Opinion

7 Things to Consider Before Choosing Sides in the Middle East Conflict

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Are you “pro-Israel” or “pro-Palestine”? It isn’t even noon yet as I write this, and I’ve already been accused of being both.

These terms intrigue me because they directly speak to the doggedly tribal nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You don’t hear of too many other countries being universally spoken of this way. Why these two? Both Israelis and Palestinians are complex, with diverse histories and cultures, and two incredibly similar (if divisive) religions. To come down completely on the side of one or the other doesn’t seem rational to me.

It is telling that most Muslims around the world support Palestinians, and most Jews support Israel. This, of course, is natural — but it’s also problematic. It means that this is not about who’s right or wrong as much as which tribe or nation you are loyal to. It means that Palestinian supporters would be just as ardently pro-Israel if they were born in Israeli or Jewish families, and vice versa. It means that the principles that guide most people’s view of this conflict are largely accidents of birth — that however we intellectualize and analyze the components of the Middle East mess, it remains, at its core, a tribal conflict.

By definition, tribal conflicts thrive and survive when people take sides. Choosing sides in these kinds of conflicts fuels them further and deepens the polarization. And worst of all, you get blood on your hands.

So before picking a side in this latest Israeli-Palestine conflict, consider these 7 questions:

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1. Why is everything so much worse when there are Jews involved?

Over 700 people have died in Gaza as of this writing. Muslims have woken up around the world. But is it really because of the numbers?

Bashar al-Assad has killed over 180,000 Syrians, mostly Muslim, in two years — more than the number killed in Palestine in two decades. Thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Syria have been killed by ISIS in the last two months. Tens of thousands have been killed by the Taliban. Half a million black Muslims were killed by Arab Muslims in Sudan. The list goes on.

But Gaza makes Muslims around the world, both Sunni and Shia, speak up in a way they never do otherwise. Up-to-date death counts and horrific pictures of the mangled corpses of Gazan children flood their social media timelines every day. If it was just about the numbers, wouldn’t the other conflicts take precedence? What is it about then?

If I were Assad or ISIS right now, I’d be thanking God I’m not Jewish.

Amazingly, many of the graphic images of dead children attributed to Israeli bombardment that are circulating online are from Syria, based on a BBC report. Many of the pictures you’re seeing are of children killed by Assad, who is supported by Iran, which also funds Hezbollah and Hamas. What could be more exploitative of dead children than attributing the pictures of innocents killed by your own supporters to your enemy simply because you weren’t paying enough attention when your own were killing your own?

This doesn’t, by any means, excuse the recklessness, negligence, and sometimesoutright cruelty of Israeli forces. But it clearly points to the likelihood that the Muslim world’s opposition to Israel isn’t just about the number of dead.

Here is a question for those who grew up in the Middle East and other Muslim-majority countries like I did: if Israel withdrew from the occupied territories tomorrow, all in one go — and went back to the 1967 borders — and gave the Palestinians East Jerusalem — do you honestly think Hamas wouldn’t find something else to pick a fight about? Do you honestly think that this has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they are Jews? Do you recall what you watched and heard on public TV growing up in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Egypt?

Yes, there’s an unfair and illegal occupation there, and yes, it’s a human rights disaster. But it is also true that much of the other side is deeply driven by anti-Semitism. Anyone who has lived in the Arab/Muslim world for more than a few years knows that. It isn’t always a clean, one-or-the-other blame split in these situations like your Chomskys and Greenwalds would have you believe. It’s both.

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2. Why does everyone keep saying this is not a religious conflict?

There are three pervasive myths that are widely circulated about the “roots” of the Middle East conflict:

Myth 1: Judaism has nothing to do with Zionism.
Myth 2: Islam has nothing to do with Jihadism or anti-Semitism.
Myth 3: This conflict has nothing to do with religion.

To the “I oppose Zionism, not Judaism!” crowd, is it mere coincidence that this passage from the Old Testament (emphasis added) describes so accurately what’s happening today?

“I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods.” – Exodus 23:31-32

Or this one?

“See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers — to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — and to their descendants after them.” – Deuteronomy 1:8

There’s more: Genesis 15:18-21, and Numbers 34 for more detail on the borders. Zionism is not the “politicization” or “distortion” of Judaism. It is the revival of it.

And to the “This is not about Islam, it’s about politics!” crowd, is this verse from the Quran (emphasis added) meaningless?

“O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you—then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.” – Quran, 5:51

What about the numerous verses and hadith quoted in Hamas’ charter? And the famous hadith of the Gharqad tree explicitly commanding Muslims to kill Jews?

Please tell me — in light of these passages written centuries and millennia before the creation of Israel or the occupation — how can anyone conclude that religion isn’t at the root of this, or at least a key driving factor? You may roll your eyes at these verses, but they are taken very seriously by many of the players in this conflict, on both sides. Shouldn’t they be acknowledged and addressed? When is the last time you heard a good rational, secular argument supporting settlement expansion in the West Bank?

Denying religion’s role seems to be a way to be able to criticize the politics while remaining apologetically “respectful” of people’s beliefs for fear of “offending” them. But is this apologism and “respect” for inhuman ideas worth the deaths of human beings?

People have all kinds of beliefs — from insisting the Earth is flat to denying the Holocaust. You may respect their right to hold these beliefs, but you’re not obligated to respect the beliefs themselves. It’s 2014, and religions don’t need to be “respected” any more than any other political ideology or philosophical thought system. Human beings have rights. Ideas don’t. The oft-cited politics/religion dichotomy in Abrahamic religions is false and misleading. All of the Abrahamic religions are inherently political.

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3. Why would Israel deliberately want to kill civilians?

This is the single most important issue that gets everyone riled up, and rightfully so.

Again, there is no justification for innocent Gazans dying. And there’s no excuse for Israel’s negligence in incidents like the killing of four children on a Gazan beach. But let’s back up and think about this for a minute.

Why on Earth would Israel deliberately want to kill civilians?

When civilians die, Israel looks like a monster. It draws the ire of even its closest allies. Horrific images of injured and dead innocents flood the media. Ever-growing anti-Israel protests are held everywhere from Norway to New York. And the relatively low number of Israeli casualties (we’ll get to that in a bit) repeatedly draws allegations of a “disproportionate” response. Most importantly, civilian deaths help Hamas immensely.

How can any of this possibly ever be in Israel’s interest?

If Israel wanted to kill civilians, it is terrible at it. ISIS killed more civilians in two days (700 plus) than Israel has in two weeks. Imagine if ISIS or Hamas had Israel’s weapons, army, air force, US support, and nuclear arsenal. Their enemies would’ve been annihilated long ago. If Israel truly wanted to destroy Gaza, it could do so within a day, right from the air. Why carry out a more painful, expensive ground incursion that risks the lives of its soldiers?

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4. Does Hamas really use its own civilians as human shields?

Ask Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas how he feels about Hamas’ tactics.

“What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets?” he asks. “I don’t like trading in Palestinian blood.”

It isn’t just speculation anymore that Hamas puts its civilians in the line of fire.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri plainly admitted on Gazan national TV that thehuman shield strategy has proven “very effective.”

The UN relief organization UNRWA issued a furious condemnation of Hamas after discovering hidden rockets in not one, but two children’s schools in Gaza last week.

Hamas fires thousands of rockets into Israel, rarely killing any civilians or causing any serious damage. It launches them from densely populated areas, including hospitals and schools.

Why launch rockets without causing any real damage to the other side, inviting great damage to your own people, then putting your own civilians in the line of fire when the response comes? Even when the IDF warns civilians to evacuate their homes before a strike, why does Hamas tell them to stay put?

Because Hamas knows its cause is helped when Gazans die. If there is one thing that helps Hamas most — one thing that gives it any legitimacy — it is dead civilians. Rockets in schools. Hamas exploits the deaths of its children to gain the world’s sympathy. It uses them as a weapon.

You don’t have to like what Israel is doing to abhor Hamas. Arguably, Israel and Fatah are morally equivalent. Both have a lot of right on their side. Hamas, on the other hand, doesn’t have a shred of it.

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5. Why are people asking for Israel to end the “occupation” in Gaza?

Because they have short memories.

In 2005, Israel ended the occupation in Gaza. It pulled out every last Israeli soldier. It dismantled every last settlement. Many Israeli settlers who refused to leave wereforcefully evicted from their homes, kicking and screaming.

This was a unilateral move by Israel, part of a disengagement plan intended toreduce friction between Israelis and Palestinians. It wasn’t perfect — Israel was still to control Gaza’s borders, coastline, and airspace — but considering the history of the region, it was a pretty significant first step.

After the evacuation, Israel opened up border crossings to facilitate commerce. The Palestinians were also given 3,000 greenhouses which had already been producing fruit and flowers for export for many years.

But Hamas chose not to invest in schools, trade, or infrastructure. Instead, it built an extensive network of tunnels to house thousands upon thousands of rockets and weapons, including newer, sophisticated ones from Iran and Syria. All the greenhouses were destroyed.

Hamas did not build any bomb shelters for its people. It did, however, build a fewfor its leaders to hide out in during airstrikes. Civilians are not given access to these shelters for precisely the same reason Hamas tells them to stay home when the bombs come.

Gaza was given a great opportunity in 2005 that Hamas squandered by transforming it into an anti-Israel weapons store instead of a thriving Palestinian state that, with time, may have served as a model for the future of the West Bank as well. If Fatah needed yet another reason to abhor Hamas, here it was.

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6. Why are there so many more casualties in Gaza than in Israel?

The reason fewer Israeli civilians die is not because there are fewer rockets raining down on them. It’s because they are better protected by their government.

When Hamas’ missiles head towards Israel, sirens go off, the Iron Dome goes into effect, and civilians are rushed into bomb shelters. When Israeli missiles head towards Gaza, Hamas tells civilians to stay in their homes and face them.

While Israel’s government urges its civilians to get away from rockets targeted at them, Gaza’s government urges its civilians to get in front of missiles not targeted at them.

The popular explanation for this is that Hamas is poor and lacks the resources to protect its people like Israel does. The real reason, however, seems to have more to do with disordered priorities than deficient resources (see #5). This is about will, not ability. All those rockets, missiles, and tunnels aren’t cheap to build or acquire. But they are priorities. And it’s not like Palestinians don’t have a handful of oil-rich neighbors to help them the way Israel has the US.

The problem is, if civilian casualties in Gaza drop, Hamas loses the only weapon it has in its incredibly effective PR war. It is in Israel’s national interest to protect its civilians and minimize the deaths of those in Gaza. It is in Hamas’ interest to do exactly the opposite on both fronts.

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7. If Hamas is so bad, why isn’t everyone pro-Israel in this conflict?

Because Israel’s flaws, while smaller in number, are massive in impact.

Many Israelis seem to have the same tribal mentality that their Palestinian counterparts do. They celebrate the bombing of Gaza the same way many Arabs celebrated 9/11. A UN report recently found that Israeli forces tortured Palestinian children and used them as human shields. They beat up teenagers. They are oftenreckless with their airstrikes. They have academics who explain how rape may be the only truly effective weapon against their enemy. And many of them callously and publicly revel in the deaths of innocent Palestinian children.

To be fair, these kinds of things do happen on both sides. They are an inevitable consequence of multiple generations raised to hate the other over the course of 65 plus years. To hold Israel up to a higher standard would mean approaching the Palestinians with the racism of lowered expectations.

However, if Israel holds itself to a higher standard like it claims — it needs to do much more to show it isn’t the same as the worst of its neighbors.

Israel is leading itself towards increasing international isolation and national suicide because of two things: 1. The occupation; and 2. Settlement expansion.

Settlement expansion is simply incomprehensible. No one really understands the point of it. Virtually every US administration — from Nixon to Bush to Obama — hasunequivocally opposed it. There is no justification for it except a Biblical one (see #2), which makes it slightly more difficult to see Israel’s motives as purely secular.

The occupation is more complicated. The late Christopher Hitchens was right when he said this about Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories:

“In order for Israel to become part of the alliance against whatever we want to call it, religious barbarism, theocratic, possibly thermonuclear theocratic or nuclear theocratic aggression, it can’t, it’ll have to dispense with the occupation. It’s as simple as that.

It can be, you can think of it as a kind of European style, Western style country if you want, but it can’t govern other people against their will. It can’t continue to steal their land in the way that it does every day.And it’s unbelievably irresponsible of Israelis, knowing the position of the United States and its allies are in around the world, to continue to behave in this unconscionable way. And I’m afraid I know too much about the history of the conflict to think of Israel as just a tiny, little island surrounded by a sea of ravening wolves and so on. I mean, I know quite a lot about how that state was founded, and the amount of violence and dispossession that involved. And I’m a prisoner of that knowledge. I can’t un-know it.”

As seen with Gaza in 2005, unilateral disengagement is probably easier to talk about than actually carry out. But if it Israel doesn’t work harder towards a two-state (maybe three-state, thanks to Hamas) solution, it will eventually have to make that ugly choice between being a Jewish-majority state or a democracy.

It’s still too early to call Israel an apartheid state, but when John Kerry said Israelcould end up as one in the future, he wasn’t completely off the mark. It’s simple math. There are only a limited number of ways a bi-national Jewish state with a non-Jewish majority population can retain its Jewish identity. And none of them are pretty.

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Let’s face it, the land belongs to both of them now. Israel was carved out of Palestine for Jews with help from the British in the late 1940s just like my own birthplace of Pakistan was carved out of India for Muslims around the same time. The process was painful, and displaced millions in both instances. But it’s been almost 70 years. There are now at least two or three generations of Israelis who were born and raised in this land, to whom it really is a home, and who are often held accountable and made to pay for for historical atrocities that are no fault of their own. They are programmed to oppose “the other” just as Palestinian children are. At its very core, this is a tribal religious conflict that will never be resolved unless people stop choosing sides.

So you really don’t have to choose between being “pro-Israel” or “pro-Palestine.” If you support secularism, democracy, and a two-state solution — and you oppose Hamas, settlement expansion, and the occupation — you can be both.

If they keep asking you to pick a side after all of that, tell them you’re going with hummus.

TO THE STUDENTS FOR JUSTICE IN PALESTINE, A LETTER FROM AN ANGRY BLACK WOMAN

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A protest led by Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2009. (Gerald Martineau/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

The student organization Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) is prominent on many college campuses, preaching a mantra of “Freeing Palestine.” It masquerades as though it were a civil rights group when it is not. Indeed, as an African-American, I am highly insulted that my people’s legacy is being pilfered for such a repugnant agenda. It is thus high time to expose its agenda and lay bare some of the fallacies they peddle.

• If you seek to promulgate the legacy of early Islamic colonialists who raped and pillaged the Middle East, subjugated the indigenous peoples living in the region, and foisted upon them a life of persecution and degradation—you do not get to claim the title of “Freedom Fighter.”

• If you support a racist doctrine of Arab supremacism and wish (as a corollary of that doctrine) to destroy the Jewish state, you do not get to claim that the prejudices you peddle are forms of legitimate “resistance.”

• If your heroes are clerics who sit in Gaza plotting the genocide of a people; who place their children on rooftops in the hopes they will get blown to bits; who heap praises upon their fellow gang members when they succeed in murdering Jewish school boys and bombing places of activity where Jews congregate—you do not get to claim that you are some Apollonian advocate of human virtue. You are not.

• If your activities include grieving over the woefully incompetent performance by Hamas rocketeers and the subsequent millions of Jewish souls who are still alive—whose children were not murdered by their rockets; whose limbs were not torn from them; and whose disembowelment did not come into fruition—you do not get to claim that you stand for justice. You profess to be irreproachable. You are categorically not.

• If your idea of a righteous cause entails targeting and intimidating Jewish students on campus, arrogating their history of exile-and-return and fashioning it in your own likeness you do not get to claim that you do so in the name of civil liberty and freedom of expression.

• You do not get to champion regimes that murder, torture, and persecute their own people, deliberately keep them impoverished, and embezzle billions of dollar from them—and claim you are “pro-Arab.” You are not.

• You do not get to champion a system wherein Jews are barred from purchasing land, traveling in certain areas, and living out such an existence merely because they are Jews—and claim that you are promoting equality for all. You do not get to enable that system by pushing a boycott of Jewish owned businesses, shops, and entities—and then claim that you are “against apartheid.” That is evil.

• You do not get to justify the calculated and deliberate bombings, beatings, and lynchings of Jewish men, women, and children by referring to such heinous occurrences as part of a noble “uprising” of the oppressed—that is racism. It is evil.

• You do not get to pretend as though you and Rosa Parks would have been great buddies in the 1960s. Rosa Parks was a real Freedom Fighter. Rosa Parks was a Zionist.

Coretta Scott King was a Zionist.

A. Phillip Randolph was a Zionist.

Bayard Rustin was a Zionist.

Count Basie was a Zionist.

Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. was a Zionist.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Zionist.

Indeed, they and many more men and women signed a letter in 1975 that stated: “We condemn the anti-Jewish blacklist. We have fought too long and too hard to root out discrimination from our land to sit idly while foreign interests import bigotry to America. Having suffered so greatly from such prejudice, we consider most repugnant the efforts by Arab states to use the economic power of their newly-acquired oil wealth to boycott business firms that deal with Israel or that have Jewish owners, directors, or executives, and to impose anti-Jewish preconditions for investments in this country.”

You see, my people have always been Zionists because my people have always stood for the freedom of the oppressed. So, you most certainly do not get to culturally appropriate my people’s history for your own. You do not have the right to invoke mypeople’s struggle for your shoddy purposes and you do not get to feign victimhood in our name. You do not have the right to slander my people’s good name and link your cause to that of Dr. King’s. Our two causes are diametrically opposed to each other.

Your cause is the antithesis of freedom. It has cost hundreds of thousands of lives of both Arabs and Jews. It has separated these peoples, and has fomented animosity between them. It has led to heartache, torment, death and destruction.

It is of course your prerogative to continue to utilize platitudes for your cause. You are entirely within your rights to chant words like “equality” “justice” and “freedom fighter.”

You can keep using those words for as long as you like. But I do not think you know what they mean.

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Dark Matter May Be Made of Primordial Black Holes

Dark Matter May Be Made of Primordial Black Holes

This image shows the infrared background, or the infrared light not associated with known sources. It may be left over from the universe’s first luminous objects, including stars.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/A. Kashlinsky (Goddard)

Could dark matter — the elusive substance that composes most of the material universe — be made of black holes? Some astronomers are beginning to think this tantalizing possibility is more and more likely.

Alexander Kashlinsky, an astronomer at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, thinks that black holes that formed soon after the Big Bang can perfectly explain the observations of gravitational waves, or ripples in space-time, made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) last year, as well as previous observations of the early universe.

If Kashlinsky is correct, then dark matter might be composed of these primordial black holes, all galaxies might be embedded within a vast sphere of black holes, and the early universe might have evolved differently than scientists had thought. [Watch the LIGO documentary "LIGO, A Passion for Understanding"]

In 2005, Kashlinsky and his colleagues used NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope to explore the background glow of infrared light found in the universe. Because light from cosmic objects takes a finite amount of time to travel through space, astronomers on Earth see distant objects the way those objects looked in the past. Kashlinsky and his group wanted to look toward the early universe, beyond where telescopes can pick up individual galaxies.

“Suppose you look at New York [City] from afar,” Kashlinsky told Space.com. “You cannot see individual lampposts or buildings, but you can see this cumulative diffuse light that they produce.”

When the researchers removed all of the light from the known galaxies throughout the universe, they could still detect excess light — the background glow from the first sources to illuminate the universe more than 13 billion years ago.

Then, in 2013, Kashlinsky and his colleagues used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to explore the background glow in a different part of the electromagnetic spectrum: X-rays. To their surprise, the patterns within the infrared background perfectly matched the patterns within the X-ray background.

“And the only sources that would be able to produce this in both infrared and X-rays are black holes,” Kashlinsky said. “It never crossed my mind at that time that these could be primordial black holes.”

Then, there was the LIGO detection. On Sept. 14, 2015, the observatory made the first-ever direct detection of gravitational waves — cosmic ripples in the fabric of space-time itself — that had been produced by a pair of colliding black holes. It marked the beginning of a new era of discovery — one in which astronomers could collect these unique signals created by powerful astronomical events and, for the first time, directly detect black holes (as opposed to seeing the illuminated material around black holes).

But Simeon Bird, an astronomer at Johns Hopkins University, speculated that the discovery could be even more significant. Bird suggested that the two black holes detected by LIGO could be primordial.

An image of the sky in infrared light, taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The image shows the same patch of sky as seen in the image above, but without the known infrared sources removed.

An image of the sky in infrared light, taken by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. The image shows the same patch of sky as seen in the image above, but without the known infrared sources removed.

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/A. Kashlinsky (Goddard)

Primordial black holes aren’t formed from the collapse of a dead star (the more commonly-known mechanism for black hole formation that takes place relatively late in the universe’s history). Instead, primordial black holes formed soon after the Big Bang when sound waves radiated throughout the universe. Areas where those sound waves are densest could have collapsed to form the black holes.

If that thought makes your head spin a little, just think about spinning pizza dough into a disc. “After a while, you will notice it has these holes in the texture of the pizza dough,” Kashlinsky said. “It’s the same with space-time,” except those holes are primordial black holes.

For now, these primordial black holes remain hypothetical. But Kashlinsky, impressed by Bird’s suggestion, took the hypothesis a step further. In his new paper, published May 24 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Kashlinsky looked at the consequences that these primordial black holes would have had on the evolution of the cosmos. (Bird is not the first scientist to suggest thatdark matter might be made of black holes, although not all of those ideas involve primordial black holes.)

For the first 500 million years of the universe’s history, dark matter collapsed into clumps called halos, which provided the gravitational seeds that would later enable matter to accumulate and form the first stars and galaxies, Kashlinsky said. But if that dark matter was composed of primordial black holes, this process would have created far more halos.

Kashlinsky thinks this process could explain both the excess cosmic infrared background and the excess cosmic X-ray background that he and his colleagues observed several years ago.

The infrared glow would come from the earliest stars that formed within the halos. Although stars radiate optical and ultraviolet light, the expansion of the universe naturally stretches that light so that the first stars will appear, to astronomers on Earth, to give off an infrared light. Even without the extra halos, early stars could generate an infrared glow, but not to the extent that Kashlinsky and his colleagues observed, he said.

The gas that created those stars would also have fallen onto the primordial black holes, heating up to high enough temperatures that it would have sparked X-rays. While the cosmic infrared background can be explained — albeit to a lesser extent — without the addition of primordial black holes, the cosmic x-ray background cannot. The primordial black holes connect the two observations together.

“Everything fits together remarkably well,” Kashlinsky said.

Occasionally, those primordial black holes would have come close enough to start orbiting each other (what’s known as a binary system). Over time, those two black holes would spiral together and radiate gravitational waves, potentially like the ones detected by LIGO. But more observations of black holes are needed to determine if these objects are primordial, or formed later in the universe’s history.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews Experiencing ‘Spiritual Meltdown of Historic Proportions, and Turning to Jesus.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man looks down from a rooftop at a mass prayer in Jerusalem March 2, 2014.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man looks down from a rooftop at a mass prayer in Jerusalem March 2, 2014

Analysis from a news portal on the Messianic Jewish community in Israel has claimed that some in the Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel, who are often opposed to Jewish people turning to Jesus Christ, are experiencing a “spiritual meltdown of historic proportions” and are reexamining their beliefs.

“It would appear that the haredi community is quietly experiencing a spiritual meltdown of historic proportions. These people, who literally spend all their waking hours in Torah learning, are so starved for the real Word of the LORD that hundreds are willing to read ‘forbidden’ material in order to find Him,” Kehila News reported, reflecting on a Hebrew-language article published earlier in June on MyNet, the city of Petach Tikva’s news site.

Kehila News said that the article serves as a warning to citizens in the city to “beware of the propaganda” being distributed by Messianic groups, which is a common complaint by the haredi against Jesus-believing Jewish people.

The news portal argued that in part, the article is nothing special, as it makes the same accusations against the Messianic community as it does every year, namely that Jesus followers are practicing deceit by embracing Jewish customs, that their leaders are motivated by lucrative salaries, that they recruit new believers through entrapment, and indoctrinate minors to leave the Jewish faith.

Christians and Jewish followers of Christ are often accused of such actions by the haredi, which has also led to legislation seeking to supress religious freedom. In June 2015 it was announced that the Jerusalem Municipalityhas been obliged to consult with the city’s Rabbis before allowing Christians to host events in the city, fearful of gatherings that would see to convince Jews to follow Jesus.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have protested Christian gatherings on many other occasions as well, including an instance in May 2014 where they grouped at the site of the Last Supper near Jerusalem ahead of Pope Francis’ visit at the time, arguing that the presence of Christians violates their beliefs.

Later, the MyNet article takes a turn, however, as it suggests that Messianic Jews might be good for the nation, and positioned that followers of Christ may have more to fear from the haredim than vice versa.

The article seemingly admits, Kehila News stated, that material about Jesus is drawing in hundreds of new adherents from the haredi community, which is supposed to be strongly opposed to missionary efforts.

The report argued that the admission is remarkable, as anti-missionary publications always dismiss Jews who turn to Jesus as people who have been alienated by their Jewish heritage, or who are ignorant of the Jewish Bible.

Kehila News added: “A few Israeli believers were asked by MyNet if they understood why the ultra-orthodox are so hostile toward us. Their answers focused on what the haredim think of us, ranging from the perception that they ‘sometimes come to accept us after they get to know us’ … to the conviction that ‘they are against us no matter what we do.'”

The news portal reflected that the “real reason” behind anti-missionary panic in Petach Tikva is that the “Messiah is so powerfully reaching those of our people who have lived all their lives ‘behind the Torah Curtain,'” that even the haredi are recognizing the truth now.
Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/ultra-orthodox-haredi-jews-spiritual-meltdown-turning-to-jesus-165448/#VRKrQLSOwJC5GKKr.99

TORUN, Poland (AP) — About 2,000 NATO troops from the U.S., Britain and Poland conducted an airborne training operation on Tuesday as part of the biggest exercise performed in Poland since the 1989 end of communism and amid concerns over Russia.

This should make Russia look, oh ya they talk about nukes, but even if they used a tactical nuke, it would kill there troops as well, and make a dead zone not only in Poland, but Russia too.

This is the way to make Putin look and be scared, we need to Box them in, so that if they try and use Tactical nukes, they too will be affected, i am getting sick and tiered with all this “WE HAVE NUKES ” shit coming from Moscow. They need to start looking at what the real price will be if they try to make a Crimea attack again! Their little green men without Russian badges, that only makes them look like cowards, a real military, would show who they were, not try and hide from us.

 

Scores of U.S. troops and then military vehicles parachuted into a spacious, grassy training area on the outskirts of the central city of Torun. The force’s mission was to secure a bridge on the Vistula River as part of the Polish-led Anakonda-16 exercise that involves about 31,000 troops and runs through mid-June.

Nineteen NATO member nations and five partner nations are contributing troops to the exercise that will train and test their swift joint reaction to threats on land, sea and in the air.

Airborne forces from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland conduct a a multi-national jump on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 201...

Airborne forces from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland conduct a a multi-national jump on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

In a complex operation that was precisely planned and timed, troops of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division flew directly from their U.S. base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Their Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft were refueled in midair. The British troops flew from a NATO base in Ramstein, Germany, while the Poles arrived from their base in Krakow, in southern Poland.

The exercise “confirmed that we can count on our friends who are capable of flying over the Atlantic to be here with us in a matter of hours,” said Polish Gen. Miroslaw Rozanski, deputy commander of the exercise. “We can look into the future with calm. We have good allies and good partners.”

Russia considers NATO troops’ presence close to its border as a security threat. President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Tuesday in Moscow that the military exercise in Poland “does not contribute to the atmosphere of trust and security on the continent.”

Poland and other nations in the region, as well as NATO leaders, say that any military presence or exercises are purely defensive and deterrent measures.

The drill is being held just weeks before NATO holds a crucial summit in Warsaw expected to decide that significant numbers of NATO troops and equipment will be based in Poland and in the Baltic states.

___

Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

A C-130 plane drops paratroopers from the Polish 6th Airborne Division during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain ...

A C-130 plane drops paratroopers from the Polish 6th Airborne Division during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division jump during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a design...

U.S. C-17 planes from the 82nd Airborne Division drop paratroopers during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division General Richard D. Clarke, left, runs after jumping during a multi-national jump conducted by forces from the U.S., G...

Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division General Richard D. Clarke, left, runs after jumping during a multi-national jump conducted by forces from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

A British C-130J plane from the 16th Air Assault Brigade drops paratroopers during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Bri...

A British C-130J plane from the 16th Air Assault Brigade drops paratroopers during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

A U.S. C-17 plane from the 82nd Airborne Division drops paratroopers during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain an...

A U.S. C-17 plane from the 82nd Airborne Division drops paratroopers during a multi-national jump with soldiers and equipment from the U.S., Great Britain and Poland on to a designated drop zone near Torun, Poland, Tuesday, June 7, 2016. The exercise, Swift Response-16, sets the stage in Poland for the multi-national land force training event Anakonda-16. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

Can you believe this! WTF! Subway removes ham and bacon from nearly 200 stores and offers halal meat only after ‘strong demand’ from Muslims

Nearly 200 Subway branches across the UK and Ireland have cut out ham and bacon, selling only halal meat, in response to demand from their multicultural customers

  • 185 branches across UK and Ireland now sell halal-only meat
  • Halal refers to objects or actions permissible under Islamic law
  • Pork is forbidden and while other meat can be eaten, it must be sourced, slaughtered and processed according to strict rules
  • Subway said all halal meat served in its branches has come from animals that were stunned before being slaughtered
  • Halal-only menu is in response to ‘strong demand’ from Muslim customers

Fast food giant Subway has removed ham and bacon from almost 200 outlets, and switched to halal meat alternatives in an attempt to please its Muslim customers.

It has confirmed turkey ham and turkey rashers will be used instead in 185 of its stores, where all the meat will now be prepared according to halal rules.

The chain, which has around 1,500 outlets across the UK, explained its decision by saying it had to balance animal welfare concerns with ‘the views of religious communities’.

Nearly 200 Subway branches across the UK and Ireland have cut out ham and bacon, selling only halal meat, in response to demand from their multicultural customers

Traditional halal slaughter sees animals have their throats slit before bleeding to death. But Subway stressed that the meat served in its sandwiches would come from animals that have been stunned first, a practice that aims to reduce any suffering.

In Arabic the word halal means ‘permitted’ or ‘lawful’ and defines anything that is allowed or lawful according to the Qur’an.

It is often used to indicate food – particularly meat – has been prepared in accordance with Muslim principles and techniques.

Muslims are forbidden from eating any non-halal food and meat from pigs and Subway said customers can identify those stores selling halal food by the special ‘All meats are Halal’ sign, which must be displayed in participating branches.

In the halal-only branches ham and bacon has been substituted for turkey ham and rashers.

Many animal charities condemn halal slaughter as being cruel to animals.

Traditionally in halal abattoirs the throats of the animals are cut while they are fully conscious – an act many campaigners say is inhumane and needlessly cruel.

In the halal-only stores ham and bacon have been substituted for turkey ham and turkey rashers, the sandwich chain said. A spokeswoman said all halal meat served in Subway branches has come from animals that were stunned before being slaughtered

In the halal-only stores ham and bacon have been substituted for turkey ham and turkey rashers, the sandwich chain said. A spokeswoman said all halal meat served in Subway branches has come from animals that were stunned before being slaughtered.

In non-halal abattoirs, livestock are stunned before killing to prevent any unnecessary suffering.

Some halal butchers also practise pre-stunning, though it is not permitted by some Islamic scholars.

In Britain, killing an animal without prior stunning is illegal, but the law gives special exemption to Muslim and Jewish meat producers on the grounds of religion.

There are thought to be around 12 abattoirs dedicated to unstunned slaughter in the UK, while hundreds practise stunned halal slaughter.

A Subway spokeswoman told MailOnline all halal meat served in the participating branches is from animals who were stunned prior to slaughter.

She said: ‘The growing popularity of the Subway chain with the diverse multicultural population across the UK and Ireland means we have to balance the values of many religious communities with the overall aim of improving the health and welfare standards of animals.

‘We put a programme into place in 2007 to ensure that the population demographic is taken into account when new store openings are considered in order that we meet consumer demand in each location.

SUBWAY SUBS AFFECTED BY RULES

Subs
Chicken and Bacon Ranch Melt
Steak and Cheese
Meatball Marinara
Subway Melt – ham, bacon, turkey breast and cheese
Italian B.M.T. – pepperoni, salami and ham
Spicy Italian – pepperoni and salami
Chicken Avocado

Breakfast subs
Bacon
Mega Melt – bacon, sausage, egg and cheese
Sausage
Bacon, Egg and Cheese
Sausage, Egg and Cheese

All ham and bacon is replaced by turkey ham and turkey rashers and all meat is prepared according to Islamic halal rules.

‘All our suppliers comply with EU animal welfare legislation as a minimum and we require suppliers of halal products to adopt the stunning of animals prior to their slaughter.

‘All halal meats are certified by the appropriate halal authorities.

‘All halal Subway stores have numerous signs stating that they serve halal food.

‘These are situated on the menu panels, nutritional information and in the front window of the store.’

Animal campaigning charity PETA urged people to opt for a vegetarian diet to ensure they have the best interests of animals at heart.

A spokesman said: ‘At the best of times, meat is a product of a bloody and violent industry with no respect for other living beings who value their lives in the same way that we do and experience the same pain and terror that Subways’ customers would if they were killed for a sandwich.

‘Most religions, including Islam, preach kindness to animals, but words are one thing and practice another.

‘As the Dalai Lama said, “My religion is kindness”. And a diet that expresses kindness, is open to all religions and truly respects animal rights is a vegan one.

‘Subway-goers, no matter what their religion, can eat with a clear conscience by opting for the veggie patty, the veggie delight or, heaven forbid, a salad.’

Speaking about the general issue of halal slaughter, an RSPCA spokeswoman added: ‘Scientific research has clearly shown that slaughter of an animal without stunning can cause unnecessary suffering, and the RSPCA is opposed to the slaughter of any animal without first making it insensible to pain and distress.

‘At present, the only legal exemptions to stunning during slaughter exist for kosher and halal methods of slaughter, however, it is important to differentiate between ‘religious’ and ‘non-stun’ slaughter as around 90 per cent of all halal in the UK receives a stun before slaughter.

‘Our concern has nothing to do with the expression of religious belief but with the practice of killing by throat cutting without pre-stunning.

‘We believe that meat produced from animals stunned or not stunned before slaughter should be clearly labelled to allow consumer choice, and continue to press for changes in the law that would improve the welfare of all farm animals at the time of slaughter.’

HALAL DICTATES OBJECTS OR ACTIONS PERMISSIBLE UNDER ISLAMIC LAW

Halal refers to any object or action which is permissible according to Islamic law. The term covers not only food and drink but also matters of daily life.

Halal foods are those that Muslims are allowed to eat or drink under Islamic Shari’ah. The criteria dictates both food which are allowed and how the food must be prepared. The foods most commonly addressed are types of meat and animal tissue.

The most common example of non-halal, or forbidden food is pork. It is the only meat that must not be eaten by Muslims at all, due to historical, cultural and religiously perceived hygienic concerns.

Muslims are forbidden under Islamic law from eating any pork products, any other meat must be sourced, killed and processed according to strict rules

Other meats can be forbidden, depending on their source, the cause of the animal’s death and how it was processed.

To be halal, the food must have come from a supplier that uses halal practises. Specifically the slaughter must be performed by a Muslim, who must invoke the name of Allah prior to killing the animal. Commonly a person will say ‘Bismillah’ (‘In the name of God’) before repeating ‘Allahu akbar’ (‘God is the greatest’) three times.

The animal is then slaughtered with a sharp knife, by cutting the throat, windpipe and blood vessels in the neck without cutting the spinal cord. The blood must then be drained from the veins of the animal.

Traditionally and according to Islamic scholars an animal must be conscious while slaughtered.

However the majority of halal abattoirs stun the animals before killing them.

Muslims must also ensure that all foods, particularly processed foods, as well as non-food items like cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, are halal.

Why There Will Never Be Another Einstein

Inspired by Scientific American’s terrific September issue, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s theory of general relativity [see Addendum], I’ve dusted off an essay I wrote for The New York Times a decade ago. Here is an edited, updated version. —John Horgan

When Stevens Institute of Technology hired me a decade ago, it installed me for several months in the department of physics, which had a spare office. Down the hall from me, Albert Einstein’s electric-haired visage beamed from a poster for the “World Year of Physics 2005.” The poster celebrated the centennial of the “miraculous year” when a young patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland, revolutionized physics with five papers on relativity, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. “Help make 2005 another Miraculous Year!” the poster exclaimed.

“I am no Einstein,” Einstein once said. On top of all his other qualities, the man was modest. Photo by Oren Jack Turner courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

As 2005 wound down with no miracles in sight, the poster took on an increasingly poignant cast. Passing the office of a physics professor who made the mistake of leaving his door open, I stopped and asked the question implicitly posed by the “Year of Physics” poster: Will there ever be another Einstein? The physicist scrunched up his face and replied, “I’m not sure what that question means.”

Let me try to explain. Einstein is the most famous and beloved scientist of all time. We revere him not only as a scientific genius but also as a moral and even spiritual sage. Abraham Pais, Einstein’s friend and biographer, called him “the divine man of the 20th century.” To New York Times physics reporter Dennis Overbye, Einstein was an “icon” of “humanity in the face of the unknown.” So to rephrase my question: Will science ever produce another figure who evokes such hyperbolic reverence?

I doubt it. The problem isn’t that modern physicists can’t match Einstein’s intellectual firepower. In Genius, his 1992 biography of physicist Richard Feynman, James Gleick pondered why physics hadn’t produced more giants like Einstein. The paradoxical answer, Gleick suggested, is that there are so many brilliant physicists alive today that it has become harder for any individual to stand apart from the pack. In other words, our perception of Einstein as a towering figure is, well, relative.

Gleick’s explanation makes sense. (In fact, physicist Edward Witten has been described as the most mathematically gifted physicist since Newton.) However, I would add a corollary: Einstein seems bigger than modern physicists because–to paraphrase Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard–physics got small.

For the first half of the last century, physics yielded not only deep insights into nature–which resonated with the disorienting work of creative visionaries like Picasso, Joyce and Freud–but also history-jolting technologies like the atomic bomb, nuclear power, radar, lasers, transistors and all the gadgets that make up the computer and communications industries. Physics mattered.

Over the past few decades, many physicists have gotten bogged down pursuing a goal that obsessed Einstein in his latter years: a theory that fuses quantum physics and general relativity, which are as incompatible, conceptually and mathematically, as plaid and polka dots. Seekers of this “theory of everything” have wandered into fantasy realms of higher dimensions with little or no empirical connection to our reality.

Over the past few decades, biology has displaced physics as the scientific enterprise with the most intellectual, practical and economic clout. Of all modern biologists, Francis Crick (who originally trained as a physicist) probably came closest to Einstein in terms of scientific achievement. Together with James Watson, Crick unraveled the twin-corkscrew structure of DNA in 1953. He went on to show how the double helix mediates the genetic code that serves as the blueprint for all of life.

Just as Einstein vainly sought a unified theory of physics, so Crick in his final decades tried to crack the riddle of consciousness, the hardest unsolved problem in science. (“We probably need a few Einsteins” to solve the problem, artificial-intelligence maven Rodney Brooks once wrote.)

But neither Crick nor any other modern biologist has approached Einstein’s extra-scientific reputation. Einstein took advantage of his fame to speak out on nuclear weapons, nuclear power, militarism and other vital issues through lectures, essays, interviews, petitions and letters to world leaders. When he spoke, people listened.

After Israel’s first president, the chemist Chaim Weizmann, died in 1952, the Israeli cabinet asked Einstein if he would consider becoming the country’s president. Einstein politely declined–perhaps to the relief of the Israeli officials, given his commitment to pacifism and a global government. (While awaiting Einstein’s answer, David Ben-Gurion, the prime minister, reportedly asked an aide, “What are we going to do if he accepts?”)

It is hard to imagine any modern scientist, physicist or biologist, being lionized in this manner. One reason may be that science as a whole has lost its moral sheen. The public is warier than ever of the downside of scientific advances, whether nuclear energy or genetic engineering. Moreover, as modern science has become increasingly institutionalized, it has started to resemble a guild that values self-promotion above truth and the common good.

Einstein also possessed a moral quality that set him apart even in his own time. According to Robert Oppenheimer, the dark angel of nuclear physics, Einstein exuded “a wonderful purity at once childlike and profoundly stubborn.”

The aspiring scientists and engineers I encounter at my school give me hope that science has a bright future. But I suspect that we will never see Einstein’s like again, because he was the product of a unique convergence of time and temperament.

Einstein, incidentally, didn’t think he lived up to his own reputation. “I am no Einstein,” he once said. On top of all his other qualities, the man was modest.

Addendum: In the September Scientific American, physicist Brian Greene also asks, “Could there be another Einstein?” He responds: “If one means another über genius who will powerfully push science forward, then the answer is surely yes. In the past half a century since Einstein’s death, there have indeed been such scientists. But if one means an über genius to whom the world will look not because of accomplishments in sports or entertainment but as a thrilling example of what the human mind can accomplish, well, that question speaks to us—to what we as a civilization will deem precious.”

Origins of ‘Gospel of Jesus’s Wife’ Begin to Emerge

the Gospel of Jesus's Wife papyrus

Written in Coptic (an Egyptian language), the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, if authentic, suggests that some people in ancient times believed Jesus was married, apparently to Mary Magdalene.
Credit: Photo courtesy Harvard Divinity School

The truth may be finally emerging about the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” a highly controversial papyrus suggesting that some people, in ancient times, believed Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. New research on the papyrus’ ink points to the possibility that it is authentic, researchers say, while newly obtained documents may shed light on the origins of the business-card-sized fragment.

Debate about the credibility of the “gospel” began as soon as Harvard University professor Karen King reported her discovery of the papyrus in September 2012. Written in Coptic (an Egyptian language), the papyrus fragment contains a translated line that reads, “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife …'” and also refers to a “Mary,” possibly Mary Magdalene.

King had tentatively dated the papyrus to the fourth century, saying it may be a copy of a gospel written in the second century in Greek. [Read Translation of Gospel of Jesus's Wife Papyrus]

Analysis of the papyrus, detailed last year in the Harvard Theological Review journal, suggested the papyrus dates back around 1,200 years (somewhere between the sixth and ninth centuries) while the ink is of a type that could have been created at that time. These findings have led King to support the text’s authenticity.

However over the past year many scholars have come to the conclusion that the papyrus is a modern-day forgery, though King and a few other researchers say they are not ready to concede this: “At this point, when discussions and research are ongoing, I think it is important, however difficult, to stay open regarding the possible dates of the inscription and other matters of interpretation,” wrote King in a letter recently published in the magazine Biblical Archaeological Review. King has not responded to several interview requests from Live Science.

Now, researchers at Columbia University are running new tests on the ink used on the papyrus. Initial tests published by the Columbia University team in 2014 indicated the ink could have been made in ancient times. Researchers are saying little until their report is published; however they did talk about one finding that could provide some support for its authenticity.

A gospel steeped in mystery

The current owner of the papyrus has insisted on remaining anonymous, claiming that he bought the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, along with other Coptic texts, in 1999 from a man named Hans-Ulrich Laukamp. This person, in turn, got it from Potsdam, in what was East Germany, in 1963, the owner said.

Laukamp died in 2002, and the claim that he owned the text has beenstrongly disputed: Rene Ernest, the man whom Laukamp and his wife Helga charged with representing their estate, said that Laukamp had no interest in antiquities, did not collect them and was living in West Berlin in 1963. Therefore, he couldn’t have crossed the Berlin Wall into Potsdam. Axel Herzsprung, a business partner of Laukamp’s, similarly said that Laukamp never had an interest in antiquities and never owned a papyrus. Laukamp has no children or living relatives who could verify these claims. [6 Archaeological Forgeries That Tried to Change History]

Over the past few months, new documents have been found that not only reconstruct Laukamp’s life in greater detail, but also provide a new way to check the anonymous owner’s story.

King reported in a 2014 Harvard Theological Review article that the anonymous owner “provided me with a photocopy of a contract for the sale of ‘6 Coptic papyrus fragments, one believed to be a Gospel’ from Hans-Ulrich Laukamp, dated Nov. 12, 1999, and signed by both parties.” King also notes that “a handwritten comment on the contract states, ‘Seller surrenders photocopies of correspondence in German. Papyri were acquired in 1963 by the seller in Potsdam (East Germany).'”

After searching public databases in Florida a Live Science reporter uncovered seven signatures signed by Laukamp between 1997 and 2001 on five notarized documents. Anyone can search these databases and download these documents. These signatures can be compared with the signature recording the sale of the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife — providing another way to verify or disprove the story of how the “gospel” made its way to Harvard.

The signature of Hans-Ulrich Laukamp from September 1997.
The signature of Hans-Ulrich Laukamp from September 1997.

While Harvard University would have to work with forensic handwriting experts to verify the signature, the fact that these notarized documents exist, and are publicly available, presents the opportunity to see if Laukamp really did own the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. Forensic handwriting analysis, while not always conclusive, has been used to determine if signatures made on documents or works of art are authentic or forged.

If Laukamp did own the papyrus, authentic or not, then the origins of the enigmatic text lie with him. The new Laukamp documents allow the story of his life between 1995 and 2002 to be told in some detail. However if Laukamp didn’t own the papyrus and the anonymous owner has not been truthful, then further doubt would be cast on the papyrus’ authenticity, and information leading to the identity, motives and techniques of the forgers could be found.

Authentic or forged?

One important find, which indicates the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife is a fake, was made last year by Christian Askeland, a research associate with the Institute for Septuagint and Biblical Research in Wuppertal, Germany. He examined a second Coptic papyrus containing part of the Gospel of John, which the anonymous owner of the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife had also given to Harvard. This text was likewise supposedly purchased from Laukamp, and radiocarbon testing of that papyrus similarly found that it dates back around 1,200 years. [See Images of the Ancient Gospel of Judas]

Askeland found that the text and line breaks— where one line of a text ends and another begins — are identical to those of another papyrus, published in a 1924 book. That second papyrus was written in a dialect of Coptic called Lycopolitan, which went extinct around 1,500 years ago. Askeland concluded that the John papyrus is a forgery. Furthermore, it shares other features with the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife, Askeland said, suggesting both are forgeries.

“The two Coptic fragments clearly shared the same ink, writing implement and scribal hand. The same artisan had created both essentially at the same time,” Askeland wrote in a paper recently published in the journal New Testament Studies.

King objected to this conclusion in her Biblical Archaeology Review letter, noting that the John fragment could have been copied in ancient times, long after Lycopolitan went extinct, from a text that had similar line breaks.

In addition, James Yardley, a senior research scientist at Columbia University, told Live Science that the new tests confirm that the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife holds different ink than the John papyrus. This could undercut Askeland’s argument that the two papyri were written by the same person.

“In our first exploration, we did state that the inks used for the two documents of interest [the John papyrus and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife] were quite different. The more recent results do confirm this observation strongly,” Yardley told Live Science.

He added that until his new research is published in a peer-reviewed journal, he doesn’t want to say anything more publicly. And once it’s published, Askeland and other researchers will have a chance to respond.

Askeland’s find is far from the only argument that the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife is a fake: A number of scholars have noted that the Coptic writing in the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife is similar to another early Christian text called the “Gospel of Thomas,” even including a modern-day typo made in a 2002 edition of the Gospel of Thomas that is available for free online. That typo indicates the forgers copied from this modern-day text. King disputed this assertion in 2014, saying that ancient scribes made grammatical errors similar to the modern-day typo.

King and communications staff at Harvard Divinity School have not responded to repeated requests for comment.

India’s Daughter, Use this Proxy to access The Documentary that has been banned in India.

Go to your Internet settings, and in the Proxy settings ad under, Manual, ip or host “anon-proxy.hidemyassnet.net” click Socks 5 or 4 server, use port 1080 for http use port 808, We have left our Socks proxy open for the next week to anyone in India, so that they can watch the Documentary, without fear of anyone knowing they watched it. Notoriously-White, does not believe in Censorship, and we will allow our proxy server, to be used by anyone in India, to watch this powerful Documentary.

India’s Daughter, review: ‘chilling’

Leslee Udwin’s documentary is an overpowering indictment of female repression in India

Unrepentant: Mukesh Singh was sentenced to death for the brutal rape of Jyoti Singh

Storyville: India’s Daughter (BBC Four) verged on the unwatchable.

It told of the gang rape – on a bus by five men and one juvenile in December 2012 – of Jyoti Singh, a Delhi medical student who died in hospital of her wounds.

The unspeakable details of her ritual humiliation belong in another century, and yet they tell of a deeply ingrained culture of female repression in India.

One Indian woman is raped every 20 minutes.

For its eye-watering brutality, and also for its resonant symbolism, this was the case to ignite furious demonstrations, which in turn were violently suppressed by riot police.

Peering behind the headlines and the hysteria, Leslee Udwin’s overpowering documentary featured interviews with a wide range of people connected to the case: not only Singh’s dignified parents, but also one of the rapists, another rapist’s young wife and the parents of two more of the culprits.

All of them were living with the gruelling consequences of poverty, lack of education and a culture which privileges boys and turns a blind eye to the abortion of female foetuses.

Asha Singh, the rape victim’s mother, with Savitri Devi, the victim’s sister-in law

Singh’s life was an attempt to break this cycle. Memories of those close to her suggested a shining embodiment of new aspirational India.

But female lawyers, politicians and academics queued up in the film to explain that India doesn’t know how to cope with a young generation of emancipated women, a position hideously corroborated by the defendants’ lawyers.

“In our society,” said one, “we never allow a girl to come out of the house after 6.30 with any unknown person.”

This was much the mildest of his endorsements on the male-oriented status quo.

Delhi rapist Mukesh Singh (Photo: BBC)

The interview with Mukesh Singh, who drove the bus and joined in the rape, was the most marrow-chilling of all.

He explained that any woman who resists rape, as his victim did, is begging to be murdered, and even argued that the death penalty for rape could only be bad news for victims.

“Now when they rape they won’t leave the girl like we did. They will kill her. Especially the criminal types.”

He had just enough humanity to flinch as the list of Jyoti Singh’s injuries – from bite marks to the removal of her intestines – was read out to him.

While the UK broadcast was brought forward from International Woman’s Day on March 8 to last night, earlier this week the Indian government secured an injunction banning the broadcast of the documentary.

Make of that what you will.

9 Facts About Computer Security That Experts Wish You Knew

9 Facts About Computer Security That Experts Wish You Knew

1

Every day, you hear about security flaws, viruses, and evil hacker gangs that could leave you destitute — or, worse, bring your country to its knees. But what’s the truth about these digital dangers? We asked computer security experts to separate the myths from the facts. Here’s what they said.

1. Having a strong password actually can prevent most attacks

Yahoo’s Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos has spent most of his career finding security vulnerabilities and figuring out how attackers might try to exploit software flaws. He’s seen everything from the most devious hacks to the simplest social engineering scams. And in all that time, he’s found that there are two simple solutions for the vast majority of users: strong passwords and two-factor authentication.

Stamos says that the biggest problem is that the media focuses on stories about the deepest and most complicated hacks, leaving users feeling like there’s nothing they can do to defend themselves. But that’s just not true. He told me via email:

I’ve noticed a lot of nihilism in the media, security industry and general public since the Snowden docs came out. This generally expresses itself as people throwing up their hands and saying “there is nothing we can do to be safe”. While it’s true that there is little most people can do when facing a top-tier intelligence apparatus with the ability to rewrite hard drive firmware, this should not dissuade users from doing what they can to protect themselves from more likely threats and security professionals from building usable protections for realistic adversaries.

Users can protect themselves against the most likely and pernicious threat actors by taking two simple steps:

1) Installing a password manager and using it to create unique passwords for every service they use.

2) Activating second-factor authentication options (usually via text messages) on their email and social networking accounts.

The latter is especially important since attackers love to take over the email and social accounts of millions of people and then automatically use them to pivot to other accounts or to gather data on which accounts belong to high-value targets.

So I would really like the media to stop spreading the idea that just because incredible feats are possible on the high-end of the threat spectrum that it isn’t possible to keep yourself safe in the vast majority of scenarios.

Adam J. O’Donnell, a Principal Engineer with Cisco’s Advanced Malware Protection group, amplified Stamos’ basic advice:

Oh, and my advice for the average person: Make good backups and test them. Use a password vault and a different password on every website.

Yep, having a good password is easy — and it’s still the best thing you can do.

2. Just because a device is new does not mean it’s safe

When you unwrap the box on your new phone, tablet or laptop, it smells like fresh plastic and the batteries work like a dream. But that doesn’t mean your computer isn’t already infected with malware and riddled with security vulnerabilities.

I heard this from many of the security experts I interviewed. Eleanor Saitta is the technical director for the International Modern Media Institute, and has worked for over a decade advising governments and corporations about computer security issues. She believes that one of the most pernicious myths about security is that devices begin their lives completely safe, but become less secure as time goes on. That’s simply not true, especially when so many devices come with vulnerable adware like Superfish pre-installed on them (if you recall, Superfish came pre-installed on many Lenovo laptop models):

That’s why the Superfish thing was such a big deal. They built a backdoor in, and they built a really bad, incompetent one, and now it turns out that anybody can walk through.

When you’re relying on code delivered by somebody else, a service online or box that you don’t control, chances are good that it’s not acting in your interest, because it’s trying to sell you. There’s a good chance that it’s already owned or compromised by other people. We don’t have a good way of dealing with trust and managing it right now. And all sorts of people will be using that code.

The other issue, which erupted in the media over the past day with the FREAK attack, is that many machines come pre-installed with backdoors. These are baked in by government request, to make it easier for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to track adversaries. But unfortunately, backdoors are also security vulnerabilities that anyone can take advantage of. Says Saitta:

I think one thing that is really important to understand is that if you built a monitoring system into a network like a cell network, or into a crypto system, anybody can get in there. You’ve built a vulnerability into the system, and sure, you can control access a little. But at the end of the day, a backdoor is a backdoor, and anybody can walk through it.

3. Even the very best software has security vulnerabilities

Many of us imagine that sufficiently good software and networks can be completely safe. Because of this attitude, many users get angry when the machines or services they use turn out to be vulnerable to attack. After all, if we can design a safe car, why not a safe phone? Isn’t it just a matter of getting the tech and science right?

But Parisa Tabriz told me via email that you can’t look at information security that way. Tabriz is the engineer who heads Google’s Chrome security team, and she believes that information security is more like medicine — a bit of art and science — rather than pure science. That’s because our technology was built by humans, and is being exploited by humans with very unscientific motivations. She writes:

I think information security is a lot like medicine — it’s both an art and science. Maybe this is because humans have explicitly built technology and the internet. We assume we should be able to built them perfectly, but the complexity of what we’ve built and now hope to secure almost seems impossible. Securing it would require us to have zero bugs, and that means that the economics are not on the side of the defenders. The defenders have to make sure there are zero bugs in all software they use or write (typically many millions of lines of code if you consider the operating system too), whereas the attacker only has to find one bug.

There will always be bugs in software. Some subset of those bugs will have security impact. The challenge is figuring out which ones to spend resources on fixing, and a lot of that is based on presumed threat models that probably would benefit from more insight into people’s motivations, like crime, monitoring, etc.

RAND Corporation computer security researcher Lillian Ablon emailed me to say that there is simply no such thing as a completely secure system. The goal for defenders is to make attacks expensive, rather than impossible:

With enough resources, there is always a way for an attacker to get in. You may be familiar with the phrase “it’s a matter of when, not if,” in relation to a company getting hacked/breached. Instead, the goal of computer security is to make it expensive for the attackers (in money, time, resources, research, etc.).

4. Every website and app should use HTTPS

You’ve heard every rumor there is to hear about HTTPS. It’s slow. It’s only for websites that need to be ultra-secure. It doesn’t really work. All wrong. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Peter Eckersley is a technologist who has been researching the use of HTTPS for several years, and working on the EFF’s HTTPS Everywhere project. He says that there’s a dangerous misconception that many websites and apps don’t need HTTPS. He emailed to expand on that:

Another serious misconception is website operators, such as newspapers or advertising networks, thinking “because we don’t process credit card payments, our site doesn’t need to be HTTPS, or our app doesn’t need to use HTTPS”. All sites on the Web need to be HTTPS, because without HTTPS it’s easy for hackers, eavesdroppers, or government surveillance programs to see exactly what people are reading on your site; what data your app is processing; or even to modify or alter that data in malicious ways.

Eckersley has no corporate affiliations (EFF is a nonprofit), and thus no potential conflict of interest when it comes to promoting HTTPS. He’s just interested in user safety.

5. The cloud is not safe — it just creates new security problems

Everything is cloud these days. You keep your email there, along with your photos, your IMs, your medical records, your bank documents, and even your sex life. And it’s actually safer there than you might think. But it creates new security problems you might not have thought about. Security engineer Leigh Honeywell works for a large cloud computing company, and emailed me to explain how the cloud really works. She suggests that you begin thinking about it using a familiar physical metaphor:

Your house is your house, and you know exactly what the security precautions you’ve taken against intruders are – and what the tradeoffs are. Do you have a deadbolt? An alarm system? Are there bars on the windows, or did you decide against those because they would interfere with your decor?

Or do you live in an apartment building where some of those things are managed for you? Maybe there’s a front desk security person, or a key-card access per floor. I once lived in a building where you had to use your card to access individual floors on the elevator! It was pretty annoying, but it was definitely more secure. The security guard will get to know the movement patterns of the residents, will potentially (though not always, of course!) recognize intruders. They have more data than any individual homeowner.

Putting your data in the cloud is sort of like living in that secure apartment building. Except weirder. Honeywell continued:

Cloud services are able to correlate data across their customers, not just look at the ways an individual is being targeted. You may not [control access to the place where] your data is being stored, but there’s someone at the front desk of that building 24/7, and they’re watching the logs and usage patterns as well. It’s a bit like herd immunity. A lot of stuff jumps out at [a defender] immediately: here’s a single IP address logging into a bunch of different accounts, in a completely different country than any of those accounts have been logged into from ever before. Oh, and each of those accounts received a particular file yesterday — maybe that file was malicious, and all of those accounts just got broken into?

But if it’s a more targeted attack, the signs will be more subtle. When you’re trying to defend a cloud system, you’re looking for needles in haystacks, because you just have so much data to handle. There’s lots of hype about “big data” and machine learning right now, but we’re just starting to scratch the surface of finding attackers’ subtle footprints. A skilled attacker will know how to move quietly and not set off the pattern detection systems you put in place.

In other words, some automated attack methods become blatantly obvious in a cloud system. But it also becomes easier to hide. Honeywell says that users need to consider the threats they’re seriously worried about when choosing between a cloud service and a home server:

Cloud services are much more complex systems than, say, a hard drive plugged into your computer, or an email server running in your closet. There are more places that things can go wrong, more moving parts. But there are more people maintaining them too. The question folks should ask themselves is: would I be doing a better job running this myself, or letting someone with more time, money, and expertise do it? Who do you think of when you think about being hacked — is it the NSA, random gamer assholes, an abusive ex-partner? I ran my own email server for many years, and eventually switched to a hosted service. I know folks who work on Gmail and Outlook.com and they do a vastly better job at running email servers than I ever did. There’s also the time tradeoff — running an email server is miserable work! But for some people it’s worth it, though, because NSA surveillance really is something they have worry about.

6. Software updates are crucial for your protection

There are few things more annoying in life than the little pop-up that reminds you that updates are required. Often you have to plug your device in, and the updates can take a really long time. But they are often the only thing that stands between you and being owned up by a bad guy. Cisco’s O’Donnell said:

Those software update messages are [not] there just to annoy you: The frequency of software updates is driven less by new software features and more because of some very obscure software flaw that an attacker can exploit to gain control of your system. These software patches fix issues that were publicly identified and likely used in attacks in the wild. You wouldn’t go for days without cleaning and bandaging a festering wound on your arm, would you? Don’t do that to your computer.

7. Hackers are not criminals

Despite decades of evidence to the contrary, most people think of hackers as the evil adversaries who want nothing more than to steal their digital goods. But hackers can wear white hats as well as black ones — and the white hats break into systems in order to get there before the bad guys do. Once the vulnerabilities have been identified by hackers, they can be patched. Google Chrome’s Tabriz says simply:

Also, hackers are not criminals. Just because someone knows how to break something, doesn’t mean they will use that knowledge to hurt people. A lot of hackers make things more secure.

O’Donnell emphasizes that we need hackers because software alone can’t protect you. Yes, antivirus programs are a good start. But in the end you need security experts like hackers to defend against adversaries who are, after all, human beings:

Security is less about building walls and more about enabling security guards. Defensive tools alone can’t stop a dedicated, well resourced attacker. If someone wants in bad enough, they will buy every security tool the target may have and test their attacks against their simulated version of the target’s network. Combatting this requires not just good tools but good people who know how to use the tools.

RAND’s Ablon adds that malicious hackers are rarely the threat they are cracked up to be. Instead, the threat may come from people you don’t suspect — and their motivations may be far more complicated than mere theft:

A lot of the time an internal employee or insider is just as big of a threat, and could bring a business to its knees – intentionally or inadvertently. Furthermore, there are distinct types of external cyber threat actors (cybercriminals, state-sponsored, hacktivists) with different motivations and capabilities. For example, the cybercriminals who hacked into Target and Anthem had very different motivations, capabilities, etc. than those of the state-sponsored actors who hacked into Sony Pictures Entertainment.

8. Cyberattacks and cyberterrorism are exceedingly rare

As many of the experts I talked to said, your biggest threat is somebody breaking into your accounts because you have a crappy password. But that doesn’t stop people from freaking out with fear over “cyberattacks” that are deadly. Ablon says that these kinds of attacks are incredibly unlikely:

Yes, there are ways to hack into a vehicle from anywhere in the world; yes, life-critical medical devices like pacemakers and insulin pumps often have IP addresses or are enabled with Bluetooth – but often these types of attacks require close access, and exploits that are fairly sophisticated requiring time to develop and implement. That said, we shouldn’t be ignoring the millions of connected devices (Internet of Things) that increase our attack surface.

Basically, many people fear cyberattacks for the same reason they fear serial killers. They are the scariest possible threat. But they are also the least likely.

As for cyberterrorism, Ablon writes simply, “Cyberterrorism (to date) does not exist … what is attributed to cyberterrorism today, is more akin to hacktivism, e.g., gaining access to CENTCOM’s Twitter feed and posting ISIS propaganda.”

9. Darknet and Deepweb are not the same thing

Ablon writes that one of the main problems she has with media coverage of cybercrime is the misuse of the terms “Darknet” and “Deepweb.”

She explains what the terms really mean:

The Deepweb refers to part of the Internet, specifically the world wide web (so anything that starts www) that isn’t indexed by search engines (so can’t be accessed by Google). The Darknet refers to non-“www” networks, where users may need separate software to access them. For example, Silk Road and many illicit markets are hosted on [Deepweb] networks like I2P and Tor.

So get a password vault, use two-factor auth, visit only sites that use HTTPS, and stop worrying about super intricate cyber attacks from the Darknet. And remember, hackers are here to protect you — most of the time, anyway.