Mar 14, 2020


Pennsylvania Catholic diocese files for bankruptcy amid sexual abuse lawsuits

A Pennsylvania Catholic diocese on Wednesday filed for bankruptcy in the midst of facing several sexual abuse lawsuits against priests.

The Diocese of Harrisburg is the first Catholic diocese in the state to seek bankruptcy protection after a 2018 investigation revealed more than 300 priests had allegedly sexually abused more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania.

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The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania forbids almost all of the victims named in the 2018 report from suing alleged abusers, The Washington Post reported. But the state Superior Court recently ruled that some victims can sue dioceses, even if the statute prevents them from suing the alleged abusive priests.

This decision sparked several new lawsuits to be filed against the Harrisburg Diocese, which Haverstick told the Post was “something that we considered” when deciding to file for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy would freeze all lawsuits, and any compensation for the victims would become a part of those proceedings.

Church settles lawsuit that said its anti-gay pastor forced an employee to have sex with him

An Ohio megachurch has reached an undisclosed financial settlement with a former employee who sued the church claiming that its head pastor – who is also anti-gay – had sexually abused and harassed him for over a decade.

Brock Miller, a former employee who worked as assistant pastor of Grace Cathedral in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio claimed that televangelist Rev. Ernest Angley had “inspected his genitals and asked him sexual questions” from 2004 to 2014. The church claims no responsibility in the settlement and has stood by its assertion that Miller’s claims are false.

Miller began working at the church as an associate pastor at age 17. Around that time, Angley allegedly told Miller that he was destined to become its pastor to lead its worldwide TV broadcasts ministry. Miller says that Angley hand-picked a wife for him to marry at age 19; she was 17 at the time they wedded.

Miller also said that Angley pressured him and others to get a vasectomy and for women to get abortions so they’d have more money to invest into the church.

Dead Sea Scrolls at the Museum of the Bible are forgeries, investigators say

The Museum of the Bible admitted Friday that 16 fragments displayed as pieces of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest known surviving copies of the original Hebrew Bible, were fakes.

The fragments have been on exhibit at the Washington, D.C. museum since its opening in 2017.

“After an exhaustive review of all the imaging and scientific analysis results, it is evident that none of the textual fragments in Museum of the Bible’s Dead Sea Scroll collection are authentic," Colette Loll, founder and director of Art Fraud Insights, said in a statement released by the museum on Friday. “Moreover, each exhibits characteristics that suggest they are deliberate forgeries created in the twentieth century with the intent to mimic authentic Dead Sea Scroll fragments."

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The discovery is one in a series of missteps by the museum's founders and owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, Steve and Jackie Green. In 2017, Hobby Lobby Stores agreed to pay $3 million in fines and return 5,500 antiquities it purchased in a transaction "fraught with red flags," according to a civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Ancient Maya kingdom unearthed in a backyard in Mexico

Associate professor of anthropology Charles Golden and his colleagues have found the long-lost capital of an ancient Maya kingdom in the backyard of a Mexican cattle rancher.

Golden, in collaboration with Brown University bioarchaeologist Andrew Scherer and a team of researchers from Mexico, Canada and the United States, began excavating the site in June 2018.

Among their findings is a trove of Maya monuments, one of which has an important inscription describing rituals, battles, a mythical water serpent and the dance of a rain god. They've also found remnants of pyramids, a royal palace and ball court.

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Golden and his fellow researchers believe the archaeological site, named Lacanja Tzeltal for the nearby modern community, was the capital of the Sak Tz'i' kingdom, located in what is today the state of Chiapas in southeastern Mexico. It was likely first settled by 750 B.C.E. and then occupied for over 1,000 years.

'Minor planet' bonanza: 139 new objects discovered beyond Neptune

Astronomers have discovered 139 more "minor planets" — small bodies circling the sun that are neither official planets nor comets — in the dark, frigid depths beyond Neptune's orbit, a new study reports. The new additions represent nearly 5% of the current trans-Neptunian object (TNO) tally, which stands at about 3,000, the researchers said.

The scientists pored over data gathered by the Dark Energy Survey (DES) during its first four years of operation, from 2013 to 2017. The DES studies the heavens using the 520-megapixel Dark Energy Camera, which is mounted on the Blanco 4-meter telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.

As the project's name implies, the main goal of the DES involves shedding light on dark energy, the mysterious force thought to be behind the universe's accelerating expansion. But the high-resolution DES imagery has a number of other applications, including the discovery of small objects in our own solar system, as the new study shows.

Alabama bill would undo ban on yoga in schools but prohibit 'namaste greetings'

A proposed Alabama House bill would undo a 1993 ban on yoga in K-12 public schools but would create strict rules on how the practice is instructed to students.

The measure, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Jeremy Gray, has already passed in the Education Policy Committee with bipartisan support and is expected to be voted on by the House next week, according to NBC News.

Under the rules proposed in the bill, school districts could choose to offer yoga as an elective class, but would require instruction to focus "exclusively to poses, exercises and stretching techniques" that are taught with "exclusively English descriptive names," meaning traditional Sanskrit names for poses would be taught using an English label. For example, vrksasana is usually referred to as tree pose.

Under the rule, "chanting, mantras, mudras, use of mandalas, and 11 namaste greetings shall be expressly prohibited," and all instruction is "limited exclusively to poses, exercises, and stretching techniques."

Pesticides damage the brains of baby bees, new research finds

Bumblebees are in trouble.

The odds of spotting the hardworking pollinators in Europe and America down by more than 30% since the last century.

Pesticides, along with the climate crises and declining habitat, have been blamed for their declining numbers. And in a new study published Tuesday, scientists examined exactly how bumblebees are affected by pesticides by scanning bumble bee brains and testing their learning abilities.

They found that baby bees can feel the effects of the food contaminated by pesticides brought back by worker bees into the colony, making them poorer at performing tasks later in life.

Dr. Richard Gill, a senior lecturer in the Imperial College London's the Department of Life Sciences and an author of the study, compared it to how a fetus might be damaged by a harmful substance in the womb.

How The Brain Teases Apart A Song's Words And Music

A song fuses words and music. Yet the human brain can instantly separate a song's lyrics from its melody.

And now scientists think they know how this happens.

A team led by researchers at McGill University reported in Science Thursday that song sounds are processed simultaneously by two separate brain areas – one in the left hemisphere and one in the right.

"On the left side you can decode the speech content but not the melodic content, and on the right side you can decode the melodic content but not the speech content," says Robert Zatorre, a professor at McGill University's Montreal Neurological Institute.

Earliest interbreeding event between ancient human populations discovered

For three years, anthropologist Alan Rogers has attempted to solve an evolutionary puzzle. His research untangles millions of years of human evolution by analyzing DNA strands from ancient human species known as hominins. Like many evolutionary geneticists, Rogers compares hominin genomes looking for genetic patterns such as mutations and shared genes. He develops statistical methods that infer the history of ancient human populations.

In 2017, Rogers led a study which found that two lineages of ancient humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans, separated much earlier than previously thought and proposed a bottleneck population size. It caused some controversy—anthropologists Mafessoni and Prüfer argued that their method for analyzing the DNA produced different results. Rogers agreed, but realized that neither method explained the genetic data very well.

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Rogers studied the ways in which mutations are shared among modern Africans and Europeans, and ancient Neanderthals and Denisovans. The pattern of sharing implied five episodes of interbreeding, including one that was previously unknown. The newly discovered episode involves interbreeding over 700,000 years ago between a distantly related "super-archaic" population which separated from all other humans around two million years ago, and the ancestors of Neanderthals and Denisovans.

New study results consistent with dog domestication during Ice Age

Analysis of Paleolithic-era teeth from a 28,500-year-old fossil site in the Czech Republic provides supporting evidence for two groups of canids—one dog-like and the other wolf-like—with differing diets, which is consistent with the early domestication of dogs.

The study, published in the Journal of Archaeolgical Science, was co-directed by Peter Ungar, Distinguished Professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas.

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Dog domestication is the earliest example of animal husbandry and the only type of domestication that occurred well before the earliest definitive evidence of agriculture. However, there is robust scientific debate about the timing and circumstances of the initial domestication of dogs, with estimates varying between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago, well into the Ice Age, when people had a hunter-gatherer way of life. There is also debate about why wolves were first domesticated to become dogs. From an anthropological perspective, the timing of the domestication process is important for understanding early cognition, behavior and the ecology of early Homo sapiens.

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