In A World Of Doubt, Im Not Afraid To Have Faith

Allef Vinicius

he asks, his eyes looking intently into mine.

I look beyond him, to the cascading waves along the beach. This isn’t the first conversation I’ve had with someone about faith. This isn’t the first time I’ve been challenged, questioned, put in the (wonderful but difficult) place of explaining the unexplainable.

The water strikes against the sand at a furious pace. I watch the foam lick the shore then get swallowed back into the ocean again, cyclical, powerful.

The thing is, I can’t prove, with absolute experienced certainty, that the Bible stories are true. I can’t go back in time and walk alongside the prophets, the disciples, the people who lived during Jesus’ time and watch Him heal the sick and give sight to the blind. I can’t determine, for certain, whether Jonah was swallowed by the whale or if Moses really did stand before a burning bush. I can’t act like I’ve seen what I haven’t.

But, yet, I still know.

I know that I am surrounded by millions upon millions of people—imperfect, beautiful people with different genetic makeups and thoughts and feelings and hearts. I know that there is an ocean, a tide, a sun, a moon, a galaxy, science, atoms and cells. And even if we try to use science, even if we try to go back and explain how particles shifted together to create incredible things—I have to wonder where those particles came from?

Where did those tiny pieces of life begin if not created by a God?

And then I think of the miracles I’ve seen, of the incredible faith the people in my life have shown. I think of the near-accidents I’ve avoided, the people I’ve prayed for and alongside who suddenly gained health and healing that was impossible. I think of the stories that have survived generations and generations, filling people with truth and light. I think of the way a perfect being was sacrificed, and how, here we are, thousands upon thousands of years later, standing firm in these promises of a life beyond this earthly one.

No, I can’t stand here and say I’ve touched God. But I’ve touched a hand in prayer that made a current run through my skin. I’ve felt the presence of the Lord’s spirit while singing in church. I’ve watched people come together in love and joy. I’ve seen forgiveness and hope.

I’ve watched prayers get answered. I’ve listened to the faith of the Biblical times and how wild and radical they were to believe what was so out of the norm for their time. I’ve had encouragement when I’ve lost all hope and confidence when I could barely lift my head.

I’ve been reborn into a world that is far less hopeless, far less evil because of my faith.

And in a world so filled with sin and pain, desperation and loneliness, escapism and fear, I am not afraid to believe in something bigger than me. Something beautiful and life-changing and fulfilling and

In a world of doubt, I am not afraid to believe. I am not afraid to stand firm on the hope my Father has given me. I am not afraid to trust that He is with me, with us, wherever we wander.

In a world of doubt, I am not afraid to listen. To His truth, to the sermons that preach His goodness, to the stories of the Bible that tell of miracle after miracle, giving me hope.

It’s so easy to believe in the things you can see, in the tangible, in what lies right in front of your face. But true faith is trusting in what you cannot see, in reaching forward for the things just outside of your grasp.

True faith is choosing to accept that there are things you might not understand, might not be able to witness, or go back in time and experience, but that doesn’t make them any less real.

And so I will stand firm in the stories I’ve heard, in the experiences I’ve had, in the truth that has defined who I am and what I stand for, no matter what uncertainty tries to creep into my mind.

This is not a blind faith, but an obedient faith. And for my Father, my Savior, my Healer, I will stand and not waver.

There are far too many things of this world that are impermanent, that are broken, that are flawed and hopeless. My God is not one of them.

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Runny eggs ‘safe for pregnant women’

Image caption Runny eggs can now be enjoyed by everyone

“Lion mark” eggs have been declared safe for pregnant women and young children, nearly 30 years after a salmonella scare.

Vulnerable groups had been advised not to eat raw, soft boiled or runny eggs.

The Food Standards Agency says “Lion Mark” eggs, which include almost all of the eggs produced in the UK, are virtually free of salmonella.

The new advice comes after a vaccination programme, and improvements to animal welfare.

In 1988, a scare over the presence of salmonella in eggs caused a dramatic collapse in sales of eggs and a series of warnings for vulnerable groups to avoid eating them if they were raw or runny.

The then junior Conservative health minister, Edwina Currie, declared: “Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella.”

Salmonella bacteria can cause food poisoning.

Mrs Currie’s statement wildly overstated the danger and eventually led to her resignation.

But there was a problem with salmonella in eggs and by the 1990s producers started a vaccination programme.

Lion Mark

The “British Lion Mark”, printed on eggs in red ink, was introduced so that eggs could be traced back to the farm of origin and to show best-before dates.

Almost 30 years on from the initial scare, the Food Standards Agency’s Heather Hancock, says runny eggs can now be eaten by everyone.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionScience now shows the risk from salmonella in eggs is extremely low.

“We are now saying if there is a British Lion egg, you’re safe to do that.

“The risk of salmonella is now so low you needn’t worry.

“And that’s true whether you’re a fit healthy adult, or whether you’re pregnant or elderly or young.

“It’s only people on strictly medically supervised diets who need to avoid those eggs.”

Image caption UK egg production is big business

Growing appetite for eggs

The British appetite for eggs has been growing in recent years.

Last year British hens laid 10,372 million eggs, while on average we consume more than 34.5 million eggs every day.

And eggs are very good for you, packed full of vitamin D, protein and valuable omega-3 fatty acids.

Mother of two Catherine Millington is a big fan, with eggs providing quick, cheap and nutritious meals for her two daughters, who are aged nearly 4 years old and 7 months.

“Eggs are brilliant because you can boil them, break them into bits, and the baby can handle them so we can do baby-led weaning with it.

“And when you’re in a rush, they’re dead easy.”

Food safety

Just outside Penrith on the edge of the Lake District is The Lakes Free Range Egg Company.

Egg farmer David Brass says the introduction of the British Lion standard has made all the difference.

“We know from back in the ’80s when all the scare started, there was an issue with eggs.

“But what the Lion standard does, it is a fully independent, audited code of practice to make sure we have standards on the farm that make sure we can’t have any of those disease problems again.

“And it has shown time after time, in those intervening years, that it is just a brilliant food safety code.”

Over the summer, millions of eggs were pulled from supermarket shelves in more than a dozen European countries – including the UK – after it was discovered some had been contaminated with a potentially harmful insecticide at Dutch farms.

British eggs were not affected.

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Magic mushrooms ‘reset’ depressed brain

Image copyright Getty Images

A hallucinogen found in magic mushrooms can “reset” the brains of people with untreatable depression, raising hopes of a future treatment, scans suggest.

The small study gave 19 patients a single dose of the psychedelic ingredient psilocybin.

Half of patients ceased to be depressed and experienced changes in their brain activity that lasted about five weeks.

However, the team at Imperial College London says people should not self-medicate.

There has been a series of small studies suggesting psilocybin could have a role in depression by acting as a “lubricant for the mind” that allows people to escape a cycle of depressive symptoms.

But the precise impact it might be having on brain activity was not known.

Image copyright Getty Images

The team at Imperial performed fMRI brain scans before treatment with psilocybin and then the day after (when the patients were “sober” again).

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed psilocybin affected two key areas of the brain.

  • The amygdala – which is heavily involved in how we process emotions such as fear and anxiety – became less active. The greater the reduction, the greater the improvement in reported symptoms.
  • The default-mode network – a collaboration of different brain regions – became more stable after taking psilocybin.

Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, head of psychedelic research at Imperial, said the depressed brain was being “clammed up” and the psychedelic experience “reset” it.

He told the BBC News website: “Patients were very ready to use this analogy. Without any priming they would say, ‘I’ve been reset, reborn, rebooted’, and one patient said his brain had been defragged and cleaned up.”

However, this remains a small study and had no “control” group of healthy people with whom to compare the brain scans.

Further, larger studies are still needed before psilocybin could be accepted as a treatment for depression.

However, there is no doubt new approaches to treatment are desperately needed.

Prof Mitul Mehta, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, said: “What is impressive about these preliminary findings is that brain changes occurred in the networks we know are involved in depression, after just a single dose of psilocybin.

“This provides a clear rationale to now look at the longer-term mechanisms in controlled studies.”

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Catalonias Split With Spain Is About Identity, Not Just Money

As recently as July, secessionists in Catalonia seemed to be in retreat. Spain was the fastest-growing of continental Europe’s big four economies, creating jobs at a rapid clip. A poll that month by the Catalan government showed that support for independence had fallen to 35 percent, its lowest level since 2012. It appeared that Enric Millo, the Spanish government’s representative in Catalonia, might have been right when he predicted in 2012 that once removed from the flame of financial crisis, “separatism would sink like a soufflé.”

What’s sinking instead is the reputation of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Acting on his orders, Spanish police used batons and rubber bullets against those who took part in an Oct. 1 referendum on independence that Spain’s constitutional court had declared illegal. Hundreds were injured in the melees.

The Catalan government claimed that despite Madrid’s attempts at suppression, 2.3 million people voted—about 42 percent of the total electorate—and about 90 percent of them chose to separate from Spain. The Spanish government cast doubt on the result, pointing out that the referendum, in addition to being illegal, lacked certified voter lists and wasn’t overseen by an official election board. And many of those who opposed secession heeded Madrid’s reminder that the vote was illegal. Spain’s King Felipe VI said in a televised address that separatist leaders showed “unacceptable” disloyalty.

Featured in , Oct. 9, 2017. Subscribe now.
Photographer: Juan Teixeira/Redux

The groundswell of separatist sentiment in Catalonia has shown Spain and the world that money isn’t everything. A strengthening economy may have quelled Catalan nationalism a bit, but the desire many have for independence had deeper sources and never went away. Then Rajoy, playing to his conservative base, badly miscalculated. He thought a show of force would keep voters at home. But his attempt to stop the vote just pushed more Catalans into the separatist camp. “In the longer term, the divisions in Spain become more entrenched,” says Antonio Barroso, a political risk analyst at Teneo Intelligence in London.

Economics probably did matter in Catalonia, just not in the way that Spanish optimists were thinking. The reality is that the region hasn’t fully recovered from the global financial crisis, which pushed the economy into a double-dip recession and sent unemployment in the so-called autonomous community as high as 24 percent. (It’s still more than 13 percent.) “The financial crisis brought to the fore the fact that so much of our money is transferred” to the central government, says Jordi Galí of Barcelona’s Center for Research in International Economics, known by its initials in the Catalan language, CREI. “In a context of high growth and prosperity, this may be more easily forgotten. But during the crisis the Catalan government had to undertake huge cuts in services: health, education.”

The transfers issue might not have been enough to stir secessionism all by itself. After all, there’s little call in Connecticut to break away from the U.S. even though the state gives more than it gets. The difference is that the northeastern corner of Spain has its own language, traditions, and aspirations to national greatness. Its history is a seesaw of autonomy and what some see as subjugation. Catalans still commemorate the fall of Barcelona to King Philip V of Spain on Sept. 11, 1714. In 1939 the city fell to the Nationalist forces of Francisco Franco, who suppressed Catalan culture during his 36-year rule.

In recent years, independence-minded Catalans have focused their anger on a 2010 ruling by Spain’s constitutional court that erased parts of a legislative deal that accorded the region broad autonomy. In 2012 the Catalan economist Xavier Sala-I-Martin likened Spain to a possessive husband who reacts wildly when his wife asks for a divorce. “We Catalans have tried to explain during 30 years that we were uncomfortable and the replies have been no’s, scorn, indifference, and contempt. And now they’re surprised!” the Columbia University professor wrote on his blog.

The marriage is far worse now. “People are extremely disappointed, and I would say shocked, by the activities of the Spanish police,” says Giacomo Ponzetto, an Italian who teaches at CREI in Barcelona. “It was absurd, unacceptable behavior, and I would add extremely stupid.” Stupid as in self-defeating, he says. “The Catalan government was looking for this. It’s very obvious. They wanted to provoke a response.”

Like it or not, Catalonia has been very much part of Spain—not least because it’s a fifth of the national economy. It exports more to the neighboring region of Aragon than to France, and more to Madrid than to Germany or Italy, says Pankaj Ghemawat, who teaches at the New York City branch of IESE Business School, which also has campuses in Madrid and Barcelona.

Many economists think Catalonia would be worse off economically on its own. The outcome hinges on whether it would assume a share of Spain’s national debt, whether it would be permitted to join the European Union and adopt the euro, and how much it would cost to replicate services—such as defense—it gets from Madrid. Further complicating matters, Spain could throw up legal obstacles to secession. One reason many Catalans have shied from independence in the past is that they weren’t ready to take a leap into the unknown.

But the violence that marred the Oct. 1 vote has focused Catalans’ minds on issues other than euros. “At some point the economic considerations start to be irrelevant and identity becomes paramount,” says Ghemawat. On Oct. 1, he says, “we took a giant step in that direction.”

    BOTTOM LINE – A long and painful downturn fanned separatist sentiment in Catalonia, which, contrary to predictions, didn’t die down with the recovery.

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    Three Americans Win Nobel Prize In Physiology For Decoding Life’s Biological Clock

    It’s that time of year again: the Nobel Prize award announcements are taking place, beginning with Physiology or Medicine. This year’s prestigious medallion is shared between three renowned researchers: Jeffrey Hall, Michael Young, and Michael Rosbash, who are all American chronobiologists.

    As their unusual job titles suggest, the three winners deal with biological time and the internal clocks that regulate our entire lives. Nothing short of pioneers in this relatively new field of research, the Nobel Committee concluded that “their discoveries explain how plants, animals, and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth’s revolutions.”

    The crux of their work involved the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, a useful genetic proxy to humans. They successfully managed to isolate a gene that controls the biological clock of said fly and found out exactly how it measures time.

    This gene encodes a protein that builds up overnight. During the day, this protein decays. It is in this cycle of accumulation and degradation that the fly “knows” when it should be awake and when it should sleep. It was later shown that this mechanism of so-called “circadian rhythm” operates in humans.

    Our biological clock affects everything. It helps to explain why some people are better at dealing with jet lag than others, and why some people are more biased towards earlier mornings or later evenings.

    Considering that millions around the world are suffering from health-threatening sleep deprivation, this research is nothing short of groundbreaking. Some of the findings, for example, elucidated on how mutations in biological clock genes can cause someone’s perception of time, and that when they should be awake and asleep can shift.

    “We know that most of our cells have this clock and we know that there’s a central clock in the brain that controls the rhythm, and later we found it in some other organs,” Anna Wedell, the Chair of the Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine, said at the ceremony.

    “But it’s the mechanism that these three have described: an autoregulatory, self-sustained, inhibitory feedback loop.”

    Astronomers deal with the tick-tock rhythm of the order of planets around stars, but these three prizewinners have uncovered details of the rhythm of life.

    As ever, the award-winners were left in a state of shock and awe the moment they were told they had won. The prize announcer in Stockholm said that when he told Rosbash shortly before the ceremony began, “he first went silent, and then he said: ‘You are kidding me.’”

    All three will split the international prestige and the monetary prize of $970,000 equally. Unlike last year, the announcement ceremony did not involve a creative use of pastries to explain the science behind the awards.


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    Terminally ill man loses right-to-die case

    Image caption Noel Conway was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2014

    A terminally ill man has lost his High Court challenge against the law on assisted dying.

    Noel Conway, 67, from Shrewsbury, who has motor neurone disease, wanted a doctor to be allowed to prescribe a lethal dose when his health deteriorates.

    Currently any doctor helping him to die would face up to 14 years in prison.

    His lawyers had argued he faced a stark choice, which was unfair and the law needed to change.

    They said he could either bring about his own death while still physically able to do so, or await death with no control over how and when it came.

    He had previously said he wanted to say goodbye to loved ones “at the right time, not to be in a zombie-like condition suffering both physically and psychologically”.

    He argued that when he had less than six months to live and retained the mental capacity to make the decision, he wished to be able to enlist assistance from the medical profession to bring about a “peaceful and dignified” death.

    Parliamentary debate

    Mr Conway, who was not at London’s High Court on Thursday, wanted a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961, which lays out the law on assisted dying, is incompatible with Article eight of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which protects from discrimination.

    But Lord Justice Sales, Mrs Justice Whipple and Mr Justice Garnham rejected his case.

    Image copyright NOEL CONWAY
    Image caption Before his illness Noel Conway was a keen skier, climber and cyclist

    It is not the first time the law has been challenged.

    A case brought by Tony Nicklinson – who was paralysed after a stroke – was dismissed in 2014 by the Supreme Court, which stated it was important that Parliament debated the issues before any decision was made by the courts.

    In 2015 MPs rejected proposals to allow assisted dying in England and Wales, in their first vote on the issue in almost 20 years.

    Supporters of the current legislation say it exists to protect the weak and vulnerable from being exploited or coerced.

    Mr Conway’s case is different from Mr Nicklinson’s in that he has a terminal illness and his legal team set out strict criteria and clear potential safeguards to protect vulnerable people from any abuse of the system.

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    4 Creepy Things That Secretly Control Your Personality

    Hey, did you know that your thoughts can make brain tumors grow faster? Your mind is made of meat that is arranged in precisely such a way as to not know it is meat. This is why so much of your personality is dictated by seemingly random nonsense you’re not even aware of. Such as …

    Whispering: Hey, David Wong’s new novel — the third in the NYT bestselling John Dies At The End series — is FINALLY OUT NOW.


    Your Fear Of Germs Determines Your Politics (And Maybe Everything Else)

    Go listen to literally anyone talk about the dangers of foreigners, minorities, or gays, and count the seconds until they either compare them to a disease or simply accuse them all of having/spreading diseases.

    The Guardian


    Liberty GB

    This is going to be one of those “Now that you see it, you can’t unsee it” situations. It sounds ridiculous at first, then starts to become grossly obvious the more you look around. We referenced a study a while back in which scientists could get people to be less racist merely by washing their hands first. At the time, that seemed to me like one of those oddball results, like the one that found you can make a person smarter by having them wear a lab coat. But no, it turns out it was but a glimpse into the dark, swirling demon lurking within the soul of humanity: our primitive fear of germs.

    The theory says that over the centuries, certain people and groups evolved with a higher paranoia toward infections, due to living in regions/climates where that sort of thing was more of a threat. Meeting another tribe thus meant encountering diseases you had no immunity to, and to this day, their descendants will instinctively be more untrustworthy of other cultures and tightly regulate “unclean” behavior. In groups, they form societies that are fiercely nationalistic and insist on flamboyant outward displays of such (like, say, Confederate flags on pickup trucks) to signal to one another that they’re “safe.” They also enforce strict sexual morality (to prevent the spread of STDs). Over time, they tend to gravitate toward dictatorships, submitting to the strongman promising to protect them from the contaminated outside world.

    Hey, did you know Hitler’s rise occurred right after the Spanish flu ravaged Europe? And that he was comparing the Jews to disease pretty much from Day One?

    Experts say that the rise of democracy and progressive ideas in general can be attributed to science conquering many of the infectious diseases that were dominating our decision-making up to then. Still, those habits are passed down through both genes and culture (particularly in warmer climates), and it’s easy to see it today. You can hook conservatives and liberals up to a brain scan, and the conservatives react more strongly to disgusting images, even if they insist that stuff doesn’t bother them. Other studies show that right-wingers tend to be more obsessive-compulsive, feeling a unending urge to purge their surroundings of disorder.

    But wait, there’s more! A recent study found that belief in a vengeful god tends to make people more cooperative toward strangers. This, they theorize, helped primitive societies expand, overcoming the natural mistrust they had for one another. Now open up your Bible and count the number of times God punishes a society of unbelievers by unleashing a plague. (“We must cooperate under the same rules, or else we both will get infected!”)

    Now check out how we remain obsessed with the concept of an apocalyptic world-ending plague to this day, even though such a thing would be all but impossible in reality. (Note how everyone shat their pants at the mere mention of the word “Ebola.”) In pop culture, it usually comes in the form of post-apocalyptic fiction like The Walking Dead. You know, that show in which our heroic tribe of survivors continually runs from the infected, until they meet another tribe and find out they can’t trust them? A show that exploded in popularity right when America was in the middle of a panic about globalization?

    That’s right, the fear of germs dominates our entire culture from the ground up, but people still don’t think twice about eating at buffets. THAT SNEEZE GUARD ISN’T GUARDING SHIT.


    Lead Destroys Your Sense Of Morality (And Lithium Might Improve It)

    Hey, remember how in Batman Begins, the villains’ plan was to release a fear toxin in Gotham City that would turn the populace into a violent, mindless horde? And how Batman had a flock of bats he could summon when he needed them, but then completely forgot about in future movies? Well, that first one really happened! Only the effect was global and happened over the course of decades. What follows may be one of the most terrifying cautionary tales in the history of technology, and we still don’t fully grasp the scale of how badly we may have fucked up here.

    The unpronounceable chemical Tetraethyllead is the “lead” they’re leaving out of “unleaded” gasoline. When cars were new back in the 1920s, they added it to fuel to help prevent engine wear. They already knew lead did weird things to the human brain at the time (studies had already shown that people getting water from lead pipes were more likely to commit murder), and that these engines would be releasing tiny particles of it into the air everyone breathed. But honestly, how many people would be buying these “automobiles,” anyway?

    More than half a century and hundreds of millions of cars later, governments finally started cracking down on lead emissions because they suspected they were, unsurprisingly, messing with people’s brains. As we touched on here, in one city and country after another, as unleaded fuel was banned, the violent crime rate started dropping. A lot.

    Lead, as it turns out, permanently destroys cells in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, the part responsible for “emotional regulation, impulse control, attention, verbal reasoning, and mental flexibility.” You know, the part you think of as your morality, or soul. Lead kills that. Multiple studies on this keep turning up the same horrifying result.

    “Wait,” you say from your mad scientist lab, “is it possible to do the opposite? Is there a chemical that keeps that part of the brain healthy?” Sure! In fact, it’s already happened. You know how some people take lithium as a treatment for bipolar disorder? Well, lithium also occurs naturally in the environment, and places that happen to have more of it in their drinking water have less violent crime. Oh, and their suicide rates are up to 40 percent lower. Holy shit!

    So yes, we should start adding lithium to the water supply to create world peace. I mean, I don’t want it in my water. Other people’s.


    Your Moods May Be Controlled By Your Shit

    There are about 40 trillion microbes in your intestines. That’s far more cells than make up your actual body. If they were people, they’d populate 5,400 Earths. The point is, your body’s shit factory houses an entire galactic federations’ worth of beings, and to an extent that science does not yet fully understand, it appears that they’re the ones running the show. When scientists dug through the turds of dozens of kids, they found that “children with the most genetically diverse types of gut bacteria more frequently exhibited behaviors related with positive mood, curiosity, sociability and impulsivity.” Different gut bacteria = different personalities.

    OK, well, there surely are other explanations. Maybe outgoing kids tend to eat different diets, and that changes their gut microbes? Because they’re eating … adventurous party food, I guess? Or maybe they have different hormones or something, and that changes their digestion? Really, anything is better than believing that, for instance, the decision to ask your current partner out on a date was truly made by a pulsing ooze of microscopic blobs swimming in your shit.

    Well too bad. Another study found that eating “probiotic” fermented foods decreased social anxiety. Another bunch of researchers found they could make someone give more to charity if they fed them eggs first. An experiment on mice was able to reverse goddamned autism symptoms by adding in a single species of gut bacteria. Someone else followed up by doing fecal transplants on autistic children to fix gastrointestinal issues, and found that it appeared their neurological symptoms improved along the way. Here’s a giant summary of dozens of studies on the “Your shit is controlling your brain” theory which you and your shit can peruse together.

    You probably want to dismiss this whole thing. You may even feel a knee-jerk urge to dismiss it out of hand, and not devote any further thought to it. An urge that you can feel … in your gut? Nice try, shit.


    You Have Probably Brainwashed Yourself Into A Completely False Idea Of Who You Are

    Here’s an important question almost no one thinks to ask: Do cult leaders believe what they’re saying? After all, L. Ron Hubbard clearly knew his new religion was a scam at first — he borrowed its mythology from his own sci-fi stories, which he wrote to make a quick buck. But by all accounts, he later spent endless hours “auditing” himself to try to purge his soul of the evil alien spirits — you know, the ones he had invented years earlier. It’s almost as if by repeating his ludicrous lies, he indoctrinated himself.

    That, it appears, is exactly what happened. And almost every deranged cult leader in history followed that exact path. Do you remember that weird terror attack that happened in Tokyo in 1995? A Japanese doomsday cult unleashed nerve gas on a subway, killing a dozen people (which would have been thousands if they hadn’t fucked up the release of the gas). The cult was led by a guy named Shoko Asahara, who had been a small-time con artist going back to his teenage years, running a number of scams which he eventually expanded into lucrative businesses. He sold snake oil cures out of an acupuncture shop for a while, then started putting ads in sci-fi magazines offering to teach mind powers like telepathy and levitation — for a reasonable fee, of course. In less than a decade, he went from telling silly lies to get cash from gullible dupes to unleashing nerve gas in order to trigger Armageddon, believing that he and his followers would then ascend to inherit the Earth.

    That’s weird, right? That garden-variety shitheads wind up joining their own cults in suicide pacts to fulfill some “prophecy” that they themselves wrote late at night over a bottle of wine? But that, my friends, is the magic of the human brain. Not only can it be reprogrammed by anyone who knows the method, but it can also reprogram itself, unintentionally, without realizing it. But that could never happen to you and me, right? Haha. Ha.

    OK, let’s now think about all of the little self-deceptions we pile up through the day — like how nearly everyone thinks they’re an above-average driver, even though that’s obviously impossible. Well, you remember George Costanza’s rule that the key to lying is making yourself believe it? There’s a theory that humans evolved self-deception specifically because it helps us deceive others. In order to survive, you need other humans to cooperate with you. In order to make sure they do that, you need to be able to convince them you’re great. In order to convincingly tell that outrageous lie, you need to make yourself belief you’re great.

    You lie to yourself, then you believe the lie, then you make others believe the lie which you now believe is true. It’s lies all the way down. This is why if you go to a primitive tribe without access to mirrors or clear reflective surfaces of water and show them a reflection of their own faces, they freak the fuck out. (“They were paralyzed; after the first startled response — covering their mouths and ducking their heads — they stood transfixed …”) Living their lives without a clear reflection as a reference, they each had built up in their minds an idea of what they surely must look like. Maybe they always secretly assumed they were among the most attractive, despite their public shows of humility. Then bam, the disgusting reality was suddenly staring back at them. “That’s what I look like?”

    Well, if you had a magic mirror that could reflect back upon you exactly how others see your attitudes, mannerisms, emotions, habits, etc, it would be the same, only about a hundred times stronger. A hand clasped over your mouth, feeling sick, staring at the “reflection” of a total stranger. Anyway, buy my book. Oh, wait, one more thing …

    You can now get rid of the ads on Cracked and also help keep us from having to put up paywalls by throwing us a small wad of sweaty internet cash. If you like what we do and want us to keep doing it, or just feel bad about blocking the ads for 5,000 straight visits, here you go. It costs less than dirt. I mean it’s literally less than this actual bag of dirt you can buy. Thanks for your support, either way.

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    Lake Erie Has Turned A Ghostly Green, And That’s Very Bad News

    Is Lake Erie glowing a ghostly green in preparation for Halloween? Or perhaps an extreme premature St Patrick’s Day prank? Not quite.

    These stunning images show the giant North American lake bursting with a vibrant green hue due to a harmful algal bloom.

    The satellite images, shown in natural color, were taken on September 26, 2017, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) onboard the Landsat 8 satellite. There’s also some rather beautiful aerial photography of the phenomenon taken by pilots flying above Ohio. This year’s bloom was first reported in July in Maumee Bay, but has since spread eastwards and northwards within the lake’s western basin, along the shore of Michigan, Ohio, and Ontario.

    The prime suspect behind the algal bloom is phosphorus draining into the lake from agricultural or industrial sources. This phosphorous makes the algae go into a “feeding” frenzy when it enters the water. This process is known as eutrophication.

    The bloom contains Microcystis, a type of freshwater cyanobacteria, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It might look pretty from the skies, but these phytoplankton produce toxins that can contaminate drinking water and pose a risk to human and animal health, including irritation to the skin and respiratory distress. Along with this, the process of eutrophication can leave lakes starved of oxygen (not to mention it can really kick up a stink). 

    The problem has been documented at Lake Erie before, with reports appearing as far back as the 1960s. This Great Lake was said to be “dying” during the 1960s due to water quality problems, according to the EPA. Although there’s been extensive efforts to clean it up, it’s still pretty polluted and, evidently, loaded with phosphorus.

    The western bay of Lake Erie, as seen on September 26, 2017. A “zoomed in” version of the image above. Landsat 8/NASA/NOAA
    Two boats sail through Lake Erie on September 26, 2017. Landsat 8/NASA/NOAA
    Pilots from Aerodata have been flying over Lake Erie this summer to map out the general scope of harmful algal blooms (HAB) throughout the western basin. In addition to these amazing photos, additional images were taken during the flyovers by a hyperspectral imager (mounted on the back of the aircraft) to improve our understanding of how to map and detect HABs. The lead PI for this project is Dr Andrea VanderWoude. Aerial Associates Photography, Inc. by Zachary Haslick via NOAA


    Another glance at the harmful algal bloom in Maumee River, Toledo, Ohio: September 22, 2017. Aerial Associates Photography, Inc. by Zachary Haslic via NOAA


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    GOP senator tells high school students access to food, healthcare is a ‘privilege’


    In schools across America, most children are taught that food, shelter, and clothing are basic needs. But one GOP senator considers these tools for survival a “privilege,” not a right.

    Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) spoke to high school students in his home state on Friday, and one student in the audience asked, in the face of repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, if Johnson believes healthcare is a “privilege or a right.” Johnson went on to claim it’s the former, not the latter.

    “Do you consider food a right?” the senator asked the students, WISN 12 reports. “Do you consider clothing a right? Do you consider shelter a right? What we have as rights is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Past that point, we have the right to freedom. Past that point is a limited resource that we have to use our opportunities given to us to afford those things.”

    Like many Republican senators, Johnson believes engaging with (and succeeding on) the free market is the key to healthcare. Instead of making it a universal right, Johnson criticized state-funded medical care, encouraging lawmakers to improve the economy so as many people as possible can afford healthcare.

    “I think it’s obviously a privilege to have food and shelter,” he said. “What we need to do as public officials is try and have our economy healthy so that we have as much prosperity as possible so that we can actually increase the resources available for as high a quality and highly accessible health care as we possibly can.”

    Johnson, of course, supports repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a Republican-backed healthcare system, which could leave millions uninsured. So far, the GOP’s plans for healthcare haven’t passed the Senate, leaving the ACA in-tact for now.

    H/T Splinter

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    Trump Plans Aggressive Road Show to Sell Tax Overhaul

    President Donald Trump plans an aggressive travel schedule, taking him to as many as 13 states over the next seven weeks, to sell the idea of a tax overhaul as the administration tries to avoid repeating the communications failures of its attempt to repeal Obamacare.

    With a make-or-break legislative battle looming on taxes, the White House is moving to clean up a disorganized communications operation, said four people familiar with the effort.

    The strategy was revealed by top advisers to about 40 allies during a closed-door meeting last week. It calls for the president to visit states he won where a Democratic senator is up for re-election next year, including Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, said three people who attended. The people asked not to be identified discussing internal strategy.

    In some instances, cabinet members will be deployed behind Trump in a “second wave” after the president’s speeches and town hall meetings to amplify his message.

    White House officials held the private meeting on Sept. 8 to share details on its political strategy for tax legislation with allies who can deliver the message on cable news and in local media interviews. Separately, they’re prepping economists such as Arthur Laffer, Lawrence Kudlow and Stephen Moore, who served as informal advisers to Trump’s campaign.

    Top communications staffers were at the meeting, including White House communications director Hope Hicks, counselor Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Cliff Sims, a messaging strategist.

    Sales Campaign

    The administration plans to mount the full-bore sales campaign even though congressional Republicans and the White House haven’t yet determined key elements of the plan, including tax brackets for individuals, a corporate tax rate, what popular tax advantages will be eliminated or even whether the changes will be permanent or temporary. It’s unclear when additional details will emerge.

    Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin revealed one bit of the administration’s planning Tuesday at CNBC’s Delivering Alpha conference in New York, saying negotiators are considering making new provisions of tax law retroactive to the start of the year. That, he said, “would be a big boon for the economy.”

    White House officials have concluded that, even without a specific tax plan, Trump can build support early by making a broad case for lower rates, a simpler tax code and more incentives for multinational corporations based in the U.S. to bring home profits stashed overseas.

    Trump has already tested this strategy with trips to two states, Missouri and North Dakota, that he carried in 2016 and that are represented by a Democratic senator facing re-election in 2018. He also plans to make time for another stop next week, even though he is scheduled to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York Sept. 19 through 21.

    A lack of planning and coordination hampered the White House’s effort on health care and other legislative fights, said several people tapped by the White House to serve as surrogates on tax reform.

    ‘Vastly Different’

    “It didn’t put them on the best footing to be successful,” said James Davis, executive vice president of Freedom Partners, an advocacy group partially funded by the Koch brothers. “This is vastly different the level of engagement than what we saw in health care.”

    “One of the things we can learn from the last battle was that in many cases we did not get all of our allies on board with the path forward, so therefore the Republican base was splintered,” White House legislative director Marc Short told reporters Tuesday at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

    “Team of Teams,” a management book by former general-turned-business consultant Stanley McChrystal, is serving as the template for retooling the White House communications operation. The White House is trying to overcome high staff turnover and past rivalries, with a new emphasis on good communication between various administration teams and with congressional leaders’ offices.

    Hicks, who has been serving as interim communications director, will now lead the communications team on a permanent basis, two White House officials said. She’s viewed by staff as a strong leader because she is one of the president’s most trusted aides and therefore secure in her standing.

    Fox News analyst Mercedes Schlapp is joining the team to help with long-term planning. Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh has been detailed to the White House to help coordinate “all the moving pieces,” one official said. Shahira Knight, a tax aide with the National Economic Council, is interfacing with the communications team, speechwriters and the Hill. Steven Cheung will move to the press team to do rapid response.

    Target States

    The White House legislative affairs and political affairs teams are choosing the target states for Trump to visit. They’ve also put Republican-leaning states with GOP senators on the schedule to help Republicans stay motivated, one of the people familiar with the plan said.

    “It’s only about the votes,” said Bryan Lanza, who was a deputy communications director for the Trump campaign.

    In an effort to maximize the impact with local members of Congress, the administration is planning the president’s visits with an eye toward gaining additional attention in the run-up and afterward.

    Although details of the tax plan remain fluid, the White House is planning for future speeches to highlight specific components of the proposed legislation. Those addresses will be drafted with input from the president himself, as part of a joint effort between top aide Stephen Miller’s speech-writing staff, the communications team, and economic advisers.

    North Dakota

    The White House plans to turn to prominent corporate chief executives and members of the public to reinforce Trump’s case for a tax overhaul through media interviews.

    Administration officials were pleased with a Trump speech in North Dakota that highlighted the potential impact of a tax overhaul on Julie Ellingson, a local fourth-generation rancher who feared an estate tax might encourage her heirs to sell the farm. The anecdote generated additional coverage as local media interviewed Ellingson afterward.

    Trump is expected to mix up the format at some of his events, hosting town halls and other more interactive sessions.

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