Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Alberta government orders closure of Christian home schooling association amid allegations of financial impropriety

I don't know which side is telling the truth, but it's an item in the news.

As reported by Lucie Edwardson of Metro News, October 25, 2016 (links in original):

An Alberta home-schooling association has been ousted for allegedly pocketing nearly $1 million taxpayer dollars from Alberta Education that was meant to fund the education of thousands of students.

According to the ministry of education, Trinity Christian School Association is suspected siphoning government funds for years.

Effective immediately, the ministry has cancelled their registration and accreditation as a private school operator.

Minister of Education David Eggen said the decision to close the school comes after an audit of Trinity’s financials, which found numerous issues and determined that public funding was directed to a third party, Wisdom Home Schooling Society.

“The decision to cancel accreditation and registration from Trinity Christian School Association was made out of respect for taxpayers and the many families who entrusted this school to properly account for the funding granted for the purposes of their children’s education,” Eggen said.

Alberta Education said they will provide the findings of their review to both the Canada Revenue Agency and the RCMP to allow them to determine if further investigation is warranted.

According to Alberta Education, issues include conflict of interest involving senior management and related-party transactions, including terms of employment contracts and terms of leases with related parties.

They said inappropriate expenses were also found for things not limited to babysitting, funeral expenses and “double dipping” of mileage.

The financial audit also found that Wisdom — who is not the grant recipient — had retained $988,000 in “unclaimed parent funding” for the last three years.

“Our government is committed to supporting Alberta’s students and to ensuring that as much public funding as possible is being directed to the classroom, whether that classroom is in a home or in a bricks-and-mortar school,” Eggen said.

Alberta Education said they have also determined that Trinity hasn’t demonstrated appropriate accountability for the supervision of its home-education program or for public funds.

They said this is due to issues including the transfer of responsibility and supervision of their home-education program and accountability for government funding to Wisdom Home Schooling Society of Alberta.

Wisdom responded directly to many of the allegations on its website.

It claims that it has always overseen Trinity's operations for 21 years, that it has undergone routine financial audits, and that it retained the $988,000 in unclaimed funding because it is supposed to hold onto those funds as per Alberta Education mandates.

There are currently 13 in-school students and almost 3,500 home-education students registered with TCSA for the current school year.

Alberta Education said their staff will be made available to help students register in an alternative public or private school.

Further information for affected families is available on Alberta Education’s website.
As reported by Lucie Edwardson of Metro News, October 26, 2016 (bold in original, links inserted by blogger):

The principal and superintendent of an Alberta school association that was stripped of their registration and accreditation Tuesday said they were blindsided by the closure.

Richard Scheinbein, principal and superintendent of the Trinity Christian School Association which was shut down by Alberta Education due to alleged “financial impropriety,” was shocked by the ministry’s decision.

The comment comes after a government review alleges that nearly $1 million in funds supposed to be returned to parents is apparently listed as revenue for Wisdom Home Schooling Society, which is contracted by Trinity to run their home-education program.

“To tell you the truth I don’t know what’s going on—if we have an enemy there or not—but for the last 10-15 years, every year we’ve had this kind of stuff, and every year it passes,” Scheinbein said.

Education Minister David Eggen announced the decision to close the school citing a financial review of the last three years.

“These are very concerning financial practices,” Eggen said at a Tuesday afternoon news conference in Edmonton.

According to Alberta Education, 3,500 of the 11,000 home-educated students in the province were registered to TCSA’s home-schooling program with Wisdom—which has no legal relationship with the ministry. An additional 13 students attend Trinity in a classroom setting.

“The scale is quite large,” said Eggen.

Family ties

The minister said familial relationships within the school and positions of power were also concerning.

According to the websites of both Trinity and Wisdom, members of the Noster and Bekolay families serve on both boards and are also employed by Wisdom.

The websites indicate that husband and wife Kenneth and Marlane Noster are on the Wisdom board, while Kenneth sits on both boards.

Their son, Saul Noster, is listed as Wisdom’s financial services administrator since 2012.

Metro tried various methods to reach the aforementioned members of the Noster family, but no calls were returned by print deadline.

Audit documents provided by Alberta Education show that Trinity and Wisdom spent approximately 32 per cent of expenses on payments and administration compared to 3.4 to 5.6 per cent range in public school boards.

Although names have been redacted, the document indicated the majority of administration salaries went to members of two families—with total compensation to all members of the two families exceeding $2.76 million over three years.

The audit

Eggen said the review of Trinity financials took place after the school got a new auditor who raised red flags with the ministry.

The minister said through the audit it became obvious that money wasn’t being spent efficiently and that third party contractor—Wisdom—was handling most of the money.

Eggen said their review found inappropriate leases between Trinity and Wisdom, where they were leasing their own properties to themselves at 10 times the market rate, as well as spending money on alcohol, parties and gift-certificates.

“There’s a whole long litany of improprieties,” Eggen said. “They weren’t doing bank reconciliations on a monthly basis—which is the most basic thing you need to do to ensure transparency—so we felt a call to act.”

The audit also noted that in reviewing Trinity and Wisdom’s records they found Trinity’s practices were inconsistent with legislation.

The 13 certificated teachers referred by Wisdom as ‘facilitators’ are paid by Wisdom as independent contractors and aren’t employees at either organization— and Trinity didn’t pay any of the home education facilitators in the periods under review, according to the audit.

Further, the one certified teacher paid by Trinity for the 13 in-school students has no employment contract—all of which goes against the School Act, according to the government.

Wisdom parents question government motives for closure

Members of the Wisdom Home Schooling Society’s parent advisory council said not even Wisdom saw the closure of Trinity Christian School Association coming.

Susanne and David Knoch said they were waiting to hear from Alberta Education at a telephone conference town hall, Tuesday evening, about the closure before making any decisions.

“It’s a total shock. It’s an absolute shock. This is like a sideswipe, not even Wisdom saw it coming,” said David.

But, the couple said they question the government’s objectives.

“We know the NDP government hasn’t been especially welcoming—we’ve just questioned their motives,” said Susanne, when asked if she was referring to Bill 10.

They said throughout the audit Wisdom has fully cooperated with the government.

“The Alberta government has been speaking very favourably to Wisdom,” said Susanne. “Wisdom has been so cooperative, they’ve responded to all their demands, and the government even said thank you.”

She added that the closure of the school in this fashion is “just so unethical based on what the communication has been up until now.”
And Wisdom's response:

WISDOM Shutdown - Statement

October 25, 2016

Dear Parents,

WISDOM/Trinity has been shut down by AB Education. They announced this with a press release filled with partial truths amounting to calumny.

You are being told to give notification to another school for this year, but we are encouraging you not to do anything yet. Over the next few days the WISDOM Parent Advisory Council will communicate suggestions regarding your options.

Here is a brief overview of the AB Education allegations and our responses.

AB Education has shut down our school. They make untrue claims:

Trinity Christian School has neglected to adequately supervise home schooling.

Response: WISDOM has been Trinity’s home education administration for 21 years. In fact, in 1997 AB Education mandated the establishment of WISDOM Home Schooling Society. Through its WISDOM office, Trinity has administrated home schooling in an exemplary manner.

Alberta Education will be providing the findings of its review to both Canada Revenue Agency and the RCMP so those agencies can determine whether further investigation is warranted….

Response: There has been a transparent financial audit of Trinity/WISDOM every year, and AB Education has conducted many additional audits. Every income and expense is meticulously recorded and accounted for.

The review also uncovered that Wisdom – which is not the grant recipient – had retained $988,000 in unclaimed parent funding over the past three years.

Response: AB Education mandates that unclaimed funding stay with the school. Since WISDOM is Trinity’s home education administration, it is logical that WISDOM retained unspent funds and used them on home education programing.

Alberta Education also determined that Trinity has not demonstrated sufficient accountability for the supervision of its home-education program or for public funds, including transferring its responsibility for supervision of its home-education program — and accountability for government funding — to Wisdom Home Schooling Society of Alberta.

Response: AB Education has arbitrarily determined that the work of WISDOM is not the work of Trinity. All allegations are based upon this false assumption.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

New York exhibit shows diversity of medieval Jerusalem

As reported by Milene Fernandez of The Epoch Times, September 29, 2016 (updated October 3, 2016) (bold, links in original):

NEW YORK—If asked to pick the most culturally diverse and tolerant city in the world today, you might think of Amsterdam, London, Paris, São Paulo, or New York City. But in medieval times, Jerusalem would have readily come to mind.

Beginning at around the year 1000, thousands of people from as far as Iceland and India ventured toward Jerusalem to trade and make a profit and to receive artistic or divine inspiration. The phenomenon of “Jerusalem fever,” as it was described at the time, gripped and tugged merchants, artisans, scholars, and pilgrims of various faiths to a city that is just about the size of Midtown Manhattan.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art attempts to capture this medieval cosmopolitan fever with Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven. The exhibition opened on Sept. 26 and is running until Jan. 8, 2017, along with a variety of educational programs, tours, live concerts, and a series of talks.

The Met selected more than 200 objects from 60 lenders from around the world—including treasures that had never been loaned before. About one-fourth came directly from Jerusalem.

The planning for the exhibition began about six years ago. Curators Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb explained: “At the time, our thought was that everyone focuses on the biblical Jerusalem or on the present-day city, but there had not been much attention paid to medieval Jerusalem. Because medieval art is our specialty, we felt this was a topic that we could and should study.”

The exhibition is organized thematically into six sections: trade, diversity, religion, war, patrons, and the concept of Jerusalem as a city situated at the gates of heaven, according to the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Tying it to the present, it also includes videos giving glimpses of people today reflecting on Jerusalem’s legacy.

The scope and ambition of Jerusalem 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven, as the title implies, is overwhelming and warrants repeat visits. Perhaps the museum’s decision to take on this epic feat stemmed from a desire to dispel the public’s general tendency to immediately associate Jerusalem with adversity, and to remind us of a Jerusalem that embodied a more generous spirit of tolerance and coexistence, amid its incredible complexity.

“When people plan a trip to Jerusalem—and likely to our exhibition—they have an expectation of what they will see based on their own background. We hope that visitors who come to our show will find not only what they expected but also things they could not have imagined,” Boehm and Holcomb wrote in an email.

The following are snippets of just a few of the many fascinating pieces in the exhibition, which includes illuminations, devotional objects, architectural elements, weapons, ceramics, glassworks, textiles, and jewelry. They each give some insight into what Jerusalem once was, with threads of influence still palpable today.

Exhibition Highlights

Upon entering the exhibition, next to a heap of gold coins at the very center, are three astrolabes that were created on the Iberian Peninsula with inscriptions in three languages: Arabic, Latin, and Judeo-Arabic (Arabic written in a Hebrew script). The practical objects, showing a beautiful sense of precision, were used to answer questions related to time, geography, and the position of the stars. Jerusalem is inscribed on all three, “raising questions about the owners’ relationship to the city: was it a focus of business travel, pilgrimage, or religious devotion from afar?” the Met’s description reads.

An English monk, Matthew Paris, who never set foot in Jerusalem, created a map detailing a vivid journey to the Holy Land entirely from his imagination. It serves as a little testament to the grand fascination with Jerusalem. In the map, the monk depicted the port of Acre, a frequent place of arrival for European Christian pilgrims; the city of Tyre, famous for its glassware; and Mount Ararat in Armenia, where Noah’s Ark was believed to have landed, among numerous other intriguing landmarks.

Exquisite, opulent 14th-century Jewish wedding rings from Germany’s Rhine Valley were made in the form of miniature buildings, symbolizing the lost Temple of Jerusalem. The Met’s description explains that they were probably used only during the ceremony, since Jewish law stipulates that wedding rings should be unadorned, but played a vital role in the remembrance of a lost temple that perhaps holds a stronger presence in people’s minds than if it were physically present.

Other objects indicate how significantly charged Jerusalem became as a location to be fought over. A knight of the d’Aluye family, a crusader whose mission was to reclaim the Holy Land for European Christians, chose to be remembered as a warrior. The sculpted figure representing him has a sword that does not match his armor but is typical Chinese weaponry. Perhaps he purchased it from a market in Jerusalem or acquired it in battle. A page from “Saladin’s Treatise on Armor” shows an exquisitely detailed gilded drawing of a shield and concealed crossbow, a weapon intended to bring an end to European control of Jerusalem.

In contrast, Christian Gospel books in Arabic, Greek, Armenian, and Syriac, a Samaritan Bible in a distinctive Hebrew script, and the biblical book of Kings in Ge’ez, an ancient language of Ethiopia, given by that land’s king to his community in Jerusalem, show the incredible spiritual richness at times of greater tolerance in the city.

Voices of Jerusalem Today

A total of 10 videos distributed throughout each section of the exhibition show a range of stories from modern pilgrims to scholars to simply travelers.

These videos remind us that Jerusalem is as spiritually vibrant, varied, and complex today as ever.

A textile merchant from Kurdistan describes the striped fabrics he sells to Arabs, the black-and-white vestments he sells to Christian priests, and the embroidered brocade robes he sells to Jewish rabbis.

A scholar in search of Jerusalem’s hidden archives talks about different people preserving the memory of others, of texts translated into various languages. “I think there was much more interaction than we appreciate today. Instead of focusing on the history of Jerusalem as a sequence of wars, it would be more about the exchange—cultural exchange—the debate. It’s fine not to agree but they were talking to each other,” said Merav Mack, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an authority on the libraries and archives of Jerusalem.

A professor of philosophy and Islamic studies at al-Quds University, Mustafa Abu Sway, summed up Jerusalem quite well, not only as a city but also as a place of hope. He said: “There are traders, there are businesses, there are people, families who live here in the Old City. But mostly, Jerusalem is a place of spirituality. Not only al-Aqsa Mosque is there when you enter Lion’s Gate, but all these churches that line up north of the alley. And it’s basically this beautiful mosaic of the whole city. Through which gate you enter, it’s a different experience. And I still find it mesmerizing. It’s poetic.”

Catalog-Related Programs

A lavishly illustrated catalog by more than 50 scholars from the United States, Europe, and the Middle East, suitable for specialists and general readers alike, is available at The Met Store (hardcover, $75)...
Click on the links below to see pictures of some of the works exhibited:

View of Jerusalem

The Archangel Israfil

The Book of Divine Service

The Prophet Isaiah at the Walls of Jerusalem

Map of the Holy Land

Jewish wedding ring

Chasse of Ambazac

Goblet of Charlemagne

The Saint Matthew Capital

A Knight of the d'Aluye Family

Saladin's Treatise on Armor

Gospel Book

The Entry into Jerusalem

Mosque Lamp of Sultan Barquq

Reliquary of St. Anastasios

Bottle with Christian Scenes

Incense box

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Toyota unveils tiny robot friends for lonely people

There is one alone, and there is not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother: yet is there no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail.
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
Ecclesiastes 4:8-11

You can always trust the Japanese to come up with something like this--as reported by Yuri Kageyama of The Associated Press, October 3, 2016:

TOKYO - The new robot from Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. can't do much but chatter in a high-pitched voice.

The ¥39,800 ($390), 10-centimetre-tall, doll-like Kirobo Mini - whose name comes from "kibo," or "hope," and "robot" - supposedly has the smarts of a 5-year-old.

Fuminori Kataoka, general manager in charge of the project, says its value is emotional, going from home to car to the outdoors as a faithful companion, although the owner must do all the walking and driving.

Preorders start later this year. Shipments are set for next year. No overseas sales are planned so far. The company said it planned a gradual rollout, initially limited to Tokyo and Aichi prefecture in central Japan, near company headquarters, to get feedback from consumers.

It comes equipped with a camera, microphone and Bluetooth, and connects to a smartphone, which needs to be installed with a special software application. It turns its head toward a voice, although sometimes that function fails as its voice recognition is far from perfect.

"Toyota has been making cars that have a lot of valuable uses. But this time we're just pushing emotional value," Kataoka said.

During an interview with The Associated Press, the robot turned its head to the reporter and then to Kataoka when he replied. But the first time Kataoka asked the robot for its name, it replied by asking what kind of car he had. It got it right the second time. Kataoka just laughed.

The robot is not equipped with face recognition technology, and so it cannot recognize different people. The idea is one Kiribo Mini per person, according to Toyota.

More people in Japan are living alone, including the elderly and young singles. And they need someone, or in this case something, to talk to, Kataoka said.

But he was amazingly frank about how useless his robot is.

"This is not smart enough to be called artificial intelligence," he said. "This is about the existence of something you can talk to. A stuffed animal might not answer back, but people do talk to it, like my daughter once did this. But if it talked back, wouldn't that be better? And isn't this better than talking to a box?"

Some may find depressing, if not disturbing, a vision of a society of lonely people turning to dialogue with machines. But proponents say that's the reality, and that the technology can serve as a tool to help care for the sick or the elderly.

Naoki Mizushina, researcher at Tokyo-based MM Research Institute, which studies the robotics market, said the robot was too much like talking toys, on sale at cheaper prices, and it seemed to lack concrete functions to make it a big hit, such as linking to online shopping or furnishing convenient information.

"Will this take off? It might be tough," he said.

But those who like gadgets - and there are quite a few in Japan - may want one. Toyota declined to say how many it planned to ready for preorder, or how many it planned to sell in the first year.

Toyota remains skeptical about how a partner robot would fare abroad, although it remained open to assessing such interest.

The idea of companion robots is already widely accepted in Japan.

Japanese technology and telecom company Softbank Corp. began selling its ¥198,000 ($1,960) Pepper humanoid last year. The first batch of 1,000 sold out immediately, and it has sold 10,000 in Japan so far.

Robo Garage, headed by robot designer Tomotaka Takahashi, has brought an array of Kirobo lookalikes, many with more sophisticated functions at higher prices, including Robi, which must be assembled.

Kataoka is hopeful Kirobo will be able to avoid the fate of the Aibo dog-shaped robot from Sony Corp., which was discontinued in 2006, despite outcries from fans. He cited advances in technology, such as cloud-based upgrades.

Robotics is widely used in auto-assembly plants. Toyota has shown other human-shaped robots before, although this is the first being offered to consumers.

Honda Motor Co., another Japanese automaker, makes Asimo, a humanoid, which can run, pick up objects and talk.

Artificial intelligence is increasingly a part of the auto industry in another critical way - self-driving vehicles. Vehicles are also increasingly connected online.

Toyota, which manufactures the Prius hybrid, Camry sedan and Lexus luxury models, remained vague about how Kiribo Mini might work with its autos, an obvious application.

The only examples it gave were that it might say, "Oh, oh, oh, oh. Be careful" when it detects sudden braking, or chirp, "Let's take a break" when the drive gets long.
I disagree with Mr. Kataoka. I'll take teddy bears; they're a lot cheaper, and I regard their inability to talk as a good thing. As Andy Rooney said about dogs, if they could talk, it would take a lot of the fun out of owning them. See also my previous post Never trust a talking teddy bear (August 15, 2013) .

Sunday, October 2, 2016

25 years ago: the death of Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Demetrios I

On October 2, 1991, Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Demetrios I died at the age of 77. Demetrios I, born Demetrios Papadopoulos, was Metropolitan Bishop of Imvros before succeeding Athenagoras I as Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Demetrios I helped further the ecumenical movement, meeting with two different Archbishops of Canterbury, and proclaiming the establishment of the official theological dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, then led by Pope John Paul. Pope John Paul received Patriarch Demetrios at the Vatican in 1987, and the two recited the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of the Church in Greek, in a ceremony at St. Peter's Basilica.

Demetrios I was succeeded as Ecumenical Patriarch by Bartholomew I, who has cooperated with Popes Benedict XVI and Francis in furthering the movement toward a one-world religion.

Recent space discoveries reveal more of God's greatness

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
Psalms 8:3-4

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Psalms 19:1

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Revelation 4:11

Although the scientific establishment insists on trying to see the universe through the lens of evolution, it makes more sense to see the discoveries reported in the items below as evidence of God's creativity. While the achivements of the scientists and engineers are impressive, I'm more impressed by the God who created these heavenly bodies in the first place.

As reported by Associated Press, September 15, 2016:

CAPE CANAVERAL (USA): A new study finds that Pluto is ``spray-painting'' the red poles of its big moon Charon.

The paint is actually Pluto's continually escaping atmosphere. Methane and other gases from Pluto end up coating Charon's frozen poles, which are so cold and where winters are so long that this buildup remains for decades.

A chemical transformation, via solar radiation, turns the polar caps a dark red.

Planetary scientist Will Grundy of Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, bases his findings on observations last year by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft.

The study was reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday, 14 months to the day after New Horizons' historic flyby of Pluto.

Grundy, lead author of the paper, called it a new phenomenon for scientists.

``It's almost like Pluto is a graffiti artist, spray-painting Charon's poles with its escaping atmosphere, leaving planet-scale colored spots,'' Grundy said in an email. ``This sort of thing might not be unusual among double planets, but we never had a close look at such a system until New Horizons flew through the Pluto system last year.''

He and other scientists- including New Horizons' principal scientist Alan Stern- were curious as to how such a large surface feature became such a conspicuous color.

``This study solves one of the greatest mysteries we found on Charon,'' Stern, a co-author on the paper, said in a statement. It opens up the possibility that other small bodies in this faraway twilight zone known as the Kuiper Belt may be undergoing the same thing, he noted.

Pluto's little moon Nix, for example, has a reddish spot. But it orbits farther from Pluto and is so small that the so-called spray-painting wouldn't be nearly as efficient, according to the study.

Meanwhile, a second study finds Pluto is emitting X-rays.

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory detected the low-energy rays last year. Until then, the most distant body in the solar system with detected X-ray emission was the ringed Saturn system, according to scientists. The source of Pluto's X-rays is still a mystery.

The X-ray findings were announced Wednesday.
Click on the link to see the abstract and references for the original article The formation of Charon’s red poles from seasonally cold-trapped volatiles in Nature, published online September 14, 2016.

As reported by Daniel Garisto of Eos, September 28, 2016 (bold, links in original):

What could be towering plumes of water vapor that rise as high as 200 kilometers above the icy surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa appear as no more than a few grainy pixels when viewed from Earth. Nonetheless, such images from the Hubble Space Telescope unveiled on Monday strengthen previous evidence that these otherworldly fountains do exist.

The results, to be published in the Astrophysical Journal later this month, add to a long saga of interest in Europa. Ever since the Galileo mission discovered Europa’s subsurface ocean in 1996, Europa has held the attention of both scientists and nonscientists as a space oddity—notably, one that might have the potential for life because of its liquid water.

If these plumes do exist, they would likely open the door to other avenues of investigation, according to Louise Prockter, director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas.

“It’s potentially great if [the images] do show plumes from Europa … because that means Europa’s subsurface is coming to us. We could sample the subsurface material without digging through ice,” she said in an interview. Prockter, a former member of the Galileo Europa Mission, didn’t participate in the new Hubble observations.

Taking a Different View

The team of scientists, led by William Sparks, a researcher at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md., used a novel method to acquire an independent corroboration of the plumes that they say is statistically significant.

The plumes were discovered by Lorenz Roth and his coauthors in 2012 when they surveyed a silhouette of Europa against the background of space for spectral lines of hydrogen and oxygen—indicators of water. Sparks and his colleagues, however, made their observations as Europa passed in front of its mother planet Jupiter, as Sparks explained at the press conference.

Exoplanet discoverers commonly use this method, called transit photometry, to find their quarry against the backdrop of the star it orbits. The technique relies on a simple principle: When an object moves in front of a light source, it blocks out part of that light. The amount of this occlusion can tell observers about the exoplanet, in much the same way that a shadow can tell them about the object that cast it.

Here the task was slightly different. Sparks and his team used Jupiter as a light source but went beyond just detecting dimmed light. Instead, Jupiter’s glow provided a sufficiently smooth background against which potential plumes from Europa could be viewed.

The team took its photos of Europa’s transit of Jupiter in 2014, but processing them to achieve adequate resolution to spot the plumes took months and months. By using a method different from that used for the original discovery, Sparks and his team gave further credence to the possibility that the plumes exist. “These are different approaches, but they complement each other,” senior Hubble project scientist Jennifer Wiseman said during the press conference. Wiseman did not participate in the research but served as the project’s Hubble science expert.

Three of the 10 images the team made show signs of plumes, all in the same region. Still, Sparks urged caution, warning that the result was not 100% verifiable, in part because Hubble is at its technological limits and lacks the capacity to observe in greater resolution.

But most scientists are in agreement that at the very least, the results are cause for optimism. “Now, an independent group using an independent technique seemed to have detected the same thing in more or less the same place,” said Francis Nimmo, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a collaborator on the first sightings in 2012.

In this video, NASA explains how techniques used in 2012 and in these newer observations, although different, both yielded evidence of possible water plumes on Europa.

Uncovering Mysteries

If Europa’s plumes are really there, they could potentially reveal the secrets of the subsurface ocean to which they may be connected. They could also possibly help expand scientists’ understanding of how planets, and icy satellites in particular, form and continue to exist, according to Nimmo. He is also an editor of the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, a publication, as is, of the American Geophysical Union.

Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, had its own plumes confirmed about a decade ago. “What it’s telling you is it’s not too hard for icy bodies to hang on to their oceans,” he said. “Enceladus is tiny, yet somehow, it has an ocean and that ocean has presumably lasted for billions of years.”

Although NASA plans to send a spacecraft to Europa in the next decade and the James Webb Space Telescope promises better views of the moon after it becomes operational in 2018, scientists are relying until then on the Hubble Space Telescope for their sharpest views of Europa.

“We can’t fly a mission up close, so the next best thing is to use the Hubble Space Telescope to study Europa from afar,” said the director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division, Paul Hertz, at the press conference.
As reported by the European Space Agency, September 30, 2016 (links in original):

ESA’s historic Rosetta mission has concluded as planned, with the controlled impact onto the comet it had been investigating for more than two years.

Confirmation of the end of the mission arrived at ESA’s control centre in Darmstadt, Germany at 11:19 GMT (13:19 CEST) with the loss of Rosetta’s signal upon impact.

Rosetta carried out its final manoeuvre last night at 20:50 GMT (22:50 CEST), setting it on a collision course with the comet from an altitude of about 19 km. Rosetta had targeted a region on the small lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, close to a region of active pits in the Ma’at region.

The descent gave Rosetta the opportunity to study the comet’s gas, dust and plasma environment very close to its surface, as well as take very high-resolution images.

Pits are of particular interest because they play an important role in the comet’s activity. They also provide a unique window into its internal building blocks.

The information collected on the descent to this fascinating region was returned to Earth before the impact. It is now no longer possible to communicate with the spacecraft.

“Rosetta has entered the history books once again,” says Johann-Dietrich Wörner, ESA’s Director General. “Today we celebrate the success of a game-changing mission, one that has surpassed all our dreams and expectations, and one that continues ESA’s legacy of ‘firsts’ at comets.”

“Thanks to a huge international, decades-long endeavour, we have achieved our mission to take a world-class science laboratory to a comet to study its evolution over time, something that no other comet-chasing mission has attempted,” notes Alvaro Giménez, ESA’s Director of Science.

“Rosetta was on the drawing board even before ESA’s first deep-space mission, Giotto, had taken the first image of a comet nucleus as it flew past Halley in 1986.

“The mission has spanned entire careers, and the data returned will keep generations of scientist busy for decades to come.”

“As well as being a scientific and technical triumph, the amazing journey of Rosetta and its lander Philae also captured the world’s imagination, engaging new audiences far beyond the science community. It has been exciting to have everyone along for the ride,” adds Mark McCaughrean, ESA’s senior science advisor.

Since launch in 2004, Rosetta is now in its sixth orbit around the Sun. Its nearly 8 billion-kilometre journey included three Earth flybys and one at Mars, and two asteroid encounters.

The craft endured 31 months in deep-space hibernation on the most distant leg of its journey, before waking up in January 2014 and finally arriving at the comet in August 2014.

After becoming the first spacecraft to orbit a comet, and the first to deploy a lander, Philae, in November 2014, Rosetta continued to monitor the comet’s evolution during their closest approach to the Sun and beyond.

“We’ve operated in the harsh environment of the comet for 786 days, made a number of dramatic flybys close to its surface, survived several unexpected outbursts from the comet, and recovered from two spacecraft ‘safe modes’,” says operations manager Sylvain Lodiot.

“The operations in this final phase have challenged us more than ever before, but it’s a fitting end to Rosetta’s incredible adventure to follow its lander down to the comet.”

The decision to end the mission on the surface is a result of Rosetta and the comet heading out beyond the orbit of Jupiter again. Further from the Sun than Rosetta has ever journeyed before, there would be little power to operate the craft.

Mission operators were also faced with an imminent month-long period when the Sun is close to the line-of-sight between Earth and Rosetta, meaning communications with the craft would have become increasingly more difficult.

“With the decision to take Rosetta down to the comet’s surface, we boosted the scientific return of the mission through this last, once-in-a-lifetime operation,” says mission manager Patrick Martin.

Many surprising discoveries have already been made during the mission, not least the curious shape of the comet that became apparent during Rosetta’s approach in July and August 2014. Scientists now believe that the comet’s two lobes formed independently, joining in a low-speed collision in the early days of the Solar System.

Long-term monitoring has also shown just how important the comet’s shape is in influencing its seasons, in moving dust across its surface, and in explaining the variations measured in the density and composition of the coma, the comet’s ‘atmosphere’.

Some of the most unexpected and important results are linked to the gases streaming from the comet’s nucleus, including the discovery of molecular oxygen and nitrogen, and water with a different ‘flavour’ to that in Earth’s oceans.

Together, these results point to the comet being born in a very cold region of the protoplanetary nebula when the Solar System was still forming more than 4.5 billion years ago.

While it seems that the impact of comets like Rosetta’s may not have delivered as much of Earth’s water as previously thought, another much anticipated question was whether they could have brought ingredients regarded as crucial for the origin of life.

Rosetta did not disappoint, detecting the amino acid glycine, which is commonly found in proteins, and phosphorus, a key component of DNA and cell membranes. Numerous organic compounds were also detected ¬by Rosetta from orbit, and also by Philae in situ on the surface.

“It’s a bittersweet ending, but in the end the mechanics of the Solar System were simply against us: Rosetta’s destiny was set a long time ago. But its superb achievements will now remain for posterity and be used by the next generation of young scientists and engineers around the world.”

While the operational side of the mission has finished today, the science analysis will continue for many years to come.

Overall, the results delivered by Rosetta so far paint comets as ancient leftovers of early Solar System formation, rather than fragments of collisions between larger bodies later on, giving an unparalleled insight into what the building blocks of the planets may have looked like 4.6 billion years ago.

“Just as the Rosetta Stone after which this mission was named was pivotal in understanding ancient language and history, the vast treasure trove of Rosetta spacecraft data is changing our view on how comets and the Solar System formed,” says project scientist Matt Taylor.

“Inevitably, we now have new mysteries to solve. The comet hasn’t given up all of its secrets yet, and there are sure to be many surprises hidden in this incredible archive. So don’t go anywhere yet – we’re only just beginning.”
See photos here, here, here, here, and here, and a video here.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Polygamous leader of Canadian "church" is sentenced to 18 months in prison for assaults on members

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Matthew 7:21-23

Anyone familiar with abusive churches and cults will find the characteristics of the leader of this Ontario "church" and his behaviour to be all too familiar. As reported by Scott Dunn of the Owen Sound Sun Times, September 14, 2016:


Disgraced Chatsworth church leader Fred King, known to his parishioners simply as “The Prophet,” was sentenced today to 18 months jail followed by two years probation.

His church, which came to public attention first through a W5 television expose, has disbanded, according to defence lawyer Paul Mergler.

King, 57, pleaded guilty in May to nine assaults which took place between Dec. 12, 1988 and Aug. 10, 2008, mostly in Chatsworth Township or elsewhere in Grey County, and in one case in Peel Region, involving four church members.

The abuse included squeezing a child's hand with crushing force for fighting with a sister, and beating a teen in church in front of its members after she'd tried to run away. King also beat a young man stripped of clothes in front of his mother, leaving him standing outside for hours at night as mosquitoes bit him.

Grey County Crown attorney Michael Martin said King, who led the church since 1986, was “all powerful within that religious denomination” and often preached for hours on end. He alone decided when behaviour needed “correction” and what form it took.

King, a tall, heavyset man, would “sadistically humiliate and repeatedly assault women . . . and children with complete impunity,” Martin said.

This breach of trust was often carried out in front of the congregation, Martin noted. Victims worked in “church-controlled jobs, either as farm labour or within the printing business.”

King had nothing to say when given the opportunity to speak in court Wednesday.

King admitted in the Superior Court of Justice in May to a litany of physical abuse, often designed to humiliate, something Justice Clayton Conlan said he found particularly disturbing as he accepted the sentence recommended by Crown and defence.

He called King's abuse of his church members a “gross violation” of King's position of trust. Emotional scars left, he suspects, will never heal. The “sordid” facts were the primary aggravating factor in deciding the sentence.

But to his credit, King pleaded guilty, saving the justice system time and avoiding aggravation the victims would have had to endure at trial. He's a first offender, Conlan said.

King's victims in the charges he admitted to include three males between 11 and 19 years of age at the time, and Carol Christie. She and husband John Christie did not attend the sentencing because they attended a funeral instead.

Only Christie, 63, of Owen Sound, may be named under terms of a publication ban, which was lifted on her name with her agreement. The ban was imposed to protect the privacy of the other victims at the Crown's request.

After a particularly severe and humiliating attack in front of parishioners, which was detailed in court, Christie ran from the church in March 2008, never to return. Two of the charges King pleaded to related to assaults on her when she was roughly 35 to 55 years old.

Christie came forward and was featured on a W5 investigative report, and in local media in 2012, which detailed abuse allegations. The television report led the OPP to investigate, Martin said.

Christie and her husband wrote a book about her experiences in the church.

A former church member has alleged that Fred King had many wives at once who were handed down from his father, Stan King. But no polygamy charges ever resulted from the 16-month police investigation.

Among charges that were withdrawn Wednesday were six allegations of sexual misconduct including on a young girl and a woman. In two cases the charges alleged repeated sexual assaults. The Crown said he stands behind the credibility of Christie, one of those complaints.

Defence lawyer Mergler said late disclosure of information led to the plea arrangement and withdrawal of the sex related charges.

Mergler, said its been tough on his client while facing these charges and before, when a civil suit was settled with a number of complainants who all received “very significant” damage awards.

So it could be argued, he said, financial “restitution” has already been made to the extent possible. He also said there were “numerous and huge triable issues” in this case which had been set for three weeks of trial before a judge alone.

“There have been death threats,” against King, at least one of which police were told about and which led to imposition of a peace bond, Mergler said. “There was vandalism, including people urinating on the gates to the property. There has been some effective banishment and public vilification, one could say.”

King's “health has suffered” from stress-related issues which arose with this court matter.

A term of bail required him not to live at home in Chatsworth, but instead in Oakville with his wife and brother Joe, one of his bail guarantors, who died this summer. That required Fred to take on many more duties in the family printing plant, which will miss him while he's in jail, Mergler said.

Letters from three of King's children, all adults now, and from his wife, who attended court Wednesday, were submitted for the judge to consider. They work for the family printing business too. “The church has been disbanded. So so all of those people are there because they want to be,” Mergler said.

King always “adamantly denied” any of the sexual charges, he noted. But his crimes, court case precedents and terms of the Criminal Code all “cry out for a jail term” in this case, he said.

“Clearly the time for impunity has past.”

Fred King's brother, Judson King, is charged with assault with a weapon, sexual assault and three counts of assault between 1981 and 2007. He is to appear in assignment court in the Superior Court of Justice Nov. 7.
See also Mr. Dunn's article Church leader guilty of nine assaults (May 10, 2016).

As reported by Jonathan Sher of the London Free Press, September 23, 2016 (bold in original):

In the end, the decision whether to accept a plea bargain for the abusive leader of a Southwestern Ontario church was put in the hands of the woman who suffered some of his cruellest blows.

Carol Christie contends she was forced into the Church of Jesus Christ Restored as a teenager by her mother, forced to be intimate as a minor with church founder Stan King, and later, his son Fred king and forced to endure beatings that ripped the fabric from her body and the spirit from her soul — claims that King denied in defending the lawsuit before settling out of court.

So when Grey County Crown attorney Michael Martin said just four days before the trial was to start in May that King was willing to plead guilty to assault charges if sex-related allegations were dropped, Martin recommended the deal, but said he’d go through with a trial if that’s what Christie wanted.

“He was prepared to continue (with a trial) but recommended that we not,” Christie’s husband John Christie told The Free Press. Martin declined to be interviewed by The Free Press.

King admitted he squeezed a child’s hand with crushing force, beat in front of parishioners a teen after she’d tried to run away and stripped a young man in front of his mother, then left him standing outside for hours at night as mosquitoes bit him.

Fred King’s willingness to plead guilty to some charges stunned his victims, who as members of his church outside Chatsworth, near Owen Sound, were taught to call him “prophet” and to believe what he said was the word of God.

“We never thought we’d get a confession from him. We were taken back,” John Christie said.

It was Carol Christie who blew the whistle on King, fleeing his grip in 2008, marrying John a year later, writing a book that alleged she was one of King’s seven wives, appearing on CTV’s W5 in 2012 and filing a lawsuit that was settled out of court with a payment.

That King was only sentenced last week to 18 months in jail and two years of probation disappointed the lawyer who represented Christie and other victims in civil cases.

John Tamming doesn’t blame the judge or Martin but does take aim at a higher authority. “The (judge) is constrained in such cases by what our Court of Appeal has approved as an appropriate bandwidth for such sentences. Clearly, I am disappointed that such pattern of abuse can result in such a relatively minor penalty (and Mr. King will doubtless serve only a part of this sentence),” Tamming wrote in response to questions from The Free Press.

“Fred King was a vicious tyrant. He used his cult to bend vulnerable people to do whatever suited his will. The public beatings and humiliations that took place in the Chatsworth meeting house in particular ensured him a compliant congregation. His mad and violent outbursts also maintained a cowed group of employees who were fully prepared to work for years at slave wages in his printing plant. I would have hoped that placed in that context, the assaults to which he pleaded guilty would have attracted a much longer prison term.”

There was a time, not so long ago, that Carol and John Christie thought a trial might be best, not only because it would expose King’s atrocities but also the great extent to which his followers were brainwashed.

“We were, in one way, looking forward to the trial,” John Christie said. “(Church members defending King would) all be sticking to the same script with very little variation from what they were told to say.”

But they also believed that King’s lawyer would attack the mental stability of Carol Christie. They knew it would be difficult to prove allegations of sexual assaults and crimes without third-party witnesses. And they were convinced church members would testify to whatever King commanded.

“The prophet is all-powerful in this. He’s supposed to be their direct link to God and they do not question that,” John Christie said.

Four days before the scheduled trial in May, Christie agreed to the plea bargain.

There’s no dispute 18 months in jail pales compared to longer sentences given for crimes of lesser significance, John Christie said. They’re disappointed, too, that King wasn’t charged with polygamy but understand that such a charge might not stick because King consummated all marriages but one in bed — only one wife had a marriage licence, Christie said.

But John Christie and his wife focus on what they did accomplish. “There’s the satisfaction of knowing we did our best. The church is disbanded. The printing company that financially supported it is on shaky ground. There are few more escapees. Fred is serving a sentence we’ve been able to get information to the public that this sort of thing can happen in your own backyard.”

Carol Christie chose not to attend the sentencing last Wednesday, her emotional energy spent from an eight-year battle to expose the church and its practices, her husband explained. For the same reason she asked her husband to respond to questions about the sentencing and the church.

After the sentencing, she cried tears of relief, her husband said. “It’s over,” she said. “It’s really over.”

--- --- ---


The out-of court settlement agreed to by Carol Christie forbids her from disclosing how much she was paid after she sued Fred King, his church, his brother Joseph King and the corporation the brothers control for $14.5 million for damage they allegedly inflicted on her and the wealth they generated forcing her to work for nearly nothing for their company.

But her husband John Christie says she already has spent between a third and a half of the payout helping others who escaped the church — a number that’s grown with King’s conviction and the church’s supposed demise.

Escapees need help, he said. Their development was stunted in a cult where all major life decisions were made by King. Everything they earned went to support King, his only legal wife and their children, whom followers called the royal family, and all they received back were $10 and $20 a week allowances, Christie said.

There are mid-age people from the church with less life skills than teenagers, he said. “They don’t know anything else. How are they going to function?”

--- --- ---


Other assaults to which Fred King pleaded guilty:
Threw from a chair into a prayer circle of women a boy who was 11 or 12 at the time, then kicked, punched and slapped him, then also slapped his six-year-old brother in the face.
Punched, slapped and spit on a boy who was 14 or 15, then ordered him to strip naked with his pants around his ankles in front of the boy’s mother and brother and preached to them for hours. Another time he punched the boy and gave him a black eye, threw him to the ground and stomped on his chest because King was unhappy with the way he was building a fence for the church.
After another boy of 15 or 16 tried to run away, King punched and kicked him, sometimes in the back of the head, in front of the congregation. Years later, when the boy was 19, King threw him from the back of a pickup truck after taunting him by repeatedly telling the boy to get in the truck, each time driving away.

--- --- ---


-1960s: Stan King preaches in Owen Sound at the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which follows the Book of Mormon but is a smaller denomination than the mainstream Mormon church based in Utah. 15-year-old Carol Christie attends the church.

- 1972: King officially breaks away from the Mormon church to start the Church of Jesus Christ Restored, first preaching in homes and later at a farmhouse near Sauble Beach. Christie alleges she became one of Stan King’s wives after she was beaten by a church member for rejecting his advances. That allegation has not been tested in court.

- 1982: King moves the church to a bankrupt ski resort he purchased in 1982 of the village of Chatsworth southeast of Owen Sound.

- 1986: Stan King dies and his son Fred King takes over; Christie alleges the father’s wives, then numbering six, were passed on to the son. Police later investigate claims of polygamy but lay no charges.

- 1998-2008: King repeatedly slaps, spits on and pulls the hair of Christie before the congregation, he later admits in criminal court.

- March 23, 2008: On Easter Sunday in front of the congregation, Fred King calls Carol Christie an “Indian bitch,” pulls her hair, spits in her face and repeatedly slaps her on the head, according to an agreed statement of facts later submitted in court. Christie flees the church two days later.

2010 – Christie files a lawsuit that soon settles out of court with a payment she can’t disclose because of a confidentiality clause in the deal. A lawsuit is later filed and settled with five other who fled the church.

- Nov. 17, 2012: W5 televises Christie story.

- Nov. 20, 2012: OPP launch investigation

- 2013: Carol and John Christie publish a book, Property. The True Story of a Polygamous Church Wife, that alleged Stan King had six wives, one whom he married at age 10.

- April 2014: OPP charge Fred King with sexual exploitation, sexual interference, three counts of sexual assault, three counts of assault causing bodily harm, five counts of uttering death threats, two counts of assault with a weapon and 10 counts of assault. They also charge his brother Judson with assault with a weapon, uttering death threats and four counts of assault. The alleged offences occurred from 1978 to 2008. Police arrest Fred King April 11 at a Hamilton hotel.

May 2016: King pleads guilty to nine assault charges after the Crown drops the remaining charges.

Sept. 14 2016: King is sentenced to 18 months in jail plus two years of probation. His brother Judson is next scheduled to appear in court in November.

--- --- ---

‘She had no idea who we were’

It’s been 30 years since Karen Siegrist was allowed to see her daughter and grandkids without being under the eye of the leader of a cult-line church, Fred King, and 13 years since she last heard her voice.

So while the Crown attorney and the defence lawyer for King jointly recommended an 18-month sentence for King on nine assault charges, a man whom followers called “prophet”, his time in jail pales compared to the time the 77-year-old Siegrist has been kept away from her eldest child.

“I thought it was a joke,” Siegrist said of the criminal proceedings and sentencing last week of King.

Her daughter Dawn Knisley was just 17 in 1973 when she disappeared from nursing school in Barrie, her family hiring a private investigator to try to find her, Knisley’s sister Risa Walker recalled. A year later, she surfaced in Owen Sound, working as a cashier, so Walker, then 14, and her mother Siegrist went to see her.

“I walked up to her and said hi. She looked at me like she had no idea who we were. She didn’t know us from Adam,” Walker told The Free Press.

A year away from family had changed her forever, Siegrist said. “When she came back, she was not my daughter,” she said.

Dawn Knisley had forged a relationship with a young man whose mother was an ardent member of the Church of Jesus Christ Restored, whose founder Stan King, the father of Fred King, had broken off from a Mormon church in Owen Sound to create his own following, initially at a compound in Sauble Beach.

After Knisley married the man two days after her 18th birthday, Stan King allowed Siegrist access to her daughter, so Siegrist came often to their home, bringing food, toys and whatever her daughter might need for a rapidly growing family — she would have five kids.

Later, when Siegrist drove to her daughter’s small farm home near the church compound, a former ski resort outside Chatsworth, church members drove up within minutes, not saying a word to Siegrist and her husband, only watching.

The next time Siegrist visited her daughter, the church members were there again within minutes — even though the home wasn’t visible from the highway. Siegrist wondered how the church always knew when she came, then had a chilling suspicion: Her grandkids has been told to phone church authorities whenever Grandma showed.

“The grandchildren were programmed,” Siegrist said.

The transition from the elder King to his son was stark, said John Christie, who married Carol Christie after she fled the church. Stan King wanted to expand his church, sponsored a church in India and welcomed outsiders to attend services or fish on church property. But after Stan King died, support for the church in India was pulled, attendance at services was restricted to members and outsiders kept at a distance, even when one of Siegrist’s granddaughters, just four-years-old at the time, was seriously injured in an accident at the Knisley farm that shattered her pelvis, Knisley’s sister Risa Walker said.

Siegrist phoned to find out what had happened — news had spread an air ambulance had flown a child to Toronto — but was hung up on by a church member.

“She told my mother she couldn’t share that information,” Walker said.

Walker drove to Sick Kids in Toronto to see her niece, the last time she saw her or Knisley — it was about 1991.

Siegrist last heard from Knisley in December of 2003, the year Siegrist’s own mother passed away after telling the family not to tell Knisley about her illness, Walker said. So when Siegrist mailed Christmas gifts to Knisley and the grandchildren, she included a copy of the death notice. Throughout decades of strife, the hardest part for Walker was watching her mother endure her grief even as she raised her kids as a single parent and worked three jobs to make ends meet. The separation from her sister ripped Walker apart until 20 years ago, when she decided she needed to focus on her own family and find a way to let her older sister go.

“It was almost like going into grieving. It was the only way I could get through the sadness,” Walker said.

Fred King’s lawyer told the court his church had disbanded. However the thought to Walker that members who made the church their lives will simply walk away is “the biggest bucket of hogwash I’ve ever heard,” she said.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

60 years ago: The ancient city of Gibeon is discovered

Now it came to pass, when Adonizedec king of Jerusalem had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them;
That they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty.
Wherefore Adonizedec king of Jerusalem, sent unto Hoham king of Hebron, and unto Piram king of Jarmuth, and unto Japhia king of Lachish, and unto Debir king of Eglon, saying,
Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.
Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it.
And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us.
So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour.
And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee.
Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night.
And the Lord discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah.
And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.
Then spake Joshua to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.
And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the Lord fought for Israel.
Joshua 10:1-14

On September 8, 1956, Dr. James B. Pritchard of Church Divinity School of the Pacific announced the discovery of the site of Gibeon, north of Jerusalem. The site, called el-Jib, was identified by Dr. Pritchard as Gibeon by inscriptions on the handles of wine jars. The excavations continued for several years afterward, and were chronicled by Dr. Pritchard in his book Gibeon: Where the Sun Stood Still (1962).

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

50 years ago: Good riddance to Margaret Sanger

On September 6, 1966, Margaret Sanger died, eight days before her 87th birthday. Mrs. Sanger, born Margaret Higgins, was a nurse who opened the first birth control clinic in the United States in Brooklyn, New York on October 16, 1916. Promotion of contraception was illegal then, but Mrs. Sanger fought her case in the courts and eventually won the right to promote her views. She founded the American Birth Control League in 1921 and the Clinical Research Bureau in 1923, and with financial assistance from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., travelled to various foreign countries to promote birth control. Conflict within the ABCL led Mrs. Sanger to leave the organization in 1928 and she took full control of the CRB, renaming it the Birth Control Clinical Research Bureau. The ABCL and BCCRB merged in 1939 to become the Birth Control Federation of America, which changed its name to Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1942. Mrs. Sanger helped to found the International Committee on Planned Parenthood in 1946, which became the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1952.

Mrs. Sanger was a racist and eugenicist who had actual Nazis contributing to her Birth Control Review magazine. Planned Parenthood operates more than half of the abortion clinics in the United States; videos were made in 2015 that seemed to show personnel at Planned Parentood clinics offering to sell body parts of aborted fetuses. If the body count resulting from her ideas is any indication, Margaret Sanger may have been the most evil woman in history. She, like the Pharisees, had her reward; she was named Humanist of the Year for 1957 by the American Humanist Association, and has several buildings named in her honour.

This blogger has neither the time nor the desire to go into great detail about the evils of Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood; some of the blogs on my blogroll have material on these subjects (especially the Planned Parenthood body parts scandal), and readers are encouraged to search them for information. I recommend the book Grand Illusions: The Legacy of Planned Parenthood by George Grant (1988) as an excellent expose of Margaret Sanger and the organization she helped to found.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Noted astrologer and psychic fails to foresee his own murder

And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: Luke 4:23a

As reported by Liam Quinn of the London Daily Mail, August 31, 2016 (updated September 1, 2016) (link in original):

The body of a famous astrologer and clairvoyant who predicted the death of Michael Jackson has been found rotting in a Mexican alley after he was shot in the back of the head.

Rodrigo Rodriguez, born in Colombia, was found dead near the bathroom at a building he used in Cancun on Saturday morning.

Police found the body after neighbors complained about a strong stench coming from his office, local media reports.

The astrologer, who was known as 'El Brujo de las Estrellas' - the 'Wizard of the Stars', rose to fame by predicting and charting the lives of local celebrities.

He regularly appeared on local television shows, and had events scheduled in the coming months, according to Fox Latino.

The 'wizard' was due to travel to Spain in October, where he would read the futures of the entire royal family.

Rodriguez described his upcoming regal trip as a, 'a big step for (his) career', and said he was thrilled about the opportunity.

In addition to 'predicting' Jackson's death in 2009, Rodriguez also claims to have foreseen the deaths of Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse.

He also claimed 2014 would be Lady Gaga's last year, however the popstar survived the year and has gone on seemingly unperturbed by the gloomy prediction.

Showing that he doesn't just have an eye for celebrity deaths, the Colombian has also claimed to know the location of crashed plane MH370.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visits Pope Francis and gives him a drone

The world moves further toward the mark of the Beast. This blogger isn't on Facebook and never will be, God willing (I've heard that it's very difficult to get off Facebook once you're on it). As reported by Sarah Perez of Tech Crunch, August 29, 2016 (links in original):

On Monday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan met with Pope Francis, as part of Zuckerberg’s trip of Italy, announced following the devastating earthquake that hit the country last week, killing hundreds. After discussing the importance of connecting people in the world without internet access, Zuckerberg presented the Pope with a drone – but, alas, not a working one. Instead, it was a model of Facebook’s solar-powered Aquila aircraft, designed to beam internet access to those areas of the world that are lacking connectivity.

The Aquila drone, which has a wingspan of over 113 feet – bigger than a Boeing 737 – just completed its first official test flight this summer. The drone will fly for 90 days at a time, and can blanket a 60-mile wide area with internet access.

According to a post on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, the CEO told the Pope how much he admired his message of mercy and tenderness, as well as how he’s found new ways to communicate with people of every faith around the world. (The current Pope uses social media, having followed in Benedict’s footsteps by joining Twitter, and he signed up for an Instagram account just this March.)

In a statement released by the Vatican’s press office, the Pope and Zuckerberg discussed how technology can aid in continuing to spread the Pope’s message.

“Together they spoke about how to use communications technology to alleviate poverty, encourage a culture of encounter, and to communicate a message of hope, especially to the most disadvantaged,” said Vatican press office director Greg Burke in a statement.

As part of the trip, Zuckerberg also met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to discuss the earthquake, the economy, and technology’s impact on job creation, among other things. The CEO hosted a Townhall Q&A in Rome, which was live-streamed on Facebook, as well.

“I told the Prime Minister I’m especially excited with the work being done across Europe on artificial intelligence,” wrote Zuckerberg on Facebook.

“As part of the Facebook AI Research Partnership Program, we’re providing 26 state-of-the-art GPU servers to research institutions across Europe — including one to the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia here in Italy. They’ve got a great artificial intelligence and computer vision program, and this new technology will hopefully help students and the faculty do even more,” he said.

Fifteen research groups across 9 countries in Europe will receive these computers, which are similar to those at FAIR (Facebook AI Research) with 8 high-end GPU cards each. The computers are meant to help recipients in research areas like computer vision, learning systems, deep neural networks, and more.

Beyond getting face time with the Pope, it’s also interesting to see Zuckerberg taking on the role that’s usually reserved for politicians – that is, touring a country after a natural disaster. While that wasn’t the primary purpose of the visit, it’s clear that Facebook has a larger role to play in the world economy these days, and is working to get key players to buy into its plans to bring the internet to the unconnected masses.

Earlier this year, Zuckerberg went to China, where he held a rare meeting with China’s propaganda chief, Liu Yunshan, to discuss internet development in China, and how Facebook could be included. The site has been blocked in the country, which hosts 720+ million internet users, since 2009.
As reported by Fortune, August 29, 2016:

During his trip to Italy, Mark Zuckerberg made sure to pencil the Pope into his schedule.

On Monday, the Facebook (fb) CEO and his wife, Priscilla Chan, met with Pope Francis to discuss “how to use communications technology to alleviate poverty, encourage a culture of encounter, and to communicate a message of hope, especially to the most disadvantaged,” according to a statement from the Vatican press office obtained by CNN.

Zuckerberg has made it his mission to bring the Internet to those around the world who don’t have access. Last year, he announced a plan to provide refugee camps with Internet access, which is a small part of a larger global connectivity plan he’s working on with rock star Bono. In an op-ed for the New York Times, Zuckerberg and the U2 frontman detailed their plan to get everyone online by 2020, a step they believe is “necessary for development.”

On his Facebook page, Zuckerberg posted a picture of him giving Pope Francis an Aquila—Facebook’s solar-powered drone designed to help the Internet expand to and improve in developing countries. The aircraft successfully completed its first test flight just two months ago.

Italy was hit by an earthquake last week that killed nearly 300 people and injured hundreds of others. Soon afterward, Zuckerberg announced that he would be taking a trip to the country. It’s uncertain whether he’ll visit the cities affected by the natural disaster, though he did host a live question and answer session in Rome on Monday.

During the Q&A, Zuckerberg answered questions about people increasingly looking to social media outlets, such as Facebook and Twitter (twtr) , to get their news. While he said there are “advantages to obtaining information from different parts of the world,” he shot down rumors that Facebook was becoming a news outlet.

“We are a tech company, not a media company,” Zuckerberg said.

Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment.
Click on the link to see To Unite the Earth, Connect It by Bono and Mark Zuckerberg in The New York Times, September 26, 2015. It's worth noting that Bono, who wants to unite the world technologically, is also involved in the Coexist movement, which seeks to unite the world's religions. See my post A false Jesus on Youtube (December 16, 2009).

Thursday, August 25, 2016

60 years ago: Good riddance to Alfred Kinsey

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. I Corinthians 6:18

Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; II Peter 2:11

On August 25, 1956, U.S. sexologist Dr. Kinsey died of a reported heart ailment and pneumonia at the age of 62. Dr. Kinsey, a biologist by training, founded the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in 1947. He published the reports Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953), which created the impression that the American people were far more liberal in their sexual behaviour than they actually were, or were willing to admit. Dr. Kinsey was reported to be bisexual, and he devised a scale of sexuality in which bisexuality rather than heterosexuality was the norm, and this passed for "science." It wasn't until many years after the publication of his reports that it was revealed that a disproportionate number of Dr. Kinsey's subjects in his research on male sexuality were convicted sex offenders, and a disproportionate number of his female subjects were prostitutes--not exactly representative of the majority of the American people. For further reading, I recommend the books of Dr. Judith Reisman, who has spent many years exposing the frauds and crimes of Dr. Kinsey.

Dr. Kinsey has been credited with creating the modern sexual revolution, and gets this blogger's vote as the most influential person in Western culture in the last half of the 20th century. One of the aspects of the sexual revolution that Dr. Kinsey was indirectly responsible for was the modern pornography industry, which is generally acknowledged to descend from Playboy magazine, founded in 1954 by Hugh Hefner. Mr. Hefner, like Dr. Kinsey, received a straitlaced Methodist upbringing, but went to university in Illinois and read Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, which led him to conclude that everyone except Hugh Hefner was having fun. Mr. Hefner thus set about to rectify this lack in his life, and created Playboy and its subsequent business empire. Whether the modern plague of pornography would have come about eventually anyway is a matter for debate, but it seems certain that no Kinsey=no Hefner.

Alfred Kinsey was a pervert and a fraudulent scholar, and his vast influence in Western society has been overwhelmingly evil. And, as Woody Allen would say, I say that with all due respect.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

In the wake of Nice terror attacks, more Jews are moving from France to Israel

1And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee,
And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul;
That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.
If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee:
And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers.
Deuteronomy 30:1-5

As reported by Eitan Goldstein of Ynet News, July 21, 2016:

More than 200 French Jews arrived in Israel aboard a special Aliyah (immigration) flight organized by The Jewish Agency for Israel in partnership with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and Keren Hayesod-UIA on Wednesday.

The new immigrants were greeted by Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky, Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver, Minister of the Interior Aryeh Machlouf Deri, and Chairman of Keren Hayesod-UIA Eliezer Sandberg upon their arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport.

This is the largest Aliyah flight from France this summer. Half of the new immigrants were teenagers, children, and toddlers who will join the Israeli education system at the end of the summer vacation. The immigrants also include several families in which three generations—grandparents, parents, and children—made Aliyah together. The majority of the immigrants will make their homes in Netanya, Raanana, Jerusalem, and Ashdod. The flight was planned months ago, without any connection to recent events in France.

Julie Abutbul, who immigrated on the flight with her husband and five children, said "we always knew we wanted to make Aliyah, we just didn't know when."

She was prompted to leave France because "we understood that our lives there aren't normal. The hardest part was to see the soldiers standing around outside of my childrens' school every day."

Regarding integrating into Israeli society, she said "we understand that our absorption process will be difficult, but we hope and believe that here we will be able to have a different life, that we'll be able to find happiness here and start a new life for us and for our children here."

Speaking at the event, Jewish Agency Chairman Sharansky praised the arrival of the French Jews who are coming not necessarily out of persecution, but of their love for Zionism and because they recognize that they are able to strengthen their Jewish identity in Israel.

"We must do everything we can to ease their professional, educational, and personal integration into Israeli society and ensure that they feel at home from the moment they first set foot on our homeland’s soil.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver touched upon the fact that this massive Aliyah flight occurred right after the terror attacks in Nice. She welcomed them, and praised them for coming to strengthen Israel and Israeli society.

The French Jewish community is the largest in Europe and the third-largest in the world numbering just under half a million Jews. French Jewish immigration to Israel has surged since 2012 when only 1,900 people immigrated from France to the Jewish state. 2014 marked the first time in Israel’s history that over 1% of a Western nation's Jewish community made Aliyah in a single year, an achievement repeated in 2015, with the arrival of some 7,800 immigrants from France – the most ever. In total, nearly 10% of the French Jewish community has immigrated to Israel since the year 2000, half in the past five years alone.

In response to this unprecedented Aliyah from French Jews, The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption have developed a special plan to facilitate Aliyah from France and ease French Jewish immigrants’ integration into Israeli society. The plan includes efforts to deepen young French Jews’ Jewish identity, bring them to experience Israel on a variety of programs, provide French Jews with comprehensive Aliyah information and counseling, remove barriers to employment, and increase the number of Jewish Agency representatives in France.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Scientists use computer to "prove" the existence of God

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Romans 1:20

As the passage above indicates, God has already given us the ability to know that He exists, apart from any mathematical theorems. A backlog item, as reported by Zachary Stieber in The Epoch Times, October 30, 2013 (updated October 31, 2013) (link in original):

Two scientists believe that they have proven that God exists.

Analyzing a theorem from the late Austrian mathematician Kurt Gödel with a Macbook has proven that God exists, say the two scientists–Christoph Benzmüller of Berlin’s Free University and his colleague, Bruno Woltzenlogel Paleo of the Technical University in Vienna.

Gödel’s theorem is based on modal logic, a type of formal logic that, narrowly defined, involves the use of the expressions “necessarily” and “possibly,” according to Stanford University.

The theorem says that God, or a supreme being, is that for which no greater can be conceived. God exists in the understanding. If God exists in the understanding, we could imagine Him to be greater by existing in reality. Therefore, God must exist.

Paleo and Benzmüller say that they have proven that the theorem is correct, at least on a mathematical level.

In their initial submission on a research server, “Formalization, Mechanization and Automation of Gödel’s Proof of God’s Existence,” the pair say that “Goedel’s ontological proof has been analysed for the first-time with an unprecedent degree of detail and formality with the help of higher-order theorem provers.”

They add: “The following has been done (and in this order): A detailed natural deduction proof. A formalization of the axioms, definitions and theorems in the TPTP THF syntax. Automatic verification of the consistency of the axioms and definitions with Nitpick. Automatic demonstration of the theorems with the provers LEO-II and Satallax. A step-by-step formalization using the Coq proof assistant. A formalization using the Isabelle proof assistant, where the theorems (and some additional lemmata) have been automated with Sledgehammer and Metis.”

Benzmüller told Der Spiegel that it’s fascinating how the theorem could be analyzed through mathematics.

“It’s totally amazing that from this argument led by Gödel, all this stuff can be proven automatically in a few seconds or even less on a standard notebook,” he said.

The mathematicians say that their proof of Gödel’s axioms has more to do with demonstrating how superior technology can help bring about new achievements in science.

“I didn’t know it would create such a huge public interest but (Gödel’s ontological proof) was definitely a better example than something inaccessible in mathematics or artificial intelligence,” Benzmüller said. “It’s a very small, crisp thing, because we are just dealing with six axioms in a little theorem. … There might be other things that use similar logic. Can we develop computer systems to check each single step and make sure they are now right?”

The scientists believe that their work can benefit areas such as artificial intelligence and the verification of software and hardware.
Click on the link for the original submission Formalization, Mechanization and Automation of Gödel's Proof of God's Existence by Christoph Benzmüller, Bruno Woltzenlogel Paleo, August 21, 2013, last revised September 10, 2013.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

800 years ago: The death of Pope Innocent III

...yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me.
John 16:2b-3

On July 16, 1216, the misnamed Pope Innocent III died at the age of 55 or 56. Innocent III, born Lotario dei Conti di Segni, succeeded Celestine III on the papal throne in 1198, and became one of the most influential popes in history, using interdicts and other measures to assert his power and influence over European secular rulers. He initiated the Fourth Crusade in 1198, which was intended to attack Jerusalem, but was diverted, and resulted in the sacking of Constantinople in 1204.

Pope Innocent III was responsible for the persecution of real Christians, and regarded the highlight of his papacy to be the slaughter of the inhabitants of the French town of Béziers on July 22, 1209. It's unknown exactly how many people were murdered in Béziers, but the number has been put at 20,000 and even as high as 60,000. Pope Innocent III died suddenly in the central Italian town of Perugia, and was succeeded as pope by Honorius III.

It came as a surprise to this blogger to discover that Pope Innocent III has been honoured in the form of a bas-relief in the United States Capitol. According to the Architect of the Capitol site:

Innocent III (1161-1216) Medieval pope. Student of canon and civil law, who, like Gregory IX, preserved the remnants of Roman law during the Dark Ages.

Joseph Kiselewski

Marble, 28" dia.
House Chamber
U.S. Capitol

The 23 marble relief portraits over the gallery doors of the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol depict historical figures noted for their work in establishing the principles that underlie American law. They were installed when the chamber was remodeled in 1949-1950.
From Me & Pope Innocent III, a post on the blog of America: The National Catholic Review, published July 27, 2009:

...Yesterday, recalling the papacy of Innocent III, I seemed to remember that his image appears in bas-relief in the U.S. Capitol. And, so it does, in the House of Representatives chamber alongside the bas-reliefs of other great lawgivers in Western civilization. Nor is his the only papal sculpture in the House chamber. Innocent’s nephew, Pope Gregory IX, is also accorded a place among the law-givers. The next time you or your family is visiting the imperial city, be sure to look for these two Catholic additions to our otherwise secular republican temple...
Among the comments on that post was the following, by an anonymous commenter on July 28, 2009:

I teach some Humanities classes and let my students who live in a dominantly anti-Catholic evangelical culture that the Catholic Church by Divine Providence took the best of the Greek-Roman Natural Law principles and "married " them with Genesis, Sinai and Calvary to give us Western Civilization based on the sacredness of Human Life. They are surprised and amazed when I tell them the Founders' " all are created equal and endowed with inaleinable rights by their Creator " is a Natural Law thesis developed in that Catholic civilization. That is why those Popes are honored with Moses and Hammarubi as " Authors and Doctors of Law" ...
It should be noted that the Roman Catholic Church has never apologized for the Béziers massacre, or any other similar atrocity committed on the directives of popes down through the centuries. Indeed, all the popes are to be regarded as the Vicars of Christ, regardless of how un-Christlike their character and reign. That the Butcher of Béziers is equated with "Western Civilization based on the sacredness of Human Life" speaks volumes as to the deception that characterizes the Roman Catholic Church.