Weekly Meanderings, 3 June 2017

The King Jesus GospelThis is a great use of technology to uncover the past:

Deep in a labyrinth of dank tunnels, in the heart of Rome’s oldest and largest catacombs, archaeologists have discovered an exquisite set of 1,600-year-old frescoes painted to commemorate the city’s early Christians.

Experts used the latest laser technology to uncover the centuries of grime which had rendered the frescoes invisible.

The discovery has shed new light on the process by which wealthy Romans shifted away from their pagan beliefs and embraced the new religion of Christ in the fourth century AD.

The beautifully rendered, multi-coloured frescoes adorn the ceilings of two crypts which were built for merchants who were part of the complex and highly organized imperial grain trade.

Archaeologists found a series of frescoes which chronicle how grain was transported by ship from around the Mediterranean to the ancient Roman port of Ostia, then transferred to smaller boats which brought it up the Tiber River to warehouses in the centre of the imperial capital.

The import and distribution of grain was a state monopoly controlled by high-ranking officials, at a time when every Roman was entitled to a daily bread ration.

The crypts, hacked out of soft volcanic rock, were created for the families of the imperial functionaries who grew rich on the grain trade and the production of bread.

For centuries, the ceiling frescoes in the Catacombs of St Domitilla were covered in a thick black layer of calcium deposits, algae and smoke from oil lamps.

Laser instruments were used to burn away the dirt and deposits, leaving only the rich colours of the frescoes beneath.

“When we started work, you couldn’t see anything – it was totally black. Different wavelengths and chromatic selection enabled us to burn away the black disfiguration without touching the colours beneath,” said Barbara Mazzei, who was in charge of the project. “Until recently, we weren’t able to carry out this sort of restoration – if we had done it manually we would have risked destroying the frescoes.”

At the centre of the ceiling fresco is an image of Christ, seated on a throne, with two men either side of him. They are thought to be either St Peter and St Paul or St Nerius and St Achilleus, two Roman soldiers who were martyred for preaching the new faith.

S E Cupp is right:

In addition to gratuitously playacting one of the most vile, grotesque and evil acts of violence one could — against any human, let alone the President — Griffin has also managed to weaken good arguments against Trump’s intolerance and the intolerance of some of his supporters. There is no equivalency between Griffin’s photo, for example, and the stabbing of three people on a train allegedly by a self-proclaimed white supremacist, but if you think the President should take more seriously his role in tamping down violence and hate across the country, as I do, stunts such as this are a serious setback.

There are good people on the left and right who are trying earnestly and responsibly to hold this President to account. There are also millions of people who elected him and think he’s doing what’s best for the country. And finally, there are evil people around the world, some of whom want to behead innocent Americans. With this photo, who does Kathy Griffin most look like?

[SMcK: the party that prides itself on tolerance has deconstructed itself by being tolerant only of its own form of tolerance.]

Teen grass mowing business

If your teenage kids are trying to make some money cutting grass this summer, government is there to ruin it for them.

A city ordinance in Gardendale, Ala., requires entrepreneurial teens to show a city-issued business license before they offer their lawn services for some extra summer cash.

According to ABC’s Birmingham affiliate, a business license in Gardendale costs $110. Parents are complaining that their kids aren’t making enough money to recoup the cost of the license.

“I have never heard of a child cutting grass had to have a business license,” said Elton Campbell. Her granddaughter cuts grass around the neighborhood. “She charges one lady $20, and another lady $30, and another girl $40 besides what we pay her.”

But licensed lawn maintenance professionals are threatening to alert city officials to Campbell’s granddaughter because she was cutting grass without a license.

Gardendale Mayor Stan Hogeland said that anyone operating a business for pay within city limits must have a license. While sending police to shut kids down is “not a priority” right now, teens are still subject to the licensure law.

“I would love to have something on our books that gave a more favorable response to that student out there cutting grass. And see if there’s maybe a temporary license during the summer months that targets teenagers,” said Mayor Hogeland.

The Germans will have to fess up on their own lack of commitment to eco-friendly policies:

Munich prosecutors said they have widened an investigation at Audi (NSUG.DE) to examine the carmaker’s sales in Germany and elsewhere in Europe after the federal government accused the Volkswagen division of cheating on emissions tests in its home market.

Audi on Thursday recalled around 24,000 older A7 and A8 models in Europe, 14,000 of which were sold in Germany, to update transmission software, which it said was causing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions to exceed EU limits.

Munich prosecutors have been investigating Audi on suspicion of fraud and criminal advertising in the United States where parent Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) emissions scandal broke in September 2015. They have expanded the inquiry to include vehicle sales in the brand’s home region, a spokesman for prosecutors said.

Audi said late on Thursday that it would continue to fully cooperate with authorities and Germany’s KBA motor vehicle authority, which the carmaker had notified about the latest emissions irregularities.

The affected Audi models with so-called Euro-5 emission standards, and built between 2009 and 2013, emit about twice the legal NOx limits when the steering wheel is turned more than 15 degrees, the German transport ministry said.

Prosecutors said the suspicion in the Audi investigation still centered on fraud, adding they have not yet received updated information from the KBA on the situation in Germany.

Jon Hamilton, an encouragement for parents with teens:

Impulsive children become thoughtful adults only after years of improvements to the brain’s information highways, a team reports in Current Biology.

A study of nearly 900 young people ages 8 to 22 found that the ability to control impulses, stay on task and make good decisions increased steadily over that span as the brain remodeled its information pathways to become more efficient.

The finding helps explain why these abilities, known collectively as executive function, take so long to develop fully, says Danielle Bassett, an author of the study and an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

“A child’s ability to run or to see is very well developed by the time they’re 8,” she says. “However, their ability to inhibit inappropriate responses is not something that’s well developed until well into the 20s.”

The results also suggest it may be possible to identify adolescents at risk of problems related to poor executive function, says Joshua Gordon, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, which helped fund the study. These include “all kinds of disorders such as substance abuse, depression and schizophrenia,” he says.

The study is part of an effort to understand the brain changes underlying the development of executive function. It used a technology called diffusion imaging that reveals the fibers that make up the brain’s information highways.

This interview struck me as funny — with Jake Arrieta on the fight between Strickland and Harper:

“Bryce and Hunter went out there, there were a few punches, they landed one apiece, I believe,” Arrieta said. “And then [Giants starter Jeff] Samardzija comes out of left field and smashes into [Giants outfielder Mike] Morse. I’m pretty sure Harper was lucky that they collided, because Samardzija was coming in to do some damage.”

Arrieta has no problem with two players settling a grudge that way.

“If two guys want to go see each other, let them be in the middle, let them throw some punches, then break it up,” Arrieta said. “I don’t like to see any sucker punches. I do think in the heat of battle if you’re getting hit on the hip with 98, then you should be able to go out and see somebody. I think the umpires handled it well. They let them exchange for a moment, then they tried to break it up.

“What I don’t like to see is a lot of chirping and guys just talking crap to each other. If you got something wrong with a guy, go see him. And then they’ll break it up and continue to play the game.”

Arrieta said that he has never been charged at any level, but he’d be ready.

“If it’s my catcher, I want him to wait and give me an opportunity to do a little damage,” Arrieta told the radio station. “I don’t want it broken up right away. If it happens, I’ll let you know. I’ll be ready. You know, I like my chances toe to toe with just about anybody.

“I know Willson [Contreras] would probably beat whoever charges the mound to the mound, but I’ll tell him and Miggy [Montero], ‘Hey, give me 10, 15 seconds to get some work in and then come out and see me.'”

Fareed Zakaria is right:

The word liberal in this context has nothing to do with today’s partisan language, but refers instead to the Latin root, pertaining to liberty. And at the heart of liberty in the Western world has been freedom of speech. From the beginning, people understood that this meant protecting and listening to speech with which you disagreed,” Zakaria argued.

That means, he said, not drowning out “the ideas that we find offensive.”

In addition, Zakaria noted what he called “an anti-intellectualism” on the left.

“It’s an attitude of self-righteousness that says we are so pure, we’re so morally superior, we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree,” he said.

“Liberals think they are tolerant but often they aren’t,” he added.

No one, he continued, “has a monopoly on right or virtue.”

The island of Rhodes and Suleiman the Magnificent. Great story.

Darrel Falk and read more at the link:

It has been two and a half years since paleontologist Lee Berger and associates announced the finding of  a new hominin species, Homo naledi.  The discovery was remarkable in part because it comprised the most extensive set of hominin fossils ever found (over 1500 specimens from at least 15 individuals). BioLogos summarized those findings in two reports in September 2015. The fossils were discovered deep in a remarkable cave network a short distance from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Homo naledi was a fascinating species. The fossils have a conglomerate of ancient and modern characteristics. Their skulls had only a tiny primitive-looking braincase.   Its shoulders and fingers bore a resemblance to the ancient three to four million year old genus, Ardipithicus; they would have been ideally adapted for swinging from trees. In contrast, other parts were not much different than ours. Their feet for example were exquisitely suited for walking in a manner resembling how we do it,  and they had a bone in the wrist which, structured like ours, enabled the thumb and index finger to efficiently grip against each other.

Given this anatomical mosaic, paleoanthropologists projected the age of the bones would turn out to be about two million years.  They were wrong. As shown in a paper just released (see here for a summary), multiple labs using various cross-checking techniques have demonstrated that the fossils are only about 300,000 years old. So that’s one important find, but there’s more. Another collection of fossils (undated so far) has been discovered in a neighboring cave—one not directly connected to the first, but like that one, deep in the network and exceedingly difficult to get to.

Newspapers are dying:

(CNN)Newspapers have never been hotter.

The Washington Post and the New York Times are regularly breaking massive stories about the Trump administration, fueling a sort of newspaper war — the good kind! — the likes of which we haven’t witnessed in decades.
But, according to Pew’s new study on the state of the media industry — they’ve conducted an annual review since 2004 — beneath the buzz are the hard realities of an industry in the midst of a sea change that is disproportionately impacting newspapers….

Weekday circulation has dropped to 34.7 million, the lowest it’s been in more than 70 years. The Sunday paper, long seen as the saving grace for newspapers, has seen a similar drop — down to a circulation of 37.8 million in 2016. The only time it was lower than that was in 1940 when circulation stood at 32 million.
And, if you look at the trend line since 1990 — the peak of newspaper circulation — it’s hard to see it reversing itself.

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