Jan 18, 2023


The Scientology Joke That Sucked the Air Out of the Room at the Golden Globes

If, like me, you spent much of Tuesday’s 80th Golden Globes scanning Twitter, you probably noted that its host, Jerrod Carmichael, received some mixed reactions. During the ceremony, the comedian told the audience to shut up (he was justified), made a new joke about The Slap™, and spent much of his monologue reminding viewers why he was hired for the not-not-racist Hollywood Foreign Press Association-helmed show in the first place: “I’m here ‘cause I’m Black.”

In this girl’s book, though? Carmichael scored even more points when he dared to mention the wife of a certain terrifying institution leader. In case you stopped watching after the first award, midway though the ceremony, the host returned from a commercial break, toting three statues in his hands. “Backstage, I found these three Golden Globe Awards that Tom Cruise returned,” Carmichael began. “Look, I’m just the host briefly, whatever, but I have a pitch: I think maybe we take these three things and exchange them for the safe return of Shelly Miscavige?”

Invoking Scientology’s She-Who-Must-Not-Be-named elicited “shocked gasps,” per reports. I know! How dare this man mention a woman who hasn’t been seen in public since 2007!

Now, in the if you’ve never heard her name (unlikely), Shelly is (was?) the wife of the Church of Scientology leader, David Miscavige. For nearly two decades, questions have swirled surrounding Shelly’s whereabouts. In 2013, former Scientologist and friend of the Miscaviges, actress Leah Remini, filed a missing person’s report with the Los Angeles Police Department after she left the institution. She’s since dedicated entire episodes of her A&E series to her investigation, mentioned it innumerable times in the press, and wrote viral Twitter threads about Shelley’s disappearance from public life.

Danny Masterson To Be Retried for Rape Following Mistrial

On Tuesday, prosecutors told a Los Angeles court they will once again pursue a trial against accused rapist and That ‘70s Show star Danny Masterson, following a mistrial in late November. Masterson is alleged to have raped three women between 2001 and 2003, at the height of his fame.

“Not giving these victims another chance with a jury who can sit there and consider all of the evidence—win, lose or draw–that would be an injustice,” Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said.

Masterson’s accusers, identified in court as Jane Does 1, 2, and 3 alleged that the actor violently raped them in his Hollywood Hills home. Given that all of the women—like Masterson—were Scientologists, the controversial church played a notable role in the previous proceedings. While charges stemmed only from the first three accusers’ assaults, Judge Charlaine Olmedo allowed for a fourth to testify midway through the trial to provide support for the others’ testimony outside the context of Scientology, as she wasn’t a member. Like Masterson’s other accusers, the woman told the court that he raped her while she was intoxicated at his home in 1996.

Former Scientology members making attempts to serve trafficking suit against leader David Miscavige

Scientology leader David Miscavige is nowhere to be found as attempts are made to serve the 62-year-old with a child trafficking lawsuit that names him as a defendant, according to public court documents and the Tampa Bay Times.

The court documents show process servers attempted to serve papers to Miscavige 27 different times over the past few months in the Clearwater, Fla. area and in Los Angeles to no avail.

. . .

Former Scientology church members, husband and wife, Gawain and Laura Baxter and Valeska Paris filed the lawsuit after claiming they were forced into labor on Scientology boats as children after signing a one billion-year contract in exchange for little or no money. Paris reportedly left the church in 2009 and Gawain and Laura Baxter left in 2012.

In addition to the trafficking allegations, Paris alleges she was the victim of repeated sexual assaults in her youth and that when her mother left Scientology, the then-17-year-old was locked in an engine room for 48 hours as punishment.

She was a popular yoga guru. Then she embraced QAnon conspiracy theories

During the pandemic, many yoga teachers began to speak more openly about their belief in conspiracies, to the point that there is now a term to describe this phenomenon: the "wellness to QAnon pipeline."

To understand what wellness and conspiracy theories have in common, I decided to follow the radicalization journey of a Los Angeles-based Kundalini yoga teacher named Guru Jagat (to hear the full story, subscribe to the LAist Studios podcast Imperfect Paradise: Yoga's "Queen of Conspiracy Theories," which publishes on Jan. 3).

. . .

She ran a Kundalini yoga studio in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles called the RA MA Institute for Applied Yogic Science and Technology, where she taught celebrities like Alicia Keys and Kate Hudson. Part of why she was so popular was that she was something of a contradiction: She wore white flowing clothes, wrapped her hair in a turban, and could chant in Sanskrit, but she also swore profusely and talked about sex and fashion in class.

. . .

Guru Jagat shared her belief that the government wanted everyone at home for reasons other than public health. She suggested that the coronavirus was being sprayed in airplane chemtrails. She said that artificial intelligence was controlling our minds and suggested meditation as a way to take back control.

‘M3GAN’ Is Even Scarier Once You Know What the Real-Life Doll Can Do

What happens when a grief-stricken, recently orphaned child receives an artificially intelligent robo-doll from her emotionally illiterate aunt? M3GAN, January’s hottest new movie, offers a decisive answer: nothing good.

M3GAN, a life-sized animatronic doll designed by ambitious toymaker Gemma (Allison Williams) is a stunning creation. Her facial expressions are human enough to provoke discomfort, especially when her penetrating eyes narrow into a glare and her lips purse downward with disgust. Her silicone “skin” moves subtly, as if pulled by actual muscles underneath.

One could be forgiven for assuming these movements are the product of CGI, but the truth is even scarier. We might be a decade or so away from the day parents can actually buy their kids a toy like this for roughly the same price as a Tesla, but we apparently already live in a world where robots can make some seriously unnerving faces.

Speaking with The Daily Beast, director Gerard Johnstone and animatronic character designer Adrien Morot revealed that each and every mug M3GAN pulls in this movie is real. That is to say, “her” “skin” actually was moving, contorted not by muscles but instead by tiny robotic gears underneath, all programmed by human “puppeteers.”

World’s oldest runestone found in Norway, archaeologists say

Archaeologists in Norway have found what they claim is the world’s oldest runestone, saying the inscriptions are up to 2,000 years old and date back to the earliest days of the enigmatic history of runic writing.

The flat, square block of brownish sandstone has carved scribbles, which may be the earliest example of words recorded in writing in Scandinavia, the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo said.

It said it was “among the oldest runic inscriptions ever found” and “the oldest datable runestone in the world”.

. . .

Older runes have been found on other items, but not on stone. The earliest runic find is on a bone comb found in Denmark. Zilmer said that maybe the tip of a knife or a needle was used to carve the runes.

Missing link? A newly-discovered fossil looks like the halfway point between birds and dinosaurs

A recently discovered bird with a T. rex-like skull was unearthed in China — epitomizing, in one bizarre fossil, a visual representation of the long, strange evolution from dinosaurs to birds.

Called Cratonavis zhui, the strange hybrid died some 150 million years ago and was uncovered by paleontologists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Cratonavis most likely behaved like a raptor, flitting from tree to tree and pouncing on prey with its sharp claws. It's a remarkable find that illustrates mosaic evolution, or the slow transition of some traits while others remain the same.

The evolutionary history of birds is nothing short of spectacular. The diversity of feathers, beaks, claws, diet and preferred geography is broad, not to mention the ability to majestically fly better than any other animal. But the differences between birds and dinosaurs are substantial, and experts still aren't entirely sure how this transition happened.

Evolution is a dynamic, not a logical process, and the transition from dinosaurs to birds involved dramatic changes in morphology — it didn't happen all in one single jump. For example, dinosaurs evolved feathers, which became a defining trait of birds, but feathers appeared millions of years before the necessary bone structures for flight. That marks another example of mosaic evolution.

Physicists discover completely new type of quantum entanglement

Physicists at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) have discovered a completely new type of quantum entanglement, the spooky phenomenon that binds particles across any distance. In particle collider experiments, the new entanglement allowed scientists to peer inside atomic nuclei in more detail than ever before.

Pairs of particles can become so entwined with each other that one can no longer be described without the other, no matter how far apart they may be. Weirder still, changing one will instantly trigger a change in its partner, even if it was on the other side of the universe. The idea, known as quantum entanglement, sounds impossible to us, grounded as we are in the realm of classical physics. Even Einstein was unnerved by it, referring to it as “spooky action at a distance.” However, decades of experiments have consistently backed it up, and it forms the basis of emerging technologies like quantum computers and networks.

Usually, observations of quantum entanglement are made between pairs of photons or electrons that are identical in nature. But now, for the first time, the BNL team has detected pairs of dissimilar particles undergoing quantum entanglement.

The discovery was made in the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven Lab, which probes forms of matter that existed in the early universe by accelerating and smashing together ions of gold. But the team found that even when the ions didn’t collide, there’s much to learn from near misses.

James Webb spots Milky-Way-like galaxies earlier than thought possible

The James Webb Space Telescope continues to probe greater depths of space and time than any other observatory. Now, the instrument has discovered galaxies with a structure like that of our own Milky Way 11 billion light-years away, which raises questions about our understanding of galaxy formation.

In our modern universe, about two thirds of all spiral galaxies are “barred,” meaning they have a huge structure that resembles a bar running through their center. This is made up of gas and dust being funneled from the outer reaches of the galaxy into its core, fueling star formation and the growth of supermassive black holes.

“Bars solve the supply chain problem in galaxies,” said Shardha Jogee, an author of the study. “Just like we need to bring raw material from the harbor to inland factories that make new products, a bar powerfully transports gas into the central region where the gas is rapidly converted into new stars at a rate typically 10 to 100 times faster than in the rest of the galaxy.”

Retired Pope Benedict XVI dies at 95

Pope Benedict XVI, the first pontiff to step down since the 15th century, died on Saturday in Vatican City at age 95.

For several days, he had experienced declining health due to his advanced age, the Vatican press office said, with Pope Francis publicly sharing news of Benedict's worsening condition earlier this week.

Pope Francis will preside over Benedict's funeral on Thursday at St. Peter's Square, the Vatican said.

Born April 16, 1927, in Germany's Bavaria, Joseph Ratzinger was a theologian by training. Following the death of Pope John Paul II in 2005, Ratzinger was elected his successor after serving for a quarter of a century as the Vatican's top enforcer of orthodoxy. He was the first German pope since the 11th century.

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