Friday, November 14, 2008

The Mayans didn't look forward to the afterlife

Scholar Finds Mayans' Path Through Hell
Nov. 9, 2008

Legend says the afterlife for ancient Mayas was a terrifying obstacle course in which the dead had to traverse rivers of blood, and chambers full of sharp knives, bats and jaguars.

Now a Mexican archaeologist using long-forgotten testimony from the Spanish Inquisition says a series of caves he has explored may be the place where the Maya actually tried to depict this highway through hell.

'The Place of Fear'Dario Lopez-Mills, AP5 photos Using long-forgotten testimony from the Spanish conquistadors, a Mexican archaeologist has discovered a series of caves where people from the Mayan civilization tried to depict the journey into the afterlife. Here, the scholar, Guillermo de Anda, examines the underground lake located in Tzibichen on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula in October.

The network of underground chambers, roads and temples beneath farmland and jungle on the Yucatan peninsula suggests the Maya fashioned them to mimic the journey to the underworld, or Xibalba, described in ancient mythological texts such as the Popol Vuh.

"It was the place of fear, the place of cold, the place of danger, of the abyss," said University of Yucatan archaeologist Guillermo de Anda.

Searching for the names of sacred sites mentioned by Indian heretics who were put on trial by Inquisition courts, De Anda discovered what appear to be stages of the legendary journey, recreated in a half-dozen caves south of the Yucatan state capital of Merida.

Archaeologists have long known that the Maya regarded caves as sacred and built structures in some.

But De Anda's team introduced "an extremely important ingredient" by using historical records to locate and connect a series of sacred caves, and link them with the concept of the Mayan road to the afterworld, said archaeologist Bruce Dahlin of Shepherd University, who has studied other Maya sites in the Yucatan.

The Associated Press followed de Anda and his team into the caves, squeezing through tiny, overgrown entrances and rappelling down narrow shafts and slippery tree roots.

There, in the stygian darkness, a scene unfolded that was eerily reminiscent of an "Indiana Jones" movie — tottering ancient temple platforms, slippery staircases and tortuous paths that skirted underground lakes littered with Mayan pottery and ancient skulls.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is your mother nicer than Prince Charles' mother?

I'm not a fan of the English monarchy, but I sympathize with Prince Charles just as I do with any child of a cold mother.

Prince Charles Turns 60
Nov. 13, 2008

...By the time he turns 60 Friday, Prince Charles will have spent a lifetime in line to become king. That's put him in quite a bind. The longest-waiting heir in British history only ascends to the throne when his beloved mother dies or decides to step down...

The queen has indicated informally that she plans to keep the job for life and some people think the 82-year-old monarch intends to live forever, or at least as long as her mother, who died at 101...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Holocaust survivor recounts Kristallnacht , 70 years later

Boston Globe
By Emily A. Canal
November 10, 2008

Dr. Margot Segall-Blank stood yesterday in front of a photo of smoke billowing from a synagogue and spoke about what she saw in Berlin on Nov. 9, 1938, the first day of Kristallnacht, a two-day, anti-Semitic rampage in Nazi Germany in which approximately 91 people were killed and about 267 synagogues destroyed.

"I couldn't believe my eyes," said Segall-Blank, an endocrinologist who lives in Brookline, as she recalled being a child and seeing her synagogue burn. "I didn't understand that the fire was not an accident."

Segall-Blank spoke at Hebrew College in Brookline yesterday as part of the program, "Remembering Kristallnacht: Standing Together 70 Years Later," which featured the opening of an art exhibit, "Standing Again: A New Generation Responds to the Holocaust."

Segall-Blank recalled that distant day when she was in second grade, walking two younger children to synagogue before her religious classes.

"We got to be about half a mile away and saw smoke and smelled smoke," Segall-Blank said. "I saw the Nazi boys in their brown shirts waving swastika flags and singing, 'Death to the Jews.' "

Julie Hock, New England's regional director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, introduced Segall-Blank and explained that the name Kristallnacht means "the night of broken glass," and is named for all the windows broken during the violence.

Segall-Blank escaped Nazi Germany in 1941 and emigrated with her family to Australia. She studied medicine there, and in 1955 went to Israel for three years to work in an Army hospital. She also treated children in Israel, which inspired to her to focus on pediatrics.

She moved to Brookline in 1973.

"I don't consider myself a German," Segall-Blank said. "I consider myself an Australian because that was the country that saved my family and my life. Our story ended happily unlike the other several millions."

Segall-Blank remembered being frustrated as a child in Berlin with the passive reaction of Jewish elders to the persecution they faced.

"I wanted to defend myself and wanted to take action, but the elders just stood by and watched," Segall-Blank said. "The mistake was not to realize that something really terrible was lurking."

People who attended yesterday's event were invited to browse a new exhibit of art inspired by Kristallnacht and the Holocaust. The hallways of the Hebrew College were decorated with the photography of Emily Carbato, paintings of Stepheny Kotzen Riemer, and a sculpture by Carol Cohen.

A bent glass sculpture that encased a dead bird and was partially painted orange to suggest fire drew the most attention, according to Evelyn Herwitz, the college's director of marketing and communications.

"It looks like an explosion and a house on fire," Herwitz said. "The glass looks like the wings of a bird and reminds me of a phoenix rising from the ashes."

Herwitz said the show, which will remain open until Jan. 31, is designed to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.

Michael Laufer of Canton, who attended the event with his wife, said his father was a Holocaust survivor and had lost relatives and friends in concentration camps. He said those who suffered should never be forgotten.

"We need to see more of this taught in public schools," he said.

Mormons meet with Jews over baptizing Holocaust victims

Source: Helen Radkey

Ghengis Khan--Pagan
Joan of Arc--Catholic
Adolf Hitler--What? Mormons want this guy to have his own planet?????
Josef Stalin--ditto
Anne Frank--Jewish

November 11, 2008
Holocaust survivors to Mormons: Stop baptisms of dead Jews

Holocaust survivors said Monday they are through trying to negotiate with the Mormon church over posthumous baptisms of Jews killed in Nazi concentration camps, saying the church has repeatedly violated a 13-year-old agreement barring the practice.

Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say they are making changes to their massive genealogical database that will make it more difficult for names of Holocaust victims to be entered for posthumous baptism by proxy, a rite that has been a common Mormon practice for more than a century.

But Ernest Michel, honorary chairman of the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors, said that is not enough. At a news conference in New York City on Monday, he said the church also must "implement a mechanism to undo what you have done."

"Baptism of a Jewish Holocaust victim and then merely removing that name from the database is just not acceptable," said Michel, whose parents died at Auschwitz. He spoke on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi-incited riots against Jews.

"We ask you to respect us and our Judaism just as we respect your religion," Michel said in a statement released ahead of the news conference. "We ask you to leave our six million Jews, all victims of the Holocaust, alone, they suffered enough."

Michel said talks with Mormon leaders, held as recently as last week, have ended. He said his group will not sue, and that "the only thing left, therefore, is to turn to the court of public opinion."

In 1995, Mormons and Jews inked an agreement to limit the circumstances that allow for the proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims. Ending the practice outright was not part of the agreement and would essentially be asking Mormons to alter their beliefs, church Elder Lance B. Wickman said Monday in an interview with reporters in Salt Lake City...

Obama's Candidacy Angers, Excites Hate Groups

by Dina Temple-Raston
All Things Considered
National Public Radio NPR
October 28, 2008

The charges Monday against two neo-Nazi skinheads accused of plotting to kill Barack Obama drew attention to law enforcement's simmering concerns over how white supremacists are reacting to the possibility of a black president.

The alleged plan that Daniel Cowart of Bells, Tenn., and Paul Schlesselman, of West Helena, Ark., were hatching was fantastic in its scope. Federal agents said Cowart and Schlesselman planned to rob a gun store, target students at a largely black high school and then try to kill Obama.

The two men did not expect to be successful, but they wanted to die trying, investigators said. They said the two planned to drive as fast as they could toward Obama and shoot at him from the windows of their car. They allegedly had discussed wearing white tuxedos and top hats for the occasion. The suspects are being held without bond on charges of possessing an unregistered firearm, conspiring to steal firearms and threatening a presidential candidate.

This is the second white supremacist plot against Obama that authorities have revealed. In August, just days before Obama accepted the Democratic nomination in Denver, police arrested three men with white supremacist ties for possibly threatening him.

While law enforcement officials say Obama was never in any danger in either situation, they are also quick to say that they cannot afford to take these cases lightly. And they have been expecting new challenges from white supremacist groups.

"There is a probable hypothesis that in the event that Obama becomes president that you could have a galvanization of these white supremacist groups," said John Karl, the officer in charge of the Los Angeles Police Department's criminal conspiracy unit. "Obviously, law enforcement needs to be prepared, and how do you prepare? You need to become as resourceful and comprehensively understand the groups and individuals involved."

Karl says the First Amendment ties law enforcement's hands. Officers cannot move in until and unless these groups actually commit a crime.

"If no crime has been committed, no activity has come up on the radar screen, we can't arbitrarily start rounding people up," he said. "There is a little problem with the Constitution and things like that."

Supremacist Groups In California

Travel out of metropolitan Los Angeles — to Southern California cities farther inland where supremacists have traditionally congregated — and it is clear that law enforcement is in a state of alert.

Chris Keeling is part of the FBI's hate crimes task force in Santa Clarita. As he sees it, Obama's effect on the hate movement is no longer theoretical; it has already happened.

"There is more on the Internet. There are more flyers, leafletting going out, because now they have a target," he said. "Take Obama out of the situation, you're still going to have leafletting. But having Obama in there and being a stone's throw from being the president, has it increased the Internet activity? Absolutely, absolutely."

These days, Keeling works about six hate crime calls a week. Some of them are serious. A couple of months ago, skinheads beat up a customer at a restaurant because he was black. Others are crimes of opportunity. Obama posters, for example, have become an easy target for vandals to deface.

The FBI set up a task force in Santa Clarita partly because racist skinhead gangs have long been a fixture there. For years, the Antelope Valley had been a white enclave — a refuge from Los Angeles. When immigrants began moving in, hate groups saw their membership ranks grow as whites in the neighborhoods banded together. Keeling said Obama's candidacy is adding fear and uncertainty to an already volatile mix.

"This is different. This is new. This has never happened before," Keeling said of Obama's candidacy. "We're not doing anything extra, but we're kind of being more cognizant of things."

Candidacy Fits Into Ideology

Part of the problem is that Obama is playing into the neo-Nazi and white supremacist narrative, said Brian Levin, who studies hate and extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

What the groups were saying — "Jews and blacks coming out of the urban areas are going to take over this white nation of ours" — has occurred, he said.

You only have to look to the Internet to see how white supremacist leaders such as David Duke are using Obama to rally their troops. Duke has called Obama a "visual aid for hate groups."

He says an Obama presidency would provide indisputable proof that whites have lost control of America.

"This is a cultural and racial battlefront," said Levin. "Barack Obama is symbol No. 1 of the worst the future has to offer."

While Obama may be an easy focus of discussion for haters, he hasn't unified them. In fact, in many ways, he has managed to divide the movement.

Catalyst For A Race War

Tim Zaal, a former white supremacist from Los Angeles, says the split Obama has created is almost generational — between old-school Ku Klux Klan types who are viscerally against a black man running for president and a new wave of haters.

"You have the more — kind-of strange to say it — progressive white attitude: The worse it gets, the better," said Zaal.

Zaal says the new generation is particularly focused on what they see as the coming race war. They have been trying to spark one for years. Some think, even hope, that an Obama presidency will do just that.

Zaal says some will actually vote for Obama to send the country into a tailspin. "The faster this country falls, the sooner white revolution will arise," he said.

That mindset is all over the neo-Nazi Web sites. On one, a man with the pen name "LastOfMyKind" wrote, "Could it be that the nomination of Obama finally sparks a sense of unity in white voters? I would propose that this threat of black rule may very well be the thing that finally scares some sense back into complacent whites."

This is what worries the police and the FBI.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

How Arnold Schwarzenegger treats disabled people

Where should budget cuts be applied? Arnold changed California regulations to deny services to disabled people where otherwise they qualify for services. People were qualified before 2003 with fewer disabilities than individuals applying after 2003. While more severely disabled people are given nothing, those with fewer disabilities will continue to get services under the new regulations.

This link is self explanatory:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Barack Obama's grandmother dies in Hawaii

Just hours before Election Day, Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama announced that his 86-year-old grandmother died Monday after a battle with cancer. The news comes a week after he visited Madelyn Payne Dunham in Hawaii after she fell seriously ill following a hip fracture. His grandfather Stanley Dunham died in 1992.

Barack Obama's Grandmother Dies
Nov. 3, 2008
Barack Obama's grandmother, whose personality and bearing shaped much of the life of the Democratic presidential contender, has died, Obama announced Monday, one day before the election.

Madelyn Payne Dunham was 86. Obama announced the news from the campaign trail in Charlotte, N.C. The joint statement with his sister Maya Soetoro-Ng said Dunham died peacefully late Sunday night after a battle with cancer.

They said: "She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility. She was the person who encouraged and allowed us to take chances."

Obama learned of her death Monday morning while he was campaigning in Jacksonville, Fla. He planned to go ahead with campaign appearances.

The family said a private ceremony would be held later.

Last month, Obama took a break from campaigning and flew to Hawaii to be with Dunham as her health declined.

Obama said the decision to go to Hawaii was easy to make, telling CBS that he "got there too late" when his mother died of ovarian cancer in 1995 at 53, and wanted to make sure "that I don't make the same mistake twice."

The Kansas-born Dunham and her husband, Stanley, raised their grandson for several years so he could attend school in Honolulu while their daughter and her second husband lived overseas. Her influence on Obama's manner and the way he viewed the world was substantial, the candidate himself told millions watching him accept his party's nomination in Denver in August.

"She's the one who taught me about hard work," he said. "She's the one who put off buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a better life. She poured everything she had into me."

Obama's nickname for his grandmother was "Toot," a version of the Hawaiian word for grandmother, tutu. Many of his speeches describe her working on a bomber assembly line during World War II.

Madelyn and Stanley Dunham married in 1940, a few weeks before she graduated from high school. Their daughter, Stanley Ann, was born in 1942. After several moves to and from California, Texas, Washington and Kansas, Stanley Dunham's job landed the family in Hawaii.

It was there that Stanley Ann later met and fell in love with Obama's father, a Kenyan named Barack Hussein Obama Sr. They had met in Russian class at the University of Hawaii. Their son was born in August 1961, but the marriage didn't last long. She later married an Indonesian, Lolo Soetoro, another university student she met in Hawaii.

Obama moved to Indonesia with his mother and stepfather at age 6. But in 1971, her mother sent him back to Hawaii to live with her parents. He stayed with the Dunhams until he graduated from high school in 1979.

In his autobiography, Obama wrote fondly of playing basketball on a court below his grandparents' 10th-floor Honolulu apartment, and looking up to see his grandmother watching...

Republican dirty tricks against Obama

Some Republicans are using race as a weapon against Barack Obama:

Voters Across Nation Hit by Dirty Tricks
Nov. 3, 2008

...Complaints have surfaced in predominantly African-American neighborhoods of Philadelphia where fliers have circulated, warning voters they could be arrested at the polls if they had unpaid parking tickets or if they had criminal convictions.

Over the weekend in Virginia, bogus fliers with an authentic-looking commonwealth seal said fears of high voter turnout had prompted election officials to hold two elections — one on Tuesday for Republicans and another on Wednesday for Democrats.
In New Mexico, two Hispanic women filed a lawsuit last week claiming they were harassed by a private investigator working for a Republican lawyer who came to their homes and threatened to call immigration authorities, even though they are U.S. citizens.

"He was questioning her status, saying that he needed to see her papers and documents to show that she was a U.S. citizen and was a legitimate voter," said Guadalupe Bojorquez, speaking on behalf of her mother, Dora Escobedo, a 67-year-old Albuquerque resident who speaks only Spanish. "He totally, totally scared the heck out of her."

In Pennsylvania, e-mails appeared linking Democrat Barack Obama to the Holocaust. "Jewish Americans cannot afford to make the wrong decision on Tuesday, Nov. 4," said the electronic message, paid for by an entity calling itself the Republican Federal Committee. "Many of our ancestors ignored the warning signs in the 1930s and 1940s and made a tragic mistake."...