Category : Science & Technology

(World) Erin Hawley and Kristen Waggoner on the historic Dobbs decision–A victory for life and the Constitution

The U.S. Supreme Court’s courageous decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is a win for life and the Constitution. That historic ruling finally reverses the court’s disastrous opinion in Roe v. Wade—a decision that made up a constitutional right to abortion and resulted in the deaths of more than 60 million unborn children. Because of the court’s ruling in Dobbs, states may now fully protect unborn life.

The Mississippi law at issue in the case, the Gestational Age Act, protects unborn children and the health of their pregnant mothers based on the latest science. It protects unborn life after 15 weeks of gestational age—a point in time when babies can move and stretch, hiccup, and quite likely feel pain. It permits abortions to save the life of the mother or for severe fetal abnormalities. Despite the modesty of Mississippi’s law, the lower courts struck it down because no matter what science showed, or how strong a state’s interest in protecting unborn life was, under the Roe regime, states may not protect life until viability—about 22 weeks of gestational age.

Dobbs is a win for life. Fifty years of scientific progress and innovation establish what the Bible has always taught: Life begins at conception. Ultrasound technology allows expectant parents to see the truth of Psalm 139: Children are fearfully and wonderfully made from the very beginning.

Under Roe v. Wade, moreover, the United States has been an extreme outlier in abortion law and policy. As the chief justice noted during oral arguments, the United States is one of only six nations, including China and North Korea, that allow elective abortions through all nine months of pregnancy. The Washington Post recently ranked the United States as the fourth most liberal abortion country in the world. Most countries do not allow elective abortions at all, and 75 percent protect life after 12 weeks of gestation.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Supreme Court, Theology

(WSJ) U.S. Held Secret Meeting With Israeli, Arab Military Chiefs to Counter Iran Air Threat

The U.S. convened a secret meeting of top military officials from Israel and Arab countries in March to explore how they could coordinate against Iran’s growing missile and drone capabilities, according to officials from the U.S. and the region.

The previously undisclosed talks, which were held at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, marked the first time that such a range of ranking Israeli and Arab officers have met under U.S. military auspices to discuss how to defend against a common threat.

The meeting brought together the top military officers from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt and Jordan and came as Israel and its neighbors are in the early stage of discussing potential military cooperation, the officials said.

The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also sent officers to the meeting. The U.S. was represented by Gen. Frank McKenzie, then the head of the U.S. Central Command.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Iran, Israel, Middle East, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(NYT front page) How China Polices the Future: An Unseen Cage of Surveillance

The more than 1.4 billion people living in China are constantly watched. They are recorded by police cameras that are everywhere, on street corners and subway ceilings, in hotel lobbies and apartment buildings. Their phones are tracked, their purchases are monitored, and their online chats are censored.

Now, even their future is under surveillance.

The latest generation of technology digs through the vast amounts of data collected on their daily activities to find patterns and aberrations, promising to predict crimes or protests before they happen. They target potential troublemakers in the eyes of the Chinese government — not only those with a criminal past but also vulnerable groups, including ethnic minorities, migrant workers and those with a history of mental illness.

They can warn the police if a victim of a fraud tries to travel to Beijing to petition the government for payment or a drug user makes too many calls to the same number. They can signal officers each time a person with a history of mental illness gets near a school.

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Posted in China, Science & Technology

(The Verge) Amazon shows off Alexa feature that mimics the voices of your dead relatives

Amazon has revealed an experimental Alexa feature that allows the AI assistant to mimic the voices of users’ dead relatives.

The company demoed the feature at its annual MARS conference, showing a video in which a child asks Alexa to read a bedtime story in the voice of his dead grandmother.

“As you saw in this experience, instead of Alexa’s voice reading the book, it’s the kid’s grandma’s voice,” said Rohit Prasad, Amazon’s head scientist for Alexa AI. Prasad introduced the clip by saying that adding “human attributes” to AI systems was increasingly important “in these times of the ongoing pandemic, when so many of us have lost someone we love.”

“While AI can’t eliminate that pain of loss, it can definitely make their memories last,” said Prasad.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Death / Burial / Funerals, Science & Technology

(Guardian) Christians in Oxford asked to commit to protecting environment

The addition to the liturgy comes as the Oxford diocese announces plans to spend £10m improving the energy efficiency of its vicarages in an effort to hit net zero emissions by 2035. It is one of 10 dioceses to have divested from fossil fuel companies, making commitments not to invest in coal, oil and gas in the future.

At a national level, the Church of England has been criticised for not acting quickly enough to cut its links with fossil fuel companies. It began to cut ties to coal and other heavily polluting industries in 2015, then pledged in 2018 to divest by 2023 from high-carbon companies that were “not aligned with the goals of the Paris agreement”. But as the deadline approaches, the organisation has said it is still “engaging” with key oil and gas interests, rather than cancelling all of its holdings.

Chris Manktelow, of the Young Christian Climate Network, told the Guardian earlier this year that that was not good enough. “The church should be moving quickly and showing moral leadership, and is just not going fast enough. We are not happy with this response [to the calls to divest].”

On Wednesday, Greenpeace welcomed the Oxford decision.

“The diocese of Oxford is moving away from fossil fuels, which is essential, but this liturgical change goes deeper,” said a spokesperson. “Today’s lesson is that, in a climate and nature emergency, you need to make environmental considerations central to your project right from the very beginning and keep them in mind the whole way through. That sounds very much like wisdom worth listening to.”

Read it all and you can see the additional wording in the liturgy there.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Theology

(Economist) How to fix the world’s energy emergency without wrecking the environment

Energy shocks can become political catastrophes. Perhaps a third of the rich world’s inflation of 8% is explained by soaring fuel and power costs. Households struggling to pay bills are angry, leading to policies aimed at insulating them and boosting fossil-fuel production, however dirty.

Mr Biden, who came to power promising a green revolution, plans to suspend petrol taxes and visit Saudi Arabia to ask it to pump more oil. Europe has emergency windfall levies, subsidies, price caps and more. In Germany, as air-conditioners whine, coal-fired power plants are being taken out of mothballs. Chinese and Indian state-run mining firms that the climate-conscious hoped were on a fast track to extinction are digging up record amounts of coal.

This improvised chaos is understandable but potentially disastrous, because it could stall the clean-energy transition. Public handouts and tax-breaks for fossil fuels will be hard to withdraw. Dirty new power plants and oil- and gasfields with 30- to 40-year lifespans would give their owners more reason to resist fossil-fuel phase-outs. That is why, even as they firefight, governments must focus on tackling the fundamental problems confronting the energy industry.

One priority is finding a way to ramp up fossil-fuel projects, especially relatively clean natural gas, that have an artificially truncated lifespan of 15-20 years so as to align them with the goal of dramatically cutting emissions by 2050.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Globalization, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(Gallup) Americans Have Close but Wary Bond With Their Smartphone

The percentage of U.S. adults saying they use their smartphone “too much” has increased markedly in recent years, rising from 39% when Gallup last asked this in 2015 to 58% today.

This sentiment was strongly age-contingent in 2015 and remains so now; however, all age groups have become more likely to express this concern. Also, this belief is pervasive not only among 20-somethings; smartphone users aged 30 to 49 (74%) are nearly as likely as those 18 to 29 (81%) to say they are on their phone too much. This contrasts with 47% of those 50 to 64 and 30% of those 65 and older.

As in 2015, there is little difference by gender in whether adults think they overuse their smartphone, with 60% of women and 56% of men now saying this.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Science & Technology

(I E) A new plant-based material can replace plastic food packaging for keeps

Interestingly, they observed a decline in the populations of these pathogens after the introduction of APFs. The researchers further deposited the antimicrobial fibers on avocados. They noticed that the APF coating prevented the growth of pathogens on the fruit and protected the same from spoilage and damage. Thus increasing the shelf life of avocados by about 50 percent.

Whereas plastic packets often release harmful chemicals into our food and take more than 400 years to biodegrade, the APF coating is a naturally derived biodegradable and non-toxic biopolymer that does not impact the quality of the edible it covers (a previous study also highlights that humans can digest pullulan). Moreover, according to the researchers, it can be easily washed off from a food item using water and takes only three days to completely decompose in the soil.

Excited with these results, Demokritou wrote, “What we have come up with is a scalable technology, which enables us to turn biopolymers, which can be derived as part of a circular economy from food waste, into smart fibers that can wrap food directly. This is part of the new generation, ‘smart’ and ‘green’ food packaging.”

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ecology, Economy, Science & Technology

(Guardian) Scientists harness light therapy to target and kill cancer cells in world first

Scientists have successfully developed a revolutionary cancer treatment that lights up and wipes out microscopic cancer cells, in a breakthrough that could enable surgeons to more effectively target and destroy the disease in patients.

A European team of engineers, physicists, neurosurgeons, biologists and immunologists from the UK, Poland and Sweden joined forces to design the new form of photoimmunotherapy.

Experts believe it is destined to become the world’s fifth major cancer treatment after surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy.

The light-activated therapy forces cancer cells to glow in the dark, helping surgeons remove more of the tumours compared with existing techniques – and then kills off remaining cells within minutes once the surgery is complete. In a world-first trial in mice with glioblastoma, one of the most common and aggressive types of brain cancer, scans revealed the novel treatment lit up even the tiniest cancer cells to help surgeons remove them – and then wiped out those left over.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology

(NYT) How a Religious Sect That Dominated a Company Unit Landed Google in a Lawsuit

Founded in 1970 by Robert Earl Burton, a former San Francisco Bay Area schoolteacher, the Fellowship of Friends describes itself as an organization “available to anyone interested in pursuing the spiritual work of awakening.” It claims 1,500 members across the globe, with about 500 to 600 in and around its compound in Oregon House. Members are typically required to give 10 percent of their monthly earnings to the organization.

Mr. Burton based his teachings on the Fourth Way, a philosophy developed in the early 20th century by a Greek Armenian philosopher and one of his students. They believed that while most people moved through life in a state of “waking sleep,” a higher consciousness was possible. Drawing on what he described as visits from angelic incarnations of historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Johann Sebastian Bach and Walt Whitman, Mr. Burton taught that true consciousness could be achieved by embracing the fine arts.

Inside the organization’s Northern California compound, called Apollo, the Fellowship staged operas, plays and ballets; ran a critically acclaimed winery; and collected art from across the world, including more than $11 million in Chinese antiques.

“They believe that to achieve enlightenment you should surround yourself with so-called higher impressions — what Robert Burton believed to be the finest things in life,” said Jennings Brown, a journalist who recently produced a podcast about the Fellowship called “Revelations.” Mr. Burton described Apollo as the seed of a new civilization that would emerge after a global apocalypse.

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Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(NYT front page) Ravaging the Congo Basin’s Essential Rainforest, Raft by Raft

The mighty Congo River has become a highway for sprawling flotillas of logs — African teak, wenge and bomanga in colors of licorice, candy bars and carrot sticks. For months at a time, crews in the Democratic Republic of Congo live aboard these perilous rafts, piloting the timber in pursuit of a sliver of profit from the dismantling of a crucial forest.

The biggest rafts are industrial-scale, serving mostly international companies that see riches in the rainforest. But puny versions also make their way downriver, tended by men and their families who work and sleep atop the floating logs.

Forests like these pull huge amounts of carbon dioxide out of the air, making them essential to slow global warming. The expanded scale of illegal logging imperils their role in protecting humanity’s future.

The Congo Basin rainforest, second in size only to the Amazon, is becoming increasingly vital as a defense against climate change as the Amazon is felled. However, the Democratic Republic of Congo for several years in a row has been losing more old-growth rainforest, research shows, than any country except for Brazil.

In this lawless trade, the river is the artery to the world. In some places, where once-towering trees are prepared for the journey, the water itself is stained caramel from the bleeding sap of felled trees.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Africa, Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Republic of Congo

(C of E) Sowing seeds: how a patch of wasteland became heart of community

In just a few years, a patch of once unused land in the middle of the Quarrendon estate in Aylesbury, Bucks, has been transformed into the beating heart of the community by the local church.

The once neglected scrap of land surrounding St Peter’s Church, has been turned into a multipurpose green space – simultaneously a community garden, an exercise site, a place to grow food, an outdoor classroom, and a tranquil spot in the centre of the estate.

In partnership with local organisations, St Peter’s regularly takes referrals from the local GP surgery, known as ‘social prescribing.’

It also welcomes schools, the local Adult Education Centre, and the Youth Offenders Probation Service – where young adults learn new skills in landscaping and horticulture to help get them back into employment.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(NYT front page) As the Great Salt Lake Dries Up, Utah Faces An ‘Environmental Nuclear Bomb’

If the Great Salt Lake, which has already shrunk by two-thirds, continues to dry up, here’s what’s in store:

The lake’s flies and brine shrimp would die off — scientists warn it could start as soon as this summer — threatening the 10 million migratory birds that stop at the lake annually to feed on the tiny creatures. Ski conditions at the resorts above Salt Lake City, a vital source of revenue, would deteriorate. The lucrative extraction of magnesium and other minerals from the lake could stop.

Most alarming, the air surrounding Salt Lake City would occasionally turn poisonous. The lake bed contains high levels of arsenic and as more of it becomes exposed, wind storms carry that arsenic into the lungs of nearby residents, who make up three-quarters of Utah’s population.

“We have this potential environmental nuclear bomb that’s going to go off if we don’t take some pretty dramatic action,” said Joel Ferry, a Republican state lawmaker and rancher who lives on the north side of the lake.

As climate change continues to cause record-breaking drought, there are no easy solutions.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources

(World) A conversation with Andy Crouch–How can we live lives of sacrificial love and glorify God in this technological age?

AC: It is this incredible thing. And, you know, the the idea of wiring, although it’s drawn from computers, it’s close to the truth, in the sense that built into our neurons, you know, which are transmitters of chemical and electrical signals, built into our neurons is the capacity for and the need to have another person or other persons over time, pay attention to us, respond to us, mirror back to us who we are. And you know, a generation ago, even when I was born, I’m in my 50s now, doctors might well have told a mother who was giving birth, oh, your child really is a blank slate. Like they just come into the world, you know, they won’t do anything very interesting for a while. And we now know this is so not true. That babies arrive, and literally in the moments after birth, they open their eyes. And they can’t focus their eyes, they don’t have the muscles to focus, you know, to adjust the focus of their eyes. But their eyes are built to focus if they’re a normal sighted baby, six to eight inches away, which is exactly where a baby is when the mother is holding the child. And, and when a baby sees a face, I mean you can see it on their face, they pay attention. They focus on it. And then studies of this show, literally, neurologically, you’re like lighting up, your brain is ready to see a face the moment you’re born. So I start the book that way, because I want us to keep in mind, like what we most need as human beings is this connection with other persons. We absolutely require it to survive. And I actually think it’s something that is a bit in peril and in danger in our technological world, is so many people kind of miss out whether early in life or later in life on that recognition we all need.

WS: Yeah, and that also provides context for another key point that you make fairly early in the book, but I think, I would say pervades the book. And that is this idea that with technology, with the growth and the ubiquity of technology in our lives and in our culture, there also comes this pathology or this condition of loneliness that has also become ubiquitous in our culture, as well. In other words, this deep need for recognition, which now we too often satisfy with technology, which is not really an appropriate satisfaction of that need – it’s impersonal and and not proximate and all of the rest – has created this pervasive loneliness in our culture. You quote for example, Ben Sasse, and others to make that point. Can you, can you say a little more about this idea of loneliness?

AC: Yeah, I mean, if you imagine what, what it was like, not that long ago. I mean, a few generations ago, you would live in a world where every day, you’d be interacting with other people to get things done. Like that, that’s the only way human beings got things done was together, often in fairly stable communities. And then of course, you’d have animals that you worked with, and animals recognize us as well, domesticated animals do. And you, you would also live, if you lived back in the kind of fully Christianized era of Western history, you would live in a world that you saw as personal. You believed you were in a world made by a God who was known as Father and you were part of that whole system, and everything you saw around you was somehow a reflection of God. All those things have been eroded by technology. So first, modernity started to lose the idea that the world was a personal place inherently. And we started to think of the world in terms of kind of, you know, Newton’s science, that was much more like a machine, like a clock. And then we started using machines to get a lot things done. And that means we have fewer, I don’t know, you know, I won’t get into this in the book, but I think it’s kind of striking, we have very lot fewer animals in our lives, actually. The other fewer creatures around us that we care for, starting from when we’re children, and then in the way that agricultural households would have done. And then we start to be able to get things done without actually being in the presence of persons. So we’ve lost the personal world. We’ve lost our connection to kind of these fellow creatures that we have a responsibility for. And then we have, we’ve lost the kind of face to face relationships that human beings have always had. And we have these substitutes, and, but there’s a big difference between personalized and personal. So my devices are very, I mean, they recognize me now. You know, I look at my phone, and it recognizes my face. But that is not the same thing. As you know, even seeing your face on Zoom. And we’ve met, we’ve been together a few times in person, and I remember you and you remember me. But Zoom is a thin version of a thing that every human being needs to thrive. And, and because we have these simulations, or these substitutes, and because we can get a lot done with them, more and more of us live more and more of our lives actually cut off in all these dimensions from what we were actually made for, I think, which is ultimately love. I mean, we’re made for love we’re made, and that starts with recognition and presence with other people.

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Posted in Anthropology, History, Science & Technology, Theology

(Medium) Umair Haque: The Age of Extinction Is Here — Some of Us Just Don’t Know It Yet

My friends in the Indian Subcontinent tell me stories, these days, that seem like science fiction. The heatwave there is pushing the boundaries of survivability. My other sister says that in the old, beautiful city of artists and poets, eagles are falling dead from the sky. They are just dropping dead and landing on houses, monuments, shops. They can’t fly anymore.

The streets, she says, are lined with dead things. Dogs. Cats. Cows. Animals of all kinds are just there, dead. They’ve perished in the killing heat. They can’t survive.

People, too, try to flee. They run indoors, spend all day in canals and rivers and lakes, and those who can’t, too, line the streets, passed out, pushed to the edge. They’re poor countries. We won’t know how many this heatwave has killed for some time to come. Many won’t even be counted.

Think about all that for a moment. Really stop and think about it. Stop the automatic motions of everyday life you go through and think about it.

You see, my Western friends read stories like this, and then they go back to obsessing over the Kardashians or Wonder Woman or Johnny Depp or Batman. They don’t understand yet. Because this is beyond the limits of what homo sapiens can really comprehend, the Event. That world is coming for them, too.

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Posted in Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler

As the heavens declare thy glory, O God, and the firmament showeth thy handiwork, we bless thy Name for the gifts of knowledge and insight thou didst bestow upon Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler; and we pray that thou wouldst continue to advance our understanding of thy cosmos, for our good and for thy glory; through Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, who with thee and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Church History, Science & Technology, Spirituality/Prayer

(Church Times) Bishops challenge Government on cost-of-living and climate crises

Bishops in the House of Lords continued to challenge the Government’s response to the cost-of-living and climate crises this week, as debates on the Queen’s Speech of last week (News, 13 May) entered a fourth day.

On Monday, debate focused on economic development, energy, and the environment. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich, the Rt Revd Martin Seeley, said: “The climate crisis is the multiplying factor for all the other crises we face.”

In his maiden speech, Bishop Seeley dedicated much of his time to environmental issues. “Global temperature rises will dramatically increase the global refugee crisis and food shortages, and the geopolitical impact will continue to be magnified,” he said.

“We must pursue the determined course set at COP26, where we take actions —challenging actions — now, for the sake of the long term.”

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, who is the C of E’s lead bishop on the environment, wrote of the agreement at COP26 that “progress was made . . . but not enough” (Comment, 18 November 2021).

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecology, Economy, England / UK, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Cambridge U) Algae-powered computing: scientists create reliable and renewable biological photovoltaic cell

Researchers have used a widespread species of blue-green algae to power a microprocessor continuously for a year – and counting – using nothing but ambient light and water. Their system has potential as a reliable and renewable way to power small devices.

The system, comparable in size to an AA battery, contains a type of non-toxic algae called Synechocystis that naturally harvests energy from the sun through photosynthesis. The tiny electrical current this generates then interacts with an aluminium electrode and is used to power a microprocessor.

The system is made of common, inexpensive and largely recyclable materials. This means it could easily be replicated hundreds of thousands of times to power large numbers of small devices as part of the Internet of Things. The researchers say it is likely to be most useful in off-grid situations or remote locations, where small amounts of power can be very beneficial.

“The growing Internet of Things needs an increasing amount of power, and we think this will have to come from systems that can generate energy, rather than simply store it like batteries,” said Professor Christopher Howe in the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, joint senior author of the paper.

He added: “Our photosynthetic device doesn’t run down the way a battery does because it’s continually using light as the energy source.”

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Posted in Science & Technology

Cathedrals can light the way to Net Zero says Bishop Usher

Addressing the National Cathedrals Conference in Newcastle, Graham Usher, who is Bishop of Norwich, said that cathedrals can show the way in making changes for achieving Net Zero carbon across the whole Church by 2030, with a route map due for a vote at General Synod in July.

Cathedrals have an impressive track record within the heritage sector, with Gloucester Cathedral becoming the first Grade 1 listed building to install photovoltaic panels in 2016.

Many others have followed suit with green adaptations including solar panels, replaced light fittings, draft exclusion and in some places re-designed precincts to give greater access to green space and a chance for biodiversity to thrive.

The host venue, Newcastle Cathedral, was praised for the installation of an air source heat pump as part of a major recent renovation.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship

(CL) ‘Beam Me Up’…Pastor? Holographic Technology Allows Pastor To Be in Nine Locations at Once

“This really is, I think, putting me in nine locations at one time or has the potential to do that and make it much more personal than if it was just a video or kind of a flat-screen,” Bazet told Fox 13 News.

The hologram producing device can be operated with an iPad or cell phone and can be used to play pre-recorded videos as well. However, the tech doesn’t come cheap, starting at a hefty price tag of $100,000.

Bazet said, “We’ll do whatever we can to actually reach and impact as many people as we can, and, in this case, try a new technology like this.”

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Posted in Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(BBC) East Africa drought: ‘The suffering here has no equal’

Families have become desperate for food and water. Millions of children are malnourished. Livestock, which pastoralist families rely on for food and livelihoods, have died.

The drought stretches far beyond this small Kenyan village and the UN’s World Food Programme says up to 20 million people in East Africa are at risk of severe hunger.

Ethiopia is battling the worst drought in almost half a century and in Somalia 40% of the population are at risk of starvation.

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Posted in Africa, Climate Change, Weather, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Poverty

A [London] Times article on the new Christian app “glorify”

Both Beccle and Costa understand, nevertheless, that while A-list investors are incredibly helpful, they remain a means to an end. It is the millions of ordinary people looking for meaning and connection that remain their focus. “Everyone’s looking for connection. But a lot of people are getting that connection from the wrong places,” says Beccle. “Because you can jump on your phone and hop on TikTok or Instagram and suddenly you’ve got that superficial connection you think you need, only not to have it as soon as you put your phone away. And so you feel like you have to pick it back up again.”

Both men say they are surprised by the number of people who do not identify as Christian, but who nevertheless find themselves using the app every day. “Increasingly, people are opening themselves up to exploring this side of themselves,” says Costa. He and Beccle hint that the long-term plans for Glorify are grander and more ambitious than simply being a place where users can have some scripture read to them or send prayers to their friends. “The people who have invested in us saw a really big vision. Something gigantic. And they were willing to back that,” says Costa. “We’re very aware of the scale of what we can do. And this is the exciting bit. There’s a crisis of faith in many countries, and it’s spreading. We are reacting to that crisis and breaking down the barriers to provide more access points for people to be able to connect with God.”

Perhaps it will happen. After all, if you can create a piece of technology that manages to unite the Kardashians and Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in their praise, then who knows what else you can do? Beccle seems excited. Costa seems amazed to be here at all. It feels, he says, like “an answer to prayer”.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(Economist) The war in Ukraine is spurring transatlantic co-operation in technology

A command centre to scan the digital realm for global disinformation campaigns. Standardised plugs for electric cars that will work both in America and in the European Union (eu) and so lower the cost of building the infrastructure needed to decarbonise. A transatlantic team to scout for attempts by China and others to manipulate global technical standards in their favour. These sorts of initiatives sound like common sense, but they are difficult in a world where even allies have competing regulators, vying for technological dominion. Happily, a transatlantic diplomatic undertaking that most people have never heard of is trying to change all that.

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The group in question, called the “Trade and Technology Council” (ttc), will convene in Saclay, a suburb of Paris, on May 15th and 16th. A constellation of grand officials from either side of the Atlantic—including America’s secretary of state, commerce secretary and top trade negotiator, and the eu’s commissioners for trade and competition—will be meeting for the second time. Whereas their first meeting in September in Pittsburgh was mainly meant for participants to get to know each other, the gathering in France will assess progress on their work so far and set goals for the next two years.

It is a momentous task. The ttc is the West’s response to efforts by China and others (notably Russia after its invasion of Ukraine) to build an autocratic digital world and bring the physical supply-chains that underpin it under their control. “The big question is whether democratic governments can develop a meaningful alternative,” explains Marietje Schaake of the Cyber Policy Centre at Stanford University. If America and the eu resolve their differences in tech, other countries are bound to follow their lead: the pair account for 55% of the global market for information technology, whose value is expected to reach a staggering $4.4trn this year, according to Gartner, a consultancy.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Globalization, Russia, Science & Technology, Ukraine

(Stat News) Transfusion of brain fluid from young mice is a memory-elevating elixir for old animals

For a human, one of the first signs someone is getting old is the inability to remember little things; maybe they misplace their keys, or get lost on an oft-taken route. For a laboratory mouse, it’s forgetting that when bright lights and a high-pitched buzz flood your cage, an electric zap to the foot quickly follows.

But researchers at Stanford University discovered that if you transfuse cerebrospinal fluid from a young mouse into an old one, it will recover its former powers of recall and freeze in anticipation. They also identified a protein in that cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, that penetrates into the hippocampus, where it drives improvements in memory.

The tantalizing breakthrough, published Wednesday in Nature, suggests that youthful factors circulating in the CSF, or drugs that target the same pathways, might be tapped to slow the cognitive declines of old age. Perhaps even more importantly, it shows for the first time the potential of CSF as a vehicle to get therapeutics for neurological diseases into the hard-to-reach fissures of the human brain.

“This is the first study that demonstrates real improvement in cognitive function with CSF infusion, and so that’s what makes it a real milestone,” said Maria Lehtinen, a neurologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the new research. “The super-exciting direction here is that it lends support to the idea that we can harness the CSF as a therapeutic avenue for a broad range of conditions.”

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Posted in Animals, Anthropology, Science & Technology, Theology

(Guardian) God’s own gardens: why churchyards are some of our wildest nature sites

They are in nearly every village, town and city across the UK, thousands of church buildings peppering the landscape. But while many may no longer be in regular use, the churchyards surrounding them – quiet, peaceful and often ancient – amount to what Olivia Graham, the bishop of Reading, equates to “a small national park”. The land beyond the church gate is some of the most biodiverse in the UK because it has largely stayed untouched.

“A churchyard is a little snapshot of how the countryside used to be,” says Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Pippa Rayner, who is working on Wilder Churches, a new initiative with the diocese of Bath and Wells “to enhance churchyard biodiversity across the county”.

“Very often in a highly industrialised rural landscape, the fields around villages may be covered in agricultural chemicals. You often find that the churchyard is the one place in the area where they haven’t been using chemicals,” says Rayner. “The fact that they generally have been managed differently to the rest of the countryside, and they have been looked after in a different way, has enabled species to still be there,” she adds.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Parish Ministry

(FT) ‘We are now living in a totally new era’ — Henry Kissinger

We are now [faced with] with technologies where the rapidity of exchange, the subtlety of the inventions, can produce levels of catastrophe that were not even imaginable. And the strange aspect of the present situation is that the weapons are multiplying on both sides and their sophistication is increasing every year. But there’s almost no discussion internationally about what would happen if the weapons actually became used.

My appeal in general, on whatever side you are, is to understand that we are now living in a totally new era, and we have gotten away with neglecting that aspect. But as technology spreads around the world, as it does inherently, diplomacy and war will need a different content and that will be a challenge.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Defense, National Security, Military, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Uncategorized

([London] Times) Boomers go on courses to understand young staff

Baby boomer and Generation X bosses are going on courses to help them understand younger employees and get more out of them in the workplace.

Experts say that millennials and Generation Z actually speak a different language to older colleagues, causing friction in the office.

It follows a tribunal last month in which a trainee accountant was sacked after his boss claimed he was “too demanding, like his generation of millennials”.

Dr Elizabeth Michelle, a psychologist who gives workshops on how to handle millennials — a term for people born between 1981 and 1996 — and Generation Z, born from 1997-2012, said: “As a psychologist, I work with so many different things but the main thing people have been interested in is millennials and now Gen Z.

“I think boomers are desperate to be able to work more productively with them and they are very frustrated because they are so different. Managers want to understand their employees better.

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Posted in Anthropology, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Middle Age, Psychology, Science & Technology, Young Adults

(Economist) The spy in the sky that sees backwards in time

But there is a problem. Explosions are easy to see. For many tasks other than bomber-hunting, however, an awful lot of staring at screens looking for things that are out-of-the-ordinary is involved. People are bad at this—and there is, besides, a lack of willing eyeballs. A study published last year by researchers at the rand Corporation, a think-tank, showed that America’s air force has responded to the flood of data from wami sensors by archiving most of it without inspection. Better means of sifting wami footage are needed. And technology is starting to provide them.

Chips called graphic-processing units, borrowed from the video-game industry, are helping. So is machine learning, the basis of much modern artificial intelligence. But special tricks are also being deployed—for example, a mathematical technique called higher-order moments anomaly detection that can distinguish moving objects reliably from background clutter by looking at groups of pixels in a video and deciding whether their changes from frame to frame are the result of actual movement or just electronic noise.

Meanwhile, wami devices themselves are becoming yet more effective. The latest, announced on April 25th by Transparent Sky, a firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico, promises to take the technology to another dimension. Literally. The video images it shoots are 3d rather than the 2d of a normal wami feed.

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Posted in Defense, National Security, Military, Science & Technology

Church Commissioners for England invest €30 million in sustainable infrastructure

The Church Commissioners for England have committed €30 million into European sustainable infrastructure with Pioneer Infrastructure Partners SCSp

The investment marks a continuation of the Church Commissioners’ commitment to reaching net zero as a signatory of the UN-convened Asset Owner Alliance

Pioneer Infrastructure Partners SCSp has secured commitments from other large institutional investors, including Texas Municipal Retirement Systems

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ecology, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Stock Market

(Economist) Why weapons crucial to the war in Ukraine are in short supply

Of all the assistance America has provided to Ukraine, the gift of 5,500 or so Javelins has been perhaps the most welcome. Armed with these light anti-tank missiles, Ukrainian forces managed to stall, and eventually reverse, the Russian advance on their capital, Kyiv. Little wonder, then, that the Javelin has acquired exalted status among Ukrainians, celebrated in music and paintings (an image of the Virgin Mary holding a Javelin has gone viral).

The Javelin features a fearsome combination of power and precision. It is a “fire-and-forget” weapon, allowing soldiers to take cover quickly after firing. It can strike targets more than 3km away and hit the top of the tank—its most vulnerable part.

In all, America and its allies have provided more than 60,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine. These include not just the Javelin but also the Panzerfaust from Germany and Next-generation Light Anti-tank Weapons (NLAWs) from Britain and Sweden. All have helped (along with other types of weapons). More than 3,000 Russian tanks and other armoured vehicles in Ukraine have been destroyed, damaged, abandoned or captured, according to Oryx, an open-source intelligence blog. With Russian forces narrowing their focus on Donbas, however, still more weapons are needed. More than 10,000 Russian armoured vehicles remain in operation (with thousands more in storage), according to Mark Cancian of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. President Joe Biden has asked Congress for a whopping $20bn more in military aid. But assistance in the form of Javelins and other anti-tank systems could soon dry up.

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Posted in Globalization, Military / Armed Forces, Russia, Science & Technology, Ukraine