The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I, film review


This video from the USA is called The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 Final Trailer.

By Maria Duarte in Britain:

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part I (12A)

Directed by Francis Lawrence

4/5

THE BRUTAL Hunger Games are over and now the revolution against the totalitarian Capitol takes centrestage in this intelligent and thought-provoking third instalment of this franchise.

It’s fascinating to see the reluctant Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) being forced to embrace her destiny of becoming the leader and poster girl of the rebellion — the Mockingjay — in this virtually faithful adaptation of Suzanne Collins’s novel.

It picks up exactly where Catching Fire left off and in the process very cleverly explores the spin, manipulations and propaganda of war. It is compelling to watch how the rebellious Katniss is made camera-ready to star in propaganda videos to rally the rebels in other districts.

The transformation is carried out under the watchful eyes of the mysterious leader of District 13, President Coin (Julianne Moore), along with former Head Gamemaker and now one of the masterminds of the rebellion Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in his final role).

They are aided by Katniss’s determination to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) who is being tortured and possibly brainwashed by President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Lawrence is statuesque and awe-inspiring as Katniss as she obliterates her young counterparts on the screen. Her emotional transformation is extraordinary and moving.

Under Francis Lawrence’s skilled direction, this is a much darker and more menacing sequel in which the politics are even more riveting than the games themselves. Unfortunately we will have to wait till next year for what should be a nail-biting conclusion.

Another review is here.

Meteor shower in the USA tonight


This video says about itself:

Brilliant Leonids Meteor Shower November 17-18, 2014

6 November 2014

This year’s Leonids meteor shower peaks on the morning of Nov. 18. If forecasters are correct, the shower should produce a mild but pretty sprinkling of meteors. The waning crescent moon will not substantially interfere with viewing the Leonid shower.

Find a nearby location away from city lights, dressing warmly, and lie flat on your back and look straight up. No special viewing equipment needed — just your eyes.

For best viewing, wait until after midnight on Nov. 18, with the peak of the shower occurring just before sunrise.

You can see 10 to 15 meteors per hour.

Leonids are bits of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. Every 33 years the comet visits the inner solar system and leaves a stream of dusty debris in its wake. Many of these streams have drifted across the November portion of Earth’s orbit. Whenever our planet hits one, meteors appear to be flying out of the constellation Leo.

Some years, the Leonids can produce hundreds of meteors an hour.

And some years, the Leonids produce not showers of meteors, but storms. In 1833, for example, so many meteors streaked across the sky that their light awakened sleeping Americans. And in 1966, the Leonids produced up to 50 meteors every second across parts of the southwest.

Read more here.

By Jacqueline Howard in the USA:

How To See The 2014 Leonid Meteor Shower

1/16/2014 8:59 am EST

Here’s another chance to wish upon a shooting star: the 2014 Leonid Meteor Shower will peak overnight between Nov. 17 and 18, filling the sky with at least a sprinkling of meteors. And since the moon will be a waning crescent, the sky should be dark enough for a decent viewing.

“We’re predicting 10 to 15 meteors per hour,” Dr. Bill Cooke of the Meteoroid Environment Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a written statement. “For best viewing, wait until after midnight on Nov. 18, with the peak of the shower occurring just before sunrise.”

For skywatchers who will be unable to watch the show in person, Slooh Space Camera will live-stream the shower starting at 8 p.m. EST .

Mormon founder Joseph Smith’s 40 wives


A statue of Joseph Smith and his first wife, Emma, at Temple Square in Salt Lake City. Photo credit Jim McAuley for The New York Times

From the New York Times in the USA:

It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives

By LAURIE GOODSTEIN

NOV. 10, 2014

Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.

The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.

“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.

She said the reaction of some Mormons to the church’s disclosures resembled the five stages of grief in which the first stage is denial, and the second is anger. Members are saying on blogs and social media, “This is not the church I grew up with, this is not the Joseph Smith I love,” Ms. Jensen said.

Smith probably did not have sexual relations with all of his wives, because some were “sealed” to him only for the next life, according to the essays posted by the church. But for his first wife, Emma, polygamy was “an excruciating ordeal.”

The four treatises on polygamy reflect a new resolve by a church long accused of secrecy to respond with openness to the kind of thorny historical and theological issues that are causing some to become disillusioned or even to abandon the faith.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as the Mormon Church is formally known, has quietly posted 12 essays on its website over the last year on contentious topics such as the ban on blacks in the priesthood, which was lifted in 1978, and accounts of how Smith translated the Book of Mormon, the church’s sacred scripture.

Elder Steven E. Snow, the church historian and a member of its senior leadership, said in an interview, “There is so much out there on the Internet that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history.

“We need to be truthful, and we need to understand our history,” Elder Snow said. “I believe our history is full of stories of faith and devotion and sacrifice, but these people weren’t perfect.”

The essay on “plural marriage” in the early days of the Mormon movement in Ohio and Illinois says polygamy was commanded by God, revealed to Smith and accepted by him and his followers only very reluctantly. Abraham and other Old Testament patriarchs had multiple wives, and Smith preached that his church was the “restoration” of the early, true Christian church.

Most of Smith’s wives were between the ages of 20 and 40, the essay says, but he married Helen Mar Kimball, a daughter of two close friends, “several months before her 15th birthday.” A footnote says that according to “careful estimates,” Smith had 30 to 40 wives.

The biggest bombshell for some in the essays is that Smith married women who were already married, some to men who were Smith’s friends and followers.

The essays held nothing back, said Richard L. Bushman, emeritus professor of history at Columbia University and author of the book “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling.”

Dr. Bushman said of church leaders: “Somewhere along the line they decided they were just going to tell the whole story, not to be defensive, not to try to hide anything. And there’s no single fact that’s more unsettling than Joseph Smith’s marriage to other men’s wives.

“It’s a recognition of maturity,” said Dr. Bushman, who is a Mormon. “There are lots of church leaders who say: ‘We can take anything, just let us know how it really happened. We’re a church that is secure.’ ”

The younger generation of Mormons will benefit from this step, said Samantha Shelley, co-founder of the website MillennialMormons.com in Provo, Utah.

She said she knew of Smith’s polygamous past, but “it’s so easy for people these days to stumble upon something on the Internet, and it rocks their world and they don’t know where to turn.”

In 1890, under pressure by the American government, the church issued a manifesto formally ending polygamy. The church’s essay on this phase admits that some members and even leaders did not abandon the practice for years.

But the church did renounce polygamy, and Mormons who refused to do the same eventually broke away and formed splinter churches, some that still exist. Warren Jeffs, the leader of one such group, was convicted in Texas in 2011 of child sexual assault.

There remains one way in which polygamy is still a part of Mormon belief: The church teaches that a man who was “sealed” in marriage to his wife in a temple ritual, then loses his wife to death or divorce, can be sealed to a second wife and would be married to both wives in the afterlife. However, women who have been divorced or widowed cannot be sealed to more than one man.

Kristine Haglund, the editor of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, said that while she found the church’s new transparency “really hopeful,” she and other women she had talked with were disturbed that the essays do not address the painful teaching about polygamy in eternity.

“These are real issues for Mormon women,” Ms. Haglund said. “And because the church has never said definitively that polygamy won’t be practiced in heaven, even very devout and quite conservative women are really troubled by it.”

The church historian, Elder Snow, said that the process of writing the essays began in May 2012. Each one was drafted by a scholar, often outside the church history department, then edited by church historians and leaders, and vetted by the church’s top authorities. They may issue one more essay, on women and the priesthood, an issue that has grown increasingly controversial as some Mormon women have mobilized to challenge the male-only priesthood.

The church has not publicly announced the posting of the essays, and many Mormons said in interviews that they were not even aware of them. They are not visible on the church’s home page; finding them requires a search or a link. Elder Snow said he anticipated that the contents would eventually be “woven into future curriculum” for adults and youths.

The church recently released an informational video about the distinctive Mormon underwear called “temple garments” — and it received far more attention among Mormons and in the news media than the essays on polygamy.

Sarah Barringer Gordon, a professor of constitutional law and history at the University of Pennsylvania, and a non-Mormon who has studied the Mormon Church, said it had dealt with transparency about its past before this, addressing Mormon leaders’ complicity in an attack on a wagon train crossing southern Utah in 1857, known as the Mountain Meadows massacre. But she said this recent emphasis on transparency by the church was both unprecedented and smart.

“What you want to do is get out ahead of the problem, and not have someone say, ‘Look at this damaging thing I found that you were trying to keep secret,’ ” she said.

See also here.

Hellbenders in Appalachia, USA


This video says about itself:

The Last Dragons – Protecting Appalachia‘s Hellbenders

An intimate glimpse at North America’s Eastern Hellbender, an ancient salamander that lives as much in myth as in reality…. and in many waters, myths are all that remain of these sentinel stream-dwellers.

9 min. Closed Captioned in English & Spanish. Produced by Freshwaters Illustrated in Partnership with the US Forest Service.

From the Bites @ Animal Planet blog in the USA:

Meet the Hellbender

By: David Mizejewski

Just in time for Halloween, I introduce you to the hellbender.

No, it’s not one of Satan’s minions or a CGI monster. It’s a type of salamander native to the streams and rivers of eastern North America.  Despite its demonic-sounding name, this spectacular amphibian is completely harmless to people. Yet the species is rapidly declining due to human activity such as deforestation, erosion and chemical runoff into our streams–which is the real horror story.

Watch this video put out by the Forest Service and partners about one of North America’s most fascinating and little-known wild animals. …

Save Appalachian streams and the hellbenders that live in them with National Wildlife Federation.