Sunday, December 15, 2013

White Jesus, digital NPR, and Greek-Chinese statues (link round-up 12/15/13)

That allegation doesn't sit well with Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, who is on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

"What disturbs me is apparently they did not tell the truth to the Congress. The CIA did not tell the truth to the American Congress about Mr. Levinson," McCain said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union." "If that's true, then you put this on top of things that our intelligence committees didn't know about other activities, which have been revealed by (NSA leaker Edward) Snowden -- maybe it means that we should be examining the oversight role of Congress over our different intelligence agencies."

Iran's government repeatedly has said it is not holding Levinson and does not know his whereabouts. During a September interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was asked what he could tell Levinson's family.

"We don't know where he is, who he is," Rouhani said. "He is an American who has disappeared. We have no news of him."
NPR gets $17 Million in grants to expand coverage and develop digital platform
Almost $10 million of the new funding will go to development of what NPR calls a “seamless local-national listening platform” that will allow listeners to switch smoothly from, say, a clock radio to a web-enabled car.

Some larger public radio stations, as well as NPR, already have mobile apps, but listeners who want to aggregate programs and podcasts from numerous sources often use outside services, such as TuneIn or Stitcher, both of which also include commercial content.

NPR’s new mobile app, which is being developed with six local stations and is expected to go into public testing next year, will wrap together on-demand local and national public radio content to create playlists, partly driven by algorithms and using geo-targeting to pull in local news.

Interactive and shareable, “this app is clearly, we think, going to be very appealing to younger consumers of our content,” said Charles Kravetz, general manager of WBUR-FM in Boston, a pilot partner.
Chinese terracotta warriors inspired by ancient Greek art
"It is perfectly possible and actually likely that the sculptures of the First Emperor are the result of early contact between Greece and China," writes Lukas Nickel, a reader with the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, in the most recent edition of the journal Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies. (A reader is a position comparable to an associate or full professor in the American system.)

Nickel's evidence includes newly translated ancient records that tell a fantastic tale of giant statues that "appeared" in the far west, inspiring the first emperor of China to duplicate them in front of his palace. This story offers evidence of early contact between China and the West, contacts that Nickel says inspired the First Emperor (which is what Qin Shi Huangdi called himself) to not only duplicate the 12 giant statues but to build the massive Terracotta Army along with other life-size sculptures.

Before the First Emperor's time, life-size sculptures were not built in China, and Nickel argues the idea to build so many of them, so suddenly, came from kingdoms in Asia that had been created and influenced by Alexander the Great's campaigns.
The problem with insisting on a white Jesus
The myth of a white Jesus is one with deep roots throughout Christian history. As early as the Middle Ages and particularly during the Renaissance, popular Western artists depicted Jesus as a white man, often with blue eyes and blondish hair. Perhaps fueled by some Biblical verses correlating lightness with purity and righteousness and darkness with sin and evil, these images sought to craft a sterile Son of God.

The only problem was that the representations were historically inaccurate.

Modern Western Christians have carried these images over into their own depictions of Jesus. Pick up a one of those bright blue “Bible Story” books in a Sunday School classroom and you’ll find white Jesus waiting for you, rosy cheeks and all. Or you could survey the light-skinned Jesus in any number of modern TV or film portrayals, including History Channel’s hit series The Bible.

Interestingly, the Bible is far less descriptive on the matter of Jesus’ skin color than we are. Christian scriptures say very little about Jesus’ physical appearance. They do not comment on his nose, eye color, skin pigmentation, or hair. The glaring exception is Isaiah 53:2, which prophesies that the messiah won’t be much to look at, another fact that places the Bible at odds with the “well-groomed surfer-dude Jesus” who's often put forth.
East Libyan separatist rebels refuse to re-open oil fields
The leader of an autonomous movement in eastern Libya has refused to end the blockade of several oil-exporting ports, dashing hopes of ending a months-long standoff with the central government in Tripoli.

Ibrahim Jodhrane, head of the security guards at the ports, said on Sunday that his group's demands for more autonomy in the country's east and a cut of oil shares had not been met. The group is also asking for an investigation into claims of government corruption over oil sales.

"We have failed to reach a deal on these conditions with this [Tripoli] government," Jathran told reporters at his group's home base in Ajdabiya in the eastern part of the country.

"I therefore confirm that we will not reopen the ports for this corrupt government," he said.
Human DNA is hiding a secret, second code: researchers
Since the genetic code was first explained in the 1960s, scientists have thought that it was used entirely for the purpose of writing information about proteins. Scientists at the University of Washington were surprised to discover that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One explains how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell about how genes are controlled. According to scientists, one language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.

“For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,” remarked John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine, in a news release. “Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways.”

The genetic code uses a 64-letter alphabet called codons. The scientists discovered that some codons, which they called duons, can have two meanings, one associated with protein sequence, and one associated with gene management. These two meanings seem to have formed at the same time as each other. The gene control instructions appear to help with the stabilization of some useful features of proteins and how they are made.

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