Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law”.
(Psalm 119:18)

Open Thou Mine Eyes

Dear Friends,

Greeting! In keeping with some of the articles we have posted over the past few weeks, that tradition can be a tremendous hinderance to knowing and understanding the truth, we are continuing on with the same theme this week, albeit from an entirely different perspective.

We are using a pagan religion, the Hellenistic belief system and the Oracle of Delphi, which was popularized in the hit film a few years ago “300” to once again illustrate how easily fact can be lost by incorrect teaching and belief.

The statement,"Give me a child for his first seven years and I'll give you the man." is alleged to be attributed to the Jesuits or one of their members -- St. Ignatius of Loyola, amongst others.

When one is raised in a certain belief system, and raised in particular by a person that one loves or respects or both, if the teaching is incorrect it can be extremely difficult for the truth to be received.

Leo Tolstoy once said, “Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their mind without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own custom, privileges, or beliefs.”

This certainly holds true with the Bible which says, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:6-8

Although our first article does use the word “tradition” in a positive light, it nevertheless serves to illustrate how easy it is to overlook the facts of history by assuming, believing so and so either could not be right or could not be wrong.

Once again, going back to our previous theme of the location of the Temples in Jerusalem, close to one thousand years of oral tradition says they were built over the Dome of the Rock. However, one small book of thirteen chapters, Nehemiah, says something otherwise, that it was not built over the Dome of the Rock.

Jesus certainly was aware of the tremendous hindering power of “tradition” as evidenced in the book of Matthew, chapter fifteen: “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition...teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”

At the end of our introductory article from Archaeology Odyssey, “The Oracle of Delphi—Was She Really Stoned?”, we share some interesting material from Tom Horn's book “Apollyon Rising 2012. This material relates how the Oracle of Delphi made an interesting prophecy concerning Apollo-Osiris, Satan, the rise of the antichrist and his location – Memphis Egypt.

The prayer King David prayed, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law”. Psalm 119:18, would seem like a good prayer for us all at this time in history.

Let it never be said of us, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” 2 Corinthians 4:4

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Archaeology Odyssey

The Oracle of Delphi—Was She Really Stoned?

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and John R. Hale

05/30/2013

Archaeologists are good at recovering things left behind by the past, such as buildings, incense altars, tools and relief carvings. What they are not so good at recovering are the ideas, feelings and emotions—the innerness—of sentient ancient beings. It’s one thing to examine a temple’s holy of holies; it’s another thing to understand what went on there and what people experienced. Sometimes, however, there’s an exception to the rule.

Numerous classical authors report that natural phenomena played an essential part in one of their most sacred religious rituals: the oracle at Delphi. According to the geographer Strabo (c. 64 B.C.–25 A.D.), for example, “the seat of the oracle is a cavern hollowed down in the depths … from which arises pneuma [breath, vapor, gas] that inspires a divine state of possession” (Geography 9.3.5). Over the past five years, a team of researchers—a geologist, an archaeologist, a chemist and a toxicologist—has put that claim to the test, making it much more likely that we will actually understand what happened at Delphi.

When ancient Greeks and Romans had to make decisions, they consulted the gods—by drawing lots, casting dice, interpreting dreams and analyzing such signs as sneezes, thunderbolts and flying birds. But for matters of the utmost importance, they sought to hear the words of the gods in the mouths of oracles.a

Paradoxically, in male-dominated classical Greece the most influential voice, the Delphic oracle, belonged to a woman. The oracular temple was perched on the south slope of Mount Parnassus, surrounded by high cliffs, about 75 miles west of Athens. Getting to Delphi required either a long trek across the mountains or a sea voyage to the north shore of the Gulf of Corinth. However difficult the journey, thousands of visitors sought guidance from the holy woman, called the Pythia,b who spoke on behalf of the gods.

The Pythia dealt less in visions of the future than in right choices: where to locate a new colony, when to attack an enemy, how to lift a curse, whom to choose as leader, what offering to make to which god. No kingdom, city or private person could afford to make critical decisions without consulting the Pythia. Thanks to her prestige, Delphi became the richest and most famous Hellenic sanctuary. The Greeks called it the omphalos, or “navel of the world.”

How could a mere mortal command such respect? The answer lies in the belief that Apollo—the god of revelation and inspiration—used the Pythia as his mouthpiece, taking possession of her during oracular sessions. The Pythia would fall into a trance, and the words she spoke were supposedly those of Apollo, delivered in a voice very unlike her normal tones.

Most scholars believe the Delphic oracle was established around the eighth century B.C., when founders of new colonies would consult the Pythia before setting out for the western Mediterranean, North Africa, Asia Minor or the Black Sea. The origins of the oracle are recounted in a story about a goatherd named Koretas, who pastured his flock on the slope of Mount Parnassus. Koretas noticed that when the goats grazed near a certain fissure in the mountainside, they began to bleat strangely. Approaching the fissure, he was filled with a prophetic spirit. Eventually, a woman—the first Pythia—was appointed to sit on a tripod over the cleft and give prophecies. Before she could mount the tripod, however, a goat had to be sacrificed to ensure that the day was propitious.

During the classical period, supplicants would line up at dawn to walk along the Sacred Way, a steep path snaking up through the sanctuary toward the Temple of Apollo. The priests and temple attendants determined the order of the queue, giving priority to state embassies and then working their way down through military commanders, athletes, poets and, last of all, mere heads of families concerned about a child or an investment. The supplicants filed past bronze statues, war monuments and treasure houses dedicated in the past by grateful visitors. It would have been late in the day by the time the ordinary men at the rear reached the terrace of the temple and viewed the famous inscriptions, “Know Thyself” and “Nothing in Excess.”

From here the way led up a ramp to a great colonnade of Doric columns, and then through a double door into the temple itself. Inside burned a constant pinewood fire tended by women of Delphi. The final approach to the oracle led downward into a sunken space below the level of the temple floor, where the visitor would be confronted by a gold statue of Apollo and the omphalos stone that marked the sacred spot. The Pythia sat in a recessed inner sanctum called the adyton, a Greek word meaning “not to be entered.” Standing outside the adyton, visitors would ask their questions and await the response.

Unlike itinerant prophets and omen-interpreters, the Pythia derived her power from the place—she could only prophesy while seated in the adyton within the Temple of Apollo. According to Strabo, the pneuma arose from a small opening (chasma ges) in the adyton: “Over the mouth [of the opening] a high tripod is set. Mounting this, the Pythia inhales the pneuma and then speaks prophecies in verse or in prose. The latter are versified by poets on duty in the temple” (Geography 9.3.5.).

Strabo was not the only ancient source to describe the adyton and the intoxicating gas. The second-century A.D. traveler Pausanias told of a spring in the temple’s adyton that made the Pythia prophetic. Also, in On the Obsolescence of the Oracles, the biographer Plutarch (c. 46–120 A.D.), who served as a priest of Apollo at Delphi, described an exhalation of vapor in the adyton that sent the Pythia into a trance.

Despite these testimonies, no serious scholar over the last 50 years has accepted the idea that the Pythia’s trance was caused by a gaseous emission.

Modern investigations began in the 1890s, when French archaeologists began to excavate the sanctuary at Delphi. They first moved the modern village of Kastri, household by household, from above the ancient sanctuary to the town of Delphi, west of the sanctuary. The French archaeologists uncovered the boundary wall of the ancient sanctuary, an entry gate, and the lower stretches of the Sacred Way. By 1893 they had reached the terrace of the Temple of Apollo—where they found that scarcely a stone remained in place above the floor. The columns had toppled, and the statuary had been carried off or destroyed. In the lower chamber, where the oracle once spoke, no trace of the ancient structure remained. Even the archaeologists’ attempts to reach bedrock were frustrated as water filled the excavated areas.

While the French team was excavating the temple, a young English scholar named A.P. Oppé published a report based on his visit to the site. Oppé proposed that the ancient sources had confused the fissure with a nearby gorge, and that the vapor was simply a fiction that had been passed down from source to source.1

In 1927, after a hiatus precipitated by World War I, a scholar named M.F. Courby published the French team’s final report of the temple excavations. He described the bedrock under the center of the temple as “fissured by the action of the waters”—suggesting that the ancient traditions of an opening in the rock may have been correct.2 By then, however, Oppé’s theory that the ancients simply misconstrued the facts had taken too strong a hold among scholars for the issue to be reconsidered. The final blow came in 1950: Pierre Amandry of the École Française d’Athènes stated definitively—or so it was widely believed—that exhalations of intoxicating gas could never have existed at Delphi. Only volcanic activity could produce such gas, Amandry (incorrectly) noted, and Delphi does not lie in a volcanic area.3 For almost half a century, debates about the geological origins of the oracle virtually ceased.c

The first step toward a modern reassessment of the evidence was made in the 1980s by geologist (and co-author) Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, the senior member of our project in Delphi. De Boer was conducting surveys, under the auspices of the United Nations and the Greek government, to identify active fault lines. One area he studied was the south slope of Mount Parnassus, where he noted an exposed fault both east and west of the sanctuary of Apollo—though it could not be seen at the site of the temple, where it was covered by ancient construction and debris from rock slides. De Boer suspected that the fault did indeed run under the temple, but he gave the matter no more thought.

It was not until the summer of 1995 that Zeilinga de Boer encountered an archaeologist, co-author John Hale of the University of Louisville, who assured him, first, that he could not possibly have seen any such feature at Delphi and, second (after Zeilinga de Boer described the fault in detail), that this might be a discovery of major importance. We decided to continue investigations at Delphi, eventually adding a chemist (Jeff Chanton of Florida State University and the U.S. Geological Survey Magnetic Laboratory) and a toxicologist (Henry Spiller of the Kentucky Poison Center) to the team.

In 1996, with the support of Rozina Kolonia, the director of the Delphi Museum, we conducted a survey of the site and found that the sections of exposed fault on either side of the sanctuary were indeed part of the same fault—an active fault extending about 13 miles east-west along the southern flank of Mount Parnassus. We named this fault the Delphi Fault.

In subsequent seasons we identified a second fault, extending approximately southeast-northwest. This fault could be traced along a line of springs running through the center of the sanctuary. The highest spring, above the temple, is called the Kerna Spring; its water is currently channeled westward to modern Delphi. Further down the slope, though still above the temple, a mass of travertine (a kind of limestone) deposited by calcite-rich waters indicates another spring. There is also an elaborate channel for a spring built into the southern foundation wall of the temple itself. Although this spring is dry today, the early 20th-century French archaeologists found it difficult to reach bedrock within the sanctuary because their holes kept filling up with water. Down the slope below the temple, yet another spring emerges from a cleft in the bedrock near the Treasury of the Athenians.

We have named this southeast-northwest fault the Kerna Fault, after its highest spring. In de Boer’s opinion, the Kerna Fault intersects the Delphi Fault at or near the site of the temple.

What the ancient authors described as a fissure (chasma ges) in the rock over which the Pythia sat was probably a small fracture extending up from the intersection of these two faults. Very likely, this is also what M.F. Courby, in his 1927 publication of the French team’s excavations, was describing when he wrote that the bedrock was “fissured by the action of the waters.”

Greek geologists had already identified the limestone under the temple as bituminous (oil-bearing), with a petrochemical content as high as 20 percent. These petrochemicals appeared to be a possible source of gases. But how exactly could they be released from the rock into the atmosphere?

The Delphi Fault is linked to one of Greece’s most geologically active features: the great rift, or graben, that today is filled by the waters of the Gulf of Corinth. This is a recent feature, geologically speaking, having formed roughly two million years ago. The rift continues to widen; as it does, motion occurs along faults and earthquakes are triggered. In 373 B.C., for example, earthquakes almost completely destroyed the Delphic temple on the north side of the gulf, as well as coastal towns on the south side.

As slippage occurs along the fault lines, adjacent rock masses are heated, vaporizing the lighter petrochemicals in the limestone and expelling gases upward along the face of the faults. Once faulting has opened such a pathway, gases continue to rise, although the volume would slowly decrease over time. We believe that this is exactly what happened at Delphi: The rock masses deep in the earth were heated, and they intermittently produced gases that rose up along the intersection of the two fault lines, eventually entering the adyton of the temple through one or more fissures over which the Pythia sat.

Exhalations of gases from bituminous limestone have been observed by geologists studying underwater faults in the Gulf of Mexico. There light hydrocarbon gases—methane, ethane and ethylene, all of them intoxicants—have been found bubbling up from the rock below. Closer to Delphi, similar exhalations were detected near the Isthmus of Corinth, as well as on the island of Zakynthos.

We decided to test the spring water at Delphi, along with samples of the travertine rock that the ancient springs had deposited on the retaining walls and slopes around the temple. If significant quantities of gases had been emitted with the spring water, traces of these gases might be found in the travertine deposits. The very presence of travertine rock, formed from dissolved calcites in warm spring water, is evidence that the springs along the Kerna Fault had their origin at deep levels.

The water and travertine from the sanctuary of Apollo, which were analyzed by Jeff Chanton, revealed traces of the light hydrocarbon gases found in the Isthmus of Corinth and on Zakynthos. Could this explain the Pythia’s state of intoxication in ancient times?

The ancient sources describe two distinct types of prophetic trance experienced by the Pythia. First, and more normally, she would lapse into benign semi-consciousness, during which she remained seated on the tripod, responding to questions—though in a strangely altered voice. According to Plutarch, once the Pythia recovered from this trance, she was in a composed and relaxed state, like a runner after a race. A second kind of trance involved a frenzied delirium characterized by wild movements of the limbs, harsh groaning and inarticulate cries. When the Pythia experienced this delirium, Plutarch reports, she died after only a few days—and a new Pythia took her place.

According to toxicologist Henry Spiller, both of these symptoms are associated with the inhalation of hydrocarbon gases. Spiller studies the effects of such inhalants on young people, known as “huffers,” who breathe in fumes from gas, glue, paint thinner and other substances because of their intoxicating properties. Perhaps the Pythia too was high on one of these hydrocarbon gases.

It may even be possible to identify the kind of gas. Plutarch—who, we recall, was a priest of Apollo at the Delphic sanctuary—noted that the intoxicating pneuma had a sweet smell, like expensive perfume. Of the hydrocarbon gases, only ethylene has a sweet smell—so ethylene was probably a component in the gaseous emission inhaled by the Pythia.

Now, there is a good deal of evidence concerning ethylene intoxication, particularly from the early 20th century. In laboratory tests involving human subjects, the pioneering anesthesiologist Isabella Herb and other scientists studied the effects of light doses of ethylene. Ethylene worked twice as fast as nitrous oxide (laughing gas) and achieved similar effects with only half the quantity. In high concentrations, ethylene produced complete unconsciousness; in low concentrations, it induced a trance state.

Ultimately, ethylene’s use as a medical anesthetic was discontinued because of its combustibility: A spark from electrical equipment in the operating room could ignite the ethylene canister, causing it to explode.4

From the evidence of “huffers” and the experiments with ethylene, we know that subjects normally react to inhaling small quantities of these gases by entering a benign “out-of-body” trance. They can remain seated and answer questions, but their tone of voice and typical speech patterns are altered. Recovery takes place as soon as the subject is removed from exposure to the gas, and complete amnesia about the trance follows. In a minority of cases (about one in six) in the ethylene experiments, subjects experienced delirium, or a “bad trip.” Experimenters had to use restraints to hold down those undergoing this delirium, which was accompanied by groaning, shrieking and a thrashing of the arms and legs.

Unfortunately, no detailed accounts of the Pythia’s behavior survive from the golden age (seventh to fifth century B.C.) of the Delphic oracle. By the time Plutarch took office as priest of Apollo at Delphi, the oracle’s powers had significantly diminished. According to Plutarch, emissions of pneuma in the adyton were slight and unpredictable, leading to the decline of the oracle itself. He suggested that whatever produced the pneuma in the rock below the temple had become exhausted, or that the fissures in the rock had been blocked up in the 373 B.C. earthquake. The Delphic oracle never recovered its former prestige after this earthquake, even though the temple was rebuilt.

The diminished flow of gas may not have been the only reason for the decline of the institution. Plutarch opined that the pneuma was merely a trigger for the prophetic trance, and that the Pythia’s lifelong training and psychological preparation played the most important role in her spiritual possession. In a memorable simile, Plutarch compared Apollo to a musician, the Pythia to a lyre, and the pneuma to the musician’s uncanny ability to produce music by touching the instrument. Perhaps there were socio-cultural reasons for the decline of the institution, or perhaps, as the gaseous emissions became less powerful, devoting one’s life to the oracle became less attractive.

Whatever the reasons for the oracle’s demise, we can no longer dismiss ancient traditions concerning its origins and power. Strabo, Plutarch and the others have been rescued by science from a century of calumny.

The House of Apollo: A History

The Delphic oracle appears often in Greek myth, even in the account of the repopulating of the earth after a great flood. The high god Zeus, distressed over mankind’s wickedness, sends a flood to cover the earth, but two pious human beings, Deucalion (Prometheus’s son) and Pyrrha (Prometheus’s niece), survive by climbing Mount Parnassus. With the ebbing of the flood, the two descend the mountain and come upon the Delphic temple site, where they hear a voice: “Veil your heads and cast behind you the bones of your mother!” Like many of the Delphic oracles, this one is initially enigmatic, but Deucalion and Pyrrha soon realize that the earth is their mother; so they throw rocks over their shoulders, and the rocks are transformed into men and women, saving humanity from perdition.

Another famous, or infamous, visit to the oracle was made by the young Oedipus—who, having been adopted as a baby, wanted to know the identity of his parents. (The third-century A.D. marble relief above shows Oedipus [center] sacrificing to the Delphic oracle in front of a statue of Apollo [left].) However, the Delphic oracle informed the young man that he would murder his father and commit incest with his mother. To foil the prophecy, Oedipus left Corinth, which he (erroneously) believed to be his native land. On his journey he killed another chariot-driver in a fit of ancient road rage—but unknown to him, the other driver was his father Laius, King of Thebes.

The oracle at Delphi was also consulted by non-mythical figures. In the sixth century B.C., King Croesus of Lydia, in western Anatolia, inquired whether he should attack King Cyrus of Persia. “If you attack,” replied the Pythia, “you will destroy a great kingdom.” Croesus attacked the Persians, suffered total defeat, and saw his kingdom absorbed into the Persian Empire. Croesus had destroyed a great kingdom—his own.

More than a century later, the philosopher Socrates—shown above in a Hellenistic bust—reminded the Athenians at his trial in 399 B.C. that the oracle had declared him the wisest of men, a fact that did not save him from execution.

After Greece was conquered by Rome, a number of Roman emperors posed questions to the oracle. Nero (54–68 A.D.) was warned to beware the 73rd year, and he was later assassinated by troops who made the 73-year-old Galba emperor in his place. Hadrian (117–138 A.D.), shown in the bronze statue above, ever the intellectual, wanted to know the birthplace of the poet Homer. (The Pythia’s answer: Homer was the grandson of Odysseus and born at Ithaca.) The oracle advised Diocletian (284–305 A.D.) to persecute Christians—which Christians avenged by destroying a number of oracle sites in the fourth century A.D. Finally, the envoys of the pagan Roman emperor Julian the Apostate (361–363 A.D.) received word of the oracle’s demise from the Pythia: “Tell the king the fair-built hall has fallen; Apollo now has no house or oracular laurel or prophetic spring; the water is silent.”


Notes

1. A.P. Oppé, “The Chasm at Delphi,” Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 24 (1904), pp. 214–240.

2. M.F. Courby, Topographie et architecture: la terasse du Temple: Fouilles de Delphes (1927), vol. 11, pp. 65–66.

3. Pierre Amandry, La mantique apollinienne a Delphes: Boccard (Paris, 1950), pp. 215–230.

      4. See Isabella Herb, “Ethylene: Notes Taken from the Clinical Records,” in Anesthesia and Analgesia (December, 1923), pp. 210, 231–232; Herb, “Further Clinical Experiments with Ethylene-Oxygen Anesthesia,” Anesthesia and Analgesia (December, 1927), pp. 258–262; A.B. Luckhardt and J.B. Carter, “Physiologic Effects of Ethylene: A New Gas Anesthetic,” Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 80 (January–June 1923), pp. 765–770.

a. The oracle at Delphi was not the only ancient oracle, though it was the most powerful. Other Greek oracles were located at Epidaurus and in Asia Minor at Colophon and Didyma. Italy’s most famous oracle was at Cumae (near Naples), where a sibyl, or priestess, prophesied in a cavern; originally, the sibyl’s utterances were inscribed on palm leaves.

b. “Pythia” derives from the original name of the site, Pytho. Homer, for instance, refers to Apollo’s “shrine in Pytho” (Odyssey 8.94). The name “Delphi” came later.

c. However, this was not so among such Greek scholars as Spyridon Marinatos (1901–1974), the excavator of ancient Thera (modern Santorini), which was buried in a volcanic eruption around 1638 B.C. Marinatos argued that Delphi’s active geological history made it difficult to know what changes might have occurred over the past two millennia. He also made a report on an anemotrypa (wind hole) in the modern town of Delphi—a small cleft in the rock that emitted gas with a sulfurous smell. Scholars outside Greece ignored these ideas.

(Additional information:

Delphic - Of or relating to Delphi or to the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Merriam-Webster dictionary.

The following is from Apollyon Rising 2012 by Tom Horn

The return of these gods “to an active and outward position as rulers of mankind is predicted in the Asclepius,” notes Peter Goodgame, “which is predicted to come after the long period of spiritual decline in Egypt.”

The prophecy Goodgame refers to from the ancient Asclepius says: “Those gods who rule the earth will be restored, and they will be installed in a city at the furthest threshold of Egypt, which will be founded towards the setting sun and to which all human kind will hasten by land and by sea.”

Goodgame notes the physical whereabouts of the “city” in this prophecy is the Giza Plateau, as located by Garth Fowden in his book, The Egyptian Hermes.

“… in answer to Asclepius enquiry where these gods are at the moment, Trismegistus replies (at Ascl. 27): ‘In a very great city, in the mountains of Libya (in monte Libyco)’, by which is meant the edge of the desert plateau to the west of the Nile valley. A subsequent reference (Ascl. 37) to the temple and tomb of Asclepius (Imhotep) in monte Libyae establishes that the allusion at Ascl. 27 is to the ancient and holy Memphite necropolis, which lay on the desert jabal to the west of Memphis itself.”

The ‘mountains of Libya,’” Goodgame concludes, “is simply a reference to the plateau that rises above the desert on the west bank of the Nile, west of the ancient city of Memphis. In other words, according to this Hermetic prediction, when the Kosmokrators are ‘restored’ they will be ‘installed in a city’ on or near the Giza Plateau.”

Will the ancient super-man Apollo-Osiris rise from a hidden tomb at the Giza Plateau, as Goodgame believes may be the case? If so, the Asclepius could have been more than a pagan prophecy. It may have been a record pointing to where the body of the ‘god’ was stored in times past.”

What this is saying in other words is; there is an ancient prophecy by the Oracle of Delphi saying the god Apollo-Osiris, who would become the antichrist would arise from near ancient city of Memphis Egypt.

New York Times

Tombs of Osiris and Thotmes III. Found.

M. Loret, Director General of the excavations and of the Museum of Cairo, declares that the tomb of Osiris has been found by M. Amelineau, at Abydos, near Luxor.

It can also be noted that the Delphi was considered of such importance she can be found on the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

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The Independent

One hell of a deal: Pope Francis offers reduced time in Purgatory for Catholics that follow him on Twitter

Court in charge of forgiveness of sins says those that follow upcoming event via social media will be granted indulgences

MICHAEL DAY

WEDNESDAY 17 JULY 2013

Salvation – or at least a shorter stay in Purgatory – might now be only a tweet away with news that Pope Francis is to offer “indulgences” – remissions for temporary punishment – to the faithful who follow him on the social media site.

Around 1.5 million are expected to flock to Rio de Janeiro to celebrate World Youth Day with the Argentine pontiff later this month. But for those who can’t make it to Brazil, forgiveness may be available to contrite sinners who follow Francis’s progress via their TV screen or social networks.

The Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican court that rules on the forgiveness of sins, has said that indulgences may be given to those who follow the “rites and pious exercises” of the event on television, radio and through social media.

The Penitentiary said that Pope Francis' Twitter account, which has already gathered seven million followers, would be one such medium.

Vatican officials, noted however, that to obtain indulgences over the internet or otherwise, believers would first have to confess their sins, offer prayers and attend Mass.

“You can't obtain indulgences like getting a coffee from a vending machine,” Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, head of the pontifical council for social communication, told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

(“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. 1 Timothy 2:5)

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VT

New studies: ‘Conspiracy theorists’ sane; government dupes crazy, hostile

by Kevin Barrett

July 14, 2013

Recent studies by psychologists and social scientists in the US and UK suggest that contrary to mainstream media stereotypes, those labeled “conspiracy theorists” appear to be saner than those who accept the official versions of contested events.

The most recent study was published on July 8th by psychologists Michael J. Wood and Karen M. Douglas of the University of Kent (UK). Entitled “What about Building 7? A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories,” the study compared “conspiracist” (pro-conspiracy theory) and “conventionalist” (anti-conspiracy) comments at news websites.

The authors were surprised to discover that it is now more conventional to leave so-called conspiracist comments than conventionalist ones: “Of the 2174 comments collected, 1459 were coded as conspiracist and 715 as conventionalist.” In other words, among people who comment on news articles, those who disbelieve government accounts of such events as 9/11 and the JFK assassination outnumber believers by more than two to one. That means it is the pro-conspiracy commenters who are expressing what is now the conventional wisdom, while the anti-conspiracy commenters are becoming a small, beleaguered minority.

Perhaps because their supposedly mainstream views no longer represent the majority, the anti-conspiracy commenters often displayed anger and hostility: “The research… showed that people who favoured the official account of 9/11 were generally more hostile when trying to persuade their rivals.”

Additionally, it turned out that the anti-conspiracy people were not only hostile, but fanatically attached to their own conspiracy theories as well. According to them, their own theory of 9/11 – a conspiracy theory holding that 19 Arabs, none of whom could fly planes with any proficiency, pulled off the crime of the century under the direction of a guy on dialysis in a cave in Afghanistan – was indisputably true. The so-called conspiracists, on the other hand, did not pretend to have a theory that completely explained the events of 9/11: “For people who think 9/11 was a government conspiracy, the focus is not on promoting a specific rival theory, but in trying to debunk the official account.”

In short, the new study by Wood and Douglas suggests that the negative stereotype of the conspiracy theorist – a hostile fanatic wedded to the truth of his own fringe theory – accurately describes the people who defend the official account of 9/11, not those who dispute it.

Additionally, the study found that so-called conspiracists discuss historical context (such as viewing the JFK assassination as a precedent for 9/11) more than anti-conspiracists. It also found that the so-called conspiracists to not like to be called “conspiracists” or “conspiracy theorists.”

Both of these findings are amplified in the new book Conspiracy Theory in America by political scientist Lance deHaven-Smith, published earlier this year by the University of Texas Press. Professor deHaven-Smith explains why people don’t like being called “conspiracy theorists”: The term was invented and put into wide circulation by the CIA to smear and defame people questioning the JFK assassination! “The CIA’s campaign to popularize the term ‘conspiracy theory’ and make conspiracy belief a target of ridicule and hostility must be credited, unfortunately, with being one of the most successful propaganda initiatives of all time.”

In other words, people who use the terms “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracy theorist” as an insult are doing so as the result of a well-documented, undisputed, historically-real conspiracy by the CIA to cover up the JFK assassination. That campaign, by the way, was completely illegal, and the CIA officers involved were criminals; the CIA is barred from all domestic activities, yet routinely breaks the law to conduct domestic operations ranging from propaganda to assassinations.

DeHaven-Smith also explains why those who doubt official explanations of high crimes are eager to discuss historical context. He points out that a very large number of conspiracy claims have turned out to be true, and that there appear to be strong relationships between many as-yet-unsolved “state crimes against democracy.” An obvious example is the link between the JFK and RFK assassinations, which both paved the way for presidencies that continued the Vietnam War. According to DeHaven-Smith, we should always discuss the “Kennedy assassinations” in the plural, because the two killings appear to have been aspects of the same larger crime.

Psychologist Laurie Manwell of the University of Guelph agrees that the CIA-designed “conspiracy theory” label impedes cognitive function. She points out, in an article published in American Behavioral Scientist (2010), that anti-conspiracy people are unable to think clearly about such apparent state crimes against democracy as 9/11 due to their inability to process information that conflicts with pre-existing belief.

In the same issue of ABS, University of Buffalo professor Steven Hoffman adds that anti-conspiracy people are typically prey to strong “confirmation bias” – that is, they seek out information that confirms their pre-existing beliefs, while using irrational mechanisms (such as the “conspiracy theory” label) to avoid conflicting information.

The extreme irrationality of those who attack “conspiracy theories” has been ably exposed by Communications professors Ginna Husting and Martin Orr of Boise State University. In a 2007 peer-reviewed article entitled “Dangerous Machinery: ‘Conspiracy Theorist’ as a Transpersonal Strategy of Exclusion,” they wrote:

“If I call you a conspiracy theorist, it matters little whether you have actually claimed that a conspiracy exists or whether you have simply raised an issue that I would rather avoid… By labeling you, I strategically exclude you from the sphere where public speech, debate, and conflict occur.”

But now, thanks to the internet, people who doubt official stories are no longer excluded from public conversation; the CIA’s 44-year-old campaign to stifle debate using the “conspiracy theory” smear is nearly worn-out. In academic studies, as in comments on news articles, pro-conspiracy voices are now more numerous – and more rational – than anti-conspiracy ones.

No wonder the anti-conspiracy people are sounding more and more like a bunch of hostile, paranoid cranks.

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CNN

Detroit files for bankruptcy

By Chris Isidore  @CNNMoney

July 18, 2013

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

Detroit filed for bankruptcy Thursday afternoon, becoming the nation's largest public sector bankruptcy. The move could slash pension benefits to city workers and retirees, and leave bond holders with only pennies on the dollar.

The bankruptcy was filed by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and approved by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Snyder said the financial condition of the city left him no choice, and that Detroit could not meet its obligation to either its citizens or its creditors.

"We have a great city, but a city going down hill for the last 60 years," he said at an evening press conference. He said 38% of the city's budget is being spent on "legacy costs" such as pensions and debt service, which cuts into spending on city services. He said police take almost an hour to respond to calls, compared to a national average of 11 minutes, and that 40% of street lights in the city are turned off.

"That's unacceptable," he said.

But public employee unions are sure to fight the move, charging that the city did not negotiate in good faith and should not be allowed to walk away from obligations made to employees and retirees.

The Detroit Fire Fighters Association said it was "very disappointed" with the bankruptcy filing.

"We are working with other Detroit employees to form a unified coalition to address the financial concerns of Detroit," the group said. "Detroit's Fire Fighters will continue to protect and serve during this difficult time, regardless of the economic challenges."

Orr already halted payments on about $2 billion in debt last month, saying the city needed to preserve its dwindling supply of cash. The city faces total liabilities of about $18 billion. Orr's reorganization plan calls for cutting $11.5 billion in debt down to $2 billion. That would mean that investors and retirees would receive an average of just 17% of what they are owed. Specific plans for the cuts are unknown at this time.

No major municipal bankruptcy has ever resulted in cuts to retiree benefits, said Michael Sweet, a California bankruptcy attorney.

"It's relatively easy to blow off a creditor. It's much harder when it's people who are the fabric of your community," he said. "You need a police force, you need a fire department. You're saying [to them] you're not worth what you were previously promised."

Sweet said that case law on whether pensions can be cut this way is very limited, and it could take years for a court fight over such cuts to work its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Given the poor state of funding for many public sector pension funds nationwide, "it's a big enough question, that (the Supreme Court) is where it likely will have to go," he said.

When employees of a bankrupt business lose their promised pensions, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp. steps in and provides a minimal level of benefits. But that federal agency doesn't back pensions in the public sector.

Retirees and city employees say they can't accept cuts in their pension benefits.

"How am I supposed to live without my pension?" said David Sole, 65, after a protest in Detroit last month. Sole retired from the city's water department in January after 22 years.

Investors say the bankruptcy will make it more difficult for cities and towns everywhere to raise the money they need to build bridges, schools and other infrastructure. It will also hurt municipal bonds held by individual investors. There are more than $1 trillion worth of bonds at risk, said Peter Hayes, head of municipal bonds at BlackRock. He said there will be a ripple effect nationwide.

Orr said that the city needs to cut debt to restore services and lower costs, such as taxes and insurance, which he says have chased businesses and residents out of the city.

Detroit's population has fallen 28% since 2000. The unemployment rate, while down from a peak of 27.8% in the summer of 2009 -- when General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) and Chrysler Group were going through their own bankruptcies -- is still at 16.3%, nearly twice Michigan's statewide average.

While the auto industry has enjoyed a resurgence with strong car sales and profits, most of the industry's Michigan plants lay outside of city limits.

-- CNN's Poppy Harlow and CNNMoney's James O'Toole contributed to this report.

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AP (Edited from longer article.)

Gay marriage reveals surprise contrast between ‘starchy’ Britain and ‘freewheeling’ France

By Associated Press

Published: July 17

LONDON — The French like to make fun of the British, joking about their repressed ways in matters of the heart. But when it came time to debate same-sex marriage, it was France that betrayed a deep conservative streak in sometimes violent protests — while the British showed themselves to be modern and tolerant.

With little fanfare or controversy, Britain announced Wednesday that Queen Elizabeth II — hardly a social radical — had signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriages in England and Wales. France has also legalized gay marriages, but only after a series of gigantic protests attracting families from the traditional heartland that revealed a deeply split society.

Official word that the queen had approved the bill drew cheers in the usually sedate House of Commons.

“This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives,” Equalities Minister Maria Miller said in a statement. “I am proud that we have made it happen and I look forward to the first same sex wedding by next summer.”

There were British political figures and religious leaders vehemently opposed to gay marriage but the opposition never reached a fever pitch, in part because the same-sex marriage bill had broad public support and the backing of the leaders of the three major political parties. In fact, it was Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of the tradition-minded Conservatives, who proposed the legislation in the first place.

The public seemed to take it for granted that gay marriage should be a part of British life. It was perhaps a sign of how Britain has evolved in past decades into a much more cosmopolitan nation than its starchy, traditionalist image would suggest.

“The opposition seemed restricted to a very small number of people very vigorous in their views,” said Steven Fielding, a political scientist at the University of Nottingham. “It was restricted to the back benchers of the Conservative Party. It wasn’t shared across the political spectrum. It was an issue whose time had come. To oppose it seemed slightly strange.”

The law was also written in a way that allowed the Church of England — which is opposed — to sidestep the controversy since it is explicitly barred from conducting same-sex marriages.

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The Independent

Leonardo Da Vinci's dream realised: Canadian inventors achieve world’s first man-powered helicopter flight

Achieving Da Vinci’s dream bags team from Toronto victory in international competition and $250,000 prize fund

ADAM WITHNALL

FRIDAY 12 JULY 2013

It is one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous inventions – that was never thought possible.

But half a millennium after the Italian genius sketched the first plan for a man-powered helicopter, his dream has finally become a reality.

A team of engineers in Canada has completed the first successful flight of a helicopter using nothing but human brawn, and in doing so claimed a $250,000 prize fund.

The aircraft uses spools of string, drawn in by a pilot pumping the pedals of an otherwise fairly ordinary bicycle, to turn four massive – but very light – rotors.

With their winning design and first flight, Todd Reichert and his team have met the requirements of a 33-year-old competition. As a small team of University of Toronto alumni, students and volunteers, they were locked in a race to the finish line with a much larger team from the University of Maryland.

And the Canadian competitors, calling themselves AeroVelo, were on Thursday officially declared winners of the AHS Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition.

The winning helicopter is hand-built largely from carbon fibre, and weighs a tiny 54 kilograms (120 lbs) while spanning almost 47 metres (154 feet) across.

And Reichart told the Canadian press it was an “incredible feeling” to fly it. “It's like you're biking along the street and someone came and just picked up your bike, and now you're floating,” he said.

“At the same time you don't really have the time to appreciate that, because of everything that's going on. As you spin your legs, you're spinning the rotors. It's very much an exercise in mental and physical control, at the same time as an all-out physical effort.

”This isn't something that you're going to commute to work in any time soon, but it's an exercise in really pushing the limits on what's physically possible, and what you can do with lightweight materials and really creative design.”

Matthew Tarascio, chief engineer at Sikorsky Innovations, which contributed the quarter of a million dollar prize money to the competition, said: “We inspire, by doing this, that next generation of people that will go out into the industry and create new and wonderful machines.”

”I think there's a fascination with what humans can do and pushing the limits. This is really the competition that allowed humans to show that they could hover. That's Da Vinci's dream... and AeroVelo, they did it all right, and they put it all together.“

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