Jul 5, 2018


Feeding the gods: Hundreds of skulls reveal massive scale of human sacrifice in Aztec capital

Some conquistadors wrote about the tzompantli and its towers, estimating that the rack alone contained 130,000 skulls. But historians and archaeologists knew the conquistadors were prone to exaggerating the horrors of human sacrifice to demonize the Mexica culture. As the centuries passed, scholars began to wonder whether the tzompantli had ever existed.

Archaeologists at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) here can now say with certainty that it did. Beginning in 2015, they discovered and excavated the remains of the skull rack and one of the towers underneath a colonial period house on the street that runs behind Mexico City's cathedral. (The other tower, they suspect, lies under the cathedral's back courtyard.) The scale of the rack and tower suggests they held thousands of skulls, testimony to an industry of human sacrifice unlike any other in the world. Now, archaeologists are beginning to study the skulls in detail, hoping to learn more about Mexica rituals and the postmortem treatment of the bodies of the sacrificed. The researchers also wonder who the victims were, where they lived, and what their lives were like before they ended up marked for a brutal death at the Templo Mayor.

"This is a world of information," says archaeologist Raùl Barrera Rodríguez, director of INAH's Urban Archaeology Program and leader of the team that found the tzompantli. "It's an amazing thing, and just the kind of discovery many of us had hoped for," agrees John Verano, a bioarchaeologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, who studies human sacrifice. He and other researchers hope the skulls will clarify the role of large-scale human sacrifice in Mexica religion and culture—and whether, as scholars suspect, it played a key part in building their empire.

Spiders Can Fly Hundreds of Miles Using Electricity

Spiders have no wings, but they can take to the air nonetheless. They’ll climb to an exposed point, raise their abdomens to the sky, extrude strands of silk, and float away. This behavior is called ballooning. It might carry spiders away from predators and competitors, or toward new lands with abundant resources. But whatever the reason for it, it’s clearly an effective means of travel. Spiders have been found two-and-a-half miles up in the air, and 1,000 miles out to sea.

It is commonly believed that ballooning works because the silk catches on the wind, dragging the spider with it. But that doesn’t entirely make sense, especially since spiders only balloon during light winds. Spiders don’t shoot silk from their abdomens, and it seems unlikely that such gentle breezes could be strong enough to yank the threads out—let alone to carry the largest species aloft, or to generate the high accelerations of arachnid takeoff. Darwin himself found the rapidity of the spiders’ flight to be “quite unaccountable” and its cause to be “inexplicable.”

But Erica Morley and Daniel Robert have an explanation. The duo, who work at the University of Bristol, has shown that spiders can sense the Earth’s electric field, and use it to launch themselves into the air.

Near death, seeing dead people may be neither rare nor eerie

To skeptics, such descriptions could verge on the paranormal — the type of other-worldly experiences that make for supernatural thrillers in film or literature. Or they might wonder if patients are delirious from pain or medication and thus babbling in confusion.

But that is not what is described in research that was published in 2014, based on interviews with patients at The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care, located in a Buffalo, N.Y., suburb. The patients were interviewed about dreams they had while asleep, visions they had while awake and things they saw or sensed while in the blurry state between sleep and wakefulness that is common during final days and weeks.

Of 63 patients in the analysis, 52 reported a dream or vision — and the dreams typically would be different from those of the general population with their everyday experiences and anxieties.

“As we approach death, dreams increase dramatically in frequency, and the dreams increasing most frequently have to do with the deceased — the loved ones who have passed,” said Christopher Kerr, CEO of The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care.

Archdiocese of Washington apologizes after Maryland family kicked out of funeral

The Archdiocese of Washington has issued an apology after a family was kicked out of a funeral in Maryland.

Video captured the confrontation as it played out at Saint Mary's Catholic Church in Charlotte Hall on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people showed up to remember Agnes Hicks, but it ended abruptly when someone knocked over and damaged the church's sacred golden cup, also known as a chalice.

. . .

The family said Agnes Hicks was baptized as a young girl at the church in Charles County and it's where she had always wanted her funeral.

Her family said the cup was knocked over when someone went in for a hug and accidentally bumped into the chalice near the altar.

Archbishop Philip Wilson sentenced for concealing child sex abuse

A Catholic archbishop in Australia has been given a maximum sentence of 12 months in detention for concealing child sexual abuse in the 1970s.

Philip Wilson, now archbishop of Adelaide, is the most senior Catholic globally to be convicted of the crime.

He was found guilty by a court last month of covering up abuse by a paedophile priest in New South Wales.

On Tuesday, the court ordered Wilson to be assessed for "home detention" - meaning he will probably avoid jail.

Magistrate Robert Stone said the senior clergyman had shown "no remorse or contrition". He will be eligible for parole after six months.

Cardinal removed from public ministry after sex abuse allegation

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who led the Archdiocese of Washington and was a political force in the nation's capital, said on Wednesday that he has been removed from public ministry by the Vatican because of a decades-old allegation of sexual abuse.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, "at the direction of Pope Francis," told McCarrick that he is no longer to exercise his priestly ministry in public, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, whose archdiocese led the investigation.

McCarrick was also accused three times of sexual misconduct with adults "decades ago" while he served as a bishop in Metuchen and Newark, New Jersey, the current bishops of those cities said on Wednesday. Two of those allegations resulted in settlements, the bishops said.

As a cardinal, McCarrick is one of the highest-ranking American leaders in the Catholic Church to be removed from ministry because of sex abuse charges. Now 87, McCarrick retired at age 75, the mandatory age for Catholic bishops. He maintains his innocence.

I Brought Down a Cult: Ex-Member Helped Catch the Child Molester Running an Egyptian-Themed Sect

Niki Lopez once had a disturbing nightmare, and it still haunts her.

In the dream, she is panicking about finding the perfect outfit for her young son to wear before she introduces him to Dwight “Malachi” York — the cult leader who repeatedly sexually abused her decades before when she was a child.

Lopez began being abused by York when she was 13 after her family moved into his compound when she was 11.

“When kids visited him they were in their best outfits,” Lopez, now 43, tells PEOPLE about the leader of the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, a black supremacist cult she finally escaped in 2000 at the age of 25.

The Dark Side of the Orgasmic Meditation Company

OneTaste is a sexuality-focused wellness education company based in the Bay Area. It’s best known for classes on “orgasmic meditation,” a trademarked procedure that typically involves a man using a gloved, lubricated fingertip to stroke a woman’s clitoris for 15 minutes. For Michal, like those at her wedding, OneTaste was much more than a series of workshops. It was a company that had, in less than a year, gained sway over every aspect of her life.

. . .

Bloomberg Businessweek interviewed 16 former OneTaste staffers and community members, some involved as recently as last year. Most spoke anonymously because they signed nondisclosure agreements or fear retribution. Some, including Michal, asked to withhold their last names because they don’t want to be publicly associated with the company.

Many of the former staffers and community members say OneTaste resembled a kind of prostitution ring—one that exploited trauma victims and others searching for healing. In some members’ experiences, the company used flirtation and sex to lure emotionally vulnerable targets. It taught employees to work for free or cheap to show devotion. And managers frequently ordered staffers to have sex or OM with each other or with customers.

Could Multiple Personality Disorder Explain Life, the Universe and Everything?

In 2015, doctors in Germany reported the extraordinary case of a woman who suffered from what has traditionally been called “multiple personality disorder” and today is known as “dissociative identity disorder” (DID). The woman exhibited a variety of dissociated personalities (“alters”), some of which claimed to be blind. Using EEGs, the doctors were able to ascertain that the brain activity normally associated with sight wasn’t present while a blind alter was in control of the woman’s body, even though her eyes were open. Remarkably, when a sighted alter assumed control, the usual brain activity returned.

. . .

Modern neuroimaging techniques have demonstrated that DID is real: in a 2014 study, doctors performed functional brain scans on both DID patients and actors simulating DID. The scans of the actual patients displayed clear differences when compared to those of the actors, showing that dissociation has an identifiable neural activity fingerprint. In other words, there is something rather particular that dissociative processes look like in the brain.

There is also compelling clinical data showing that different alters can be concurrently conscious and see themselves as distinct identities. One of us has written an extensive treatment of evidence for this distinctness of identity and the complex forms of interactive memory that accompany it, particularly in those extreme cases of DID that are usually referred to as multiple personality disorder.

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