The Pope Benedict Conspiracy Theories

The Pope Benedict Conspiracy Theories - For someone once bestowed with the luxury of infallibility, former Pope Benedict XVI is having a unique retirement. Two years after his unprecedented withdrawal from the papacy—well, unprecedented for the last 600 years at least—the erstwhile Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's resignation remains the subject of speculation. 

Two years ago this week, Benedict's announcement that he was stepping down for health reasons shocked the Catholic Church and much of the world. It also loosed conspiracy theorists who believe Benedict was forced to resign. On Wednesday, one of the former pope's top lieutenants defended the 87-year-old's choice.

"That a surrogate of Benedict is still out protecting the pope emeritus in the press speaks to an inherent defensiveness." "Benedict XVI is convinced that the decision that he took and communicated was right," Monsignor Georg Gaenswein told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. "He has no doubts."

The Pope Benedict Conspiracy Theories
The Pope Benedict Conspiracy Theories

The statement, when read closely, could be meaningful for two reasons. That a surrogate of Benedict is still out protecting the pope emeritus in the press might speak to an inherent defensiveness (though a reporter's questions could easily have prompted it). Then, there is the theory of his "forced resignation," which would invalidate the election of Pope Francis. "Church law says a pope's resignation is valid only if he takes the decision in full freedom and without pressure from others," Reuters noted last year. 

The circumstances surrounding Benedict's decision to step down have titillated scholars and the journalists alike, especially given the fact that his resignation came not long after the "Vatileaks" scandal. The release of internal Vatican memos, by some accounts, revealed how Benedict's efforts to reform the church, like provide transparency on the global sex abuse scandal and the management of the Vatican bank, were undercut by internal politics. Writing in The Washington Post in 2013, Jason Horowitz summed up how the leaks might affect Benedict's legacy:
"It showed how Benedict, a weak manager who may most be remembered for the way in which he left office, was no match for a culture that rejected even a modicum of transparency and preferred a damage-control campaign that diverted attention from the institution’s fundamental problems."
Some of the talk that Benedict was forced out starts there. In the Italian media, as Reuters relayed, the leak itself was portrayed as proof that "that a faction of prelates who wanted to discredit Benedict and pressure him to resign was behind the leaks." Writing for The Atlantic, Paul Elie noted that Benedict still wears white—"the papal vestments sans cape and sash"—which others have taken as a signal that the pope emeritus still feels a bit like the pontiff. And last month, according to the AP, a retired Kazakh archbishop joined the chorus of those who say Benedict didn't choose to go. 

In a letter to Vatican Insider last year, one of Benedict's only public statements since his resignation, he stressed again that there "is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation." Doth he protest too much?

This article originally appeared in : The Pope Benedict Conspiracy Theories || By Adam Chandler |FEB 13 2015, 7:22 AM ET

READ MORE - The Pope Benedict Conspiracy Theories

Is It Phobia, a Panic Attack or Normal?

When Emilie Yount was in her 20s, she used to spend five days a week huddled in Chicago movie theater seats, "banging out" film reviews and blogs for publications like Reel Reviews and Being alone in a darkened theater with hundreds of strangers facing the same direction never fazed her.

But on Saturday, Yount, 30, gave away her tickets to see "The Dark Knight Rises" even though she'd bought them in advance because she loved the second Christopher Nolan "Batman" film so much. She said she couldn't face going to the theater in the wake of the Colorado shooting on Friday morning that left 12 moviegoers dead at the hands of a stranger.

Fear of Movies: Is It Phobia, a Panic Attack or … Normal? (ABC News)

Fear of Movies, Is It Phobia, a Panic Attack or Normal?

Fear of Movies: Is It Phobia, a Panic Attack or … Normal? (ABC News)

"My nerves have peaked," she told "To have something like that happen… I can't think of anything worse, to be honest."

Yount said she has no history of anxiety or problems with small spaces, but she thinks it will take her a few months to head back to the cinema.

And psychologists say Yount isn't alone.

"I'm sure there will be people who the horror of that situation will indeed lead them to be afraid of going to the theaters," said Dr. Phillip Levendusky, director of the Psychology Department at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts and a professor at Harvard Medical School. "Do I think it's going to be a crisis in the movie industry? Probably not, but it wouldn't surprise me if some people have a reaction."

Levendusky told that he has treated phobias from fear of snow to fear of fish, and even to fear of butterflies. He defined a phobia as being afraid of something though conventional wisdom suggests there's no threat.

To be a legitimate phobia, however, the fear has to impede day-to-day activities and last at least six months.

"Being afraid doesn't equal a phobia," Levendusky said. "I would have a second thought today going to the theater," he said, but he doesn't think he has a phobia.

If Levendusky still can't go inside cinemas a year from now, however, he probably has a problem with movie theaters, he said.

Dr. Fred Neuman, who directs the Anxiety and Phobia Treatment Center in White Plains, N.Y., said he's already heard from patients who said they're uncomfortable going to the movies. In fact, one patient told him he's afraid of seeing the new "Batman" movie in particular.

"The usual thing that happens whenever calamity like this occurs is that people who are already nervous tend to get more nervous, and people who are not nervous in the first place tend to ignore it," Neuman said.

Neuman said a lot of his patients avoid movie theaters because they have anxiety disorders – not theater phobias. These patients fear having an anxiety attack and not being able to leave the crowded theater. They're afraid of screaming out, falling to the ground, having a heart attack, soiling themselves or vomiting. Usually, none of these things occur, and these reactions are not the same as the fear of the theater itself.

Dr. Donna Pincus, director of the Child and Adolescent Fear and Anxiety Treatment Program at Boston University, told that the uneasiness some people feel about movie theaters right now is normal.

"When such a tragedy occurs, it focuses our attention on our vulnerabilities rather than control and safety," she said. "Fear is just a natural human emotion…It wouldn't be human not to feel those feelings when you're watching things like this."

But when a fear interferes with a person's ability to function, it's classified as a phobia. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, 8.7 percent of Americans in 2008, or 19.2 billion people, suffered from a phobia of some kind. It's not clear how many people are specifically afraid of theaters.

Pincus said that children and adults should understand the difference between possibility and probability.

"How many movies have you ever been to in your life and how often have you ever had trouble or danger present?" Pincus said. "The news does not show us…thousands of people went to the movies tonight and they they all had a wonderful time and all got home safely."

Yount says she knows she's more likely to be struck by lightning than to be shot at a movie theater, but she can't stop herself from reading news coverage of the shooting in Aurora. Although Yount was an avid Harry Potter fan who attended midnight showings of the films, she said she doesn't think she'll ever go to another midnight release.

"When you really enjoy anything and it kind of gets marred, it's never a nice thing," she said. "It will be months [before I return to the cinema], I can just tell. It's not something I'm going to rush to do." ( ABC News )

READ MORE - Is It Phobia, a Panic Attack or Normal?

Aliens May Have Sent Space Seeds To Create Life On Earth

UK Scientists: Aliens May Have Sent Space Seeds To Create Life On Earth - Scientists in the U.K. have examined a tiny metal circular object, and are suggesting it might be a micro-organism deliberately sent by extraterrestrials to create life on Earth.

Don't be fooled by the size of the object in the microscopic image above. It may appear to look like a planet-sized globe, but in fact, it's no bigger than the width of a human hair.

The University of Buckingham reports that the minuscule metal globe was discovered by astrobiologist Milton Wainwright and a team of researchers who examined dust and minute matter gathered by a high-flying balloon in Earth's stratosphere.

"It is a ball about the width of a human hair, which has filamentous life on the outside and a gooey biological material oozing from its centre," Wainwright said, according to 

"One theory is it was sent to Earth by some unknown civilization in order to continue seeding the planet with life," Wainwright hypothesizes.

Aliens May Have Sent Space Seeds To Create Life On Earth

That theory comes from a Nobel Prize winner.

"This seeming piece of science fiction -- called 'directed panspermia' -- would probably not be taken seriously by any scientist were it not for the fact that it was very seriously suggested by the Nobel Prize winner of DNA fame, Francis Crick," said Wainwright.

Panspermia is a theory that suggests life spreads across the known physical universe, hitchhiking on comets or meteorites.

The idea of directed panspermia was suggested by Crick, a molecular biologist, who was the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA in 1953. Twenty years later, Crick co-wrote -- with biochemist Leslie Orgel -- a scientific paper about directed panspermia.

The abstract of their manuscript states:
It now seems unlikely that extraterrestrial living organisms could have reached the Earth either as spores driven by the radiation pressure from another star or as living organisms imbedded in a meteorite. As an alternative to these nineteenth-century mechanisms, we have considered Directed Panspermia, the theory that organisms were deliberately transmitted to the Earth by intelligent beings on another planet.
We conclude that it is possible that life reached the Earth in this way, but that the scientific evidence is inadequate at the present time to say anything about the probability. We draw attention to the kinds of evidence that might throw additional light on the topic.
In contrast to what Crick-Orgel speculated about in 1973, four decades later, a team of scientists, led by astronomer-astrobiologist Chandra Wickramasinghe of the Buckingham Center for Astrobiology, announced they had found fossils with biological properties attached to a meteorite (check out the slideshow at the bottom of this story) that fell in Sri Lanka.

Of course, these controversial claims bring forth the skeptical side of science.

In the case of the meteorite fossils, astronomer Phil Plait wrote that the scientists didn't do a good enough job convincing him there were actual fossils in that meteorite.

Wainwright and his team launched balloons nearly 17 miles into Earth's stratosphere, and when they examined the material collected by one of the balloons (like the one pictured below), they discovered a small crash mark which indicated to them that the microscopic, circular object didn't simply land softly.

"On hitting the stratosphere sampler, the sphere made an impact crater, a minute version of the huge impact crater on Earth caused by the asteroid said to have killed off the dinosaurs," Wainwright said.

Aliens May Have Sent Space Seeds To Create Life On Earth

Even with this more recent discovery of a tiny globe found lodged into a high-flying balloon, the alien space seed proponents know they have a long way to go before that can be proven and accepted by the scientific community.

"Unless, of course, we can find details of the civilization that is supposed to have sent it in this respect, it is probably an unprovable theory," Wainwright conceded.

Time -- and space -- will tell.

This article originally appeared in Aliens May Have Sent Space Seeds To Create Life On Earth | The Huffington Post | By Lee Speigel | Posted: 02/13/2015 8:12 am EST Updated:02/13/2015 9:59 am EST

READ MORE - Aliens May Have Sent Space Seeds To Create Life On Earth

What is the light of God?

The Prophet tells us that God created angels out of light. Light is a name of God, and the Koran tells us that "God is the light of the heavens and the earth" (24:35). In order to understand what angels are, we have to understand what light is. It will not help us much to think about light in physical terms. Rather, we have to grasp the signs that are revealed to us when we observe light.

Normally, we think of light as visible, but in fact, it is invisible. We can only see light when it is mixed with darkness. If there were only light and no darkness, we would be blinded by its intensity. Look at what happens when you gaze at the sun, which is 93 million miles away and is viewed through the earth's atmosphere. If we moved outside the atmosphere, just few miles closer to the sun, we could not possibly look at it for a moment without losing our eyesight. What we call visible light is pretty pale stuff. It can hardly compare with unfiltered sunlight, much less with the divine light, which illuminates the whole cosmos. Hence, it is said in Islam that God's light is so bright that people have all been blinded by it.

What is the light of God

God is unseen, angels are unseen, and light is unseen. Thus it should not be surprising that God and angels are light. You might object and say that we see light shining everywhere, but we don't see angels or God. Don't we? Tawhid (Unity of God) is telling us that the signs are nothing but God's radiance, and the creatures are nothing but the outward marks of God's creative power. "God is the light of the heavens and the earth" (24:35), and the heavens and the earth are the radiance or the reflection of that light.

Light is invisible, but without light we see nothing. Hence, light can be defined as an invisible something that makes other things visible. So also, God and the angels are invisible, but without them there would be no universe. Hence, God and the angels can be described as invisible somethings that make the universe visible.

The opposite of light is darkness, and darkness is simply the absence of light. In other words, light is something, but darkness is nothing. We see things because a nothing has mixed with a something. We would not be able to see if there were only light, or if there were only darkness. Light and darkness must come together for vision to occur.

God is Light. The opposite of light is darkness, which is nothing. In other words, God has no real, existing opposite, since nothing is not really something. If nothing is there, how can we talk about opposites? Of course, we say that nothing is the opposite of something, but this nothing does not exist except as a figure of speech or as an object of supposition for the purpose of discussion and explication.

Are creatures' light or darkness? The answer, of course, is that they are neither, or that they are both. If they were light and nothing but light, they would be God, and if they were darkness and nothing but darkness, they would not exist. Hence they live in a never-never land that is neither light nor darkness.

In respect of tashbih, the creatures are light, but in respect of tanzih they are darkness. In other words, to the extent that things are similar to God, they are luminous, but to the extent that they are incomparable with God, they are dark. They must have some luminosity, or else they could not exist.

To dwell in darkness (relative darkness, that is, since absolute darkness does not exist) is to dwell in distance from God; it is to be dominated by the divine qualities of majesty and wrath, which keep things far from God. To dwell in light is to live in nearness to God; it is to be dominated by the qualities of beauty and mercy, which bring things close to God.

There is one light, and that light is God. There are many darknesses, since each creature represents darkness in relation to God. The deeper the darkness, the greater the distance from God. Absolute darkness does not exist, because it would be cut off from God in every respect. How can anything exist if it has no relationship whatsoever to the Real, which is the source of every quality?

Created things dwell in distance from God, in difference, in otherness. This is to say that they dwell in relative darkness. Relative darkness has many modes and forms, since there are an infinite number of ways in which things can be different from God. "Nothing is like Him," but each thing is unlike him in its own unique way.

Dwelling in difference means perceiving God from the perspective of tanzih and hence to be dominated by the attributes of severity, majesty, and wrath. The goal of religion is to bring about a movement from tanzih to tashbih, from distance to nearness, from difference to sameness, from manyness to oneness, from wrath to mercy, from darkness to light.

The Koran frequently explains that God's goal in creation is to bring about unity, and often it employs the terms light and darkness to make this point. The broad significance of such verses becomes clear as soon as one grasps the meaning of tawhid. Notice that in the following verses light is one, since light is an attribute of God, but the darknesses are many, since darkness is an attribute that assumes many forms in keeping with the diversity of creation:

Are the blind and the seeing man equal, or are the darknesses and the light equal? (13:16, 35:20)

It is He who sends down upon His servant signs, clear explications that He may bring you forth from the darknesses into the light. (57:9)

Why, is he who was dead, and We gave him life, and appointed for him a light to walk by among the people, as one who is in the darknesses, and comes not forth from them? (6:122)

It is He who performs the salat over you, and His angels, that He may bring you forth from the darknesses into the light. (33:43) 

This article originally appeared in : What is the light of God? | | By: Sachiko Murata and William C. Chttick | 3/18/2015

READ MORE - What is the light of God?

Ancient Stone Tool Brings New Ideas About Early Americans

Ancient Stone Tool Brings New Ideas About Early Americans - An ancient stone tool recently discovered in the high desert of southeast Oregon has archaeologists raising their eyebrows.

The tool, a hand-held scraper chipped from a piece of agate, was unearthed from beneath a layer of volcanic ash near the Rimrock Draw Rockshelter outside Riley, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced on Thursday. Archaeologists have linked the ash to a major eruption from Mount St. Helens that occurred about 15,800 years ago.

“When we had the volcanic ash identified, we were stunned because that would make this stone tool one of the oldest artifacts in North America," Dr. Patrick O’Grady, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon and the leader of the excavation, said in a written statement. "Given those circumstances and the laws of stratigraphy, this object should be older than the ash.” 

Ancient Stone Tool Brings New Ideas About Early Americans
The scraper was found at an ancient rock shelter in the high desert of eastern Oregon. It could turn out to be older than any known site of human occupation in western North America. 

The new finding may rewrite the story of early human migrations, as it was once previously thought that the first humans in the western hemisphere arrived about 13,500 years ago. 

“For years, many in the archaeological field assumed that the first humans in the western hemisphere were the Clovis people – dating to around 13,000 years ago. While a handful of archaeological sites older than Clovis cultures have been discovered in the past few decades, there is still considerable scrutiny of any finding that appears older,” Stan McDonald, the bureau's Oregon/Washington lead archaeologist, said in the statement.

If humans arrived more than 15,800 years ago, as the stone tool suggests, it would place humans in America's West around the end of the Pleistocene era, when mastodons, mammoths, camels, horses, and bison roamed the region, the Associated Press reported. But some scientists remain skeptical.

"No one is going to believe this until it is shown there was no break in that ash layer, that the artifact could not have worked its way down from higher up, and until it is published in a convincing way," Donald K. Grayson, professor of archaeology at the University of Washington, who was not involved in the excavation, told AP. "Until then, extreme skepticism is all they are going to get."

Archaeologists plan to continue excavations at the Oregon site this summer, O'Grady said in the statement, adding "that’s the next step."

This article has been updated with the quote from Stan McDonald, explaining the 13,500-year figure.

This article originally appeared in : Ancient Stone Tool Brings New Ideas About Early Americans | The Huffington Post | By Jacqueline Howard | 03/09/2015 9:15 am EDT Updated: 03/09/2015 8:59 pm EDT

READ MORE - Ancient Stone Tool Brings New Ideas About Early Americans

Thailand's 87-year-old king makes rare trip outside hospital

Thailand's 87-year-old king makes rare trip outside hospital — Thailand's 87-year-old king on Monday made a rare visit outside the hospital to observe development projects at his palace in Bangkok.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej took a one-hour trip from the riverside hospital where he has spent most of his time in recent years to see a rice mill and a solar energy exhibit at his royal residence in central Bangkok. He was wearing a yellow short-sleeved shirt as his wheelchair passed cheering crowds at the hospital.

Thailand's 87-year-old king makes rare trip outside hospital

The ailing monarch was admitted to Siriraj Hospital in October for a fever that the doctors said was caused by an infection. His hospitalization came a few months after he returned to his seaside palace south of Bangkok, following an almost four-year hospital stay that began in 2009 for a lung inflammation.

Worries about the king's health and succession have contributed to Thailand's political instability of the last eight years.

His wife, Queen Sirikit, apparently suffered a stroke in 2012. The 82-year-old queen has made almost no public appearances since she was admitted to the same hospital that year after experiencing symptoms indicative of a stroke. 

This article originally appeared in : Thailand's 87-year-old king makes rare trip outside hospital | AP | March 9, 2015 10:22 AM

READ MORE - Thailand's 87-year-old king makes rare trip outside hospital

Helen Mirren reigns on Broadway as Queen Elizabeth

Helen Mirren reigns on Broadway as Queen Elizabeth - Nearly a decade after winning an Academy Award for her role as Britain's Elizabeth II in "The Queen," Helen Mirren is ruling over Broadway in "The Audience," a new play about the monarch's weekly meetings with her prime ministers.

Mirren said she has huge empathy for the 88 year-old royal she plays in the British import that premiered in London and opened on Sunday at New York's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

"Both times, for the film and now the play, I had to do a lot of research and the more research I did really, the more respect I gained for her," Mirren, 69, said ahead of the opening.

Helen Mirren reigns on Broadway as Queen Elizabeth

The queen's weekly meetings with her prime ministers are private, so "The Audience" is an imagining of the conversations and relationships Elizabeth has had with eight of the 12 British leaders who served during her more than 60-year reign.

Mirren, a multiple-Tony nominee, admits it is difficult to imagine what Elizabeth's world is like. But the newspaper USA Today said her Elizabeth defends the monarchy and "deftly reconciles her sense of entitlement with a deep humility and empathy."

In the play, which does not run chronologically, Mirren is shown as a older queen reassuring a doubtful John Major, played by actor Dylan Baker, that is he is up to the job. In the next scene she changes into the young Elizabeth, holding her first meeting as queen with the formidable Winston Churchill (Dakin Matthews).

The play, written by Peter Morgan who also penned "The Queen," and directed by Stephen Daldry, lets audiences listen in to her conversation with a depressed Gordon Brown (Rod McLachlan.) They hear her playful, friendly banter with Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson and watch as she soothes a testy Margaret Thatcher.

With each scene the queen's age changes along with her costumes and hairstyle.

"Even if she's not the real royal deal, this is still about as close as most of us are going to get to a cozy tete-a-tete with the best loved of the regal Windsors," said The New York Times newspaper.

Mirren also appears alongside younger versions of the monarch, showing her reluctant to move into Buckingham Palace and her early annoyances with royal life.

"It's obvious who the real ruler is when it comes to Broadway. Mirren's crown is safe," said The New York Post newspaper. (Editing by Jill Serjeant and Marguerita Choy)

This article originally appeared in : Helen Mirren reigns on Broadway as Queen Elizabeth | reuters | By Patricia Reaney | Mon Mar 9, 2015 4:00 pm EDT

READ MORE - Helen Mirren reigns on Broadway as Queen Elizabeth