You are browsing the archive for 2014 December 25.

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Does Religion Step In Where Science Fails?

December 25, 2014 in Blogs

By Sara Scribner, Salon

Science is about learning, and religion about coping with life, says editor of new Norton Anthology of religion.

Jack Miles is the religious writer of our time. An agnostic who dared to write the book “God: A Biography,” which won the Pulitzer Prize, he has just completed another daunting work as the editor of the first Norton Anthology of World Religions. The result of nine years of research, it is an elegant and enormous collection — 4,448 pages of carefully selected texts from the world’s six most prominent religions.


In his introductory essay, which has been adapted in The Atlantic’s December issue as“Why God Will Not Die,” Miles presents human mortality, scientific ambiguities and the eventual end of the human race as strong arguments for spiritual seeking and religious pluralism. This is not someone who shies away from uncertainty: he reasons with microscopic precision, teasing fragments of answers from some of life’s most slippery questions. From his home in Orange County, California, where he is a religious studies and English professor at the University of California, Irvine, Miles contemplates religion in the 21st century after years of studying the ancients.

Now that the book is finished, what were some surprises for you walking away from this project? What are some things you think you might carry with you for the rest of your life?

There is, of course, a sense of greater variety than one knew about. My favorite definition of education is “discovering what you didn’t know you didn’t know,” and though I began this project knowing a good deal about religion, at the end of it I had discovered quite a bit of what I didn’t know I didn’t know. I would say, for me, the greatest sense of discovery came in the Daoist anthology. The handling of Chinese religion gave me a good deal of difficulty because those were the religious traditions I thought I knew the least about and, among the Chinese religious traditions it was Daoism that was the greatest mystery to me. I had a general impression that though the “Dao De Jing” and the …read more


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The Surprising Relationship Between Sex and Pizza: 4 Things We Learned About Sex This Week

December 25, 2014 in Blogs

By Katie Halper, AlterNet

From car sex to food aphrodisiacs, human sexuality is strange and interesting.

This week, we answer several fascinating questions: how long do car-based sexual interactions last on average? Why should you consider rolling around in pumpkin pie and/or cheese pizza? Why do people watch condom-free porn? Enjoy, and be sure to share these discoveries with your loved ones over the holidays.

1. Friends don’t let friends sex and drive. Or maybe they do, but they probably shouldn’t. It turns out lots of young people are have sex in cars, and the results can be a little dangerous. Looking at 195 men and 511 women, researchers from the University of South Dakota found that 33 percent of men and nine percent of women had sex while driving, and nine percent of men and 29 percent of women had sex as a passenger. According to the study, the sexual activity lasted 1-10 minutes for 42.7 percent of the respondents. Approximately 49% traveled at 100-130 km per hour during sex. The most common side effects were speeding (37.8 percent), drifting into another lane (36 percent) and letting go of the steering wheel (10.8 percent). Ah ha! “Letting go of the steering wheel.” So, that’s what the kids are calling it these days. Though fewer that two percent of those DWS (driving while sexing) had an accident.

2. The sexy smell of cheese pizza and Good and Plenty. If you want to turn on a man, you may want to put your face in a pumpkin pie or rub some pizza grease behind your ears. Alan Hirsch, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, reveals some interesting findings about smell in his book The Real Science Of Sex Appeal, which will be published in January. Dr. Hirsch looked at how 46 different scents affected penile blood flow in 31 men and found that lavender and pumpkin pie (individually, not combined) increased it by 40%. Cheese pizza increased it by 5%. So maybe you should wear lavender oil instead of pizza grease. 

Hirsh also surveyed 30 women and found …read more


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The Bloody 'Bad Old Days': How the Specter of 1970s New York Is Used to Quash Dissent

December 25, 2014 in Blogs

By Evan McMurry, AlterNet

With the murder of two NYPD officers, 1970s rhetoric made a comeback.

The horrific ambush-style murder of two NYPD officers last Saturday stunned a New York already wearied by the Eric Garner grand jury decision. It also broke the right’s law-and-order contingent out of what had been a very uncomfortable corner. The shooting death of Michael Brown and subsequent failure to indict the police officer responsible had left the public divided. One side believed Brown was shot for the sole crime of appearing menacing to a white authority figure, while the other side was convinced Brown was a thug whose antagonism left an armed defender no choice but to gun him down.

The Garner case offered no such split. For at least a few days after the Staten Island grand jury decision, a rare bipartisan consensus emerged in the public sphere. Some on the right tried to deflect with tertiary statements about cigarette taxes, but these were half-hearted attempts. No one could locate any justification in the traditional reserves of law-and-order rhetoric for Garner's death. It was as pure a case of police brutality as had been submitted, and it left those who normally defend such tactics exposed.

“I suspect we would rather the film of Eric Garner's killing not exist,” Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote in the Atlantic this week, describing the uncertainties of the Brown case as a release valve for talking points. “Then we might comfort ourselves with the kind of vague unknowables that dogged the killing of Michael Brown. (‘Did he have his hands up? Was he surrendering? Was he charging?’) Garner, choked to death and repeating ‘I can't breathe,’ trapped us.”

“But now,” Coates continued, “through a merciless act of lethal violence, an escape route has been revealed.”

The horrific execution of the two NYPD officers also licensed the discourse’s return to the societal need for hardline tactics. In a series of savage tweets, fiery press conferences and bitter interviews, the city’s law-and-order contingent seized the opportunity to shift the focus away from the devastating—and racially specific—consequences of police tactics and onto their alleged …read more


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'Some Sort of Hell': How One of the Wealthiest Cities in America Treats Its Homeless

December 25, 2014 in Blogs

By Evelyn Nieves, AlterNet

The city refuses to provide affordable housing, yet won't tolerate people living outdoors.

SAN JOSE, Calif.—When San Jose dismantled the “Jungle,” the nation’s largest homeless encampment, many of its residents with nowhere to go scattered. They found hiding places in the scores of small, less visible encampments within the city, where more than 5,000 people sleep unsheltered on a given night.

But one group of about three dozen evictees gathered what they could salvage in backpacks and trash bags, and crossed a bridge to a spot about a mile away. They found a clean patch of grass near Coyote Creek, the same creek that the Jungle abutted. There, they pitched tents donated by some concerned citizens, assigned themselves chores and hoped for the best.  

Instead, they got marching orders. After weathering the hardest rains to fall in these parts in a decade, the campers found 72-hour eviction notices on their tents. Once again, a little more than a week after their forced flight from the Jungle, they had no idea where they might live.

“This is some sort of hell,” said Raul, 57 (who didn’t want his last name used), a life-long resident of San Jose who had lived in the Jungle for nearly eight years. He had nothing left of the home he had created, just a knapsack, his chihuahua Pepe, and a new pup tent. He was so depressed, he could barely lift his head.

To an outside observer, the eviction was predictable. The state’s threat to sue Santa Clara County over the pollution in Coyote Creek caused by camping spurred the closing of the Jungle, a winding, 68-acre shantytown under an overpass with upwards of 300 people. With the state’s environmental agencies—and the public—watching, San Jose could not allow another Jungle to spring up.

But the city could offer no viable alternative to the people it was expelling for the second time in a week. San Jose, the self-described capital of Silicon Valley, the largest wealth generator in the United States, lacked the resources.

The Jungle had become a symbol of the growing divide between the nation’s rich and poor. …read more


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'Tis the Season for Politics to Make Us Worse

December 25, 2014 in Economics

By Trevor Burrus

Trevor Burrus

Politics makes us worse — and at no time more so than around the holidays.

“If I have to listen to my crazy Tea Party uncle say one more thing about Michael Brown and Ferguson, I’m going to flip over the dinner table and retreat to my childhood room to look at old issues of Seventeen.”

“What are these liberal universities doing to our son?!? I’m not sure we should let him go back there.”

“When did you get so angry at the world, Mom and Dad? Is there something that isn’t Obama’s fault?!?”

Welcome to an American holiday tradition. Apple pie now comes with a side of political yelling, especially after a few glasses of eggnog.

The problem, of course, is that “they” don’t get it. How could they? Mom and Dad’s brains might as well be directly hooked to Fox News like the humans in the Matrix. The children’s “progressive” universities are as hermetically sealed off from reality as North Korea. And don’t even get me started on Uncle Tim, whose rural worldview is a strange mixture of a fear of black helicopters and a demand for increased farm subsidies.

Minimal government has virtues beyond lower debt, less crowded prisons, and less militarized police. It might even save your family.”

How can you be expected to live in the same state, let alone country, with people who vote for fascism while you are voting for freedom? When they live in a fake world created by a self-serving news media and you live in reality? It’s probably best if we just double spike the eggnog and watch A Christmas Story for the third time.

But it’s not “their” fault; it’s politics’ fault — specifically, the politicization of more and more important and irreconcilable values. America is a deeply divided nation of clashing values partially because politics has made us this way. No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, it’s time to stop hating the players and start hating the game.

It was a nice, progressive, like-minded neighborhood until they moved in. With their “Jesus is the reason for the season” sign and their “Palin in 2016” bumper sticker, they stuck out like Bears fans at Lambeau Field. Then they started showing up at school board meetings and pushing for curriculum changes. Less environmentalism, more Founding Fathers. And others joined them, perhaps having been too scared to speak out before. Now there’s …read more

Source: OP-EDS