The pontiff admits he believes in evolution and the Big Bang, says science and religion can peacefully coexist
In the fifties and sixties when I went to Catholic schools there was no conflict between scientific theories of evolution and the creation of the universe and Catholic dogma. Nothing new here. My high school biology, chemistry and physics classes were uncensored. I was taught by Jesuits in high school. They were into Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ.
My issue with god and the Church is the problem of evil. Seventy years ago, for example, humans were killing each other in record numbers and committing genocide. So I’m an agnostic. My relationship with the Roman Catholic Church was always on an intellectual level with people who would see issues like contraception and abortion and sexual “misbehavior” as trivial, while the really sinful behaviors consisted of offenses against compassion and pursuing self-interested greedy behavior. I have no problems with the intent of the New Testament: if we were compassionate people like the NT suggests this world would be a paradise. Unfortunately quite the opposite has happened. Christianity seems to be an utter failure here. The Church teachings on the poor and poverty, working people and compassion are, though, consistently spot on and are intentionally buried, I think, by those forces who would not benefit if people really followed those teachings. DJ APOLLO
In an exciting declaration, Pope Francis I stated that God should not seen as a “magician with a magic wand,” while unveiling a statue of his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Pope Francis also stated that evolution and the Big Bang theory are both true and not incompatible with the church’s views on the origins of the universe and life.
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said, according to the Independent. Francis continued by stating that God “created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”
“The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather, requires it,” Francis explained. ”Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
While the pope’s understanding of the origins of life still requires a divine force (rather than a scientific one), his views are a leap forward for the Catholic Church. Pope Francis is not the first pope to welcome these two scientific theories. However, the Catholic Church has a long reputation of being at odds with science, and Pope Francis’ declaration is looked at as “trying to reduce the emotion of dispute or presumed disputes” between the church and science.
It is an especially groundbreaking stance in terms of evolution. The theory, broadly accepted by the majority of scientists, is still under attack by Young Earth Creationists, and it is taught alongside the pseudo-science of creationism in American schools. Some mainstream politicians even try to distance themselves from the term “evolution.”
Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Thomas Gaist
31 October 2014
In two speeches this month, US National Security Agency (NSA) Director Admiral Mike Rogers called for a further integration between the NSA and major technology and communications companies.
Speaking to more than 500 corporate, military and academic leaders at the Cyber Education Summit at Georgia Regents University earlier this month, Rogers argued that the needs of cybersecurity are rendering obsolete traditional distinctions between the private sector, the civilian government and the military-intelligence apparatus.
“Traditionally, in our structure as a nation, we have tried to very strongly differentiate between what is a private sector function, what is a governmental function and what is a function that really falls under national security. I would argue cyber crosses all three of those lines,” Rogers said.
In line with the demand advanced in his inaugural address as NSA head for a more “permeable membrane” between the national security agencies and private corporations, Rogers went on to call for effective merging of US government cyber systems with those of major corporations, allowing for direct, continuous communication between corporate databases and the NSA.
“In the end what we have got to get to, I believe, is real-time automated machine-to-machine interface,” Rogers said.
These remarks come as America’s top surveillance agency is experiencing a succession of media exposures of for-profit ventures by top officials of a legally dubious character.
Last week, the NSA announced that the agency’s top official for signals intelligence (SIGINT), Teresa Shea, will leave the agency after reports that she was running a side business specializing in electronic intelligence, Telic Networks. Shea’s husband also works for a major SIGINT contractor called DRS Signals Solutions.
Shea’s departure follows revelations that the NSA’s Chief Technical Officer Patrick Dowd has been working at least 20 hours per week for ex-NSA director General Keith Alexander’s own private cybersecurity venture, IronNet Cybersecurity. IronNet has already taken in millions in revenues by offering services based on technology patented by General Alexander during his tenure at NSA.
In addition to his own business activities, disclosure documents from early October show that Alexander made substantial investments in a number of tech companies while serving as NSA director. Because their operations focused on information security, the companies that received investment funds from Alexander stood to benefit from the NSA head’s hyping of the threat of cyberwarfare and terrorist attacks against US targets in the wake of the Snowden leaks, stoking accusations of conflict of interest against Alexander.
In a speech delivered Tuesday at the Third Annual Cybersecurity Summit at the US Chamber of Commerce, however, Rogers defended the private sector initiatives by NSA personnel, saying that the agency required continuous exchange of personnel and “flow of partnerships and information back and forth” with private tech firms.
“We’ve got to create a world where people from NSA can leave us for a while and go work in the private sector. And I would also like to create a world where the private sector can come spend a little time with us,” Rogers said.
The systematic transfer of data and technology between the US government and corporations—and between government agencies themselves, both within the US and internationally—is becoming ever more streamlined.
The NSA leadership, moreover, has already infiltrated undercover agents into tech companies worldwide, as recent leaked documents furnished by Edward Snowden have shown, and has developed secret contracts with major communications providers to insure cooperation with the US government’s data trawling programs (See: “Leaked documents expose secret contracts between NSA and tech companies”).
The NSA is also making its vast electronic warehouses of personal data assessable to the intelligence agencies of other imperialist powers. Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) receives transfers of “unlimited bulk intelligence” from the NSA without any warranting process, according to a report published Wednesday by UK-based human rights group Liberty.
“British intelligence agencies can trawl through foreign intelligence material without meaningful restrictions and can keep such material, which includes both communications content and metadata, for up to two years,” the report states.
The drive of the NSA to implement total information sharing between the state and corporations reflects the unwillingness of the military-intelligence establishment to tolerate any obstacles, real or imaginary, to its ability to spy on the entire population at will. For the ruling elite, it is not sufficient to have secret contracts with the corporations and a panoply of surveillance programs mining their data.
On top of all of this, plans are now clearly afoot to implement automatic bulk data sharing between the corporations and the government, in direct violation of the US Constitution and international law.
There’s a good chance you have no idea what you’re eating — and you shouldn’t be OK with that
Purchase shrimp in the U.S., and there’s a reasonably good chance the thing the you end up with isn’t what you’ve been sold.
That’s according to a new study from Oceana, the group that previously showed us how seafood fraud affects a full third of fish sold in the U.S. Researchers took samples from 111 grocery stores and restaurants across the country, tested their DNA, and found that a full 30 percent of shrimp were misrepresented: They were farmed whiteleg shrimp advertised as “wild” or “Gulf,” for example, or one species identified as another.
It’s disconcerting, for sure, to think you might be inadvertently chowing down on “an aquarium pet not intended to be consumed as food,” or a “mystery” species that DNA testing failed to identify, but the larger problem with this mislabeling concerns the shrimps’ origins — and should leave the consumer feeling queasy for different reasons.
There are a ton of different shrimp species — the Ocean report identified 20 of them — and deciding which is best to eat, from an environmental perspective, largely depends on where they’re from and how they were raised. The Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch recommends U.S. wild-caught options, unless they come from Mexico or Louisiana, as well as farmed shrimp, as long as it’s from the U.S. and not imported. There are real consequences to supporting shrimp suppliers who do things the wrong way: Some farming and harvesting methods are incredibly destructive to the environment; a complex global supply chain, meanwhile, links the shrimp that ends up at U.S. stores to slave labor. And every time these bad-news crustaceans get away with masquerading as something benign, they take away from the ethical, eco-conscious shrimpers who are trying to make a living by doing things right.
That’s a lot to get straight on its own, and nearly impossible to get right if labels can’t be trusted — or if retailers don’t bother to include any type of identification to begin with. That’s a problem, too, according to Oceana: It found that one in five grocery stores didn’t bother to inform consumers where their shrimp came from and whether it was farmed or wild-caught, and the majority of restaurant menus simply called everything shrimp.
Consumers need to demand, first, that they’re told where their seafood is coming from, and second, that said information is reliable — otherwise, we’re just going to keep getting blindsided by these nasty surprises.
Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email email@example.com.
By Patrick Martin
30 October 2014
President Obama appeared Wednesday with a group of doctors and other healthcare volunteers just returned from working in the Ebola zone of West Africa, in a cynical effort to put a caring face on the aggressive militarism of his administration.
The White House event was blatantly stage-managed, only five days before the US congressional elections, to allow Obama to posture as an advocate of humanitarian intervention overseas, while taunting his political rivals in the Republican Party, who he suggested were “hiding under the covers” in the Ebola crisis.
There was a striking contrast between Obama’s strident American nationalism and the humane and modest posture of the man who introduced him at the event, Dr. Kent Brantly, the medical missionary who contracted Ebola in Liberia but survived because he was transported back to the US and treated at Emory University hospital.
Dr. Brantly made reference to the desperate need for more medical personnel in West Africa, then declared, “At this time, perhaps more than any other, we feel the impact of our position as citizens of not only the United States of America, but as citizens of the world. We must strive together for the good of all mankind to put an end to this disease.”
Obama, however, spoke not as a “citizen of the world” but as the commander-in-chief of American imperialism, waving the flag and declaring his belief in “American exceptionalism” and “American leadership.”
“The medical professionals and public health workers serving in Africa are a shining example of what America means to the world, of what is possible when America leads,” he said.
Actually, in terms of deploying medical personnel, Cuba and not America is the leader, both in the world and in West Africa. One third of all foreign medical professionals in the Ebola zone come from that small island, with 11 million people, one-thirtieth the population of the United States.
While 165 Cuban health care workers are currently in the Ebola zone — the first batch of a planned deployment of 461— Washington has deployed a total of 65 health officials to Liberia.
Obama referred to the visit of his UN ambassador, Samantha Power, to the Ebola zone, where she toured Ebola treatment facilities being built by US soldiers sent to Liberia last month at his orders. This deployment has far more to do with imperialist geo-politics than humanitarianism,
The immediate goal of the Liberia deployment is the Pentagon’s quest for a permanent location for the headquarters of its Africa Command (AFRICOM), which has been stranded in Germany since its formation because no African country would host it. Now that US troops have been introduced into Liberia in a “humanitarian” guise, Washington calculates that its political puppet, Liberia President Ellen Sirleaf, will extend an invitation for an indefinite stay.
West Africa and the offshore Gulf of Guinea is increasingly important to the United States, Britain and France as a source of oil, and the disease-fighting actions of the imperialist powers and former colonial masters are thus happily conjoined with more profitable concerns.
Besides promoting the national interests of American corporations and banks, Obama seized on the occasion to gain leverage on his political rivals. Republican candidates for the US Senate and Republican governors have added criticism of the administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis to their political campaigning for the November 4 election.
Over the last several days, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a likely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, has deliberately postured as “tougher” on Ebola than the Obama administration, criticizing the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control on monitoring health care workers returning from the Ebola zone in West Africa.
Last Friday, Christie and his Democratic counterpart in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, announced a full-scale 21-day quarantine on all returning health workers, despite the unanimous consensus among public health experts that such a measure is unnecessary and even counter-productive, since it will discourage health care volunteers to go to West Africa, thus increasing the danger of a global Ebola outbreak.
For several days, representatives of the medical community have fought back publicly against Christie’s bullying, with a joint statement condemning the quarantine issued by the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association, and an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Journal said the quarantine “is not scientifically based, is unfair and unwise, and will impede essential efforts to stop these awful outbreaks of Ebola disease at their source, which is the only satisfactory goal.”
The media has put a sympathetic spotlight on Kaci Hickox, the Ebola nurse who was the first victim of the New Jersey quarantine, and who was allowed to travel to her home in Maine on Monday. In that state, another reactionary blowhard Republican governor, Paul LePage, ordered Hickox confined to a home quarantine and stationed state troopers outside the house in Ft. Kent, Maine to enforce it.
On Wednesday Hickox spoke out on the NBC “Today” program, denouncing the quarantine as “not scientifically nor constitutionally just.” She said she would adhere to the guidelines set by the CDC, for twice-daily temperature readings and daily in-person monitoring by a CDC representative, but she would not accept home confinement through November 10, as ordered by the governor.
“If these restrictions are not removed for me by tomorrow morning, Thursday morning, I will go to court to fight for my freedom,” she said. “I am not going to sit around and be bullied by politicians and forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public.”
Obama sought to associate himself with the medical consensus and the courageous stance taken by Hickox, without, as usual, actually taking a stand. He made no mention of either Hickox or Christie, only declaring that neither a travel ban nor a quarantine could stop Ebola in a world of easy global travel.
He then tacitly accused Christie and those like him of insufficient aggressiveness in maintaining the world position of American imperialism. “When I hear people talking about American leadership, and then promoting policies that would avoid leadership and have us running in the opposite direction, hiding under the covers, it makes me a little frustrated,” he said.
“It is how we help others around the world that is important. It is not just massive numbers of troops and equipment — deployments of troops and equipment, as proud as we are of that.”
There is not a shred of genuine concern for the health of the American people or that of the people of West Africa in the political posturing by Obama and the Republicans. Both big business parties have facilitated the Ebola crisis through cuts in public health funding in the United States, through support for the giant drug companies that have refused for decades to develop an Ebola vaccine because it wasn’t profitable, and through support for the continued imperialist oppression of the impoverished masses of West Africa.
29 October 2014
Last week, the Pentagon announced the death of a 19-year-old Marine, the first fatality among the estimated 1,900 US troops currently deployed in the new US war in the Middle East. This will undoubtedly be only the first of many American casualties in this war, a death toll that will be multiplied many times over for the Iraqi and Syrian men, women and children who will lose their lives in this latest imperialist intervention.
Less than one week before the midterm elections in the US, it is becoming ever more clear that, whatever the results in terms of the breakdown of Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the Obama administration will embark on a major escalation of military operations once the voting is done.
Already there is a mounting drumbeat from within Washington’s vast military and intelligence apparatus—and those in politics and the media who voice its demands—for stepped-up bombing and more US “boots on the ground” in both Iraq and Syria.
This campaign for military escalation was summed up in a lead editorial published in Monday’s Washington Post entitled “Mr. Obama’s half-hearted fight against the Islamic State.” The editorial asserts that “an unlikely consensus is emerging across the ideological spectrum” in Washington that the Obama administration’s current strategy in the war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is “unworkable,” and that “the military means the president has authorized cannot accomplish his announced aims.”
The editorial criticizes the “modest tempo of airstrikes” as well as “the absence of ground trainers and special forces who could accompany Iraqi and Syrian forces.” It cites an unnamed senior Pentagon official as stating that the aim of fielding a new mercenary army of “rebels” in Syria is impossible “if you’re not on the ground to advise and assist them.”
“The United States will have to broaden its aims and increase its military commitment if the terrorists are to be defeated,” the editorial concludes. This means “a strategy to counter the Assad regime” and deploying special operations troops in combat together with Iraqi and Syrian proxy forces.
The editorial follows a report in the Post last week that US and Iraqi officials recently discussed increasing the number of US military “advisers” in Iraq, and that deploying them “in the field with the Iraqis” is under consideration, given the abysmal record of Iraqi security forces collapsing in the face of ISIS advances.
Along similar lines, Anthony Cordesman, a former Pentagon official and adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has written of US strategy in the Iraq-Syria war “imploding” and dismissed the campaign of air strikes in both countries as “military tokenism.” He insists that “advisers” must be deployed alongside Iraqi troops “as soon as possible,” and that the US must accept “risking combat losses.”
Then there is Lt. Col. John Nagl (ret.), the co-author of the Army’s Counterinsurgency Manual, who states that some 15,000 US “advisers” are needed on the ground, and that the war in Iraq and Syria will have to go on “for at least a generation and probably longer.”
The Vietnam War provides an instructive precedent for the steady escalation in the number of “advisers” deployed in a US overseas intervention. John F. Kennedy deployed several hundred to the country shortly after taking office. By the time he was assassinated in November 1963, they numbered 16,700. Within barely two years, 200,000 US troops had been thrown into the war, and by 1968 the number was well over half a million.
Obviously, there are vast differences between Vietnam, where Washington intervened in an attempt to crush a popular anti-colonial struggle, and Iraq and Syria, where it confronts a crisis entirely of its own making, forged through the destruction of Iraq in nearly nine years of war and the devastation of Syria by the Islamist militias that the US and its allies have armed and supported.
What they have in common, however, is that the existing forces on the ground, the Iraqi army and the so-called Syrian “moderate rebels,” are—like the South Vietnamese Army before them—wholly inadequate (or non-existent) instruments for achieving US aims. Thus, the demand for US “boots on the ground”—plenty of them and in short order.
Once again, the American people are being dragged into a criminal war of aggression based upon lies. While this war is being sold with propaganda about ISIS atrocities against minorities, beheadings, etc., the real objective is the use of military force to assert US hegemony over the strategically vital and oil-rich Middle East.
The aims of this war, which spans national boundaries, involves not only the re-occupation of Iraq, but also the overthrow of the government of Syria and its replacement with a pliant US puppet regime. These war aims, in turn, place US imperialism on a clear trajectory for military confrontation with Iran and Russia, posing the real threat of a Third World War.
Every step has been taken to preclude next week’s midterm elections from providing the slightest possibility for the American people to express their will in relation to the most important political question, that of a war which we are told may last for more than “a generation.”
Just before the bombs began falling in Iraq, the members of the US Congress scurried out of town for a two-month campaign season recess without taking any vote to authorize a war that is both unconstitutional and in violation of international law. Any vote that is taken will be held after the election in a lame-duck session of Congress, thereby assuring that no one will be held politically accountable. In the election campaign itself, the war—like virtually every other social question of vital importance to the masses of working people—is not even an issue.
Nothing could more clearly expose the entirely rotted-out character of the American political system, which is controlled lock, stock and barrel by a financial aristocracy, and in which decisions on imperialist war abroad and repression at home are made by an unelected cabal of military and intelligence officials for whom Obama serves as a mouthpiece.
The corrupt capitalist two-party system offers no means to resist the drive to war. The working class must intervene independently, mobilizing its objective strength in a mass antiwar movement based upon a socialist and internationalist program to put an end to capitalism, which is the source of war.
Bill Van Auken
On an early Friday morning in September 2006, a young man named Reggie Shaw climbed into his Chevy Tahoe for his long commute to work in Logan, Utah. Somewhere on a highway east of Logan, with the sky just beginning to lighten, Reggie veered over the yellow line and sideswiped a Saturn coming from the opposite direction. The Saturn spun out and was “T-boned” by a Ford pick-up, killing the two men riding in the Saturn.
Research suggests that checking in on your smart phone may release a dose of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that regulates the pleasure centers of the brain. “Ninety-six percent of people say that you shouldn’t text and drive, and yet, 30 percent do it anyway,” said Richtel. “The only other disconnect I can find that is that stark is with cigarettes. Every smoker says it’s bad for you, yet they keep doing it. Why do these devices have such a lure over us.”
Today, Shaw is a crusader against texting while driving. “Deadly Wandering” is an often harrowing chronicle of how Shaw got to the point where he could admit his wrongdoing and atone for causing the death of two fathers and husbands.
“The Reggie story is so compelling because we can connect to him easily,” said Richtel. “The battle that happened after his deadly wreck is a metaphor for our own internal battle about how to pay attention, particularly on the roads.”
This is not, however, a morality tale. Instead of talking about the problem of texting while driving as an issue of responsibility and willpower, Richtel asserts that our powerful and appealing technological devises are changing our behaviors on a neurological level.
“People are getting in their cars every single day, people who are not malicious, who are not bad people, and yet they’re winding up in these deadly wrecks. Driving feels boring a lot of the time. And with every passing moment, we are becoming less tolerant of boredom than we’ve ever been. This thing is constantly beckoning us.”