May 25, 2023

Posted by orrinj at 2:16 PM


Oath Keepers founder sentenced to 18 years in Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case (Ryan J. Reilly, Daniel Barnes and Gary Grumbach, 5/25/23, NBC News)

The founder of the far-right Oath Keepers has been sentenced to 18 years in federal prison in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol following his conviction on seditious conspiracy.

The sentence for Stewart Rhodes is the longest imposed on a Jan. 6 defendant to date. In a politically-charged speech in the courtroom just before his sentencing, Rhodes called himself a "political prisoner" and said that when he talked about "regime change" in a phone call with supporters earlier this week, he meant he hopes that former President Donald Trump will win in 2024.

The judge disagreed that Rhodes had been locked up for politics, saying it was his actions that led to his criminal convictions.

"You, sir, present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country and to the republic and to the very fabric of this democracy," Judge Amit Mehta said before handing down the sentence.

Posted by orrinj at 1:55 PM


DNA Suggests Modern Humans Emerged From Several Groups in Africa, Not One (Will Sullivan, May 25, 2023, Smithsonian)

The paper relies on modeling using the genomes of 290 living people from southern, eastern and western Africa. The findings suggest that modern humans descended from at least two groups of ancient humans that were closely related and mixed genes on occasion, writes Live Science's Charles Q. Choi.

"There is no single birthplace," Eleanor Scerri, an evolutionary archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology in Germany who did not contribute to the study, tells the New York Times' Carl Zimmer. "It really puts a nail in the coffin of that idea."

Rather than envisioning human evolution as a tree--with a single stem that splits into disconnected branches--the researchers describe ancestral human populations as intertwining stems, writes Nature News' Jude Coleman.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


5 "what ifs" that would have changed cosmic history (Ethan Siegel, 5/25/23, Big Think)

13.8 billion years ago, what we know today as our Universe began with the hot Big Bang. Filled with matter, antimatter and radiation in an almost uniform fashion, it expanded and gravitated in nearly perfect balance. As the Universe cooled, the matter and antimatter annihilated away, leaving a tiny, minuscule, but significant amount of matter behind. After 9.2 billion years, what would become our Solar System gradually began to form from a collapsing cloud of molecular gas, and after another 4.55 billion years or so, humanity first arose on planet Earth.

When we look out at the Universe from our perspective here and now, we only get a snapshot of existence, defined by the properties of the light, particles, and gravitational waves that we observe at the moment of their arrival. Based on all that we've seen, combined with our theories, frameworks, and models that reflect the fusion of those observations with the underlying laws of physics, we've come to understand the cosmos around us. But if things had been only a tiny bit different, our Universe would have been dramatically different. Here are five things that could have happened to change the course of our shared cosmic history.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Truths Unlooked ForGuardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is a return to the good action/adventure/sci-fi romp, with excellent story and spectacle and no wokeness. More surprisingly, it's also profound thanks to its shocking religious themes. (Jared Johnson, 5/24/23, Crisis)

Rocket was created as a throwaway experiment, but he manifests a unique consciousness and free will absent in the Evolutionary's other creations. The supervillain spends the film in a manic search to find Rocket and study his inexplicable mind. Rocket winds up grievously wounded in the High Evolutionary's first attempt, and so the Guardians race to save their friend and confront the past. 

The source of Rocket's intelligence turns out to be, of all things, divine Providence. Thanks to his materialism, the High Evolutionary is blind to this. It is by contrasting the Guardians and the Evolutionary that Gunn explores two responses to the problem of evil: hope in Providence, and despair. The High Evolutionary embodies the latter. 

His utopian ambitions reveal a desperate refusal to deny the fallenness of creation, and he believes he must weed it out himself. In real life, this despair is at the heart of every totalitarian ideology out there, from Machiavelli to Marx. All of them insist that the world is awful, there is no higher power to fix it, and so we must order the world ourselves. When his quest for Rocket devolves into madness, one henchman begs him to stop "for the love of God." He bellows: "There is no God! That's why I stepped in!" 

The context ensures that this is not a movie in which the filmmaker subtly speaks his worldview through the villain; rather, the heroic Guardians embody hope in Providence, posited as the correct answer. As he lies dying, Rocket's soul stands at the literal Pearly Gates. There he speaks to another experiment, a dear friend, murdered by the High Evolutionary. He reveals his grief over the monstrousness of his creation. He wants a purpose, but he has despaired of ever finding one. 

His friend tells him that "there are the hands that made us, and there are the hands that guide the hands." That is to say: we are shaped by our suffering, but that suffering is a tool for the good. I don't know any way to read that except as Christian Providence. You can't even render it a vague New Ageism like "the universe"; in saying the "hands that guide," Providence is implied to be personal, intentional, and benevolent. By the end of the film, each Guardian comes to a similar conclusion; and by embracing the mystery of Providence, they can fly off, free and joyful, to discover their true callings. 

The conceit that one could do better than God is hardly surprising to find in a comic book villain, but it is especially explicit here. And Anglospheric culture is so deeply premised on Man's Fallen nature and the impossibility of Rational utopianism that this theme too is unsurprising.  Still, it's nice to see hundreds of millions of dollars spent to remind the masses of it at a time when liberalism is under attack from the Left/Right.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Texas mall shooting suspect's alleged extremism part of growing trend in US: DHS bulletin (Luke Barr, May 24, 2023, ABC News)

The updated National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) bulletin says the coming months could be dangerous.

"Factors that could mobilize individuals to commit violence include their perceptions of the 2024 general election cycle and legislative or judicial decisions pertaining to sociopolitical issues. Likely targets of potential violence include US critical infrastructure, faith-based institutions, individuals or events associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, schools, racial and ethnic minorities, and government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement," it said.

In particular, officials said that a candidate who casts doubt on the election system "would contribute to the potential of violent acts."

Other incidents that were mentioned in the bulletin are the Nashville Christan school, plots against power substations and foreign terrorists who "continue to use media to call for lone offender attacks in the West, condemn US foreign policy, and attempt to expand their reach and grow global support networks."