Saturday, December 22, 2012

R.I.P: Iron Butterfly bassist, Lee Dorman, dies at 70

Lee Dorman, bassist for Iron Butterfly, gone at 70-years old. R.I.P.

 Good Day World!

Anybody who knew me in 1969 has to remember my 1963 Chevy’s sound system – I had a Craig Pioneer Eight-Track with eight 10- inch speakers – and anywhere I went you could hear rock music blaring.

One of my favorite eight-tracks was “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” by Iron Butterfly. I cranked those speakers up so loud my ears practically bled, but boy was I cool!

Good memories. Thanks Lee Dorman, you rocked! Peace out Brother! 

“Another great soundmaker has been silenced. Lee Dorman, bassist for proto-metal rockers Iron Butterfly, died today at his home in Orange County, Calif.. He was 70. The county coroner's office tells E! News that Dorman, who had a history of heart trouble, was found in his car at around 9 a.m., dead of what appeared to be natural causes.

Iron Butterfly's biggest hit was the 1968 jamfest " In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," off the album of the same name, and Dorman's booming bass figures prominently in the classic tune. Buoyed by its 17-minute title track, more than 30 million copies of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" have been sold over the years.

The St. Louis, Mo., native, born Douglas Lee Dorman, joined Iron Butterfly in 1967 and played with multiple incarnations of the original lineup on and off over the years. Drummer Ron Bushy, onboard since 1966, has had the longest tenure overall.

Though the acid-rockers' last studio album, "Sun and Steel," came out in 1975 (Dorman didn't play on that or "Scorching Beauty," also released in 1975), the group continued to tour and "Light and Heavy: The Best of Iron Butterfly" was released in 1993.

Also in the 1970s, Dorman formed Captain Beyond with guitarist Larry "Rhino" Reinhardt, British singer Rod Evans and drummer Bobby Caldwell.” (Source)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Study: Booze Damages the Brain, Pot Does Not

December 21, 2012 - Some new science demonstrates that marijuana may not have the harmful effects critics claim. In fact, while pot had no measured impact in a new study, the very legal and very lucratively-marketed substance alcohol actually has a worse health impact on young users.
Specifically, a new study of substance-using teenagers' brains shows that the regular use of alcohol had a harmful effect on the boozing group, while the toking-up group's brains suffered little alteration.
From Medical Daily, emphasis ours:
The researchers, from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, performed the study on 92 16- to 20-year-olds. The scientists scanned their brains both before and after an 18-month period. Over the course of the 18 months, half of the teens, who already had an extensive track record with alcohol and marijuana, continued their vices as they had before. The other half continued to abstain or drink a minimal amount, like they too had done before the study.
In addition to the brain scans, the study also required a detailed toxicology report and substance use assessment. The teens also were interviewed every six months. Researchers did not check the teens' cognitive ability, but simply took brain scans.
The researchers found that, after the year and a half was over, kids who had drank five or more alcoholic beverages twice a week had lost white brain matter. That means that they could have impaired memory, attention, and decision-making into adulthood. The teens that smoked marijuana on a regular basis had no such reduction.
While other studies have had less clear results, this study is important for a few reasons.
First, it shows that early alcohol abuse can be dangerous because it damages the tissues that influence judgement and self-control. "If teens decrease their tissue health and cognitive ability to inhibit themselves, they might become more likely to engage in risky behavior like excessive substance use," the Huffington Post quotes study co-author Joanna Jacobus, postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, San Diego, as saying.
The study authors also said that marijuana strains vary widely, so it's harder to determine which if any ingredients in a typical joint have positive or negative effects. The study will be published in the journal  Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
(Article Source)

More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence?

America now has 300 million firearms, a barrage of NRA-backed gun laws—
and record casualties from mass killers.

Update, December 15: Click here for our coverage of the Newtown school massacre. This story has been updated to include data from that event.

In the fierce debate that always follows the latest mass shooting, it's an argument you hear frequently from gun rights promoters: If only more people were armed, there would be a better chance of stopping these terrible events. This has plausibility problems—what are the odds that, say, a moviegoer with a pack of Twizzlers in one pocket and a Glock in the other would be mentally prepared, properly positioned, and skilled enough to take out a body-armored assailant in a smoke- and panic-filled theater? But whether you believe that would happen is ultimately a matter of theory and speculation. Instead, let's look at some facts gathered in a two-month investigation by Mother Jones.

In the wake of the slaughters this summer at a Colorado movie theater and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, we set out to track mass shootings in the United States over the last 30 years. We identified and analyzed 62 of them, and one striking pattern in the data is this: In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun. Moreover, we found that the rate of mass shootings has increased in recent years—at a time when America has been flooded with millions of additional firearms and a barrage of new laws has made it easier than ever to carry them in public. And in other recent rampages in which armed civilians attempted to intervene, they not only failed to stop the shooter but also were gravely wounded or killed.

America has long been heavily armed relative to other societies, and our arsenal keeps growing. A precise count isn't possible because most guns in the United States aren't registered and the government has scant ability to track them, thanks to a legislative landscape shaped by powerful pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association. But through a combination of national surveys and manufacturing and sales data, we know that the increase in firearms has far outpaced population growth. In 1995 there were an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. Today, there are around 300 million—about a 50 percent jump. The US population, now over 314 million, grew by about 20 percent in that period. At this rate, there will be a gun for every man, woman, and child before the decade ends.

There is no evidence indicating that arming Americans further will help prevent mass shootings or reduce the carnage, says Dr. Stephen Hargarten, a leading expert on emergency medicine and gun violence at the Medical College of Wisconsin. To the contrary, there appears to be a relationship between the proliferation of firearms and a rise in mass shootings: By our count, there have been two per year on average since 1982. Yet 25 of the 62 cases we examined have occurred since 2006. This year alone there have already been seven mass shootings—and a record number of casualties, with more than 140 people injured and killed.

Armed civilians attempting to intervene are actually more likely to increase the bloodshed, says Hargarten, "given that civilian shooters are less likely to hit their targets than police in these circumstances." A chaotic scene in August at the Empire State Building put this starkly into perspective when New York City police officers confronting a gunman wounded nine innocent bystanders.

Surveys suggest America's guns may be concentrated in fewer hands today: Approximately 40 percent of households had them in the past decade, versus about 50 percent in the 1980s. But far more relevant is a recent barrage of laws that have rolled back gun restrictions throughout the country. In the past four years, across 37 states, the NRA and its political allies have pushed through 99 laws making guns easier to own, easier to carry in public, and harder for the government to track.

Among the more striking measures: Eight states now allow firearms in bars. Law-abiding Missourians can carry a gun while intoxicated and even fire it if "acting in self-defense." In Kansas, permit holders can carry concealed weapons inside K-12 schools, and Louisiana allows them in houses of worship. Virginia not only repealed a law requiring handgun vendors to submit sales records, but the state also ordered the destruction of all such previous records. More than two-thirds of these laws were passed by Republican-controlled statehouses, though often with bipartisan support.

The laws have caused dramatic changes, including in the two states hit with the recent carnage. Colorado passed its concealed-carry measure in 2003, issuing 9,522 permits that year; by the end of last year the state had handed out a total of just under 120,000, according to data we obtained from the County Sheriffs of Colorado.

In March of this year, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that concealed weapons are legal on the state's college campuses. (It is now the fifth state explicitly allowing them.) If former neuroscience student James Holmes were still attending the University of Colorado today, the movie theater killer—who had no criminal history and obtained his weapons legally—could've gotten a permit to tote his pair of .40 caliber Glocks straight into the student union. Wisconsin's concealed-carry law went into effect just nine months before the Sikh temple shooting in suburban Milwaukee this August. During that time, the state issued a whopping 122,506 permits, according to data from Wisconsin's Department of Justice. The new law authorizes guns on college campuses, as well as in bars, state parks, and some government buildings.

And we're on our way to a situation where the most lax state permitting rules—say, Virginia's, where an online course now qualifies for firearms safety training and has drawn a flood of out-of-state applicants—are in effect national law. Eighty percent of states now recognize handgun permits from at least some other states. And gun rights activists are pushing hard fora federal reciprocity bill—passed in the House late last year, with GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan among its most ardent supporters—that would essentially make any state's permits valid nationwide.

Indeed, the country's vast arsenal of handguns—at least 118 million of them as of 2010—is increasingly mobile, with 69 of the 99 new state laws making them easier to carry. A decade ago, seven states and the District of Columbia still prohibited concealed handguns; today, it's down to just Illinois and DC. (And Illinois recently passed an exception cracking the door open to carrying). In the 62 mass shootings we analyzed, 54 of the killers packed handguns—including in all 15 of the mass shootings since the surge of pro-gun laws began in 2009.

In a certain sense the law was on their side: nearly 80 percent of the killers in our investigation obtained their weapons legally.

We used a conservative set of criteria to build a comprehensive rundown of high-profile attacks in public places—at schools, workplaces, government buildings, shopping malls—though they represent only a small fraction of the nation's overall gun violence.

The FBI defines a mass murderer as someone who kills four or more people in a single incident, usually in one location. (As opposed to spree or serial killers, who strike multiple times.) We excluded cases involving armed robberies or gang violence; dropping the number of fatalities by just one, or including those motives, would add many, many more cases. (More about our criteria here.)

There was one case in our data set in which an armed civilian played a role. Back in 1982, a man opened fire at a welding shop in Miami, killing eight and wounding three others before fleeing on a bicycle. A civilian who worked nearby pursued the assailant in a car, shooting and killing him a few blocks away (in addition to ramming him with the car).

Florida authorities, led by then-state attorney Janet Reno, concluded that the vigilante had used force justifiably, and speculated that he may have prevented additional killings. But even if we were to count that case as a successful armed intervention by a civilian, it would account for just 1.6 percent of the mass shootings in the last 30 years.

More broadly, attempts by armed civilians to stop shooting rampages are rare—and successful ones even rarer. There were two school shootings in the late 1990s, in Mississippi and Pennsylvania, in which bystanders with guns ultimately subdued the teen perpetrators, but in both cases it was after the shooting had subsided. Other cases led to tragic results.

In 2005, as a rampage unfolded inside a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington, a civilian named Brendan McKown confronted the assailant with a licensed handgun he was carrying. The assailant pumped several bullets into McKown and wounded six people before eventually surrendering to police after a hostage standoff.

(A comatose McKown eventually recovered after weeks in the hospital.) In Tyler, Texas, that same year, a civilian named Mark Wilson fired his licensed handgun at a man on a rampage at the county courthouse. Wilson—who was a firearms instructor—was shot dead by the body-armored assailant, who wielded an AK-47. (None of these cases were included in our mass shootings data set because fewer than four victims died in each.)

Appeals to heroism on this subject abound. So does misleading information. Gun rights die-hards frequently credit the end of a rampage in 2002 at the Appalachian School of Law in Virginia to armed "students" who intervened—while failing to disclose that those students were also current and former law enforcement officers, and that the killer, according to police investigators, was out of ammo by the time they got to him.

How do law enforcement authorities view armed civilians getting involved? One week after the slaughter at the Dark Knight screening in July, the city of Houston—hardly a hotbed of gun control—released a new Department of Homeland Security-funded video instructing the public on how to react to such events. The six-minute production foremost advises running away or otherwise hiding, and suggests fighting back only as a last resort. It makes no mention of civilians using firearms.

Law enforcement officials are the first to say that civilians should not be allowed to obtain particularly lethal weaponry, such as the AR-15 assault rifle and ultra-high-capacity, drum-style magazine used by Holmes to mow down Batman fans. The expiration of the Federal Assault Weapons Banunder President George W. Bush in 2004 has not helped that cause: Seven killers since then have wielded assault weapons in mass shootings.

But while access to weapons is a crucial consideration for stemming the violence, stricter gun laws are no silver bullet. Another key factor is mental illness. A major New York Timesinvestigation in 2000 examined 100 shooting rampages and found that at least half of the killers showed signs of serious mental health problems. Our own data reveals that the majority of mass shootings are murder-suicides: In the 62 cases we analyzed, 36 of the shooters killed themselves. Others may have committed "suicide by cop"—seven died in police shootouts. Still others simply waited, as Holmes did in the movie theater parking lot, to be apprehended by authorities.

Mental illness among the killers is no surprise, ranging from paranoid schizophrenia to suicidal depression. But while some states have improved their sharing of mental health records with federal authorities, millions of records reportedly are still missing from the FBI's database for criminal background checks.

Hargarten of the Medical College of Wisconsin argues that mass shootings need to be scrutinized as a public health emergency so that policy makers can better focus on controlling the epidemic of violence. It would be no different than if there were an outbreak of Ebola virus, he says—we'd be assembling the nation's foremost experts to stop it.

But real progress will require transcending hardened politics. For decades gun rights promoters have framed measures aimed at public safety—background checks, waiting periods for purchases, tracking of firearms—as dire attacks on constitutional freedom. They've wielded the gun issue so successfully as a political weapon that Democrats hardly dare to touch it, while Republicans have gone to new extremes in their party platform to enshrine gun rights. Political leaders have failed to advance the discussion "in a credible, thoughtful, evidence-driven way," says Hargarten.In the meantime, the gun violence in malls and schools and religious venues continues apace.

As a superintendent told his community in suburban Cleveland this February, after a shooter at Chardon High School snuffed out the lives of three students and injured three others, "We're not just any old place, Chardon. This is every place. As you've seen in the past, this can happen anywhere."

Mark Follman is a senior editor at Mother Jones. Read more of his stories, follow him on Twitter, or contact him with tips or feedback at mfollman (at) motherjones (dot) com. RSS | TWITTER

New doom-free future for Mayans and the rest of us…

Aren’t you relieved that the world didn’t end today? It’s amazing how many people thought it would. The story has been trending for months and then it comes to today… a fizzle for fanatics, a disappointment for doomsayers, and just another day.

That’s good. It would have screwed up Christmas and New Year’s. Seriously though, schools were canceled today in Michigan and Connecticut because of concerns that crazies might attack schools as a way to usher out humanity.

What a crazy world we live in. It’s the only one we have, so let’s quit talking about it ending because some lunatics like that conversation. It’s the holidays folks! Let’s have fun and forget about those doomsayers. here’s an update on what’s happening around the world today:

“The sun has arisen today at Maya monuments in Mexico and Guatemala, heralding the completion of a 144,000-day calendar cycle — but not the end of the world.

Most archaeologists say the ancient Maya regarded sunrise as the signal for the turnover, much as we regard midnight on New Year's Eve as the time to party. And sure enough, tourists as well as modern-day Maya in traditional garb gathered at Chichen Itza's El Castillo pyramid in Mexico to greet the day. Josh Gates, host of the Syfy TV show "Destination Truth," is live-tweeting the activities. (Syfy is owned by NBC Universal, which also owns NBC News Digital.)

The ancient Maya calendar marks Dec. 21 as the end of a cycle known as a baktun, which lasts 144,000 days or nearly 400 years. This finishes up the 13th baktun since Year Zero for the Maya, and taken together, all that time represents an even longer 5,125-year cycle of creation. That led to speculation that the Maya expected the gods to reset the cosmos on Dec. 21. Somehow that speculation was taken seriously enough to whip up this whole end-of-the-world hype.

Along the way, all sorts of claims were made about unseen planets, solar disturbances and other supposed earth changes that would make today a very bad day. But judging from the pictures coming from Chichen Itza and other Maya monuments, people are having a good time today.

In the longer term, Maya community leaders hope all the attention they're getting this week will translate into a wider awareness of their ancient culture and their modern-day challenges. They're not worried about doomsday; they're worried about poverty. Check out this PhotoBlog posting for more about the real concerns being voiced by the indigenous people of Guatemala. (Source)

Related Stories

Happiness Economics: Where the happiest people in the world live

    Good Day World!

I have to admit I was surprised by the results of the following poll. I figured the richest countries would have the most happy people, if for no other reason they offered more food and shelter. Not so, according to the United Nations’ Human Development Index.

It just goes to show that we should never assume anything. The happiest people in the world go without a lot of basic things in life that you and I take for granted. Even after you read the rationale behind this poll and the factors it’s based upon, you might still question the results like I do. Personally I think the methodology is flawed.

The happiness index is based upon cultural bias. The poll suggests some cultures respond positively to any question, but as for proving where the happiest people live…I think more research is in order. See what you think:

 “The world’s happiest people aren’t in Qatar, the richest country by most measures. They aren’t in Japan, the nation with the highest life expectancy. Canada, with its chart-topping percentage of college graduates, doesn’t make the top 10.

A poll released Wednesday of nearly 150,000 people around the world says seven of the world’s 10 countries with the most upbeat attitudes are in Latin America.

Many of the seven do poorly in traditional measures of well-being, like Guatemala, a country torn by decades of civil war followed by waves of gang-driven criminality that give it one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Guatemala sits just above Iraq on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, a composite of life expectancy, education and per capita income. But it ranks seventh in positive emotions.

“In Guatemala, it’s a culture of friendly people who are always smiling,” said Luz Castillo, a 30-year-old surfing instructor. “Despite all the problems that we’re facing, we’re surrounded by natural beauty that lets us get away from it all.”

Gallup Inc. asked about 1,000 people in each of 148 countries last year if they were well-rested, had been treated with respect, smiled or laughed a lot, learned or did something interesting and felt feelings of enjoyment the previous day.

In Panama and Paraguay, 85 percent of those polled said yes to all five, putting those countries at the top of the list. They were followed closely by El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Guatemala, the Philippines, Ecuador and Costa Rica.

The people least likely to report positive emotions lived in Singapore, the wealthy and orderly city-state that ranks among the most developed in the world. Other wealthy countries also sat surprisingly low on the list. Germany and France tied with the poor African state of Somaliland for 47th place.

Prosperous nations can be deeply unhappy ones. And poverty-stricken ones are often awash in positivity, or at least a close approximation of it.

It’s a paradox with serious implications for a relatively new and controversial field called happiness economics that seeks to improve government performance by adding people’s perceptions of their satisfaction to traditional metrics such as life expectancy, per capita income and graduation rates.

The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan famously measures policies by their impact on a concept called Gross National Happiness.

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a national well-being program in 2010 as part of a pledge to improve Britons’ lives in the wake of the global recession. A household survey sent to 200,000 Britons asks questions like “How satisfied are you with your life nowadays?”

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which unites 34 of the world’s most advanced countries, recently created a Better Life Index allowing the public to compare countries based on quality of life in addition to material well-being.

Some experts say that’s a dangerous path that could allow governments to use positive public perceptions as an excuse to ignore problems. As an example of the risks, some said, the Gallup poll may have been skewed by a Latin American cultural proclivity to avoid negative statements regardless of how one actually feels.

“My immediate reaction is that this influenced by cultural biases,” said Eduardo Lora, who studied the statistical measurement of happiness as the former chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank

“What the empirical literature says is that some cultures tend to respond to any type of question in a more positive way,” said Lora, a native of Colombia, the 11th most-positive country.

For the nine least positive countries, some were not surprising, like Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and Haiti. For others at the bottom, Armenia at the second lowest spot, Georgia and Lithuania, misery is something a little more ephemeral.

“Feeling unhappy is part of the national mentality here,” said Agaron Adibekian, a sociologist in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. “Armenians like being mournful; there have been so many upheavals in the nation’s history. The Americans keep their smiles on and avoid sharing their problems with others. And the Armenians feel ashamed about being successful.”

The United States was No. 33 in positive outlook. Latin America’s biggest economies, Mexico and Brazil, sat more than 20 places further down the list.

Jon Clifton, a partner at Gallup, acknowledged the poll partly measured cultures’ overall tendency to express emotions, positive or negative. But he said skeptics shouldn’t undervalue the expression of positive emotion as an important phenomenon in and of itself.

“Those expressions are a reality, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to quantify,” he said. “I think there is higher positive emotionality in these countries.”

Some Latin Americans said the poll hit something fundamental about their countries: a habit of focusing on posivites such as friends, family and religion despite daily lives that can be grindingly difficult.

Carlos Martinez sat around a table with 11 fellow construction workers in a Panama City restaurant sharing a breakfast of corn empanadas, fried chicken and coffee before heading to work on one of the hundreds of new buildings that have sprouted during a yearslong economic boom driven in large part by the success of the Panama Canal. The boom has sent unemployment plunging, but also increased traffic and crime.

Martinez pronounced himself unhappy with rising crime but “happy about my family.”

“Overall, I’m happy because this is a country with many natural resources, a country that plays an important role in the world,” he said. “We’re Caribbean people, we’re people who like to celebrate, to eat well and live as well as we can. There are a lot of possibilities here, you just have to sacrifice a little more.”

Singapore sits 32 places higher than Panama on the Human Development Index, but at the opposite end of the happiness list. And things weren’t looking good Wednesday to Richard Low, a 33-year-old businessman in the prosperous Asian metropolis.

“We work like dogs and get paid peanuts. There’s hardly any time for holidays or just to relax in general because you’re always thinking ahead: when the next deadline or meeting is. There is hardly a fair sense of work-life balance here,” he said.

In Paraguay, tied with Panama as the most-positive country while doing far worse than Panama by objective measures, street vendor Maria Solis said tough economic conditions were no reason to despair.

“Life is short and there are no reasons to be sad because even if we were rich, there would still be problems,” she said while selling herbs used for making tea. “We have to laugh at ourselves.”


Time for me to walk on down the road…

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Michigan officials to close 33 schools due to end of world prediction by Mayans

Okay…how crazy is it? Now schools are being closed. I figured there would be a last minute push by the world’s nuts predicting the end times because they thought that’s what the Mayan Calendar said.

As usual, these doomsayers seem to be worldwide. What cracks me up is that the whole thing is based on a false interpretation. But in the world of cyberspace, things become muddled and false prophecies are propagated like like maggots on a dead animal.

You’d think the word would have gotten out to more people that the whole thing is a mistake, but apparently that’s not the case:

“More than 30 Michigan schools closed for the holidays two days early, in part because the Mayan calendar predicts the world will end on Friday, an official said.

Matt Wandrie, superintendent for Lapeer Community Schools, said doomsday "rumors" are running rampant in several districts, adding to fears raised by last week's school shooting in Newtown, Conn.

"Given the recent events in Connecticut, there have been numerous rumors circulating in our district, and in neighboring districts, about potential threats of violence against students," Wandrie wrote on his website.

"Additionally, rumors connected to the Mayan calendar predicted end of the world on Friday have also surfaced," he added. He noted that Twitter was up with posts with sentiments like: "Friday would be a great day to go out w/ a bang."

The ancient predictions of apocalypse were a "secondary concern," with rumblings about violent threats against schoolchildren a bigger issue, he said.

Wandrie said all rumors of threats had been "investigated and determined to be false" but were still a "serious distraction" for students heading into the holiday break, and parents were vowing to keep children home.

So officials from five districts in Lapeer County covering 33 schools decided to just scrap the last two days of, extracurricular activities and athletic events. "Although we in the county are reluctant to cancel school because the rumors are unsubstantiated, we feel it is the most appropriate decision given the gravity of recent events and our present circumstances," he wrote.” (Source)

Stand Your Ground Law Case Files: Man shot in pizza parlor for complaining about show service

     Good Day World!

It’s bad enough that we have crazed mass murderers mowing people down with assault rifles without passing out concealed gun permits to “head cases” who shoot people and then try to use stupid laws like Florida’s, “Stand Your Ground” law, to justify what they did.

There’s stories every day about how this law gets abused. Here’s the most recent one:

“Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law has been cited in hundreds of cases. People have used it to justify shooting, stabbing, killing and maiming would-be intruders, romantic competitors and rival gang members.

And on Sunday, at a pizza joint in St. Petersburg, a man tried to use it as justification for shooting another customer who was yelling at workers because he wasn't getting his order fast enough.

Police said the incident unfolded about 4 p.m. inside the Little Caesars, 3463 Fourth St. N, after Randall White, 49, got mad about his service. Another man in line, Michael Jock, 52, of St. Petersburg admonished White.

That "prompted them to exchange words and it became a shoving match," said police spokesman Mike Puetz. White raised a fist. Jock, a concealed-weapons permit holder, pulled out a .38 Taurus Ultralight Special Revolver.

He fired one round, hitting White in the lower torso. The men grappled and the gun fired again, hitting White in roughly the same spot, police said.

One bullet lodged in a wall in the restaurant, which was occupied by at least two other people. After the shooting, both men went outside and waited for police. Jock told officers the shooting was justified under "stand your ground," Puetz said.

"He felt he was in his rights," Puetz said. "He brought it up specifically and cited it to the officer."

He told officers he feared for his life. He mentioned that he thought White had an object in his hand, then backed off that when officers pressed him. Florida's "stand your ground law" says people are not required to retreat before using deadly force.

"We determined it did not reach a level where deadly force was required," Puetz said.

Police arrested Jock on charges of aggravated battery with a weapon and shooting within a building. He was released from jail on $20,000 bail.

Jock told the Tampa Bay Times he was meeting with a lawyer today, but declined further comment. White was treated at Bayfront Medical Center and released. Reached by phone Monday night, he said he felt lucky to be alive. He was also angry.

"There are arguments every day, but how many people pull out a gun? When you pull a gun out and shoot somebody, your life better be in danger," White said. "He was in my face and I pushed him. His life was not being threatened."

White said he got mad because his thin-crust vegetable pie was taking longer than the 10 minutes he was promised. "Twenty minutes later, I'm like, 'Where's my pizza?' " White said.

White, who admitted he was tired and agitated, started talking about the service. That's when he said Jock "started chewing me out."

Time for me to walk on down the road…

White said the gun came out quickly. A shot rang out. The two men wrestled for the gun before the second shot was fired. White said he still has a bullet fragment in his back.

"I got lucky," he said. "To me, that stand your ground rule … people are twisting it. He's twisting it. I walked in to get a pizza and I got shot … I'm hoping the law prevails. We'll see." (Source)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It took cooperation to keep newsman's disappearance secret

Good Day World!

Not too many journalists can do what Richard Engel does. Operating in war zones takes a person with steady nerves and no fear.

Few newsmen know more about the Middle East. Engel loves what he does. As a journalist myself, I have tremendous respect for his dedication to the profession.

Getting the story often calls for sacrifice. Engel was lucky this time, he got away from his captors. Let’s hope he doesn’t have to make the ultimate sacrifice for a story some day.

  “NBC was able to keep the abduction of chief Middle East correspondent Richard Engel in Syria largely a secret until he escaped late Monday because it persuaded some of this country's most prominent news organizations to hold back on the story.

Otherwise, the disappearance of Engel — probably the most high-profile international television reporter on a U.S. network — would have been big news.

Photo: In this image made from video, NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, right, shakes hands with an unidentified person after crossing back into Turkey, after they were freed unharmed following a firefight at a checkpoint after five days of captivity inside Syria, in Cilvegozu, Turkey, Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012. Engel told the Turkish news agency Anadolu that he and his colleagues are "very happy to be out" and they are "very tired." (AP Photo/Anadolu via AP TV) TURKEY OUT, TV OUT

Engel and three colleagues, producers Ghazi Balkiz and Aziz Akyavas and photographer John Kooistra, escaped during a firefight between rebels and their captors, forces sympathetic to the Syrian government. The journalists were dragged from their , kept bound and blindfolded and threatened with death.

NBC said it did not know what had happened to the men until after their escape. The first sign of trouble came last Thursday, when Engel did not check back with his office at an agreed-upon time.

The learned of Engel's disappearance independently and was asked to keep the news quiet upon contacting NBC, said John Daniszewski, the AP's vice president and senior managing editor.

"A general principle of our reporting is that we don't want to write stories that are going to endanger the lives of the people that we are writing about," Daniszewski said. The first few days after an abduction are often crucial to securing the captive's release.

In any case, he said, the AP never had enough information to report to its standards. "The fragmentary information we did receive was not solid or sourced in a way we could use. We had no actual news to report until they got out on Tuesday and NBC went public with the story," he said.

CBS News also said that it had honored NBC's request, but a spokeswoman declined to discuss it. ABC, Fox News and CNN were also contacted by NBC.

CNN, in an editor's note affixed to a website story on Engel's escape, noted NBC's request. CNN said it complied to allow fact-finding and negotiations to free the captors before it became a worldwide story.

"Hostage negotiators say that once the global spotlight is on the missing, the hostages' value soars, making it much harder to negotiate their freedom," CNN said.

For similar reasons, the AP did not report its own news several years ago when a photographer was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip, securing his release within a day. In one celebrated case of secrecy, The New York Times withheld news that reporter David Rohde was kidnapped while trying to make contact with a Taliban commander in Afghanistan. Rohde escaped after seven months in captivity.

It wasn't clear whether Engel's abductors knew what they had at the time. That knowledge, CNN argued, could have greatly complicated any negotiations. In this case, the captors did not make any ransom demands during the time he was missing.

This isn't simply a professional courtesy; the AP has withheld news involving overseas contractors in the past, Daniszewski said. For similar reasons, the organization does not reveal details of military or police actions it learns about beforehand if the news will put people at risk, and doesn't write about leaders heading into war zones until they are safely there.

Still, it's not a decision lightly taken by news organizations. "The obligation of journalists is to report information, not withhold it, except in exceptional circumstances," said Robert Steele, a journalism ethics professor at DePauw University.

The news that Engel was missing was first reported Monday by Turkish journalists who had heard about Akyavas' involvement, and was picked up by the U.S. website In explaining why the news was reported, Gawker's John Cook wrote that no one had told him of a specific or even general threat to Engel's safety.

"I would not have written a post if someone had told me that there was a reasonable or even remote suspicion that anything specific would happen if I wrote the post," Cook wrote.

He also noted that China's Xinhua News Agency and the Breitbart website had also reported on Engel's disappearance. Breitbart's John Nolte attached a note to his report saying that he wasn't even aware of any news embargo until after hearing that Engel had been released.

The news was also tweeted by a small number of journalists, apparently unaware of the embargo request.

Whether a disappearance has become widely known could influence a decision by AP on whether to withhold the news, Daniszewski said. In this case, it wasn't clear that it had been widely circulated, he said.” (Source)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Toys From Hell: Another firetrap just waiting to happen

The tragic fire that raged out of control on Saturday evening of November 24 at the Tazreen Fashion garment factory in Bangladesh resulted in the needless and horrible deaths of at least 112 workers.

Fifty-three workers, and possibly more, were burned beyond recognition and their parents had to bury their children in a common grave.  Wal-Mart and Disney garments were being sewn at Tazreen where the fire burned for 12 hours.

  Tazreen was a deathtrap, a tragedy waiting to happen — with no exterior fire escapes, no sprinkler system, with fire extinguishers that did not work, and locked windows at gates that trapped the workers.  The only stairways led down to the inferno — the ground-floor warehouse piled to the ceiling with fabric, yarn, garments and accessories.

Now, just three weeks later, on December 17, 2012, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights is releasing a new report that places Wal-Mart and Disney smack in the middle of another factory where emergency exits and fire extinguishers are blocked, while piles of flammable fabric, cotton, wool, yarns, thread and shipping materials reach to the ceiling.

At the Dream International Toy Factory in Shenzhen, China, the workers we spoke with told us that there had never been a fire drill in their crowded dorms.  In addition to being a fire trap that could endanger the lives of over 2,000 workers, everything about Dream International is illegal.  It is a sweatshop where every single labor law in China is violated, not to mention the International Labour Organization’s internationally recognized worker rights standards.

Is this how Wal-Mart and Disney are beefing up their fire safety standards, fair wages and respect for worker rights after the tragedy at Tazreen?  If so, they are failing miserably.

This year, and especially during the holiday season, China will ship over $23 billion worth of toys and sporting goods to the U.S., which were made by an estimated three million workers, mostly women, who toil shifts of 12-plus hours in some 8,000 sweatshop factories across China.  And this has been going on for well over 20 years.

Every year, the American people buy these toys and sporting goods.  But isn’t it a little odd that we have never, not even once, had the chance to meet with even a handful of the workers in China who make the goods we buy?  We know nothing about their lives — how many hours they work, what they are paid, if their human rights are respected....and what their hopes and dreams are.

It is not by chance that we know nothing about the Chinese workers and the Chinese workers know nothing about us.  This is how Wal-Mart, Disney and the other corporations want it to be.  We are not supposed to know about the grueling overtime hours in China, the dollar-an-hour wages, the miserable and primitive dorm conditions, and the lack of worker rights, religious and political freedoms.

There is one way we can stand up for ourselves, and for the workers in China and across the world.  You know that corporations like Wal-Mart and Disney enjoy the benefit of all sorts of enforceable laws — intellectual property and copyright laws to protect their trademarks and designs.  If anyone tries to make a knock-off of Mickey Mouse, that person will face some very serious jail time.

But if Mickey Mouse is protected, by enforceable laws backed up by sanctions, why is it that the worker who makes Mickey Mouse has no legal rights.

The answer is simple, while the corporations have all sorts of enforceable laws to protect their trademarks and products, these same corporations, including Wal-Mart and Disney, refuse to extend these legal protections to workers.

Please check out the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act, which was supported in 2007-2008 by 175 members of the House of Representatives and 26 Senators including then-Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.  This legislation would prohibit the import, export and sale of sweatshop products in the United States.

his would be a wake-up call to Wal-Mart, Disney and the other multinationals.  Their sweatshop joyride may be coming to an end.  It is up to the American people to decide.  In fact, a Harris Poll showed that over 75 percent of Americans supported this legislation!

We, the American people, need to take back our economy and remake it with a human face.

Read the Institute’s new report on Dream International in China:

Wal-Mart and Disney, Toys from Hell - Html

There are no laws of gravity for Spider Kitty!

Look! It’s Spider Kitty!
Whoa there! Whoa there, buddy. There are certain laws regarding gravity and you not having wings that need to be addressed. We're sure you get super excited chasing the Mysterious Red Dot but that doesn't mean you can turn our minds inside out running straight up a wall and practically all the way to the ceiling. Do you hear your owner laughing? That's the shocked yet fearful laugh of someone who is never going to be late with your can of cat food again because you just showed her you basically have superpowers. Don't abuse them, Spider cat. With great power comes great responsibility. (Source)

Have you ever wondered if reality is unreal? Scientists work on a way to find out

Image: "Final Flight of the Osiris"

      Good Day World!

 Testing! Testing! Are you really reading this? Are you sitting behind a computer? What world are you from?

Try not to become too alarmed. These are just basic questions that need to be asked. A virtual reality check if you will.

Are we all just pawns in a game of space chess? Players in a cosmic video game? Some scientists got together a while back and asked all of these questions. Then they set out to answer them. The following article will give you something to think about…for real:   

 Photo:A crew member of the Osiris hovercraft is surrounded by monitors in an animated film based on "The Matrix." The "Matrix" film series suggested that our everyday experience is basically a computer simulation. Researchers are now proposing a way to test that way-out hypothesis.Warner Bros.

What if everything — all of us, the world, the universe — was not real? What if everything we are, know and do was really just someone's computer simulation?

The notion that our reality was some kid on a couch in the far future playing with a computer game like a gigantic Sim City, or Civilization, and we are the player's characters, isn't new. But some physicists now think they know of a way to test the concept. Three of them propose to test reality by simulating the simulators.

Martin Savage, professor of physics at the University of Washington, Zohreh Davoudi, one of his graduate students, and Silas Beane of the University of New Hampshire would like to see whether they can find traces of simulation in cosmic rays. The work was uploaded in arXiv, an online archive for drafts of academic research papers.

The notion that reality is something other than we think it is goes far back in philosophy, including Plato and his Parable of the Cave, which claimed reality was merely shadows of real objects on a cave wall. Sixteenth-century philosopher-mathematician René Descartes thought he proved reality with his famous "I think, therefore I am," which proposed that he was real and his thoughts had a reality.

Then, in 2003, a British philosopher, Nick Bostrom of the University of Oxford, published a paper that had the philosophy and computer science departments buzzing.

The Matrix hypothesis
Bostrom suggested three possibilities: "The chances that a species at our current level of development can avoid going extinct before becoming technologically mature is negligibly small," "almost no technologically mature civilizations are interested in running computer simulations of minds like ours,” or we are "almost certainly" a simulation.

All three could be equally possible, he wrote, but if the first two are false, the third must be true. "There will be an astronomically huge number of simulated minds like ours," Bostrom wrote.

His suggestion was that our descendants, far in the future, would have the computer capacity to run simulations that complex, and that there might be millions of simulations, and millions of virtual universes with billions of simulated brains in them.

Bostrom's paper came out four years after the popular film, "The Matrix," in which humans discover they were simulations run by malevolent machines. The popularity of the film possibly contributed to the attention to Bostrom’s paper received at the time, but nothing came of it.

"He put it together in clear terms and came out with probabilities of what is likely and what is not," Savage said. "He crystallized it, at least in my mind."

Looking for anomalies
In the movie and in Savage's proposal, the discovery that reality was virtual came when unexpected errors showed up in life, demonstrating imperfections in the simulation.

Savage and his colleagues assume that any future simulators would use some of the same techniques current scientists use to run simulations, with the same constraints. The future simulators, Savage indicated, would map their universe on a mathematical lattice or grid, consisting of points and lines. This would not be an everyday grid but a "hypercube" consisting of four dimensions, three for space, and one to represent points in time.

A present-day example is lattice quantum chromodynamics, which explores the effects of the strong nuclear force, one of the four fundamental forces in the universe, on tiny elementary particles such as quarks and gluons. In this approach, the particles jump from point to point on a grid, without passing through the space between them. The simulations cause time to pass in a similar way, like the frames of film passing through a movie camera, so that the time that passed between frames is not part of the simulation. This style of simulation requires less computer power than treating space and time as a continuum.

Because Savage and his colleague assume that future simulators will use a similar approach, he suggests looking at the behavior of very high-energy cosmic ray particles to see whether there is a grid in the energy as a start.

"You look at the very highest-energy cosmic rays and look for distributions that have symmetry problems, which are not isotropic," or the same in every direction, he said.

"Everything looks like it is on a continuum,” Savage said. "There is no evidence to show that is not the case at the moment. We are looking for something to indicate you don't have a space-time continuum."

Disturbance in the force
That disturbance in the force might be a hint that something in reality is amiss. If the cosmic ray energy levels travel along the grid, like following streets in Manhattan or Salt Lake City, it probably is unlikely to be a simulation; if they unexpectedly travel diagonally, reality may be a computer program.

Jim Kakalios, a physics professor at the University of Minnesota who was not involved in the paper, said a test such as the one Savage suggests may not prove anything. If they don't find the signatures, it doesn't mean we are not a simulation; our descendants could have used a different grid. If they do find something it also could mean “that's the way space-time is and we never noticed before,” he said.

Two other questions arise. One is whether it is conceivable that computers powerful enough to simulate our hugely complex universe ever will exist. If so, it likely will be very far in the future.

The second question is linked: Will it ever be possible to simulate human consciousness? After all, we run around thinking and feeling.

"Ultimately, the paper glides over the most interesting point: assume we have infinite computing power and we can create this hypercube," Kakalios said. "They assume [the simulators] would know how to simulate human consciousness."

We are aware of ourselves, he said, aware of our bodies, aware of what is outside of our bodies, he said. Human consciousness is almost indescribably complex.

For generations, science-fiction books — and some science books — have hypothesized inserting our consciousness into computers so that we essentially live forever. In "Caprica," a prequel to the television program "Battlestar Galactica," a girl's consciousness is preserved in a computer — and it becomes the basis for the evil cyborgs.

"We don't understand consciousness,” Kakalios said. "Neuroscience is where physics was before quantum mechanics. It's a more interesting problem than whether you can simulate protons and quarks."

Either way, however, Kakalios said the experiments on cosmic rays are the kinds of projects scientists should be doing, regardless of the simulation issue.

Joel Shurkin is a freelance writer based in Baltimore. He is the author of nine books on science and the history of science, and has taught science journalism at Stanford University, the University of California at Santa Cruz and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

This report was originally published Dec. 14 by Inside Science News Service as "What If Reality Was Really Just Sim Universe?"

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Monday, December 17, 2012

What Me Worry? Mexico's Maya face Dec. 21 with ancestral calm

Image: Maya ceremony

     Good Day World!

 The way I figure it, if the Maya’s are cool with December 21st coming and going then I should be. Not that I ever really believed the world was coming to an end on that day.

It’s been interesting reading all the crazy articles associated with this apocalypse theory. In four more days it’ll no longer be a subject of conversation.

So to recap, for those of you who haven’t been reading all those apocalyptic stories the following article provides some good backround:

Photo:Two Maya priests hold a water blessing ceremony at the Noc Ac cenote — a natural deep deposit of water — in the Mexican town of the same name on Saturday. The ceremony was part of a Maya cultural festival to celebrate the end of a cycle in the Maya Long Count calendar, and the beginning of a new era. Luis Perez  /  AFP - Getty Images

“Amid a worldwide frenzy of advertisers and new-agers preparing for a Maya apocalypse, one group is approaching Dec. 21 with calm and equanimity — the people whose ancestors supposedly made the prediction in the first place.

Mexico's 800,000 Maya Indians are not the sinister, secretive, apocalypse-obsessed race they've been made out to be.

In their heartland on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, the Maya continue their daily lives, industriously pedaling three-wheeled bikes laden with family members and animal fodder down table-flat roads. They tell rhyming off-color jokes at dances, and pull chairs out onto the sidewalk in the evening to chat and enjoy the relative cool after a hot day.

Many still live simply in thatched, oval, mud-and-stick houses designed mostly for natural air conditioning against the oppressive heat of the Yucatan, where they plant corn, harvest oranges and raise pigs.

When asked about the end next week of a major cycle in the 5,125-year Mayan Long Count calendar, a period known as the 13th Baktun, many respond with a healthy dose of homespun Maya philosophy.

"We don't know if the world is going to end," said Liborio Yeh Kinil, a 62-year-old who can usually be found sitting on a chair outside his small grocery store at the corner of the grassy central square of the town of Uh-May in Quintana Roo state. "Remember 2006, and the '6-6-6' (June 6, 2006): A lot of people thought something was going to happen, and Image: Maya displaynothing happened after all."

Reflecting a world view with roots as old as the nearby Ceiba tree, or Yax-che, the tree of life for the ancient Maya, Yeh Kinil added: "Why get panicky? If something is going to happen, it's going to happen."

Photo: Students learn about the Maya at the Museum of National Identity in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Friday. The beginning of a new Maya era on Dec. 21 will be marked with celebrations throughout southern Mexico and Central America. Honduras is one of five countries preparing to observe the date.Orlando Sierra  /  AFP - Getty Images

A chorus of books and movies has sought to link the Maya calendar to rumors of impending disasters ranging from rogue black holes and solar storms to the idea that the Earth's magnetic field could "flip" on that date.

Archaeologists say there is no evidence the Maya ever made any such a prophecy. Indeed, the average Maya probably never used the Long Count calendar, neither today nor at the culture's peak between the year 300 and 600. The long count was reserved for priests and astronomers, while Maya villagers typically measure time as farmers tend to do — by planting seasons and monthly lunar cycles.

Maya priests, or shamans, at the temple of the Talking Crosses in the town of Felipe Carrillo Puerto say they don't know when, or if, the world will end. The church was the focus and last bastion of the 1847-1901 Maya uprising in Mexico and perhaps the most sacred site for average Maya. Its name comes from the conspirators who hid behind the crosses and whispered instructions to incite the revolt.

Maya priest and farmer Petronilo Acevedo Pena says God may punish humanity someday, because people have stopped going to church.

"When people planted their corn fields 50 years ago, everybody from all the towns around would pray" for good harvests, he said. "But when the government started giving out aid, seeds and fertilizer ... what do the people do now? They go to the government to ask for help."

One beer-company billboard near the resort of Tulum proclaims, "2012 isn't the end, it's just the beginning — of the party!"

The Mexico subsidiary of Renault is running "end of the world" promotions with interest-free loans for car sales: "Given that the world is ending, we're ending interest rates!"

Oprah Winfrey's website got into the act by publishing a list of "Apocalypse Dinners." It says: "Whether the world is really ending or whether you're just having a busy week, these six make-ahead meals from cookbook author Lidia Bastianich freeze well and feed many."

The Caribbean coast resort of Xcaret issued "million-dollar reward" certificates for anybody who survives the end of the world. "In case the world ends on Dec. 21, 2012, the beneficiary must be in Xcaret the day after the cataclysmic event with a valid photo ID in order to request payment," the certificate reads. "In case the world comes to an end, the beneficiary will be fully responsible for repopulating the world."

Sandos Hotels and Resorts, a Spanish-owned all-inclusive resort chain, is promoting a "New Era" celebration at its Sandos Caracol hotel in Playa de Carmen, near Tulum. "We invite guests to celebrate a transition to the beginning of what we, and many Mayan leaders and scholars hope will evolve into a new era of environmental sustainability and cultural consciousness," the hotel's website says.

Image: TouristsPhoto: A man dressed as a Mayan warrior delivers a life certificate for $1 million, to be paid in case the world comes to an end, to tourists posing for a photo at the Xcaret theme park in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, on Saturday. Israel Leal/AP

New Age expectations
Expectations are also running high in New Age circles.

Shantal Carrillo helps her mother, The Venerable Mother Nah-Kin, run the Kinich-Ahau spiritual center in Merida, and hopes to lead hundreds of people in an energy-renewing ceremony at the "dawn of the new era" at the Maya ruins of Uxmal. They hope Uxmal, whose rounded-edge pyramid is unique in the Maya world, will act as an "antenna" for cosmic energy.

"We have performed ceremonies for many years to reactivate the pyramid at Uxmal as an antenna, because it had been unused for many years," said Carrillo, who expects Dec. 21 "to give the world an injection of this energy" by having hundreds of people hold hands at the foot of the pyramid.

It's unclear whether archaeological authorities will allow such ceremonies.

Jose May, of the Merida tourism office, expects all of the city's hotel rooms to be full Dec. 21.

"I'm worried that there are going to be more people than (hotel) rooms," he said. "The people who are coming are basically spiritual, and that could be a problem as well, because those people like to form circles to receive energy, and there is no way to reserve space for that kind of thing at the ruin sites."

Moises Rozanes, who runs the run-down Hostal Zocalo in an old building on Merida's main square, says he once saw a flying saucer and spoke with an extraterrestrial who identified himself as Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec equivalent of the chief Maya god, Kukulkan, the bringer of wisdom.

He "told me the world was going to change, but he didn't say when," Rozanes said, recalling the 1997 encounter. He doesn't know what's going to happen Dec. 21, but is happy his hotel is getting business. "Everything's filling up" as far as bookings for the date, he said.

In all the fervor, Mayas rely on an ancestral calm built of good humor, calmness and the fact that it's too hot to get all worked up about things.


"The world is going to end, but we don't know when it will end, nobody ever gave a date," said Acevedo Pena. "They said it would be in 2000, but nothing happened."

Doomsday ads
Still, advertisers are running wild with the doomsday theme.

One beer-company billboard near the resort of Tulum proclaims, "2012 isn't the end, it's just the beginning — of the party!"

The Mexico subsidiary of Renault is running "end of the world" promotions with interest-free loans for car sales: "Given that the world is ending, we're ending interest rates!"

Oprah Winfrey's website got into the act by publishing a list of "Apocalypse Dinners." It says: "Whether the world is really ending or whether you're just having a busy week, these six make-ahead meals from cookbook author Lidia Bastianich freeze well and feed many."

The Caribbean coast resort of Xcaret issued "million-dollar reward" certificates for anybody who survives the end of the world. "In case the world ends on Dec. 21, 2012, the beneficiary must be in Xcaret the day after the cataclysmic event with a valid photo ID in order to request payment," the certificate reads. "In case the world comes to an end, the beneficiary will be fully responsible for repopulating the world."

Sandos Hotels and Resorts, a Spanish-owned all-inclusive resort chain, is promoting a "New Era" celebration at its Sandos Caracol hotel in Playa de Carmen, near Tulum. "We invite guests to celebrate a transition to the beginning of what we, and many Mayan leaders and scholars hope will evolve into a new era of environmental sustainability and cultural consciousness," the hotel's website says.

New Age expectations
Expectations are also running high in New Age circles.

Shantal Carrillo helps her mother, The Venerable Mother Nah-Kin, run the Kinich-Ahau spiritual center in Merida, and hopes to lead hundreds of people in an energy-renewing ceremony at the "dawn of the new era" at the Maya ruins of Uxmal. They hope Uxmal, whose rounded-edge pyramid is unique in the Maya world, will act as an "antenna" for cosmic energy.

"We have performed ceremonies for many years to reactivate the pyramid at Uxmal as an antenna, because it had been unused for many years," said Carrillo, who expects Dec. 21 "to give the world an injection of this energy" by having hundreds of people hold hands at the foot of the pyramid.

It's unclear whether archaeological authorities will allow such ceremonies. Jose May, of the Merida tourism office, expects all of the city's hotel rooms to be full Dec. 21.

"I'm worried that there are going to be more people than (hotel) rooms," he said. "The people who are coming are basically spiritual, and that could be a problem as well, because those people like to form circles to receive energy, and there is no way to reserve space for that kind of thing at the ruin sites."

Moises Rozanes, who runs the run-down Hostal Zocalo in an old building on Merida's main square, says he once saw a flying saucer and spoke with an extraterrestrial who identified himself as Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec equivalent of the chief Maya god, Kukulkan, the bringer of wisdom.

He "told me the world was going to change, but he didn't say when," Rozanes said, recalling the 1997 encounter. He doesn't know what's going to happen Dec. 21, but is happy his hotel is getting business. "Everything's filling up" as far as bookings for the date, he said.

In all the fervor, Mayas rely on an ancestral calm built of good humor, calmness and the fact that it's too hot to get all worked up about things.” (source)

Time for me to walk on down the road…

Sunday, December 16, 2012

AS IT STANDS: Seasonal greetings, humor, and a holiday miracle

    By Dave Stancliff/For The Times-Standard
    Nine more days until Christmas. Holiday shoppers are desperately racing against time. Long lines twisting through stores like snakes are common. Malls across the country are blare Christmas music in a not so subtle attempt to get people into the spirit of the season.
    Many are totally engaged in the holiday season and take advantage of the craziness it offers. For them, magic is in the air. Snow globes decorate homes decked with boughs of holly and images of Santa Claus in his sleigh or going down chimneys.
   Small children, always optimistic, believe in Santa Claus until someone older tells them differently. Random acts of kindness. Santa Clauses sit in stores for hours, patiently listening to children’s wishes.    
    Funny jokes. Did you hear the one about the judge and the prisoner?
    It was just before Christmas and the judge was in a good mood. He asked the prisoner  in the dock, 'What are you charged with?'
The prisoner replied, 'Doing my Christmas shopping too early.'
'That's no crime', said the judge. 'Just how early were you doing this shopping?'
'Before the shop opened', answered the prisoner.

   Normally, around this time of the year waiting in a long post office line of people with last minute packages to send, is stressful. Still there are funny moments.
    I saw a lady in the Post Office the other day buying stamps for her Christmas cards. The clerk asked her, “What denomination?”
    “Oh good grief! Have we come to this?” she asked. “Well, I guess I’ll take 50 Methodist and 50 Catholic ones.”
    The really cute stories always seem to involve children asking Santa to bring them something for Christmas. I’ve really heard some funny lines. When my three sons were of that age I wish I would have recorded some of their requests. More than one Santa raised his eyes in alarm!
    Here’s a good story I ran across:
    As a little girl climbed onto Santa's lap, Santa asked the usual, "And what would you like for Christmas?"
   The child stared at him open mouthed and horrified for a minute, then gasped: "Didn't you get my E-mail?" Talk about signs of the times.
   ‘Tis the season to be jolly. For many Americans, Christmas is all about the birth of Jesus. Church activities blend seamlessly into the season as celebrations lead up to Christmas Day.
   By the way, do you know why Santa Claus always comes down the chimney?
Answer: Because it soots him! It must be true. When I read the “Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore to my grandchildren, their favorite part is when he pops out of that chimney with all those toys!
    Then there are Christmas miracles. Here’s one from last year:
   When 5-year-old Helen Berence Reyes Cardenas released two balloons into the sky on December 2nd from her Auburn, Washington yard, she hoped they would catch a breeze and sail straight to the North Pole. With the balloons, Helen released her silent hopes for a better year for her family. It had been a hard year for all of them.

   Despite the balloons taking a far more southern course than hoped, one of the two balloons with her Christmas list attached would appear to have made its way into Santa’s hands.

In the ranch town of Laytonville, California, Julie Sanders and her son were out on their quad runners when they came across Helen’s now-deflated balloon, and the note. “The fact that she asked for a doll, some pants, boots and nothing materialistic,” said Sanders to ABC News, told her all she needed to know about Helen and her family, over 700 miles away. “I just knew it was a family in need.”
Sanders called the phone number Helen had listed in her note, and discovered the issues leading to the family’s financial hardships. A family friend told her that Laytonville was a mill town, and had recently known hard times.
    The Sanders traveled over 50 miles to the nearest mall, purchased Helen some special outfits and toys to enjoy, and shipped them “from Santa,” just in time for the Reyes family to place them under the Christmas tree. (This story was originally posted by Steve Woods on Technorati, Dec. 5, 2011.)
    As It Stands, Christmas is a time for miracles, like peace and goodwill on earth.   

GOP Governors Unite in Fight to Stop Unions in their States

Six Republican Governors have gathered to warn their residents against the evils of unionization which they claim would threaten their jobs...