Nov 16, 2020


Will a Church Get Away With Making a Teen Listen to Recording of Her Rape?

The victim was 15 years old when she says church elders called her into a room with her mother and stepfather, sat her down, and made her listen to a recording of her own rape. A lifelong Jehovah’s Witness, the girl—who we’ll call Anna—says she was sexually assaulted by an older church member on multiple occasions. But when the church learned of it, they decided to investigate not her assailant, but her—for the crime of having sex outside of marriage. And now it’s down to the Utah Supreme Court to decide if they should get away with it.

The court cases rests on the question of eccleiastical abstention, or whether the court can intervene in matters of religion. The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses of Roy, Utah, claims it was engaging in regular religious practice when it forced the teenager to relive to her own rape. And so far, the courts have agreed. But lawyers for the woman, now in her late 20s, argue that their conduct is so “utterly intolerable” that it transcends this rule.

. . .

In court filings, the church disputes Anna’s factual allegations and denies mistreating her “in any manner,” while at the same time describing her interrogation as a “common and accepted religious practice.” Anna, it claims, “voluntarily associated with the religious organization and chose to participate in the judicial tribunal with her parents”—something that, they argue, “would not ordinarily cause severe unmanageable mental distress.” At a hearing last week, a Supreme Court justice described the practice as akin to “emotional waterboarding.” A lawyer for the church said she would draw the line at anything physical.

Vatican report says Pope John Paul II was warned about McCarrick, exonerates Pope Francis

The Vatican determined that the late Pope John Paul II was warned about ex-U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who was defrocked amid sexual abuse allegations, ahead of his promotion in the Catholic Church, according to a report released Tuesday.

The 461-page report, which includes details from two years of investigation, did not directly blame the past three popes for knowingly protecting McCarrick.

But it states that “Pope John Paul II personally made the decision to appoint McCarrick” even though the pope obtained a letter from Cardinal John O’Connor that detailed several sexual misconduct allegations involving the former cardinal.

. . .

The report found that “until 2017, no one ... provided Pope Francis with any documentation regarding allegations against McCarrick,” and the current pope thought “that the allegations had already been reviewed and rejected by Pope John Paul II.”

Child sexual abuse in Catholic church ‘swept under the carpet’, inquiry finds

In its final review of the church, the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse (IICSA) said the Vatican’s failure to cooperate with the investigation “passes understanding”.

The 162-page report said “the church’s neglect of the physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing of children and young people in favour of protecting its reputation was in conflict with its mission of love and care for the innocent and vulnerable.”

. . .

The sexual abuse of children involved instances of “masturbation, oral sex, vaginal rape and anal rape”. On occasions, the inquiry says, it was accompanied by “sadistic beatings driven by sexual gratification” as well as “deeply manipulative behaviour by those in positions of trust”.

. . .

When complaints were made, the church invariably failed to support victims and survivors but took action to protect alleged perpetrators by moving them to a different parish. “Child sexual abuse,” the report says, “was swept under the carpet.”

NXIVM Cult Leader Sentenced To 120 Years In Prison

At the end of Tuesday's sentencing hearing, in which victims of NXIVM cult leader Keith Raniere recounted their stories in sometimes painful detail, the 60-year-old Raniere was sentenced to 120 years in prison.

Camila was one of 15 victims scheduled to testify against Raniere on Tuesday, part of an attempt by federal prosecutors to secure a life sentence for the defendant. He has been in prison since jurors found him guilty last year of sex trafficking, forced labor conspiracy, human trafficking and multiple counts of racketeering.

Victims painted a picture of a charismatic self-help guru who lured followers with promises that he would help them take control of their lives. But once ensconced in his orbit, many of the women were indoctrinated by Raniere, who pressured them to have sex with him, and even branded his initials on their skin with a cauterizing pen.

"He screwed with my mind for so long," said Camila, the first of several victims to speak during the victim-impact section that preceded Raniere's sentencing in federal court, the New York Post reported. She was 15 years old and a virgin when Raniere raped her, she said, according to the Post. Camila said her sexual relationship with Raniere lasted 12 years.

Revealed: ex-members of Amy Coney Barrett faith group tell of trauma and sexual abuse

Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the supreme court has prompted former members of her secretive faith group, the People of Praise, to come forward and share stories about emotional trauma and – in at least one case – sexual abuse they claim to have suffered at the hands of members of the Christian group.

. . .

But some former members who spoke to the Guardian said they were deeply concerned that too little was understood about the “community” of People of Praise ahead of Barrett’s expected confirmation by the Senate next week, after which she will hold the seat formerly held by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Two people familiar with the matter say that more than two dozen former members of the faith group, many of whom say they felt “triggered” by Barrett’s nomination, are participating in a support group to discuss how the faith group affected their lives.

“The basic premise of everything at the People of Praise was that the devil controlled everything outside of the community, and you were ‘walking out from under the umbrella of protection’ if you ever left,” said one former member who called herself Esther, who had to join the group as a child but then left the organization. “I was OK with it being in a tiny little corner of Indiana, because a lot of weird stuff happens in tiny little corners in this country. But it’s just unfathomable to me – I can’t even explain just how unfathomable it is – that you would have a supreme court justice who is a card-carrying member of this community.”

Pope calls for civil unions for same-sex couples, in major departure from Vatican doctrine

Pope Francis called for the passage of civil union laws for same-sex couples in a documentary that aired in Rome on Wednesday, in a major departure from the position held by the Vatican’s doctrinal office.

“Homosexuals have a right to be part of the family,” the pontiff said in “Francesco,” a documentary about his life. “They’re children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it.”

“What we have to create is a civil union law,” he added. “That way, they are legally covered. I stood up for that.”

While serving as archbishop of Buenos Aires, Francis endorsed civil unions for gay couples as an alternative to same-sex marriages. However, he had never come out publicly in favor of civil unions as the pope.

Zoo's Gay Penguin Couple So Desperate To Be Dads That They Stole Lesbian Penguin Couple's Entire Nest

Two male African penguins who are a couple wanting to be dads stole an entire nest from a lesbian couple at a zoo in the Netherlands.

According to the zookeeper, the male pairing is considered the dominant "power" couple among the 17 penguins in the enclosure at the Dierenpark zoo in Amersfoort.

The two male penguins are currently taking turns caring for the eggs in the stolen nest—with one of the penguins sitting on the eggs to keep them warm while his mate forages for fish.

Since the eggs belonged to a female couple, zookeepers think it is unlikely the eggs were fertilized and would hatch.

Dutch News said this wasn't the first pilfering incident by the aspiring dads.

Brain Scans Show a Whole Spectrum of COVID-19 Abnormalities We Can't Fully Explain

Among the many serious symptoms of COVID-19, the strange neurological effects experienced by many patients count as perhaps the most mysterious.

A sudden loss of smell and taste was one of the first unusual symptoms reported by COVID-19 patients, but stroke, seizures, and swelling of the brain (called encephalitis) have all been described.

Some patients diagnosed with COVID-19 also experience confusion, delirium, dizziness, and have difficulty concentrating, according to case reports and reviews.

For several months, doctors have been relentlessly trying to understand this disease, and its many manifestations that seem to affect the brain in ways we can't fully explain.

Experts Fear Lab-Grown Brains Will Become Sentient, Which Is Upsetting

A thought-provoking new article poses some hugely important scientific questions: Could brain cells initiated and grown in a lab become sentient? What would that look like, and how could scientists test for it? And would a sentient, lab-grown brain “organoid” have some kind of rights?

. . .

In Nature, reporter Sara Reardon explains a specific area where the debate over sentience gets very heated, very quickly. In August 2019, Alysson Muotri, a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Cellular & Molecular Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, published a paper with colleagues in Cell Stem Cell on the "creation of human brain organoids that produced coordinated waves of activity, resembling those seen in premature babies."

And those waves, Reardon reports, continued for months before Muotri and his team ended the experiment.

That means the cells Muotri's group was making in the lab were exhibiting the beginnings of being a “cognitive system” that might end up “sensing and responding to its world” in some way.

Mysterious radio signal is coming from inside our galaxy, scientists announce

Mysterious, intense blasts of radio energy have been detected from within our own galaxy, astronomers have said.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, last only a fraction of a second but can be 100 million times more powerful than the Sun. Despite their intensity, their origin remains largely unknown.

Now astronomers have been able to observe a fast radio burst in our own Milky Way, for the first ever time. As well as being closer than any FRB ever detected before, they could finally help solve the mystery of where they come from.

Scientists have had trouble tracking down the origin of such blasts because they are so short, unpredictable and originate far away. It is clear that they must be formed in some of the most extreme conditions possible in the universe, with suggested explanations including everything from dying stars to alien technology.

Earth could be seen by alien civilisations on nearby exoplanets, scientists find

One of the major projects of astronomers in recent years is looking for exoplanets, or other worlds beyond our solar system. When they are found, the key question is whether they might support life, and so whether we might be able to spot habitable planets at this distance.

Now astronomers have reversed that question, and explored whether we might also be visible to other civilisations that are outside of our solar system. They found that they were – and that we could be seen in all of the required detail.

In the study, astronomers took more than 1,000 main-sequence stars, those similar to our Sun, which might have Earth-like planets orbiting in their habitable zone, neither close enough to be too hot or far away enough to be too cold. All of the planets were within about 300 lightyears of Earth, and were spotted as part of Nasa’s TESS catalogue, which lists exoplanets.

They found that many of them would be able to see us – and, if they had the right technology, be able to see the chemical traces that life leaves on our planet.

Harry Reid Confirms Federal Government Covered Up UFOs For Years

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said the U.S. government has been hiding key details about UFOs for years.

“Why the federal government all these years has covered up, put brake pads on everything, stopped it, I think it’s very, very bad for our country,” Reid said in the new documentary “The Phenomenon” from director James Fox.

“Are you saying that there’s some evidence that still hasn’t seen the light of day?” asked Fox.

“I’m saying most of it hasn’t seen the light of day,” Reid replied.

The film examines the history of UFO sightings in the United States and abroad, including new details about the military-confirmed encounters off the coast involving U.S. Navy pilots. It also details a 1967 report in which an object appeared over a U.S. missile base at the same time 10 of the missiles became inoperative.

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