May 18, 2023


Lori Vallow: US doomsday cult mum guilty of murdering children, rival

[I]n 2017, family and friends said Vallow's demeanour changed as she began reading the books by Chad Daybell, a religious author whose fictional books focused on the apocalypse were loosely drawn from the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The two eventually met sometime in 2018 and began recording a religious podcast together.

At the time, both were married. But together, Vallow and Mr Daybell's views veered towards the extreme, the prosecutor said.

The two deemed people either "light" or "dark" spirits and called those who had been taken over by evil spirits "zombies".

The only way to free someone's soul from the darkness, the couple said, was to kill them.

Mysterious Guru Summoned to Court After Beast Investigation

A mysterious self-help guru is under renewed federal scrutiny following an investigation by The Daily Beast into allegations that she is running a cult that encourages women to cut ties with their families.

Liana Shanti, who leads the Lemurian Mystery School, has been summoned for a hearing on April 24 by the court that sentenced her to five years of probation after she pleaded guilty to concealing assets in a bankruptcy case.

According to the Honolulu federal court docket, Shanti’s probation officer received several complaints that she had “induced” people “to leave their families, remove their children from their homes, and take other uncharacteristic actions.” The docket also cites The Daily Beast article published in March.

The court noted that Monday’s hearing could lead to further proceedings and a revocation of Shanti’s probation—which could land her in jail.

Wisconsin prosecutors charge defrocked former cardinal Theodore McCarrick with sexual assault

The victim said McCarrick began sexually assaulting him at age 11. According to the complaint, the victim reported several incidents in which McCarrick inappropriately touched or assaulted him before he was 18 years old.

McCarrick took the teen to lavish parties and events, the complaint said. The victim also reported that McCarrick had taken him to an event where several adult men assaulted him. The victim also said McCarrick had sex with him the day before the incident on Geneva Lake.

In 1977, McCarrick would have been 46 years old. He was a priest in the Archdiocese of New York and was working as the private secretary to Cardinal Terence Cooke. The alleged incident occurred a month before McCarrick was named auxiliary bishop of New York. He would go on to become the bishop of Metuchen, New Jersey, then the archbishop of Newark and the archbishop of Washington. He was named cardinal in 2001.

The Walworth County charge is the latest development in a years-long fall from grace for the once-powerful cardinal.

Michigan ex-priest pleads guilty to molesting boy after officiating family funeral

A former Michigan priest has pleaded guilty to molesting a five-year-old boy in 1987, after officiating a funeral for the boy's family, reported The Daily Beast on Thursday.

"The accusation against Vincent DeLorenzo, 84, was one of eight complaints against him, and stemmed from a case brought in 2018 to the Diocese of Lansing, where he served from 1965 to 2002," reported A.J. McDougall. "He pleaded to a lesser charge in a settlement with the state that saw prosecutors throw out a separate case of sexual assault against another 5-year-old boy between 1995 and 2000."

According to the report, DeLorenzo has pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted criminal sexual conduct, and will register as a sex offender and serve five years of probation. Victims testified against DeLorenzo about three years ago.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel applauded the outcome of the case, saying, “This guilty plea will hopefully close this painful chapter and open the opportunity for much-needed healing for those victimized by DeLorenzo.”

New threat to privacy? Scientists sound alarm about DNA tool

The traces of genetic material that humans constantly shed wherever they go could soon be used to track individual people, or even whole ethnic groups, scientists said on Monday, warning of a looming "ethical quagmire".

A recently developed technique can glean a huge amount of information from tiny samples of genetic material called environmental DNA, or eDNA, that humans and animals leave behind everywhere -- including in the air.

The tool could lead to a range of medical and scientific advances, and could even help track down criminals, according to the authors of a new study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

But it also poses a vast range of concerns around consent, privacy and surveillance, they added.

There's a river in Pennsylvania whose endpoint is unknown — and it's not the only "lost" river

A "lost river," by definition, is any large and natural stream of water which flows into an underground (and often undetectable) passageway. Such is the case with Pennsylvania's aptly named lost river.

Robert Gilman — whose family has owned Lost River Caverns for generations — spoke to Salon about a particularly famous effort to understand exactly where this enigmatic river is going.

"This area that we're standing in, it was a limestone mining operation that we were digging back along the whole hillside," Gilman told Salon. He explained how the cavern where we were conducting the interview had once been an active limestone quarry until quarry workers discovered the lost river and spacious caverns in 1883. By the end of the century, the caverns were a major tourist attraction in the region. One particularly spacious and brightly hued room, the Crystal Chapel, was frequently the location of major social events. Even today the Lost River Caverns are one of the defining natural landmarks of the Lehigh Valley, and many long-term residents have a personal connection to it. (In my case, a friend of mine from high school, Adam Hollingsworth, gives enthusiastic tours there.) Yet the mystery of the lost river's destination remained, thwarting human ingenuity at every turn.The most famous attempt to find its origin occurred in 1930, Gilman recalled. That was when scientists sent ping pong balls with red dye downstream "to find the destination of the river."

"Ping pong balls would flow downstream, obviously, so they put information on the ping pong balls and let them float down into the stream so other people would find them," Gilman recalled. "To the best of my knowledge, they were never found. There may be a chamber somewhere filled with ping pong balls."

Plastic-eating fungi found in Chinese coastal salt marshes

An international team of scientists identified plastic-eating bacteria and fungi in Chinese coastal salt marshes, presenting new possibilities for global waste management, according to a study published Thursday.

"A total of 184 fungal and 55 bacterial strains capable of breaking down" various plastics were found in the Jiangsu province of eastern China, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew said in a statement.

. . .

"Scientists are increasingly looking at microorganisms, such as fungi and bacteria, to help tackle some of the most pressing challenges of the modern age, including the rising tide of plastic pollution," Kew Gardens said.

The new findings contribute to existing studies on plastic-degrading microorganisms with some 436 species of fungi and bacteria found capable of breaking down plastic to date, it added.

Scientists Finally Solved the Mystery of How the Mayan Calendar Works

The Mayan calendar’s 819-day cycle has confounded scholars for decades, but new research shows how it matches up to planetary cycles over a 45-year span. That’s a much broader view of the tricky calendar than anyone previously tried to take.

In a study published in the journal Ancient Mesoamerica, two Tulane University scholars highlighted how researchers never could quite explain the 819-day count calendar until they broadened their view.

“Although prior research has sought to show planetary connections for the 819-day count, its four-part, color-directional scheme is too short to fit well with the synodic periods of visible planets,” the study authors write. “By increasing the calendar length to 20 periods of 819-days a pattern emerges in which the synodic periods of all the visible planets commensurate with station points in the larger 819-day calendar.”

That means the Mayans took a 45-year view of planetary alignment and coded it into a calendar that has left modern scholars scratching their heads in wonder.

Malta’s Mysterious Prehistoric Goddess Worship

Descending three stories beneath the surface of the earth, the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum is nearly untainted by time. Made up of many chambers, the rooms are like miniature temples, mirroring the construction of the Tarxien Temples on the surface. The most powerful place, an unparalleled discovery, is on the third and final level: the Oracle Chamber. The room, decorated with red ochre spirals along the ceiling, is carved with such precision as to reverberate deep, resonant voices.

Built over 4,000 years ago, the structure was so well-constructed that despite millennia of earthquakes, 70,000 tons of bombs in the Second World War, and takeovers by numerous conquerors, there have been no cave-ins. Abandoned in 2500 BC and not rediscovered until 1902, the mystery of the Tarxien people and their way of life was nearly lost. But with modern science and consistent archaeology for the last hundred years, the marvel of their civilization is becoming known.

. . .

The common theory regarding the Tarxien Temples is that they were dedicated to a fertility goddess. The statues found all have large hips and wide bosoms, and are either missing heads or seem to have interchangeable heads. These statues, known as “fat ladies,” are thought to represent the goddess. Like in Crete, a matriarchal nation Malta is known to have traded with during this time, the goddesses are depicted holding snakes, which were symbols of regeneration and fertility.

In A Galactic First, Star Swallows Planet In One Big Gulp

For the first time, scientists have caught a star in the act of swallowing a planet — not just a nibble or bite, but one big gulp.

Astronomers on Wednesday reported their observations of what appeared to be a gas giant around the size of Jupiter or bigger being eaten by its star. The sun-like star had been puffing up with old age for eons and finally got so big that it engulfed the close-orbiting planet.

It’s a gloomy preview of what will happen to Earth when our sun morphs into a red giant and gobbles the four inner planets.

“If it’s any consolation, this will happen in about 5 billion years,” said co-author Morgan MacLeod of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

. . .

While there had been previous signs of other stars nibbling at planets and their digestive aftermath, this was the first time the swallow itself was observed, according to the study appearing in the journal Nature.

Mysterious rumblings were recorded in Earth’s stratosphere

Giant solar balloons were sent 70,000 feet up in the air to record sounds of Earth’s stratosphere — and the microphones picked up some unexpected sounds.

The stratosphere is the second layer of Earth’s atmosphere, and its lower level contains the ozone layer that absorbs and scatters the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, according to NASA. The thin, dry air of the stratosphere is where jet aircraft and weather balloons reach their maximum altitude, and the relatively calm atmospheric layer is rarely disturbed by turbulence.

. . .

The balloons can take sensors twice as high as commercial jets can fly.

“On our solar balloons, we have recorded surface and buried chemical explosions, thunder, ocean waves colliding, propeller aircraft, city sounds, suborbital rocket launches, earthquakes, and maybe even freight trains and jet aircraft,” Bowman said via email. “We’ve also recorded sounds whose origin is unclear.”

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