Christian Clown Arrested In Child Pornography Bust – as good a reason as any to have an irrational fear of clowns…
THE TOMB of NIANKHKHNUM and KHNUMHOTEP – proof that people will be people, regardless of what era they live in.
NORWALK, Ohio: An Ohio state legislator surprised a high school class when the computer he was using projected a photo of a nude woman during a lecture on how a bill becomes a law. Continue reading “I have no idea where these came from”… riiiiight…
already the fallout is starting to rain down over the new texas state law that says they have to violate the federal law that says that public schools are no place for religion. i wonder when they’re going to notice that public schools are no place for religion of any kind, even if the kid is a rastafarian. i bet if a kid decided to wear a cross or a star of david to school, nobody would say anything about it, so why can’t a kid who is a rastafarian have his dreadlocks without being punished.
it’s a good thing i don’t live in texas… 8/
Teen Faces Punishment For Long Hair
Daly Says He Can’t Cut Hair Because Of Religious Beliefs
September 26, 2007
LEAKEY, Texas — A Leakey High School senior is being told by his school district to cut his hair, but the student claimed religious values ban him from cutting it.
Now, Ben Daly, 18, said he’s being punished by the school district. Continue reading texas explodes already…
HISD faces Catch-22 on religious viewpoints
With a federal ban still in effect, district must find a way to follow new state law
September 27, 2007
By JENNIFER RADCLIFFE
Even 37 years later, Audrey Guild can still hear the voices of girls taunting her as she walked to Hartman Junior High School.
They were singing Jesus Loves Me to her because her family had sued the Houston school district for allowing Bible verses to be read over school intercoms.
“We got all kinds of hazing — eggs thrown at our house,” Guild, now 50, said. “It was hard as a kid, but it was definitely worth standing up for something like that.”
The Guilds, deeply involved in the Unitarian Church, prevailed. A federal judge ruled in 1970 that the Houston Independent School District was violating a U.S. Supreme Court ruling by permitting or requiring students to read the Bible or say prayers as part of any school practice.
Fast-forward nearly four decades: A new state law — House Bill 3678, or the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act — requires all Texas school districts to adopt policies creating limited public forums for student speakers at certain school events. Continue reading jeezis, gays, transgenders and government
White supremacist backlash builds over Jena case
September 24, 2007
By Howard Witt
No sooner did tens of thousands of African-American demonstrators depart the racially tense town of Jena, La., last week after protesting perceived injustices than white supremacists flooded in behind them.
First a neo-Nazi Web site posted the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the six black teenagers and their families at the center of the Jena 6 case and urged followers to find them and “drag them out of the house,” prompting an investigation by the FBI. Continue reading white supremacists, bush, more bush, even more bush, and money
U.S. military cemetery running out of space
September 20, 2007
A Kansas military cemetery has run out of space after the burial of another casualty of the Iraq war, officials said on Thursday.
“We are full,” said Alison Kohler, spokeswoman for the Fort Riley U.S. Army post, home of the 1st Infantry Division. Continue reading full, bizarre, but not a bomb
Dobson Says He Won’t Support Thompson
September 19, 2007
By ERIC GORSKI
DENVER — James Dobson, one of the nation’s most politically influential evangelical Christians, made it clear in a message to friends this week he will not support Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson.
In a private e-mail obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Dobson accuses the former Tennessee senator and actor of being weak on the campaign trail and wrong on issues dear to social conservatives.
“Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?” Dobson wrote.
“He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to.’ And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!” Continue reading Dominionists fighting among themselves: a good sign for the rest of us
i’ve been thinking about this all day, and getting the details straight, because in spite of the fact that it was fairly dark (most of the dream took place underground), there were a lot of details, and a very specific order to them that is an important part of the dream:
i was in bellingham, and i was freight-hopping to seattle because i was supposed to meet moe and someone else (male, familiar, not micah, more like bruce borntraeger. if it was him, it would be really bizarre), so that the three of us could freight-hop somewhere else (california? oregon?), but i missed my train.
i decided that since i couldn’t catch my train, that i would take a “short cut” through the balmer yards (the freight train yard in south seattle, near the sodo district). somehow i took the short cut that leads from the train tracks just south of bellingham, and connected up with the freight yard south of seattle, although when i was in bellingham, i was headed south, somewhere in between i ended up in the south part of seattle, headed north.
i was supposed to meet moe and my other friend near the freeway, at the south-west corner of capitol hill, so i figured that i could cut through the balmer yard.
the balmer yard was a much bigger place than it is in reality, and much of it is in what is the seattle “underground” – long intersecting train tunnels with a switch-yard, miscellaneous interconnected buildings of different sizes, a “hump” and a tower, and long sections of track for making up trains. there were a lot of people and freight cars around, and i figured it would be easier for me to “sneak” through without being noticed if i was dressed like everyone else, so i stole a raincoat and a pair of rain pants with suspenders, and a hard hat from an employee locker. i was already wearing freight-hopping clothes, with rain boots and leather gloves, and with the rain pants, coat and hard hat i looked like everybody else at the yard – the perfect disguise.
a lot of my journey involved cutting through stationary trains, or jumping on slow moving trains, moving to the other side of the car, and jumping off, but most of the other people – the ones who were supposed to be there – were doing the same thing, so i got quite a way without being noticed at all. at one point i got off a moving car and encountered a couple of “employees” who were talking about keeping clean, and one of them was complaining because he had to buy a new rainsuit because his other one had been stolen. i was convinced that this meant that they knew who i was, so i took off in a different direction, and eventually found my way to an “employee” lunchroom. i knew that if i crossed the lunchroom, the path i wanted was on the other side, but just as i was going in to the lunchroom, an “employee” mentioned to me that the rules were that you had to clean up before entering the lunchroom. i was already covered with grime and sticky goo from the trains – which is a fairly common occurrance when you hang around with freight trains – so i said “yeah, i know”, but i immediately exited the lunchroom through another door than the one i wanted because i was convinced that, if the “employee” had said something to me, that “they” were probably keeping an eye on me. unfortunately, because the door wasn’t the one i wanted, i was headed into a part of the underground that i wasn’t familiar with.
despite the fact that things hadn’t been going very well – missing my train, being paranoid about getting caught, getting lost and so forth, i was upbeat and enthusiastic about continuing with my journey. i found my way to a swich yard and had to get out of the way, because they were “humping” cars. i saw a caboose(!) rolling down the hump, and they had swiched the track so one of the caboose’s trucks went down one track, and one went down an adjacent track, so the caboose was crossways across two tracks, but it had not derailed.
eventually i found my way to the north end of the yard, and walked out onto the alley that the “employees” parked along, which was between the freeway and the waterfront. there were hundreds of people along the alley, and along the freeway, and this HUGE helicopter was touching down at harborview hospital. i asked somebody what was going on, and they said that the helicopter had been shot down in iraq a few days earlier. there was also an elevated train track that ran along side the freeway, coming out of the yard.
‘Offensive’ Jesus remarks cut from Emmys
September 12, 2007
US Comic Kathy Griffin’s “offensive” remarks about Jesus at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards would be cut from a pre-taped telecast of the show, the US Academy of Television Arts and Sciences said today.
Griffin made the provocative comment on Saturday night as she took the stage of the Shrine Auditorium to collect her Emmy for best reality program for her Bravo channel show My Life on the D-List.
“A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus,” an exultant Griffin said, holding up her statuette. “Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now.”
Asked about her speech backstage a short time later, an unrepentant Griffin said: “I hope I offended some people. I didn’t want to win the Emmy for nothing.” Continue reading Blasphemy! yay! 8)
‘Vatican air’ passengers’ holy water confiscated
By Malcolm Moore
The passengers on board the Vatican’s first flight to Lourdes may have been pilgrims in search of spiritual healing, but they still had to obey anti-terrorism rules, it has emerged, after several of them had their holy water confiscated. Continue reading bizarre… in so many different ways…
Scandal-hit senator urged to quit
A US Republican senator who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after his arrest in a men’s toilet has come under increasing pressure to resign.
Idaho Senator Larry Craig, 62, has said he should not have pleaded guilty, having in fact done nothing wrong.
But three fellow Republicans have urged him to step down. Among them was John McCain, who warned of more harm to the Republicans’ already “tarnished” image.
The White House also said it was “disappointed” by the scandal.
Mr Craig was arrested in June at Minneapolis-St Paul airport by an undercover police officer investigating complaints of lewd behaviour in men’s toilets. Continue reading Senator Craig’s naughty exploits
A Little Bit of History
August 16, 2007
It’s funny how people come into your lives. If you live long enough and pay attention to the world around you, you might realize the truth in that old saying that each of us only six degrees from one another. Those connections for most of us are like the haze on a mirror after a shower; but wipe the surface with a clean cloth and you will see everything around you or maybe even the glue that holds it together.
Louie was the first gay man to introduce me to piercing. After a career as a geologist for Getty Oil, he had retired in Palm Springs and owned an up-scale house off Farrell Street, at the end of Santa Ynez Way. His home was chock full with mementos, pictures of his kids, grandkids, art he had gathered on his travels; a library full of books, all kinds of videos, a fantastic classical CD collection — it was a place I felt at home. A mutual friend had said, “I think you’ll like Louie.” Continue reading Karl Rove’s gay, pierced father
August 10, 2007
By Al Bedrosian
Bedrosian, of Roanoke, is a former political candidate for the Virginia General Assembly (1997 and 1999). He hosts a 10-minute commentary program on local AM radio.
As a Christian, I think it’s time to rid ourselves of this notion of freedom of religion in America.
Now that I have your attention, let me take a moment to make my case. Freedom of religion has become the biggest hoax placed upon the Christian people and on our Christian nation.
When reading the writings of our Founding Founders, there was never any reference to freedom of religion referring to a choice between Islam, Hindu, Satanism, Wicca and whatever other religions or cults you would like to dream up. It was very clear that freedom to worship meant the freedom to worship the God of the Bible in the way you wanted, and not to have a government church denomination dictate how you would worship.
Christianity, by its own definition, does not allow freedom of religion. A Christian is defined as a follower of Jesus Christ.
Jesus clearly states all through Scripture that he is the way and the only way to God the father. The Bible is clear in teaching us that we should have no other gods before him. Our God is a jealous God.
As Christians, we should not be just going through a ritual of worship. We have a personal relationship with the God of all creation. You can’t have this type of relationship alongside the worship of other Gods.
I know that my stance is even unpopular among Christians. If you took a poll in America and asked just Christians if we should allow any religion to be practiced in America, I guarantee that 99 percent would say yes. They would be proud to state that freedom of religion is the pillar America was founded on.
Yet these are the same Christians who will be protesting in the streets against the homosexual agenda, abortion, removing God from our schools and from our pledge.
Somehow many Christians have not been able to connect the dots. Don’t we see that when we allow other gods into America, those other gods start influencing our culture and our laws? And soon we are allowing laws and regulations to be enacted that are totally opposed to our belief system. And the sad thing is that we knowingly allow them in the name of “freedom of religion.”
One of the greatest moments in U.S. Senate history came when a Christian group recently shouted for God to forgive us during the opening prayer of a Hindu in the Senate.
Beware, Christians, we are being fed lies that a Christian nation needs to be open to other religions. America is a great nation — not because of its freedom, great economic system, or even its military power. It is a great nation because the God of the Bible has blessed us in our freedom, our wealth and our military power.
Once we remove ourselves from worshiping the one true God, all the wonderful qualities of America will vanish.
Those who oppose Christianity are extremely cunning. They realize that the true power of Christianity rests in the name of Jesus. Currently, there is a legislative battle in Congress over whether to allow our military chaplains to pray in the name of Jesus.
In Southwest Virginia, local government boards are coming under fire for “invocations” at public meetings. They can’t even call them prayers, and most can’t even use the name of Jesus.
Christians are kept occupied by fighting a battle over the removal of the generic word ‘god’ from our culture. This really is not the true battle. The word ‘god’ can refer to anything. Hindus, Islamists, Buddhists and Satanists all have gods.
In fact, the global warming crowd worships the environment as god, the abortionist has the death of unborn babies as their god, and the homosexuals have sexual freedom as their god.
The real battle is keeping the name of Jesus as Lord. The name Jesus is what makes us a Christian people and a Christian nation. This is why we must continue our heritage as a Christian nation and remove all other gods.
Klansman Statue – “Historical Item”
August 4, 2007
By Jane Macartney
Tibet’s living Buddhas have been banned from reincarnation without permission from China’s atheist leaders. The ban is included in new rules intended to assert Beijing’s authority over Tibet’s restive and deeply Buddhist people.
“The so-called reincarnated living Buddha without government approval is illegal and invalid,” according to the order, which comes into effect on September 1.
The 14-part regulation issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs is aimed at limiting the influence of Tibet’s exiled god-king, the Dalai Lama, and at preventing the re-incarnation of the 72-year-old monk without approval from Beijing.
It is the latest in a series of measures by the Communist authorities to tighten their grip over Tibet. Reincarnate lamas, known as tulkus, often lead religious communities and oversee the training of monks, giving them enormous influence over religious life in the Himalayan region. Anyone outside China is banned from taking part in the process of seeking and recognising a living Buddha, effectively excluding the Dalai Lama, who traditionally can play an important role in giving recognition to candidate reincarnates.
For the first time China has given the Government the power to ensure that no new living Buddha can be identified, sounding a possible death knell to a mystical system that dates back at least as far as the 12th century.
China already insists that only the Government can approve the appointments of Tibet’s two most important monks, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. The Dalai Lama’s announcement in May 1995 that a search inside Tibet — and with the co- operation of a prominent abbot — had identified the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, who died in 1989, enraged Beijing. That prompted the Communist authorities to restart the search and to send a senior Politburo member to Lhasa to oversee the final choice. This resulted in top Communist officials presiding over a ceremony at the main Jokhang temple in Lhasa in which names of three boys inscribed on ivory sticks were placed inside a golden urn and a lot was then drawn to find the true reincarnation.
The boy chosen by the Dalai Lama has disappeared. The abbot who worked with the Dalai Lama was jailed and has since vanished. Several sets of rules on seeking out “soul boys” were promulgated in 1995, but were effectively in abeyance and hundreds of living Buddhas are now believed to live inside and outside China.
All Tibetans believe in reincarnation, but only the holiest or most outstanding individuals are believed to be recognisable — a tulku, or apparent body. One Tibetan monk told The Times: “In the past there was no such regulation. The management of living Buddhas is becoming more strict.”
The search for a reincarnation is a mystical process involving clues left by the deceased and visions among leading monks on where to look. The current Dalai Lama, the fourteenth of the line, was identified in 1937 when monks came to his village.
China has long insisted that it must have the final say over the appointment of the most senior lamas. Tibet experts said that the new regulations may also be aimed at limiting the influence of new lamas.
like that’s really going to happen… my impression is that if you have control over life and death, and can reincarnate at will, the proclamations of a limited human government make little difference, and if you want to reincarnate, there’s not an awful lot that the limited humans can do about it.
Not science, not likely to be science
25th June 2007
By Lucy Sherriff
The government has announced that it will publish guidance for schools on how creationism and intelligent design relate to science teaching, and has reiterated that it sees no place for either on the science curriculum.
It has also defined “Intelligent Design”, the idea that life is too complex to have arisen without the guiding hand of a greater intelligence, as a religion, along with “creationism”.
Responding to a petition on the Number 10 ePetitions site, the government said: “The Government is aware that a number of concerns have been raised in the media and elsewhere as to whether creationism and intelligent design have a place in science lessons. The Government is clear that creationism and intelligent design are not part of the science National Curriculum programmes of study and should not be taught as science. ”
It added that it would expect teachers to be able to answer pupil’s questions about “creationism, intelligent design, and other religious beliefs” within a scientific framework.
The petition was posted by James Rocks of the Science, Just Science campaign, a group that formed to counter a nascent anti-evolution lobby in the UK.
He wrote: “Creationism & Intelligent design are…being used disingenuously to portray science & the theory or evolution as being in crisis when they are not… These ideas therefore do not constitute science, cannot be considered scientific education and therefore do not belong in the nation’s science classrooms.”
June 28, 2007
Three former leaders of a ministry that counsels gays to change their sexual orientation apologized, saying although they acted sincerely, their message had caused isolation, shame and fear.
The former leaders of the interdenominational Christian organization Exodus International said Wednesday they had become disillusioned with promoting gay conversion.
“Some who heard our message were compelled to try to change an integral part of themselves, bringing harm to themselves and their families,” the three said in a statement released outside the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center.
The statement was from former Exodus co-founder Michael Bussee, who left the group in 1979, Jeremy Marks, former president of Exodus International Europe, and Darlene Bogle, the founder of Paraklete Ministries, an Exodus referral agency.
The statement coincided with the opening of Exodus’ annual conference, which is being held this week at Concordia University in Irvine.
Exodus’ president, Alan Chambers, said the ministry’s methods have helped many people, including himself.
“Exodus is here for people who want an alternative to homosexuality,” Chambers said by phone. “There are thousands of people like me who have overcome this. I think there’s room for more than one opinion on this subject, and giving people options isn’t dangerous.”
Founded in 1976, the Orlando, Fla.-based Exodus has grown to include more than 120 ministries in the United States and Canada and over 150 ministries overseas. It promotes “freedom from homosexuality” through prayer, counseling and group therapy.
Demand for increasingly powerful communications technology points to our future as a “techlepathic” species
By George Dvorsky
I recently read with great interest of researcher Chuck Jorgensen’s work at NASA’s Ames Research Center. It was the kind of news item that made the rounds among the cognoscenti that day, only to be forgotten the next. But it stuck with me for days afterwards.
Jorgensen and his team developed a system that captures and converts nerve signals in the vocal chords into computerized speech. It is hoped that the technology will help those who have lost the ability to speak, as well as improve interface communications for people working in spacesuits and noisy environments.
The work is similar in principle to how cochlear implants work. These implants capture acoustic information for the hearing impaired. In Jorgensen’s experiment the neural signals that tell the vocal chords how to move are intercepted and rerouted. Cochlear implants do it the other way round, by converting acoustic information into neural signals that the brain can process. Both methods capitalize on the fact that neural signals provide a link to the analog environment in which we live.
As I thought further about this similarity it occurred to me that the technology required to create a technologically endowed form of telepathy is all but upon us. By combining Jorgensen’s device and a cochlear implant with a radio transmitter and a fancy neural data conversion device, we could create a form of communication that bypasses the acoustic realm altogether.
I decided to contact Jorgensen and other researchers about the prospect of such “techlepathy.” While I have always entertained the idea that we’ll eventually develop telepathy-enabling technologies, the optimistic responses I received from these researchers startled me nonetheless. And as I suspected, the technologies and scientific insight required for such an achievement are rapidly coming into focus—an exciting prospect to be sure.
The dream of mind-to-mind communication and the desire to transcend one’s own consciousness is as old as language itself. You could make a strong case that there’s a near pathological craving for it, a tendency that manifests through the widespread belief in paranormal telepathy.
ESP aside, it seems that this craving will soon be satisfied. Several advances in communications technology and neuroscience are giving pause about the possibility of endowing us with techlepathy. As we continue to ride the wave of the communications revolution, and as the public demand for more sophisticated communications tools continues, it seems a veritable certainty that we are destined to become a species capable of mind-to-mind communication.
This prospect is as profound as it is exciting. Such a change to the species would signify a prominent development in the evolution of humanity—a change that would irrevocably alter the nature of virtually all human relations and interactions.
The shrinking planet
Our civilization’s current postindustrial phase has often been referred to, quite rightly, as the Information Age. Moreover, the speed at which information is processed and exchanged is only getting faster. There’s no question that humanity’s collective clock-speed is steadily increasing. Indeed, as is Moore’s Law, the communications revolution is still in effect and showing no signs of abating.
Thanks to the rapid-fire nature provided by such things as email correspondence and instant messaging, conversations that used to take weeks or days now only take hours or minutes.
In fact, as I recently read an archived exchange between Charles Darwin and his rival Louis Agassiz from the 19th Century, I realized that the entire exchange must have taken months if not years since their letters had to cross the Atlantic by boat. (Darwin lived in England while Agassiz was in the US.) Today when scientists converse, they debate, critique and collaborate at breakneck speed.
What’s interesting isn’t just the types of communication tools that now exist. It’s also the way in which people use them—ways that hint at a desire for more intimate and open forms of communication.
Sitting at a red light the other day, I noticed a herd of pedestrians crossing the street—each and every one of them with a cell phone held tightly against their ear. These days, information transfer between people is nearly instantaneous, regardless of what they’re doing and where they are.
Many people are also tapping into the power of instant messaging. Programs such as Messenger, ICQ and GAIM are immensely popular, changing the way in which people interact altogether. Family members converse with each other while in the same house (calling the kids down for dinner will never be the same again). Parents chat with their kids while at work. Coworkers, whether they’re in the same building or offsite, can quickly exchange information and work in collaborative ways.
Social networking programs, such as Friendster, Tribe and Orkut, are also contributing to novel forms of communication. These programs are undoubtedly making the world a smaller place by steadily decreasing the number of so-called degrees of separation that exist between people. I’m continually stunned at the efficiency of how this works. I have only 19 immediate friends in my Friendster network, but it explodes out from there to 1,010 second-degree friends and 50,611 third-degree friends. I’m pretty much convinced that if you’re on the Internet there’s no less than four degrees of separation between you and anyone else on the Web, which is two complete degrees below the conventional six degrees of separation that is thought to exist for all people.
One of the most exciting and innovative ways to use the Web is found in the blogging (“Web logging”) phenomenon. While bloggers chronicle the news, they also chronicle their own lives. Some bloggers use their sites to post personal journals and diaries. The difference with blogs, of course, is their public nature. What’s fascinating is how many people want to make the most personal and private details of their life public. The largest segment of the population currently engaging in this are adolescents who use it to communicate with their friends, as an outlet to express their frustrations, anxieties and experiences and to provide each other with support. I’m both awestruck by and jealous of today’s teens.
Bridging minds and machines
Needless to say, the communications revolution and the driving tendencies therein are not going to stop at cell phones, instant messaging and blogs. The work of research labs and universities around the world reveals that some of the most profound developments are still yet to come. It appears that the public’s demand for ever more sophisticated communications devices will soon be met by supply.
We live in a day where neural interfacing technologies are enabling monkeys to move cursors across a computer screen with sheer thought alone and where paraplegics are able to type letters on a computer screen just by thinking about it. Recently, the FDA granted approval to Cyberkinetics in the US to implant chips in the brains of disabled people—chips that will map neural activity when they think about moving a limb. These signals will then be translated into computer code that could one day be fed into robotic limbs or applied to computer interfacing devices.
These advances in neural interfacing technology are now expanding from motor functioning to communications, an area that NASA’s Chuck Jorgensen is actively exploring.
As I mentioned earlier, I contacted Jorgensen and asked him if he’d given any consideration to the issue of techlepathy. His answer was positive, noting that his next goal is to determine whether he can directly correlate auditory speech signals and subvocal signals recorded at the same time by learning nonlinear mapping equations to relate one to the other. Ideally, Jorgensen’s team would like to develop a completely noninvasive process, starting initially with understanding highly intertwined surface measured signals. Such efforts would be in contrast to work focusing on embedded neural probes or surgical intrusions such as those used for highly disabled persons.
I also spoke with graduate student researcher Peter Passaro, a scientist pushing the envelope of human communications in the neural engineering lab at Georgia Tech. As is Jorgensen, Passaro and his team are trying to correlate mappings within a system, but in their case it’s an in vitro system with no native structures. They are trying to determine general rules for how systems set up in response to sensory input and what the state space of their output will be. Once these rules are determined, says Passaro, it will become much easier to produce such things as cortical implants.
Passaro is fairly certain that all that’s required to acquire sufficient neural information is an array of listening electrodes rather than interfacing with numerous single neurons. That being said, he believes incoming neural information is going to be a more difficult case because no one is sure how to use extracellular field stimulation to get information into cortical neural networks except in the simplest of cases. “Luckily,” says Passaro, “cochlear information is the simplest of cases.”
Passaro asserts that the technology required to create an implantable cell phone already exists—it’s just a matter of someone getting around to doing it. He believes that such a device has the potential to be one of the first widely used nonmedical implants, what he dubs the world’s first “killer app” implant.
The next progressive step as far as techlepathy goes, says Pasarro, is to tap into the brain’s language centers, specifically the part of the motor cortex responsible for output for the region of the throat and mouth. With such a system in place muscular movement wouldn’t be required at all to generate a neural signal. Instead, sheer thought alone will produce the desired language output.
Our telepathic future
Cybernetics pioneer Kevin Warwick also believes in the future of techlepathy. In fact, he’s actively trying to communicate in such a manner with his wife by creating an implant that connects his nervous system with hers. “If I have to have a long-term goal for my career,” says Warwick, “it would be creating thought communication between humans.” Of significance, he sees this as a realistic goal within his lifetime.
But Warwick believes that signals other than thoughts or language are transferable as well. Humans will eventually be able to communicate all sorts of signals, he argues, such as “whether you are feeling bad, as well as where you are.” He believes that the body produces an array of information that can be picked out and made to use in a variety of ways.
Indeed, humanity appears to be on the cusp of a rather remarkable development: We are, for all intents and purposes, about to become a telepathic species. Such a development will occur this century and it will likely happen in three major phases.
The first generation of telepathic devices will likely be of the subvocal variety in which communication travels one way, much like a normal conversation. The second phase will also involve unidirectional transmission, but consciousness (i.e. language center output) will be output instead of subvocalized speech. And the third phase will likely involve the seamless bidirectional transference of consciousness and emotions to one or more receiving persons—in other words, telepathy in the truest sense. It’s highly probable that the medium of exchange for such communication will be the Internet, or its future form, the global mind or Noosophere.Given such an endowment, human cooperation and performance, particularly in team environments, will be greatly enhanced—whether it be a search and rescue team or a prog rock band. Indeed, artists will undoubtedly exploit such advancements by creating unimaginably powerful expressions that involve the transference of conscious and emotive experiences.
While some might be perturbed by the ethical and practical ramifications of techlepathy, I am overwhelmingly in favor. Changes in communication and language have largely captured the human story, giving rise to not only technology and civilization, but also to our enhanced moral capacity and our ability to empathize. Undoubtedly, it is through communication that we learn to relate and understand one another.
As Robert Wright points out in Nonzero and Jared Diamond in Guns, Germs and Steel, effective communications have historically been the crucial key for humanity’s ongoing survival and progress. In fact, Wright meticulously chronicles how improving communication technologies steadily result in more and more positive sum games and enhanced cooperative social and interpersonal frameworks. This holds true, argues Wright, whether it be a freshly carved path that connects two tribes in the jungle or the Internet.
There’s no reason to believe that techlepathy won’t have a similar impact on individuals, social groups and society as a whole. Moreover, imagine how it will further strengthen the bonds of interpersonal communication and intimacy. As we all live alone in our own minds—forced to live near-solipsistic existences—I cannot think of anything more powerful than the prospect of sharing someone else’s thoughts and experiences. It’s been said that such unions will signify the next phase of not just human communications and social interactions, but of personal and sexual intimacy as well.
Many people complain about the dehumanizing and depersonalizing effects of technology. Personally, my usage of communications technology has only resulted in increased interactivity with the rest of the world.
Further, this tendency seems to be the driving force in the history of the development of communications technology. On the surface humanity appears to be spreading outward, venturing across continents and into space. Yet in actuality we are journeying towards one another. Our globe has never appeared smaller and our proximity to each other has never been closer.
This trend shows no signs of slowing down, pointing the way to a remarkable interconnected future.
it’s just as well, i was verging on punching him, which would have looked bad, regardless of how satisfying it would have felt.
i’m beginning to understand why muslims refer to “christians” as “people of the book”… it’s almost as if the guy was saying “if it’s not in the bible, i don’t believe it”.
today i went to the burien strawberry and arts festival with my art car and a small pile of incense. i made $69.
i’m really surprised at how many people looked very closely at various aspects of my car, but didn’t ask me about it at all, because i’m fairly sure that, for the most part, the people in burien have absolutely no clue what it means. there was also a “christian” booth on the other side of the festival site, and people with shirts that said “Jesus Loves You” were very carefully avoiding even looking at my car, as though just looking at it might mess up their “christianity” somehow. there were a few western folks – like, maybe five, total – who asked me what it said, and there were a few indian people who knew what it said without having to ask, including one guy from nepal who read off the names like he was reading the newspaper (which made me feel very happy and very sad at the same time), and said that since he came from nepal he hadn’t been chanting as much as he used to. it turned out that he was a vendor up the row from me, and his business is called “Ganesha Imports”, which struck me as particularly amusing.
then, the guy in the booth next to me got ripped off while i was watching. it was rather distressing, actually: there were a couple of kids – seriously, they couldn’t have been older than 14 or so – hanging around my car, and when the guy’s back was turned, one of them swooped in, grabbed all his money, and was gone before he (or i) could do anything. the guy said he lost around $450 (he was selling gold and silver jewelry), plus his ID and wallet. fortunately he didn’t keep his car keys in the bag as well, but i’m gonna keep my eyes open tomorrow and report that kid if i see him again, which wouldn’t be too great a stretch… especially since the guy he ripped off is not going to be there tomorrow…
moe is in portland. apparently her mother had a mild stroke or something, because she was in the hospital a couple of days ago. moe hasn’t said anything specific about what happened, other than to assure me that her mother is okay, but she’s planning on coming home tomorrow, so i should know more then.
Anything is their carbonated soda which comes in six flavors: Cola with Lemon, Apple, Fizz Up, Cloudy Lemon and Root Beer. Whatever is non-carbonated teas that come in Ice Lemon, Peach, Jasmine Green Tea, White Grape, Apple, and Chrysanthemum Tea flavors, but the cans aren’t labeled beyond the names of ‘Anything’ and ‘Whatever’, so you truly don’t have a clue which flavor you are getting beforehand.
there are more bizarre drinks from japan including kimchee drink and mother’s milk.
Genuine Windows is Ubuntu
Can cyborg moths bring down terrorists?
A moth which has a computer chip implanted in it while in the cocoon will enable soldiers to spy on insurgents, the US military hopes
May 24, 2007
By Jonathan Richards
At some point in the not too distant future, a moth will take flight in the hills of northern Pakistan, and flap towards a suspected terrorist training camp.
But this will be no ordinary moth.
Inside it will be a computer chip that was implanted when the creature was still a pupa, in the cocoon, meaning that the moth’s entire nervous system can be controlled remotely.
The moth will thus be capable of landing in the camp without arousing suspicion, all the while beaming video and other information back to its masters via what its developers refer to as a “reliable tissue-machine interface.”
The creation of insects whose flesh grows around computer parts – known from science fiction as ‘cyborgs’ – has been described as one of the most ambitious robotics projects ever conceived by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the research and development arm of the US Department of Defense.
Rod Brooks, director of the computer science and artificial intelligence lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which is involved with the research, said that robotics was increasingly at the forefront of US military research, and that the remote-controlled moths, described by DARPA as Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, or MEMS, were one of a number of technologies soon to be deployed in combat zones.
“This is going to happen,” said Mr Brooks. “It’s not science like developing the nuclear bomb, which costs billions of dollars. It can be done relatively cheaply.”
“Moths are creatures that need little food and can fly all kinds of places,” he continued. “A bunch of experiments have been done over the past couple of years where simple animals, such as rats and cockroaches, have been operated on and driven by joysticks, but this is the first time where the chip has been injected in the pupa stage and ‘grown’ inside it.
“Once the moth hatches, machine learning is used to control it.”
Mr Brooks, who has worked on robotic technology for more than 30 years and whose company iRobot already supplies the US military with robots that defuse explosive devices laid by insurgents, said that the military would be increasingly reliant on ‘semi-autonomous’ devices, including ones which could fire.
“The DoD has said it wants one third of all missions to be unmanned by 2015, and there’s no doubt their things will become weaponised, so the question comes: should they given targeting authority?
“The prevailing view in the army at the moment seems to be that they shouldn’t, but perhaps it’s time to consider updating treaties like the Geneva Convention to include clauses which regulate their use.”
Debates such as those over stem cell research would “pale in comparison” to the increasingly blurred distinction between creatures – including humans – and machines, Mr Brooks, told an audience at the University of Southampton’s School of Electronics and Computer Science.
“Biological engineering is coming. There are already more than 100,000 people with cochlear implants, which have a direct neural connection, and chips are being inserted in people’s retinas to combat macular degeneration. By the 2012 Olympics, we’re going to be dealing with systems which can aid the oxygen uptake of athletes.
“There’s going to be more and more technology in our bodies, and to stomp on all this technology and try to prevent it happening is just? well, there’s going to be a lot of moral debates,” he said.
Another robot developed as part of the US military’s ‘Future Combat Systems’ program was a small, unmanned vehicle known as a SUGV (pronounced ‘sug-vee’) which could be dispatched in front of troops to gauge the threat in an urban environment, Mr Brooks said.
The 13.6kg device, which measures less than a metre squared and can survive a drop of 10m onto concrete, has a small ‘head’ with infra-red and regular cameras which send information back to a command unit, as well as an audio-sensing feature called ‘Red Owl’ which can determine the direction from which enemy fire originates.
“It’s designed to be the troop’s eyes and ears and, unlike one of its predecessors, this one can swim, too,” Mr Brooks said.
The president says it, you say it, your kids say it all the time. So what’s the f–ing problem?
June 13, 2007
By Mark Morford
My grandmother’s face used to scrunch up like she just stepped in dog droppings whenever she heard it.
My own cherubic and supercute mother rarely used to say it but has become much more friendly with it over the years because, you know, what the hell, and now whenever she launches an f-bomb or even an s-bomb she almost can’t help but smile a little sheepishly afterward, like her own mother is looking down from the heavens and making that face, or if my mother’s really angry and the cuss is meant to be a serious exclamation, well, it’s almost impossible not to smile yourself, like you just heard this really adorable squirrel pass gas.
Me, I remember my first time. Somewhere around 7 or 8 years old, just chillin’ on my bike in my Spokane ‘hood on a warm summer’s eve, a gaggle of other boys scampering around (there might have been girls too, but at that point girls were still incredibly toxic and hence my brain would not have registered their existence) and everyone just doing boy stuff.
Suddenly, it happened. From outta nowhere, one kid launched a never-before-heard “screw you” at some other kid and all chattering stopped as we all sort of looked at each other as if to say “huh?” and “what was that?” while this weird electrical charge shot through the air like creamy peanut butter on fire.
Everyone felt it. Everyone present sort of knew, even then, even without the slightest clue as to what the words actually meant, that something interesting had just occurred, something powerful and strange and, well, just a little bit wonderful.
As a quick test, I dashed home with those two words hot in my mouth and promptly unleashed them on the head of my older sister. To, if I recall, absolutely fantastic effect.
Clearly, Bush’s Federal Communications Commission is terrified of boys like me. Oh yes they are.
Let us now recap: Since 2003, BushCo’s own nipple-terrified regulatory agency has been working like a prudish little ferret to destroy perceived indecency, particularly those “fleeting expletives” that love to pop up in major media, threatening to fine any network roughly $5 bazillion for any appearance of the dreaded “f–” or “s–” or anything else that causes unusual tingling sensations anywhere in the pallid body of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.
Dismissed as eye-rollingly idiotic by every cunning linguist in existence, this absurdly strict rule nevertheless caused enormous panic and trepidation among generally spineless network honchos who immediately shifted programming and yanked uncut versions of “Saving Private Ryan” from broadcast and fired on-air talent for the slightest indiscretion and desperately called their lawyers in prayer. It was, to put it simply, f–ing ugly.
Fast-forward to now. A New York appeals court just told Bush’s hard-line FCC that they are, in essence, a bunch of simpleminded out-of-touch dweebmonkeys and that the TV networks, while morally vacant in nearly every way imaginable, still cannot be held to such impossible standards when such juicy curse words are a common element of everyday speech, including that of President “Stop This S–” Bush and Dick “Go F– Yourself” Cheney and just about every other being anywhere, with the possible exception of the ghost of my late grandmother.
“We are sympathetic to the networks’ contention that the FCC’s indecency test is undefined, indiscernible, inconsistent and consequently unconstitutionally vague,” Judge Rosemary Pooler wrote in a delicious smackdown, a decision that also called the FCC’s obscenity rules “divorced from reality,” a perfect kicker that promptly induced Kevin Martin to whine uncontrollably.
“It is the New York court, not the commission, that is divorced from reality,” he puled. “Boogerbooger wabba, jerkface thhhbbbppptt!” he did not spittle, his face turning bright red as he hopped on his Big Wheel and pedaled away furiously.
Ahh, obscenity. Here is where you may want to jump in and play devil’s advocate and argue that, while swearing may be delightful amounts of everyday fun, mature discourse doesn’t actually require such language. And sure enough, you can go through your entire life and never utter a single curse word or, for that matter, never let alcohol pass your lips or enjoy a butt plug or inhale from a joint or be just like Frank Sinatra and never once wear a pair of jeans, and you can still make it to your grave a reasonably happy person. It’s true.
But maybe that’s beside the point. Because as far as Bush’s God-spanked FCC is concerned, it is, always and forever, all about protecting the children. Or rather, it is all about protecting some imaginary Christian Everychild, some sort of perfect hypersheltered dovelike organism made of spun glass and delicate bunny hearts and little golden crucifixes, a fragile, blessed thing whose happy, unblemished life had been completely free of blood or spit or pain right up until he overheard Bono say “f–” at the Golden Globes and his precious virgin heart shattered forever.
No matter. It’s all fast becoming rather moot anyway. Broadcast television as we know it is dying a clumsy, confused death, curse-happy cable/satellite TV is in 87 percent (combined) of American homes, satellite radio remains free to blaspheme up a storm, the Internet is a giant linguistic smut-for-all and even the more serious blogs and indie media outlets are happily loosening crusty journalistic binds and slanging their way into the hearts and minds of readers everywhere.
See, most people seem to get it: As is always the case in things prurient and dirty and fun, it all comes down to balance. Too many gratuitous f-bombs and you sound juvenile and uneducated and mean. Too few (or too awkwardly placed, or unearned) and you sound prudish and awkward and far too much like, say, Jerry Seinfeld.
This, then, is the real linguistic lesson kids need to learn. When it comes to a good curse, it’s all about the placement, the timing, the precise usage. After all, “f–” is a delightful power word, one I wish I could actually employ in this very column every so often without those damnable dashes that protect, well, no one.
The truth is, there are always perfect cuss-ready moments. There are always those times when it’s not only entirely appropriate to launch a well-placed swear word, but not to do so would feel, well, downright irresponsible. Let me see if I can think of a good example …
Ah yes. How about this: “The FCC finally got some comeuppance from the courts? The Christian right’s death grip on the culture is weakening even further, and the nation as a whole appears to be slowly but surely coming to its senses? Well. Thank goodness. Praise Jesus. Pass the wine.”
“And oh yes, it’s about f–ing time.”
See? Perfectly reasonable.
The FBI is contacting more than one million PC owners who have had their computers hijacked by cyber criminals.
The initiative is part of an ongoing project to thwart the use of hijacked home computers, or zombies, as launch platforms for hi-tech crimes.
The FBI has found networks of zombie computers being used to spread spam, steal IDs and attack websites.
The agency said the zombies or bots were “a growing threat to national security”.
Signs of trouble
The FBI has been trying to tackle networks of zombies for some time as part of an initiative it has dubbed Operation Bot Roast.
This operation recently passed a significant milestone as it racked up more than one million individually identifiable computers known to be part of one bot net or another.
The law enforcement organisation said that part of the operation involved notifying people who owned PCs it knew were part of zombie or bot networks. In this way it said it expected to find more evidence of how they are being used by criminals.
“The majority of victims are not even aware that their computer has been compromised or their personal information exploited,” said James Finch, assistant director of the FBI’s Cyber Division.
Many people fall victim by opening an attachment on an e-mail message containing a virus or by visiting a booby-trapped webpage.
Many hi-tech criminals are now trying to subvert innocent webpages to act as proxies for their malicious programs.
Once hijacked, PCs can be used to send out spam, spread spyware or as repositories for illegal content such as pirated movies or pornography.
Those in charge of botnets, called botherders, can have tens of thousands of machines under their control.
Operation Bot Roast has resulted in the arrest of three people known to have used bot nets for criminal ends.
One of those arrested, Robert Alan Soloway, could face 65 years in jail if found guilty of all the crimes with which he has been charged.
In a statement about Operation Bot Roast the FBI urged PC users to practice good computer security which includes using regularly updated anti-virus software and installing a firewall.
For those without basic protections anti-virus companies such as F Secure, Trend Micro, Kaspersky Labs and many others offer online scanning services that can help spot infections.
The organisation said it was difficult for people to know if their machine was part of a botnet.
However it said telltale signs could be if the machine ran slowly, had an e-mail outbox full of mail a user did not send or they get e-mail saying they are sending spam.
June 15, 2007
By Chee Chee Leung
SECURELY tucked away inside a French vault is a lump of metal known as the International Prototype. A mixture of platinum and iridium, it was made in the 1880s to define the mass of a kilogram.
But work by a team of Australians could help pave the way for the retirement of this century- old prototype, as weight and measurement experts across the globe work towards a more scientific definition of the kilogram.
The project requires the development of perfect silicon spheres, and optical engineers at CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Precision Optics — considered world leaders in the craft — are doing their part.
Scientists will use the spheres to determine how many silicon atoms make up a kilogram, and this will be used as the new definition — bringing the kilogram into line with other base units such as the metre and the second, which are all defined by physical constants.
“It’s really an atom-counting exercise … and we’ll come up with a new definition of the kilogram based on atoms, rather than based on the thing in Paris,” explained Walter Giardini, of Australia’s National Measurement Institute.
CSIRO’s optical engineers will form two perfect spheres from a 20-centimetre cylinder of exceptionally pure silicon that arrived in Australia last night. The silicon, which has taken three years to produce, was made in Russia and grown into a near-perfect crystal in Germany.
The precision optics centre, located in the Sydney suburb of Lindfield, has already made about a dozen spheres for what is known as the Avogadro Project — with the most perfect sphere so far just 35 nanometres away from being perfectly round.
This means the diameter of the sphere varied by an average of only 35 millionths of a millimetre, making it a top contender for the title of the roundest object in the world.
A spherical shape was chosen for the project because it has no edges that might be damaged, and the volume can be calculated by using its diameter.
Optical engineer Katie Green, who will be involved in the precise cutting, grinding and polishing of the spheres, said it was exciting to be a part of a high-profile international project.
“It’s probably going to take around three months’ work, start to finish,” she said. “It’s been a number of years waiting for this material to be completed, so we’re definitely looking forward to seeing it in the flesh, so to speak.”
After the completion of the spheres, the silicon objects will be sent around the world to be measured and analysed by scientists.
June 17, 2007
By Janet I. Tu
Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.
On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.
She does both, she says, because she’s Christian and Muslim.
Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she’s ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she’s also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.
Her announcement has provoked surprise and bewilderment in many, raising an obvious question: How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim?
But it has drawn other reactions too. Friends generally say they support her, while religious scholars are mixed: Some say that, depending on how one interprets the tenets of the two faiths, it is, indeed, possible to be both. Others consider the two faiths mutually exclusive.
“There are tenets of the faiths that are very, very different,” said Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. “The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?”
Christianity has historically regarded Jesus as the son of God and God incarnate, both fully human and fully divine. Muslims, though they regard Jesus as a great prophet, do not see him as divine and do not consider him the son of God.
“I don’t think it’s possible” to be both, Fredrickson said, just like “you can’t be a Republican and a Democrat.”
Redding, who will begin teaching the New Testament as a visiting assistant professor at Seattle University this fall, has a different analogy: “I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman. I’m 100 percent both.”
Redding doesn’t feel she has to resolve all the contradictions. People within one religion can’t even agree on all the details, she said. “So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam?
“At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That’s all I need.”
She says she felt an inexplicable call to become Muslim, and to surrender to God — the meaning of the word “Islam.”
“It wasn’t about intellect,” she said. “All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.
“I could not not be a Muslim.”
Redding’s situation is highly unusual. Officials at the national Episcopal Church headquarters said they are not aware of any other instance in which a priest has also been a believer in another faith. They said it’s up to the local bishop to decide whether such a priest could continue in that role.
Redding’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting. Her announcement, first made through a story in her diocese’s newspaper, hasn’t caused much controversy yet, he said.
Some local Muslim leaders are perplexed.
Being both Muslim and Christian — “I don’t know how that works,” said Hisham Farajallah, president of the Islamic Center of Washington.
But Redding has been embraced by leaders at the Al-Islam Center of Seattle, the Muslim group she prays with.
“Islam doesn’t say if you’re a Christian, you’re not a Muslim,” said programming director Ayesha Anderson. “Islam doesn’t lay it out like that.”
Redding believes telling her story can help ease religious tensions, and she hopes it can be a step toward her dream of creating an institute to study Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
“I think this thing that’s happened to me can be a sign of hope,” she said.
Finding a religion that fit
Redding is 55 and single, with deep brown eyes, dreadlocks and a voice that becomes easily impassioned when talking about faith. She’s also a classically trained singer, and has sung at jazz nights at St. Mark’s.
The oldest of three girls, Redding grew up in Pennsylvania in a high-achieving, intellectual family. Her father was one of the lawyers who argued the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case that desegregated the nation’s public schools. Her mother was in the first class of Fulbright scholars.
Though her parents weren’t particularly religious, they had her baptized and sent her to an Episcopal Sunday school. She has always sensed that God existed and God loved her, even when things got bleak — which they did.
She experienced racism in schools, was sexually abused and, by the time she was a young adult, was struggling with alcohol addiction; she’s been in recovery for 20 years.
Despite those difficulties, she graduated from Brown University, earned master’s degrees from two seminaries and received her Ph.D. in New Testament from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She felt called to the priesthood and was ordained in 1984.
As much as she loves her church, she has always challenged it. She calls Christianity the “world religion of privilege.” She has never believed in original sin. And for years she struggled with the nature of Jesus’ divinity.
She found a good fit at St. Mark’s, coming to the flagship of the Episcopal Church in Western Washington in 2001. She was in charge of programs to form and deepen people’s faith until March this year when she was one of three employees laid off for budget reasons. The dean of the cathedral said Redding’s exploration of Islam had nothing to do with her layoff.
Ironically, it was at St. Mark’s that she first became drawn to Islam.
In fall 2005, a local Muslim leader gave a talk at the cathedral, then prayed before those attending. Redding was moved. As he dropped to his knees and stretched forward against the floor, it seemed to her that his whole body was involved in surrendering to God.
Then in the spring, at a St. Mark’s interfaith class, another Muslim leader taught a chanted prayer and led a meditation on opening one’s heart. The chanting appealed to the singer in Redding; the meditation spoke to her heart. She began saying the prayer daily.
Around that time, her mother died, and then “I was in a situation that I could not handle by any other means, other than a total surrender to God,” she said.
She still doesn’t know why that meant she had to become a Muslim. All she knows is “when God gives you an invitation, you don’t turn it down.”
In March 2006, she said her shahada — the profession of faith — testifying that there is only one God and that Mohammed is his messenger. She became a Muslim.
Before she took the shahada, she read a lot about Islam. Afterward, she learned from local Muslim leaders, including those in Islam’s largest denomination — Sunni — and those in the Sufi mystical tradition of Islam. She began praying with the Al-Islam Center, a Sunni group that is predominantly African-American.
There were moments when practicing Islam seemed like coming home.
In Seattle’s Episcopal circles, Redding had mixed largely with white people. “To walk into Al-Islam and be reminded that there are more people of color in the world than white people, that in itself is a relief,” she said.
She found the discipline of praying five times a day — one of the five pillars of Islam that all Muslims are supposed to follow — gave her the deep sense of connection with God that she yearned for.
It came from “knowing at all times I’m in between prayers.” She likens it to being in love, constantly looking forward to having “all these dates with God. … Living a life where you’re remembering God intentionally, consciously, just changes everything.”
Friends who didn’t know she was practicing Islam told her she glowed.
Aside from the established sets of prayers she recites in Arabic fives times each day, Redding says her prayers are neither uniquely Islamic nor Christian. They’re simply her private talks with God or Allah — she uses both names interchangeably. “It’s the same person, praying to the same God.”
In many ways, she says, “coming to Islam was like coming into a family with whom I’d been estranged. We have not only the same God, but the same ancestor with Abraham.”
A shared beginning
Indeed, Islam, Christianity and Judaism trace their roots to Abraham, the patriarch of Judaism who is also considered the spiritual father of all three faiths. They share a common belief in one God, and there are certain similar stories in their holy texts.
But there are many significant differences, too.
Muslims regard the Quran as the unadulterated word of God, delivered through the angel Gabriel to Mohammed. While they believe the Torah and the Gospels include revelations from God, they believe those revelations have been misinterpreted or mishandled by humans.
Most significantly, Muslims and Christians disagree over the divinity of Jesus.
Muslims generally believe in Jesus’ virgin birth, that he was a messenger of God, that he ascended to heaven alive and that he will come back at the end of time to destroy evil. They do not believe in the Trinity, in the divinity of Jesus or in his death and resurrection.
For Christians, belief in Jesus’ divinity, and that he died on the cross and was resurrected, lie at the heart of the faith, as does the belief that there is one God who consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Redding’s views, even before she embraced Islam, were more interpretive than literal.
She believes the Trinity is an idea about God and cannot be taken literally.
She does not believe Jesus and God are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus.
She believes Jesus is the son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.
What makes Jesus unique, she believes, is that out of all humans, he most embodied being filled with God and identifying completely with God’s will.
She does believe that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, and acknowledges those beliefs conflict with the teachings of the Quran. “That’s something I’ll find a challenge the rest of my life,” she said.
She considers Jesus her savior. At times of despair, because she knows Jesus suffered and overcame suffering, “he has connected me with God,” she said.
That’s not to say she couldn’t develop as deep a relationship with Mohammed. “I’m still getting to know him,” she said.
Matter of interpretation
Some religious scholars understand Redding’s thinking.
While the popular Christian view is that Jesus is God and that he came to Earth and took on a human body, other Christians believe his divinity means that he embodied the spirit of God in his life and work, said Eugene Webb, professor emeritus of comparative religion at the University of Washington.
Webb says it’s possible to be both Muslim and Christian: “It’s a matter of interpretation. But a lot of people on both sides do not believe in interpretation. ”
Ihsan Bagby, associate professor of Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky, agrees with Webb, and adds that Islam tends to be a little more flexible. Muslims can have faith in Jesus, he said, as long as they believe in Mohammed’s message.
Other scholars are skeptical.
“The theological beliefs are irreconcilable,” said Mahmoud Ayoub, professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. Islam holds that God is one, unique, indivisible. “For Muslims to say Jesus is God would be blasphemy.”
Frank Spina, an Episcopal priest and also a professor of Old Testament and biblical theology at Seattle Pacific University, puts it bluntly.
“I just do not think this sort of thing works,” he said. “I think you have to give up what is essential to Christianity to make the moves that she has done.
“The essence of Christianity was not that Jesus was a great rabbi or even a great prophet, but that he is the very incarnation of the God that created the world…. Christianity stands or falls on who Jesus is.”
Spina also says that as priests, he and Redding have taken vows of commitment to the doctrines of the church. “That means none of us get to work out what we think all by ourselves.”
Redding knows there are many Christians and Muslims who will not accept her as both.
“I don’t care,” she says. “They can’t take away my baptism.” And as she understands it, once she’s made her profession of faith to become a Muslim, no one can say she isn’t that, either.
While she doesn’t rule out that one day she may choose one or the other, it’s more likely “that I’m going to be 100 percent Christian and 100 percent Muslim when I die.”
These days, Redding usually carries a headscarf with her wherever she goes so she can pray five times a day.
On Fridays, she prays with about 20 others at the Al-Islam Center. On Sundays, she prays in church, usually at St. Clement’s of Rome in the Mount Baker neighborhood.
One thing she prays for every day: “I pray not to cause scandal or bring shame upon either of my traditions.”
Being Muslim has given her insights into Christianity, she said. For instance, because Islam regards Jesus as human, not divine, it reinforces for her that “we can be like Jesus. There are no excuses.”
Doug Thorpe, who served on St. Mark’s faith-formation committee with Redding, said he’s trying to understand all the dimensions of her faith choices. But he saw how it deepened her spirituality. And it spurred him to read the Quran and think more deeply about his own faith.
He believes Redding is being called. She is, “by her very presence, a bridge person,” Thorpe said. “And we desperately need those bridge persons.”
In Redding’s car, she has hung up a cross she made of clear crystal beads. Next to it, she has dangled a heart-shaped leather object etched with the Arabic symbol for Allah.
“For me, that symbolizes who I am,” Redding said. “I look through Jesus and I see Allah.”
June 13, 2007
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s parliament on Wednesday voted in favor of a bill that could lead to death penalty for persons convicted of working in the production of pornographic movies.
With a 148-5 vote in favor and four abstentions, lawmakers present at the Wednesday session of the 290-seat parliament approved that “producers of pornographic works and main elements in their production are considered corruptors of the world and could be sentenced to punishment as corruptors of the world.”
The term, “corruptor of the world” is taken from the Quran, the Muslims’ holy book, and ranks among the highest on the scale of an individual’s criminal offenses. Under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, it carries a death penalty.
The “main elements” refered to in the draft include producers, directors, cameramen and actors involved in making a pornographic video.
The bill also envisages convictions ranging from one year imprisonment to a death sentence for the main distributors of the movies and also producers of Web sites in which the pornographic works would appear.
Besides videos, the bill covers all electronic visual material, such as DVD and CDs. Other material, such as porn magazines and books are already banned under Iranian law.
To become law, the bill requires an approval by the Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog in Iran.
It is widely believed that the drafting of the bill came about as a reaction to a scandal last year, when a private videotape, apparently belonging to Iranian actress Zahra Amir Ebrahimi and allegedly showing her having intercourse with a man, became available across Iran.
The videotape was leaked to the Internet and released on a black market DVD, becoming a full-blown Iranian sex tape scandal. Ebrahimi later came under an official investigation, which is still ongoing. She faces fines, whip lashing or worse for her violation of Iran’s morality laws.
The unnamed man on the tape, who is suspected of releasing it, reportedly fled to Armenia but was subsequently returned to Iran and charged with breach of public morality laws. He remains in jail.
In an exclusive interview with the British newspaper The Guardian early this year, Ebrahimi denied she was the woman in the film and dismissed it as a fake, made by a vengeful former fiance bent on destroying her career.
In recent years, private videotapes have increasingly been leaked to the public in Iran, riling the government and many in this conservative Islamic country, where open talk of sex is banned and considered taboo.
However, porn material is easily accessible through foreign satellite television channels in Iran. Bootleg video tapes and CDs are also available on the black market on many street corners.