May 21, 2007

Have We Passed the Tipping Point?


As discussed here and here, climatologists are increasingly concerned about evidence of key tipping points, beyond which global warming rapidly accelerates, ultimately leading to a possibility of "sudden climate change."

As per Steven D at Booman Tribune, there is stunning evidence that we have passed a major tipping point, and much sooner than previously expected.

Via The Independent:
The earth's ability to soak up the gases causing global warming is beginning to fail because of rising temperatures, in a long-feared sign of "positive feedback," new research reveals today.

Climate change itself is weakening one of the principal "sinks" absorbing carbon dioxide - the Southern Ocean around Antarctica - a new study has found.

As a result, atmospheric CO2 levels may rise faster and bring about rising temperatures more quickly than previously anticipated. Stabilising the CO2 level, which must be done to bring the warming under control, is likely to become much more difficult, even if the world community agrees to do it. [...]

"This is the first unequivocal detection of a carbon sink weakening because of recent climate change," said the lead author of the study, Corinne Le Quéré, of the University of East Anglia. "This is serious. Whenever the world has greatly warmed in the past, the weakening of CO2 sinks has contributed to it."

Others have characterized the study's results in even more alarming tones:

Ian Totterdell, a climate modeller at the Met Office Hadley Centre, described the research as “an important piece of work”.

He said: “This is the first time we have been able to get convincing evidence that a change in the uptake of CO2 by the oceans is linked to climate change. “It’s one of many feedbacks we didn’t expect to kick in until some way into the 21st century.”

We are witnessing changes that would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Changes that were not predicted to occur for several more decades are showing up now, as you read these words of mine. Temperatures and sea levels rising faster than our climate change models predicted. Glaciers vanishing before our eyes. Ice melting in the interior of Antarctica in a region the size of California, where ice has never melted before in recorded history.

May 16, 2007

Quietly Practicing Wicca


There's a good piece in the The New York Times today on the increasing popularity of Wicca and the secrecy around its practice.

Among the most popular religions to have flowered since the 1960s, Wicca — a form of paganism — still faces a struggle for acceptance, experts on the religion and Wiccans themselves said. In April, Wiccans won an important victory when the Department of Veterans Affairs settled a lawsuit and agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to a list of approved religious symbols that it will engrave on veterans’ headstones.

But Wicca in the civilian world is largely a religion in hiding. Wiccans fear losing their friends and jobs if people find out about their faith.

Taking aim at some of the myths about Wicca and its supposed association with Satanism, the article does a fair job of explaining some of the symbols and practices.

“It’s a very open religion,” said Helen A. Berger, a sociology professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. “Each person can do what they want, and they don’t have to belong to a group. They take things from a number of different sources, like Eastern religions, Celtic practices. You are the ultimate authority of your own experience.”

But its symbols and practices elicit suspicion from outsiders, Wiccans and religion scholars say.

Many Wiccans practice some form of magic or witchcraft, which they say is a way of affecting one’s destiny, but which many outsiders see as evil. The Wiccan pentacle, a five-pointed star inside a circle, is often confused with symbols of Satanism. (The five points of the star represent the elements of nature — earth, air, fire and water — and the spirit, within the eternal circle of life.)

There's not a lot of new information here. But, it's nice to see some recognition of the increasingly popular practice in the paper of record; and of the continuing difficulty for practitioners to practice openly. For more information on the VA's approval of pentacles, see here.

May 1, 2007

Secrets and Lies

A while ago I took "The Secret" to task for a number of things; such as being based on a faulty premise, making undeliverable promises, and encouraging denial as a spiritual practice. Add one more item to the list: fraud. One of the key contributors to "The Secret" Denis Waitley has been caught out by the Fraud Discovery Institute, which found discrepancies in his education credentials and false claims by his business, Usana. Their most recent report can found here.

Waitley withdrew from renomination to the board of directors of Usana, when the discrepancy was uncovered; apparently to stop the hemorrhaging of Usana's stock. Waitley has apologized for the "error." The oversight in question?

Usana has made headlines in the last two weeks after coming under S.E.C. scrutiny following a 500-page report from FDI that was made public and a subsequent investigative cover story in the Money & Investing section of the Wall Street Journal (March 15).According to Barry Minkow, independent licensed private investigators who specialize in examining resumes could not confirm that Mr. Waitley had earned a M.A. degree from the Naval Post Graduate School, in Monterey, California. Moreover, the Doctorate, or a Ph.D. in Human Behavior from La Jolla University listed in Mr. Waitley’s resume, appears to have come from a now defunct and never-accredited “diploma mill,” according to Minkow. Both alleged degrees are listed on official S.E.C. filings.

Mr. Waitley, a well-known motivational speaker who also appears in the hit movie, The Secret, is listed on Usana’s Schedule 14A Proxy Statement, filed on March 13, 2007, as having “served as a director of USANA since May 2000. Dr. Waitley has also served as a consultant to and a spokesperson for USANA since September 1996.” The Proxy also states, “Dr. Waitley received a B.S. from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, an M.A. in Organizational Development from the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterrey, California, and a Ph.D. in Human Behavior from La Jolla University.”

The Fraud Discovery Institute, under the direction of Barry Minkow, contracted a licensed private investigator to assist in FDI’s inquiry into this apparent resume inconsistency. After contacting the Naval Post Graduate School, he writes: “When contacted by our investigators, a representative of the school was unable to locate any record that the search subject graduated with the stated degree, and as such, it would appear that this assertion is untrue,” the report says.

Regarding the Ph.D. from La Jolla University, the report also stated, “Finally, the subject is listed in the same government filings as having graduated with a Ph.D. from La Jolla University. No record of this school was found in our databases of current accredited institutions of higher-learning, and the school does not appear in the databases of the State of California Bureau for Private Post-Secondary & Vocational Education. Despite extensive database searches, no working telephone number was found for this school. Accordingly, it was not possible to verify that the search subject graduated with the stated degree from this institution.”

Somehow, these fictitious higher degrees found their way into numerous SEC filings, according to Usana, purely by accident.

Conspicuous by its absence in "The Secret" is any discussion of integrity. To have integrity is to be integral; to be whole. "The Secret" teaches exactly the opposite; advocating a system of splitting off or suppressing those parts of yourself that don't feel good. Is it any great surprise that one of its architects is mired in a fraud scandal? Not to me. Living a fraudulent, inauthentic life is the implicit message of "The Secret."