Jul 20, 2020


Vatican publishes manual on dealing with sex abuse claims

The Vatican has released guidelines for bishops and other senior church officials on how to deal with clerical child sex abuse claims after Pope Francis called for the procedures to be laid out step-by-step.

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It contains some of the clearest language on reporting sexual abuse ever in a Vatican document.

Previous Vatican documents required clerics to report any cases of abuse to church superiors but said they should follow local law on whether they are obliged to report alleged sexual abuse to civil authorities.

"Even in cases where there is no explicit legal obligation to do so, the ecclesiastical authorities should make a report to the competent civil authorities if this is considered necessary to protect the person involved or other minors from the danger of further criminal acts," the handbook says.

Ohio priest indicted on charges of child pornography and juvenile sex trafficking, US attorney says

An Ohio priest who allegedly pretended to be a woman on social media to entice minor male victims has been indicted on child pornography, child exploitation and juvenile sex trafficking charges, a US attorney announced.

Robert D. McWilliams, 40, is charged with sex trafficking of a minor, sexual exploitation of children and transportation of child pornography among other charges, according to a news release from the US Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.

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"At times, McWilliams is alleged to have threatened to send those photographs to family and friends if the minor male victims did not send additional photographs and videos," the news release said.

McWilliams also allegedly carried through with that threat, "sending the mothers sexually explicit photographs he received from minor male victims," according to the release.

A Megachurch Reels After Learning Pastor Let His Professed Pedophile Son Work With Kids

The leaders of a California evangelical megachurch are under fire for bungling the church’s response to a youth ministry volunteer’s confession that he was attracted to minors.

The Menlo Church volunteer in question first told Senior Pastor John Ortberg about his feelings two years ago, though congregants weren’t officially notified about the situation until January. That the volunteer was the pastor’s younger son, John “Johnny” Ortberg III, was kept secret until a whistleblower leaked the news late last month.

The younger Ortberg denies acting inappropriately towards children and to date, no one has come forward with allegations claiming otherwise. But the revelation of his identity has heightened scrutiny of the church’s response and raised questions about whether John Ortberg ― who allowed his son to continue volunteering with children for over a year after hearing about the disordered attractions ― should remain the church’s senior pastor.

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Current and former members of Menlo Church told HuffPost they are upset by how the board ― and John Ortberg in particular ― handled the situation, claiming that leaders prioritized maintaining Ortberg’s reputation over building a culture that is safe for children and welcoming to any survivors of sexual abuse. Some members have also been upset over how the board’s chairwoman attempted to discredit the whistleblower, Daniel Lavery, a trans writer and Ortberg’s estranged son, who has broken from his family’s conservative evangelical faith.

Texas church blames parents after campers test positive for COVID-19: ‘I didn’t force you to send her’

Parents are furious at a Texas church camp after children started testing positive for the coronavirus following a summer camp.

Keller’s Keystone Church hosted the camp from July 6-10 in Hill County, which is between Dallas and Waco, and public health officials have confirmed some cases are linked to the camp, reported WFAA-TV.

“She hasn’t eaten at all — she hasn’t eaten in about two days, actually,” said Stephanie Brady, whose daughter is quarantining in her bedroom after testing positive for COVID-19. “There’s only so much Netflix she can watch and it’s just hard for her to stay quarantined in a room by herself.”

The church deleted photos from its Facebook page showing students crowded together, and Brady said the children were bunched into large groups and not required to follow social distancing practices.

Psychopathic traits linked to non-compliance with social distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic

“On March 31, 2020, Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the U.S. government’s Coronavirus Task Force, said, ‘There’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic vaccine or therapy. It’s just behaviors. Each of our behaviors, translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic over the next 30 days.’ My experience as a psychological scientist as well as a practicing psychologist has convinced me that the importance of psychology and behavior in the prevention and management of a wide range of health problems is enormous,” said study author Pavel S. Blagov, an associate professor and director of the Personality Laboratory at Whitman College.

“This includes personality, or the study of important ways in which people differ. It was clear from reports in the media very early in the COVID-19 pandemic that some people were rejecting advice to socially distance and engage in increased hygiene. There can be many reasons for this, and I thought that personality may play at least a small role in it.”

“I knew that traits from the so-called Dark Triad (narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy) as well as the traits subsumed within psychopathy are linked to health risk behavior and health problems, and I expected them to be implicated in health behaviors during the pandemic. There is also prior research suggesting that people high on the Dark Triad traits may knowingly and even deliberately put other people’s health at risk, e.g., by engaging in risky sexual behavior and not telling their partner about having HIV or STIs,” Blagov told PsyPost.

A Giant 'Wall' of Galaxies Has Been Found Stretching Across The Universe

The Universe isn't just a random scattering of galaxies sprinkled throughout an expanding void. The closer we look, the more we see that there are structures - some of which are incomprehensibly vast groupings and clusters of galaxies that are gravitationally bound together.

Such a structure has just been discovered arcing across the southern edge of the sky, and it's a colossus, spanning an immense 1.37 billion light-years from end to end. Its discoverers have named it the South Pole Wall.

Although the size is remarkable - it's one of the largest structures in space we've ever seen - we know exactly what the South Pole Wall is. It's a galaxy filament, a huge formation of galaxies that forms a border between the empty spaces of cosmic voids that together form the cosmic web. Hence, we call it a wall.

Other, larger such walls are known. The largest is the Hercules-Corona Borealis Great Wall, which spans 9.7 billion light-years. But the South Pole Wall is special, because it's insanely close to the Milky Way galaxy, lying just 500 million light-years away. In other words, it is the most massive structure we've ever seen this close.

Mysterious, repeating radio bursts are buzzing Earth in peculiar rhythm

Fast radio bursts -- strange, sometimes repeating signals from the other side of the cosmos -- are really having a moment in 2020. The origins of the mysterious signals from deep space continue to puzzle scientists as they briefly and sporadically buzz the Earth. But as the numbers of FRBs discovered continue to stack up, astronomers are beginning to understand them a little more, and in May even used them to solve the universe's missing matter problem.

Although many bursts astronomers have detected are one-offs, a particular burst, known as FRB 180916.J0158+65, is particularly loud and constant, having been detected 38 times.

A study, published Wednesday in the journal Nature by researchers from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment Fast Radio Burst (CHIME/FRB) collaboration, detail the repeating bursts of FRB 180916.J0158+65 from September 2018 to February 2020. The burst has previously been localized to a spiral galaxy some 500 million light-years away, and the CHIME/FRB collaboration documented its unusual rhythm in a preprint paper in February.

Using the huge ground-based CHIME telescope, situated in British Columbia, researchers detected the deep space signals with a 16-day regularity. Over four days, they'd detect the radio bursts every hour or so, before the signals suddenly stopped. Then, after 12 days of silence, they'd kick back up again. The rhythm of the bursts seems to follow this pattern, but it's unusual in that there's no other FRBs yet discovered that cycle in the same way.

'Spooky' Quantum Movements Seen Happening to Large Objects, Scientists Say

Researchers have seen quantum fluctuations "kick" large objects such as mirrors, moving them by a tiny degree but one big enough to measure.

Such behaviour has previously been predicted by quantum physicists. But it has never before been measured.

The movements are the result of the way the universe is structured, when seen at the level of quantum mechanics: researchers describe it as a "noisy" space, where particles are constantly switching in and out of existence, which creates a low-level fuzz at all times.

Normally, that background of quantum "noise" is too subtle to detect in objects that are visible at the human-scale. But the new research shows that scientists have finally detected those movements, using new technology to watch for those fluctuations.

Detection of electrical signaling between tomato plants raises interesting questions

The soil beneath our feet is alive with electrical signals being sent from one plant to another, according to research in which a University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) distinguished professor emeritus in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering participated.

UAH's Dr. Yuri Shtessel and Dr. Alexander Volkov, a professor of biochemistry at Oakwood University, coauthored a paper that used physical experiments and mathematical modeling to study transmission of electrical signals between tomato plants.

Dr. Shtessel's specialty is control engineering. Control algorithms are widely applicable across disciplines, for instance in aerospace vehicle control.

At Oakwood, Dr. Volkov has been studying electrical signal propagation within a plant and also between plants through a network of Mycorrhizal fungi that's ubiquitous in soil and appears to act as circuitry. The pair first collaborated on the research in 2017.

It's Not Just You, There Actually Are A Lot More Chipmunks Out There

If you’ve been spending any time hiking this summer, walking through the woods or even just driving along Vermont roads, you wouldn’t be alone in thinking: Are there chipmunks, like, everywhere this year?

We turn to a small mammal biologist for answers.

It's been a good year for chipmunks in the northeastern U.S. A really good year.

“Yeah, there are quite a few additional chipmunks this year,” says biologist Bill Kilpatrick dryly. Kilpatrick is a professor emeritus at the University of Vermont and the author of the Vermont Small Mammals Atlas. He says the good year for the chipmunks actually started last year, when there was a bumper crop of beechnuts and acorns and other mast. The chipmunks were able to hoard their nuts, as chipmunks are wont to do, giving them a head start going into hibernation.

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And if you think you're seeing a lot of chipmunks now, just wait. Chipmunks have the ability to control their reproductive cycles in abundant food years to have a second litter right about now.

Why it’s so damn hot in the Arctic right now

The recent heat follows an even more stunning data point: Last month, Verkhoyansk, Russia, hit a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers are still working to confirm the result, which may be recognized as a record high for the Arctic Circle. This is a town that holds the record for the coldest temperature above the Arctic Circle, -90 degrees Fahrenheit in 1892.

“That is a fantastical degree,” said Roman Vilfand, head of Russia’s weather service, during a press conference this week.

And the small Siberian town isn’t alone. Much of Russia has been facing a heat wave in recent weeks, with multiple locations reporting temperatures as high as 113 degrees on June 19. The surprising warmth was also felt in other parts of the Arctic like northern Canada and Scandinavia.

It’s part of a pattern of soaring temperatures this year in what are ordinarily some of the chilliest parts of the planet. The current searing weather of the region stands to have global consequences and foreshadows the future of the Arctic, and the planet, as the climate changes.

John Mark Byers, West Memphis Three figure, dies in car crash

KAIT TV reports on the car crash death Thursday near Memphis of John Mark Byers, stepfather of one of the children killed in the West Memphis Three case. His funeral notice says he was 62.

He was the stepfather of Christopher Byers, one of three children killed in 1993 in a case that sent three men to prison, ultimately freed after a long campaign that they had been wrongfully convicted.

Byers surfaced periodically in the extensive coverage of the case, once supplying a knife to makers of an HBO documentary that was found to have blood from his adopted son on it. He declared he had no involvement in the deaths and, after initially speaking angrily against the three men charged, ultimately said he’d decided they were innocent.

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