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So, you’ve heard that the world is supposed to end on 23 September

It isn’t, of course, but if you’re curious about how someone could come to such a bizarre conclusion, let me lead you through it.

It starts with a Bible verse, Revelation 12.

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”[a] And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.

7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

See? War in heaven, Satan cast down to earth. But why 23 September 2017? The Bible doesn’t say that! We have to go to another source: astrology.

The Bible has a few things to say about astrology, but don’t let that interfere with your bibliolatry!

All the counsel you have received has only worn you out. Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you. Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up. They cannot even save themselves from the flame… Each of them goes on in his error; there is not one that can save you.

But you need astrology to explain all those strange references to a pregnant woman with stars on her head, a dragon, and signs in heaven. According to some, these are references to constellations (‘ware that link — it’s a manic YouTube video by a loon babbling a mile a minute). The woman is Virgo; the moon is at her feet on that date; the constellation Leo with 9 stars is above her head; Jupiter is passing through her belly, so she’s giving birth to Jupiter. The International Space Station is also passing by, which is supposedly significant, but I couldn’t bear to listen to the video any more to figure out why.

Then there’s numerology.

The September rapture date came from a Christian researcher named David Meade who calculated it would occur 33 days after last month’s eclipse, The Washington Post reported.

Jesus lived for 33 years. The name Elohim, which is the name of God to the Jews, was mentioned 33 times [in the Bible], Meade told the newspaper. It’s a very biblically significant, numerologically significant number. I’m talking astronomy. I’m talking the Bible … and merging the two.

Another factor is Nibiru. Nibiru is a wandering planet in our solar system that the aliens of Zeta Reticuli explained to a human alien contactee through the implant they put in her head. It’s also based on the ravings of ancient astronaut fanatic, Zacharia Sitchin. Anyway, they’re saying Nibiru is going to smack into the earth in a couple of days.

So now you know why people think the world will end on Saturday. The evidence is a series of stretched metaphors from the trippiest chapter of the Bible; astrological alignments; the ravings of a saucer kook; a story from an ancient aliens conspiracy theorist; and numerology. I think you are capable of evaluating the claim from the quality of the evidence, so I’ll leave you to decide whether you need to start preparing for doomsday.

Researchers unite in quest for ‘standard model’ of the brain

By Alison Abbott

Leading neuroscientists are joining forces to study the brain — in much the same way that physicists team up in mega-projects to hunt for new particles.

The International Brain Lab (IBL), launched on 19 September, combines 21 of the foremost neuroscience laboratories in the United States and Europe into a giant collaboration that will develop theories of how the brain works by focusing on a single behaviour shared by all animals: foraging. The Wellcome Trust in London, and the Simons Foundation in Washington DC have together committed more than US$13 million over five years to kick-start the IBL.

The pilot effort is an attempt to shake up cellular neuroscience, conventionally done by individual labs studying the role of a limited number of brain circuits during simple behaviours. The ‘virtual’ IBL lab will instead ask how a mouse brain, in its entirety, generates complex behaviours in constantly changing environments that mirror natural conditions.

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Trump judicial nominee said transgender children are part of ‘Satan’s plan’, defended ‘conversion therapy’

By Chris Massie and Andrew Kaczynski

In a pair of 2015 speeches, President Donald Trump’s nominee for a federal judgeship in Texas described transgender children as evidence of “Satan’s plan,” lamented that states were banning conversion therapy and argued that sanctioning same-sex marriage would lead to polygamy and bestiality.

Jeff Mateer, the current first assistant attorney general of Texas, was serving at the time as general counsel of the First Liberty Institute, a religious liberty advocacy group known before 2016 as the Liberty Institute. He faced criticism from LGBT rights groups for his work with the organization, such as opposing the expansion of nondiscrimination protections to LGBT people in the city of Plano. If confirmed by the US Senate, he will serve on the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.
In a May 2015 speech, titled “The Church and Homosexuality,” Mateer discussed a Colorado lawsuit in which the parents of a transgender girl sued her school for preventing her from using the bathroom of her choice.
“In Colorado, a public school has been sued because a first grader and I forget the sex, she’s a girl who thinks she’s a boy or a boy who thinks she’s a girl, it’s probably that, a boy who thinks she’s a girl,” Mateer said in a video posted on Vimeo in 2015 and reviewed by CNN’s KFile. “And the school said, ‘Well, she’s not using the girl’s restroom.’ And so she has now sued to have a right to go in. Now, I submit to you, a parent of three children who are now young adults, a first grader really knows what their sexual identity? I mean it just really shows you how Satan’s plan is working and the destruction that’s going on.”

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I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but…this is a conspiracy

Patrik Hermannson is a young Swedish man who went undercover to explore the American alt-right movement. He works with a group called Hope Not Hate, and they’re working on a movie, My Year in Kekistan.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnMIMofiavI&w=560&h=315]

It doesn’t sound like he had a good time. I also hope he’s now taking precautions — he was dealing with dangerous, horrible people, and they’re not going to be happy about being exposed. He’s got video of these people saying vile things and revealing their true plans. And now they’re getting written up in the New York Times.

Mr. Hermansson and Mr. Jorjani met at an Irish pub near the Empire State Building, where the baby-faced Mr. Jorjani imagined a near future in which, thanks to liberal complacency over the migration crisis, Europe re-embraces fascism: “We will have a Europe, in 2050, where the bank notes have Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alexander the Great. And Hitler will be seen like that: like Napoleon, like Alexander, not like some weird monster who is unique in his own category — no, he is just going to be seen as a great European leader.”

More shockingly, Mr. Jorjani bragged about his contacts in the American government. “We had connections in the Trump administration — we were going to do things!” he said at one point. “I had contacts with the Trump administration,” he said at another.

His connections, fortunately, seem to have been indirect and tangential, but it does reveal the grandiose delusions of importance these people have. Another guy he met with was always wearing a Hitler Youth-style outfit. They are backwards-looking dipshits, but don’t underestimate them.

This Jorjani fellow, though…I’d recently run across that name in the Chronicle of Higher Ed as the subject of criticism.

We especially write in response to news reports that have identified Iranian-American Jason Reza Jorjani, who received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Stony Brook University, as one of the co-founders of the white nationalist website altright.com and a member of its board of directors. It is clear to us that Jorjani uses his training in higher education to promote a controversial cultural and historical platform that connects Iranianness with Aryanness. Unfortunately, Jorjani’s position has a long-standing grip in our communities. This belief is animated by claims made by 19th century philologists about linguistic affiliations between Persian and European languages, as well as the narratives of the Avesta and the Gathas, which describe Aryans as a group of ethnically distinct people settling in the Iranian plateau.

Speaking of delusional…I don’t think an Iranian is going to be very popular among American hate groups. He can protest all he wants about 19th century philosophers classifying his people, as well as the Indians of South Asia, as belonging to the fictitious category of the “Aryans”, but these haters aren’t sophisticated enough to make that distinction. Brown and foreign is all they’re going to see.

So how are they going to get Adolf’s picture on our currency? Simple. Undermine people’s trust in the system, and radicalize the youth. Promote people who lean their way. Shuffle the gullible off farther and farther to the right (yeah, if you’re on /pol or r/theDonald, are flaunting Pepe memes and think torch-lit marches with white nationalists are cool, you’re just a gullible fool, a sheep following a goat).

The extreme alt-right are benefiting immensely from the energy being produced by a more moderate — but still far-right — faction known as the “alt-light.”

The alt-light promotes a slightly softer set of messages. Its figures — such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson and Mike Cernovich — generally frame their work as part of an effort to defend “the West” or “Western culture” against supposed left-liberal dominance, rather than making explicitly racist appeals. Many of them, in fact, have renounced explicit racism and anti-Semitism, though they will creep up to the line of explicitly racist speech, especially when Islam and immigration are concerned.

This apparent moderation partly explains why they tend to have much bigger online audiences than even the most important alt-right figures — and why Hope Not Hate describes them as “less extreme, more dangerous.” Alt-light sites like Breitbart, formerly home to Mr. Yiannopoulos, as well as Prison Planet, where Mr. Watson is editor at large, draw millions of readers and are key nodes in a hyperkinetic network that is endlessly broadcasting viral-friendly far-right news, rumors and incitement.

Wait. Yiannopoulos and Watson and Cernovich are light messengers of fascism? They always sound insanely regressive and rotten to me. Intellectual light-weights, maybe, but they spread a terribly vile message. Shying away from using the N-word while still advocating for oppression, deportation, and exploitation isn’t much of a softening.

If we accept this hypothesis of media being used to gradually radicalize people (which I do), it’s unfortunate that there isn’t more mention of YouTube. There’s a bit, but in my experience, YouTube has been an important potentiator of alt-right lies and arrogance.

This goal of mainstreaming is an abiding fixation of the far right, whose members are well aware of the problems their movement has had with attracting young people in recent decades. At one point in Mr. Hermansson’s footage, Colin Robertson, a far-right YouTube personality who goes by the name Millennial Woes, explained to an older extremist the importance of putting forward a friendly, accessible face: “If we don’t appear like angry misfits, then we will end up making friendships with people who don’t agree with us,” he said.

There are people with the confidence to make videos openly endorsing anti-feminism and anti-immigration sentiments, but even more chilling, there are hordes of hateful losers who turn the comment sections of virtually every video into a churning mess of misogyny and racism. There’s the easy on-ramp to alt-right radicalism. It’s a slippery slope well-greased with pictures of Pepe the Frog and kekistani flags.

Marriage Equality Opponents in Australia Have Embarrassingly Bad Arguments

By Hemant Mehta

Australians are debating whether to legalize marriage equality, and just as we saw in our own country, religious people are coming out against it using the worst possible arguments.

Former tennis star and current bigot Margaret Court said back in May that the LGBTQ movement brainwashes children, just like Hitler did. Since that argument didn’t go over so well, she recently tried a new one:

Mrs Court, a Christian minister based in Osborne Park, said the consequences of a Yes vote would be severe.

“It’s not about marriage. It will affect Christian schools, it will affect freedom of speech,” she said.

“There will be no Mother’s Day, there will be no Father’s Day, there will be no Easter, there will be no Christmas.”

I don’t quite get the logic there. If gay people can get married, then Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? Will we not have parents anymore? Will people spend so much money on gay weddings that they have nothing left to spend on Christmas gifts? WHY CAN’T SHE EXPLAIN?!

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The Real Unknown of Climate Change: Our Behavior

By Justin Gillis

As Hurricane Harvey bore down on the Texas coast, few people in that state seemed to understand the nature of the looming danger.

The bulletins warned of rain falling in feet, not inches. Experts pleaded with the public to wake up. J. Marshall Shepherd, head of atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia and a leading voice in American meteorology, wrote ahead of the storm that “the most dangerous aspect of this hurricane may be days of rainfall and associated flooding.”

Now we know how events in Texas turned out.

Dr. Shepherd and his colleagues have spent their careers issuing a larger warning, one that much of the public still chooses to ignore. I speak, of course, about the risks of climate change.

Because of atmospheric emissions from human activity, the ocean waters from which Harvey drew its final burst of strength were much warmer than they ought to have been, most likely contributing to the intensity of the deluge. If the forecasts from our scientists are anywhere close to right, we have seen nothing yet.

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Maybe it would have been more popular if they called it “Hate Speech Week”

Truth in advertising and all that, you know.

Milo Yiannopoulos, desperate to gather together the tattered shreds of his relevance, announced this past summer that there would be a “four day extravaganza” on the Berkeley campus that he called “Free Speech Week”. There was a preliminary list of potential speakers, including Ann Coulter, Charles Murray, James Damore, Mike Cernovich, Stephen Bannon, etc., which indicated that they were planning a total shit-show of horrible people, which certainly would test the limits of free speech. It turned out, though, they hadn’t bothered to ask most of those people, and the prospective speakers were a bit surprised to learn of it. Milo claimed to have $12 million in backing.

But the funny thing is, it doesn’t seem to be happening. It’ll still fill the need to feed the conservative persecution complex if it all falls apart, but it looks like they weren’t even seriously trying.

From the get-go, however, there have been various problems and unanswered questions, starting with the student group that was actually supposed to host “Free Speech Week.” This group, called the Berkeley Patriot, didn’t exist at all before July. Its site has five blog posts, its Facebook page shows no signs of real community and its Twitter account has 16 followers and no tweets. Both the blog and the Facebook page were started on Aug. 25 — shortly after Yiannopoulos announced he was working with this group to stage a major event on the Berkeley campus.

Despite being a tiny organization with no visible history, Berkeley Patriot had a huge ask: It not only wanted to hold events in the usual rooms offered at no charge for student events, but also wanted to rent Zellerbach Hall and Wheeler Auditorium, two of the largest venues on campus. The former of those, for instance, seats around 2,000 people and is mostly used for concerts and major performing arts events. According to the university, Berkeley Patriot was given three deadlines — Aug. 18, Aug. 25 and, finally, Sept. 15 — to sign a contract and pay the $65,000 rental fee for the two auditoriums. The students failed to do that.

Huh. Imagine that.

There is a problem lurking here with the student groups. Students get a real deal on these events: students can book any room on campus, complete with audio-visual gear, seating appropriate for 20 students to 400 students (we’re a small college, so we don’t have those 2000 seat auditoriums) at no charge. What it means is that a conservative with lots of cash can astro-turf a “student group” into existence by finding one or a few compliant students and getting them to host what is essentially a non-student event that is nominally student driven. It’s possible because universities are diverse, and there will always be far right wing students in attendance to provide an entry point. The Morris North Star, the ghastly ultra-right student paper that was here at my university for a couple of years, was a case in point: there was no organic drive to support it, it was managed by just a few students, and it got external money thrown at it…and it fell apart as soon as a few students graduated and the money bags didn’t get delivered anymore.

Milo Yiannopoulos, by the way, is a college dropout who has no connection at all to Berkeley. He’s the very definition of an outside agitator taking advantage of loopholes in college administration.

But it turns out that they — Milo and the students — were either incompetent or had a sneakier plan in mind. They aren’t going to have an official room or rooms or building for this event, so instead, they’re inviting random mobs of the kind of people who want to hear Coulter or Cernovich to show up and march around the campus. He’s nurturing this narrative that they were unjustly denied official space by Berkeley to fuel resentment. His little gang of neo-Nazis will wander around, being nasty, and when Berkeley rightfully cracks down on them, he’ll howl about persecution.

The alt-right thrives on the idea that it is being oppressed by violent leftists, a narrative that was in danger of dying out after a white supremacist killed a peaceful counter-protester and injured many others with a terrorist-style attack in Charlottesville. With his Berkeley event, Yiannopoulos has created and nurtured an atmosphere of right-wing grievance and anger — and now his gathering will happen outside, on the streets, with maximum opportunity for violent clashes between right-wing racists and counter-protesters. You might almost think that was how he designed it.

As if disrupting the work of the university is something Nazis should be allowed to do.