Tag: list (page 3 of 17)

How the Secession Movement Could Break Up the U.S.



new U.S. map
Excerpt from charismanews.com  
A new map of the U.S. could include a state called Jefferson, made up of Northern California and Southern Oregon, a new state called Western Maryland and a new state called North Colorado. (CBN)

If you mention the word secession most people think of the South during the Civil War. But today, a new movement is gaining steam because of frustration over a growing, out-of-control federal government.
A number of conservative, rural Americans are taking about seceding and creating their own states, meaning a new map of the United States of America could include the following:
  • A 51st state called Jefferson, made up of Northern California and Southern Oregon
  • A new state called Western Maryland
  • A new state called North Colorado
These are real movements gaining traction with voters across the country. Jeffrey Hare runs the 51st State Initiative in Colorado, an effort to fight an out-of-control legislature trying to ram big government policies down the throats of voters.
"We're at this point of irreconcilable differences," Hare told CBN News.





Secessionist talk has filled town hall meetings and the divide discussed is not just ideological.
"It's predominately left versus right, but it's urban versus rural because you typically find more typical conservative values in rural America," Hare said.
An Attack on Colorado?
That's the crux of the issue. Rural Americans across many states feel they're not being heard. Their laundry list is long and at the top of that list are stricter gun control laws.
According to Weld County, Colo., Sheriff John Cooke, the state legislature is out of control.
"They are out of touch with rural Colorado," he said. "There is an attack on rural Colorado and it's not just on gun control laws. It's on several of the other bills that they passed."
Government mandates on renewable energy, environmental policies restricting oil and gas drilling, and controversial social issues like gay marriage have also led to this divide and talk of secession.
Organizers want to create "North Colorado," an idea that went to voters in 11 counties this past fall. But not everyone in Colorado thinks secession is a great idea.
"I don't think that's necessarily the way to make something happen within the area you live," Colorado resident Greg Howe told CBN News. "You're supposed to work within our electoral services."
The so-called secession movement in Colorado had mixed results this past November. Some counties approved it. Others didn't.
But the organizers of the 51st State Initiative are undaunted, saying this type of movement takes time.
"Movements take a while; education takes time," Hare said. "People do have a hard time saying ,'I want to live in a different state,' even though physically they live in the same house."
"It's hard for them since their lives have been Coloradoans," he explained. "Their whole lives to say that 'I'm going to be a new Coloradoan' or 'I want to live in the state of liberty' or something different."
An 'Amicable' Divorce
That desire for something different can also be felt in Arizona, Michigan, and in Western Maryland where thousands have signed secession petitions.
One website reads, "We intend to exercise our right of self-determination and self-governance to better secure our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Scott Strzelczyk, the leader of the Western Maryland movement, is ready to get going.
"If they are not going to listen or take our needs into consideration and govern in a way that's more in accordance with the way we want to be governed we are seeking an amicable divorce," he said.
Meanwhile, in Northern California and Southern Oregon, activists want to come together in the state of "Jefferson."
Their proposed state flag includes two "Xs," representing their feeling of being double-crossed by the state capitals of Sacramento, Calif., and Salem, Ore.
No Small Task
Creating a new state isn't easy. The last time a state actually gave up territory was in 1820, when Maine split from Massachusetts. Since then, additional efforts have been unsuccessful. 
The first step is getting it passed by the state legislature and then the U.S. Congress.
"This is a valid constitutional process that our founding fathers specifically wrote into the Constitution," Hare said. "Well, if they didn't write this into the Constitution to be used, then why did they write it in?"
But supporters have an uphill battle since the media will not be their friend.
"The danger is once the outside media start to grab hold of it, the attention is on the difficulty, the almost impossibility of it happening," professor Derek Everett, with Metropolitan State University in Denver, explained.
Voter 'Disconnect'
State secession proponents, like Roni Bell Sylvester of Colorado, say they will keep fighting because the dismissive attitude of state legislative bodies must end.
"I find the sort of arrogant, dismissive to be further proof as to just how disconnected the urban is from the rural," Sylvester said.
Movements like the one in Colorado and other states could be just the beginning—at least that's the talk at town hall meetings in places like Colorado and elsewhere.
It's called 'voter disconnect" where the people say they've had enough and are crying out for something to be done.
"We, at some point, have to figure out a way to get our point across or at least be able to have a dialogue and not be ignored because you haven't seen anything yet over the next 5 to 10 years," one resident warned at a recent town hall meeting in Colorado.
As for Hare, he said it boils down to one simple concept.
"I think ultimately what people want, whether you look at it from a right or left paradigm, is government to stay out of their business," he said.

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Top Secret Government Programs That Your Not Supposed To Know About

Originally Posted at in5d.com The following is the alleged result of the actions of one or more scientists creating a covert, unauthorized notebook documenting their involvement with an Above Top Secret government program. Government publications and information obtained by the use of public tax monies cannot be subject to copyright. This document is released into the public domain for all citizens of the United States of America. THE ‘MAJIC PROJECTS’ SIGMA is the project whic [...]

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What our ancient ancestors found beautiful 50,000 years ago






Excerpt from news.discovery.com

The geode (above), described in the latest issue of Comptes Rendus Palevol, was found in the Cioarei-Boroşteni Cave, Romania. A Neanderthal had painted it with ochre.

"The Neanderthal man must have certainly attached an aesthetic importance to it, while its having been painted with ochre was an addition meant to confer symbolic value," said Marin Cârciumaru of Valahia University and colleagues.

The researchers also noted that "the geode was undoubtedly introduced into the cave by the Neanderthal," since they ruled out that it could have originated in the cave itself.

Was the geode used in rituals, or was it just a treasured object of beauty? Its precise meaning to the Neanderthal remains a mystery for now.




Based on archaeological finds, necklaces made out of Spondylus (a spiky, colorful mollusk) were all the rage. (Above)

This specimen has more of a reddish hue, but Michel Louis Séfériadès of CNRS notes that most are "a highly colored, very attractive purplish crimson." Séfériadès added that the shells were valued, early trade items and that they are now "found in the archaeological remains of settlements and cemeteries, in graves, and as isolated finds."

Some of the shells were made into jewelry, including necklaces and bracelets.

 

We sing about "five gold rings," but the rings would more likely have been ivory back in the day -- as in around 50,000 years ago, before ivory-producing animals were mostly hunted to extinction.
Early humans in northern regions, for example, made rings out of mammoth ivory. A Neanderthal site at Grotte du Renne, France yielded a carefully crafted ivory ring (above), as well as grooved and perforated "personal ornaments," according to archaeologist Paul Mellars of Cambridge University.



Charcoal (shown avove), ochre and other materials were applied to the face by early Homo sapiens as well as by other human subspecies. 

The ochre, used to paint the geode, mentioned earlier, was also used as makeup, hair dye, paint (to create rock and cave art), as well as to color garments.


Early humans used combs made out of shells and fish bones to both comb their hair and as personal decoration. (Above)

The shell from the Venus comb murex, a large predatory sea snail, is just one species that seems perfect for this purpose. Gibraltar Museum researchers Clive Finlayson and Kimberley Brown also found evidence that Neanderthals valued large, elaborate feathers, which the scientists suspect were worn by the individuals. 

Nearly all early cultures had coveted figurines holding probable symbolic value. Some of the earliest carved objects are known as "Venus" figurines. They present women with exaggerated sexual features. Their exact meaning remains unclear. (Above)

Pendants made of animal teeth were common and probably served many different functions, such as showing the hunter's success, offering symbolic protection, and just as fashion. 

Some of the funkiest-looking teeth were made into worn objects.
Animal teeth could be on a gift list dated to 540,000 years ago, and possibly earlier, as a recent study in the journal Nature found that a population of Homo erectus at Java, Indonesia, was collecting shark teeth and using them as tools and possibly as ornamentation.

 

The world's oldest known musical instrument is a bone flute (Above). While the earliest excavated flute dates to about 42,000 years ago, comparable flutes were probably made much earlier.

Flutes, like most of the items on this list, were not essential to survival, but yet they somehow contributed to the prehistoric peoples' quality of life.

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Exoplanet Bonanza Boosts Count by 1,200

Excerpt from news.discovery.comDozens of candidate worlds reside within the "habitable zones" of their parent stars. THE GIST - NASA's Kepler telescope has found more than 1,200 extrasolar planet candidates. - Smaller worlds, like Earth,...

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8 possible explanations for those bright spots on dwarf planet Ceres

Ceres  Excerpt from cnet.com It's a real-life mystery cliffhanger. We've come up with a list of possible reasons a large crater on the biggest object in the asteroid belt looks lit up like a Christmas tree.  We could be approachin...

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Strange find on Titan sparks chatter about life


Titan


Excerpt from nbcnews.com

Studies may suggest methane-based organic processes ... but maybe not  
New findings have roused a great deal of hoopla over the possibility of life on Saturn's moon Titan, which some news reports have further hyped up as hints of extraterrestrials.
However, scientists also caution that aliens might have nothing to do with these findings.

All this excitement is rooted in analyses of chemical data returned by NASA's Cassini spacecraft. One study suggested that hydrogen was flowing down through Titan's atmosphere and disappearing at the surface. Astrobiologist Chris McKay at NASA's Ames Research Center speculated that this could be a tantalizing hint that hydrogen is getting consumed by life.

"It's the obvious gas for life to consume on Titan, similar to the way we consume oxygen on Earth," McKay said.

Another study investigating hydrocarbons on Titan's surface found a lack of acetylene, a compound that could be consumed as food by life that relies on liquid methane instead of liquid water to live.
"If these signs do turn out to be a sign of life, it would be doubly exciting because it would represent a second form of life independent from water-based life on Earth," McKay said.
However, NASA scientists caution that aliens might not be involved at all.

"Scientific conservatism suggests that a biological explanation should be the last choice after all non-biological explanations are addressed," said Mark Allen, principal investigator with the NASA Astrobiology Institute Titan team. "We have a lot of work to do to rule out possible non-biological explanations. It is more likely that a chemical process, without biology, can explain these results."
McKay told Space.com that "both results are still preliminary."

To date, methane-based life forms are only speculative, with McKay proposing a set of conditions necessary for these kinds of organisms on Titan in 2005. Scientists have not yet detected this form of life anywhere, although there are liquid-water-based microbes on Earth that thrive on methane or produce it as a waste product. 

On Titan, where temperatures are around minus-290 degrees Fahrenheit (-179 degrees Celsius), any organisms would have to use a substance that is liquid as its medium for living processes. Water itself cannot do, because it is frozen solid on Titan's surface. The list of liquid candidates is very short — liquid methane and related molecules such as ethane. Previous studies have found Titan to have lakes of liquid methane.

Missing hydrogen? 

The dearth of hydrogen Cassini detected is consistent with conditions that could produce methane-based life, but do not conclusively prove its existence, cautioned researcher Darrell Strobel, a Cassini interdisciplinary scientist based at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Strobel wrote the paper on hydrogen appearing online in the journal Icarus.


Strobel looked at densities of hydrogen in different parts of the atmosphere and at the surface. Previous models from scientists had predicted that hydrogen molecules, a byproduct of ultraviolet sunlight breaking apart acetylene and methane molecules in the upper atmosphere, should be distributed fairly evenly throughout the atmospheric layers.

Strobel's computer simulations suggest a hydrogen flow down to the surface at a rate of about 10,000 trillion trillion molecules per second. 

"It's as if you have a hose and you're squirting hydrogen onto the ground, but it's disappearing," Strobel said. "I didn't expect this result, because molecular hydrogen is extremely chemically inert in the atmosphere, very light and buoyant. It should 'float' to the top of the atmosphere and escape."

Strobel said it is not likely that hydrogen is being stored in a cave or underground space on Titan. An unknown mineral could be acting as a catalyst on Titan's surface to help convert hydrogen molecules and acetylene back to methane.

Although Allen commended Strobel, he noted "a more sophisticated model might be needed to look into what the flow of hydrogen is."

Consumed acetylene? 

Scientists had expected the sun's interactions with chemicals in the atmosphere to produce acetylene that falls down to coat Titan's surface. But when Cassini mapped hydrocarbons on Titan's surface, it detected no acetylene on the surface, according to findings appearing online in the Journal of Geophysical Research.


Instead of alien life on Titan, Allen said one possibility is that sunlight or cosmic rays are transforming the acetylene in icy aerosols in the atmosphere into more complex molecules that would fall to the ground with no acetylene signature.

In addition, Cassini detected an absence of water ice on Titan's surface, but loads of benzene and another as-yet-unidentified material, which appears to be an organic compound. The researchers said that a film of organic compounds is covering the water ice that makes up Titan's bedrock. This layer of hydrocarbons is at least a few millimeters to centimeters thick, but possibly much deeper in some places. 

"Titan's atmospheric chemistry is cranking out organic compounds that rain down on the surface so fast that even as streams of liquid methane and ethane at the surface wash the organics off, the ice gets quickly covered again," said Roger Clark, a Cassini team scientist based at the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver. "All that implies Titan is a dynamic place where organic chemistry is happening now."

All this speculation "is jumping the gun, in my opinion," Allen said.

"Typically in the search for the existence of life, one looks for the presence of evidence -- say, the methane seen in the atmosphere of Mars, which can't be made by normal photochemical processes," Allen added. "Here we're talking about absence of evidence rather than presence of evidence — missing hydrogen and acetylene — and oftentimes there are many non-life processes that can explain why things are missing."

These findings are "still a long way from evidence of life," McKay said. "But it could be interesting."

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Confirmed: Space Rock Created Swedish Lake

A photo taken through a microscope of shocked minerals from the Hummeln crater in Sweden. Excerpt from news.yahoo.comAfter two centuries of arguing about its origin, scientists have finally confirmed that Hummeln Lake in souther...

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Mayday! Mayday! Mars One a ‘suicide mission’, warn leading space scientists




By Victoria Weldon

IT'S been described as science fiction made real - but now, just as the final selection process gets under way for the folk with the right stuff to make a manned mission to Mars, scientists have dashed the dreams of planet Earth by warning the journey will probably never happen and will end in disaster if it does.
Privately run space exploration programme Mars One wants to send four people to the red planet for the rest of their (probably not very long) lives and film it for reality TV in order to help finance the endeavour.

Thousands have set their sights on becoming the first settlers to land on the planet - and have now been whittled down to a short list of 100, including a Scottish PhD student - but with questionable technology, a lack of funding and an unrealistic timeframe, experts claim it is a "suicide mission".

Mars One believes it can achieve a manned mission in 2024 - sooner than NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russians or Chinese, and on a fraction of their budgets.

If the project does go ahead, the crew would have to make it through nine months of interplanetary travel without being killed by mishap, radiation - or each other.

And even then, a recent study suggested they will only last 68 days on Mars before dying - due to lack of food and water.

However, Anu Ojha OBE, director of the UK National Space Academy Programme, has warned the applicants not to get their hopes up as the mission is unlikely to ever leave the ground.

Ojha said: "Obviously this is something that has captured the public's imagination, and Mars One obviously has a great PR team, but space engineering obeys the laws of physics not PR."
Mars One is the brainchild of Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp who was inspired by the images of Mars sent back by the Sojourner rover in 1997, when he was a student.

Lansdorp, who will not make the journey himself, has an impressive team working on the project including former NASA employees Dr Norbert Kraft, who specialises in the physiological and psychological effects of space travel and space architect Kristian von Bengtson.

Physicist Arno Wielders, who previously worked for Dutch Space, is also on board, as well as a number of other advisers from around the world with backgrounds in space engineering, science and technology, marketing, design and television production.

The ultimate aim is to see a large, self-sustaining colony on Mars, but Ojha, who is also a director at the National Space Centre in Leicester, said there are three major stumbling blocks for the mission: technology, funding and human psychology.

"In terms of technology, it's pushing the absolute boundaries and there seems to be a lot of technological naivety on the part of the people running it", he said.

"There are some elements that seem reasonable, but overall it's concerning, and the timescales are also questionable."

While Mars One is planning the one way mission for 2024, NASA, with its long established expertise and technology, is looking to be able to send humans to Mars and bring them back again by the mid 2030s.

This is estimated to cost up to as much as £100 billion (£64.9bn) for the space agency, while Mars One believes it can do it for an optimistic $6 billion (£3.9bn) - and there are even questions over whether or not they will be able to achieve that much funding.
The private enterprise is hoping to raise money through a TV deal and additional funding from the exposure that will bring the project.

Last year it said it had teamed up with programme makers Endemol, but the Big Brother creators recently pulled out of the deal claiming they were "unable to reach agreement on the details of the contract".

Mars One did not respond to questioning by the Sunday Herald over its funding, but its website showed that as at January this year, it had raised just $759,816 from donations, merchandising, and a crowdfunding campaign.

It is unclear what other funding the project has.

Ojha said: "The business model has so many holes in it, it's shaky to say the least. And when you ask them how much money they have raised, they say it's still ongoing. The time scales and the business model - they're completely unrealistic."

Mars One plans to send several unmanned rockets to Mars ahead of the 2024 mission, with the first of these scheduled to take place in 2018.

These will include missions with robots to find a suitable location for a base and assemble it ahead of the humans' arrival.
The project claims it will use only existing technology for the mission, buying in materials from proven suppliers including Lockheed Martin or SpaceX.

The equipment involved includes several simulation outposts for training, a rocket launcher, a transit vehicle to take the crew to Mars, a Mars landing capsule, two rovers, a Mars suit and a communications system.

However, experts have warned that much of this equipment has not been fully tested. 

Physicist professor Todd Huffman is a big supporter of attempting a manned mission to Mars, but he also has serious concerns about Mars One, claiming it is "scientifically irresponsible".

He said: "The plan stretches the technology in many places.
"The launch vehicle they want to use has not actually ever launched yet, let alone make a trip to Mars.

"The living spaces have not been made nor has it been tested whether they can be robotically assembled and by what kind of robot.

"A suitable site would also need to be found for the living spaces and the details of how water extraction will take place have not been understood.

"If you assign a 90 per cent chance to success to each of those things, all of which are necessary for human survival, you end up with about a 50 per cent chance of failure, ending in the death of the colonists - and that would likely not make good television."
He added: "Unless we [wait for] quite a lot of technology and exploration to happen first, it is basically worse than a one-way ticket for the colonists - it is almost surely a suicide mission if carried out within this next decade."

Although most scientists believe the mission will not go ahead, some have also warned of the psychological impact on the people selected for the mission if it does.

Ojha said: "The thing that's really captured the public's imagination is this idea of it being a one way trip, but this brings another set of problems in terms of human psychology.

"The longest period a human has spent in space is 438 days - they're talking about sending people on a one way trip.
"Lots of the people I've seen interviewed, they're really excited about taking part, but have they really thought about what they're doing and what the implications are?

"I would tell them to go to Antarctica for six months in the middle of winter and that's about 1 per cent of what they'll be experiencing on Mars.

"Human psychology is far more fragile than we think."

However, while many scientists warn of the dangers and do not believe the mission will proceed, they have praised Mars One for sparking the public's interest in planetary science.

Dr John Bridges, of the Space Research Centre in Leicester, said: "It's a very interesting and innovative project, but the time scales are very challenging.

"I believe they're planning for 2024 and it's 2015 now. So for something as major as this, it's a very challenging timescale
"But it's fantastic that people are thinking about this, that industry is getting involved and raising awareness of planetary science."

Ojha added: "Mars One has been great in a way because it's once again drawn people's imagination to the idea of space engineering and exploration. 

"But the reality is that there are serious concerns about the project's space engineering, funding and medical implications."

Lansdorp has previously said that most people are "surprised to hear that the manned missions will be happening in ten years time, with a budget ten times less than Nasa".

He added: "But I think that if you really spend time studying Mars One, you cannot believe there is not a good chance we will make it.
"At the same time, it's a hugely ambitious plan, there's many things that can go wrong with such a big plan.

"But I believe we have a good plan and we can overcome the challenges."

However, he has also conceded that the current plans are an "optimum schedule", adding: "If one rocket doesn't launch, or a lander doesn't work on Mars before a human goes, any major malfunctions will result in a two year delay."

Mars One declined the Sunday Herald's request to interview someone from the project and failed to answer any of our questions.

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Mars One mission cuts candidate pool down to 100 aspiring colonists

Excerpt from mashable.comOnly 100 people are still competing for four seats on a one-way trip to Mars advertised by Dutch nonprofit Mars One.In its latest round of cuts, the foundation cut its applicant pool from 660 to 100 finalists on Tuesday. More ...

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Will new ruling finally free Lolita after 40 years in captivity at Miami Seaquarium?



Excerpt from seattletimes.com

A decision to list the captive orca Lolita for federal protection is expected to set the stage for a lawsuit from advocates seeking the whale’s release.

Seattle Times staff reporter



A Puget Sound orca held for decades at Miami’s Seaquarium will gain the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act, a move expected to set the stage for a lawsuit from advocates seeking the whale’s release.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday the decision to list Lolita as part of the southern resident killer whales of Puget Sound, which already are considered endangered under the federal act. 

Whale activists, who petitioned for this status, have long campaigned for Lolita’s return to Puget Sound. They hope the listing will provide a stronger legal case to release Lolita than did a previous lawsuit that centered on alleged violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

“This gives leverage under a much stronger law,” said Howard Garrett of the Whidbey Island based Orca Network, which hopes a San Juan Island cove will one day serve as the site for Lolita to re-enter the wild.

NOAA Fisheries officials on Wednesday described their decision in narrow terms, which set no broader precedents. It does not address whether Lolita should be released from the Seaquarium.
“This is a listing decision,” said Will Stelle, the NOAA Fisheries regional administrator for the West Coast. “It is not a decision to free Lolita.” 

Aquarium officials have repeatedly said they have no intention of releasing the orca. 

“Lolita has been part of the Miami Seaquarium family for 44 years,” said Andrew Hertz, Seaquarium general manager, in a statement. 

“Lolita is healthy and thriving in her home where she shares habitat with Pacific white-sided dolphins. There is no scientific evidence that ... Lolita could survive in a sea pen or the open waters of the Pacific Northwest, and we are not willing to treat her life as an experiment.”

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are found in many of the world’s oceans. The southern resident population, which spends several months each year in Puget Sound, is the only group listed in the U.S. under the Endangered Species. 

The three pods in the population were reduced by captures by marine parks between 1965 and 1975, NOAA says. Among them was a roundup in Penn Cove where seven whales were captured, including Lolita. 

The southern resident pods now number fewer than 80. Possible causes for the decline are reduced prey, pollutants that could cause reproductive problems and oil spills, according to NOAA Fisheries.
Under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to cause a “take” of a protected orca, which includes harming or harassing them.
Wednesday, NOAA officials said holding an animal captive, in and of itself, does not constitute a take. 

Orca activists are expected to argue in their lawsuit that Lolita's cramped conditions result in a prohibited take.

There is “rising public scorn for the whole idea of performing orcas,” said Garrett, who hopes Seaquarium will decide to release Lolita without a court order. 

But NOAA officials still have concerns about releasing captive whales, and any plan to move or release Lolita would require “rigorous scientific review,” the agency said in a statement.
The concerns include the possibility of disease transmission, the ability of a newly released orca to find food and behavior patterns from captivity that could impact wild whales.

NOAA said previous attempts to release captive orcas and dolphins have often been unsuccessful and some have ended in death.

Garrett said the plan for Lolita calls for her to be taken to a netted area of the cove, which could be enlarged later. She would be accompanied by familiar trainers who could “trust and reassure her every bit of the way,” he said. 

The controversy over releasing captive whales has been heightened by the experience of Keiko, a captive orca that starred in the 1993 movie “Free Willy,” about a boy who pushed for the release of a whale.

In 1998, Keiko was brought back to his native waters off Iceland to reintroduce him to life in the wild. That effort ended in 2003 when he died in a Norwegian fjord. 

Garrett, who visited Keiko in Iceland in 1999, said he was impressed by the reintroduction effort, and that there was plenty of evidence that Keiko was able to catch fish on his own.

“The naysayers predicted that as soon as he got into the (Icelandic) waters he would die, and wild orcas would kill him,” Garrett said. “He proved that 180-degrees wrong. He loved it.”

Mark Simmons, who for two years served as director of animal husbandry for the Keiko-release effort, has a different view. He says Keiko never was able to forage for fish on his own, and that he continued to seek out human contact at every opportunity. 

Simmons wrote a book called “Killing Keiko,” that accuses the release effort of leading to a long slow death for the orca, which he says lacked food and then succumbed to an infection.

“It’s not really the fact that Keiko died, but how he died,” Garrett said Wednesday.

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10 Mysterious Biblical Figures No One Can Explain






listverse.com

The canonical Bible is filled with mysterious characters, many of whom drop in for a cameo, do their thing, and then slide out, never to be heard from again. Some are merely extras, but some have a contextual presence that begs further examination. And some are, well, just weird.

10  Melchizedek

01
 

Probably the single most mysterious figure in the Bible, Melchizedek was a priest-king of Salem (later known as Jerusalem) in the time of Abram (Abraham), suggesting a religious organization, complete with ritual and hierarchy, that predated the Jewish nation and their priestly lineage from the tribe of Levi. He is only portrayed as active in one passage, although he is alluded to once in Psalms, and several times in the New Testament’s Epistle to the Hebrews.
Some Jewish disciplines insist that Melchizedek was Shem, Noah’s son. He is thought of, in Christian circles, as a proto-messiah, embodying certain traits later given to Christ. New Testament writings assert that Christ was “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek,” indicating an older and deeper covenant with God than the Abrahamic-Levite lineage.
Hebrews 7, though presents him in a more unusual light. In verses 3 and 4:
“Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.”
Not only do these verses grant Melchizedek a hierarchical level above the most important Jewish patriarch, they assign him mystical qualities. Some take this to mean an earlier incarnation of Christ. Others see it as an ancient manifestation of the Holy Spirit. His identity, role, and theological function have long been debated.
The paucity of scriptural references have added to the mystery, making him a somewhat spectral figure. As such, newer spiritual traditions, as well as New Age quacks, have taken liberties with his persona. Gnostics insisted he became Jesus, and he is cited as a high-level priest in Masonic and Rosicrucian lore. Joseph Smith wrote that he was the greatest of all prophets, and Mormons still trace their priesthood back to him. The Urantia, a 20th-century pseudo-Bible that claims to merge religion, philosophy, and science, insists he’s the first in an evolutionary succession of deification manifestations, with Abraham being his first convert.
There is even a school of thought that Melchizedek is a title or assumed character name, sort of a theological 007, played by a series of Judeo-Christian James Bonds. 

The lore of Melchizedek is confusing but deep and fascinating. Apocryphal books give us more details, some cryptic, some relatively mundane. The Second Book of Enoch is particularly informative, insisting Melchizedek was born of a Virgin. When his mother Sophonim (the wife of Noah’s brother Nir) died in childbirth, he sat up, clothed himself, and sat beside her corpse, praying and preaching. After 40 days, he was taken by an archangel to the Garden of Eden, protected by angels and avoiding the Great Flood without passage on Uncle Noah’s ark.

9  Cain’s Wife

02
 

Cain was, according to Genesis, the first human ever born. He later killed his younger brother Abel in a hissy fit over his sacrifice of meat being more favored than Cain’s sacrificial fruit basket. God put a mark on Cain and cursed the ground he farmed, forcing him into a life as a wandering fugitive. 

That part of the story is fairly well known. Later, though, we read that he settled in the Land of Nod, and, all of a sudden, he has a wife. Absolutely nothing else is mentioned about her. We don’t even know where she came from. In fact, the question of where Cain got his wife, when his immediate family were apparently the only people in the world, has sent many a perceptive young Sunday schooler down the road of skepticism. 

Some have posited a mysterious other tribe of people, maybe created after Adam and Eve, maybe even another race or species. But the standard response is that Adam and Eve had many other sons and daughters to populate the Earth. The only way to keep the human race going would be to mate with siblings, nieces, nephews, and cousins. 

In fact, though the Holy Bible is silent on her identity, the apocryphal Book of Jubilees tells us exactly who was Cain’s wife: his sister Awan, who bore his son Enoch.

8  Joseph Barsabbas

03
 

After Judas Iscariot turned in his resignation by selling out his boss, Jesus’s disciples rushed to fill the open position and bring the number back up to a more theologically apt 12. The remaining disciples, including the newly convinced Thomas, looked over the candidates from the 120 or so adherents who followed Jesus. Then they cast lots to pick who would fill the position. 

It went to Matthias, a fairly mysterious character himself. We don’t know where he came from or his previous occupation. Some think he was actually the diminutive Zacchaeus, the tax collector who climbed a sycamore tree to get a better glimpse of Jesus’s ride on the donkey.
The man who lost out was Joseph Barsabbas, also known as Joseph Justus. We know nothing solid about him, even less than we know about Matthias.
There is, however, one bit of interesting speculation. A list of names presented in Mark 6:3 includes some of Christ’s earliest and most loyal adherents. One of these is a man named Joses, and another is James the Just. Biblical scholar Robert Eisenman suggests that James carried on Jesus’s work, and the writer of the Book of Acts assigned him an alias to minimize his importance.

7  The Beloved Disciple

04
 

In the Gospel of John, several references are made to “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This particular favorite is present at the Last Supper, the crucifixion, and after the resurrection. The writer of the Gospel of John even states that the testimony of this disciple is the basis for the text. But there is considerable debate over the identity of this mystery figure.
The most obvious nominee is John the Apostle, one of Christ’s inner circle of 12 and the namesake of the Gospel. But none of the 12 apostles were present at the crucifixion, so that crosses him off the list. Lazarus, resurrected by Christ, is also considered. He seems to have been present at the cited events and is referred to specifically, in the story of His death and resurrection, as “he whom Thou lovest.”
Mary Magdalene, Judas, Jesus’s brother James, or an unnamed disciple, possibly even a Roman or governmental official, have all been considered. There is even a school of thought that John is an interactive gospel, with the reader being the beloved disciple.

6  Simon Magus

05
 

“Simony” is the selling of church position or privilege. It is named for Simon Magus, or Simon the Magician, who makes only a brief appearance in the Bible, in Acts 8:9–24. Simon has since become synonymous with heretical thought, and religious exploitation.
He is presented as a powerful magician with a large following of in Samaria, who converts to Christianity and wishes to learn from apostles Peter and Phillip. When he sees the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues and an ecstatic spiritual state, he offers the men money if they will give him the secret to passing these gifts to others. They are not amused.
Apocryphal texts reveal quite a bit more, like his alleged ability to levitate and even fly, emphasizing that he was something akin to a cult leader in his hometown. It is suggested that his conversion is more for economic purposes than spiritual, and he set himself up as a messianic figure himself, competing for the Jesus dollar with his own homespun theology.
He is thought by some to be a founder of Gnosticism, a patchwork of various religious systems that relied heavily on Judaic and Christian symbolism.

5  Onan

06
 

Not unlike Simon Magus, Onan’s brief appearance inspired a name for a particular action.
He was the second son of Abraham’s grandson Judah, the patriarch and namesake of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. His older brother, Er (yes, just “Er”) was “wicked in the sight of the Lord,” so God killed him. What he did to deserve such an execution remains a mystery.
Tradition at the time dictated that Er’s widow, Tamar, become Onan’s wife. Onan had to impregnate her to keep the lineage alive, but he was not as wild about the idea. Maybe it was the thought of impending fatherhood, or Tamar just wasn’t his type. So, taking matters into his own hands, he committed the first recorded act of coitus interruptus. Or, as Genesis 38:9 so poetically put it: “And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother’s wife, that he spilled it on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother.” God was displeased and slew Onan.
The whole tale gets even more sordid. Onan had a younger brother, Shelah. Customarily, he would have been next in line to impregnate Tamar, but Judah forbade it. Tamar, rather than graciously accepting forced spinsterhood, seduced Judah and (became pregnant) by the old man. Judah fathered twins Zerah and Perez, the latter of whom was listed by Matthew as an ancestor of Jesus’s earthly father Joseph...
Some have even suggested that Onan’s death warns that sex is meant only for purposes of reproduction, and not for pleasure.

4  Nicodemus

07
 

Nicodemus was a member of the Sanhedrin, a council of men who ruled on Jewish law and governance. He became a friend, follower, and intellectual foil for Jesus, whose egalitarian teachings often ran counter to the Sanhedrin’s rigid decrees. He was also a Pharisee, a leader within the Jewish community who toadied up to the Roman government at the time of Christ’s arrest and subsequent crucifixion.
He is mentioned three times in the New Testament, all in the Gospel of John. He subtly defends Jesus as the Pharisees discuss His impending arrest. Later, he helps prepare Jesus’s body for burial, indicating he had become an adherent to Christ and His teachings.
The first time he is mentioned, however, is in dialogue with Jesus, and these conversations reveal some of the most important aspects of Christian theology, such as the notion of being “born again” and the most famous reference to the divinity of Christ, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
This detailed conversation explores the divide between the Old Covenant’s dogmatic and exclusive Jewish Law and the New Covenant’s spiritually inclusive concepts. But for a vital contributor to such an important passage of the New Testament, Nicodemus remains a mysterious figure. Some scholars have suggested he may be Nicodemus ben Gurion, a Talmudic figure of wealth and mystical power. Christian tradition suggest he was martyred, and he is venerated as a saint. His name has come to be synonymous with seekers of the truth and is used as a character in many works of biblically inspired fiction.

3  James The Just

08
 

He is considered, next to Paul and Peter, the most important apostolic figure in the Church’s history. The Book of Acts specifically names him the head of the Christian church in Jerusalem, and he is frequently cited, both scripturally and apocryphally, as being consulted by both Paul and Peter. So who is he?
Traditionally, he is thought of as Jesus’s brother (or, more precisely, His half-brother). Jesus is listed, in the Gospels, as having siblings, some younger than Him. One was named James.
But James was a common name, and there are several mentioned in the Bible. Two of the 12 disciples were named James, but both are listed as having different fathers than Jesus, and neither went on to become James the Just. James the son of Zebedee went on to be known as James the Great, and James the son of Alphaeus was called James the Less.
It is known that he was a contemporary of Jesus, although he seems to have had no real inner-circle status during Christ’s ministry. The apocryphal Gospel of Thomas says Christ Himself designated James to lead the movement upon His death. The Apostle Paul initially seems respectful, even subservient, to “James the Lord’s brother,” calling him a “pillar” of the movement, even though he was later to disagree with him on matters of doctrine.
Some, though, have suggested the “brother” designation was spiritual, rather than physical. St. Jerome, among others, suggested that the doctrine of perpetual virginity indicated James could be a cousin, which, given the tribal associations and clannishness of the Jewish community of the time, seems valid. Such a relationship would indicate a certain social proximity without necessarily being a true sibling.

2  Simon The Zealot

09
 

Of Christ’s 12 disciples, none are more mysterious than Simon the Zealot. His name was meant to differentiate him from Simon Peter and has come to symbolize, for some, that he was a member of a similarly named political movement that advocated Jewish defiance to Roman law. Some have speculated that he acted, within Christ’s inner circle, as a political adviser. His presence then indicated that Jesus had a revolutionary political agenda.
The truth is much less exciting. The “Zealot” movement did not take place until long after the time that Christ would have given Simon his sobriquet, and there has never been any serious evidence that Simon, despite the designation, was a political radical. The name, and the word upon which it is based, did not take on those aggressive undertones until the movement itself was in full swing. More than likely, Simon was given his name because of intense spiritual devotion, rather than any radical political stance.
Nothing else is known of him, at least not with any surety. The Catholic Encyclopedia mentions him as possibly being a brother or cousin of Jesus, with no real evidence. The Eastern Orthodox tradition says he developed his zeal when Jesus attended his wedding and changed water into wine. Some legends say he was martyred; the philosopher Justus Lipsius somehow got it into his head that he was sawed in half.

1  Og

10
 

Cited twice specifically, but alluded to frequently in general terms, the Nephilim were a race of violent giants that lived in the pre-Flood world at the same time as humanity. Were they, as some suggest, the offspring of demons and human women? Fallen angels themselves? Or simply the descendants of Seth mentioned in the Dead Sea scrolls, a tribe of cranky cases cursed by God for their rebelliousness? Regardless, they evolved and became known by other names, like the Raphaim, and frequently battled humans for land and power.
The most storied of them was Og, the King of Bashan. He was killed, along with his entire army, and his kingdom was ransacked. All of the survivors—men, women, and children—were put to death, and the strongest and most powerful line of Nephilim descendants was eliminated. Some Nephilim bloodlines continued to do battle with the Israelites, though they were becoming less powerful and dying out. One tribe, the Anakim, allied themselves with the human tribes in Philistia. Goliath was thought to have been one of the last few descendants of the Nephilim.
Goliath’s height is given in the earliest manuscripts as 275 centimeters (9′). That’s hardly as awe-inspiring as the creature laying in Og’s bed, which measured, according to Deuteronomy, 400 centimeters (13′ 6″). That’s basically Yao Ming sitting on Shaquille O’Neal’s shoulders.
Biblically, descendants of the Nephilim could not have survived the Flood, even though Og and other giants are post-Flood figures. Some biblical literalists have attributed their later existence to the descendants of Noah’s family hooking up, once again, with demons. Or, being fallen angels and not human, they did survive the flood.
Jewish tradition gets deeper into information about the Nephilim and their descendants, going against the grain of the biblical account. It tells of Og booking passage on the Ark by promising to act as a slave to Noah and his family. Other accounts have him hanging on to the side of the Ark and riding the flood out rodeo-style.

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New prehistoric human discovered in Taiwan



human jaw fossil found in Taiwan
“Penghu 1,” the newly discovered human with large teeth, is another piece of critical evidence suggesting that other humans besides Homo sapiens lived in Asia from 200,000 to 10,000 years ago.


Excerpt from sciencerecorder.com


Paleontologists have identified the first known prehistoric human specimen from Taiwan, which may have been part of a species that lived alongside modern humans until as recently as 10,000 years ago.
“Penghu 1,” the newly discovered human with large teeth, is another piece of critical evidence suggesting that other humans besides Homo sapiens lived in Asia from 200,000 to 10,000 years ago.
Among the species that lived in Europe within that period were Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo floresiensis The Penghu 1, which has been described in the most recent issue of Nature Communications, has added to that sizable list of humans that may have lived with and interbred with modern humans.

“The available evidence at least does not exclude the possibility that they survived until the appearance of Homo sapiens in the region, and it is tempting to speculate about their possible contact,” said the study’s co-author Yousuke Kaifu, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Tokyo, to Discovery News.
Kaifu, along with the paper’s lead author Chun-Hsiang Chang, and their team have studied the new human’s remains, primarily a jawbone that still contains big teeth. The jawbone was found by fishermen off the Taiwanese coast in the Penghu Channel. They then sold it to a local antique shop where it was found and bought by the collector Kun-Yu Tsai, who donated his collection to the National Museum of Natural Science in Taiwan. It then caught the eye of Chang, who works at the museum as a geologist.
Chang and his team now believe that the Penghu 1 could suggest a new species of human or at least a distinct regional group of Homo erectus. He suspects that the jawbone belonged to an elderly adult due to the worn state of the teeth. Unlike Homo floresiensis, the Penghu 1 grew to adult stature and lived on the Asian mainland.
“The associated faunal remains suggest that the area was a relatively open, wet woodland,” said Kaifu. “This is because of the presence of large-bodied mammals, such as elephants (Stegodon), horses and bear, but the fauna also included animals that prefer marshlands in a hot and humid climate, such as water buffaloes.”
All of these aspects would seem very attractive to modern humans, as well as the prehistoric humans they co-existed with. Although Penghu 1 is clearly not a modern human, its jaw bears many similarities to Homo erectus. Very little is known about human evolution in Asia, so this is a considerably welcome discovery, as fossils from much earlier periods discovered in China have offered valuable insights into what a Cretaceous ecosystem looked like. There are also many similarities between Penghu 1 and the Peking Man remains from Zhoukoudian, China, although the former appears to be much more primitive. It has also been compared to the archaic Homo heidelbergensis and also Denisovan remains.

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