Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Phoenix Pastor Abusing Girls For Years

Jose Vicente Morales. Pastor of the Iglesia Cristiana Impacto de Fe, Poenix, Arizona
Phoenix pastor sentenced to prison for molesting underage girls.

I'm not sure if this will give Catholics any comfort, but it seems their priests are not the only ones who use the trusted access their position gives them to abuse minors and vulnerable adults.

51 year-old Jose Vicente Morales, pastor of the Iglesia Cristiana Impacto de Fe, a small, primarily Spanish-speaking church in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, was doing exactly that throughout the 1990 and again between 2007 and 2011.

He was sentenced to 12 year in prison followed by a life-time on probation by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Warren Granville, last Monday, having been arrested in 2016. His offences came to light when one of his victims, then aged 17, began self-harming and told her mother that Morales had been sexually abusing her since the age of 12. Another victim gave evidence that he sexually abused her regularly when she was between the ages of 7 and 12. Her mother was also sexually abused Morales when she was a child.

Pando - Something for Creationists to Ponder

Pando, the Word’s Heaviest Organism, is an Ever-Growing Witness of an Ancient Earth – Naturalis Historia

What is the world's oldest living and almost certainly the heaviest organism?

No it's not the blue whale, a mere minnow by comparison, or 'Methuselah', the 4850 year-old bristlecone pine tree from California and nor is it General Sherman, the giant sequoia or redwood tree.

It is in fact, Pando, a clone of trembling aspen, Populus tremuloides, around Fish Lake in Central Utah, USA. It gets its name from the Spanish for 'I spread' because of the extensive spread of what has been shown to be a clone of all males trees (so they can only reproduce vegetatively, by root suckers). The total weight of this organism is estimated to be 13 million pounds (5900 metric tonnes).

Pope's Popularity Takes a Tumble

Pope Francis Favorability Down Sharply in U.S. | Gallop.

Although Pope Francis still maintains a positive approval rating amongst Americans, the 53% approval recorded by Gallop between 4-12 September this year masks what amounts to a major shift in perception of his 'approvability' by non-Catholic Americans.

Amongst this group his approval has fallen 18 percentage points in the month since the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, from 63% (and from a high of 72% recorded in February 2014), to the present low of 45%.

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

174 Million Year-Old Dinosaur Fossil Adds New Information

Artist's impression of dinosaur Lingwulong shenqi
Credit: Zhang Zongda
A new Middle Jurassic diplodocoid suggests an earlier dispersal and diversification of sauropod dinosaurs | Nature Communications

From this week's research papers we have a very nice example of how science is an ever developing picture of reality and a very nice example of a new species of dinosaur.

Despite the sensational headlines, this one doesn't really mean we have to forget everything we ever thought we knew; nor does it mean all the textbooks are going to need to be re-written. It means that what we thought we knew turns out to be not quite right and maybe a paragraph or two will need to be added or altered in the next edition of a book on the evolution of the sauropod dinosaurs.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Another Bishop Resigns

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, under investigation
Pope accepts resignation of US bishop accused of sexual harassment | CatholicHerald.co.uk

Only hours after announcing an investigation into 'financial irregularities' (i.e fraud, embezzlement and money-laundering) in the running of the Sistine Chapel Choir, Pope Francis had to accept the resignation of yet another bishop involved in a sexual abuse scandal.

This time, as the self-inflicted implosion in the American Catholic Church gathers pace, the bishop to offer his resignation is Bishop Michael Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia. In a slightly unusual and somewhat refreshing variation on the usual sexual abuse and coverup scandal, Bishop Bransfield's victims were adults whom he allegedly sexually harassed.

Discord in the Vatican as Sistine Choir is Investigated

Don Perosi with his scuola di canto (singschool) c. 1905.
Source: Wikipedia
Sistine Chapel Choir under investigation for money laundering | World news | The Guardian

"When sorrows come they come not single spies but in battalions." (Hamlet Act IV, Scene V)

"To be or not to be? That is the question. Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them." (Hamlet Act III, Scene I)

"Get thee to a nunnery; why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?" (Hamlet Act III, Scene I)

As poor Pope Francis contemplates the advancing battalions of sorrows and tries to work out whether and how to take up arms against then or suffer yet more slings and arrows, taking himself off to a nunnery must seem like a tempting option.

This time, it's not yet another few hundred of his priests, bishops and cardinals exposed for routine abuse of another thousand or two children and concealing crimes from the law enforcement and child protection authorities; it's something much closer to home involving choir boys - in the Sistine Chapel Choir.

New Jersey Catholic Abuse Hotline Swamped

New Jersey Atorney General, Gurbir S. Grewal
"We're not going to protect those individuals who perpetrated these crimes any more."
New Jersey Priest Abuse Hotline Gets So Many Calls That People Can’t Get Through | David G. McAfee.

In a measure of the scale of the problem, the hotline established in New Jersey for reporting cases of Catholic priests abusing children and vulnerable adults was so overwhelmed with calls in the first few hours that people found it difficult to get through. Extra staff were brought in to cope.

According to this report, calls to the toll-free hotline number (855) 363-6548, are now being answered promptly.

The hotline was established by the office of Attorney General, Gurbir S. Grewal, who has set up a taskforce to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the state of New Jersey, following the shocking Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, which revealed abuse by predatory paedophile priests and routine cover-up on a massive scale in every diocese in the state.

Spokesperson for the New Jersey Criminal Justice Department, Peter Aseltine, acknowledged the problem and explained that some calls were reporting multiple instances of abuse.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

I Learned Something New Today

Leo Behe
I learned something new today; something I should have known but which had obviously passed me by unnoticed.

It's not something I'm proud of; I should have known and I'm ashamed I didn't! I have learned my lesson, reflected on my failure and will try harder in future.

I learned that Michael J. Behe's son is an Atheist.

Michael J. Behe is of course the famous inventor of the notion of intelligent design for the Discovery Institute and notoriously pedals the idea relentlessly, pushing ideas that have been refuted and frequently making unsupported claims about science papers that the authors themselves refute. He is also notorious for what PZ Myers describes as the fireship for the creation industry, launched into the wind and causing court cases in which he is brought in as an expert witness for creationism to crash and burn.

Now it seems his son Leo doesn't believe a word of his claims either.

You can read his very thoughtful account of his journey from home-schooled indoctrinate Catholicism and Behe Snr's brand of creationism here. Below are just a few quotes to whet your appetites.

The Humanist: What role did religion play in your life and your family?

Behe: I was raised Roman Catholic, and I was always very comfortable with it. It was as natural to me as any other part of my education. I was always very active in my faith—I attended Mass every Sunday, sometimes more, and confessed my sins to a priest often. I was also very interested in apologetics; however, I generally focused on debating members of other faiths or denominations of Christianity. It did not occur to me until later in life to examine the reliability of the Bible, the infallibility of which my Christian opponents would always agree upon. Among my family, we would always hold to Catholic traditions such as nightly recitation of the rosary, and we always attended Mass together.

The Humanist: Your father is biochemist and intelligent design proponent Michael Behe. Did he teach you about science and how did this impact your thinking about the world?

Behe: I never considered biological science to be my forte; however, simply being around the house, I learned the basics of his views on evolution and his theory of irreducible complexity. I was already a firm believer in intelligent design given my Catholic faith, so his view of a natural process guided or aided by God made sense to me. It reinforced my belief that there was the mark of a sentient, intelligent designer in nature.



The Humanist: You’ve previously written that the first critique of religion you came across was Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. From that, you realized “how questionable religion might sound to some who had not grown up around it.” Why did you originally read Dawkins and what particularly in that book made you question religion?

Behe: There was a lot of buzz about The God Delusion back in 2008 when I read it, and it seemed to be having an impact on a lot of Christians’ faith. I had recently decided to turn my interest in apologetics toward atheism, and Dawkins’ bestseller seemed to be a good place to start. The God Delusion has been criticized for its allegedly infantile treatment of metaphysics, but that aspect of the book was not what originally challenged my faith. The point that hit me hardest while reading was the fallible origin of Scripture, which I had never considered (to my own surprise). That point in particular was what originally shook my specific faith—Catholicism—and planted seeds of skepticism, which continued to grow as I expanded my knowledge through other literary works on both sides of the issue.

The Humanist: How long was this transformation, and why didn’t your father’s ideas (or others) about intelligent design demonstrate proof of a “designer” or creator?

Behe: The journey from very devout Catholic to outspoken atheist took about six months total. Once my trust in the Bible was shaken, I still believed strongly in a theistic god, but I realized that I hadn’t sufficiently examined my beliefs. Over the next several months, my certainty of a sentient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity faded steadily. I believe that the loss of a specific creed was the tipping point for me. After I lost the element of trust—be it trust in the Bible, trust in a church, or trust in the Pope—I had no choice but to vindicate my own beliefs through research, literature, and countless hours of deep thought. It was then that my belief in any sort of God faded away gradually, and to this day I continue to find more and more convincing evidence against any sort of design or supernatural interference in the universe. As for the arguments from design, such as irreducible complexity or the so-called fine-tuning of the six cosmological constants, I have many reasons for dismissing them each in particular, but one overarching reason would be the common refutation of William Paley’s classic watchmaker argument—the only reason that complex objects appear to be designed is because we as humans create complex objects, and we then assume that complexity is indisputably indicative of a designer. This is an association we make only as a result of what our “common sense” tells us.



The Humanist: About your father, you previously blogged: “I believe that he does have doubts and does see conflicts between science and the Bible, and he therefore continues to reshape his faith so as to dodge those conflicts.” Why do you think he has doubts and why does he continue to reshape his faith?

Behe: I think that all scientists who hold to a particular religious creed must experience conflicts with their sacred texts and their scientific observations. I can’t speak for my father’s personal beliefs specifically, but I believe that the constant reinterpretation of sacred texts to correct conflicts between theological claims and scientific discoveries says something about the faith upon which those claims are based. For irreducible complexity particularly, the glaring inefficiencies apparent in life—along with a universe that appears more chaotic and indifferent the more we learn about it—will challenge the religious beliefs of any scientist and continue to force additional reinterpretations of sacred texts. It is my hope that eventually such texts will lose all credibility.



The Humanist: Other than your atheism, what would you like the public to know about you (or your family)?

Behe: I’m a very right-brained person. I enjoy the arts immensely—I play piano and sing along every day. I would like the American public to know that I (and all other atheists) are just as human as theists—we aren’t morally bankrupt or incapable of feeling hope or happiness. I’m a young adult like any other; I have dreams and ambitions. As for my family, we have our rough spots just like everyone else, but we’re still a family. We can get along, as can all atheists and theists with a little effort.

Leo Behe started a blog which he sadly seems to have discontinued. Nevertheless, his blog posts are well worth reading.

Enjoy!

Catholic Abuse News - Now It's The Dutch

Dutch Catholic church accused of widespread sexual abuse cover-up | World news | The Guardian.

The standard techniques of cover-up and concealment of clerical abuse of children was used extensively in the Netherlands, so a report in today's, Guardian claims.

Quoting a report in National Catholic Reporter, the report says that:

Over the course of 65 years, 20 of 39 Dutch cardinals, bishops and their auxiliaries “covered up sexual abuse, allowing the perpetrators to cause many more victims. Four [of them] abused children and 16 others allowed the transfer of paedophile priests who could have caused new victims in other parishes".

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Catholic Abuse News - Germans Do it Too

Cardinal Reinhard Marx
Working with PR advisers on best way to present the report.
Catholic Church in Germany: Study Counts 3677 Abuse Victims - SPIEGEL ONLINE

It might be some consolation to Catholics in the USA, Australia, Ireland, Chile, Mexico, etc, to know that their children are not the only ones at risk from predatory Catholic priests. According to a report in Spiegel Online (which suffers slightly from Google Translate), German children also are, and have been since at least 1946.

According to a confidential report leaked to Der Spiegel, between 1946 and 2014, 3677 mostly male children were molested by 1670 Catholic priests and the figure could be double that. More than half of the victims were aged 13 or less; one in six were raped and three quarters of them were in a church or pastoral relationship with their abuser.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Evolution of Social Insects

Ooceraea biroi clonal raider ants with larvae.
Photo: Romain Libbrecht
A study of ants provides information on the evolution of social insects.

Far from the forlorn claims of creationist that the Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis, as this recent paper shows, other than citing magic (which by making anything possible, makes any claim meaningless and useless), evolution is the only way to make sense of the natural world.

This example comes from the insect world and in particular the world of eusocial species of the insect sub-order, hymenoptera. It explains how some species of the bees, wasps and ants for colonies in which one female, or sometimes a small number of females, are the reproducing members of the colony while the vast bulk of the colony are sterile worker females.

Why this system arose is easy to explain in evolutionary terms - it gives more descendants. What has been harder to explain is just how this system arose. As the press release from Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany explained:

Thursday, 13 September 2018

"Satan Is Revealing Bishops' Crimes" - Pope Francis

"[The great accuser] seeks to reveal sins, which people can see, in order to scandalize the people."
Satan is attacking bishops; they must fight with prayer, pope says

In an astonishing statement in his morning homily last Tuesday, Pope Francis let slip his real attitude towards the deluge of child abuse and cover-up scandals now engulfing the Catholic Church worldwide. He blamed Satan, not for tempting the priests and bishop, but for revealing their crimes!

According to Catholic News:

In these times, Pope Francis said, it seems like the devil, "the great accuser, has been let loose and he's got it in for the bishops. True, there are, we are all sinners, we bishops."

The great accuser "seeks to reveal sins, which people can see, in order to scandalize the people" of God, he said in his homily during morning Mass at Domus Sanctae Marthae.

[My emphasis]


In other words, Pope "Uncle Frankie" Francis, who promised to purge the church of child abusers, compensate their victims and introduce reforms to prevent it happening again, now sees the exposure of these abusers as the work of Satan and a bad thing. By extension, continuing to cover up their crimes is now a virtuous struggle against Satan.

Most decent people would have assumed that exposing wrongdoing to give justice to the victims of crime and bring retribution on the criminal would be a good thing and what Jesus would want. Pope Francis now sees it as a great evil.

Continuing this theme, he went on to say:

[The great accuser] roams the world seeking how to blame. The strength of the bishop against the great accuser is prayer -- his own and Jesus', the humility to feel chosen and staying close to the people of God without heading toward an aristocratic life.


Maybe it's just the fear that he will be next following the claims by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò that Pope Francis himself knew of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick's crimes yet removed the restrictions he had been placed under by Pope Benedict XIV, promoted him to Cardinal and continued to cover for him. Whatever his motive, it now appears that Pope Francis sees investigations such as the Grand Jury investigation is Pennsylvania, the Australian Royal Commission, the Irish Cloyne Report and all those hundreds of investigations, commissions of enquiry and court cases now facing the Catholic Church and it's senior clerics on an unprecedented scale world-wide, as the work of Satan. He sees the agencies of law enforcement and child protection as Satanic and telling them the truth as a sin.

Does this signal to his bishops, archbishops and cardinals to revert to the previous policy of cover-up and non-cooperation with the 'Satanic' forces now setting up Pennsylvania-style investigations into Catholic diocese throughout America and elsewhere, and should the recent mobster-style warning by the newly-appointed Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera that victims of abuse should keep quiet of suffer the consequences, be seen in this context? Or does it merely reflects the muddled thinking and frustration of the do nothing Pope?

Either way, it must give a few crumbs of comfort to the bishops and cardinals now facing further exposure on the scale of (former) Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Cardinal Donald Wuerl, and Cardinal Pell about to face trial in Australia, to think that Pope Francis is on their side and sees keeping their crimes hidden from public view as fighting the good fight and resisting the dark forces of Satan trying to expose their crimes to public gaze.

As I said a few days ago, there are many in the Catholic Church who believe the good times are not over yet and the law of omerta that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XIV sought to impose, can be restored. Maybe the thought that he himself is about to be investigated has prompted Pope Francis' sudden change of mind, but any moral authority the Pope and the Catholic Church once laid claim to has now been flushed down the pan with the rest of their disgusting corruption and ordure.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

New Structure Evolved in Just 36 Years!

Italian Wall Lizard, Podarcis sicula
Rapid large-scale evolutionary divergence in morphology and performance associated with exploitation of a different dietary resource | PNAS

It's another one of those 'non-existent' things that creationists must dread being shown.

No. This time it's not yet another of those 'missing' transitional fossils or intermediate forms. This time it's yet another example of something else 'impossible' and 'never observed'. It's yet another example of observed rapid evolution, including the evolution of new structures.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Catholic Cardinal Warns Church Victims To Keep Quiet - Or Else!

New Cardinal Sergio Obeso Rivera, retired archbishop of Xalapa, Mexico, greets cardinals during a consistory at which Pope Francis created 14 new cardinals in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican June 28.
Credit: CNS photo/Paul Haring.
New cardinal: Abuse victims should be ‘ashamed’ to speak due to their own failings | News | LifeSite

You know, sometimes I worry that this blog is turning into a blog devoted to stories about yet another Catholic paedophile sexual abuse scandal and not the blog devoted to science and Atheism that I originally intended.

I sometime wonder if I could should ask the Pope to try to put a hold on these revelations, so we are not getting the several a day in the current torrent.

Then I realise that that's exactly what his cardinals and bishops have been trying to do for years now. In fact, it was Pope Francis' predecessor's job to try to keep the lid on them before he himself became Pope Benedict XIV and was accountable to Pope John Paul II, as his 'enforcer'.

Church of England Hits a New Low

The Anglican Church has been abandonned by the British
Church of England numbers at record low | NatCen Social Research

The latest British Social Attitudes Survey makes grim reading for the Church of England and hold few crumbs of comfort for leaders of other religions.

The most recent British Social Attitudes survey reveals that the number of Brits who identify as Church of England has more than halved since 2002, falling from 31% to 14%.The sharpest decline happened among 45 to 54 year olds (35% in 2002 vs 11% in 2017). The proportion of people who describe themselves as Roman Catholic (8%), belonging to ‘other Christian affiliations’ (10%) and ‘of non-Christian faiths’ (8%) have remained fairly stable. 52% of people now say they have no religion, compared with 41% in 2002. Men are more inclined to say they follow no religion than women (57% compared with 48%).

Friday, 7 September 2018

New York Catholics Under Investigation

Source
NY attorney general subpoenas state's Catholic dioceses in connection with sex abuse investigation - CNN

Following the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into Catholic clerical sexual abuse of minors, which revealed a horrific catalogue of abuse by some 300 priests of over 1000 children over 70 years, New York Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood has announced a state-wide investigation and issued subpoenas against all eight Catholic diocese.

The investigation is to be conducted by the Charities Department because churches are registered charities in New York.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

DNA Is Showing Ashkenazi Origins

Khazar Khaganate, 650–850
Ashkenazic Jews' mysterious origins unravelled by scientists thanks to ancient DNA

An item of news out today falls into three main categories I normally write about in this blog - anthropology, religion and politics.

It is news that Eran Elhaik, a lecturer in population, medical and evolutionary genomics at the University of Sheffield, UK, has written an article in the The Conversation on the origins of the Ashkenazi Jews. The Conversation describes itself as combining journalistic flair with academic rigour.

Firstly, I have to admit to some trepidation in tackling this subject, not so much because the political question of the State of Israel, it's legitimacy and its policies towards the Palestinian Arabs have been the subject of a summer-long controversy in the UK about where criticism of the Israeli government becomes antisemitic, but because of the vicious campaign of abuse I was subjected to some 25 years ago when I raised the subject of the origins of the Ashkenazim in an old CompuServe debate forum. I was accused of being a racist, a Fascist apologist, a Holocaust denier and worse, and even received veiled threats of violence.

The question I had raised was that raised by Arthur Koestler in his book The Thirteenth Tribe. Koestler had argued that the Ashkenazim were actually Turkic people from Central Asia who had settled near the Black Sea in the Early Middle Ages and had founded a state known as Khazaria, converted to Judaism, adopted Yiddish, a language with very many Low German and Slavonic words (but with few if any Hebrew words) with a Slavonic grammar. When Khazaria was overthrown and absorbed into Russia, the Ashkenazim had migrated into Eastern and Central Europe, especially Poland, Ukraine and Germany. Koestler, of German Jewish origins himself, was subjected to abuse and vilification at the time.

The reason this is a political issue with perceived overtones of antisemitism is because it questions the legitimacy of the claim by European Jews to a 'God-given' historical homeland in Palestine, from which they traditionally believe they were expelled by the Romans in or around 66 CE following the Jewish Revolt. Quite why is is perceived as racist is beyond me. One Rabbi with whom I had previously been on very friendly online terms, could not explain how suggesting that the Ashkenazim could be Turkic, not Hebrew was racist unless one assumes the Turks are inferior people - which is itself racist, and nonsensical.

The strength of feelings and emotions that colour and cloud the debate can be see in the comments to Eran Elhaik's article.

Given that background, it is interesting that this open access article in The Conversation gives considerable support to Koestler's proposition, based on genetic analysis.

...recent DNA analysis of Ashkenazic Jews – a Jewish ethnic group – revealed that their maternal line is European1. It has also been found that their DNA only has 3% ancient ancestry2 which links them with the Eastern Mediterranean (also known as the Middle East) – namely Israel, Lebanon, parts of Syria, and western Jordan. This is the part of the world Jewish people are said to have originally come from – according to the Old Testament. But 3% is a minuscule amount, and similar to what modern Europeans as a whole share with Neanderthals. So given that the genetic ancestry link is so low, Ashkenazic Jews most recent ancestors must be from elsewhere.

To understand why this is the case, we need to go back in time, to look at where these other ancestors came from. It starts in Persia (modern-day Iran) during the sixth century. This is where most of the world’s Jews were living at this time3.

The tolerance of the Persians encouraged the Jews to adopt Persian names, words, traditions, and religious practices, and climb up the social ladder gaining a monopoly on trade4. They also converted other people5 who were living along the Black Sea, to their Jewish faith. This helped to expand their global network6.

Among these converts were the Alans (Iranian nomadic pastoral people), Greeks, and Slavs who resided along the southern shores of the Black Sea. Upon conversion, they translated the Old Testament into Greek, built synagogues, and continued expanding the Jewish trade network.

DNA of Yiddish speakers could have originated from four ancient villages in northwest Turkey.
These Jews adopted the name Ashkenaz, and the DNA of Ashkenazic Jews can be traced to “Ancient Ashkenaz”4 – an intersection of trade routes in eastern Turkey.

We now know that at the time these Jews adopted the name Ashkenaz, they also acquired unique Asian mutations7 on their Y chromosome. This is where another important group of people in our story come into play – and they are called the Gok-Turks.

During the sixth century8, these nomadic people were ruled by a Siberian Turkic tribe called the Ashina. They were forced by the Chinese Tang Empire – who were in power in China at the time – to migrate westwards toward the Black Sea.

Thanks to their organisational and military skills, the Ashina united many tribes in this area – and a new empire called the “Khazar Khaganate” was born. Offering freedom of worship and taxing trade, these people quickly rose to power.

The Asian group of these DNA mutations9, found in Ashkenazic Jews, likely originated from the Ashina elite and other Khazar clans, who converted from Shamanism to Judaism. This means that the Ashina and core Khazar clans were absorbed by the Ashkenazic Jews.

It was also around this time that the Jewish elite adopted many Slavic customs. And based on my previous research, I would suggest that Yiddish was developed as a secret language to assist in trade4.

What happened next was that the Jewish empire began to collapse. By the tenth century, the Jews on the Black Sea migrated to Ukraine and Italy. Yiddish became the lingua franca of these Ashkenazic Jews and absorbed German words while maintaining the Slavic grammar10. And as global trade moved to the hands of the Italians, Dutch and English, the Jews were pushed aside.

What this all shows is that by using modern genetic technology – that enables scientists to track the past of modern-day people – a new appreciation for Jewish ancestry can be discovered.

It has meant a greater understanding of the journeys these people took to arrive in Europe. It has also allowed for increased knowledge as to the significant role the Ashina and the Khazar clans – from which some of the real Jewish patriarchs actually came from – played.

Eran Elhaik;
Ashkenazic Jews’ mysterious origins unravelled by scientists thanks to ancient DNA
The Conversation September 5, 2018


Copyright: © 2018 The Author
Published Open Access
Reprinted under the terms of a Creative Commons licence.

Genetic evidence is providing the definitive answer to these questions of origins, not cultural tradition and myths. Many of the facts such as the linguistic mixture of Slavonic and Low German and absence of Hebrew in Yiddish, and the distribution of the Ashkenazim (and the Sephardim) across Europe are meshing with the emerging genetic evidence of a Turkic and Persian component.

That this subject is even controversial when there is objective evidence on which to decide differences of opinion highlights the problems that arise when religion and politics enter the fray and objectivity is waved aside when it conflicts with dogma and vested interests. The argument then becomes not what is right but what is convenient and fits with a desired narrative.

References:
  1. Costa, M.D., Pereira, J.B., Pala, M., Fernandes, V., Olivieri, A., Achilli, A., Perego, U.A., Rychkov, S., Naumova, O., Hatina, J., et al. (2013).
    A substantial prehistoric european ancestry amongst ashkenazi maternal lineages.
    Nature Communications 4.
    https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms3543
  2. Das, R., Wexler, P., Pirooznia, M., & Elhaik, E. (2017).
    The origins of Ashkenaz, Ashkenazic Jews, and Yiddish.
    Frontiers in Genetics
    , 8 (JUN). https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2017.00087
  3. Shlomo Sand, The Origin of the Jewish People, Verso, 2010 ISBN 978-1844676231
  4. Elhaik, Eran; Uncovering ancient Ashkenaz – the birthplace of Yiddish speakers, The Conversation.
  5. Das, R., Wexler, P., Pirooznia, M., & Elhaik, E. (2016).
    Localizing Ashkenazic Jews to primeval villages in the ancient Iranian lands of Ashkenaz.
    Genome Biology and Evolution,
    8(4), 1132–1149. https://doi.org/10.1093/gbe/evw046
    .
  6. Rabinowitz, Louis Isaac; Jewish Merchant Adventures: A Study of the Radanites (1948).
  7. Balanovsky, O., Gurianov, V., Zaporozhchenko, V., Balaganskaya, O., Urasin, V., Zhabagin, M., Grugni, V., Canada, R., Al-Zahery, N., Raveane, A., et al. (2017).
    Phylogeography of human Y-chromosome haplogroup Q3-L275 from an academic/citizen science collaboration.
    BMC Evolutionary Biology 17
    , 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-016-0870-2
  8. Golden, Peter B.; Turks and Khazars. Ashgate/Variorum, 2010
  9. Rootsi, S., Behar, D.M., Järve, M., Lin, A.A., Myres, N.M., Passarelli, B., Poznik, G.D., Tzur, S., Sahakyan, H., Pathak, A.K., et al. (2013).
    Phylogenetic applications of whole y-chromosome sequences and the near eastern origin of ashkenazi levites.
    Nature Communications 4. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms3928
  10. Wexler, Paul; The Ashkenazic Jews: A Slavo-Turkic People in Search of a Jewish Identity, Slavica Publishers, 1993 ISBN: 978-0893572419

Saturday, 1 September 2018

The Catholic Church Lied to Cheat Its Victims

St Patrick's Church, Sydney.
Lots of money; empty pews.
Catholic Church's massive wealth revealed

While panic and hysteria are the order of the day for the Catholic Church in the USA things are little better in Australia where the trial of Cardinal Pell is eagerly awaited by everyone everyone who isn't a Catholic under holy orders.

It has now been revealed after a detailed investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald that the church lied to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to conceal the true scale of its assets in an attempt to avoid paying adequate compensation to its victims. They had claimed that increasing the payments would put a strain on church finances, necessitating cuts to their social programs.

Pope Francis to Protect the Guilty?

Cardinal Wuerl. About to flee the USA rather than face arrest as a leader of a crime syndicate.
Breaking News Exclusive: Wuerl Bombshell.

The tidal wave set in motion by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report into Catholic clerical sexual abuses and institutional, systematic cover-ups, continues to spread waves through the Catholic world, and, if reports are to be believed, panic and division in the Vatican.

Church Militant, the online Catholic News site which is normally very protective of the Catholic Church, although no lover of the supposedly reformist Pope Francis, is making a sensational claim, citing Vatican sources, which if true will implicate the Pope himself in the ultimate cover-up - effectively giving protection and immunity from prosecution to a Cardinal named in the Grand Jury report - Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

The claim is that the Pope has ordered that Wuerl be smuggled out of America and brought to the Vatican before he can be arrested by US Federal Authorities. Although these reports can't be independently verified for obvious reasons, other evidence is stacking up that there may be more than a grain of truth in the story. As reported by Church Militant:

Wuerl has apparently gone underground, and sources confirm with Church Militant, that it is the Vatican attempting to orchestrate his escape out of the United States.

Church Militant sources in D.C. confirm that Wuerl has completely gone off the grid — his cell phone has been shut off, he has not been in his private apartment for a number of days, all public appearances have been canceled and he has not even shown up for the weekly private confessions he offers for his priests.

Insiders believe he is holed up in a hotel in the greater D.C. metropolitan area while final plans for sneaking him out of the U.S. are executed.

[...]

The archdiocese of Washington, D.C. is refusing all comment, refusing to field any questions whatsoever about anything.

The reason for this need to whisk Wuerl away to the safety of the Vatican, just as Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston was some years earlier, is not so much to protect him as an act of kindness and compassion but to protect the church and the Pope from the risk of him reveling what he knows to the RICO investigation against the Catholic Church in the United States, rumoured to be about to be opened by the Department of Justice.

The RICO (Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations) Act is a US federal law which enables the leaders of a crime syndicate to be tried for the crimes they ordered others to do or assisted them in doing. It was intended to be used against organised crime such as the Mafia but is singularly apt for the Catholic Church which has behaved like a criminal organisation with many of its leaders either committing crimes or assisting others to, and evade justice.

If Wuerl gets an offer of immunity in return for spilling the beans about who did what, who knew and who gave the instructions, it could put "honest" Pope Francis at the centre of an investigation into organized international sex crime. It would be worth the controversy, waved aside with the excuse that a contrite cardinal, who is deeply sorry for his 'misjudgments', is to face a life of solitude and prayer in a Vatican apartment, than to have all the sordid details of the Catholic Church's involvement in an international paedophile ring, and who in the Vatican was behind it, being given in sworn testimony in court by one of its senior operatives in America.

This would be far less easy for the Vatican to ignore than the claims of the former Vatican Ambassador to the United States, Carlo Viganò who has named Pope Francis and called for his resignation.

But there is an even more intriguing story emerging amidst this chaos - that of the power struggle between the conservative die-hards in the Curia and the College of Cardinals and the increasingly isolated reformist Pope Francis. Viganò can scarcely be regarded as a neutral observer in all this, so his sudden discovery of a conscience and his calls for the Pope to resign, can be seen as an almost open revolt, as can the insider leaks to Church Militant as part of a slowly-unfolding coup against Pope Francis and his reforms. There are many in the Catholic Church who believe the good times are not over yet and the law of omerta that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XIV sought to impose, can be restored.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Building Life's Building Blocks

Researchers have designed a synthetic small protein that wraps around a metal core composed of iron and sulfur. This protein can be repeatedly charged and discharged, allowing it to shuttle electrons within a cell. Such peptides may have existed at the dawn of life, moving electrons in early metabolic cycles.
Image: Vikas Nanda
Source: Rutgers Today
Rutgers Scientists Identify Protein that May Have Existed When Life Began | Rutgers Today

Researchers at Rutgers University have found perhaps the only hard evidence that simple protein catalysts may have existed when life began.

It has long been postulated that life may have begun on iron and sulphur-containing rocks in sea water and that these metals, bound to short peptide chains could have acted as catalysts for simple metabolic processes, long before RNA, DNA and bigger, more complex proteins evolved.

The team used computer modelling to design a short, 12-amino acid peptide for testing. This one had just two different amino acid from the 20 of which larger proteins are made. Being short and simple, it could easily have arisen spontaneously and the metal cluster at the heart of the catalyst are similar to those found in in the oceans on early Earth when life arose.
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