Archive for March 2013
Memphis, TN (AP) – Following in the footsteps of earlier efforts to forestall the use of Biblical sources in support of distasteful causes, a grass-roots religious coalition called Personal Responsibility Union for Decent Ethics (PRUDE) is lobbying various churches to purge the mention of the rainbow following the Deluge in the book of Genesis, out of concern that the image may be taken as an endorsement of homosexuality.
In the biblical account, God wipes out most of humanity and land life when society becomes mired in immorality. He then enters into a covenant with the Earth not to bring another such deluge, and uses a rainbow to symbolize that commitment.
Ironically, the verses leading up to the divine decision to destroy all of humanity except Noah and his family stems from a series of crimes that include wanton sexual immorality, in addition to perversions of justice and pervasive violations of property.
Although the rainbow only came to symbolize the Gay Rights movement over the last several decades, PRUDE is taking no chances. “We know how dangerous images can be, and we’re not going to allow the Gay Agenda to dictate people’s understanding of Holy Writ,” said Pastor Rob Eublind of Chattanooga. “When all is said and done, and we have wiped the twin scourges of homosexuality and liberal politics from the Earth, we can go back to seeing the rainbow as it was supposed to be. In the meantime, we’re just going to keep it covered up,” just like allegations of children molested by clergy, he added.
The crusade has won support from conservative churches throughout the South and Midwest, and RePress Publications is preparing a special edition that replaces the rainbow with a metaphor less confusing to the modern reader: a fiery cross. “The new image solves two problems at once,” explained Carrie Uggrudge, an editorial consultant with RePress. “While short-circuiting any possible misuse of a rainbow by the Evil Gay Agenda proponents, the explicit use of a cross allows us to implant explicitly Christian messages in the Old Testament,” which have been sorely lacking.
Many of the church groups involved in the project also cited a secondary motivation: they have always felt uncomfortable with the ideals of the Rainbow Coalition, which advocates for the rights of African-Americans. Editing the text, they hope, will deny rhetorical ammunition to forces seeking to disturb the conservative social order.
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New York, NY (AP) – The Jones family, long a symbol of the Western capitalist ethos of competitive conspicuous consumption, has announced that they can no longer serve as the field’s avatars, as their economic abilities have eroded over the course of the latest financial crisis.
Speaking to reporters at the entrance to the family home – now facing foreclosure – in the New Jersey township of Bergenfield, just over the road from the swank section of Teaneck, family patriarch Carl Jones offered a detailed account of the family’s fall from contention in neighborhood one-upmanship.
“The Nichols family across the street got a Lincoln Navigator back in ’07, and we knew we couldn’t sit idly by,” he recalled. “So we took out an additional mortgage and invested in a Lexus SUV and a Hummer H3 – but the day we took delivery the market dropped like a stone and I lost half my portfolio equity. It went downhill from there. I’ve only been working part-time, the kids’ college tuition is still sky-high – of course we sent them only to the most expensive schools – and we fell behind on the loan payments last year.”
Throughout the boom years of the 1990’s, the Jones were exemplars of visible social climbing, embarking on multiple home renovation projects and highly touted trips to exotic locales abroad. The boom years of the Clinton administration gave the Jones coffers enough of a cushion to survive the leaner times of the early part of last decade. But the ever-growing demands of showing off to the neighbors, and, more importantly, showing them up, created a large enough draw on the family assets that even the good economic times that preceded the current recession could not shield them from its effects.
The Joneses have since sold both luxury vehicles, scaled back their landscaping significantly, no longer take extensive or expensive vacations, and encourage the younger generation to find steady, if low-paying, work.
At press time, fifteen-year-old Jenna, the youngest, had accepted an offer to wash the Nichols car for $20.
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Cairo, Egypt (AP) – Embattled Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi took time today to extend an olive branch of sorts to Jews throughout the world, inviting them to return to his country to assume once again the social status they had there several millennia ago.
“We look forward to welcoming back the descendants of the ancient Hebrews to occupy the niche they filled so well all those years ago,” read a statement by Morsi. “We would also like to conduct a thorough reckoning of the possessions that the departing Israelites ostensibly ‘borrowed’ from their Egyptian neighbors and have yet to return.”
Jewish lore records Egypt as the venue of a formative stage in the development of the Israelite nation, namely their centuries of subjugation and oppression at the hands of the Egyptians in the second millennium before the Common Era. The period of Israelite residence in Egypt began innocently enough, with Jacob’s offspring rising to prominence and flourishing. Soon, however, the Egyptian ruling class saw them as a threat and levied increasingly oppressive taxes and workloads on the emerging Hebrew people. The enslavement ended after ten plagues were visited on Egypt by the Israelite deity, and the newly liberated nation despoiled Egypt as the relieved host nation welcomed their departure.
The Egyptian model has served other societies that played host to the descendants of the Israelites. Most recently, Nazi Germany adopted a swift program of segregation, oppression, enslavement and extermination of Jews following centuries of significant Jewish contribution to German culture, society, industry and scientific achievement. In fifteenth-century Spain, the once-tolerant kingdoms adopted a progressively more hostile attitude, culminating in the expulsion of all openly practicing Jews in 1492, followed by a similar move by Portugal in 1497. Jews had contributed positively to Iberian society, culture and politics since at least the tenth century.
Many analysts see Morsi’s move as a two-pronged strategy. “Of course he wants to take some of the heat off himself,” said Nate Thenlever, a fellow with the Brookings Institution, a think-tank. “Egypt is convulsing with political unrest right now. And if the President can reestablish the existence of a slave class to serve the rest of Egyptian society, that will relieve a good bit of the economic and social underpinnings of the revolution.”
Jews worldwide have responded with confusion to the overture. “Huh?” said Moshe Cohen, 75, of Ramat Gan, Israel. “My family was kicked out of Egypt after the 1967 war and had all our assets confiscated. Is Morsi going to give them back?” When informed that the Egyptian President intends to take even more from Jews, Cohen muttered a phrase from the Passover Haggadah about being oppressed in every generation yet surviving.
Egypt and southern Israel have been blanketed this week by swarms of locusts, the eighth of the ten plagues.
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Topeka, Kansas, March 7 (AP) – Following the Arkansas legislature’s adoption of a ban on abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy, Kansas has gone even further to protect the rights of the unborn, prohibiting the very act of male ejaculation anywhere that cannot result in pregnancy. As a safety measure, any stimulation or arousal of a penis not in the context of actual vaginal intercourse with a fertile woman will be punishable by fines or imprisonment.
“This is a historic day for the unborn,” said Governor Sam Brownback at a ceremony signing the bill into law. “Kansas now leads the way in protecting the most vulnerable among us, so small as to be unseen, but no less deserving of the chance to grow and develop into contributing members of society.”
An estimated 400 quadrillion sperm cells are issued from men each day, only a tiny fraction of which actually end up reaching an egg cell to fertilize it, according to Long Peters, director of the Organization for the Non-conceived And Non-born (ONAN). “Just because a person doesn’t have the full complement of chromosomes in each cell does not mean that person is unworthy of legal protection,” he said. “This achievement is a milestone in the fight for the sanctity of life.”
ONAN lobbied Kansas’s Republican-dominated legislature heavily in support of the ban. Opponents called the law impractical and unenforceable, but Governor Brownback brushed away the criticism. “Just because we cannot prevent every crime does not mean we should refrain from preventing any crime at all,” he said to cheers from fellow Republicans.
Kansas has been at the forefront of the struggle to protect the unborn. Kansans rallied to close the only clinic in the region that performed late-term pregnancy terminations, resulting in the killing of the physician who performed the procedure and keeping the facility closed for years. Long credits the state’s simple commitment to life with the sweeping success of the legislation.
Governor Brownback and ONAN representatives also announced an initiative to draft further legislation to protect the unconceived. Already, several loopholes in the current law are drawing attention of legislators, who vow to engage the cooperation of neighboring states in ensuring that would-be masturbators do not simply cross into, for example, Nebraska or Oklahoma to spill their seed.
A second bill, proposing penalties for any woman who menstruates, is currently in committee, a law that would make failure to fertilize the potential embryo the legal equivalent of criminally negligent homicide. As a precaution, girls approaching puberty would be required by law to undergo weekly tests to detect approaching ovulation. The bill is currently held up because Republican legislators must find a way to protect the unfertilized ovum from losing viability, but must also find a way to mandate that the young girls engage in the necessary sexual intercourse only in the context of marriage, a provision that would require a serious rewrite of myriad other statutes.
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Geneva, Switzerland (AP) – The United Nations Refugee Agency announced today that the number of refugees who have fled Syria to neighboring countries has now hit one million, an auspicious milestone in the international effort to rid the country of all twenty million or so inhabitants.
“With a million people in flight, millions more displaced internally, and thousands of people continuing to cross the border every day, Syria is spiraling towards full-scale disaster,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, said in a statement. “This is well ahead of our agency’s projections, and represents a welcome augmentation of the Syrian refugee trend.”
It has taken two years, since the start of the uprising against Basher al-Assad’s rule,for the refugee numbers to begin growing as quickly as they are now. Guterres estimates that 7,000 to 8,000 refugees leave the country each day, which is well beyond initial projections. “Even if we don’t adjust for the slower pace of refugees in the initial years of the conflict, it should take only another forty years to completely empty Syria of people,” he said.
The UN agency, and a separate UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, have set a long-term goal of transforming the entire Middle East population into refugees, but have enjoyed only mixed success. The lion’s share of refugee population maintenance and cultivation has been at the hands of UNRWA, which provides education and other services to millions of Palestinians descended from the original population displaced in 1948-9 and 1967. Those services provide incentive for the refugees to remain stateless, and the agency’s policies dovetail with Palestinian Authority laws barring the development of infrastructure in refugee camps that would help the population lead some semblance of normal lives – but which could therefore be construed as acceptance of the displacement. The global Palestinian refugee population is estimated at five million.
The onset of hostilities across the Arab world two years ago initially gave the UN Refugee Agency hope that these developments would usher in a marked increase in the number of refugees, but with the exception of Syria, the conflicts ended too quickly to generate significant numbers of displaced people. In Tunisia and Libya, the overthrow of the regimes took weeks or months. In Egypt, the violence was comparatively contained and created no refugees. In Bahrain, the government successfully suppressed the unrest.
The UN has therefore pinned its hopes on Syria in the meantime, and has welcomed the international intervention of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Iran, which have supplied the warring factions with armaments, funds and training to help perpetuate and intensify the fighting.
Guterres laments the violence that has been directed at Palestinian refugees in various camps, decrying the waste of precious resources that could be put to better use creating more new refugees instead of attacking existing ones. “It’s shameful that the Syrian rebels have turned against the Palestinians in their midst. They should be taking lessons from them, not hurting them. The Palestinian refugees are our major success story, and it pains me to see that go unappreciated.”
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Seattle, WA (AP) – The Association of American Body Piercing, a trade group, is warning its members to expect a slowdown in demand in the coming years as American youth run out of body parts in which to make holes.
Citing statistics that point to the emerging trend, the association sent a notice to its 24,000 member practitioners that discussed the challenges soon to confront the industry as fewer and fewer American youngsters have available areas of epithelial tissue through which to stick a metal stud or other adornment. Though many piercing experts expected continued growth ever since the emergence of the punk scene decades ago, it appears that the industry has increasingly depended on repeat business from goths, misfits and just plain weirdos.
“We should have seen years ago that our business model was unsustainable,” said Loeb Needler, a tattoo and piercing parlor owner in Spokane. “But we kept looking at the total numbers, not once looking at the fact that we’ve been piercing the same people over and over again, and they’re running out of places to stick a new accessory.”
Perversely, according to the association notice, although more and more American youths are overweight or even obese, which should reflect vastly increased potential areas for piercings, the increasing prevalence of the overweight among American youth has a depressing effect on the piercing industry. Heavier people tend to be more sedentary, and thus are less likely to pay an impulse visit to a piercing studio. Also, the increased fleshiness of American youth means plentiful folds that wind up concealing or obscuring desirable piercing locations. That fleshiness both makes infection more likely and eliminates the aesthetic or social value, if any, of the piercing.
Another factor is the greater and greater reliance among American youth on social interactions in the online realm, where one can easily Photoshop as many piercings into once image as desired, but without the headache of actually undergoing what might be a permanent alteration.
Needler is not completely convinced, however, that the industry faces a mortal threat. “There have to be other people out there who aren’t obese,” he contends. “I mean, if American kids are so damn fat, who’s buying all the skinny jeans?”
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Cambridge, Massachusetts (AP) – A groundbreaking statistical study by MIT researchers has revealed what most people have long suspected: the supermarket, government office or toll booth queue that currently contains you will invariably be the slowest of the available lines.
The researchers observed various lines over the course of six months, recording data from supermarkets, motor vehicle bureaus, bridge and road toll lanes, post offices, public transportation stations, fast food purveyors, office supply superstores and assorted other service or retail venues. They found a 99.8% correlation between your choice of line and the slowest-moving line, well within the statistical margin of error.
The few cases in which line choice and slowness did not seem to correlate involved your shopping with a companion, when each of you took up position in separate lines, intending to join the other in the line that turned out to be quicker. In a quirk of the analysis algorithm, a tie for the slowest line, which inevitably resulted in such cases, was not recognized as a bona fide “slowest” line. Functionally, however, you ended up being served by the slowest possible line.
The researchers noted a number cases in which you switched lines even when you were alone, but the slowness kept pace. This was documented most frequently on the approach to toll booths and supermarket checkout lanes, but occurred almost as often when your car was stuck in highway traffic. Changing lanes to exploit the moving traffic in the next lane over invariably resulted in the next lane stopping, while the lane you left began moving.
“It’s an extraordinary bit of science, even though it seems to tell us something we all ‘knew’ before,” said Stu Pidd, a post-doctoral research fellow at MIT who participated in the field research. “But everything has to be tested. The same thing applied to your always having your eyes closed when the camera took a picture,” he said, referring to an earlier study that quantified how often you would ruin photographs by the simple act of timing your blinks badly (also 99.8%). In that study, everyone knew you always ruined pictures, but the scientific method provided the academic rigor.
The newest discovery opens a variety of possibilities for further research and development efficiency procedures. A proper algorithm, says Pidd, might utilize your presence to increase the efficiency of every other line in the facility. If you could be confined to a line containing only you, every other customer could be served promptly, and traffic jams would be resolved within minutes. Already, many supermarkets attempt to attract you to the slowest lane by labeling it “express,” but with mixed success.
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