarian statements, such as How much information refutes carbon dioxide-caused global warming? Let me count the ways.

While claiming to be a grassroots organization, AFP has bolstered its list of “activists” by hosting “$1.84 Gas” events, where consumers who receive discounts on gasoline are asked to provide their name and email address on a “petition” form.

These events are billed as raising awareness about “failing energy policies” and high gasoline prices, but consumers are not told about AFP’s ties to oil interests, namely Koch Industries.
AFP has its origins in a group founded in 1984 by fossil fuel billionaires Charles and David Koch, and the latter Koch still serves on AFP Foundation’s board of directors. Richard Fink, executive vice president of Koch Industries, also serves as a director for both AFP and AFP Foundation.

Koch foundations donated $3,609,281 to AFP Foundation from 2007-2011.

American Legislative Exchange Council

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) maintains that global climate change is inevitable and since the 1990s has pushed various forms of model legislation aimed at obstructing policies intended to reduce global warming emissions.

ALEC purports to support the use of sound science to guide policy, but routinely provides a one-sided platform for climate contrarians. State legislators attending one ALEC meeting were offered a workshop touting a report by a fossil fuel-funded group that declared like love, carbon dioxide's many splendors are seemingly endless. Another ALEC meeting featured a Fox News contributor who has claimed on the air that carbon dioxide literally cannot cause global warming.

ALEC received more than $1.6 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2012, and more than $850,000 from Koch foundations from 1997-2011. ALEC is a contributor to both the Republican Party and Fox News. Fox News is the Republican Party mouthpiece.

Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University

From its position as the research arm of the Department of Economics at Suffolk University, the Beacon Hill Institute (BHI) has published misleading analyses of clean energy and climate change policies in more than three dozen states. 

These economic analyses are at times accompanied by a dose of climate contrarianism. For example, BHI Director David Tuerck has claimed that the very question of whether the climate is warming is in doubt… Claims such as wind power actually increases pollution can be found in many of BHI’s reports.

BHI has publicly acknowledged its Koch funding, which likely includes at least some of the approximately $725,000 the Charles G. Koch foundation contributed to Suffolk University from 2008-2011.

Other organization with similar negative views about climate change who are heavily tied to both the Koch brothers and/or Exxon Mobil and to the Republican Party are:
Cato Institute
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Heartland Institute
Heritage Foundation
Institute for Energy Research
Manhattan Institute for Policy Research

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Important American Women Neglected by History

Vera Rubin
Pioneering astronomer Vera Rubin graduated from Vassar in 1948 as the only astronomy major in her class. She was rejected by Princeton’s graduate school, which didn’t allow women into the program, and eventually received a master’s from Cornell in 1950 and a Ph.D. from Georgetown in 1954. She went on to discover dark matter, one of the most important milestones in the history of understanding space, by proving beyond doubt that galaxies spin faster than Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation dictates they should. For years, Rubin’s observation failed to receive support, as many of her male colleagues discredited it and felt her discoveries were impossible. Since though, her colleagues began to recognize her work, but only because her male colleagues validated it. Rubin has yet to receive a Nobel Prize for her work.
Ada Lovelace
Described as the world's first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace was an English mathematician and writer chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine. The daughter of Lord Byron, Lovelace referred to herself as a "poetical scientist." Her notes on the Analytical Engine are considered the first algorithm ever specifically tailored for implementation on a computer.
Rosalind Franklin
Rosalind Franklin was a biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer who played a key role in developing our modern understanding of the molecular structures of DNA, RNA, viruses, coal and graphite. Famed scientists Watson, Crick and Wilkins would go on to receive credit for discovering DNA's double helix structure even though Franklin's work was essential to the breakthrough. The three men earned the Nobel Prize for their discovery in 1962. Nobel Prizes aren’t awarded posthumously, and Franklin died in 1958 of ovarian cancer at the age of 37.
Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr was an actress who was a contract star of MGM's "Golden Age." She was also an inventor who, along with George Antheil, invented an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping, which is necessary for wireless communication from the pre-computer age to the present day. This work was honored in 1997, when the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr a belated award for her contributions.
Elizabeth Blackwell
Elizabeth Blackwell was a physician who was the first woman to become a medical doctor in the United States as well as the first woman on the UK Medical Register. She was the first openly identified woman to graduate from medical school and a pioneer in promoting the education of women in medicine in the United States. Blackwell viewed medicine as a means for social and moral reform.
Esther Lederberg
Esther Lederberg was a microbiologist and pioneer of bacterial genetics. Lederberg deserved credit for the discovery of lambda phage, her work on the F fertility factor, she never received credit for it because of sexism. Lederberg's work would grow to lay the groundwork for future discoveries on genetic inheritance in bacteria, gene regulation and genetic recombination.
Chien-Shiung Wu
Chien-Shiung Wu was recruited to Columbia University in the 1940s as part of the Manhattan Project. She conducted research on radiation detection and uranium enrichment and eventually overturned a law of parity. The physics milestone led to a 1957 Nobel Prize for Wu's partners, but not for Wu, who was left out despite her critical role. She became known as one of the best experimental physicists of her time
Nettie Stevens
By working on mealworms, Nettie Stevens was able to deduce that the males produced sperm with X and Y chromosomes and that females produced reproductive cells with only X chromosomes. This was evidence supporting the theory that sex determination is directed by an organism's genetics. Due to gender discrimination, Thomas Hunt Morgan, a prominent geneticist at the time, is often credited with discovering the genetic basis for sex determination.
Lise Meitner
Lise Meitner discovered that uranium atoms were split when bombarded with neutrons. The discovery eventually led to the atomic bomb. However, due to the situation within Nazi Germany as well as sexism, Meitner, a Jew and a woman, was left out of the nuclear fission published findings. In 1944, her lab partner Otto Hahn won the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his contributions in splitting the atom.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell
Jocelyn Bell Burnell made the first discovery of a pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star. As a postgraduate student helping to build a radio telescope, Bell Burnell noticed an anomaly in the data. Her thesis supervisor, Antony Hewish, was insistent that the anomaly was man-made but Bell Burnell persisted on her findings. Ultimately, it was Hewish and Martin Ryle who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery, while Bell Burnell was left out of the story. Many prominent astronomers expressed outrage at the omission, including Sir Fred Hoyle and Dr. Iosif Shklovsky. Since, Bell Burnell has not let the oversight put a cloud over her career. In February 2013 she was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman's Hour on BBC Radio, and in February 2014 she was made President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the first woman to take that office.
Betty Jean Jennings
The ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) was the world’s first electronic computer. It was a joint project between the U.S. Army and the University of Pennsylvania. Six women, including Betty Jean Jennings was one of the world's first “computers” (a job title, not a machine) hired by the university. At the time, the computer was used to calculate ballistics trajectories for World War II.
Grace Hopper
Admiral Grace Hopper was not only one of the first female programmers, but also the first woman to graduate from Yale with a PhD in mathematics and the first woman to reach the rank of Admiral in the U.S. Navy. Hopper invented the first computer compiler in 1952. She also popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages, and was instrumental in the creation of FLOW-MATIC language for the UNIVAC I and UNIVAC II computers.
Carla Meninsky
Carla Meninsky was hired as a game designer for the Atarti 2600 console in the early 1980s. She was one of only two female engineers working at Atari, the other being Carol Shaw. While at Atari, Meninsky was responsible for the development of Indy 500 (1977), Star Raiders (1979), and Dodge ‘Em, an award winning racing game released in 1980.
Roberta Williams
Roberta Williams is a video game designer whose best known work was for the King’s Quest videogame series, a series widely considered to be a classic from a golden era of adventure games. Along with her husband, Roberta went on to found On-Line Systems, which became Sierra On-Line (now owned by Activision Blizzard) and turned Williams and her husband into leading figures in the graphical adventure game genre. Ars Technica stated that Roberta Williams was "one of the more iconic figures in adventure gaming". 

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Sovereign Nation of Only Two Houses

The world's smallest sovereign  is a house in Rome and is over 900 years old. It is officially called the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (in Italian: Sovrano Militare Ordine Ospedaliero di San Giovanni di Gerusalemme di Rodi e di Malta). It is also known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (SMOM), Order of Malta or Knights of Malta. The Knights of Malta is a Catholic, chivalrous, military, lay, religious order dedicated to doing noble and good works. SMOM is widely considered a sovereign nation under international law.
SMOM is the modern continuation of the original medieval order of Saint John of Jerusalem (aka: Knights Hospitaller). The group was founded in Jerusalem in around 1050 to care for sick and poor pilgrims in the Holy Land (modern day Israel). After the European conquest of Jerusalem in 1099, it became a chartered military order. After the conquest of the Holy Land by the Muslims, the Order operated from Rhodes (1310–1523) and later from Malta (1530–1798), over which it was sovereign. But when Napoleon ejected the Order from the island of Malta, the group moved to a house in Rome.
SMOM retains its claims of sovereignty under international law and has been granted permanent observer status at the United Nations. The order issues its own international passports and postage stamps bearing the SMOM formal insignia, the white or gold Maltese Cross.  It also issues its own vehicle license plates. However, it does not issue  its own currency. In the  past, it used the Italian lira. It now uses the euro.
Today the order has about 13,000 members; 80,000 permanent volunteers; and 20,000 medical personnel including doctors, nurses, auxiliaries and paramedics in more than 120 countries. The goal is to assist the elderly, handicapped, refugees, children, homeless, lepers, and the terminally ill in all parts of the world through is local chapters without distinction of race or religion. Through its worldwide relief corps, Malteser International, the Order is also engaged to aid victims of natural disasters, epidemics and armed conflicts.
With its unique history and unusual present circumstances, the exact status of SMOM in international law has been the subject of debate. It describes itself as a "sovereign subject of international law." Its two headquarters in Rome at the Palazzo Malta in Via di Condotti 68, where the Grand Master resides and Government Bodies meet, and the Villa del Priorato di Malta on the Aventine, which houses the Grand Priory of Rome, the Embassy of the Order of the Holy See, and the Embassy of the Order to Italy have all been granted extraterritoriality (sovereign).
SMOM has formal diplomatic relations with 104 nations, among them every country except two in both Central and South America, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, Russia, Thailand, and The Philippines. It also has official relations with another six countries, France, Germany, Canada, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland, and with the European Union. Additionally, it has relations with the International Committee of the Red Cross and a number of other international organizations and some of the U.N. specialized agencies. Its international nature is useful in enabling it to pursue its humanitarian activities without being seen as an operative of any particular nation.
The proceedings of the Order are governed by its Constitutional Charter and the Order's Code. It is divided internationally into six territorial Grand Priories, six Sub-Priories and 47 national associations.
The supreme head of the Order is the Grand Master who is elected for life by the Council Complete of State. He holds the status  of Catholic Church cardinal since 1630 and received the rank of Prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1607. Fra' Matthew Festing was elected by the Council as 79th Grand Master on March 11, 2008.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bill Maher's Commentary on the Film, Noah

No one can blame me when I say this is a stupid country when 60% of adults in it think the Noah's Ark story is literally true. Which is why I'm already sick of seeing the ads for this floating piece of giraffe crap. Although the movie has been condemned by both Christians and Muslims, so it must be doing something right. And they say it also may lose a fortune for the studio, which would put it in hot water with the Jews too.  

Now, I don't know about the elephants on Noah's Ark, but the elephant in the room in 2014 is that we are now a full four centuries removed from the scientific revolution.  Four centuries after Copernicus, after the time humans realized that through science, we could actually get a real answer to almost every question about our world, like where does the sun go at night?  And why does disease spread so quickly on a cruise ship?  

And speaking of cruise ships, you know I don't mind that the Noah story is impossibly childish.  OK, I do mind.  What am I saying?  I mind very much.  I mean, seriously people?  You believe a man Noah lived to be 900 years old — that's what the Bible says — and when he was 500, he decided to have three kids, just like Clint Eastwood.  

And when he was 600, he and his three 100-year-old sons built a boat onto which in one day, they loaded over 3 million animals, all of which were apparently indigenous to within 5 miles of the boat.

But get this.  What the Christians who are now protesting this movie are upset about is that it doesn't take the Biblical story literally enough. They're mad because this made up story doesn't stay true to their made up story.

But the thing that's really disturbing about Noah isn't the silly.  It's that's it's immoral.  It's about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God.  Genesis says God was so angry with himself for screwing up when he made mankind so flawed — rrrrr — that he sent the flood to kill everyone!  Everyone!  Men, women, children, babies.  What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he's mad at?  I mean, besides Chris Christie.  

Hey God, you know you're kind of a dick when you're in a movie with Russell Crowe, and you're the one with anger issues.  

You know, conservatives are always going on about how Americans are losing their values and their morality.  Well, maybe it's because you worship a guy who drowns babies! And then, God's genius plan after he kills everyone is to repopulate the world with a new crop of the same assholes who pissed him off the first time!  With predictable results.  He kills millions more.
If we were a dog, and God owned us, the cops would come and take us away.
Why are we getting our morals out of this book?  Why do people follow any of it?  You know, I'm reminded as we've just started Lent that conservatives are always complaining about too much restraining regulation and how they love freedom, but they're the religious ones who voluntarily invent restrictions for themselves.
On a hot summer day, Orthodox Jews wear black wool.  On a cold winter night, Mormons can't drink a hot chocolate.  Isn't life hard enough without making shit up out of thin air to fuck with yourself?

Don't we have enough rules to follow and enough asses we have to kiss in reality?  Your boss, your spouse, the tax man, your parole officer, your horny cellmate?  Without fabricating made up new ones?  Jews can't eat ham.  Jehovah's Witnesses can't buy Girl Scout cookies.  The Amish can't drive cars.  Catholics can't masturbate.  Scientologists can't go to therapy.  Baptists can't dance.  Sikhs can't shave.  And Lord knows, Muslims can't take a joke.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Things You Did Not Know About Jesus

Sometimes there is a gap between what the Bible says about Jesus and the Jesus we hold up in church and society.

·      Jesus' name was not Jesus. It was Yeshua. The English translation of the name Yeshua is Joshua. When translated from Hebrew into the Greek language, the name Yeshua  becomes Iēsous. The English spelling for Iēsous is Jesus.

·      Jesus was happier than the people around him or many people who claim follow him or his teachings. He was not always dour, crying and depressed about the state of mankind like some preachers and his followers are.
·      Jesus lived in a house. Some translations add “Levi” to the text due to the belief it must have been Levi’s house. But the original text doesn’t contain the word “Levi.” And since Levi had just left everything to follow Jesus, it is doubtful the house was his.
·      Jesus had money. Judas was His treasurer. Broke people don’t have treasurers.
·      Jesus got angry when religious people wanted to maintain their traditions instead of doing something cool that would display God’s power. The only time the Bible says specifically that Jesus got angry when he felt that peoples' actions were not pleasing to God although it is safe to say that he was angry when he drove the money changers out of the temple too.
·      Jesus never did anything for the poor. He never clothed anyone, housed anyone or opened a food bank. The closest thing he ever did for the poor was to feed the 5000 people who came to hear him speak but forgot their lunch. He was not a Middle Eastern social worker. Jesus preached to the poor but did not give to the poor. Judas criticized Jesus for not giving money to the poor. (See: Matthew 11:5; Luke 4:18, 7:22)
·      Jesus wore nice clothes. His robe was worth so much money that soldiers gambled for it at His crucifixion.
·      Jesus did not come primarily to be our example. He came to die for us. Jesus lived on earth for 33 years. His ministry lasted only 3 years. Twenty-five percent of the Gospels cover one week of Jesus’ life, the week He was crucified and rose again. That is the focus of the Gospels. "For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost."- Matthew 18:11)
·      Jesus  has a profession. He was a carpenter and this indicates that he not only grew up in the house of carpenter but he also worked there long enough for people to know him as "the carpenter".
·      Jesus had several brothers. At least some of his brothers were named James, Joses, Simon and Judas but there is no mention of any sisters. History indicates that his brother James became the first head of the Christian community in Jerusalem.
·      Jesus’ first miracle was not very spiritual. He helped keep a party going. He provided refreshments at a wedding party. He listened to a request by his mother by turning water into wine and thereby kept the party going.
·      Jesus was not the first Christian. He lived and died as a Jew under the laws of Old Testament and not the New Testament. The New Testament was not written until well after Jesus died.
·      Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good people. But metaphorically and literally, he made dead people alive and well again. (John 10:10; Ephesians 2:5)
·      Jesus ate bread and clean meat such as lamb and fish. He also ate eggs because he once said eggs are a good gift. The Old Testament says that Jesus was permitted to eat butter and honey and also ate broiled fish and honeycomb. He also drank wine.

Jesus and Homosexual Relationships.

Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can. (Matthew 19:11-12)
The above passage has in recent years caused a lot of controversy in Christian circles. Most of us have the belief that a eunuch is a castrated male human. That was the case for a large part of recent history. We have only to think of the harems in Ottoman Turkey or Imperial China to know that. But that wasn’t always what the word meant. That is not what Jesus understood it to mean. In ancient times the term eunuch referred to men who had no interest in sexual relations with women.
So a more accurate reading and interpretation in a historic context of Matthew 19:11-12 is:
There are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others.  - meaning castrated males.
And there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. - meaning celibate, as in priests.
For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth. - meaning homosexual men
Note: There is no condemnation, just a simple statement of the facts.
There is also the curious story of the Roman Centurion and his sick servant.
In the Roman army it was the rule that serving soldiers were not allowed to marry. This ban was in force until it was abolished by the Emperor Septimus Severus in 197 AD. It was not unusual for soldiers to have relationships with people they were not allowed to marry. This sometimes included same sex relationships.
In the accounts in the Gospels the word used to describe the beloved servant of the Roman centurion in Matthew and Luke was the Greek "pais". When they referred to other servants they used the word "doulus". There is no other instance in the entire New Testament where servants are regarded as any other than "doulus", (which means simply servant or slave). The word "pais" however in ancient Greek is always used to refer to same sex lovers.
The following three examples will illustrate the point.
Thucydides writes of Agathon, 445-400 BC, the pais, same gender lover of Pausanias, King of Sparta, in History of the Peloponnesian War. Their relationship began when Agathon was 18 and continued for twenty years.
Eupolis, a playwright, 446-411 BC, references Agathon, an exceptionally good-looking man who, in his late teens, was the paidika or pais of Pausanias. Their same sex relationship continued to flourish when Agathon was in his thirties.
Aeschines, 390-314 BC, Athenian poet, in Against Timarchos, charged rival politician Timarchos with having lived off his relationships with older men. In such relationships, the older man was called the erastes or the lover, and the younger man was called the eromenos or paidika or pais, the boyfriend. Paidika is derived from pais.
There are other examples of this that can be cited, but these three should be sufficient to make the point.
The main point is this is that everything said by Jesus has to be recognized as having been translated  many times so that much of the original intent of the statements have been lost, And, those who did the translations, filtered the statements to fit their the limitations of their languages and the ideas and prejudices of their time. And, nowhere in the story of the centurion does Jesus say "You are an abomination. Take your servant and wait at the gates of Hell" instead he says "I have found no greater faith than this in all Israel". The servant/same sex lover gets cured.
Historic context is everything. Those who take anything in the Bible literally do so because they want to and not because God said to or because they have to. Makes you think. Doesn’t it? 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Poem: Beggarly Heart

Beggarly Heart
by Rabindranath Tagore

When the heart is hard and parched up, 
come upon me with a shower of mercy.

When grace is lost from life,
come with a burst of song.

When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides shutting me out from
beyond, come to me, my lord of silence, with thy peace and rest.

When my beggarly heart sits crouched, shut up in a corner,
break open the door, my king, and come with the ceremony of a king.

When desire blinds the mind with delusion and dust, O thou holy one,
thou wakeful, come with thy light and thy thunder.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Who Owns The Moon

Will someone own the moon one day? It may seem like a pretty important question, but no one seems to have the answer.
For now, no one has legal ownership over the moon. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the moon is not the property of any state, national or international government or organization, or any one entity.

In spite of the fact that the United States was the first nation to land on the Moon and plant its flag there, no one legally owns the Moon. Under current UN law, member states are "prohibited from appropriating the moon." The legal status of the moon is currently defined by the 1967 Outer Space Treaty of the United Nations. Dr. Ian Crawford, a professor of planetary science at the Birkbeck University of London, told BBC Radio,  all of that may soon change.

Dr. Crawford said, There’s a strong case for developing international law in this area because in 1967 it was not envisaged that anyone other than nation states would be able to explore the moon. Clearly that is changing now and there is a case for developing the outer space treaty to include private organizations that may wish to exploit the moon..He added, It is premature to talk about exploiting the moon. The moon may well have resources that are economically valuable but we are still in an era of scientific exploration and once we have explored the moon in more detail then we will know whether or not. If we are going to explore the moon that does necessitate interfering with the lunar environment, but the initial stages will be much less invasive than strip mining the moon for its natural resources. The key thing for the next few decades is to explore the moon in more detail and then we will know if it has got resources that are economically valuable or not.

This is a hot topic since our moon contains many resources, such as rare minerals and the helium-3 isotope, which is an important gas that allows for the production of energy. Whoever has rights to the moon will also have access to those resources.


The China Academy of Space Technology laid the pathos on thick when it gave its lunar robot Jade Rabbit a farewell speech at the end of last month. The rover had become mired in moon dust and was unable to enter hibernation. Facing 14 days without sunlight, the solar-powered robot, launched on December 2, was unlikely to survive.  Jade Rabbit said, I know I may not make it through this lunar night Good night, Planet Earth. Good night, humanity.
It looked like the end of a venture that could have accelerated the process of finding out who if anyone owns the moon. The ultimate goal for Jade Rabbit was to bore a hole in the moon and see what moon rock is made of. That’s because the Chinese think the moon’s minerals might be worth extracting. They are looking at feasibility for mining the moon, and they are likely to do it if there’s a strong business case, says Richard Holdaway, director of the space division at the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, which collaborates closely with China’s space program.
There would be nothing illegal about such an operation because international laws covering the moon are way, way behind, as Holdaway puts it. In theory, anyone who could manage it (and afford it) could go to the moon tomorrow, dig out a huge chunk of lunar rock, bring it back to earth and sell it off to the highest bidder. The Chinese could take the moon apart and sell it bit by bit without breaking international law. The question we have to ask ourselves is simple: do we see a need to prevent that happening?
The moon’s bounty is not fanciful science fiction. There is stuff on the moon to mine no doubt about it, Holdaway says. We know that minerals that are hard to find on earth, such as the rare earth elements and the metals titanium and uranium, are abundant up there. But the main prize is the lighter isotope of helium, known as helium-3. This gas is the critical fuel for nuclear fusion reactors, which promise an energy yield many times higher than the present generation of fission-powered reactors. Helium-3 costs roughly $10m a kilo. Though we don’t yet have commercial fusion reactors, these might not be far off. When they arrive, the demand for helium-3 will outstrip supply, and the easiest place to get more will be from moon rock. It couldn’t be easier: heat the rock and the gas comes out.
It’s not just the Chinese who have ambitions in this direction. Some private companies also have their eye on lunar rock as a source of riches. Most are based in the U.S., and they are actively working on lunar landers that will eventually be able to perform mineral extraction.

Quotes about the Moon

The moon is a loyal companion. It never leaves. It’s always there, watching, steadfast, knowing us in our light and dark moments, changing forever just as we do. Every day it’s a different version of itself. Sometimes weak and wan, sometimes strong and full of light. The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections. - Tahereh Mafi

Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars. - J.R.R. Tolkien

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. - Buddha

Do not swear by the moon, for she changes constantly. then your love would also change. - William Shakespeare

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator. - Mahatma Ghandi

But even when the moon looks like it's's actually never changing shape. Don't ever forget that. - Ai Yazawa  

Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may hit a star. - W. Clement Stone

We must strive to be like the moon.' An old man in Kabati repeated this sentence often... the adage served to remind people to always be on their best behavior and to be good to others. [S]he said that people complain when there is too much sun and it gets unbearably hot, and also when it rains too much or when it is cold. But, no one grumbles when the moon shines. Everyone becomes happy and appreciates the moon in their own special way. Children watch their shadows and play in its light, people gather at the square to tell stories and dance through the night. A lot of happy things happen when the moon shines. These are some of the reasons why we should want to be like the moon.- Ishmael Beah 

A doctor once told me I feel too much. I said, so does god. that’s why you can see the grand canyon from the moon. - Andrea Gibson 

We are going to the moon that is not very far. Man has so much farther to go within himself. - Anais Nin 

The moon is a friend for the lonesome to talk to. - Carl Sandberg

She didn't quite know what the relationship was between lunatics and the moon, but it must be a strong one, if they used a word like that to describe the insane - Paulo Coelho

The faults of a superior person are like the sun and moon. They have their faults, and everyone sees them; they change and everyone looks up to them. - Confucius  (Kong Qiu)

The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished. - Deng Ming-Dao

The man in the moon is a lady. - a song in the musical, Mame


History repeats itself. The Spanish invaded the Americas, searched for gold and The Fountain of Youth. They also plundered the continent and its riches and decimated the native population. The English did much the same thing. After independence, The United States had slavery, created a genocide of the native population, and proceeded to destroy the land , plunder it natural resources and contaminated both its water and air all in the name of progress. And, in China the air is often unbreathable, a condition directly related to the supplying contaminated food and shoddy cheaply-made merchandise for Western nations. Now, the industrial nations of this world have aimed their sights on destroying the Moon in the name of "progress". Why? Because they can.

The moon is a source of light in the dark night and a source of wonder and inspiration.  Why would anyone want to destroy it,  extract from its essence and create holes in it?  We are in the process of destroying our own planet. Must me now set our sights on destroying our orbiting companion. And all for the sake of greed.
Every great religion says mankind is the steward of the land and should live in harmony with it. And the Moon is the great light of the night. Apparently, the gods of industry and their stooges, the political leaders, have failed to receive that message.