Jun 27, 2022


Damien Echols loses bid for DNA testing of evidence from West Memphis murder investigation. He’ll appeal.

Circuit Judge Tonya Alexander ruled today in West Memphis that Damien Echols could not obtain evidence from the West Memphis Three murder case for enhanced DNA testing.

A release from a spokesman for Echols:

After two years of lies and unnecessary delays by the state of Arkansas that prevented the West Memphis 3’s Damien Echols from conducting state-of-the- art DNA testing on the evidence in the murder of three children in 1993, a court today ruled that Echols did not have the right to test forensic evidence.

The prosecution had argued, and the judge agreed that only those who were still incarcerated could test for DNA. This conclusion is based on the flawed assumption that the only consequence that matters from a conviction is its sentence. Hundreds of wrongfully convicted have sought relief after they were paroled and were “free.”

Stranger Things' Eddie Munson is based on tragic true-crime story

A dungeon master and leader of the Hellfire Club, the teen is often misunderstood by those in Hawkins, particularly the jocks who label him a 'freak'.

. . .

While his fate is yet to be determined – and we'll find out what happens to him when volume two drops on July 1 – what's even more tragic is that his story is based on real events and a mania that took over the US Bible Belt (and tabloid Britain) in the late '80s and early '90s.

Specifically, the character (played by British actor Joseph Quinn) is based on the experiences of Damien Echols, one of the 'West Memphis Three' whose case is still being fought nearly 30 years on.

Netflix Geeked confirmed that Eddie's story is loosely based on the story, tracked as part of true-crime documentary trilogy Paradise Lost.

329 years later, last Salem ‘witch’ who wasn’t is pardoned

It took more than three centuries, but the last Salem “witch” who wasn’t has been officially pardoned.

Massachusetts lawmakers on Thursday formally exonerated Elizabeth Johnson Jr., clearing her name 329 years after she was convicted of witchcraft in 1693 and sentenced to death at the height of the Salem Witch Trials.

Johnson was never executed, but neither was she officially pardoned like others wrongly accused of witchcraft.

Lawmakers agreed to reconsider her case last year after a curious eighth-grade civics class at North Andover Middle School took up her cause and researched the legislative steps needed to clear her name.

A pastor quits over 'adultery,' but a woman says she was 16 when he abused her

Pastor John Lowe II admitted a grave sin in an address to his church on Sunday, saying he committed adultery and asking for their forgiveness. But then things took a sudden and dramatic turn: A woman stepped forward to say Lowe had sex with her when she was only 16.

Lowe's initial remarks at New Life Christian Church and World Outreach in Warsaw, Ind., had seemed to satisfy the congregation. He received a standing ovation after he confessed, calling for privacy and healing and saying he was stepping down.

But as Lowe set the microphone down, a woman and her husband approached the stage and picked the mic back up.

. . .

"I was just 16 when you took my virginity on your office floor," the woman told Lowe, who stood at the front of the pews.

"You are not the victim here," she said, saying he had not admitted the full truth of what he had done.

Southern Baptists Refused to Act on Abuse, Despite Secret List of Pastors

Armed with a secret list of more than 700 abusive pastors, Southern Baptist leaders chose to protect the denomination from lawsuits rather than protect the people in their churches from further abuse.

Survivors, advocates, and some Southern Baptists themselves spent more than 15 years calling for ways to keep sexual predators from moving quietly from one flock to another. The men who controlled the Executive Committee (EC)—which runs day-to-day operations of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)—knew the scope of the problem. But, working closely with their lawyers, they maligned the people who wanted to do something about abuse and repeatedly rejected pleas for help and reform.

“Behind the curtain, the lawyers were advising to say nothing and do nothing, even when the callers were identifying predators still in SBC pulpits,” according to a massive third-party investigative report released Sunday.

The investigation centers responsibility on members of the EC staff and their attorneys and says the hundreds of elected EC trustees were largely kept in the dark. EC general counsel Augie Boto and longtime attorney Jim Guenther advised the past three EC presidents—Ronnie Floyd, Frank Page, and Morris Chapman—that taking action on abuse would pose a risk to SBC liability and polity, leading the presidents to challenge proposed abuse reforms.

CRT, Trumpism and doubt roil Biola University. Is this the future of evangelical Christianity?

Biola has attempted to shelter its students and itself from the social and civil disturbances of recent years, but its efforts have been marginally successful. Like evangelical institutions across the country, the university is facing growing disillusionment among young Christians who believe their faith should be more progressive and socially minded.

They resent how politics has shadowed their relationship with God and believe that Christ’s lessons of humility, tolerance and love have been forgotten amid the Christian community’s embrace of the Big Lie, former President Trump and culture-war dog whistles such as LGBTQ restrictions and anti-mask and vaccination declarations.

“Evangelicals are losing their young in epidemic numbers,” said David Gushee, a nationally known pastor, ethicist and author of “After Evangelicalism: A Path to a New Christianity.” “Smart, young minds rarely color within the lines, and if they can’t ask questions and get decent answers, they will bail.”

One of Southern California’s oldest religious colleges, Biola has seen its enrollment drop, has trimmed next year’s budget and is trying to stay relevant for students while not alienating faculty and alumni.

A giant planet may have "escaped" from our solar system, study finds

Although Pluto lost its status as "Planet Nine" when it was downgraded to dwarf planet, there is ample evidence that our solar system either had or currently has a large planet far beyond Pluto that may one day claim Pluto's former mantle and become the rightful ninth planet. Unusually regular orbital patterns observed in the Kuiper belt hint that some celestial body more massive than Pluto lurks beyond the distant band of icy debris at the edge of the solar system where Pluto, Eris and other dwarf planets live.

The hypothetical existence of a distant Planet Nine or "Planet X" remains contentious, but evidence continues to mount in its favor. Certainly, it would not be the first time a hypothetical planet was found. Neptune was the first planet found through studying orbits of other bodies in the solar system; intriguingly, its location was discovered with predictions derived from pen-and-paper calculations about telescope observations.

Inadvertently, a recent astronomy paper in Nature found a high likelihood that a gas giant, akin to those in the outer solar system, may have been rapidly ejected from its orbit around the sun early in the evolution of a solar system. The existence of a "lost" Planet Nine early in the formation of the solar system's history would go far in explaining a lot of how and why the solar system looks as it does today.

This Is The Mysterious Hilltop Where Civilization Began Scientists Say

Where exactly did our civilization emerge? Some will say our modern civilization emerged in Mesopotamia. Others will say there are underwater ruins much older and predate the Sumerian civilizations. Yet, another group will argue the first traces of civilization can be found in entirely different places.

Is it really possible to say where civilization started? A team of scientists is confident a hilltop in Turkey is arguably the most important archaeological site on Earth and the place where civilization began. Known as Gobekli Tepe, which means "Potbelly Hill" in Turkish this place is home to the world's oldest known religious sanctuary that is slowly giving up its secrets.

Thousands of our prehistoric ancestors gathered around its highly-decorated T-shaped megalith pillars to worship more than 7,000 years before Stonehenge or the earliest Egyptian pyramids.

"Its significance is hard to overstate," Sean Lawrence, assistant professor of history at West Virginia University, told AFP.

Protein From Plant-Based Meat Alternatives Is Harder To Absorb, Suggests Study

Protein from plant-based meat alternatives doesn’t appear to be absorbed by the gut as well as protein from chicken meat, according to a new study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

High in protein but low in undesirable fats, plant-based meat alternatives are often touted as a healthier alternative to the real deal. True as that may be, the new research suggests that the body may have a harder time absorbing the proteins from meat alternatives compared to a piece of chicken.

Researchers from Ohio State University grew human gut cells in a petri dish and analyzed the cellular uptake of the peptides (the "building blocks" of proteins) when faced with chicken meat and a substitute made with soy and wheat protein. Cooked pieces of substitute and chicken meat were added to the cell cultures after being ground up and broken down with a digestive enzyme found in the human gut.

Their tests showed that peptides from the meat alternative were less water-soluble than those from chicken and were not absorbed as well by human cells.

Chimpanzees have their own language — and scientists just learned how they put "words" together

Few animals appear to be able to communicate with a range as complex and intricate as humans. Those language skills may exist in a limited capacity in our nearest evolutionary neighbors, the great apes, many of whom have been trained to communicate via sign language by human researchers. Yet while sign language is communicated physically, researchers did not believe that great apes possessed their own comparable, complex spoken language.

Until now, that is. A new study reveals that chimpanzees — or at least, a group of 46 chimpanzees at Taï National Park in the African country of Côte d'Ivoire — are capable of complex vocalizations far beyond what more pessimistic scientists thought was possible. Their "words" were not like human phonetic words, but a combination of chimpanzee sounds, which generally sound a bit like grunts and chirps to human ears. And the size of the chimp dictionary? Almost 400 words.

. . .

"What is astonishing in the chimpanzee vocal repertoire, compared to other non-human animals, is the extreme flexibility in which they can combine their limited number of signals," Catherine Crockford of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, who co-authored the paper, told Salon by email.

How does Google’s AI chatbot work – and could it be sentient?

A Google engineer has been suspended after going public with his claims that the company’s flagship text generation AI, LaMDA, is “sentient”.

Blake Lemoine, an AI researcher at the company, published a long transcript of a conversation with the chatbot on Saturday, which, he says, demonstrates the intelligence of a seven- or eight-year-old child.

Since publishing the conversation, and speaking to the Washington Post about his beliefs, Lemoine has been suspended on full pay. The company says he broke confidentiality rules.

But his publication has restarted a long-running debate about the nature of artificial intelligence, and whether existing technology may be more advanced than we believe.

Future Robots Could Wear This Living Skin That’s Self-Healing

Engineers at the University of Tokyo have found a way to put human skin on a robotic finger that damn near feels like the real deal. In a paper published on Thursday in the journal Matter, the grafted skin—a mashup of collagen, precursor skin cells, and skin cells that produce keratin—kept the animatronic finger water-repellent and, creepily enough, self-healing. It could be a big step to building robots with living skin just as functional, sensing, and responsive as our own.

. . .

This process involves dunking a three-jointed robotic finger into a pink solution eerily reminiscent of the Westworld robots submerged in white fluid vats. The solution contains collagen, a protein that provides structural support to skin and other tissues in the body, and human dermal fibroblasts, cells that produce collagen and repair skin cells. Over the course of seven days, the collagen and fibroblasts conform to the robotic finger, giving rise to the innermost layer of skin called the dermis.

To make the epidermis—the outermost layer of skin—the finger was submerged in a solution containing human epidermal keratinocytes. These cells make up 90 percent of the epidermis and produce keratin, a protein that sticks skin cells together allowing the epidermis to be a protective, waterproof barrier.

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