Mar 15, 2019


Leader of Alleged Sex Cult NXIVM Hit With Child Porn Charges

Keith Raniere, the founder of an alleged sex-cult that masqueraded as a self-help organization, has been hit with yet another charge, per Reuters: child pornography.

In March 2018, Raniere was arrested and charged with sex trafficking for his involvement in NXIVM, an organization that allegedly brainwashed, manipulated, and blackmailed women into being “sex slaves.” He also, according to new court filings, coerced underage girls into his operation. At a Brooklyn hearing on Wednesday, federal prosecutors said that Raniere had sex with a 15-year-old girl who later became his first “slave,” and that he had a sexual relationship with at least one other child.

. . .

In the year since Raniere’s arrest, a growing number of individuals with ties to the operation have been arrested and faced charges. NXIVM’s foundation has also increasingly cracked. In April, Smallville actress Allison Mack, who claims she instituted the ritual of branding sex slaves with Raniere’s initials, was arrested and charged with sex trafficking and forced labor; and in July, Seagram heiress Clare Bronfman, former bookkeeper Kathy Russell, and co-founder Nancy Salzman and her daughter, Lauren Salzman, were charged with racketeering conspiracy for their involvement in a criminal organization. (Since Raniere’s arrest, he’s also been charged with forced labor, wire fraud conspiracy, and human trafficking.)

And, just hours before Raniere was hit with the most recent child pornography charges, Nancy Salzman plead guilty to her racketeering charge, making her the first person from the operation to be convicted. In the courtroom, SFGate reports that she broke down, saying, “It has taken me some time and some soul-searching to come to this place.”

The New Report on Sexual Abuse in the Southern Baptist Church Is Proof of an Ongoing Crisis

On Sunday, the Houston Chronicle and San-Antonio Express News released the first of a three-part investigation into the Southern Baptist Convention’s vast, systemic history of sexual abuse. In a ferociously reported article, a team of journalists uncovered a trail that not only includes about 380 church workers and volunteers who were credibly accused of sexual assault and the more than 700 victims they’ve left behind, but also a chilling pattern of church authorities scrambling to discredit the accusers, protect the attackers, rebuff attempts to involve local law enforcement and, in several cases, continue to employ known abusers.

The victims came from all walks of life and were of all ages. Some were assaulted on church grounds, in Sunday School classrooms or the pastor’s office. Some were groomed over long periods of time. Some went to church leadership right away, where their accusations were met with skepticism and outright disbelief. Some took much longer to come forward, fearing repercussions or not entirely understanding what had happened. Some were urged to forgive their abusers and “move on.” Some were encouraged to get abortions. Many still criticize church leadership for mishandling or concealing their claims.

. . .

Throughout the piece [sic], church leaders blame church autonomy — the SBC’s practice of allowing the individual churches within its network nearly total freedom — as the reason they haven’t been able to take action against the abuse crisis. The piece quotes SBC Executive Committee interim president August “Augie” Boto as saying the denomination “realized that lifting up a model that could not be enforced was an exercise in futility.”

Preying on teens

More than 100 Southern Baptists described as former youth pastors or youth ministers are now in prison, are registered as sex offenders or have been charged with sex crimes, the newspapers found. Their most common targets were teenage girls and boys, though smaller children also were molested, sometimes in pastors' studies and Sunday school rooms.

. . .

[Chad Foster] asked girls as young as 12 for graphic details about "temptations." He shared his sexual fantasies and masturbated online, displaying himself via social media webcams or describing his activities in texts. He urged his favorites to send their own explicit images and to visit the suburban tract home where he lived alone, Harris County court records show.

Second Baptist quietly fired him in 2010 after receiving complaints about lying and other inappropriate behavior, court records show. Church members and employees were among those who pointed out problems before his dismissal.

But church leaders did not inform youth group members and parents that Foster had been fired or why. Nor did they tell leaders of another church, the Community of Faith Church in Cypress, a non-SBC church that hired Foster to run its youth group in 2011. He found more targets there, court records show.

Conservative Christians Just Retook the United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church has fractured over the role of LGBTQ people in the denomination. At a special conference in St. Louis this week, convened specifically to address divisions over LGBTQ issues, members voted to toughen prohibitions on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ clergy. This was a surprise: The denomination’s bishops, its top clergy, pushed hard for a resolution that would have allowed local congregations, conferences, and clergy to make their own choices about conducting same-sex marriages and ordaining LGBTQ pastors. This proposal, called the “One Church Plan,” was designed to keep the denomination together. Methodist delegates rejected its recommendations, instead choosing the so-called Traditional Plan, which affirmed the denomination’s teachings against homosexuality.

This is a consequential vote for the future of the United Methodist Church: Many progressive churches will now almost certainly consider leaving the denomination. It’s also a reminder that many Christian denominations, including mainline groups such as the UMC, are still deeply divided over questions of sexuality and gender identity. While the UMC in the United States is roughly evenly divided between those who identify as traditionalists and those who identify as moderates and liberals, it is also a global organization. Many of the growing communities in the Philippines or countries in Africa are committed to theological teachings against same-sex relationships and marriages.

Self-described traditionalists in the United Methodist Church got the outcome they’ve been fighting for. Still, “I think there’s a lot of grief on all sides,” said Keith Boyette, the head of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and a main proponent of the Traditional Plan, in an interview on Tuesday. Methodists are in mourning for a United Methodist Church that might be on the brink of a mass exodus.

Scientists Have “Reversed Time” Inside A Quantum Computer, And The Implications Are Huge

Time: it's constantly running out and we never have enough of it. Some say it’s an illusion, some say it flies like an arrow. Well, this arrow of time is a big headache in physics. Why does time have a particular direction? And can such a direction be reversed?

A new study, published in Scientific Reports, is providing an important point of discussion on the subject. An international team of researchers has constructed a time-reversal program on a quantum computer, in an experiment that has huge implications for our understanding of quantum computing. Their approach also revealed something rather important: the time-reversal operation is so complex that it is extremely improbable, maybe impossible, for it to happen spontaneously in nature.

As far as laws of physics go, in many cases, there’s nothing to stop us going forward and backward in time. In certain quantum systems it is possible to create a time-reversal operation. Here, the team crafted a thought experiment based on a realistic scenario.

The evolution of a quantum system is governed by Schrödinger’s Equation, which gives us the probability of a particle being in a certain region. Another important law of quantum mechanics is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which tells us that we cannot know the exact position and momentum of a particle because everything in the universe behaves like both a particle and a wave at the same time.

A Different Kind of Theory of Everything

Today, various puzzles and paradoxes point to the need to reformulate the theories of modern physics in a new mathematical language. Many physicists feel trapped. They have a hunch that they need to transcend the notion that objects move and interact in space and time. Einstein’s general theory of relativity beautifully weaves space and time together into a four-dimensional fabric, known as space-time, and equates gravity with warps in that fabric. But Einstein’s theory and the space-time concept break down inside black holes and at the moment of the big bang. Space-time, in other words, may be a translation of some other description of reality that, though more abstract or unfamiliar, can have greater explanatory power.

Some researchers are attempting to wean physics off of space-time in order to pave the way toward this deeper theory. Currently, to predict how particles morph and scatter when they collide in space-time, physicists use a complicated diagrammatic scheme invented by Richard Feynman. The so-called Feynman diagrams indicate the probabilities, or “scattering amplitudes,” of different particle-collision outcomes. In 2013, Nima Arkani-Hamed and Jaroslav Trnka discovered a reformulation of scattering amplitudes that makes reference to neither space nor time. They found that the amplitudes of certain particle collisions are encoded in the volume of a jewel-like geometric object, which they dubbed the amplituhedron. Ever since, they and dozens of other researchers have been exploring this new geometric formulation of particle-scattering amplitudes, hoping that it will lead away from our everyday, space-time-bound conception to some grander explanatory structure.

Geologic evidence supports theory that major cosmic impact event occurred approximately 12,800 years ago

When UC Santa Barbara geology professor emeritus James Kennett and colleagues set out years ago to examine signs of a major cosmic impact that occurred toward the end of the Pleistocene epoch, little did they know just how far-reaching the projected climatic effect would be.

"It's much more extreme than I ever thought when I started this work," Kennett noted. "The more work that has been done, the more extreme it seems."

He's talking about the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis, which postulates that a fragmented comet slammed into the Earth close to 12,800 years ago, causing rapid climatic changes, megafaunal extinctions, sudden human population decrease and cultural shifts and widespread wildfires (biomass burning). The hypothesis suggests a possible triggering mechanism for the abrupt changes in climate at that time, in particular a rapid cooling in the Northern Hemisphere, called the Younger Dryas, amid a general global trend of natural warming and ice sheet melting evidenced by changes in the fossil and sediment record.

Controversial from the time it was proposed, the hypothesis even now continues to be contested by those who prefer to attribute the end-Pleistocene reversal in warming entirely to terrestrial causes. But Kennett and fellow stalwarts of the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) Impact Hypothesis, as it is also known, have recently received a major boost: the discovery of a very young, 31-kilometer-wide impact crater beneath the Greenland ice sheet, which they believe may have been one of the many comet fragments that impacted Earth at the onset of the Younger Dryas.

Stonehenge, other ancient rock structures may trace their origins to monuments like this

Stonehenge may be the most famous example, but tens of thousands of other ancient sites featuring massive, curiously arranged rocks dot Europe. A new study suggests these megaliths weren’t created independently but instead can be traced back to a single hunter-gatherer culture that started nearly 7000 years ago in what is today the Brittany region of northwestern France. The findings also indicate societies at the time were better boaters than typically believed, spreading their culture by sea.

“This demonstrates absolutely that Brittany is the origin of the European megalithic phenomenon,” says Michael Parker Pearson, an archaeologist and Stonehenge specialist at University College London.

The origins of the megalith builders have haunted Bettina Schulz Paulsson since she excavated her first megalithic monument in Portugal nearly 20 years ago. Early on, most anthropologists thought megaliths originated in the Near East or the Mediterranean, whereas many modern thinkers back the idea they were invented independently in five or six different regions around Europe. The major hurdle, she says, has been sorting through the mountains of archaeological data to find reliable dates for the 35,000 sites, including carved standing stones, tombs, and temples.

Scientists Are Totally Rethinking Animal Cognition

Jains move through the world in this gentle way because they believe animals are conscious beings that experience, in varying degrees, emotions analogous to human desire, fear, pain, sorrow, and joy. This idea that animals are conscious was long unpopular in the West, but it has lately found favor among scientists who study animal cognition. And not just the obvious cases—primates, dogs, elephants, whales, and others. Scientists are now finding evidence of an inner life in alien-seeming creatures that evolved on ever-more-distant limbs of life’s tree. In recent years, it has become common to flip through a magazine like this one and read about an octopus using its tentacles to twist off a jar’s lid or squirt aquarium water into a postdoc’s face. For many scientists, the resonant mystery is no longer which animals are conscious, but which are not.

No aspect of our world is as mysterious as consciousness, the state of awareness that animates our every waking moment, the sense of being located in a body that exists within a larger world of color, sound, and touch, all of it filtered through our thoughts and imbued by emotion.

Even in a secular age, consciousness retains a mystical sheen. It is alternatively described as the last frontier of science, and as a kind of immaterial magic beyond science’s reckoning. David Chalmers, one of the world’s most respected philosophers on the subject, once told me that consciousness could be a fundamental feature of the universe, like space-time or energy. He said it might be tied to the diaphanous, indeterminate workings of the quantum world, or something nonphysical.

Baby born without a brain learns to count and surf

If doctors told you to terminate your pregnancy not once but five times, you might take them at their word.

But when Shelley and Rob Wall were advised to have an abortion after finding out that their baby had “no brain”, they stuck to their guns.

And six years on, their son Noah has defied the odds — by “growing” a brain.

The Sun reports that the plucky youngster appeared on Good Morning Britain with his parents to share his extraordinary story, which Richard Madley called “a miracle”.

. . .

Doctors told the parents that Noah would be severely mentally disabled — unable to talk, see, hear or eat.

But the six-year-old can do all of those things.

Noah was born 11/11 at 11 o’clock.

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