Category Archives: News

Texas Plumber’s Truck Ends Up In ISIS Terrorists’ Hands

Mark-1 Plumbing Truck in ISIS video

The Ford F-250 above was owned by Mark Oberholtzer’s plumbing company, Mark-1 Plumbing, outside of Houston, TX. He traded it in to AutoNation in November 2013, and probably after changing hands a few more times, it ended up in a photo posted by the terrorist group ISIS. The plumbing company has since been receiving a flood of phone calls and threats, because a lot of people saw the photo and erroneously think the poor guy’s aiding terrorists.

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From KHOU, via Cheezburger

Pope Francis Doesn’t Know The Difference Between Evolution And Intelligent Design

On October 27th, Pope Francis gave a speech to the Vatican’s science academy, on the occasion of unveiling a bust of the previous, still living Pope Benedict VXI. In it, after praising Pope Benedict, he talks about evolution briefly, and how the theory is not incompatible with Catholic faith. The entire text is printed below, but these are the relevant parts that were used in virtually all of the extensive English media coverage:

“When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness.”

“The Big-Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

Even without actually reading the whole context, it’s obvious that he’s not really talking about unguided natural selection. Phrases like “He created beings” and “evolution presupposes the creation of beings” very clearly show that he doesn’t think all life on earth descended from the Last Universal Ancestor through the various mechanisms in the Theory of Evolution, but rather that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause”, which is the very definition of Intelligent Design.

Pope Francis: evolution in nature is not in contrast with the notion of creation

One of the extremely few news sources that picked up on this was CNET, which included this paragraph along with its report:

The pope’s views differ radically from those of some eminent scientists, such as Stephen Hawking. Hawking recently made it clear that he dismisses the idea of God. He said: “Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation.”

The other error that should’ve been caught by just by simple common sense is a translation one, which would have had the Pope supposedly say — emphasis added — that “God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life.” Now, regardless of anything else, we can surely all agree that the Pope thinks God is a divine being. Him saying otherwise really should raise an alarm, but maybe every reporter thought that now that he’s cool with science, the Pope is coming out of the atheist closet, too.

The actual Italian word translated as “divine being” in that quote is “demiurgo”, which — and this is where the incompetence really becomes obvious — has a very good English translation: demiurge. If you’re not a student of philosophy though, the term probably bears no meaning, so it generally gets translated into “creator”, with a small c. It comes from Plato, and it refers to an imperfect being that did his best to bring order to the chaos that the universe used to be, and who fashioned what we know the universe to be. However, the universe is still flawed because it was made from flawed materials.

Later, in Gnosticism, the term was used for a similar being, except that he was malevolent, and was trying to keep humanity from knowing the true, benevolent God. Thus, everything material was created by the demiurge and was bad, and everything immaterial, or spiritual, was created by God and that’s the world which Gnostics tried to learn about — the term Gnostic meaning “learned person”. Clearly, a person like the Pope — very knowledgeable in philosophy and heretical religions — meant demiurge, and not divine being.

But back to the main issue, about evolution and creation. If there’s any doubt that Pope Francis was actually talking about intelligent design, here’s the entire paragraph of his speech on the matter, in which he says that creation has been going on for millenia until it became what we know it to be, and the world did not arise out of chaos. In other words, evolution has been guided the whole time, and the Big Bang was too.

“You are addressing the highly complex topic of the evolution of the concept of nature. I will not go into it all, you understand well the scientific complexity of this important and decisive question. I only wish to underline that God and Christ walk with us and are present also in nature, as the Apostle Paul affirmed in his address at the Areopagus: “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time that He assured them of his continual presence, giving being to every reality. And thus creation went forward for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia until it became what we know today, in fact because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to all entities. The beginning of the world was not the work of chaos, which owes its origin to another, but it derives directly from a Supreme Principle who creates out of love. The Big-Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.”

The entire transcript, in Italian, can be found at the official Vatican News network, and a (correct) English translation can be found at Zenit, a Catholic news agency.

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From Zenit and NEWS.VA

That Japanese Nuclear Plant Incident Resulted In Zero Deaths

Yes, you read that correctly: the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear reactor, due to a tsunami created by the most powerful earthquake to ever hit Japan, has not killed and likely will not kill even one person. That’s in stark contrast to the news of the time, when we heard that death was inevitable for at least some of the workers trying to fix the radiation leak, and that it was a Chernobyl-level disaster. There were also worries about the environment being desolated, food being irradiated and generally what you’d expect from a post-apocalyptic landscape following nuclear war.

March 14, 2011: A Red Cross rescue worker, in red, is scanned for signs of radiation upon returning from Fukushima to his hospital in Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture. (AP/Fox News)

March 14, 2011: A Red Cross rescue worker, in red, is scanned for signs of radiation upon returning from Fukushima to his hospital in Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture. (AP/Fox News)

 

At the time, xkcd published an infographic showing that it would take about 4 weeks of someone staying in the plant before they would get the amount of radiation that’s clearly linked to cancer. (A flight from NY to LA gives you the same amount radiation as 11 days at the plant, during the incident.) Now, two years later, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation has some findings:

  • Most Japanese got less radiation exposure from the incident than they would from normal background radiation
  • The six people that had the highest exposure, absorbed about 678 milliSieverts (mSv) of radiation, which is well below the 1000 mSv that causes radiation sickness or increases the chance of cancer
  • Most of the area’s background radiation is back to normal, and all of it will be by 2017
  • “The exposures on both marine and terrestrial non-human biota were too low for observable acute effects.”
  • The worst effect is a very negligible increase (6% of the normal rate) of female breast cancer and male leukemia.

Now, the quake and tsunami itself did kill about 16,000 people; but radiation killed zero. The worst nuclear disaster ever, Chernobyl, which was due to gross human error, killed 46 people. Contrast this to supposedly safe coal power, which claims an average of 35 lives and 4,000 injuries per year. Then consider that about 41% of the world’s electricity comes from coal, but only about 13% comes from nuclear plants.

World Electricity Power Sources

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From UN Information Service, via The Age and Slashdot

Earth Swallows Sleeping Florida Man In His Bed

Normally, you hear about these kinds of acts of God only in the Bible:

“It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the desert until you arrived at this place, and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them” — Deuteronomy 11:5-6

A guy named Jeremy, his wife, their two-year old daughter, Jeremy’s brother Jeff, their aunt and a dog were sleeping in a house in Seffner, FL just east of Tampa. Around 11pm, a sinkhole opened up beneath one of the bedrooms, where the 36-year old Jeff was sleeping. He shouted for help, and his brother ran to find him being swallowed up by the sinkhole. The brother called 911 and jumped into the hole but he couldn’t get Jeff out. Police got there just in time to pull the brother out of the still-sinking earth, but there was no sign of Jeff.

The sinkhole house: 240 Faithway Drive, Seffner, FL.

 

Engineers came and surveyed the area to find a way to go in looking for Jeff, but he was probably long dead already. The hole was 20′ x 30′, and the house passed a sinkhole inspection six months before.

The Tampa Bay Times says that sinkholes are common in Central Florida, but that it’s rare for people to get caught up in them. Although, in March of 2011, it did happen to a woman not much further east, in Plant City. She had her cell phone though and called 911; police saved her when they arrived, but it was a close call: everything but her fingertips had been swallowed up by the earth.

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From Tampa Bay Times and CBS News, via NPR

The Pope Quit — Round-up

Few major events have produced more ridicule than the first pope to quit his job in 600 years. Daily Theology and Religion Dispatches have some great serious pieces on the matter, but here’s the lighter side:

Tweets

Pretty clear the Pope was just using the church to build up his Twitter following. — @yoyoha

Citing his advanced age, the Pope is stepping down, adding, “Protecting pedophiles is a young man’s game.” — @FrankConniff

The Pope is really setting a high bar for giving something up for Lent. — @kjhealy

This is just a classic Pope negotiation tactic. He’s just looking for a pay day. — @seanoconnz

“Mouthpiece of God, 2005-2013” -Pope’s Resume — @weismanjake

 

Happy Place, which found the above tweets, also came up with a preview of what else is coming from the first Pope to be on Twitter:

 

And finally, the BBC is reporting that God followed the resignation announcement with a lightning strike on the Pope’s church a few hours later:

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From imgur, Happy Place, and BBC, via Neatorama

Middle School Teacher Used To Be A Porn Star

In a very exotic case of life imitating art, the plot of every middle school boy’s wet dream has come true: their hot science teacher somehow started doing porn on the side (see update below) — probably because she needed money one lonely summer. As of 2012, she was 31 and her porn name is Tiffany Six, meaning either her middle name is Tiffany, or she had a cat named Tiffany and grew up on 6th Street somewhere.

Tiffany Six

 

In a turn of events that no one could have seen coming, her secret identity was found out by the chaste students in her southern California school, not far from San Pornando Valley. When the titillating news reached the ears of administrators, an investigation was quickly launched. But to their great disappointment, none of the hardcore porn footage they had been promised could be found and the accusations were deemed mere baseless rumor. However, some of the more passionate teachers didn’t want to give up the dream quite so easily; emboldened by a belief in superior Googling skills, they continued the investigation via smartphones and were soon rewarded with immoral treasure.

But how? Well, in their haste, the administrators forgot about parental controls on school computers which are very effective at preventing students from watching porn and discovering teachers’ night jobs.  After thoroughly watching all the videos on smartphones, the school district placed Ms. Six on paid administrative leave. While her contract doesn’t have a morality clause, officials are hopeful they can find something in it which they can use to fire her.

Update, 21 April 2012: On April 18th, the school board unanimously voted to fire Ms. Six. She hired a lawyer and is planning on disputing her dismissal.

Update, 16 January 2013: On January 15th, Tiffany Six lost an appeal to get her job back, and it’s likely that the salary and benefits she’s been receiving all this time will be revoked too. Also, her lawyer says that Tiffany’s porn career only lasted for nine months in 2006, just before she started teaching. If true, and she graduated college at 22 like most people but didn’t start teaching until 25, maybe she turned to porn after not having a job for two years. Maybe it all started on a casting couch.

Via The Daily Mail and ABC News

The TSA Finally Detected Explosives

On the last day of 2011, after never stopping a single terrorist in its decade-long existence, after waving through security the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber, the Mythbusters guy carrying footlong razor blades, someone with a stun gun, and a whopping 60% of explosives during a security test, the TSA finally got a win: it stopped a guy with explosives.

What the TSA sees in an X-ray machine

 

And how did they catch him? Not with naked body scanners or pat downs, but with the regular X-ray machine: something in his baggage looked suspicious and it turned out to be military-grade explosives. Now, there may be a wrinkle in the fact that the guy is a member of the military, and he was returning from Christmas vacation with his family in west Texas to his military base in North Carolina. So the whole thing could be nothing. But in any case, the fact that they even found the explosives is a huge milestone for the TSA. Like a really old person figuring out how to work a webcam. Good on you, TSA!

From AP

Shocker: Amy Winehouse Died Of Alcohol Poisoning

A few days after Amy Winehouse died in July, her family said she had been clean of drugs and alcohol for a couple of weeks, and they figured she died of alcohol withdrawal. The theory being that giving up the bottle was so tough on her tiny body that her system just went into shock and called it quits. Yeah, nobody else bought that either. And today, you (and Occam’s Razor) have been proven right: the coroner reports that while she had no illegal drugs in her system, her blood alcohol level was 0.416%, which is more than five times the legal driving limit, and a little bit above the fatal level that’s around 0.400% — explaining why she died from it.

 

Illustration by VectorPortal.com

 

Apparently she wasn’t so much an alcoholic as a binge drinker — she wouldn’t drink for weeks, then go nuts on the stuff. No word on whether she died while snorting vodka.

From Monsters and Critics

Steve Jobs Was Half Arabic

The Internet is all aflutter with anticipation over the new Steve Jobs biography coming out on Monday. Excerpts have been released and the biographer is going to appear on 60 minutes on Sunday. Most of what’s been revealed so far is the kind of stuff you’d expect: that his hippie sensibilities made him seek alternative cancer treatment before resorting to surgery, and that he was really really mad at Google for trying to copy the iPhone. And then there’s the tid-bit about how him and his biological father met, without either of them actually knowing about it.

Steve Jobs' biological father, Abdulfattah Jandali

Steve Jobs was put up for adoption by his biological parents, because his German mother’s parents objected to her relationship with his father, a Syrian graduate student named Abdulfattah Jandali. This was back in 1954, and the German grandfather died ten months later; Steve’s parents got married shortly thereafter and had another kid name Mona in 1957, then divorced in 1962. In the 1980s, Steve Jobs tracked down his biological mother, Joanna, who had remarried and taken her new husband’s last name, and then met his sister Mona Simpson, a successful novelist. They kept their relationships a secret until 1986, when all three showed up to a party promoting Mona’s newest book. In an interesting turn of events, Mona later married one of the writers of The Simpsons, who named Homer’s mother Mona, after his wife.

Steve Jobs' biological sister, Mona Simpson

 

Homer Simpson's parents, Abe and Mona

 

At first, Jobs tried to also meet his father; but after learning about the man, he decided he didn’t like what he learned. Since he abandoned both him and his sister, you can’t really blame him. (Although in 1978, ironically, Jobs himself abandoned his illegitimate daughter for two years, claiming she wasn’t his because he was supposedly sterile.)  But in a giant coincidence, the biological father at one point ran a Mediterranean restaurant in Silicon Valley, one at which Jobs ate. In fact, before knowing that Steve Jobs was his son, the father bragged to the sister, Mona, that Steve Jobs ate there and was a big tipper.

The strangest thing to think about though, is that if Jobs would’ve never been put up for adoption — besides the fact that he might not have founded Apple — his name would’ve been Steve Jandali.

From Hi-Tech Analogy and NPR

Steve Jobs Died — Round-up

The Internet has, of course, been overflowing with the news of Steve Jobs’ death. Below, a round-up of it all:

From Jonathan Mak Long

 

Tweets:

RIP Steve Jobs. Closest thing we had to Tony Stark. — @pattonoswalt

I’m wearing my black turtleneck at half mast (see: mid-riff only) tomorrow. — @SamGrittner

It would be awesome/miserable if all Mac products spontaneously combusted right now. — @JillMorris

Steve Jobs is in Heaven, angrily throwing a malfunctioning demo harp at some angels as they scramble to find a working back-up.#RIPSteveJobs — @paulcibis

DIP Steve Jobs. Sorry, that was auto-correct. RIP Steve Jobs. 🙁 — @iamledgin

You guys I’m sad about Steve Jobs too but SteveJobs2 comes out in like a month. — @eliroth

CNN: “Apple visionary Steve Jobs dies”. Fox News: “America loses Jobs under Obama” — @Nicolucci1899

My iPhone just dropped a call, but maybe it was just having a moment of silence. — @JoeMande

I’m still trying to get a handful of folks to FORGET what I created in my parent’s garage in the 70s. #ThankYouSteve — @trumpetcake

RIP Steve Jobs. He’s amongst the iclouds now…. — @Lord_Voldemort7

Just wait; 2 years from now, Bill Gates will die too, but in a much less user-friendly and intuitive way. #steveJobs — @hollywoodphony

 

 

Steve Jobs’ 2007 keynote in which he introduces the iPhone:

 

His commencement address at Stanford in 2005:

 

His first keynote after coming back to Apple in 1997. This one is pretty long, but it’s very interesting: he’s not yet the CEO of Apple, and the keynote has a very informal Q&A format in which he lays out the principles that Apple would adhere to for the next 14 years.

 

And finally, Wired changed its main page to a tribute of Steve Jobs, with quotes from tech celebrities:

Wired Magazine's main page

“The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it’s been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely.”  — Bill Gates

“The world has lost a visionary. And there may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented. Michelle and I send our thoughts and prayers to Steve’s wife Laurene, his family, and all those who loved him.” — President Barack Obama

His last public appearance was in June of this year, when he went before the Cupertino (where Apple is based) city council to present plans for Apple’s new campus. He resigned as CEO two and a half months later, on August 24th.