Friday, September 30, 2011

Ghoulish decorating ideas for a perfect Halloween party

Deidre Wengen

We are inching closer and closer to Halloween and it's time to get down to planning the biggest and best bash on the block.
We've rounded up a few awesome decorating ideas to give your party a spooky, sophisticated edge that will have your guests screaming with delight.
Give a few of the following projects a try:
Glittered Pumpkin Centerpieces- This crafty project from Martha Stewart is a nice way to posh-up your Halloween party. Use faux pumpkins and paint them black for an elegant effect. Then, dip them in tacky glue and spoon black and silver glitter over them, alternating colors as you see fit. Make sure to coat the entire pumpkin and shake off excess glitter.  let the pumpkins dry for an hour and retouch if needed. Then stack them on a cake stand in the center of the table with black macabre candlesticks and faux spider webs for the perfect table setting.
Witch's Broom Place Cards - Dress up your place settings with these adorable name tags shaped like a witch's broom.  All you need for this project is a pile of raffia straw, some sticks from the backyard, a brown paper bag and glue. Grab all the instructions by clicking on the link and you'll have your guests spellbound in no time!
Black Ribbon Wreath - To glam up your entry way with a little bit of gothic flair, try crafting this wreath from CasaSugar. This simple project requires some black grosgrain ribbon and a wreath form. Then you simply cut the ribbon to equal lengths and tie it in knots around the form until the wreath is full. Then hang it on the door with a longer ribbon and you have a simple, chic way to welcome guests into the party.
Black Crepe Paper Flowers - To dress up your mantle or a coffee table, consider making these delicately dark crepe paper flowers and placing them in an elegant bowl. The project requires black crepe paper streamers, floral wire and floral tape. Instructions for the project can be found in the above link. These black floral pieces will give your Halloween bash an elegant, statement-making look.

Witch Trials films debut here

By Tom Dalton

SALEM — First came Hollywood, then Bollywood and now — ta-da! — Witchywood.
Over the next week, two new films on the Salem Witch Trials that were shot locally will hold premieres here. One debuts today and the other on Tuesday.
"The True 1692," a 3-D film made by CinemaSalem and History Alive! — a branch of the Gordon College Institute for Public History — holds its premiere today at CinemaSalem, the movie house in Museum Place Mall.
The 35-minute film, which is aimed at visitors and local history buffs, is directed by Paul Van Ness, the co-owner of CinemaSalem and the head of his own film production company.
It tells the story of 1692 through the eyes of a young girl who witnessed the tragic events and attempts to give viewers a historically accurate account of the origin and outcome of the witch hysteria.
Not to be outdone, the Essex National Heritage Commission, in partnership with the National Park Service, will hold a premiere Tuesday of "Salem Witch Hunt: Examine the Evidence."
This is a re-examination of nearly 1,000 manuscripts and other published records, with re-enactors speaking the words of victims and accusers. It was made by Tom Phillips, who has worked with The History Channel, in collaboration with a team of scholars.
"This film offers many new insights into a story that has been told and retold for hundreds of years," said Annie Harris, executive director of the Essex National Heritage Commission, in a prepared statement. "When we were offered the opportunity to re-examine this period of history with the benefit of the latest scholarship, we jumped at the chance."
"Salem Witch Hunt" premieres Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the National Park Service Visitor Center, 2 New Liberty St. The directors, consulting scholars and others involved with the production will be present. Reservations are required.
"The True 1692," while presenting events from more than three centuries ago, is a film for 2011.
Van Ness said he decided to shoot in 3-D "to allow a modern viewer to step into Salem in 1692, and the technology of 3-D allows for that immersive experience in a way that 2-D can't."
The film is shown in CinemaSalem's 18-seat screening room.
Although the film shows the dangling feet of hanging victims and a man being pressed to death with stones, its focus is the history of the period and the state of mind of Puritan Salem. The young narrator is played by 16-year-old Amelia Haas, who just entered Gordon College as a freshman.
Both films were shot locally.
"Salem Witch Hunt" was filmed at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead and Parris Parsonage foundation in Danvers and at the Witch House in Salem, the former home of a Witch Trials judge.
"The True 1692" was also shot at locations across the area, including Pioneer Village in Forest River Park, a re-creation of the English colony established here in 1630.

Archaeologists uncover slate at Nevern Castle ‘that kept evil spirits at bay’

by Rachael Misstear, Western Mail

RARE pieces of inscribed slate unearthed during a dig at one of the nation’s oldest castles may provide valuable clues to life in medieval Wales, experts said yesterday.
Archaeologists involved in a recent excavation on the site of Nevern Castle in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park believe the markings, dating back more than 800 years, indicate some ritualistic methods of warding off evil.
The slates – complete with stars and other designs scratched on them – were found at the site’s 12th century cut-stone entranceway.
Lead archaeologist Dr Chris Caple said: “These inscribed slates are really interesting. They were found in only one place in the castle and were probably intended to ward off evil.”
The recent excavation revealed 12 slates bearing incised designs.
Archaeologists said the scratched markings are interesting for several reasons, but mainly because of the rarity.
“Scratched images from the medieval world are rare, and we can confidently date these to the period 1170-1190 when the stone phase of Nevern Castle was built,” added Dr Caple.
“These drawings connect us with the lives and beliefs of masons or labourers who built the castle. We hardly ever recover evidence about the peasants of the medieval world, and never information about their beliefs and ideas, but these scratched designs are from the imagination of a serf, a farm labourer or a man at arms.”
Headed by Dr Caple, of the University of Durham, and Pete Crane from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, the team of experts, students and volunteers descended on the site for three weeks in the summer.
It was the fourth year that the site has been excavated in a partnership project between Dr Caple, the National Park Authority, Dyfed Archaeological Trust and Nevern Community Council which owns the site.
Further research on the finds is now being carried out by the Department of Archaeology at the University of Durham.
Work at the site last summer uncovered a large group of buildings thought to date from the 12th century.
It helped provide new details on the history of a Norman fortress – one of the oldest stone castles in Wales – that was built in 1108 along with two towers and three hall-like buildings that were unearthed.
Until that discovery little of Nevern Castle could be seen. The castle was built by the Norman marcher Lord Robert fitz Martin around 1108. The building was destroyed and rebuilt in the 12th century but after 1197 was abandoned.
It is hoped the new discoveries will be secured as part of the communities heritage.
Phil Bennett, the National Park Authority’s head of archaeological heritage, added: “One of the nicest things about these slate pieces is that we are hoping to be able to keep them in Nevern eventually, in the care of the Nevern Community Council.”
Work is under way cleaning, revealing and recording the images scratched on the pieces of slate.
Dr Caple added: “In the late 12th century, Nevern would have been an impressive looking castle and entrance, especially from the south side, and it was clearly visible to all passing along the road between St Davids and Cardigan.
“The work under way on the slates will no doubt provide more fascinating information about the beliefs and ideas of the people who built and lived in the castle in the late 12th century.”
The dig also unearthed information about the phased building of parts of the castle and revealed that a Round Tower thought to have imprisoned the Lord Rhys in 1194 was also the quarters of high status members of the castle household.

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Stone-age toddlers had art lessons, study says

Research on Dordogne cave art shows children learned to finger-paint in palaeolithic age, approximately 13,000 years ago

Stone age toddlers may have attended a form of prehistoric nursery where they were encouraged to develop their creative skills in cave art, say archaeologists.
Research indicates young children expressed themselves in an ancient form of finger-painting. And, just as in modern homes, their early efforts were given pride of place on the living room wall.
A Cambridge University conference on the archaeology of childhood on Friday reveals a tantalising glimpse into life for children in the palaeolithic age, an estimated 13,000 years ago.
Archaeologists at one of the most famous prehistoric decorated caves in France, the complex of caverns at Rouffignac in the Dordogne known as the Cave of a Hundred Mammoths, have discovered that children were actively helped to express themselves through finger fluting – running fingers over soft red clay to produce decorative crisscrossing lines, zig-zags and swirls.
The stunning drawings, including 158 depictions of mammoths, 28 bisons, 15 horses, 12 goats, 10 woolly rhinoceroses, four human figures and one bear, form just a small proportion of the art found within the five-mile cave system.
The majority of the drawings are flutings covering the walls and roofs of the many galleries and passages in the complex. One chamber is so rich in flutings by children it is believed to be an area set aside for them. The marks of four children, estimated to be aged between two and seven, have been identified there.
"It suggests it was a special place for children. Adults were there, but the vast majority of artwork is by children," said Jess Cooney, a PhD student at the university's archaeology department.
"It's speculation, but I think in this particular chamber children were encouraged to make more art than adults. It could have been a playroom where the children gathered or a room for practice where they were encouraged to make these marks in order that they could grow into artists and make the beautiful paintings and engravings we find throughout the cave, and throughout France and Spain. Or it could have been a room used for a ritual for particular children, perhaps an initiation of sorts."
The presence of children's art was first revealed in 2006 by archaeologists Leslie Van Gelder, of Walden University, in the US, and her husband Kevin Sharpe. Cooney, working alongside Van Gelder, has spent two years analysing the presence of the hunter-gatherer offspring.
Flutings thought to be by a five-year-old girl are the most prolific throughout the cave system. Work by four adults has also been identified, though it is possible there were two further adults present.
The juxtaposition of the flutings of individuals indicate the relationships between the cave dwellers, the researchers say. For example, the markings show that one seven-year-old girl was most often in the company of the smallest of the adults, probably a male and possibly an older brother.
"Some of the children's flutings are high up on walls and on the ceilings, so they must have been held up to make them or have been sitting on someone's shoulders," said Cooney.
Flutings by the two-year-old suggest the child's hand was guided by an adult. Cooney said: "The flutings and fingers are very controlled, which is highly unusual for a child of that age, and suggests it was being taught. The research shows us that children were everywhere, even in the deepest, darkest, caves, furthest from the entrance. They were so involved in the art you really begin to question how heavily they were involved in everyday life.
"To be honest, I think there were probably very few restrictions on what children were allowed to do, and where they were allowed to go, and who they were allowed to go with.
"The art shows us this is not an activity where children were running amok. It shows collaboration between children and adults, and adults encouraging children to make these marks. This was a communal activity."
The significance of finger flutings, also found in other caves in France, Spain, New Guinea and Australia, has been widely debated in archaeological circles. Some regard the marks as doodlings, prehistoric graffiti, while others suggest rituals.
"We don't know why people made them. We can make guesses like they were for initiation rituals, for training of some kind, or simply something to do on a rainy day," said Cooney.
"In addition to the simple, meandering lines, there are flutings of animals and shapes that appear to be crude outlines of faces, almost cartoon-like in appearance. There are hut shapes called tectiforms, markings thought to have a symbolic meaning which are only found in a very specific area of France.
Cooney said the object of her research was "to allow prehistoric children to have a voice", because so much archaeological study focused on men's activities.
"What I found in Rouffignac is that the children are screaming from the walls to be heard. Their presence is everywhere. And there is a five-year-old girl constantly shouting: 'I wanna paint, I wanna paint'."

World's Earliest Christian Engraving Shows Surprising Pagan Elements

Owen Jarus, Live Science Contributor

Researchers have identified what is believed to be the world's earliest surviving Christian inscription, shedding light on an ancient sect that followed the teachings of a second-century philosopher named Valentinus.

Officially called NCE 156, the inscription is written in Greek and is dated to the latter half of the second century, a time when the Roman Empire was at the height of its power.

An inscription is an artifact containing writing that is carved on stone. The only other written Christian remains that survive from that time period are fragments of papyri that quote part of the gospels and are written in ink. Stone inscriptions are more durable than papyri and are easier to display. NCE 156 also doesn't quote the gospels directly, instead its inscription alludes to Christian beliefs.  

"If it is in fact a second-century inscription, as I think it probably is, it is about the earliest Christian material object that we possess," study researcher Gregory Snyder, of Davidson College in North Carolina, told LiveScience. [See Images of Early Christian Inscriptions and Artifacts]

Snyder, who detailed the finding in the most recent issue of the Journal of Early Christian Studies, believes it to be a funeral epigram, incorporating both Christian and pagan elements. His work caps 50 years of research done by multiple scholars, much of it in Italian. The inscription is in the collection of the Capitoline Museums in Rome.

"Assuming that Professor Snyder is right, it's clearly the earliest identifiable Christian inscription," said Paul McKechnie, a professor of ancient history at Macquarie University in Australia, who has also studied the inscription.

As translated by Snyder, the inscription reads:

To my bath, the brothers of the bridal chamber carry the torches,
[here] in our halls, they hunger for the [true] banquets,
even while praising the Father and glorifying the Son.
There [with the Father and the Son] is the only spring and source of truth.

Details on the provenance of the inscription are sketchy. It was first published in 1953 by Luigi Moretti in the "Bullettino della commissione archeologica comunale di Roma," an Italian archaeological journal published annually.

The only reference to where it was found is a note scribbled on a squeeze (a paper impression) of the inscription, Snyder said. According to that note, it was found in the suburbs of Rome near Tor Fiscale, a medieval tower. In ancient times, the location of the tower would have been near mile four of a roadway called the Via Latina.

How was it dated?

Margherita Guarducci, a well-known Italian epigrapher who passed away in 1999, proposed a second-century date for the inscription more than four decades ago. She argued that the way it was written, with a classical style of Greek letters, was only used in Rome during the first and second centuries.
After that, the letters change; for instance, the letter omega, Ω, changes into something closer to the letter w. The letter Sigma, Σ, changes into a symbol that resembles the letter c. [Inscription on Roman Gladiator's Gravestone Reveals Fatal Foul]

Snyder essentially added more evidence to Guarducci's theory. He analyzed a 1968 catalog of more than 1,700 inscriptions from Rome called "Inscriptiones graecae urbis Romae." He found 53 cases of Greek inscriptions with classical letterforms.

"Not one case is to be found in which, in the judgment of the [catalog]editors, an inscription with the classical letter forms found in NCE 156can be securely placed in the mid-third or fourth century," Snyder wrote in his paper.

In addition, Snyder analyzed an inventory of inscriptions from nearby Naples, published in a series of two volumes in the 1990s called "Iscrizioni greche d'Italia." He found only two examples that might date into the third century. "In sum, Guarducci's case for a second-century date for NCE 156 is stronger than ever," he wrote.

McKechnie said that, after reviewing Snyder's work, he agrees with the date. "The first time I read his article I was far from sure, but the second time I read it I was convinced by his argument about the letter shape."


The author of the inscription likely followed the teachings of a man named Valentinus, an early Christian teacher who would eventually be declared a heretic, Snyder said. The presence of the inscription suggests that a community of his followers may have lived on the Via Latina during the second century.

"We know that Valentinus was a famous Gnostic teacher in the second century (who) lived in Rome for something like 20 years, and was a very sophisticated ... poetic, talented, thinker, speaker, writer."
His teachings are believed to be preserved, to some degree, in the Gospel of Philip, a third-century anthology that was discovered in 1945 in the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt. That gospel is a collection of gnostic beliefs, some of which were probably composed in the second century, that are written in a cryptic manner. However, like the inscription, it also refers prominently to a "bridal chamber."

One example, near the end of the gospel, reads in part:

The mysteries of truth are revealed, though in type and image. The bridal chamber, however, remains hidden. It is the Holy in the Holy. The veil at first concealed how God controlled the creation, but when the veil is rent and the things inside are revealed, this house will be left desolate, or rather will be destroyed. And the whole (inferior) godhead will flee from here, but not into the holies of the holies, for it will not be able to mix with the unmixed light and the flawless fullness, but will be under the wings of the cross and under its arms...

 (Translation by Wesley Isenberg)

"It's not quite clear what it [the bridal chamber] is, it's explained to some degree, but explained in cryptic terms in the Gospel of Philip, it's a ritual involving freedom and purification and union with the deity," McKechnie said.

Perhaps rather than an actual ritual, the bridal chamber is a metaphor.

"It may be a metaphor for something that happens in death — maybe it's a kind of ritual that happens when people are still alive. That you achieve a new kind of existence or spiritual status based on this kind of wedding with your spiritual ideal counterpart," Snyder said. [Top 10 Weird Ways We Deal With the Dead]

"Some groups may have celebrated it as a concrete ritual, others perhaps sawit in metaphorical terms. I like the idea that it is connected with the death of the believer, who has cast off the mortal coil and enjoys a new life in the spirit," he added in a follow-up email.

But there were some important differences between Valentinians and other early Christians. "Valentinians in particular, and gnostics more generally, most of them wouldn't, for example, get martyred," McKechnie said. "They wouldn't think it was wrong or unlawful to do the things that Christian martyrs refused to do, like take an oath in the name of Caesar or offer incense to a statue or that kind of thing."

The reason for their lack of bias has to do with the Valentinians' beliefs about all things physical. "They believed that not only matter and the physical world was evil, but also that matter and the physical world was unimportant," McKechnie said. "Therefore, it was unimportant what you or what your body did in the physical world."

"It's mostly about the world of the mind."

Valentinians were also likely influenced by earlier Greek philosophers such as Plato, Snyder has found, though he doesn't think they would have interpreted the story of the resurrection of Jesus in a literal way.  

"It's certainly not the case that they would have considered that to be a physical resurrection," he said. "Christians of this particular variety (who incorporated Plato's philosophy) generally speaking saw the material body as something not so desirable, not so good."

Christian and pagan

When analyzing the inscription, Snyder also noticed some similarities with funeral epigrams composed for non-Christians. In those inscriptions, the wedding imagery is used in a tragic way. [After Death: 8 Burial Alternatives Going Mainstream]

One example, written about 2,100 years ago, reads in part:

I am Theophila, short-lived daughter of Hecateus. The ghosts of the unmarried dead were courting me, a young maiden, for marriage, Hades outstripped the others and seized me, for he desired me, looking upon me as a Persephone more desirable than Persephone. And when he carved the letters on her tombstone, he wept for the girl Theophila from Sinope, her father Hecateus, who composed the wedding torches not for marriage but for Hades...

(Translation by Gregory Snyder)

"Typically, that wedding imagery is tragic," said Snyder. "Here's the promising young person entering into the prime of life, suddenly snatched away, and betrothed, married to Hades."

What the second-century Christian inscription does is turn this convention on its head. "They're playing with that... it's not decline, it's looking forward to a new life."

Snyder said that the mix of Christian and pagan traditions in the inscription is striking. He told LiveScience that he's studied early Christian paintings on the Via Latina that mix biblical themes, such as the story of Samson or the raising of Lazarus, along with figures from classical mythology, like that of Hercules.

"Those kinds of things I find particularly interesting, because they seem to suggest a period of time in which a Christian identity is flexible," Snyder said. "Is it just a simple either/or between pagan and Christian?" he asked. "Or is there really something rather like a spectrum? Or are you really sort of both in certain respects?"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

UK Schools Ban "Racist" Black Witch Hats


In what many say is political correctness run amok, British schools have banned black witch hats for children, claiming that they are "racist." So-called diversity and equality experts in the United Kingdom assert that because the wicked witch appears in a black hat, while fairies — typically associated with sweetness and light — are often clad in pale, glistening colors, children are being indoctrinated to believe that all things light or white in color are by nature “good,” while those that are black are inherently “bad.”
The Blaze reports,
Now, to combat that perceived threat, primary school teachers in Britain are allegedly being encouraged by equality advocates to censor fictional children’s characters, eliminating witches’ black pointed hats in favor of white ones, while dressing fairies in dark colors. Proponents of this technique can claim the method will eliminate "racism" in children as young as two.
Unsurprisingly, other innocuous items are also coming under fire. Take for example writing paper. TheTelegraph reports:
Another staple of the classroom — white paper — has also been questioned by Anne O’Connor, an early years consultant who advises local authorities on equality and diversity.
Children should be provided with paper other than white to draw on and paints and crayons should come in “the full range of flesh tones,” reflecting the diversity of the human race, according to the former teacher.
O’Connor even insists that teachers should be prepared to answer “black” or “brown” when pupils ask them their favorite color — all in the interest of good race relations.
Many of these bizarre measures come out of a set of guidelines found in the British magazine Nursery World — guidelines which assert that because young children could possess an inclination to be racist, nursery schools therefore have a responsibility to help them “unlearn” those traits.
O’Connor points to a study conducted by Professor Lord Winston, who said he determined that children as young as four can hold racist views. TheTelegraph explains:
In an experiment carried out for the BBC’s Child of our Time series, children were presented with a series of images of faces of men, women, boys or girls. Only one of the faces in each sequence was white.
Children were asked to pick out the face of the person they wanted as their friend and the person they thought would be most likely to get in to trouble.
Almost all white children in the survey associated positive qualities exclusively with photographs of white children or adults. More than half of the black children made the same associations.
In contrast, people with darker faces were viewed as troublemakers.
O’Connor’s program is intended to promote a more positive association with dark colors, a method developed in the United States, according to the Telegraph, as part of a special interest group’s multiculturalism agenda.
O’Connor claims,
This is an incredibly complex subject that can easily become simplified and inaccurately portrayed. There is a tendency to say "here are normal people and here are different people and we have to be kind to those different people," whether it’s race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age or faith.
People who are feeling defensive can say "well there’s nothing wrong with white paper," but in reality there could be if you don’t see yourself reflected in the things around you. As an early years teacher, the minute you start thinking, "Well actually, if I give everyone green paper, what happens," you have a teaching potential.
O’Connor continues,
People might criticize this as political correctness gone mad. But it is because of political correctness we have moved on enormously. If you think ... we now take it for granted that our buildings and public highways are adapted so people in wheelchairs and with pushchairs can move around. Years ago if you were in a wheelchair, then tough luck. We have completely moved and we wouldn’t have done that without the equality movement.
Responding to these assertions, Margaret Morrisey, spokeswoman for the advocacy group Parents Outloud, observed, “I’m sure these early years experts know their field but they seem to be obsessed about colour and determined to make everyone else obsessed about it too.”
She believes the fears touted by these experts are entirely unfounded:
Not allowing toy witches to wear black seems to me nonsense and in the same vein as those people who have a problem with "Baa Baa Black Sheep" or "The Three Little Pigs." Children just see a sheep in a field, whether it be black, grey, white or beige. I have worked with children for 41 years and I don’t believe I have ever met a two-year-old who was in any way racist or prejudiced.”

Amanda Knox is a witch? Sorry, are we living in 1486?

Witch hunts grew from a stew of emotions, notably fear of female sexual power. They have no place in a modern Italian court

Here are the news headlines for 1486: in the fair city of Perugia, a she-devil hath falsely accused an inn-keeper of murder most vile … Sorry, let me start again. This isn't the 15th century, when "witches" were being hunted all over Europe, tortured into confessing and burned at the stake. In 2011, no one seriously believes that women go mad with lust and sell their souls to the devil – or do they?
Astonishingly, exactly that accusation has been made in an Italian court this week by a lawyer called Carlo Pacelli. He used the occasion of an appeal by the American student Amanda Knox against her conviction for the murder of a British student to call her an "enchanting witch" and attack her in terms that would be instantly recognisable to a mediaeval witch-finder.
The idea that women are natural liars has a long pedigree. The key document in this centuries-long tradition is the notorious witch-hunter's manual, the Malleus Maleficarum or The Hammer of Witches, which was commissioned by Pope Innocent VIII. The book was written by two Dominican monks and published in 1486. It unleashed a flood of irrational beliefs about women's "dual" nature. "A woman is beautiful to look upon, contaminating to the touch, and deadly to keep," the authors warned. They also claimed that "all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable".
It's not difficult to see these myths lurking behind Pacelli's description of Knox: "She was a diabolical, satantic, demonic she-devil. She was muddy on the outside and dirty on the inside. She has two souls, the clean one you see before you and the other." The lawyer's claim that she was motivated by "lust" could have come straight from the Malleus, which insists that women are more "carnal" than men.
You might imagine that the crime for which Knox and her then boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, were convicted in 2007 was unpleasant enough without dragging in a lot of medieval mumbo-jumbo. Knox's flatmate, a Leeds University student called Meredith Kercher, was found in her bedroom in a pool of blood after Knox and Sollecito took part in what the prosecution described as a drug-fuelled sex game that turned violent. Knox is serving a 26-year sentence for the murder of Kercher, while Sollecito got 25 years.
Knox initially accused a Congolese bar-owner, Diya "Patrick" Lumumba, of the murder and he was held for two weeks before being released without charge. Rudy Guede, a drug dealer from the Ivory Coast, was separately convicted of taking part in the killing "with others" and sentenced to 30 years in prison, which was later cut to 16. The lengthy court proceedings have clearly been immensely distressing for everyone involved in the case, not least Kercher's parents who have asked people to remember their "beautiful" daughter.
Pacelli is representing Lumumba at the appeal, and his outburst brought into the open a strain of irrationality and misogyny that exists as an undercurrent in many headline-grabbing criminal cases. Behind such insinuations – regardless of whether the woman in question is a victim or a perpetrator – lie irrational and indeed medieval assumptions about the untrustworthiness of women. The Malleus traces this "fault" all the way back to Adam and Eve, claiming that woman was created from a "bent" rib and is therefore defective: "And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives."
Witch hunts grew out of a stew of emotions, notably fear of women's sexual power over men, to the point where stories circulated all over Europe about witches supposedly depriving men of their "virile member". Probably the most infamous witch trial in history took place in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 and resulted in 19 people being hanged; 14 of them were women. Two and a half centuries earlier, in 1445 to be exact, a woman was burned to death in Perugia for "divination and sorcery". Whatever you think about Knox, this species of hysteria has no place in the modern courtroom.

Gray wolf no longer endangered

By Mckenna Kohlenberg

Wisconsin federal legislators lobbied Monday to remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list after their recent increase in population.
In a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, and the other Wisconsin congressmen said the Wisconsin gray wolf population has returned to an ecologically manageable size and therefore should be removed from the Endangered Species list.
The Wisconsin gray wolf population, which is estimated to be between 782 and 824, now exceeds the federal recovery goal of 100 and the Wisconsin Wolf Management Plan of 350. Legislators argue this population revival more than justifies the wolf's removal from the list of endangered species.
The species has recovered so well that the wolves now struggle with a significant decrease in space.
Lawmakers highlighted the threat gray wolves have posed to local farmers. They said the wolves have impeded on farmers land and were responsible for the deaths of 75 livestock animals from 47 different farms.
Baldwin, the author of the letter, commended the bipartisan effort to "protect Wisconsin's people and property in a vibrant ecosystem."
"The resurgence of the gray wolf in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region is a stunning success story for the Endangered Species Act and a lesson in exceptional wildlife management," Baldwin said in a statement.
Legislators said through careful management, the state of Wisconsin can both protect Wisconsin residents and preserve a once nearly diminished specie.

Spiritual healing via touch

By Alexandra Swanberg

Some people have a magic touch, specifically the ability to transfer energy through their hands for meditative and spiritual purposes.
Luis Sanchez, a local Reiki practitioner, said anyone can acquire this ability through the art of Reiki, a mode of therapeutic touch.
“You’re applying the principle of self-love to the cells and the organs, and as you do that, they start helping you,” he said. “It opens up the path for the energy to flow out of your body.”
Different forms of therapeutic touch have been around for centuries, but the system of Reiki was not developed until 1922 by Dr. Mikao Usui in Japan. The practice revolves around the idea that there is a universal life force that is concentrated in seven energy centers in beings called chakras, Sanchez said.
In “The Chakras and the Human Energy Fields,” Shafica Karagulla, a psychiatrist, writes that these energies revolve around the chakra core, pulsating rhythmically in constant harmonic motion.
“The torrent of incoming energy from the general field pours into the chakras, and because of their pattern of organization this produces a whirling or spinning motion,” she writes. “This flow does not affect their basic geometrical structure, however, for that remains constant.”
During a Reiki therapy session, the practitioner first assesses which chakras are operating inefficiently due to blockages, which in effect overworks the fully operational chakras, Sanchez said.
Blockages are commonly described in terms of temperature or color, he said. Someone attuned to Reiki energy can feel areas that are significantly hotter with a more vibrant color emanation and understand there is chaotic energy built up.
He said these blockages, the root of illness, are then corrected by channeling love energy through the practitioner’s body, through his hands and into the problem area. Simultaneously, the practitioner visualizes one of many Reiki symbols to focus their intent, he said.
“Any energy can be transformed,” Sanchez said. “So energy that is disorganized, through a process of transforming it, we can start elevating it, little by little, from very disorganized, to organized, to highly organized. As we do that we’re taking it from chaotic to kind of okay to kind of heavy, beautiful, loving energy.”
In the 2009 report, “Systematic Review of the Therapeutic Effects of Reiki,” a review of all studies to date about the practice concludes that while Reiki use is growing in North America, there is not adequate scientific data to prove its effectiveness.
This is the result of too few studies on the subject and the invariably poor quality of the studies that have been conducted, the report said.
However, Tamisha Sabrina of the UK Reiki Foundation, wrote in an article entitled “The Science Behind Reiki” that independent research during the 1980s, conducted by Dr. Robert Becker and Dr. John Zimmerman, yielded some important findings.
The brain wave patterns of the practitioner and receiver supposedly become synchronized, which is not only characteristic of deep relaxation and meditation, because the brain waves also pulse in unison with the Schumann Resonance, or Earth’s magnetic field.
“During these moments, the biomagnetic field of the practitioners’ hands is at least 1000 times greater than normal, and not as a result of internal body current,” she wrote. “It is interesting to note that Dr. Becker carried out his study on world-wide array of cross-cultural subjects, and no matter what their belief systems or customs, or how opposed to each other their customs were, all tested the same.”
Mary O’Gara, local Reiki master, said even without scientific evidence she knows relaxation is an important step in enabling the body to heal. The practice is spiritual, meaning the intent behind it determines the quality of the receiver’s experience. The practitioner is simply a vessel for the energy to flow through and the receiver can draw on this energy or not, depending on what their bodies need. In this respect, each individual experience varies, making any sound conclusion regarding the subjective experience difficult, Ogara said.
Dr. William Tiller, professor emeritus of Stanford University’s Department of Materials Science, has executed a series of experiments in the last 30 years as part of his mission of developing “Psychoenergetic Science.”
He said he has proven the power of human intention through these experiments. One experiment studied water that was bottled from the same source while channeling different energies. The water was then frozen. Each bottle crystallized in a different way, though no chemicals were added.
The field of quantum mechanics may be coming closer to bridging the gap between science and spirituality, but Sanchez said the scientific basis of Reiki is almost irrelevant when every 30 years or so we realize that we were wrong about something we thought had been grounded in science. In the meantime, Sanchez said tools like Reiki that support emotional and spiritual well-being, not just physical health, remain valid.
“At the root of every dysfunction in a human being is emotion,” he said. “If I can heal their emotions, I can free their mind to do other things that would be helpful to them, and then to treat other ailments they have physically.”