Baby Jesus statue in Canada gets shocking restoration.

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Baby Jesus statue in Canada gets shocking restoration.

A handmade terracotta sculpture of baby Jesus’s head that was added to a broken statue outside a Catholic church in Canada has prompted amusement and disappointment, with some likening it to the now infamous attempt by a Spanish woman to restore a crumbling fresco of Jesus.


canada baby jesus head
Heather Wise, the local artist who sculpted the new baby Jesus head, said the project was ‘an honour of my entire art career’. Photograph: Marina von Stackelberg/CBC

For nearly a decade, a white stone statue of Mary and baby Jesus has stood outside Ste Anne des Pins Catholic church in downtown Sudbury. At times vandals had targeted the statue, leaving the head of baby Jesus rolling on the ground nearby.

About a year ago, the head of baby Jesus was knocked off again. This time, it seemed, the vandals had taken it with them.

The statue stood headless for months as the church’s priest, Gérard Lajeunesse, asked local businesses about crafting a new head. It would have to be custom-made, he was told, and could cost as much as C$10,000 ($7,500).

It was around then that he received a knock on his door from a local artist. Heather Wise had been walking the church’s grounds with a friend when she noticed the headless statue.

“I was so sad,” she told Sudbury.Com. “My feelings were hurt when I saw it, because I thought, ‘Who would do that?’ It’s just not a positive feeling to see that. I said ‘I’m an artist, I would like to fix it.’”

She had learned how to sculpt at a local college, but had never worked with stone. Still, she felt compelled to help. “I knocked on the door, talked to the priest and we’ve been getting this together, because we had to find out a way of doing it.”

Wise spent hours crafting the bright orange clay head. “To do a statue of baby Jesus for a church is like an honour of my entire art career,” she said, explaining that she would aim to sculpt a permanent head out of stone by next year.

The new head was attached about two weeks ago. Reaction was swift; parishioners reacted with hurt, surprise and disappointment, Father Lajeunessetold the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

While he understood their point of view – “It really is shocking to the eyes because of the big contrast in colour” – he was stumped at how to handle the situation. “I wasn’t trained for this in seminary.”

He stressed that the new head – whose features are rapidly eroding in the rain – is just temporary. “It’s a first try. It’s a first go. And hopefully what is done at the end will please everyone,” he said. “She did this out of the goodness of her heart.”

The head sparked bemusement on social media, with some pointing out the striking resemblance between baby Jesus and Maggie Simpson.

Others defended the artist’s good intentions, while others dubbed her effort to be an Ecce Homo for the new age – a reference to the botched attempt by a Spanish octogenarian to restore a peeling fresco of Jesus Christ. That was described as the “worst restoration in history” by local press.

“No wonder Mary has her eyes closed,” wrote one commenter on the CBC website, while another pointed out: “Since nobody knows what Jesus looked like, what difference does it make?”


Forget Trump’s Wall with Mexico, Let’s Build a Bi-National Border City Instead.

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Forget Trump’s Wall with Mexico, Let’s Build a Bi-National Border City Instead.

Donald Trump keeps talking about the big, beautiful wall he’s going to erect on the U.S.-Mexican border. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton wants to build bridges—metaphorical ones, that is.

Mexican architect Fernando Romero has taken a more literal approach to Clinton’s proposition. He’s long been a proponent of “building bridges,” and believes that boundaries are obsolete. “With technology, those borders are just becoming symbolic limits,” he recently told Dezeen Magazine. “The reality is that there exists a very strong mutual dependency of economies and trades.” That’s why he has now designed a master plan for a walkable, super-connected metropolis straddling the U.S.-Mexico border.

Back in the early 2000s, Romero’s architecture firm conceptualized a tunnel-like “Bridging Museum” in the Rio Grande Valley, which would act as “both a funnel and a window between the borders.” But his vision for a utopian border city, on display at the London Design Biennale, is much more complex and detailed. Via the press release:

The concept is rooted in the long history of places where frontiers meet, cities where cultures both clash and blend to create something altogether unique, places like Hong Kong, Andorra, Baarle Hertog/Baarle Nassau, and Standstead/Derby Line. Border City is the first integrated masterplan for a binational city conducive to both sides of the border, employing tools of enterprise such as special economic zones to argue for its viability.

Romero’s city would lie between New Mexico and Texas in the U.S. and Chihuahua in Mexico. He includes in it the positive elements of neighboring El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, like their bustling sister economies, but plans away some of the limitations. His city has no worries about currency exchange rates and restrictions on moving, studying, or working on either side of the border. Also: No sprawl.

It’s multipolar, with many business districts and specialized economic sectors; It’s super-connected, allowing for a steady circulation of people, goods, and services within it and outside it. At its heart lies the inland port of Santa Teresa, a recently opened freight hub at New Mexico-Mexico border. The I-10 highway connects the city’s dense and walkable urban area to far-flung regions in East and West Coasts of the U.S. And a web of other roadways and express trains link the city’s various economic hotspots and key industries.

This isn’t a purely conceptual project: Romero wants to actually build it on private land in the next decade of so, Dezeen reports. Just as well, because according to global strategist Parag Khanna, hyperconnected urban centers will soon become the most powerful actors on a global stage. In that sense, Romero’s vision represents the future of cities.

Check out the diagrams and renderings illustrating the various components of Romero’s plan below:

A hexagonal grid with criss-crossing roadways links economic hubs North of the border with San Jeronimo and San Jose in the South. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
The Inland port of Santa Teresa can link supply and demand chains.  (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
People can move around freely by car, or via the express trains. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
The hexagonal city has high density zoning features, with a couple of central business districts.  (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
Plenty of roads connect the different neighborhoods. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
But there’s no dearth of public transit. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
Romero’s border city has plenty of e-bike docks and biking paths. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
Most importantly, it’s pedestrian-friendly. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
When (and if) it’s completed, this is what Romero’s city might look like from the sky. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)


Warren Buffett Gave Away 75% Of Donald Trump’s Net Worth In 2015, Offers Facts On Taxes.

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Warren Buffett Gave Away 75% Of Donald Trump’s Net Worth In 2015, Offers Facts On Taxes.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump defended his personal income tax strategies during the second presidential debate, saying:

Now, the taxes are a very simple thing. As soon as I have — first of all, I pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. Many of her [Clinton’s] friends took bigger deductions. Warren Buffett took a massive deduction.

(I’ve fact-checked and annotated the second presidential debate. You can read my live blog coverage here.)

Trump was alluding to the nearly $1 billion loss on Trump’s state income tax returns made public by the New York Times. That loss, suggested the Times, could mean that Trump did not owe federal income taxes for years. During the second presidential debate, Trump acknowledged that he took massive deductions on his returns, but would not answer specific questions about his tax picture, saying, “I pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes.”

Trump invoked Buffett’s name twice, saying the while he took advantage of the tax laws, “so did Warren Buffett and so did George Soros and so did many of the other people that Hillary is getting money from.” Forbes ranks Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, at #3 on the Forbes 400, just behind Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, with an estimated net worth of $65.3 billion. In September, Forbes pegged Trump’s worth at $3.7 billion.

Today, Buffett fired back at Trump, releasing a statement specifically addressing information in his own tax returns. Noting that Trump has not seen those tax returns, he says, “I am happy to give him the facts.” Buffett has, he says, paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when he was 13. He added, parenthetically, “Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.” In those 72 years, Buffett says he has never used a carry forward.

A carry forward is a tax technique that allows you to apply a tax benefit in a future year if you are unable to use the full amount in the current tax year. It’s a pretty valuable tax provision especially for high-income taxpayers who may generate huge deductions in one year which can offset high tax bills in future years. (You can find out more about carry forwards as they apply to net operating losses here and other kinds of losses here.)

Specifically, Buffett says that “My 2015 return shows adjusted gross income of $11,563,931. My deductions totaled $5,477,694, of which allowable charitable contributions were $3,469,179. All but $36,037 of the remainder was for state income taxes.” Buffett lives in the state of Nebraska where income tax rates range from 2.46% to 6.84%.


Buffett says that his total charitable contributions for the year were $2,858,057,970 (not a typo), of which “more than $2.85 billion were not taken as deductions and never will be.” He notes that “Tax law properly limits charitable deductions.

By law, the amount you can deduct for charitable contributions cannot be more than 50% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for the year: your deduction may be further limited depending on the nature of the donated property and the type of charitable organization. If your contributions are more than those limits, you can carry over those deductions for up to five years (limits on contributions are also carried forward each year) though Buffett specifically says that he will “never” carry his 2015 charitable deductions forward. Typically, that’s the result when your charitable contributions each year are so high that carrying those forward would be impossible. Here’s a quick example using smaller numbers:

Let’s say that your AGI is $100,000 and that you have $75,000 in charitable contributions in year one. You can deduct 50% in year one ($50,000) and carry the remaining $25,000 forward to year two. Let’s say that in year two, your AGI remains the same and you contribute $50,000 to charity. Under the current rules, you must apply your current year charitable contributions before you apply any carry forward. So since you’ve hit your 50% of AGI limit ($50,000) in year two, you can’t use the excess deduction, so it gets rolled to year three. Let’s say in year three, your AGI remains the same and you again contribute $50,000. You still can’t use that carry forward. And so it goes until the carry forward hits the five year mark and simply disappears. Got it?

Buffett goes on to say that his federal income tax for the 2015 tax year was $1,845,557. That amount is, he says, not unusual since his “returns for previous years are of a similar nature in respect to contributions, deductions and tax rates.”

Buffett also notes that he, too, has “been audited by the IRS multiple times and am currently being audited.” That’s not a coincidence but rather a nod to the Internal Revenue Service’s “Wealth Squad.” The so-called “Wealth Squad” (which is a lot easier to say than its official name, the “Global High Wealth Industry Group of the IRS Large Business and International Division”) was created by the IRS in 2010 to focus audits of high-income/high-wealth taxpayers like Buffett and Trump. You can read more here.

However, unlike Trump, Buffett says, “I have no problem in releasing my tax information while under audit,” adding, “Neither would Mr. Trump – at least he would have no legal problem.”

Buffett has previously challenged Trump to reveal his returns, offering to show his returns in exchange. Buffett offered to meet Trump for the document exchange in Omaha, Nebraska (where Buffett lives); Mar-a-Lago (the opulent historic Palm Beach estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post which Trump bought in 1985); or any other place. So far, Trump has yet to take Buffett up on his offer.

Publicly, Trump has declared that he will not release his tax returns, citing advice from his attorneys because of an ongoing audit. At last night’s debate, Trump added, “But — but as soon as my routine audit is finished, I’ll release my returns. I’ll be very proud to. They’re actually quite great.”

Here is Buffett’s statement in its entirety:

Answering a question last night about his $916 million income tax loss carryforward in 1995, Donald Trump stated that “Warren Buffett took a massive deduction.” Mr. Trump says he knows more about taxes than any other human. He has not seen my income tax returns. But I am happy to give him the facts.

My 2015 return shows adjusted gross income of $11,563,931. My deductions totaled $5,477,694, of which allowable charitable contributions were $3,469,179. All but $36,037 of the remainder was for state income taxes.

The total charitable contributions I made during the year were $2,858,057,970, of which more than $2.85 billion were not taken as deductions and never will be. Tax law properly limits charitable deductions.

My federal income tax for the year was $1,845,557. Returns for previous years are of a similar nature in respect to contributions, deductions and tax rates.

I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13. (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year.) I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carryforward.

Finally, I have been audited by the IRS multiple times and am currently being audited. I have no problem in releasing my tax information while under audit. Neither would Mr. Trump – at least he would have no legal problem.


Your Brain Has A “Delete” Button—Here’s How To Use It.

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Your Brain Has A “Delete” Button—Here’s How To Use It.

There’s an old saying in neuroscience: neurons that fire together wire together. This means the more you run a neuro-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. This is why, to quote another old saw, practice makes perfect. The more you practice piano, or speaking a language, or juggling, the stronger those circuits get.

For years this has been the focus for learning new things. But as it turns out, the ability to learn is about more than building and strengthening neural connections. Even more important is our ability to break down the old ones. It’s called “synaptic pruning.” Here’s how it works.

Your Brain Is Like A Garden

Imagine your brain is a garden, except instead of growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables, you grow synaptic connections between neurons. These are the connections that neurotransmitters like dopamine, seratonin, and others travel across.

“Glial cells” are the gardeners of your brain—they act to speed up signals between certain neurons. But other glial cells are the waste removers, pulling up weeds, killing pests, raking up dead leaves. Your brain’s pruning gardeners are called “microglial cells.” They prune your synaptic connections. The question is, how do they know which ones to prune?

Researchers are just starting to unravel this mystery, but what they do know is the synaptic connections that get used less get marked by a protein, C1q (as well as others). When the microglial cells detect that mark, they bond to the protein and destroy—or prune—the synapse.

This is how your brain makes the physical space for you to build new and stronger connections so you can learn more.

Why Sleep Matters

Have you ever felt like your brain is full? Maybe when starting a new job, or deep in a project. You’re not sleeping enough, even though you’re constantly taking in new information. Well, in a way, your brain actually is full.

When you learn lots of new things, your brain builds connections, but they’re inefficient, ad hoc connections. Your brain needs to prune a lot of those connections away and build more streamlined, efficient pathways. It does that when we sleep.

Your brain cleans itself out when you sleep—your brain cells shrinking by up to 60% to create space for your glial gardeners to come in take away the waste and prune the synapses.

Have you ever woken up from a good night’s rest and been able to think clearly and quickly? That’s because all the pruning and pathway-efficiency that took place overnight has left you with lots of room to take in and synthesize new information—in other words, to learn.

This is the same reason naps are so beneficial to your cognitive abilities. A 10- or 20-minute nap gives your microglial gardeners the chance to come in, clear away some unused connections, and leave space to grow new ones.

Thinking with a sleep-deprived brain is like hacking your way through a dense jungle with a machete. It’s overgrown, slow-going, exhausting. The paths overlap, and light can’t get through. Thinking on a well-rested brain is like wandering happily through Central Park; the paths are clear and connect to one another at distinct spots, the trees are in place, you can see far ahead of you. It’s invigorating.

Be Mindful Of What You’re Mindful Of

And in fact, you actually have some control over what your brain decides to delete while you sleep. It’s the synaptic connections you don’t use that get marked for recycling. The ones you do use are the ones that get watered and oxygenated. So be mindful of what you’re thinking about.

If you spend too much time reading theories about the end of Game of Thrones and very little on your job, guess which synapses are going to get marked for recycling?

If you’re in a fight with someone at work and devote your time to thinking about how to get even with them, and not about that big project, you’re going to wind up a synaptic superstar at revenge plots but a poor innovator.

To take advantage of your brain’s natural gardening system, simply think about the things that are important to you. Your gardeners will strengthen those connections and prune the ones that you care about less. It’s how you help the garden of your brain flower.


Pastor arrested at church after admitting he impregnated 15-year-old parishioner.

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Pastor arrested at church after admitting he impregnated 15-year-old parishioner.

A youth pastor at a rural Pennsylvania church has been fired and arrested on statutory sexual assault charges after police said he admitted to impregnating a 15-year-old girl, according to the Associated Press.

Police said the youth pastor, 35-year-old Wesley Blackburn, told his wife he was having an affair with the girl and that he wanted a divorce, the AP reported.

Distraught, Blackburn’s wife reportedly turned to Jim Espenshade, the senior pastor of Faith Brethren Bible Church in New Paris, Pa., about 100 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

“I was shocked. Absolutely shocked,” Espenshade told WJAC News. “You work with him and you’re there and you’re thinking, how could this happen? How could he do this?”

Blackburn’s wife told him she didn’t know what to do, Espenshade told the news station. “And I said, ‘I do.’ ”

Espenshade told the station that he rounded up the church’s other leaders in the parking lot, along with Blackburn, and they fired the youth pastor immediately, then called police.

“We didn’t even care what he had to say — we don’t tolerate this kind of stuff,” Espenshade told the station. “It’s inappropriate. It’s reprehensible.”

Blackburn is a father of five who met with seventh- and eighth-grade students weekly, according to WJAC.

Blackburn was arrested at the church on the afternoon of Oct. 6 and was still packing up his belongings when a Pennsylvania State police officer arrived, according to the Tribune-Democrat.

A probable cause affidavit detailed how long Blackburn had allegedly known and had a sexual relationship with the girl, the paper reported:

Blackburn told the trooper that he had met the girl in 2009, when he first came to Faith Brethren Bible Church, and that they grew closer after she joined his youth group in 2014, according to the affidavit. Blackburn said he and the girl developed a physical relationship in March, the affidavit said.

When the trooper informed Blackburn that the girl was pregnant, Blackburn acknowledged that he was the child’s father, according to the affidavit. The trooper then took Blackburn into custody.

As of Friday, Blackburn remained in the Bedford County jail unable to post bond on one count of corruption of minors and 84 counts each of statutory sexual assault and indecent assault, the AP reported.

Bedford County District Attorney Bill Higgins told WTAJ News the investigation is ongoing and that the church leaders did the right thing in contacting police.

“Everybody acted appropriately as soon as the information was found out,” Higgins told the news station. “The church acted appropriately and has been cooperative with the investigation. There is no indication that anybody knew about it other than the two people involved. As soon as it was discovered, it was immediately reported to the authorities, who took prompt action.”


Japanese Robot Farming Company Going Global.

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Japanese Robot Farming Company Going Global.

Companies like Spread are giving Japan’s agriculture industry a serious upgrade for the 21st century. Spread shot to fame for its highly automated, vertical farming units. The company is now looking at possibilities for widening its business, as well as possibly expanding into new kinds of produce.

Vertical farming is undergoing a revolution with companies emerging across the world. They are in once case even moving straight into the supermarket’s vegetable section.

What sets Spread apart from almost all other companies in the space is its level of automation. Its concept has been hailed as one of the world’s first true robot farms.

The company is busy creating a new, large-scale vertical farm that will deliver cleaner, more efficient production of vegetables. It is set to open in 2017. Next on the menu is opening further farms across Japan, each capable of producing up to 30.000 thousand heads of lettuce a day – making for a grand total of up to 219 million heads of lettuce a year.

The future dress code of farms could look like the one in use today at Spread's Kameoka plant. Credit: Spread.

Construction machines are being drafted in and Spread plan to begin building the new vertical farm, which has taken almost two and a half years to plan and design, later this year. Once completed, it will also house an integrated research and development centre.

The total cost will be between 1.6 and 2.0 billion yen ($14 million to $18 million). Spread expects to produce between 20 thousand and 30 thousand heads of lettuce a day. With projected prices, the plant will reach ROI in 7-9 years.

The plant’s profitability is based around economy of scale and the use of technology. The plant will grow lettuce in a soil-less and sunless environment. Robots take care of much of the handling, LEDs deliver the necessary lighting and hydroponic technology delivers water.

Spread's environemnt for growing vegetables is high-tech and highly automated. Credit: Spread.

“A farming plant like this requires about half the amount of human workers our existing facility for lettuce production without automation does. We grow in a highly controlled environment, and the plants themselves are mostly handled by machines and robots. This is in part done to increase efficiency. Apart from automation, we also use water saving technology and pesticide-free cultivation,” J.J. Price, Global Marketing Manager at Spread, explains.

Spread says that their factory concept is easily scalable and applicable in other settings. However, large scale production is a requisite for reaching profitability. The exact size needed would vary from country to country and depend on factors like access to – and price of – electricity and clean water.

While Spread has focused on producing leafy lettuce because of its high productivity, their method can also be used with other kinds of vegetables.

“Generally speaking, leafy greens are often cultivated in vertical farms since it is relatively easy to grow,” Price explains.

 “We are now looking at cultivating other kinds of produce, especially Mizuna and spinach. There is an increased demand for tomatoes and peppers, and it could also be possible to produce those kinds of vegetables in vertical, automated farms like the one we are building.”

“We plan to build and run about 20 facilities with productivity of 20-30 thousand heads of lettuce per day across Japan in five years.”

Artist rendition of what the plant will look like once completed. Credit: Spread.


Study funded by Anti-Vaxxers shows that vaccines do not cause autism. And they’re furious.

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Study funded by Anti-Vaxxers shows that vaccines do not cause autism. And they’re furious.

There are two things that non-profit group Safe Minds—committed to “ending the autism epidemic”—doesn’t understand: First, that there is absolutely no link between vaccines and autism. Second, how research works.

The group just put out a statement discrediting a recent study they funded that, once again, shows that there’s no link between autism and vaccination. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is the result of six years of research focusing on whether giving baby monkeys vaccines results in the development of “autism-like behavior or neuropathology.”

The study…involved 79 infant monkeys in six groups. Two groups were given thimerosal-containing vaccines. Thimerosal is an antiseptic and antifungal agent that was frequently used in vaccinations until it was removed in the U.S from vaccines given to children in the 90s, and is frequently cited by anti-vaxxers as a cause for autism. The next two groups were given the MMR vaccine (also claimed to cause autism) without thimerosal, and the final two were given saline injections as a control.

And here’s what the study found:

No behavioral changes were observed in the vaccinated animals, nor were there neuropathological changes in the cerebellum, hippocampus, or amygdala. This study does not support the hypothesis that thimerosal-containing vaccines and/or the MMR vaccine play a role in the etiology of autism.

Now, this is great news for parents who were considering not vaccinating their kids because it’s even more data that shows that foregoing necessary vaccinations is dumb as fuck and puts both the non-vaccinated kid and the people around them in danger. But if you’re running a group predicated on the notion that vaccines are bad, you’re probably not going to be as pleased with the results. And Safe Minds isn’t. In fact, they want to know exactly what happened and why the study they funded didn’t give them the results that they wanted.

This is the statement that Safe Minds put out when asked about how much they paid to help fund the study:

“The epidemic of autism is expected to cost the country $1 trillion by 2025 if prevalence trends continue. In a recent study, over 40 percent of parents agree or strongly agree that vaccines played a part in the development of their children’s autism. The vaccine primate study in question consisted of multiple phases. The initial phase found a series of negative effects in infant reflexes and brain growth among those exposed to vaccines. The second, recent phase purported to find no effect. SafeMinds has concerns about changes in the study design protocol and analysis that may have led to these contradictory results. We are in the process of collecting and reviewing additional information regarding this study.”

Some other things people who have opinions but no expertise agree on: leaving kids unattended in cars is fine, spanking is gr8, and single moms suck. (That last one wasn’t limited to parents, but it’s a good reminder that just asking people what they think is a useless exercise which reminds us that nothing in the world is good.)

Safe minds is upset about two things. They claim that the final results of the study are contradictory to what they initially believed them to be—which is a thing that happens fairly often in research and is why we do research in the first place — even though they claim they had no “preconceived notions” going into the research. They also claim that the part of the research they funded never actually happened. Now they want a reanalysis of the data, even though the authors of the study assert that all the information had been given to an independent statistical consultant. (But, like, not the right one or something, according to Safe Minds.) It’s also important to note that while Safe Minds was in no way duped, the data they initially received was preliminary and resulted from a “much smaller trial” which was then expanded and held to more rigorous scientific standards.

What does this mean for the general public while Safe Minds gets all its information together and then tries to present a case against the study? Vaccines still don’t and never have caused autism. Sorry.