Friday, April 1, 2011

More Rounds Fired in the Battle Over the Metal "Codices" Discovered in Israel

Prior post

This has all the makings of a long, drawn out war, with no holds barred to ruin reputations of archaeologists and competing experts. Rather pathetic.  Will we ever know the truth?  When did truth become a casualty in the battle of egos and ideology? 

Note the source of this story - Deseret News, part of the Deserte conglomerate, out of Salt Lake City, Utah.  For those of you not so familiar - Salt Lake City, Utah is the home of the Mormon religious conglomerate.

Earlier this month, The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), dismissed the books as a forgery and as being a "mixture of incompatible periods and styles … without any connection or logic. Such forged motifs can be found in their thousands in the antiquities markets of Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East."

Ancient metal plates found in Middle East
Published: Thursday, March 31, 2011 3:26 p.m. MDT
JERUSALEM — A discovery in the Middle East of more than 20 ancient lead plate "books" — each with five to 15 pages — is being hailed by some as one of the most important religious discoveries of the past. Others are calling it ridiculous.

Image from The Mail Online, 30 March 2011. Notice the
eight-pointed 'rosette' - an echo of the imagery
of the Goddess Inanna c. 4000 BCE.  Is this a sign that
the image is actually real?
The director of the country of Jordan's Department of Antiquities, Ziad al-Saad, told BBC that the books might have been made by followers of Jesus in the few decades immediately following his crucifixion. "They will really match, and perhaps be more significant than, the Dead Sea Scrolls," Saad said. "It seems that we are looking at a very important and significant discovery, maybe the most important discovery in the history of archaeology."

Jeff Chadwick, a practicing field archeologist who is in Israel as BYU's Jerusalem Center Professor of Archeology and Near Eastern studies thinks it is a silly story. "Almost everybody is getting wrong. I couldn't believe that Fox News picked it up," he said. "This is not going to pass the smell test in the end run."

One of the sticking points is the origin of the plates.

The first story, related by the BBC, is that a Jordanian Bedouin spotted them after a flash flood exposed part of a cave. This happened about five years ago. Then, another Bedouin smuggled them into Israel. This does not make the Jordanian government happy and they want them back.

The second story is from the Israeli Bedouin who now has the books. The Jewish Chronicle Online identified the Bedouin as "Hassan Saeda, from the northern Israeli village of Um-al-Ghanam." Saeda said they have been in his family for a century — found by his great-grandfather in a cave in Jordan.

The ancient Goddess' symbol "Tree of Life"
masquerading as early Christian symbol of the
crucifix.  Note the eight "rays" of light springing
out of the top of the crucifix - symbols of
enlightenment - called the "Holy Spirit" in
the Bible (in some translations, "Sophia.")
David Elkington, an author and archeology enthusiast, appears to be the main person pushing the recent interest in the plates, according to a report on BBC radio. He told BBC that the small business-card-sized books are judged to be Christian because of their covers. He said there are symbols and signs that could be interpreted by early Christians as representing Jesus. Those symbols are next to other symbols that represent the presence of God.

There is also a representation of a seven-branched menorah, which Elkington told BBC that Jews were forbidden to represent.

If this all wasn't enough, he said there is also a map of ancient Jerusalem. It has a cross on it next to what appears to be a small building with an open door — possibly representing the open tomb of Jesus.

Rest of article.

Miracle Rescue of Japanese Dog at Sea After Three Weeks

I sure do hope this is not an "April Fools" article.  It made me burst out in tears when I read the headline, and I sobbed as I watched the video and listened to the report. 

Yeah, I know it's silly to cry over one little doggy rescued at sea after three weeks - how could he (or she) have survived so long?  What is it that enables one to read with relative equanamity that upwards of 18,000 people lost their lives (and who knows how long some of them may have survived, hoping against hope to be rescued, before they finally passed away from lack of water and injuries) and hardly shed a tear, and then read a story weeks later about one dog being rescued when he shouldn't even be alive, and all of that grief and horror and anger and sadness comes pouring out in sobbing tears.

The rescuers spent a long time trying to find the doggy from their helicopter, which eventually had to leave because it was running low on fuel.  It was a coast guard ship that eventually recovered the doggy.  May the Goddess bless each and every one of you for going through these measures to save one dog.  I cannot help but contrast this heroic effort to rescue one dog to what happened in New Orleans after Katrina when rescuers callously left behind still living living pets while hauling their away sobbing, frantic owners.

Maybe this Japanese dog is  a symbol of hope.  Now that I'm calmer, I'm thinking perhaps, just perhaps, this doggy is a sign from the Goddess, for the links between dogs and the Goddess go back to the mists of time, that there is always hope.  This is a miracle that defies rational explanation but was sent to us as a sign that there is more going on in this great, mysterious universe than just us silly-ass humans, who sometimes like to think that WE ARE IT and our shit doesn't stink! Psssst - it does stink...

There is rebuilding, and picking up and carrying-on, which the people of Japan have done before.  So, now I feel better, and I hope the survivors in Japan do, too.  Goddess bless you all - and us, everyone.

From the New Scotsman
Dog rescued from sea 3 weeks after tsunami swept away house
Published Date: 02 April 2011
A FAMILY pet, cast upon the ocean wave when the 11 March tsunami scoured the north-east coast of Japan, was finally rescued yesterday off Kesennuma by coastguards, three weeks after disaster struck.
The frightened and hungry animal was spotted pacing around the semi-submerged roof of a house, the only part still above water, then occasionally vanishing inside.

Rescuers used a raft and a rope to coax the dog from the roof - one coastguard plunging into the sea - before netting it to bring it to shore.

An all-out search for survivors and bodies up to 20 miles off the north-east coast is expected to scale down tomorrow.

2011 European Individual Chess Championship

Judit, Judit, Judit!

She moved into third place with a win today.  She and the two players above her in the rankings are at 8.0/10.

Rank after Round 10

Rk.NameFEDRtgPts. TB1  TB2  TB3 
1GMPotkin VladimirRUS26538.0287352.565.5
2GMWojtaszek RadoslawPOL27118.0279152.065.5
3GMPolgar JuditHUN26868.0276649.561.5

Thursday, March 31, 2011

2011 European Individual Chess Championship

Updating to standings after R9 (393 players).

Judit Polgar is in 10th place overall (Yaaaaaaaaayyyyyy!) with 7.0 but tied with a whole lot of other players also on 7.0. 

1GMVallejo Pons FranciscoESP27077.0289841.554.0
2GMPotkin VladimirRUS26537.0283942.053.0
3GMRagger MarkusAUT26147.0282740.051.0
4GMIordachescu ViorelMDA26267.0280639.551.0
5GMMamedov RaufAZE26677.0279438.049.5
6GMZhigalko SergeiBLR26807.0278537.047.0
7GMParligras Mircea-EmilianROU25987.0276741.552.5
8GMWojtaszek RadoslawPOL27117.0275140.552.5
9GMKhairullin IldarRUS26347.0273640.050.0
10GMPolgar JuditHUN26867.0272338.549.5
11GMVitiugov NikitaRUS27207.0270840.552.0
12GMJobava BaadurGEO27077.0267537.547.5

The rest of the chess femmes have not fared as well as the intrepid Judit.

134IMMuzychuk AnnaSLO25285.0254434.044.0
142IMJavakhishvili LelaGEO24375.0252734.544.0
143WGMZawadzka JolantaPOL23865.0252031.541.5
152IMDembo YelenaGRE24575.0248635.542.5
167GMCmilyte ViktorijaLTU25265.0244834.544.0
187IMMilliet SophieFRA23694.5250532.041.0
215WGMCherednichenko SvetlanaUKR22784.5236630.038.5
216IMMelia SalomeGEO24624.5235931.040.0
226WGMPtacnikova LenkaISL23074.5224028.537.5
228WIMBoric ElenaBIH22924.5220228.537.0
232IMHouska JovankaENG24194.0243034.543.5
247GMZhukova NataliaUKR24434.0235231.038.5
261WIMDolzhykova KaterynaUKR22654.0230830.538.0
265WIMPavlidou EkateriniGRE22044.0229329.538.0
282WFMCherednichenko ElenaUKR21414.0219329.537.5
305WGML'ami AlinaROU22973.5216631.541.0
310Klek Hanna-MarieGER21493.5213629.537.5
318De Seroux CamilleSUI20553.5204225.032.0
321Boyard MarieLUX19763.5200024.031.0
329Loiret StanislasFRA22583.0221726.534.0
334WIMMakka IouliaGRE21193.0205728.536.5
342WFMOsmanodja FilizGER20553.0200624.531.5
362Bismuth LeaFRA19462.5179724.531.0
378Lucheva VelislavaFRA02.0149518.525.0
380Minot BarbaraFRA14302.0141820.526.0
381Karsenty MadeleineFRA14152.0141120.526.5
385Aubert LauraneFRA02.0123417.523.0
386Mutzel AnnabelleFRA02.079519.025.5

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I Thank The Goddess Daily...

that I was born in the USA and raised by tough (strict) but loving parents who taught me from Day One, back before so-called "Women's Lib," that a female was as good as any male and sometimes a hell of a lot better.  Sadly, a majority of women in the world are no so blessed.

Only 14, Bangladeshi girl charged with adultery was lashed to death
March 29, 2011|By Farid Ahmed and Moni Basu, CNN

Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN) -- Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl.

Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public.

Hena dropped after 70.

Bloodied and bruised, she was taken to hospital, where she died a week later.

Amazingly, an initial autopsy report cited no injuries and deemed her death a suicide. Hena's family insisted her body be exhumed. They wanted the world to know what really happened to their daughter.

Sharia: illegal but still practiced

Hena's family hailed from rural Shariatpur, crisscrossed by murky rivers that lend waters to rice paddies and lush vegetable fields.

Hena was the youngest of five children born to Darbesh Khan, a day laborer, and his wife, Aklima Begum. They shared a hut made from corrugated tin and decaying wood and led a simple life that was suddenly marred a year ago with the return of Hena's cousin Mahbub Khan.

Mahbub Khan came back to Shariatpur from a stint working in Malaysia. His son was Hena's age and the two were in seventh grade together.

Khan eyed Hena and began harassing her on her way to school and back, said Hena's father. He complained to the elders who run the village about his nephew, three times Hena's age.

The elders admonished Mahbub Khan and ordered him to pay $1,000 in fines to Hena's family. But Mahbub was Darbesh's older brother's son and Darbesh was asked to let the matter fade.

Many months later on a winter night, as Hena's sister Alya told it, Hena was walking from her room to an outdoor toilet when Mahbub Khan gagged her with cloth, forced her behind nearby shrubbery and beat and raped her.

Hena struggled to escape, Alya told CNN. Mahbub Khan's wife heard Hena's muffled screams and when she found Hena with her husband, she dragged the teenage girl back to her hut, beat her and trampled her on the floor.

The next day, the village elders met to discuss the case at Mahbub Khan's house, Alya said. The imam pronounced his fatwa. Khan and Hena were found guilty of an illicit relationship. Her punishment under sharia or Islamic law was 101 lashes; his 201.

Mahbub Khan managed to escape after the first few lashes. [Escaped?  What does that mean?  So the dudes who were wielding the whips didn't chase after him, hunt him down and finish their punishment?  Yeah, Islamic Justice.]

Darbesh Khan and Aklima Begum had no choice but to mind the imam's order. They watched as the whip broke the skin of their youngest child and she fell unconscious to the ground.

"What happened to Hena is unfortunate and we all have to be ashamed that we couldn't save her life," said Sultana Kamal, who heads the rights organization Ain o Shalish Kendro.

Bangladesh is considered a democratic and moderate Muslim country, and national law forbids the practice of sharia. But activist and journalist Shoaib Choudhury, who documents such cases, said sharia is still very much in use in villages and towns aided by the lack of education and strong judicial systems.

The Supreme Court also outlawed fatwas a decade ago, but human rights monitors have documented more than 500 cases of women in those 10 years who were punished through a religious ruling. And few who have issued such rulings have been charged.

Last month, the court asked the government to explain what it had done to stop extrajudicial penalty based on fatwa. It ordered the dissemination of information to all mosques and madrassas, or religious schools, that sharia is illegal in Bangladesh.

"The government needs to enact a specific law to deal with such perpetrators responsible for extrajudicial penalty in the name of Islam," Kamal told CNN.

The United Nations estimates that almost half of Bangladeshi women suffer from domestic violence and many also commonly endure rape, beatings, acid attacks and even death because of the country's entrenched patriarchal system.

Hena might have quietly become another one of those statistics had it not been for the outcry and media attention that followed her death on January 31.

'Not even old enough to be married'

Monday, the doctors responsible for Hena's first autopsy faced prosecution for what a court called a "false post-mortem report to hide the real cause of Hena's death."

Public outrage sparked by that autopsy report prompted the high court to order the exhumation of Hena's body in February. A second autopsy performed at Dhaka Medical College Hospital revealed Hena had died of internal bleeding and her body bore the marks of severe injuries.

Police are now conducting an investigation and have arrested several people, including Mahbub Khan, in connection with Hena's death.

"I've nothing to demand but justice," said Darbesh Khan, leading a reporter to the place where his daughter was abducted the night she was raped.

He stood in silence and took a deep breath. She wasn't even old enough to be married, he said, testament to Hena's tenderness in a part of the world where many girls are married before adulthood. "She was so small."

Hena's mother, Aklima, stared vacantly as she spoke of her daughter's last hours. She could barely get out her words. "She was innocent," Aklima said, recalling Hena's last words.

Police were guarding Hena's family earlier this month. Darbesh and Aklima feared reprisal for having spoken out against the imam and the village elders.

They had meted out the most severe punishment for their youngest daughter. They could put nothing past them.

Reminder: 9 Queens 4th Annual Chessfest!

On April 2nd!

4th Annual Chess Fest at the Hotel Congress from 2-5 pm in Tucson, Arizona. This year's Chess Fest is based on the book Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll and will feature two-time American Women's Chess Champion Jennifer Shahade as the Red Queen.

The day will include tons of free, family friendly activities including:
Remember- all activities are free and open to the public. For more information, email  Hope to see you there! 

P.S.  This is one of the best graphics I've ever seen, bar none.  9 Queens has always had very nice posters for their events but this one - wow - it's in another dimension!  Great work!

More on Those Metal "Codices" Discovered 5 Years Ago in Jordan

I wrote about this first on March 7, 2011.  This article provides more details, including the dispute regarding who, actually, owns these books, which was not mentioned in the introductory paragraphs of the March 7th article.

Is this possibly the biggest discovery ever regarding Christianity?  Hmmm....

Wed Mar 30, 11:36 am ET
Could lead codices prove ‘the major discovery of Christian history’?
By Chris Lehmann

British archaeologists are seeking to authenticate what could be a landmark discovery in the documentation of early Christianity: a trove of 70 lead codices that appear to date from the 1st century CE, which may include key clues to the last days of Jesus' life. As UK Daily Mail reporter Fiona Macrae writes, some researchers are suggesting this could be the most significant find in Christian archeology since the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947.

The codices turned up five years ago in a remote cave in eastern Jordan—a region where early Christian believers may have fled after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. The codices are made up of wirebound individual pages, each roughly the size of a credit card. They contain a number of images and textual allusions to the Messiah, as well as some possible references to the crucifixion and resurrection. Some of the codices were sealed, prompting yet more breathless speculation that they could include the sealed book, shown only to the Messiah, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. One of the few sentences translated thus far from the texts, according to the BBC, reads, "I shall walk uprightly"--a phrase that also appears in Revelation. "While it could be simply a sentiment common in Judaism," BBC writer Robert Pigott notes, "it could here be designed to refer to the resurrection."

But the field of biblical archaeology is also prey to plenty of hoaxes and enterprising fraudsters, so investigators are proceeding with due empirical caution. Initial metallurgical research indicates that the codices are about 2,000 years old--based on the manner of corrosion they have undergone, which, as Macrae writes, "experts believe would be impossible to achieve artificially."

Beyond the initial dating tests, however, little is confirmed about the codices or what they contain. And the saga of their discovery has already touched off a battle over ownership rights between Israel and Jordan. As the BBC's Pigott recounts, the cache surfaced when a Jordanian Bedouin saw a menorah—the Jewish religious candleabra—exposed in the wake of a flash flood. But the codices somehow passed into the ownership of an Israeli Bedouin named Hassam Saeda, who claims that they have been in his family's possession for the past 100 years. The Jordanian government has pledged to "exert all efforts at every level" to get the potentially priceless relics returned, Pigott reports.

Meanwhile, biblical scholars who have examined the codices point to significant textual evidence suggesting their early Christian origin. Philip Davies, emeritus professor of Old Testament Studies at Sheffield University, told Pigott he was "dumbstruck" at the sight of plates representing a picture map of ancient Jerusalem. "There is a cross in the foreground, and behind it is what has to be the tomb [of Jesus], a small building with an opening, and behind that the walls of the city," Davies explained. "There are walls depicted on other pages of these books, too, and they almost certainly refer to Jerusalem."

David Elkington, an ancient religion scholar who heads the British research team investigating the find, has likewise pronounced this nothing less than "the major discovery of Christian history." Elkington told the Daily Mail that "it is a breathtaking thought that we have held these objects that might have been held by the early saints of the Church."

Still, other students of early Christian history are urging caution, citing precedents such as the debunked discovery of an ossuary said to contain Jesus' bones. New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado observes that since these codices are miniature, they were likely intended for private, rather than liturgical, use. This would likely place their date of origin closer to the 3rd century CE. But only further research and full translation of the codices can fully confirm the nature of the find. The larger lesson here is likely that of Eccliastes 3:1—be patient, since "to everything there is a season."

(David Elkington/Rex Features/Rex USA)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chess in the Library Big Success in Toronto!

Congrats to WIM Yuanling Yuan's initiative - Chess in the Library.  The program that started out of an idea she had a few years ago at 15 has taken off - and there's no end in sight...
From Inside Toronto
Mar 27, 2011 - 1:30 PM
Checkmate: Chess is much more than just board game
Chess in the Library sees success in Toronto's branches

If your notion of chess involves a scene with two elderly gentlemen slowly exchanging strange-looking objects on a checkered board under a blanket of deafening silence, then it's time you adopt a more modern understanding.

Enter Brookbanks Public Library in North York, the birthplace of Chess in the Library - a weekly program created by Canada's youngest female International Master, Yuanling Yuan, 17. The library is where young chess players gather to play and learn.

Already two years in, Yuan's idea has been a tremendous success. Chess in the Library now spans across 12 Toronto libraries, and has more than 40 volunteers. The program also operates in three libraries in Ottawa, and one library in Victoria, BC and Calgary, Alta.

One rainy Saturday morning the hysterical howls of children emanate from an undisclosed quarter fill the library.

"Stop throwing the pieces," echoes down a corridor.

Though many players are at the age where they can count their age on one hand - in some cases two - and their knowledge of the game is basic at best, in this program lurks an undeniable sense of enrichment.

Vivek Chachcha, 16, who volunteers at Brookbanks, is particularly grateful for having a chance to assist in the program's weekly operations. A self-described novice, Vivek recently started playing chess last summer because it was the only game on his computer and has been playing ever since.

A friend he made at the club has seen great improvements in his skill, he said.

"I remember when Vlad Bardalez came in, who was an average chess player, and over several months of playing and growing, he's beating me now," said Vivek. "When you see something like that you feel good."

Bardalez, 14, quickly became a familiar face around Brookbanks. His efforts have earned him a certain sense of notoriety from his peers, something given only to those who have demonstrated their dedication in the wake of adversity.

"I played in the past and then quit. I wasn't very good," Bardalez said. "But my weekends were open so I came in and tried it again, and kept coming back. Earlier this morning I beat someone who I've never beaten before; it's nice to get that checkmate."

The 'checkmate' is simply the tip of the iceberg.

In essence, Chess in the Library is designed to boost social and intellectual development. Chess demands the expansion of math and literacy skills and the emotional capacity to learn how to win and lose. But more importantly, these skills help prepare participants for the challenges which lie ahead as they transition through elementary school to middle school, to high school and beyond - something not offered by today's digital mediums.

Although video games do offer entertainment, there's limited emphasis on engaging one's intellectual faculties.

"Instead of just hitting buttons, you have to decide how you want to play and consider the consequences of your actions," said Kevin Wu, 15, executive director of the program. "Chess is a parallel to life - cause and effect."

Wu started playing when he was seven years old after his parents bought him a book on chess. Since then, he's been completely absorbed by the game. Following in Yuan's shoes, he's now a Candidate Master.

"Concentration is important, especially when you're in a half-hour game - multitasking is the new thing, but in chess you're focused on one thing and one thing only," added Vivek.

Chess is as challenging as it is revealing. Each player has their own style based on their unique personality. As they become more accustomed to the conventions of the game, their style of playing becomes more complex.

"When you play someone you have to adapt to their style," said Bardalez.

He notes that younger, more inexperienced players tend to be reckless and aggressive. It's just in their nature. But the longer they play and more mature they become, they tend to abandon those tendencies and think things through.

Feedback from parents has been exceptionally positive.

"They're very excited because their kids are around that age where they tend to stop coming to the library and reading books; their curiosity is changing directions," said Denise Drabkin, branch head of Brookbanks District Branch library. "This shows them the library is a relevant place for them."

Amber Daugherty, 21, who moved here from Listowel, Ontario, volunteers at Humberwood Library in Etobicoke, where they recently held a chess tournament over the March Break. She sees this program as an opportunity to connect with other members of the community.

"I live close to Humberwood, so I decided to go check it out - I love chess," says Daugherty. "I immediately adored all the kids who attended, and loved that it allowed me to get to know some people I wouldn't have otherwise gotten to know in the area."

Nonetheless, the program faces challenges relating to sustainability. The operation has grown considerably, including a board of elected executives, a website, and numerous chess-related blogs, and a budget, which Yuan notes, can use some donations.

"My long-term goal was to spread this program across Canada with a program in every province," says Yuan. "So far it's working, but we need people to help run it."

Gloria Jacobs, branch head of Bloor/Gladstone District Branch library, whose library recently included the Chess in the Library into its public programming, acknowledges the need for more assistance.

"We're not as developed as Brookbanks or other branches," says Jacobs. "We're going to need more time to attract and grow our audience, but as with anything, it takes time and effort."

The most dedicated players will eventually become volunteers to help mentor the next wave of players.

"We need their help to sustain the program and help it grow," says Drabkin. "They build their public speaking skills and their leadership skills. In the end, everybody wins."

A Great Article About a Great Program

From USA Today
To 'chess lady' game is more than fun
By Mary Beth Marklein, USA TODAY
March 28, 2011

Quiet, please. The second- and third-graders at McGinn Elementary School are playing chess, which means they're concentrating, which means they shouldn't be interrupted.

But Wendi Fischer can't resist giving a compliment. "You're really using your brain to think instead of your mouths," she tells students, as she walks from class to class.

It's hard to believe these are the same kids who, just an hour earlier, could barely contain their glee when Fischer made a surprise visit to an assembly in the library. There were pictures, autographs, hugs.

Fischer, executive director of America's Foundation for Chess, has become a celebrity among the elementary school set. Kids know her as the Chess Lady, the tiara-wearing medieval queen who hosts the chess lessons they watch each week on DVD. While chess has long been a staple of after-school programs, the foundation aspires to bring chess into more classrooms through First Move.

It's not the first initiative to teach chess to elementary students. Since 1986, the non-profit Chess-in-the-Schools has taught the game to low-income students in New York City Public Schools. And no one keeps track of how many teachers use the board game as a teaching tool, though plenty of books are available to help them.

The foundation, based in Bellevue, Wash., aims to expand First Move nationally and beyond. Launched in the 2004-05 academic year in 11 Seattle area schools, the program last year reached more than 50,000 students in nearly 2,000 classrooms across 27 states, mostly by word of mouth. In 2008, Idaho became the first state to encourage public schools statewide to use the game as part of their curricula in second and third grades, and Maryland's Senate education committee this month considered a similar proposal for its public schools. First Move can be found in Antigua, Kenya, Canada and Mexico, and Fischer's group has been in talks with the education ministries of Norway and Denmark.

Fischer (no relation to Bobby, the American who in 1972 famously beat the USSR's Boris Spassky for the World Chess Championship) says the weekly lessons, mapped to standards typical for second- and third-graders, serve multiple goals. They encourage students to strategize and solve problems, involve math skills that will come in handy when they study algebra, and introduce content related to medieval times. (Did you know that the queen, the most powerful piece on the chess board, gained strength in the game over time, as her role in real life grew more prominent?)

While First Move doesn't claim to improve students' test scores, some researchers have found chess can improve academic performance. A 1993 study, for example, found that a group of students in the New York program scored significantly higher on reading tests than a control group.

Chess also addresses social skills, which the Scotch Plains students seem to have picked up on very quickly.

Players always shake hands before the game "as a courtesy" and afterward as a way to say "good game," says second-grader Zoe Wernsing, 8. It is "unsportsmanlike" to offer unwanted advice or commentary during a match, says second-grader Kieren Adams, 7. And while beating an opponent (especially a parent) is a worthy goal, "you learn more from a game you lose than a game you win," says third-grader Athena Postlewait, 9.

Some educators say chess can be a confidence booster. "For some children this is a way to express their intelligence," says author and University of Texas at Dallas senior lecturer Alexey Root, who since 2007 has taught online courses for aspiring and practicing teachers nationwide who want to use chess as a learning tool. "You see lines of force and manipulate things in your mind's eye."

Fischer, who hopes to add about 1,200 more classrooms this year, says the biggest obstacle isn't lack of interest but lack of funding. Chess may have gotten a boost from former president Bill Clinton, who, in his 2007 book, Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World, called the New York Chess-in-the-Schools program "a classic example of a very good idea with no chance of becoming a reality without private support."

In Scotch Plains, that caught the attention of the owners of the Stage House Tavern, who liked the idea of supporting something that would involve schools, co-owner Tom Britt says. They approached the district anonymously, offering to fund First Move if educators approved its curriculum. The cost to put the program into 39 classrooms across all five of the district's elementary schools was about $25,000.

Second-grade teacher Sondra Chernoff says teachers, some of whom had never played chess before, like the opportunity to build their repertoire of skills.

"We're like the students, we're learning like everybody else," she says. And by the way, she adds, they're also star-struck by the Chess Lady. "I think the teachers are more excited than the kids."

God's Wife Edited Out of the Bible - Almost

This is old news to anyone who has ever actually read the Old Testament :) References to Asherah and the "Queen of Heaven" (long before the Virgin Mary appeared on the scene) as well as scenes mentioning sacred poles (trees) and groves where pagan rituals took place in mountain-top sanctuaries, as well as the women who celebrated a certain unnamed but evil HOLY DAY around the Spring Equinox every year by baking the fore-runners of hot cross buns, are all references to THE GREAT EVIL ONE - GOD'S WIFE! GASP!

From Discovery News
God's Wife Edited Out of the Bible -- Almost
God's wife, Asherah, was a powerful fertility goddess, according to a theologian
By Jennifer Viegas
Fri Mar 18, 2011 07:00 AM ET

God had a wife, Asherah, whom the Book of Kings suggests was worshiped alongside Yahweh in his temple in Israel, according to an Oxford scholar.

In 1967, Raphael Patai was the first historian to mention that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah. The theory has gained new prominence due to the research of Francesca Stavrakopoulou, who began her work at Oxford and is now a senior lecturer in the department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter.

Information presented in Stavrakopoulou's books, lectures and journal papers has become the basis of a three-part documentary series, now airing in Europe, where she discusses the Yahweh-Asherah connection.

"You might know him as Yahweh, Allah or God. But on this fact, Jews, Muslims and Christians, the people of the great Abrahamic religions, are agreed: There is only one of Him," writes Stavrakopoulou in a statement released to the British media. "He is a solitary figure, a single, universal creator, not one God among many ... or so we like to believe."

"After years of research specializing in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colorful and what could seem, to some, uncomfortable conclusion that God had a wife," she added.

Stavrakopoulou bases her theory on ancient texts, amulets and figurines unearthed primarily in the ancient Canaanite coastal city called Ugarit, now modern-day Syria. All of these artifacts reveal that Asherah was a powerful fertility goddess.

Asherah's connection to Yahweh, according to Stavrakopoulou, is spelled out in both the Bible and an 8th century B.C. inscription on pottery found in the Sinai desert at a site called Kuntillet Ajrud.

"The inscription is a petition for a blessing," she shares. "Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from 'Yahweh and his Asherah.' Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair. And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found, all of which help to strengthen the case that the God of the Bible once had a wife."

Also significant, Stavrakopoulou believes, "is the Bible's admission that the goddess Asherah was worshiped in Yahweh's Temple in Jerusalem. In the Book of Kings, we're told that a statue of Asherah was housed in the temple and that female temple personnel wove ritual textiles for her."

J. Edward Wright, president of both The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, told Discovery News that he agrees several Hebrew inscriptions mention "Yahweh and his Asherah."

"Asherah was not entirely edited out of the Bible by its male editors," he added. "Traces of her remain, and based on those traces, archaeological evidence and references to her in texts from nations bordering Israel and Judah, we can reconstruct her role in the religions of the Southern Levant."

Asherah -- known across the ancient Near East by various other names, such as Astarte and Istar -- was "an important deity, one who was both mighty and nurturing," Wright continued.

"Many English translations prefer to translate 'Asherah' as 'Sacred Tree,'" Wright said. "This seems to be in part driven by a modern desire, clearly inspired by the Biblical narratives, to hide Asherah behind a veil once again."

"Mentions of the goddess Asherah in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) are rare and have been heavily edited by the ancient authors who gathered the texts together," Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum and an associate professor of Bible and archaeology at the Pacific School of Religion, said.

Asherah as a tree symbol was even said to have been "chopped down and burned outside the Temple in acts of certain rulers who were trying to 'purify' the cult, and focus on the worship of a single male god, Yahweh," he added.

The ancient Israelites were polytheists, Brody told Discovery News, "with only a small minority worshiping Yahweh alone before the historic events of 586 B.C." In that year, an elite community within Judea was exiled to Babylon and the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. This, Brody said, led to "a more universal vision of strict monotheism: one god not only for Judah, but for all of the nations."

There are several articles about Asherah or mentioning Asherah in ancient Israel at the website for BAR (Biblical Archaeology Review) - every single one of them informative and entertaining - or absolutely shocking and revolting, depending upon your point of view.  You can type in search words at the link provided and explore to your heart's content!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Love TKO Cover by Bette Midler

Oh my my my my.  This song as the Divine Ms. M sings it gets me every time.  I heard it earlier today on the online smooth jazz station I listen to and it just caught me then and there.  I stopped everything and just listened, and teared-up because the way she sings this song just grabs my heart.  She's a woman who has been there, done that, and her experiences are wrapped around each and every note that comes out of her mouth.  I said to myself at the time - self, you must post this at the blog.

And so I am :)

The song was originally written for Teddy Pendergrast by Eddie Gip Noble, but I just can't wrap my head and heart around his version the way I can around Bette Midler's take. It's been covered by many others, including Hall and Oates, Boz Skaggs and Eric Darius... In my opinion, none of them holds a candle to Ms. Midler's take:

Bette Midler – Love Tko

Lookin’ back over the years
I guess I’ve shed some tears.
Told myself time and again
this time I’m gonna win.

But another fight. Things ain’t right.
I’m losing again.
It takes a fool to lose twice
and start all over again.

So I think I better let him go.
Cuz it looks like another love TKO.
I think I better let him go.
Cuz it looks like another love TKO. Ohh, yeah.

I tried to take control of love.
It took control of me.
See you lose all thought and sense of time
Then have a change of mind.

Takin’ the bumps and the bruises
and all the pain of a two-time loser.
And I tried to hold on. My faith is gone.
It’s just another sad song.

So I think I gotta it go
I gotta let him go.
let it go, baby.
Cuz it looks like another love TKO.
Oh, yes it does, yes it does.

I think I gotta
gotta let it go
let it go, baby.
Cuz it looks like another love TKO.

Boy, whatcha want me to do? Whatcha want me to do?
No no no, no no no.

I tried to take control of the love.
It took control of me.
See you lose all thought and sense of time.
You have a change of mind.

Taking the bumps and the bruises
and all the pain of a two-time loser.
Then I tried to hold on. My faith is gone.
It’s just another sad song.

I think I better
better let it go
better let him go.
let it go, baby.
Cuz it looks like another love TKO.

Yeah, I better
better let it go
I gotta let him go.
let it go, Miss M.
Another love, love TKO.

Ooohhhh, boy you got me turned around and around and around.
Around and around.
Everybody’s got to cry sometime.
That’s what they say. I heard them say.

I think I better let it go.
Everybody’s gonna cry sometime.
Mama says that they did, that they did.

I think I better let it go
Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii . . .

Artist: Bette Midler – Love Tko From The Album Sex And the City Sound Track

Thank Goddess for Women Like Margaret Sanger

This is a true family history of one of the shirt-tail relatives of one of the families I am tracing in a family tree I am currently working on.  Sadly, the tale it tells of the early marriage of a teenaged girl who dies in her early 30's after being worn out by year after year of child-bearing, was repeated thousands of times in my own home town of Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the mid-1800s.  Multiply this story by hundreds of thousands and millions of deaths of young women in similar circumstances in other municipalities in the United States and in countries around the world, both before and after this particular young woman died at age 31 in 1897, and you begin to get the picture of why we needed brave women such as Margaret Sanger (14 Sep 1879 - 06 Sep 1966), who stood up and said THERE HAS TO BE A BETTER WAY.

For taking that stand, Sanger has been vilified as a racist, accused of fomenting genocide and promoting abortion, etc. etc. etc. 

You think about this - and you be the judge.  It is an all too typical story of a young female in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and elsewhere in the United States at the time. 

This is the true story of the short life of Maria Schuengel, who was born 11 Jun 1866 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and died there on 26 Nov 1897 after giving birth to her 13th child.

Emil Sebastian married Maria Schuengel on 17 Mar 1883 in Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin.  She was 16 years old. He was 20 years old.

Less than 4 months later, their first child was born:

Paul born 03 Jul 1883 / died 15 Sep 1883
As you can see by the fact that this child lingered in life for a little over 2 months after he was born, he was born premature. I doubt, though, that he was a 4 month baby - a baby born 5 months premature would not have survived long out of the womb in those times.  Even today it is not generally feasible to keep a 4 month fetus alive.  It appears that this was a "shotgun" wedding - 16 year old Maria was already pregnant at the time of the wedding.  Guess there were no statutory rape laws in effect back then...

Elsa born 15 Aug 1884 / died 06 Jul 1961
As you can see, Maria's husband, Emil, did not give her much time to recover from the birth or death of her first child.  Daughter Elsa was counted as one of five females in Emil Sr.'s household on the Wisconsin State Census of 1895 and was on the 1900 U.S. Census. The Wisconsin State Census from 1895 is the earliest census record available for the period when Maria was still alive. Unfortunately, the 1890 U.S. Census was one of the records destroyed in a massive fire that wiped out about 99% of the federal government's 1890 census records.

Emil born 12 Dec 1885 / died prior to Wisconsin State Census of 1895.  I could not find a death record for Emil #1. Birth and death records at the time were sketchy. Maria may well have born and lost more children of which there is no "official" record, between the disappearance of Emil #1 from census records and the next official census, which was the 1895 Wisconsin State Census.  Ten long years of no reliable records.

Emil born 22 Jan 1887 / died unknown but Emil #2 was on the 1900 U.S. Census and I counted him as one of three males in Emil Sr.'s household on the Wisconsin State Census of 1895. Emil #2 was also listed on the 1900 U.S. Census.

Meta born 07 Aug 1888 / died unknown but she was on the 1900 U.S. Census and I counted her as one of five females in Emil Sr.'s household on the Wisconsin State Census of 1895.

Herbert or Hubert born 17 Sep 1889 / died 29 Jul 1890

Irena born 08 Sep 1890 / died 13 Jul 1891

Rubine "Ruby" born 14 Oct 1891 / died unknown but she was on the 1900 U.S. Census and I counted her as one of five females in Emil Sr.'s household on the Wisconsin State Census of 1895.

Estella Gertrude born 13 Jan 1893 / died unknown but she was on the 1900 U.S. Census and I counted her as one of five females in Emil Sr.'s household on the Wisconsin State Census of 1895.

Norbert Max born 29 Apr 1894 / died 15 Nov 1970.  Norbert was the third male included in the Wisconsin State Census of 1895, and was listed on the 1900 U.S. Census.

Mayme born 13 Dec 1895 / died 25 Oct 1970. Mayme was less than 2 years old when her mother Maria died.

Enola born 09 Jan 1897 / died prior to 1900 U.S. Census.  I could not find a death record for Enola but she was not listed on the 1900 U.S. Census.

Erwin born 24 Nov 1897 / died and buried 01 Jan 1898.  As you can see, Emil, Sr. hardly gave Maria time to recover from the birth of Enola before impregnating her with Erwin.  About 10 months and 2 weeks separated the birth dates of Enola and Erwin.

Maria Schuengel died on 24 Nov 1897 after giving birth to her 13th child, Erwin.  Maria was 31 years old when she died. Baby Erwin did not survive very long after his mother died.  The City of Milwaukee death record I found for Erwin says he died on 01 Jan 1898 and was also buried that same day at Union Cemetery. 

This sad story is the kind of story that Margaret Sanger fought to prevent happening to millions of other families in the United States and also around the world. 

Sadly, now Planned Parenthood is under vicious attack by politicians and so-called "conservative" groups who want to turn back the clock on women's reproductive rights and the right of a husband and wife to plan their families as they would wish - in privacy, without government interference.  These same politicians and so-called "conservative" groups on the one hand profess that they want less government - BUT - they want to install a camera in your bathroom and your bedroom that will record your actions 24/7.  These same politicians and so-called "conservative" groups want to keep a national record of prescriptions for birth control pills, birth control devices and the "day-after" pill.  These politicians and so-called "conservative" groups  have already forced through legislation in many states that denies a female the right to have a prescription for a birth control device or medication DENIED by a pharmacist who objects - on religious grounds - to filling said prescription.  I'm surprised that they haven't targeted condoms as an illegal product - yet...

This is just the beginning of the story, unfortunately. Legislation introduced in many states (recently and currently) seeks to ban a woman from seeking an abortion for any reason - including rape and incest or for medical necessity.  That's right.  Some people would rather see a mother and the fetus die than abort a fetus and spare the life of a mother.  Some people would rather see a woman be forced to bear a child conceived of rape or incest.

At the same time as certain politicians and so-called "conservative" groups are pressing this agenda, they are also sponsoring laws that cut funding for health care for females and their children. 

So - let's get this straight.  These politicans and so-called "conservative" groups do not want a woman to have any say over whether she bears a child.  THEY want to stick their nose into your sex lives, people.  THEY want to force a woman to bear a child once she becomes impregnanted, regardless of the cause of the pregnancy and regardless of any danger to the mother's mental and/or physical health and well-being.

At the same time, THEY say that a female who becomes pregnant (for whatever reason) is not entitled to any health care or pre-natal advice and care unless she has health insurance or can pay for her own care. If she can't afford health insurance, and cannot afford to pay for her medical care, tough shit.

These same people also say that once the woman is forced to bear that unwanted child, said child is not provided with any medical care or health care unless the mother is covered by health insurance or can afford to pay for the child's medical care.  If the mother can't afford health insurance or to pay for the medical care, tough shit.

Got that?   

What I want to know is - where is the mega-fund into which millions of supporters of this kind of thinking are now pouring their money to support these women (forced to have children) and the resulting children from the unwanted pregnancies?  I sure haven't seen it. Did I miss the press release???
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