The Bible remains a ‘powerful, transformative tool’ in American culture

The Bible remains a fixture in American culture and lifestyle according to the “State of the Bible” report, an annual poll conducted by the Barna Group, a California-based research organization, and the American Bible Society. “The results show that, despite shifting cultural trends, Americans still read the Word, and it remains a powerful, transformative tool in their life. These and other snapshots are included in our list of top seven findings from this year’s State of the Bible report,” the survey said. Overall, half of Americans are “Bible users” — they read it, pray with it or consider biblical content through online or recorded forms. The survey found that Bible use has remained relatively consistent since 2011. “Two-thirds of Americans express at least some curiosity to know more about what the Bible says. A similar number of adults (63 percent) are interested in knowing more about who Jesus Christ is,” the survey said. “Just over half of adults who used the Bible in the past week (53 percent) say they give a lot of thought to how it might apply to their lives.” Similar numbers say that reading the Bible boosts their own spiritual growth, as well as their inclination to “show more loving behaviors to others.’ Overall, six in 10 U.S. adults (58 percent) believe that the message of the Bible has “transformed their life,” with majorities of Bible users saying their time with the holy texts increases their sense of connection with God and their curiosity about God. City dwellers (53 percent) and small town or rural (49 percent) residents report higher use of the Bible than suburbanites. In the South, 55 percent report regular use; the numbers are 42 percent in the Northeast and 44 percent in the West. Baby Boomers (51 percent) are most likely to consult the Bible, followed by senior citizens (48 percent) and Millennials (47 percent). The traditional printed word of the Bible remains the favorite, the survey found. “The appeal of a print version of the Bible remains high at almost nine in 10 who prefer it (89 percent). Little has changed in the preference for a physical copy of the scriptures in the last eight years since tracking began,” the research said. Technology is a factor, however. “More than half of users now search for Bible content on the internet (57 percent) or a smartphone , and another 42 percent use a Bible app on their phones. More than one-third listen via podcast or audio version of the Bible,” the survey said. The Barna/American Bible Society poll of 2,040 U.S. adults was conducted Jan. 4-18, and released Wednesday.

Dana Perino: Ten years after Tony Snow died much too young, I remember the important things he taught me

Every July, I get an uneasy feeling — like something is missing — but I can’t quite put my finger on it. And then, around July 12th, it hits me. This is the season when Tony Snow died, and this year marks the tenth anniversary of his passing. Tony was known to many for lots of reasons — he was a prolific writer and editorialist, a friendly and sharp talk radio host, an anchor of “Fox News Sunday” and a press secretary to President George W. Bush. He was also a dear friend of mine. In 2006, Tony inherited me as his principal deputy press secretary. I was honored when he put his trust in me to manage the office and hire additional staff. He let me attend the senior staff meetings and brief the president before press conferences, because I had a knack for knowing what reporters would ask. By allowing me to step into the spotlight, he pushed me out of my comfort zone, and that’s how I gained the president’s trust. We had a terrific team that worked hard and laughed a lot. When Tony came to the White House, he was in the midst of chemotherapy treatment for colon cancer. One of our assistant press secretaries, Emily Lawrimore Schillinger, had survived cancer as a teen. She couldn’t believe how he managed to show up for work during that process, let alone as the White House press secretary. Throughout his treatment, they would talk about cancer and the toll it takes on the human body. She and I touched based this week and she remembered that Tony never complained, which was remarkable, really. The only way you knew he was fighting cancer was during our early staff meetings at 7 a.m. when he would eat a huge stack of pancakes with bacon and sausage stuffed in between and tons of butter and syrup on top, washed down with an extra-large vanilla latte — he needed the calories to keep up his weight. And sometimes, after a press briefing, I’d see him lean his head back on his chair in his office. I’d reach in and gently close the door. “Let’s give him a minute,” I’d say, because he always had time for us. When Tony was in the hospital for several weeks before he died, his wife, Jill, sent me a note saying that Tony watched the press briefing every day. She said he would get so mad on my behalf that one day he sent his tray right off the table in solidarity with my frustration. The morning Tony died, I got a call from Ed Henry, who was with CNN back then. It was Saturday at 6 a.m. and we’d just returned the night before from a grueling trip to Japan for the G7 summit. I saw the number and thought, “Oh no.” I didn’t give him a comment and told Ed I’d call him right back. Sure enough, checking my BlackBerry I saw that sometime in the 3 a.m. hour a note had arrived letting us know that Tony had passed away. A devastating loss for his family, especially his wife and their three children (all of whom are doing well today, I’m happy to report), his White House and reporter colleagues, and everyone who knew and loved watching him on Fox News. A decade later, I spent some time reflecting on things I learned from Tony that I try to incorporate into my life today. Click here to read five of them:

Really excellent stuff, Dana.  Thanks.  Tony Snow was an inspiration.  I used to listen to his radio show, and when he would guest host on Rush’s radio show..  I remember when he did Fox News Sunday on one Father’s Day…  On that particular day, his house had literally burned to the ground that very morning.  And yet, he showed up for work and did the show amyway.  Who would do a thing like that?  Tony would.  And at the end of the program, he reminded the audience that in spite of such a devastating experience only hours before he went on the air, that his wife and kids were fine.  And, that it was why that day was the “best Father’s Day” he could have had.  Wow..  We all learned a lot that day about what’s most important, and were humbled by Tony’s example.  Thanks for reminding us of Tony and the mark left on all of us, Dana.  You’re not the only one who misses him..

Facebook flags Declaration of Independence as hate speech

In the week of America’s Independence Day, the algorithms of Facebook decided that the Declaration of Independence was hate speech. The Liberty County Vindicator, a community newspaper between Houston and Beaumont, had been posting the whole declaration in small daily chunks for nine days on its Facebook page in the run-up to July 4. But the 10th excerpt was not posted Monday as scheduled, and the paper said it received an automated notice saying the post “goes against our standards on hate speech.” Part of the standard notice, Vindicator managing editor Casey Stinnett wrote, included a warning that the newspaper could lose its Facebook account, on which it depends for much of its reach, if there were more violations. The offending passage? It was part of the document’s “Bill of Particulars” against Britain’s King George III: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” Mr. Stinnett dryly replied in an article about the rejection, “Perhaps had Thomas Jefferson written it as ‘Native Americans at a challenging stage of cultural development’ that would have been better. Unfortunately, Jefferson, like most British colonists of his day, did not hold an entirely friendly view of Native Americans.” He noted that the newspaper wanted “a means of contacting Facebook for an explanation or a opportunity to appeal the post’s removal, but it does not appear the folks at Facebook want anyone contacting them. Or, at least, they do not make it easy.” Within a day, Facebook had paid heed, allowing the posting and sending the Vindicator an apology. “It looks like we made a mistake and removed something you posted on Facebook that didn’t go against our Community Standards. We want to apologize and let you know that we’ve restored your content and removed any blocks on your account related to this incorrect action,” Facebook wrote back, the Vindicator reported. Reason magazine pointed out how Facebook’s actions were “silly” but also the inevitable logic of massive social-media sites trying to police millions of messages, a task that cannot be done by humans. “They demonstrate a problem with automated enforcement of hate speech policies, which is that a robot trained to spot politically incorrect language isn’t smart enough to detect when that language is part of a historically significant document,” wrote Christian Britschgi, an assistant editor at the libertarian magazine.

You really can’t make this stuff up, folks..

Comcast outage brings down internet, TV service across US

Comcast said Friday it was restoring cable services after a widespread outage impacted customers across the U.S. The outage, triggered by cut fiber lines, brought down internet, television and phone service for Comcast XFINITY customers in markets including New York and Philadelphia. Opens a New Window. , a website that follows outages, also tracked large outages in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Dallas, Denver and Seattle. In a statement, Comcast said its engineers were restoring service to residential and business customers. “We identified two, separate and unrelated fiber cuts to our network backbone providers,” the Philadelphia-based company said. “Our engineers worked to address the issue immediately and services are now being restored to business and residential internet, video and voice customers. We again apologize to anyone who was impacted.” Comcast directed customers on Twitter to contact the company if they continued to experience service disruptions.

Virginia ranked America’s most patriotic state

WalletHub has ranked all 50 states, from sea to shining sea, and has determined that Virginia is the most patriotic of them all. While ranking the states, WalletHub used two main metrics, military engagement and civic engagement. Those were broken down into more specific weighted metrics, including average military enlistees per capita, veterans per capita, voter turnout and volunteer hours per resident. Virginia came in fifth overall for military engagement and 10th overall for civic engagement. Nearby Maryland came in 16th on the list, ranking 26th in military engagement and 12th in civic engagement. Click here to see the top 10 most patriotic states:

And see where your state ranks..    🙂

A Marvel Heist and the Booming Business (and Seedy Underworld) of Movie Collectibles

With the market for memorabilia breaking records, collectors and auction houses must contend with thieves, fakers and skeptical police who wonder, “Who in their right mind would pay that much for that?” The hero’s shield from Captain America. Robert Downey Jr.’s mask from Iron Man. A set of X-23 claws from Logan. They’re among the more than $1 million in memorabilia stolen in late February from a Southern California public storage unit in suburban Rancho Cucamonga, allegedly by a pair of thieves now being prosecuted by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. The cache, much of which has yet to be recovered, comprised part of Marvel collector Max Anderson’s Stan Lee Museum, a pop-up exhibition he’s operated for seven years on the Comic-Con circuit. Around the time of the Rancho Cucamonga heist, an Iron Man suit reportedly valued at $325,000 was plundered from another storage unit, this one 60 miles away in the San Fernando Valley neighborhood of Pacoima. LAPD detectives are still attempting to solve that case. It’s unclear whether there’s a link. The crimes — along with recent six-figure inside-job robberies targeting the rare collections of Steve Sansweet, the former longtime head of Lucasfilm fan relations, and Joe Quesada, Marvel Entertainment’s ex-chief creative officer — highlight what insiders and experts already know. The untamed, boomtown realm of entertainment artifacts, especially the geekiest ones derived from studio productions and actors’ personal estates, has become a potent business (with some auction house experts estimating it has ballooned from $20 million to $40 million in annual sales a decade ago to $200 million to $400 million today). “I have hedge funds looking to diversify into this market,” says Darren Julien, CEO of Julien’s Auctions. The interest is arriving as Hollywood collectibles are on the verge of a major wave of canonization in the future permanent displays of L.A.’s forthcoming Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. This follows decades of condescension or outright dismissal. (The previous high-visibility marker for memorabilia reverence in the public sphere was the 1990s, when patrons of Planet Hollywood franchises convened under typically zeitgeist-driven chazerai on the order of Tom Arnold’s getup from The Stupids.) James Comisar, a collectibles consultant recognized for his authentication expertise, describes how, in an increasingly “seismic” market, collectors “with unlimited spending potential are trying to club each other to death” for a limited number of the most “iconic pieces — the pieces that you recognize from across the room, the ones that don’t need a descriptive plaque, the instantly recognizable ones where you creep up to the display case, your voice drops, and you go, ‘Holy shit!’ ” As a result, the hunt is always on for the next cache, and auction houses are constantly working relationships in the hope of securing the deaccession of a production’s original materials or a star’s personal property, the latter governed by the so-called Four D’s of estate sales: death, divorce, debt and downsizing. “That’s what I do all day,” says Joe Maddalena, owner of Profiles in History, who has handled a series of sales of Debbie Reynolds’ belongings before and after her 2016 death, grossing more than $25 million. Sansweet jokes, “I’ve been approached by several auction houses: ‘Any time you’re ready to sell!’ ” Reynolds was the industry’s own most famous collector of Hollywood memorabilia, accumulating items ranging from Dorothy’s Wizard of Oz ruby slippers and Marilyn Monroe’s white “subway grate” dress from The Seven Year Itch to a Charlie Chaplin bowler hat. (Now that title arguably belongs to Guillermo del Toro, who maintains Bleak House, a private suburban L.A. residence in the western San Fernando Valley, for his substantial holdings of horror props and other objects.) Reynolds began amassing her trove at what’s agreed to be the dawn of memorabilia collecting: When MGM, under financial pressure, unloaded its physical assets in a first-of-its-kind 1970 auction, resulting in an unprecedented flood of tens of thousands of relics. “I saw people coming in from New Orleans, taking back trucks’ worth of costumes for Mardi Gras,” recalls noted costume archivist and conservator Glenn Brown, who helped stage the event. (He also modeled key pieces onstage, including Clark Gable’s suede outfit from 1951’s Across the Wide Missouri.) “Now I’ll see items associated with the biggest names — Judy Garland, Joan Crawford — selling for 100 times what people paid for them, and others are making copies that are either faked or misidentified in [auction] catalogs, like a Rembrandt.” Adding to any authenticator’s challenge is pop culture collectibles’ unique paradox: These commodities are frequently ersatz objects in the first place, they weren’t usually built to last, their value is in most cases purely symbolic, and their wealthy buyers are, almost by definition, hopeless romantics when it comes to the glory of being deceived by screen illusions. “If [these individuals] were buying a company, they’d go up and down over it a million times and not take anyone’s word for it — they’d do due diligence,” posits Veep executive producer David Mandel, a major collector of Star Wars and comics paraphernalia. “But yet people buy stuff all the time and merrily go, ‘I don’t care.’ ” It’s also a category in which larceny and fraud can flourish because some of the structural safeguards found in analogous markets like the fine art world and sports memorabilia scene have yet to materialize. In addition, law enforcement has generally taken thievery in those other sectors more seriously than cases in the entertainment collectibles realm.

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Surfers Paradise Anglican Church’s raunchy road sign has jaws dropping

MANY people turn to the Lord for advice, but one Gold Coast church is preaching in an area you mightn’t expect they have a lot of expertise in. In towering letters outside their Surfers Paradise church, The Anglican Church of the Holy Spirit, a sign reads “FORGIVENESS IS SWALLOWING WHEN YOU’D RATHER SPIT”. The filthier minds might immediately go elsewhere, to an act the church doesn’t usually condone, but a spokesman at the church explained what it means. “You don’t open your mouth and yell at somebody, you close your mouth and swallow,” they said, confused as to why someone wouldn’t understand. “If you want to say something, keep your mouth closed for a bit. “Swallow it, don’t spit it out.” The sign was, ahem, erected by Reverend Mike Upton, who was on a day off today after a long, hard weekend of “preaching”. The sign has been met by incredulous locals who are having a laugh at the sign’s innocent gaffe, including Surfers Paradise “Member” of Parliament John-Paul Langbroek, who posted a selfie with the sign along with the caption “This will get the punters in …”. Mr Langbroek, a former dentist, said “As a dentist, maybe it’s a dental reference”. Heavily pregnant radio star Emily Jade O’Keeffe also commented “that’s a church I’d go to” So what do you reckon, naive mistake or genius marketing ploy? Either way, there will be more people getting down on their knees after seeing it. To pray, of course.

This story was from, ahem…”down under” in Australia..  Yeah..  You’re welcome.    🙂