For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.”
(Colossians 1:16-17)
By Him All Things Consist

***

***

MailOnline

Babylonians DID burn Jerusalem 2,600 years ago: Charred wood, pottery and bones found in the City of David confirm scenes of devastation described in the Bible

  • Researchers discovered charred wood, pottery and foods in the City of David

  • They also found dozens of jars with stamped rosette seals on them

  • The findings confirm the scene in the Bible which states that the Babylonians 'burned all the houses of Jerusalem'

By SHIVALI BEST FOR MAILONLINE

PUBLISHED: 12:03, 28 July 2017 | UPDATED: 12:43, 28 July 2017

Archaeologists have found evidence that the Babylonians were responsible for the burning of Jerusalem more than 2,600 years ago.

The researchers discovered charred wood, grape seeds, fish scales, bones and pottery along with numerous other artefacts while excavating the City of David.

The findings confirm the scene as described in the Bible, which states that the Babylonians 'burned all the houses of Jerusalem.'

Archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority discovered the charred artefacts while excavating the City of David in Israel's Jerusalem Walls National Park.

The burning of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was first described in The Book of Jeremiah, which states: 'He burned the house of the Lord, and the king's house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, even every great man's house, burned he with fire.'

As well as the charred wood, pottery and food items, the researchers also discovered dozens of jars used to store grains and liquids – many of which have stamped handles and rosette seals.

Ortal Chalaf and Dr Joe Uziel, directs of the excavation, said: 'These seals are characteristic of the end of the First Temple Period and were used for the administrative system that developed towards the end of the Judean dynasty.

'Classifying objects facilitated controlling, overseeing, collecting, marketing and storing crop yields.

'The rosette, in essence, replaced the "For the King" seal used in the earlier administrative system.'

The archaelogists found the artefacts beneath layers of collapsed rock on the eastern side of the City of David.

One of the rarest findings was a small ivory statue of a naked woman with a haircut or wig in an Egyptian style.

The experts believe that this shows the skill of the artists living there.

Mr Chalaf and Dr Uziel said: 'The excavation's findings show that Jerusalem had extended beyond the line of the city wall before its destruction.

'The row of structures exposed in the excavations is located outside, beyond the city wall that would have constituted the eastern border of the city during this period.

(Underlining, italics, and bold for emphesis by POTK ed.)

The Coming Temple

***

The New York Times

Don’t Believe in God? Maybe You’ll Try U.F.O.s

ByCLAY ROUTLEDGE

July 21, 2017

Are Americans becoming less religious? It depends on what you mean by “religious.”

Polls certainly indicate a decline in religious affiliation, practice and belief. Just a couple of decades ago, about 95 percent of Americans reported belonging to a religious group. This number is now around 75 percent. And far fewer are actively religious: The percentage of regular churchgoers may be as low as 15 to 20 percent. As for religious belief, the Pew Research Center found that from 2007 to 2014 the percentage of Americans who reported being absolutely confident God exists dropped from 71 percent to 63 percent.

Nonetheless, there is reason to doubt the death of religion, or at least the death of what you might call the “religious mind” — our concern with existential questions and our search for meaning. A growing body of research suggests that the evidence for a decline in traditional religious belief, identity and practice does not reflect a decline in this underlying spiritual inclination.

Ask yourself: Why are people religious to begin with? One view is that religion is an ancient way of understanding and organizing the world that persists largely because societies pass it down from generation to generation. This view is related to the idea that the rise of science entails the fall of religion. It also assumes that the strength of religion is best measured by how much doctrine people accept and how observant they are.

This view, however, does not capture the fundamental nature of the religious mind — our awareness of, and need to reckon with, the transience and fragility of our existence, and how small and unimportant we seem to be in the grand scheme of things. In short: our quest for significance.

Dozens of studies show a strong link between religiosity and existential concerns about death and meaning. For example, when research participants are presented with stimuli that bring death to mind or challenge a sense of meaning in life, they exhibit increased religiosity and interest in religious or spiritual ideas. Another body of research shows that religious beliefs provide and protect meaning.

Continue reading the main story

Furthermore, evidence suggests that the religious mind persists even when we lose faith in traditional religious beliefs and institutions. Consider that roughly 30 percent of Americans report they have felt in contact with someone who has died. Nearly 20 percent believe they have been in the presence of a ghost. About one-third of Americans believe that ghosts exist and can interact with and harm humans; around two-thirds hold supernatural or paranormal beliefs of some kind, including beliefs in reincarnation, spiritual energy and psychic powers.

These numbers are much higher than they were in previous decades, when more people reported being highly religious. People who do not frequently attend church are twice as likely to believe in ghosts as those who are regular churchgoers. The less religious people are, the more likely they are to endorse empirically unsupported ideas about U.F.O.s, intelligent aliens monitoring the lives of humans and related conspiracies about a government cover-up of these phenomena.

An emerging body of research supports the thesis that these interests in nontraditional supernatural and paranormal phenomena are driven by the same cognitive processes and motives that inspire religion. For instance, my colleagues and I recently published a series of studies in the journal Motivation and Emotion demonstrating that the link between low religiosity and belief in advanced alien visitors is at least partly explained by the pursuit of meaning. The less religious participants were, we found, the less they perceived their lives as meaningful. This lack of meaning was associated with a desire to find meaning, which in turn was associated with belief in U.F.O.s and alien visitors.

When people are searching for meaning, their minds seem to gravitate toward thoughts of things like aliens that do not fall within our current scientific inventory of the world. Why? I suspect part of the answer is that such ideas imply that humans are not alone in the universe, that we might be part of a larger cosmic drama. As with traditional religious beliefs, many of these paranormal beliefs involve powerful beings watching over humans and the hope that they will rescue us from death and extinction.

A great many atheists and agnostics, of course, do not think U.F.O.s exist. I’m not suggesting that if you reject traditional religious belief, you will necessarily find yourself believing in alien visitors. But because beliefs about U.F.O.s and aliens do not explicitly invoke the supernatural and are couched in scientific and technological jargon, they may be more palatable to those who reject the metaphysics of more traditional religious systems.

It is important to note that thus far, research indicates only that the need for meaning inspires these types of paranormal beliefs, not that such beliefs actually do a good job of providing meaning. There are reasons to suspect they are poor substitutes for religion: They are not part of a well-established social and institutional support system and they lack a deeper and historically rich philosophy of meaning. Seeking meaning does not always equal finding meaning.

The Western world is, in theory, becoming increasingly secular — but the religious mind remains active. The question now is, how can society satisfactorily meet people’s religious and spiritual needs?

***

PHYSICS ASTRONOMY

GET READY! THE BRIGHTEST METEOR SHOWER IN THE RECORDED HUMAN HISTORY IS HAPPENING

7.26.2017

There is going to be a meteor shower on 12th of August, 2017. According to astronomers this will be the brightest shower in the recorded human history. It will light up the night sky and some of these might even be visible during the day. This meteor shower is being considered as once in a lifetime opportunity as the next meteor shower of such kind will be after 96 years.

The Perseid meteor shower, one of the brighter meteor showers of the year, occurs every year between July 17 and August 24. The shower tends to peak around August 9-13.

The best time to view the Perseids, and most other meteor showers, is when the sky is the darkest. Most astronomers suggest that depending on the Moon’s phase, the best time to view meteor showers is right before dawn.

The Perseids can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere. Look between the radiant, which will be in the north-east part of the sky, and the zenith (the point in the sky directly above you).

While you can easily see a shooting star with the naked eye just looking straight up, the table below shows the exact direction of the Perseids from your location.

The Perseids can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere. Look between the radiant, which will be in the north-east part of the sky, and the zenith (the point in the sky directly above you).

Experts discovered the charred artefacts while excavating the City of David in Jerusalem

'Throughout the Iron Age, Jerusalem underwent constant growth, expressed both in the construction of numerous city walls and the fact that the city later spread beyond them.

'Excavations carried out in the past in the area of the Jewish Quarter have shown how the growth of the population at the end of the 8th Century BCE led the annexation of the western area of Jerusalem.

'In the current excavation, we may suggest that following the westward expansion of the city, structures were built outside of the wall's border on the east as well.'

WHY DID THE BABYLONIANS BURN JERUSALEM?

During the reign of King Jehoiakim, in 597 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged the city of Jerusalem, following a long struggle between Judah and Babylon.

The nation of Judah continued to exist under Babylonian rule with King Zedekiah installed in Jerusalem as a puppet king.

After King Zedekiah rebelled too, the city fell in 586 BC.

According to the Bible, the Babylonians burned all the houses of Jerusalem, stating: 'every great house he burned down.'

After the destruction of Jerusalem, Gedaliah was placed in charge as a governor in Judah, but he was killed two months after his appointment, causing many of the remaining Jews to flee to Egypt in fear of their lives.

This group of refugees included the prophet Jeremiah, who was forced against his will to go to Egypt.

***

FAITHWIRE

It’s a Massive Assault on Free Speech’: Australian Leaders React to Proposed ‘Jesus Ban’ in Schools

By Carly Hoilman

July 27, 2017

Government officials in the Australian state of Queensland have introduced a policy that would ban Christmas cards, references to Jesus, and anything that could be classified as “evangelization” from public schools, the Daily Mail Australia reported.

A recent Department of Education report voices concerns that unbridled freedom of religion has led to non-religious children being “forced” to entertain the Christian beliefs of their peers.

According to these officials, schools are expected “to take appropriate action” if they find that students who receive “religious instruction” are evangelizing to those who do not. “Evangelization” covers a range of speech and actions, including distributing Christmas cards with photos or words referencing Jesus’ birth and life, making religious-themed ornaments, and handing out bracelets to share “the good news about Jesus.”

If such evangelization is left unchecked, the report claims that it could “adversely affect the school’s ability to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive - environment.”

According to the Daily Mail, the recent initiative comes after Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones promised to crack down on religious practices. The report has received negative reactions from religious freedom advocates and political leaders who fear Jones has gone too far.

Speaking to The Australian, Neil Foster, a religion and law professor, called the Department of Education’s requests “deeply concerning” and “possibly illegal.”

Centre for Independent Studies research fellow Peter Kurti said the report constitutes a “massive assault on freedom of speech and freedom of religion” and believes that the government’s concerns are completely unwarranted.

“I don’t think that children have the maturity to comprehend let alone evangelize,” he told The Australian.

On Thursday, Education Minister Jones assured that there have been no officials changes to state policy regarding the issue, stressing that “no one is telling a child what they can and can’t say in the playground,” Sky News reported.

Still, a number of Queensland members of parliament, including Fisher MP Andrew Wallace and Fairfax MP Ted O’Brien, have called the mere suggestion of such a policy “ludicrous,” and have called for the government to officially denounce the ban.

***

WND

HUNGARIAN PM: 'SOROS EMPIRE' PLANS TO DE-CHRISTIANIZE EUROPE

Notorious billionaire working side-by-side with E.U.

August 1, 2017

Billionaire George Soros

WASHINGTON – George Soros and the European Union are behind a plan to create a “mixed, Islamized Europe” according to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who further iterated that the only way to halt this demographic replacement of Christian Europeans is through a return to pro-sovereignty, pro-family values and policies.

In a speech entitled “Will Europe belong to Europeans?” Orban outlined the alliance between radically pro-migration billionaire financier George Soros and the E.U., as well as Soros’ four-point plan for the demographic replacement of Europeans through the mass-migration of primarily Muslim populations.

“Europe is currently being prepared to hand its territory over to a new mixed, Islamized Europe,” Orban told an audience in Romania. “We are observing the conscious step-by-step implementation of this policy. In order for this to happen, for the territory to be ready to be handed over, it is necessary to continue the de-Christianization of Europe – and we can see these attempts.”

WND has reported extensively on the replacement of European peoplethrough mass-migration, a globalist scheme led by the United Nations, the European Union, and billionaires like George Soros.

“In Brussels [location of the E.U. government] an alliance has been forged against the opinion of the people,” Orban continued. “The members of this alliance are the Brussels bureaucrats and their political elite, and the system that may be described as the Soros Empire.”

Orban then outlined the overreaching plan of the “Soros Empire:”

“The plan says that every year hundreds of thousands migrants – and, if possible, a million – should be brought into the territory of the European Union from the Muslim world. The second point is that upon arrival every one of them should be given an amount in euros equivalent to four and a half million forints [approximately $17,000]. The author of the plan would gladly finance this – but that is secondary, although it’s something that’s worth pondering. However, it’s not this, it’s not the business profit that’s the essence of the proposal, but the fact that in this way it’s possible to maintain a continuous influx. So those who want at least a million migrants to come in every year must maintain this mechanism – which in European political terminology is called a ‘pull factor’ – so that they continue to come. And if they distribute them and everyone receives a sum – which is, in fact, higher than the Hungarian annual average wage – there won’t be a problem with reduced flow. The third point in the Soros plan is that the migrants arriving on the continent will have to be distributed among the countries of Europe as part of a mandatory and permanent mechanism. The fourth point is that a European immigration agency should be set up which will take all the decision-making powers related to migrant affairs away from the nation states and raise them to the level of Brussels. This is the Soros plan.”

If this plan is allowed to continue, European countries will “disappear,” Orban said. “For a country to be strong, demographic decline must be out of the question.”

“A country which is in demographic decline – and, to put it bluntly, is not even able to sustain itself biologically – may well find that it is no longer needed,” Orban added.

Therefore, the first step in fighting demographic replacement, Orban claimed, is the building “a family friendly environment,” and the “creation and growth of families.”

The second step is securing the sovereignty of European countries against the E.U., and then using this sovereignty to close borders to migration and deport migrants already living in Europe.

“We must make it clear that the reform of Europe can only start with stopping the migrants, putting an end to immigration, and everyone using their national competence to protect their borders,” Orban stated.

Orban also addressed the counter-argument often made by pro-migration politicians, and he insists that assimilation is not possible for the primarily Muslim migrants.

“Naturally, when considering the whole issue of who will live in Europe, one could argue that this problem will be solved by successful integration,” Orban said. “The reality, however, is that we’re not aware of any examples of successful integration. It’s obvious that migration is not the answer to economic problems and labor shortages.”

Orban’s anti-migration, pro-sovereignty rhetoric is nothing new, and Hungary has been on the forefront of resistance against mass-migration into Europe.

Hungary is a member of the the Visegrad Group, also know as the V4, a collection of Central European countries committed to preserving their shared “cultural and intellectual values” within the E.U.

The countries that make up the Visegrad Group are Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland.

The Visegrad Group recently came under attack by the E.U. due to members’ anti-migrant policies. In 2015, all E.U. member countries agreed to relocate more than 100,000 migrants throughout the continent in a binding agreement.

As of today, acting in direct opposition to the E.U. plan of forced migration, Poland and Hungary have not relocated a single refugee, while Slovakia and the Czech Republic have only relocated a handful.

In a letter to the Italian prime minister, the Visegrad Group outlined its opposition to migration, noting that “the vast majority of the mixed migration flows are composed of economic migrants,” and, therefore, the group’s “external borders have to be protected.”

The views of the Visegrad Group are shared by a majority of Europeans, but the E.U. continues its policies of displacement.

An astounding 76 percent of European nationals say the E.U.’s performance on immigration is poor, with 51 percent of European nationals believing the solution to the immigration problem should involve increase national sovereignty rather than intervention from Brussels.

While the Visegrad Group attempts to counteract the effects of mass Muslim migration in Europe, American commentators believe the United States is similarly at risk for Islamization.

“Soros has established himself in all his work as an enemy of the West, and the mass Muslim migration is a useful tool to sow chaos in Western countries,” Pamela Geller, editor in chief of the Geller Report, told WND.

“There is no reason why our experience would be different from that of Europe. Islam isn’t different here. The same teachings that cause many Muslims to brutalize and victimize infidels in Europe are taught in mosques here,” Geller added.

“Those who seek global control are working feverishly to destroy the West,” Rep. Michelle Bachmann said in an interview with WND.

Bachmann has spoken at length about the effects of Muslim immigration on Minnesota, and she believes Minnesota is no longer the same state she grew up in.

“The U.N. together with the U.S. State Department are doing their best to undermine Western civilization,” Bachmann continued. “If the people’s representatives don’t stop the intentional mass migration from the Third World, America and Europe will no longer survive their great tradition as the beacon of freedom and prosperity to the world.”

“It is amazing to ponder how arduous it is to build a functioning society, then view how quickly a society can lose its strength when the society rejects its foundation,” Bachmann concluded.

***

COLOMBIA REPORTS

Pope Francis ‘paving way for Antichrist’

written by Adriaan Alsema July 27, 2017

An ultra-conservative university and television network director has fallen out of grace with Colombia’s Catholic church after claiming Pope Francis is a “false prophet” who is “paving the way for the Antichrist.”

The influential but radical Jose Galat, director of the Great Colombia university and Teleamiga television network, almost spewed fire when interviewed by Blu Radio about an impending papal visit to Colombia.

The Colombian Catholic Church had urged all clergies in the country to dissuade worshipers from watching the Teleamiga network after Galat had called the pope a false prophet in his talk show, “A coffee with Galat.”

It hurts us that the aforementioned program seeks to sow … doubt about the validity of the papal authority of Pope Francis among the faithful with superficial and harmful arguments.”

Episcopal Conference of Colombia

When interviewed about his collision with church authorities, Galat doubled down, claiming that the “real pope” is Benedict XVI, who resigned in 2013.

Francis “was elected by a mafia of cardinals,” according to the ultra-conservative TV network and university director.

Galat belongs to the unofficial fascistic branch of the Catholic Church, once loyal to Laureano Gomez, Colombia’s only openly fascist president who was elected in 1949 and ousted in a military coup in 1953.

To hell with democracy! We were at war with the liberals. Let’s talk plainly, we needed to construct a totalitarian state with Laureano to get rid of the liberals. War is war!”

Jose Galat during his 2010 presidential race

While in the 1940s the Catholic Church supported Gomez’ initiatives to restrict religious freedom and make Catholic doctrine obligatory in public schools, Colombia’s religious authority has long embraced democratic principles like religious freedom.

However, Colombia’s ultra-conservative Catholics like Galat continue to support a fascistic interpretation of Catholicism and conservatism, which is particularly popular in the country’s second largest city, Medellin.

Galat has opposed a peace process with the Marxist FARC rebel group together with former President Alvaro Uribe, who formed the hard-right Democratic Center party together with prominent “Laureanistas.”

Pope Francis, however, has openly supported the peace deal and will visit Colombia in September to put his religious weight behind the country’s peace process, much to the disapproval of the fascistic ultra-conservatives.

Colombia’s Catholic Church has been caught in the middle of the dispute with the Vatican promoting peace and democracy on one side, and radical thought leaders like Galat and Uribe opposing the political inclusion of communists on the other.

***

CHRISMANEWS

Gender Identity Issues Trace Back to Pagan Goddess Described in the Bible

JESSILYN JUSTICE

7.26.2017

Inanna, Aphrodite, Ishtar, Astarte, Venus, Ashtoreth. They're all pagan names of the same goddess, the idol of carnal love and sexual relationships.

Biblical scholars associate her with Baal or Baalim, and today's progressives are falling back into the same ancient patterns of worship, especially when it comes to gender identity.

"This isn't new, this is very old. There was a goddess who was worshipped in the ancient world, ancient Mesopotamia by the name of Inanna, worshipped as far back as 4,000 BC. She's also known by the names of Ishtar, or Aphrodite, Astarte or Ashtoreth in the Bible. ... She was the goddess of prostitutes. Except sometimes she wasn't a goddess, she was a god," TV host, author and analyst Derek Gilbert shares on the Jim Bakker Show.

Her reappearance may be linked to the end times, particularly the battle of Gog and Magog as mentioned in Ezekiel.

***

Witchy fashion is 2017's most exciting, subversive trend

Maeve McDermott, USATODAY

July 26, 2017

Somewhere in between Lana Del Rey casting hexes on President Trump and Khloe Kardashian hawking zodiac sweatshirts on Instagram, pop culture reached peak witch.

In anticipation of 2017, multipletrend forecasting firms predicted that mystical trends – those tapping into fantasy, witchcraft and New Age spirituality – would define the year in fashion. That's certainly been true on the runway, with dramatic capes and black lace seen time and again in the couture shows in Paris earlier this month; and among the gang of young femalecelebrities who worship at the altar of witchy icon Stevie Nicks.

But supernatural style isn't one singular aesthetic. As the female-run media site The Establishmentnotes, there are many archetypes of the modern witch, including "goth witches in black maxi dresses and capes, Wiccan girls in flowy boho looks with handfuls of rings and jarred herbs, sea witches with mermaid hair and tattered shipwreck looks, prairie witches in calico dresses magicking tumbleweeds across the dirt, (and) pink-haired mall witches in anime buns and belly shirts.”

All of which is to say — witchy style isn't one singular aesthetic. But Ruby Warrington, author of Material Girl, Mystical World: The Now Age Guide to a High-Vibe Life, identified the important role social media plays in defining and spreading the trend.

"Crystals are particularly popular, as they're so Instagram-friendly, as are the new breed of highly aesthetic evolved tarot decks," she told USA TODAY. "I also think the neo-feminist slogan t-shirt trend plays into this, (like) the 'Up With Witches' and 'Patriarchy R.I.P.' tees from Modern Women Projects, 'The Future is Female' by Otherwild, and word artist Amber Ibarreche's 'I Only (Expletive) With Goddesses.'"

Nicks has long been witchy fashion's high priestess, her paranormal obsessions extending from her music to her gauzy gowns, black lace, piles of jewelry and dramatic hats. The '90s cult horror movie The Craft is another touchpoint, with its teen witches cloaked in a grunge-inspired wardrobes of studded chokers, black lipstick, dark florals and evil-schoolgirl uniforms.

(“Stephanie Lynn "Stevie" Nicks (born May 26, 1948 is an American singer-songwriter.

Nicks is best known for her work with Fleetwood Mac, and for her chart-topping solo career. She is known for her distinctive voice, mystical visual style, and symbolic lyrics. Collectively, her work both as a member of Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist has produced over 40 top-50 hits and sold over 140 million records, making her one of the best selling music acts of all time with Fleetwood Mac.” Wikipedia)

But Warrington identified a new generation of fashion icons embodying what she calls the "Now Age," a modern update of '70s New Age aesthetics.

"Florence Welch is the first who comes to mind, often as dressed by Gucci's Alessandro Michele, whose recent catwalk collections have all featured super witchy motifs," she said. "Ana Matronic of the Scissor Sisters is a total witch, and one of the women behind WAFT — Witches Against Fascist Totalitarianism — an activist group whose first fundraiser was a witch and wizard-themed fancy dress party. Grimes, Willow Smith, FKA Twigs...there are so many diverse women channeling the spirit of the Now Age with their look."

Other vaguely-witchy celebs include the Haim sisters, who own matching moon-shaped pendants gifted to them by Nicks, and Lorde, who's joked that she's “basically a witch” wearing black lipstick, floor-length cloaks and head-to-toe lace onstage. And then there's Del Rey, who recently admitted to casting spells against Trump, hinting at the political underpinnings of the trend.

Beyond a fashion statement, there's a reason why witchcraft's current moment is happening during a tumultuous time in American politics. When the trend forecasting group J. Walter Thompson named “unreality” as the fashion trend to watch in 2017, they wrote that the mystical aesthetic particularly appeals to “millennials struggling to make sense of their place in the world.” Similarly, the forecasters K Hole identified how young people feel like they "need magic" more than ever, craving "a way to create change through processes that you can't entirely understand."

And for women who feel their rights are being threatened by the current administration, channeling the supernatural can seem particularly empowering. "Now Age practices such as witchcraft, astrology, and the tarot are tools for helping us stay connected to an authentic sense of self, and to our own intuition. Vital and empowering in this era of 'alternative facts,'" Warrington said, pointing out that witchcraft and New Age practices are both "rooted in community."

And in a world that feels out of control, wearing healing crystals around your neck or sporting a witchy-feminist t-shirt can provide a certain kind of comfort. But in a pop culture climate of wannabe witches, Warrington stressed the importance of making the trend your own.

"Dressing a certain way can help signal your Now Age sensibilities to others, while choosing a crystal or other talisman to wear can be a personal reminder of your intentions," she said. "But once you begin to awaken your inner witch, it also becomes clear that blindly following trends or copying what some celebrity is wearing is just another way of suppressing our own authentic self-expression."

***

REUTERS

Saudi Arabia says that calls for internationalization of holy sites 'a declaration of war'

July 30, 2017

FILE PHOTO: General view of the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia's foreign minister called what he said was Qatar's demand for an internationalization of the Muslim hajj pilgrimage a declaration of war against the kingdom, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television said on Sunday, but Qatar said it never made such a call.

"Qatar's demands to internationalize the holy sites is aggressive and a declaration of war against the kingdom," Adel al-Jubeir was quoted saying on Al Arabiya's website.

"We reserve the right to respond to anyone who is working on the internationalization of the holy sites," he said.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said no official from his country had made such a call.

"We are tired of responding to false information and stories invented from nothing," Sheikh Mohammed told Al Jazeera TV.

Qatar did accuse the Saudis of politicizing hajj and addressed the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion on Saturday, expressing concern about obstacles facing Qataris who want to attend hajj this year.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain previously issued a list of 13 demands for Qatar, which included curtailing its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, shutting down the Doha-based Al Jazeera channel, closing a Turkish military base and downgrading its relations with Gulf enemy Iran.

On Sunday, foreign ministers of the four countries said they were ready for dialogue with Qatar if it showed willingness to tackle their demands.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by Larry King and Peter Cooney)

Singularity Hub

The Era of Human Gene Editing Is Here—What Happens Next Is Critical

By Vivek Wadhwa

July 31, 2017

Scientists in Portland, Ore., just succeeded in creating the first genetically modified human embryo in the United States, according to Technology Review. A team led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health & Science University is reported to “have broken new ground both in the number of embryos experimented upon and by demonstrating that it is possible to safely and efficiently correct defective genes that cause inherited diseases.”

The U.S. team’s results follow two trials—one last year and one in April—by researchers in China who injected genetically modified cells into cancer patients. The research teams used CRISPR, a new gene-editing system derived from bacteria that enables scientists to edit the DNA of living organisms.

The era of human gene editing has begun.

In the short term, scientists are planning clinical trials to use CRISPR to edit human genes linked to cystic fibrosis and other fatal hereditary conditions. But supporters of synthetic biology talk up huge potential long-term benefits. We could, they claim, potentially edit genes and build new ones to eradicate all hereditary diseases. With genetic alterations, we might be able to withstand anthrax attacks or epidemics of pneumonic plague. We might revive extinct species such as the woolly mammoth. We might design plants that are far more nutritious, hardy, and delicious than what we have now.

But developments in gene editing are also highlighting a desperate need for ethical and legal guidelines to regulate in vitro genetic editing—and raising concerns about a future in which the well-off could pay for CRISPR to perfect their offspring. We will soon be faced with very difficult decisions about when and how to use this breakthrough medical technology. For example, if your unborn child were going to have a debilitating disease that you could fix by taking a pill to edit their genome, would you take the pill? How about adding some bonus intelligence? Greater height or strength? Where would you draw the line?

CRISPR’s potential for misuse by changing inherited human traits has prompted some genetic researchers to call for a global moratorium on using the technique to modify human embryos. Such use is a criminal offense in 29 countries, and the United States bans the use of federal funds to modify embryos.

Still, CRISPR’s seductiveness is beginning to overtake the calls for caution.

In February, an advisory body from the National Academy of Sciences announced the academy’s support for using CRISPR to edit the genes of embryos to remove DNA sequences that doctors say cause serious heritable diseases. The recommendation came with significant caveats and suggested limiting the use of CRISPR to specific embryonic problems. That said, the recommendation is clearly an endorsement of CRISPR as a research tool that is likely to become a clinical treatment—a step from which there will be no turning back.

CRISPR’s combination of usability, low cost, and power is both tantalizing and frightening, with the potential to someday enable anyone to edit a living creature on the cheap in their basements. So, although scientists might use CRISPR to eradicate malaria by making the mosquitoes that carry it infertile, bioterrorists could use it to create horrific pathogens that could kill tens of millions of people.

With the source code of life now so easy to hack, and biologists and the medical world ready to embrace its possibilities, how do we ensure the responsible use of CRISPR?

There’s a line that “A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor uses when describing the fictional town of Lake Wobegon, where “all the children are above average.” Will we enter a time when those who can afford a better genome will live far longer, healthier lives than those who cannot? Should the U.S. government subsidize genetic improvements to ensure a level playing field when the rich have access to the best genetics that money can buy and the rest of society does not? And what if CRISPR introduces traits into the human germ line with unforeseen consequences—perhaps higher rates of cardiac arrest or schizophrenia?

Barriers to mass use of CRISPR are already falling. Dog breeders looking to improve breeds suffering from debilitating maladies are actively pursuing gene hacking. A former NASA fellow in synthetic biology now sells functional bacterial engineering CRISPR kits for $150 from his online store. It’s not hard to imagine a future in which the big drugstore chains carry CRISPR kits for home testing and genetic engineering.

The release of genetically modified organisms into the wild in the past few years has raised considerable ethical and scientific questions. The potential consequences of releasing genetically crippled mosquitoes in the southern United States to reduce transmission of tropical viruses, for instance, drew a firestorm of concern over the effects on humans and the environment.

So, while the prospect of altering the genes of people—modern-day eugenics—has caused a schism in the science community, research with precisely that aim is happening all over the world.

We have arrived at a Rubicon. Humans are on the verge of finally being able to modify their own evolution. The question is whether they can use this newfound superpower in a responsible way that will benefit the planet and its people. And a decision so momentous cannot be left to the doctors, the experts, or the bureaucrats.

Failing to figure out how to ensure that everyone will benefit from this breakthrough risks the creation of a genetic underclass who must struggle to compete with the genetically modified offspring of the rich. And failing to monitor and contain how we use it may spell global catastrophe. It’s up to us collectively to get this right.

This article was originally published by The Washington Post. Read the original article.

NEWSTARGET

Biotech scientists now raising human–animal chimeras on U.S. farms

By: Chris Draper

Date: January 21, 2016

Despite a funding ban, several U.S. research facilities are moving forward with experiments that could produce human–animal chimeras. The possibility is fueled by scientists attempting to grow human organs inside animals like sheep and pigs. Approximately 20 animals have been impregnated with human organs in the last year under the watchful eyes of American universities.

The word chimera has roots grounded in Greek mythology, which describes an entity that is part lion, part goat and part snake. In the wake of modern biotechnology, however, the term has been used to describe a single organism composed of cells from different zygotes. Creating chimeras in a lab is a polarizing issue, since it blurs the line between mankind and the rest of the animal kingdom.

The fear is that the human cells inserted into a critter could specialize and multiply, as cells are programmed to do, which could give the animal human-like characteristics. In fact, the National Institute of Health (NIH) recently reversed a former policy to support studies involving human–animal chimeras because they worried the animals’ “cognitive state” could be altered if they wound up with human neurons.(1)

Creating a manimal behind closed doors

According to interviews with three research groups based in California and Minnesota, approximately 20 pregnancies of pig–human and sheep–human chimeras have been produced in the last 12 months in the U.S. Thus far, no scientific papers have been published highlighting this work and the animals involved in these studies.(1)

The only research disclosed took place during a series of presentations made at the NIH’s Maryland campus last November due to a request made by the agency. One researcher, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte of the Salk Institute, provided unpublished research on more than a dozen pig embryos harboring human cells. Another researcher from the University of Minnesota provided pictures of a 62-day-old pig fetus injected with human cells, which caused the animal to suffer from a congenital eye defect.(1)

The technology that makes gene editing possible involves altering the DNA of pig or sheep embryos, which can make them genetically incapable of creating a specific tissue. Scientists then add stem cells from a person, which they hope will develop into the missing organ with human tissue. The primary motivation behind chimeras is to harvest human organs from the hybrids for use in transplant operations.

“We can make an animal without a heart. We have engineered pigs that lack skeletal muscles and blood vessels,” Daniel Garry, a cardiologist who leads a chimera project at the University of Minnesota, told sources.(1)

Human–animal hybrids fraught with genetic errors

Of course, Dr. Garry didn’t note the hundreds of failed attempts it takes to achieve these results. For instance, it took hundreds of trials and errors before researchers successfully cloned a sheep named Dolly. Despite this minor success, the rate of abortions, stillbirths and developmental abnormalities caused by these procedures remains high.(2)

As TechnologyReview.com reported: “The worry is that the animals might turn out to be a little too human for comfort, say ending up with human reproductive cells, patches of people hair, or just higher intelligence.”

“We are not near the island of Dr. Moreau, but science moves fast,” NIH ethicist David Resnik stated at November’s meeting.(1)

“The specter of an intelligent mouse stuck in a laboratory somewhere screaming ‘I want to get out’ would be very troubling to people,” he added.(1)

The likelihood that an animal would acquire human-like consciousness from fetal cells is small. As a precautionary measure, however, researchers working with farm-animal chimeras have not allowed any to be born. They collect fetuses — or, more accurately, human–animal hybrid corpses — in order to gather data about how much human cells affect the development of the animals’ bodies.

Hiromitsu Nakauchi, a stem-cell biologist at Stanford University, has begun attempting to manufacture human–sheep chimeras this year. He claims the impact that human cells have on the animals’ bodies is relatively small. “If the extent of human cells is 0.5 percent, it’s very unlikely to get thinking pigs or standing sheep,” he said. “But if it’s large, like 40 percent, then we’d have to do something about that.”(1)

Sources include:
(1) TechnologyReview.com
(2) Plato.Stanford.edu

***

MailOnline

Facebook shuts down controversial chatbot experiment after AIs develop their own language to talk to each other

  • Facebook's AI researchers were teaching chatbots how to negotiate

  • The bots were left unsupervised and developed their own machine language

  • The new language was more efficient for communication between the bots

  • Facebook says it wanted to develop bots to converse with people

By Tim Collins and Mark Prigg For Dailymail.com

PUBLISHED: 22:47, 31 July 2017 | UPDATED: 23:30, 31 July 2017

Facebook has shut down a controversial chatbot experiment that saw two AIs develop their own language to communicate.

The social media firm was experimenting with teaching two chatbots, Alice and Bob, how to negotiate with one another.

However, researchers at the Facebook AI Research Lab (FAIR) found that they had deviated from script and were inventing new phrases without any human input.

Facebook's Artificial Intelligence Researchers were teaching chatbots to make deals with one another using human language when they were left unsupervised and developed their own machine language spontaneously (stock image)
The bots were attempting to imitate human speech when they developed their own machine language spontaneously - at which point Facebook decided to shut them down.

'Our interest was having bots who could talk to people,' Mike Lewis of Facebook's FAIR programme told Fast Co Design.

Facebook's Artificial Intelligence Researchers (Fair) were teaching the chatbots, artificial intelligence programs that carry out automated one to one tasks, to make deals with one another.

As part of the learning process they set up two bots, known as a dialog agents, to teach each other about human speech using machine learning algorithms.

The bots were originally left alone to develop their conversational skills.

When the experimenters returned, they found that the AI software had begun to deviate from normal speech.

Instead, they were using a brand new language created without any input from their human supervisors.

The new language was more efficient for communication between the bots, but was not helpful in achieving the task they had been set.

'Agents will drift off understandable language and invent codewords for themselves,' Dhruv Batra, a visiting research scientist from Georgia Tech at Facebook AI Research (FAIR) told Fast co.

'Like if I say 'the' five times, you interpret that to mean I want five copies of this item. This isn't so different from the way communities of humans create shorthand.'

The programmers had to alter the way the machines learned language to complete their negotiation training.

Writing on the Fair blog, a spokesman said: 'During reinforcement learning, the agent attempts to improve its parameters from conversations with another agent.

'While the other agent could be a human, Fair used a fixed supervised model that was trained to imitate humans.

'The second model is fixed, because the researchers found that updating the parameters of both agents led to divergence from human language as the agents developed their own language for negotiating.'

Facebook's artificial intelligence researchers announced last week they had broken new ground by giving the bots the ability to negotiate, and make compromises.

The technology pushes forward the ability to create bots 'that can reason, converse and negotiate, all key steps in building a personalised digital assistant,' said researchers Mike Lewis and Dhruv Batra in a blog post.

Up to now, most bots or chatbots have had only the ability to hold short conversations and perform simple tasks like booking a restaurant table.
But in the latest code developed by Facebook, bots will be able to dialogue and 'to engage in start-to-finish negotiations with other bots or people while arriving at common decisions or outcomes,' they wrote.

The Fair team gave bots this ability by estimating the 'value' of an item and inferring how much that is worth to each party.

But the bots can also find ways to be sneaky.

In some cases, bots 'initially feigned interest in a valueless item, only to later 'compromise' by conceding it - an effective negotiating tactic that people use regularly,' the researchers said.

This behaviour was not programmed by the researchers 'but was discovered by the bot as a method for trying to achieve its goals,' they said.

The bots were also trained to never give up.

'The new agents held longer conversations with humans, in turn accepting deals less quickly.

'While people can sometimes walk away with no deal, the model in this experiment negotiates until it achieves a successful outcome. '

(Demon possessed machines? “And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.” Revelation 13:15)

***

PUBLIC RADIO OF ARMENIA

Turkish Parliament passes the bill that bans the term “Armenian Genocide”

14:20, 28 Jul 2017

The Turkish parliament passed the bill that stipulates changes in the internal rules of procedure, Diken reports. According to it lawmakers are banned from mentioning the Armenian Genocide in the parliament. As could have been expected, the AK and the Nationalist Movement Party voted in favor of the bill, while the opposition voted against.

As was reported earlier the bill stipulates a punishment for those lawmakers who break the rule by “insulting the history and common past of the Turkish people” that is using the term “Armenian Genocide” while speaking about the “events of 1915”. The ban also includes terms like “Kurdistan”, “Kurdish regions”.

Those who refuse to take an oath in the Parliament after being elected will not be able to enjoy their rights. Lawmakers are banned from bringing any text posters or placards to the Parliament.

Those Members of Parliament who break the law will temporarily be removed from the legislative body, as well as will pay a penalty in the amount of 1/3 of their salaries.

***

Zero Hedge

Russian PM: "The U.S. Just Declared Full-Scale Trade War On Russia"

by Tyler Durden

Aug 2, 2017 3:03 PM

Several hours after President Trump officially signed the new Russian sanctions into law - despite his reservations and his statement that while he favors "tough measures to punish and deter aggressive and destabilizing behavior by Iran, North Korea, and Russia, this legislation is significantly flawed" - Russia responded when moments ago Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on his FaceBook page that any hopes of improving Russian relations with the new US administration are dead, that the Trump administration demonstrated complete impotence by transferring executive power to Congress "in the most humiliating manner", and most notably, that the US just declared a full-scale trade war on Russia.

From Medvedev's facebook page:

The signing of new sanctions against Russia into law by the US president leads to several consequences. First, any hope of improving our relations with the new US administration is over. Second, the US just declared a full-scale trade war on Russia. Third, the Trump administration demonstrated it is utterly powerless, and in the most humiliating manner transferred executive powers to Congress. This shifts the alignment of forces in US political circles.

What does this mean for the U.S.? The American establishment completely outplayed Trump. The president is not happy with the new sanctions, but he could not avoid signing the new law. The purpose of the new sanctions was to put Trump in his place. Their ultimate goal is to remove Trump from power. An incompetent player must be eliminated. At the same time, the interests of American businesses were almost ignored. Politics rose above the pragmatic approach. Anti-Russian hysteria has turned into a key part of not only foreign (as has been the case many times), but also domestic US policy (this is recent).

The sanctions codified into law will now last for decades, unless some miracle occurs. Moreover, it will be tougher than the Jackson-Vanik law, because it is comprehensive and can not be postponed by special orders of the president without the consent of the Congress. Therefore, the future relationship between the Russian Federation and the United States will be extremely tense, regardless of the composition of the Congress or the personality of the president. Relations between the two countries will now be clarified in international bodies and courts of justice leading to further intensification of international tensions, and a refusal to resolve major international problems.

What does this mean for Russia? We will continue to work on the development of the economy and social sphere, we will deal with import substitution, solve the most important state tasks, counting primarily on ourselves. We have learned to do this in recent years. Within almost closed financial markets, foreign creditors and investors will be afraid to invest in Russia due to worries of sanctions against third parties and countries. In some ways, it will benefit us, although sanctions - in general - are meaningless. We will manage.

Separately, Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia retains the right to impose new counter-measures, adding the US sanctions are short-sighted, and risk harming global stability. He concludes that and attempts to pressure Russia will not make it change course.

Echoing Lavrov, earlier on Wednesday the permanent representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow "won’t bend" and has no plans to change its policies following Donald Trump’s signing of new anti-Russian sanctions.

“Those who invented this bill, if they were thinking that they might change our policy they were wrong, as history many times proved. They should have known better that we do not bend and do not break,” Nebenzia told journalists in New York.

"Some of the US officials were saying that this is a bill that might encourage Russia to cooperate... This is a strange form of encouragement. But it is not our habit to be resentful children," continued the diplomat, who promised that Moscow would "not relent on finding means and ways" to cooperate in the international arena over issues such as Syria.

The Kremlin also chose not to escalate the situation further. “This changes nothing. There is nothing new here,” Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told the media in Moscow. “Counter-measures have already been taken.”

And now we await a similar announcement from the European Union.

***

***

RT

New US Russia sanctions ‘absolutely unacceptable,’ come at expense of EU jobs – Austrian chancellor

27 July 2017

The Austrian chancellor has joined the chorus of EU officials criticizing the latest US sanctions against Russia, saying it is “absolutely unacceptable” for his country to cave in to Washington’s policies at the expense of European jobs.

“I consider the Russia sanctions imposed by the US absolutely unacceptable,” Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. “Confusing political interests with economic interests at the expense of European jobs is a no-go.”

“Energy supply of Europe is a matter for Europe!” Kern added.

The new anti-Russian sanctions are outlined in an amendment to a wider bill imposing measures against Iran. It was approved by the US House of Representatives on July 25 by an overwhelming majority of 419-3, but still needs to pass the US Senate and be signed by the president to become law.

The legislation seeks to introduce individual sanctions for contributing in Russian energy projects, and targets major sectors of Russia’s economy, including the defense, railway and banking industries. It also outlines steps to hamper the construction of the Gazprom-run flagship gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2.

Austria and its neighbor Germany – the main beneficiaries of Nord Stream 2 – have consistently criticized the bill. Commenting on the House vote on Tuesday, Austrian Chancellery spokesman Jurgen Schulz told TASS that Vienna was opposed to the fact the US sanctions are likely to target European companies holding stakes in Russian energy projects.

“Extraterritorial application of foreign laws [in Europe] is completely unacceptable. As far as we know, the proposed sanctions may also be directed against European companies working on developing European energy infrastructure,” Schwarz said, describing the conduct of the US as “very unfortunate.”

Last Wednesday, the CEO of Vienna-based gas and oil company OMV, Rainer Seele, said it is crucial that European customers receive additional volumes of Russian gas in the nearest future.

"From the European point of view, extra volumes of Russian natural gas are necessary, as our volumes of production have started to significantly decrease,” Seele wrote for Handelsblatt daily, as cited by Finanz Nachrichten.

In mid-June, Austrian Chancellor Kern and German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel issued a joint statement in which they accused their transatlantic ally of neglecting European opposition.

“Europe's energy supply is a matter for Europe, and not the United States of America!” the statement stressed. Threats against German, Austrian and other European enterprises “which take part in the gas supply projects such as the Nord Stream II together with Russia or finance them, with penalties on the US market would add an absolutely new and highly negative aspect in relations between the US and Europe,” it stated.

The top officials argued the restrictions have more to do with “providing jobs for the US gas and oil industry” and “pressing the Russian energy supply companies from the European market” than with other goals.

***

PNW

Kings Of The East Prepare For World Power Status
July 31, 2017

Just hours after bomber jets from the U.S., South Korea and Japan swarmed the skies over the Korean Peninsula in a "show of strength" message to North Korea, China's President Xi Jinping demonstrated his own show of strength with an elaborate military parade at it's largest military training center that features life-size mockup targets, including Taiwan's presidential palace.

The parade was to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army and was overseen by President Xi Jinping who called on the Chinese military to transform itself into an elite fighting force to bolster the country's rise into a world power.

He said the Chinese military had the capabilities to 'preserve national sovereignty, security and interests' and demanded the troops' show 'absolute loyalty' to the party. "Always listen to and follow the party's orders," Xi told his assembled troops. "And march to wherever the party points to."

More than 100 planes flew overhead and almost 600 types of weaponry were on display for the occasion -- nearly half of which were making their debut in public, according to the Defense Ministry.

Attracting the most attention Sunday was the J-20, China's newest-generation stealth fighter that could potentially rival the F-22 or F-35 in the US military.

"It's evidence that it's operational -- it's a statement," Zhang said. "It will give China's air force an advantage over neighboring countries' air power."

Perhaps coincidentally, the last weapons rolled out at Sunday's parade were China's own nuclear warhead-capable ICBMs, which state TV announcers proudly called "symbols of a major power."

Zhang said China showed off the DF-31AG mobile intercontinental ballistic missile, an upgrade to the DF-31A that was introduced in 2009.

"The AG version has better off-road ability and is believed to carry multiple warheads," he said. "The DF-31A is fitted with one warhead. Deploying multiple warheads on China's strategic missiles gives them better abilities to penetrate US missile defense."

The PLA has undergone an extensive modernization program investing heavily in aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and stealth fighters with the strategic aim of competing with the US for regional dominance.

It comes a day after North Korea tested a ballistic missile that it claims can reach all of the United States, US President Donald Trump criticized China for not reining in Kim Jong Un and his missile program.

'I am very disappointed in China,' Trump wrote in a pair of Twitter posts. '...they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!'

North Korea's test Friday of an intercontinental ballistic missile was its second of the long-range weapon in a month. The first on July 4 showed the missile had the range to reach Alaska. 

Friday's test was designed to show the Hwasong-14 missile's maximum range with a 'large-sized heavy nuclear warhead,' a statement from Pyongyang's Korean Central News Agency said.

It said Washington should regard the launch as a 'grave warning" and that it could now hit other parts of the US mainland.

China appears to believe that such warnings should be taken seriously as it continues to make preparations along it's 880-mile border with North Korea and is realigning forces in surrounding regions to prepare for a potential crisis, including the possibility of a U.S. military strike.

Recent measures include establishing a new border defense brigade, 24-hour video surveillance of the mountainous frontier backed by aerial drones, and bunkers to protect against nuclear and chemical blasts, and drills with special forces, airborne troops and other units that experts say could be sent into North Korea in a crisis.

Mark Cozad, a former senior U.S. defense intelligence official for East Asia, now at the Rand Corp, comments that China's contingency preparations "go well beyond just seizing a buffer zone in the North and border security."

"Once you start talking about efforts from outside powers, in particular the United States and South Korea, to stabilize the North, to seize nuclear weapons or WMD, in those cases then I think you're starting to look at a much more robust Chinese response."

"If you're going to make me place bets on where I think the U.S. and China would first get into a conflict, it's not Taiwan, the South China Sea or the East China Sea: I think it's the Korean Peninsula."

***

INDEPENDENT

United Ireland referendum is inevitable after Brexit, says Irish parliamentary report author

'It is clear that everybody believes that at some stage there will be a referendum'

    Rob Merrick Deputy Political Editor

    2 August 2017

Brexit has sparked fears of a new hard border in Ireland - and protests PA Wire/PA Images

A referendum on a united Ireland is inevitable following the Brexit vote, the author of a report by an Irish parliamentary committee says.

The study urges both Dublin and London not to repeat the fallout from Britain’s EU referendum by failing to prepare for the possibility it will lead to Irish reunification.

Mark Daly, the Fianna Fáil Senator, who compiled the report, said: “Last year, our former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, said the EU needs to prepare for a united Ireland.

“And it's clear from the 17 recommendations by the committee that a lot of work needs to be done in advance of a referendum.”

Mr Daly added: “From talking to people in both communities in the North, it is clear that everybody believes that at some stage there will be a referendum.

“But we must learn the lesson from Brexit and the lesson from Brexit is that you don't have a referendum and then tell people what the future will look like.

“What you do is you lay out the future in great detail, you talk about the issues of great concern to all communities.”

The report – entitled Brexit and the Future of Ireland: Uniting Ireland and its People in Peace and Prosperity – sets out detailed options for the island of Ireland in the wake of Brexit.

It calls on the Republic, in the final Brexit agreement between the EU and the UK, to demand a “special status” for Northern Ireland and that there should be no new passport controls.

Published by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the report also emphasises the need to protect EU structural funds in Northern Ireland, after Brexit.

Last year, Northern Ireland broke with England by voting against Brexit, by 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

Since then, the issue of the Irish border has emerged as crucial in the exit negotiations, with Brussels insisting progress is a red line before trade talks can begin.

The Irish government declared it wants special status for Northern Ireland after Brexit, rejecting Britain’s suggestion that better technology can police trade between North and South after 2019.

Meanwhile, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the UK Government is legally obliged to hold a referendum on Irish reunification if polls show support for one.

Furthermore, ministers have acknowledged that Northern Ireland, if it backed reunification, would be able to rejoin the EU as part of a united Ireland with the Republic.

Unlike Scotland, which has been told it would have to reapply for membership of the bloc if it ever backed independence, the North would automatically be part of the EU.

“Northern Ireland would be in a position of becoming part of an existing EU member state, rather than seeking to join the EU as a new independent state,” Brexit Secretary David Davis wrote, earlier this year.

It is thought to be the first report by an Irish Government, department or parliamentary committee into achieving Irish unity for more than 30 years.

One opinion poll suggested that voters in the Republic overwhelmingly back reunification, putting support at 79 per cent.

However, a BBC poll, in September last year, found 63 per cent of people in Northern Ireland supported staying in the UK, with only 22 per cent backing a united Ireland

REUTERS

Apple says it is removing VPN services from China App Store

July 29, 2017

FILE PHOTO: A 3D printed Apple logo is seen in front of a displayed cyber code in this illustration taken March 22, 2016.

BEIJING (Reuters) - Apple Inc (AAPL.O) says it is removing virtual private network (VPN) services from its app store in China, drawing criticism from VPN service providers, who accuse the U.S. tech giant of bowing to pressure from Beijing cyber regulators.

VPNs allow users to bypass China's so-called "Great Firewall" aimed at restricting access to overseas sites.

In January, Beijing passed laws seeking to ban all VPNs that are not approved by state regulators. Approved VPNs must use state network infrastructure.

In a statement on Sunday, an Apple spokeswoman confirmed it will remove apps that don't comply with the law from its China App Store, including services based outside the country.

Beijing has shut down dozens of China-based providers and it has been targeting overseas services as it bids to tighten its control over the internet, especially ahead of the Communist Party congress in August.

While personal VPN providers have been the subject of state-led attacks in the past, this marks the first time Apple has complied with requests to scrub overseas providers from its store, a move that VPN providers say is unnecessarily supportive of China's heightened censorship regime.

VPN provider ExpressVPN said on Saturday that it had received a notice from Apple that its software would be removed from the China App Store "because it includes content that is illegal in China".

"We're disappointed in this development, as it represents the most drastic measure the Chinese government has taken to block the use of VPNs to date, and we are troubled to see Apple aiding China's censorship efforts," ExpressVPN said in a statement.

Other major providers, including VyprVPN and StarVPN, confirmed they also received the notice on Saturday from Apple.

"We view access to Internet in China as a human rights issue and I would expect Apple to value human rights over profit," Sunday Yokubaitis, president of Golden Frog, which oversees VyprVPN told Reuters on Sunday.

Yokubaitis said Golden Frog will file an appeal to Apple over the ban.

China users with billing addresses in other countries will still be able to access VPN apps from other branches of the App Store. A number of VPN apps were still accessible on the China App store on Saturday.

Apple is in the middle of a localization drive in China, and named a new managing director for the region - a new role - this month.

It is also establishing a data center with a local partner in the southwestern province of Guizhou to comply with new Chinese cloud storage regulations.

VPN providers say that while the apps are not available on the store, users are still able to manually install them using VPN support built into Apple's operating system.

"We are extremely disappointed that Apple has bowed to pressure," said Yokubaitis. "(It's been a) disappointing morning but we will fight on."

Reporting by Cate Cadell; Writing by David Stanway; Editing by Jason Neely and Kim Coghill

CNN

Why the radio is one of history's most important inventions

Clive Martin, CNN

July 27, 2017

There are few more important inventions in the history of the world than the radio.

While in recent years it may have become less popular than television or the internet, it could be argued that the radio was the first electronic gadget to play a prominent part in people's lives.

Radio is where the world first heard Britain declare war on Germany, where Orson Welles accidentally fooled the public into believing a real alien invasion was under way in his "War Of The Worlds" serial and where young people first heard Billy Haley's "Rock Around The Clock," spreading popular music around the world.

But it is not just an aural medium. Like all important pieces of technology, design has had an essential part to play in its evolution.

An icon of the 20th century

Within the radio's changing form over the years you can learn plenty about 20th century modern design.

From the giant mahogany chests of the early days to the kitsch Bush models of the 1950s, Panasonic ghetto blasters to chunky Sony in-car stereos and up to today, where radio is so often just an app on a laptop or a phone.

Celebrating this connection between design and radio is a new exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt museum in New York.

Entitled "The World Of Radio," it tells the story of how the design world impacted this every day item, and the importance of radio in people's lives.

"Radio really became a way of broadening one's personal world," says Cynthia Trope, Associate Curator at Cooper Hewitt. "You could link to the rest of the world through entertainment broadcasts, news broadcasts... almost instantaneously."

From the offset, the look of a radio was as important as the information they brought into people's living rooms: "Aside from being just a broadcast system, radio had to have an appeal to the domestic market, because it was used in people's homes," says Trope.

"Tabletop radios and larger pieces really had to work within interiors, they had to become part of the environment."

As times moved on, the look and size of radios changed dramatically with new developments in materials and electronics.

"When they first started they were viewed more in terms of available materials, often in wooden cases, looking back to a historicist style. But by the 1930s, new materials like plastics really played a part. They were tough but they could also be molded, reflecting a modern, streamlined approach to this new technology."

Linking design and technology

For Trope, the changes in radio reflect not only advances in technology, but also the times, taking influence from architecture and art, as well as scientific developments.

"There's a wonderful skyscraper radio that dates back to the 1930s. It's very art deco and really looks towards the architecture of its time for inspiration. There's also the Sapper & Zanuso TS502 from 1964, which came in all sorts of bright colors. The TR620 portable pocket radio by Sony is a personal favorite, it really reduced the size and made radio a really personal device that could fit in a pocket."

TR-620 Portable Radio (1960) by Sony Corporation.

It's in these early portable radios, such as the TR620 that you start to see the genesis of much of today's technology.

"Transistors allowed the miniaturization of these forms, so they could really become personal devices. This goes through to later devices like MP3 players, phones and other really small devices that we carry today. These developments in radio technology really made all that possible."

As radio becomes little more than an icon on a homescreen, web player, or Soundcloud link, the pieces featured in this exhibition take on a kind of poignancy: relics from an era when entertainment was so often a combination of sound and our own imagination.

This CEO Just Made a Brilliant Argument for Not Going to College

By Justin Bariso, Inc., July 27, 2017

Tony Guo is an entrepreneur and CEO of RunRex, a web consulting firm. He studied biology and law at two very prestigious universities, and learned a lot along the way.

But his recent comments contain words of wisdom for any who are contemplating university education.

Here’s what Guo said in a recent post on LinkedIn:

My two degrees cost $410,016. NYU cost $71,754 a year or $287,016 for 4 years. William and Mary Law School cost $41,000 a year (out of state) or $123,000 for a 3 year J.D. I now work in digital marketing where the most talented person I know doesn’t have a degree. He only has drive. Life is so weird isn’t it?

We could sum up Guo’s point in a single sentence: The way the world learns is changing.

I believe strongly in the power of education. And I recognize that certain career paths require a college degree: for example, you can’t effectively practice medicine or law without one.

But for the rest of us, how much does university education really teach–in terms of practical, real-world skills? (Disclosure: I attended college full-time for a year, before leaving and never looking back.)

Some argue that it’s the overall experience of college that’s beneficial, not just the degree. Fair enough, but the way we learn has changed drastically in the past decade. With knowledge more readily available than any time in history, you can teach yourself to do almost anything.

Guo’s a perfect example. In response to his post, one reader asked if he was happy with his decisions and where he is today, to which Guo responded:

“I am. But if I were to be honest, I could have gotten here without the degrees and saved 7 years + tuition. What I do is entirely different from what I learned in NYU (biology) and William and Mary Law. Some will argue that I learned how to learn… but my NYU classes were 550 for intro to chem and 500 for intro to biology. And they mostly were of professors reading their notes.”

Guo and I aren’t the only ones who feel that the traditional path isn’t right for everyone.

At a recent conference, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner spoke about what his company looks for in new hires, highlighting qualities like passion and fire, a great work ethic, perseverance, loyalty, and a growth mindset.

“These are qualities that you don’t necessarily pick up from a degree,” he said. “There are qualities…that have a tendency to be completely overlooked when people are sifting through résumés or LinkedIn profiles. And yet, increasingly, we find that these are the kinds of people that make the biggest difference within our organization. Increasingly I hear this mantra: Skills, not degrees. It’s not skills at the exclusion of degrees. It’s just expanding our perspective to go beyond degrees.”

Laszlo Bock, the former head of HR at Google and author of the bestseller Work Rules!, echoed similar thoughts in a 2013 interview with The New York Times.

“After two or three years, your ability to perform…is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different,” said Bock. “You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently.”

Look, I’m not against everything higher education has to offer. But I do believe that pushing this path as the only way to success is not only wrong, it’s dangerous. Especially for those who are self-motivated, college simply doesn’t provide the best ROI.

It’s not just about money. Time is even more precious.

Of course, everyone has to make their own decision, so make the one that’s right for you.

But before you do, ask yourself: Is a degree really necessary for what I want to do?

Because you can learn a lot in school. But you’ll learn much more outside of it.

The Telegraph

Porridge the secret of ‘the world’s oldest family’

London Telegraph, July 30, 2017

With a combined age of 1075 years and 68 days, the 13 Donnelly siblings of County Armagh in Northern Ireland can proudly lay claim to being the world’s oldest family.

Indeed their ability to defy the passing years has seen them achieve a Guinness world record. But what can now be revealed is the secret behind the family’s longevity–traditional porridge oats.

Having grown up on a farm, their diet has always been made up of locally sourced ingredients; free-range pigs and chickens for bacon and eggs and vegetables grown in their backyard.

However, the Donnelly clan are convinced that what has really guaranteed their long life is their habit of eating porridge, not just for breakfast every day but for supper, too.

“The key is that you need to get your oats at night,” said Leo Donnelly, who at 72 is the youngest of the siblings.

“We’ve always followed Daddy’s habit of that nice warm bite before sleep. Porridge at around 10pm, then porridge again for breakfast at 7am.

“Cooked oats, milk, perhaps a spot of jam on top. It has always stood us well, porridge before sleep and after sleep. People thought it was unusual, but now the proof is there for all to see.”

The family’s reliance on oats and their apparently beneficial effect on their health and years have prompted scientists at the International Longevity Centre (ILC) to launch a study of the Donnellys’ diet.

Porridge has been shown to lower blood pressure, combat diabetes, reduce cholesterol and protect the body against heart disease.

Oats are naturally high in vitamin B-12, a crucial component in regulating the body’s melatonin levels and sleeping patterns. The grain is also naturally loaded with beta-glucan, a “magic genie” that lowers “bad” LDL cholesterol and reduces heart disease.

Porridge was labelled a superfood when it was discovered that avenanthramides, antioxidants that are only found in oats, minimise plaque build-up in artery walls and reduce the hardening of arteries.

But for the Donnellys, tucking into a bowl of porridge is just part of their fundamentally wholesome diet and lifestyle, which also sees them steer clear of alcohol.

“The farm oats in our porridge were always local and of the finest quality,” said Leo. “Our diet has never been from processed or polluted foods.

“We worked with nature, everything eaten was either grown or reared by us. Mummy would say go outside and wring a chicken’s neck, that would be for dinner.

“The vegetables we ate we had grown, the fruit we ate we picked, the eggs laid were from our chickens, the bacon came from our pigs, the bread we made by hand. Farm oats did not arrive from foreign lands.

“There was never a fat Donnelly raised.”

Recipe for Longevity: The Donnellys’ Daily Meals
Breakfast at 7am

Porridge with homemade jam

Lunch at 1pm

Cooked seasonal vegetables from the farm, occasional eggs, homemade bread and tea

Dinner at 6pm

Eggs, soup, seasonal vegetables from the farm, homemade bread and fruits.

Meat from their own animals as a weekend treat

Supper at 10pm

Porridge with the option of apple jam

Snacks: Apples, bread and tea

***

Until next week...keep on believing.
Almondtree Productions

And Daniel purposed in his heart, that he would not defile himself with the king’s table, nor with the wine of his drink: and he intreated the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and compassion with the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your meat and your drink, lest he see your countenances gloomy in comparison of the young men your equals; also shall ye endanger my head to the king. And Daniel said to Amelsad, whom the chief of the eunuchs had appointed over Daniel, Ananias, Misael, and Azarias. Prove now thy servants ten days; and let them give us pulse, and let us eat, and let us drink water: And let our countenances be seen by thee, and the countenances of the children that eat at the king’s table; and deal with thy servants according as thou shalt see. And he hearkened to them, and proved them ten days. And at the end of the ten days their countenances appeared fairer and stouter in flesh, than the children that fed at the king’s table. So Amelsad took away their supper and the wine of their drink, and gave them pulse.”
(Daniel 1:8-16)


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