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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Red Sex, Blue Sex

by Margaret Talbot


The “sexual début” of an evangelical girl typically occurs just after she turns sixteen. Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark.

The “sexual début” of an evangelical girl typically occurs just after she turns sixteen. Photograph by Mary Ellen Mark.


In early September, when Sarah Palin, the Republican candidate for Vice-President, announced that her unwed seventeen-year-old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant, many liberals were shocked, not by the revelation but by the reaction to it. They expected the news to dismay the evangelical voters that John McCain was courting with his choice of Palin. Yet reports from the floor of the Republican Convention, in St. Paul, quoted dozens of delegates who seemed unfazed, or even buoyed, by the news. A delegate from Louisiana told CBS News, “Like so many other American families who are in the same situation, I think it’s great that she instilled in her daughter the values to have the child and not to sneak off someplace and have an abortion.” A Mississippi delegate claimed that “even though young children are making that decision to become pregnant, they’ve also decided to take responsibility for their actions and decided to follow up with that and get married and raise this child.” Palin’s family drama, delegates said, was similar to the experience of many socially conservative Christian families. As Marlys Popma, the head of evangelical outreach for the McCain campaign, told National Review, “There hasn’t been one evangelical family that hasn’t gone through some sort of situation.” In fact, it was Popma’s own “crisis pregnancy” that had brought her into the movement in the first place.

During the campaign, the media has largely respected calls to treat Bristol Palin’s pregnancy as a private matter. But the reactions to it have exposed a cultural rift that mirrors America’s dominant political divide. Social liberals in the country’s “blue states” tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter’s pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in “red states” generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn’t choose to have an abortion.

A handful of social scientists and family-law scholars have recently begun looking closely at this split. Last year, Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, published a startling book called “Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers,” and he is working on a follow-up that includes a section titled “Red Sex, Blue Sex.” His findings are drawn from a national survey that Regnerus and his colleagues conducted of some thirty-four hundred thirteen-to-seventeen-year-olds, and from a comprehensive government study of adolescent health known as Add Health. Regnerus argues that religion is a good indicator of attitudes toward sex, but a poor one of sexual behavior, and that this gap is especially wide among teen-agers who identify themselves as evangelical. The vast majority of white evangelical adolescents—seventy-four per cent—say that they believe in abstaining from sex before marriage. (Only half of mainline Protestants, and a quarter of Jews, say that they believe in abstinence.) Moreover, among the major religious groups, evangelical virgins are the least likely to anticipate that sex will be pleasurable, and the most likely to believe that having sex will cause their partners to lose respect for them. (Jews most often cite pleasure as a reason to have sex, and say that an unplanned pregnancy would be an embarrassment.) But, according to Add Health data, evangelical teen-agers are more sexually active than Mormons, mainline Protestants, and Jews. On average, white evangelical Protestants make their “sexual début”—to use the festive term of social-science researchers—shortly after turning sixteen. Among major religious groups, only black Protestants begin having sex earlier.

Another key difference in behavior, Regnerus reports, is that evangelical Protestant teen-agers are significantly less likely than other groups to use contraception. This could be because evangelicals are also among the most likely to believe that using contraception will send the message that they are looking for sex. It could also be because many evangelicals are steeped in the abstinence movement’s warnings that condoms won’t actually protect them from pregnancy or venereal disease. More provocatively, Regnerus found that only half of sexually active teen-agers who say that they seek guidance from God or the Scriptures when making a tough decision report using contraception every time. By contrast, sixty-nine per cent of sexually active youth who say that they most often follow the counsel of a parent or another trusted adult consistently use protection.

The gulf between sexual belief and sexual behavior becomes apparent, too, when you look at the outcomes of abstinence-pledge movements. Nationwide, according to a 2001 estimate, some two and a half million people have taken a pledge to remain celibate until marriage. Usually, they do so under the auspices of movements such as True Love Waits or the Silver Ring Thing. Sometimes, they make their vows at big rallies featuring Christian pop stars and laser light shows, or at purity balls, where girls in frothy dresses exchange rings with their fathers, who vow to help them remain virgins until the day they marry. More than half of those who take such pledges—which, unlike abstinence-only classes in public schools, are explicitly Christian—end up having sex before marriage, and not usually with their future spouse. The movement is not the complete washout its critics portray it as: pledgers delay sex eighteen months longer than non-pledgers, and have fewer partners. Yet, according to the sociologists Peter Bearman, of Columbia University, and Hannah Brückner, of Yale, communities with high rates of pledging also have high rates of S.T.D.s. This could be because more teens pledge in communities where they perceive more danger from sex (in which case the pledge is doing some good); or it could be because fewer people in these communities use condoms when they break the pledge.

Bearman and Brückner have also identified a peculiar dilemma: in some schools, if too many teens pledge, the effort basically collapses. Pledgers apparently gather strength from the sense that they are an embattled minority; once their numbers exceed thirty per cent, and proclaimed chastity becomes the norm, that special identity is lost. With such a fragile formula, it’s hard to imagine how educators can ever get it right: once the self-proclaimed virgin clique hits the thirty-one-per-cent mark, suddenly it’s Sodom and Gomorrah.

Religious belief apparently does make a potent difference in behavior for one group of evangelical teen-agers: those who score highest on measures of religiosity—such as how often they go to church, or how often they pray at home. But many Americans who identify themselves as evangelicals, and who hold socially conservative beliefs, aren’t deeply observant.

Even more important than religious conviction, Regnerus argues, is how “embedded” a teen-ager is in a network of friends, family, and institutions that reinforce his or her goal of delaying sex, and that offer a plausible alternative to America’s sexed-up consumer culture. A church, of course, isn’t the only way to provide a cohesive sense of community. Close-knit families make a difference. Teen-agers who live with both biological parents are more likely to be virgins than those who do not. And adolescents who say that their families understand them, pay attention to their concerns, and have fun with them are more likely to delay intercourse, regardless of religiosity.

A terrific 2005 documentary, “The Education of Shelby Knox,” tells the story of a teen-ager from a Southern Baptist family in Lubbock, Texas, who has taken a True Love Waits pledge. To the chagrin of her youth pastor, and many of her neighbors, Knox eventually becomes an activist for comprehensive sex education. At her high school, kids receive abstinence-only education, but, Knox says, “maybe twice a week I see a girl walking down the hall pregnant.” In the film, Knox seems successful at remaining chaste, but less because she took a pledge than because she has a fearlessly independent mind and the kind of parents who—despite their own conservative leanings—admire her outspokenness. Devout Republicans, her parents end up driving her around town to make speeches that would have curled their hair before their daughter started making them. Her mother even comes to take pride in Shelby’s efforts, because while abstinence pledges are lovely in the abstract, they don’t acknowledge “reality.”

Like other American teens, young evangelicals live in a world of Internet porn, celebrity sex scandals, and raunchy reality TV, and they have the same hormonal urges that their peers have. Yet they come from families and communities in which sexual life is supposed to be forestalled until the first night of a transcendent honeymoon. Regnerus writes, “In such an atmosphere, attitudes about sex may formally remain unchanged (and restrictive) while sexual activity becomes increasingly common. This clash of cultures and norms is felt most poignantly in the so-called Bible Belt.” Symbolic commitment to the institution of marriage remains strong there, and politically motivating—hence the drive to outlaw gay marriage—but the actual practice of it is scattershot.

Among blue-state social liberals, commitment to the institution of marriage tends to be unspoken or discreet, but marriage in practice typically works pretty well. Two family-law scholars, Naomi Cahn, of George Washington University, and June Carbone, of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, are writing a book on the subject, and they argue that “red families” and “blue families” are “living different lives, with different moral imperatives.” (They emphasize that the Republican-Democrat divide is less important than the higher concentration of “moral-values voters” in red states.) In 2004, the states with the highest divorce rates were Nevada, Arkansas, Wyoming, Idaho, and West Virginia (all red states in the 2004 election); those with the lowest were Illinois, Massachusetts, Iowa, Minnesota, and New Jersey. The highest teen-pregnancy rates were in Nevada, Arizona, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas (all red); the lowest were in North Dakota, Vermont, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Maine (blue except for North Dakota). “The ‘blue states’ of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have lower teen birthrates, higher use of abortion, and lower percentages of teen births within marriage,” Cahn and Carbone observe. They also note that people start families earlier in red states—in part because they are more inclined to deal with an unplanned pregnancy by marrying rather than by seeking an abortion.

Of all variables, the age at marriage may be the pivotal difference between red and blue families. The five states with the lowest median age at marriage are Utah, Oklahoma, Idaho, Arkansas, and Kentucky, all red states, while those with the highest are all blue: Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey. The red-state model puts couples at greater risk for divorce; women who marry before their mid-twenties are significantly more likely to divorce than those who marry later. And younger couples are more likely to be contending with two of the biggest stressors on a marriage: financial struggles and the birth of a baby before, or soon after, the wedding.

There are, of course, plenty of exceptions to these rules—messily divorcing professional couples in Boston, high-school sweethearts who stay sweetly together in rural Idaho. Still, Cahn and Carbone conclude, “the paradigmatic red-state couple enters marriage not long after the woman becomes sexually active, has two children by her mid-twenties, and reaches the critical period of marriage at the high point in the life cycle for risk-taking and experimentation. The paradigmatic blue-state couple is more likely to experiment with multiple partners, postpone marriage until after they reach emotional and financial maturity, and have their children (if they have them at all) as their lives are stabilizing.”

Some of these differences in sexual behavior come down to class and education. Regnerus and Carbone and Cahn all see a new and distinct “middle-class morality” taking shape among economically and socially advantaged families who are not social conservatives. In Regnerus’s survey, the teen-agers who espouse this new morality are tolerant of premarital sex (and of contraception and abortion) but are themselves cautious about pursuing it. Regnerus writes, “They are interested in remaining free from the burden of teenage pregnancy and the sorrows and embarrassments of sexually transmitted diseases. They perceive a bright future for themselves, one with college, advanced degrees, a career, and a family. Simply put, too much seems at stake. Sexual intercourse is not worth the risks.” These are the kids who tend to score high on measures of “strategic orientation”—how analytical, methodical, and fact-seeking they are when making decisions. Because these teen-agers see abstinence as unrealistic, they are not opposed in principle to sex before marriage—just careful about it. Accordingly, they might delay intercourse in favor of oral sex, not because they cherish the idea of remaining “technical virgins” but because they assess it as a safer option. “Solidly middle- or upper-middle-class adolescents have considerable socioeconomic and educational expectations, courtesy of their parents and their communities’ lifestyles,” Regnerus writes. “They are happy with their direction, generally not rebellious, tend to get along with their parents, and have few moral qualms about expressing their nascent sexuality.” They might have loved Ellen Page in “Juno,” but in real life they’d see having a baby at the wrong time as a tragic derailment of their life plans. For this group, Regnerus says, unprotected sex has become “a moral issue like smoking or driving a car without a seatbelt. It’s not just unwise anymore; it’s wrong.”

Each of these models of sexual behavior has drawbacks—in the blue-state scheme, people may postpone child-bearing to the point where infertility becomes an issue. And delaying child-bearing is better suited to the more affluent, for whom it yields economic benefits, in the form of educational opportunities and career advancement. But Carbone and Cahn argue that the red-state model is clearly failing on its own terms—producing high rates of teen pregnancy, divorce, sexually transmitted disease, and other dysfunctional outcomes that social conservatives say they abhor. In “Forbidden Fruit,” Regnerus offers an “unscientific postscript,” in which he advises social conservatives that if they really want to maintain their commitment to chastity and to marriage, they’ll need to do more to help young couples stay married longer. As the Reverend Rick Marks, a Southern Baptist minister, recently pointed out in a Florida newspaper, “Evangelicals are fighting gay marriage, saying it will break down traditional marriage, when divorce has already broken it down.” Conservatives may need to start talking as much about saving marriages as they do about, say, saving oneself for marriage.

“Having to wait until age twenty-five or thirty to have sex is unreasonable,” Regnerus writes. He argues that religious organizations that advocate chastity should “work more creatively to support younger marriages. This is not the 1950s (for which I am glad), where one could bank on social norms, extended (and larger) families, and clear gender roles to negotiate and sustain early family formation.”

Evangelicals could start, perhaps, by trying to untangle the contradictory portrayals of sex that they offer to teen-agers. In the Shelby Knox documentary, a youth pastor, addressing an assembly of teens, defines intercourse as “what two dogs do out on the street corner—they just bump and grind awhile, boom boom boom.” Yet a typical evangelical text aimed at young people, “Every Young Woman’s Battle,” by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn, portrays sex between two virgins as an ethereal communion of innocent souls: “physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pleasure beyond description.” Neither is the most realistic or helpful view for a young person to take into marriage, as a few advocates of abstinence acknowledge. The savvy young Christian writer Lauren Winner, in her book “Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity,” writes, “Rather than spending our unmarried years stewarding and disciplining our desires, we have become ashamed of them. We persuade ourselves that the desires themselves are horrible. This can have real consequences if we do get married.” Teenagers and single adults are “told over and over not to have sex, but no one ever encourages” them “to be bodily or sensual in some appropriate way”—getting to know and appreciate what their bodies can do through sports, especially for girls, or even thinking sensually about something like food. Winner goes on, “This doesn’t mean, of course, that if only the church sponsored more softball leagues, everyone would stay on the chaste straight and narrow. But it does mean that the church ought to cultivate ways of teaching Christians to live in their bodies well—so that unmarried folks can still be bodily people, even though they’re not having sex, and so that married people can give themselves to sex freely.”

Too often, though, evangelical literature directed at teen-agers forbids all forms of sexual behavior, even masturbation. “Every Young Woman’s Battle,” for example, tells teen-agers that “the momentary relief” of “self-gratification” can lead to “shame, low self-esteem, and fear of what others might think or that something is wrong with you.” And it won’t slake sexual desire: “Once you begin feeding baby monsters, their appetites grow bigger and they want MORE! It’s better not to feed such a monster in the first place.”

Shelby Knox, who spoke at a congressional hearing on sex education earlier this year, occupies a middle ground. She testified that it’s possible to “believe in abstinence in a religious sense,” but still understand that abstinence-only education is dangerous “for students who simply are not abstaining.” As Knox’s approach makes clear, you don’t need to break out the sex toys to teach sex ed—you can encourage teen-agers to postpone sex for all kinds of practical, emotional, and moral reasons. A new “abstinence-plus” curriculum, now growing in popularity, urges abstinence while providing accurate information about contraception and reproduction for those who have sex anyway. “Abstinence works,” Knox said at the hearing. “Abstinence-only-until-marriage does not.”

It might help, too, not to present virginity as the cornerstone of a virtuous life. In certain evangelical circles, the concept is so emphasized that a girl who regrets having been sexually active is encouraged to declare herself a “secondary” or “born-again” virgin. That’s not an idea, surely, that helps teen-agers postpone sex or have it responsibly.

The “pro-family” efforts of social conservatives—the campaigns against gay marriage and abortion—do nothing to instill the emotional discipline or the psychological smarts that forsaking all others often involves. Evangelicals are very good at articulating their sexual ideals, but they have little practical advice for their young followers. Social liberals, meanwhile, are not very good at articulating values on marriage and teen sexuality—indeed, they may feel that it’s unseemly or judgmental to do so. But in fact the new middle-class morality is squarely pro-family. Maybe these choices weren’t originally about values—maybe they were about maximizing education and careers—yet the result is a more stable family system. Not only do couples who marry later stay married longer; children born to older couples fare better on a variety of measures, including educational attainment, regardless of their parents’ economic circumstances. The new middle-class culture of intensive parenting has ridiculous aspects, but it’s pretty successful at turning out productive, emotionally resilient young adults. And its intensity may be one reason that teen-agers from close families see child-rearing as a project for which they’re not yet ready. For too long, the conventional wisdom has been that social conservatives are the upholders of family values, whereas liberals are the proponents of a polymorphous selfishness. This isn’t true, and, every once in a while, liberals might point that out.

Some evangelical Christians are starting to reckon with the failings of the preaching-and-pledging approach. In “The Education of Shelby Knox,” for example, Shelby’s father is uncomfortable, at first, with his daughter’s campaign. Lubbock, after all, is a town so conservative that its local youth pastor tells Shelby, “You ask me sometimes why I look at you a little funny. It’s because I hear you speak and I hear tolerance.” But as her father listens to her arguments he realizes that the no-tolerance ethic simply hasn’t worked in their deeply Christian community. Too many girls in town are having sex, and having babies that they can’t support. As Shelby’s father declares toward the end of the film, teen-age pregnancy “is a problem—a major, major problem that everybody’s just shoving under the rug.”

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Tesla’s Lightning Competition

by Aaron Turpen in Electric Cars

Lightning Car

We Americans have the Tesla Roadster, the electric car which does zero to sixty in four seconds. The British now have the Lightning, the electric car which does…you guessed it, zero to sixty in four seconds.

Built by the Lightning Car Company of England, this all-electric sports car has some impressive features (to go with its impressive price tag). It’s 700hp electric motor system has a top speed of over 130mph and has an innovative design.


Lightning Electric Car


Lightning Electric Car

Notice I said “system” and not “motor?” That’s because the car doesn’t have one electric motor, but four: one in each wheel. This allows for less waste because of power transfers from motor to drive train to wheels. It also allows for more efficient regenerative braking, which most intelligent electrics are using now, wherein the power used to brake the wheels to slow or stop the vehicle is also used to recharge the batteries by capturing the inertia and re-converting it back to electricity.

While you may or may not see this car in the next Bond film, don’t expect anyone besides him to be able to afford it. With a price of a whopping 120,000 British Pounds (about $240,000 American) and reservation payment of 3,500 British Pounds, you’ll have to really, really want to go electric to get one. For the rest of Britain, there’s always the G-Wiz, I guess.

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Banksy graffiti of giant machine gun-toting rat DOUBLES the value of a derelict pub

By Daily Mail Reporter

A bizarre bidding frenzy has broken out over a derelict pub... because it is adorned with Britain's most valuable piece of Banksy graffiti.

The Whitehouse pub is on the market for just £495,000, but art experts say the huge image of a rat holding a machine gun that covers the building could be worth £1 million.

Despite the housing market slump, with average prices in Liverpool falling by 16 per cent, estate agents Sutton Kersh have been inundated with offers above the asking price.

But the majority of bids have been from canny investors wanting to buy the graffiti at a bargain basement price.

Banksy Rat

Valuable: The giant rat was commissioned from the secretive artist in 2004 as part of a Liverpool-wide art festival

Bristol-born Banksy daubed the giant masterpiece on the Georgian building in Berry Street as part of Liverpool's Biennial art programme in 2004.

The then relatively underground artist spent a week on Merseyside, painting various buildings with his tag, before he found world-wide fame with his politically charged images.

As an official commission the work is a rarity for Banksy who has stopped authenticating his work to discourage dealers from cashing in.

Banksy has now conquered the art world, selling his unique pieces for millions, and counts Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie among his fans.

Urban art specialists Purple Revolver, who have campaigned for the giant Banksy to be preserved, said it would easily fetch more than £1 million at auction.

Director Amber Tan said: 'This is Britain's biggest Banksy, painted while he was still relatively unknown and the value reflects its size.

'As a graffiti artist, Banksy has gained international acclaim for his works, many of which now command millions at auction.

'The asking price for the pub makes it a bargain and it wouldn't be a surprise if it fetched three times that.

'The buyer will effectively be getting a giant Banksy free with the pub.

'There is no reason why the graffiti could not be worked into any future renovation scheme, as it is a major tourist attraction.'

A spokesman for Liverpool-based estate agents Sutton Kersh said: "We have been inundated with offers for the building.

'The pub is a Grade II listed building and we're selling it as a development opportunity.

'We are aware that the Banksy was commissioned to paint it in 2004 and many of offers since it went on the market have been from art dealers.'

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Andy Burnham: 'Churches should be turned into gyms'

By Chris Irvine

Interior of All Souls Church in Bolton
All Souls church in Bolton had been standing empty for over 20 years before plans were made for development. Photo: Rii Schroer

Mr Burnham said while it was important to preserve the architectural beauty of some of the churches, many of which have listed status, they may serve the community better by becoming secular.

His comments follow his suggestion earlier this month that libraries could benefit from being modernised with coffee bars and abolishing the silence rule.

Mr Burnham said if the UK could not preserve its churches: "We need to find new purposes with the support of the local community and we need to increase secular interest in our church heritage."

He used the example of the recent multi-million pound renovation of All Souls Church in Bolton, an Anglican church which has "found a new multi-faith, multi-racial community to serve."

He added: "My department worked with The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) to save All Souls.

"The CCT came up with a brilliant solution. The community did not need a museum piece but they did need somewhere to meet. They needed a gym, a health centre, space for community education and space for inter-faith learning."

He also used an example of a former church, St Peter's in Liverpool, which had been turned into a themed restaurant and bar called Alma De Cuba in 2005.

"My mum said the last time she set foot in the building was 40 years ago for confession," he said, adding "Not everyone will be happy with that transformation. Part of me was uneasy but to her credit, my mum, a good Scouse Catholic, shrugged and raised a glass."

A Church of England spokesman said Mr Burnham's suggestion would only apply to a minority of its 10,000 churches now deemed redundant - about 30 a year.

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Phoenicians Left Deep Genetic Mark, Study Shows

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD

The Phoenicians, enigmatic people from the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, stamped their mark on maritime history, and now research has revealed that they also left a lasting genetic imprint.

Scientists reported Thursday that as many as 1 in 17 men living today on the coasts of North Africa and southern Europe may have a Phoenician direct male-line ancestor.

These men were found to retain identifiable genetic signatures from the nearly 1,000 years the Phoenicians were a dominant seafaring commercial power in the Mediterranean basin, until their conquest by Rome in the 2nd century B.C.

The Phoenicians who founded Carthage, a great city that rivaled Rome. They introduced the alphabet to writing systems, exported cedars of Lebanon for shipbuilding and marketed the regal purple dye made from the murex shell. The name Phoenica, for their base in what is present-day Lebanon and southern Syria, means “land of purple.”

Then the Phoenicians, their fortunes in sharp decline after defeat in the Punic Wars, disappeared as a distinct culture. The monumental ruins of Carthage, at modern Tunis, are about the only visible reminders of their former greatness.

The scientists who conducted the new research said this was the first application of a new analytic method for detecting especially subtle genetic influences of historical population migrations. Such investigations, supplementing the traditional stones-and-bones work of archaeology, are contributing to a deeper understanding of human mobility over time.

The study was directed by the Genographic Project, a partnership of the National Geographic Society and IBM Corporation, with additional support from the Waitt Family Foundation. The international team described the findings in the current American Journal of Human Genetics.

“When we started, we knew nothing about the genetics of the Phoenicians,” Chris Tyler-Smith, a geneticist at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England, said in an announcement. “All we had to guide us was history: we knew where they had and hadn’t settled.”

It proved to be enough, Dr. Tyler-Smith and Spencer Wells, a geneticist who directs the Genographic Project, said in telephone interviews.

Samples of the male Y-chromosome were collected from 1,330 men now living at six sites known to have been settled in antiquity as colonies and trading outposts of the Phoenicians. The sites were in Cyprus, Malta, Morocco, the West Bank, Syria and Tunisia.

Each participant, whose inner cheek was swabbed for the samples, had at least three generations of indigenous ancestry at the site. To this was added data already available from Lebanon and previously published chromosome findings from nearly 6,000 men at 56 sites throughout the Mediterranean region. The data were then compared with similar research from neighboring communities having no link to Phoenician settlers.

From the research emerged a distinctive Phoenician genetic signature, in contrast to genetic traces spread by other migrations, like those of late Stone-Age farmers, Greek colonists and the Jewish Diaspora. The scientists thus concluded that, for example, one boy in each school class from Cyprus to Tunis may be a descendant of Phoenician traders.

“We were lucky in one respect,” Pierre A. Zalloua, a geneticist at Lebanese American University in Beirut who was a principal author of the journal report, said in an interview. “So many Phoenician settlement sites were geographically close to non-Phoenician sites, making it easier to distinguish differences in genetic patterns.”

In the journal article, the researchers wrote that the work “underscores the effectiveness of Y-chromosomal variability” in tracing human migrations. “Our methodology,” they concluded, “can be applied to any historically documented expansion in which contact and noncontact sites can be identified.”

Dr. Zalloua said that with further research it might be possible to refine genetic patterns to reveal phases of the Phoenician expansion over time — “first to Cyprus, then Malta and Africa, all the way to Spain.” Perhaps, he added, the genes may hold clues to which Phoenician cities — Byblos, Tyre or Sidon — settled certain colonies.

Dr. Wells, a specialist in applying genetics to migration studies who is also an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, suggested that similar projects in the future could investigate the genetic imprint from the Celtic expansion across the European continent, the Inca through South America, Alexander’s march through central and south Asia and multicultural traffic on the Silk Road.

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The Ghoulish Truth Behind Popular Horror Stories

By: Natalie Josef (View Profile)


Have you ever met anyone who found a razorblade in a Halloween treat? I heard this growing up and I remember parents being freaked out, but I don’t remember ever receiving an apple as a treat. My little-kid brain imagined a psycho killer installing some crazy metal contraption that would burst out of the apple and shred the lips off my face … actually, that’s still what I imagine. Scary!

But is there any truth to these scary stories? What really goes bump in the night?

Razorblades and Needles in Halloween Apples
True … well, kind of.
In his book, Halloween and Other Festivals of Death and Life, author Jack Satino writes that these legends started in the mid-60s and nearly all turned out to be hoaxes. Razorblades and needles were indeed found by children, but it turns out that the majority of the time, they were placed there by the children themselves to feed the rumors or to simply freak out a younger sibling. The most serious injury of all these needed only a few stitches. The candy industry supported a study in the 1980s showing the same results. Joel Best, chairperson of sociology at the University of Delaware, who researched forty years of newspapers said, “Tainted Halloween candy is a contemporary legend, spread by word of mouth, with little to support it.”

Halloween Decoration or Suicide?
True
In 2005, a woman hung by a rope in a tree for hours on a moderately busy road in Delaware. She was seen by dozens of people who just assumed it was a Halloween decoration. Well, they were wrong … dead wrong. The woman had indeed committed suicide. According to Fay Glanden, wife of the town’s mayor, William Glanden, “It looked like something somebody would have rigged up.” There have also been many cases of teenagers “pretending” to hang themselves for Halloween pranks who have also died. The lesson here? Don’t commit (or pretend to commit) suicide on Halloween—who wants to end up on the Web as a casualty in an urban legend?

Bloody Mary x13
False … or is it?
Rumor has it that if you go into a darkened room, lit only with a candle, and chant “Bloody Mary” thirteen times in front of a mirror, you’ll see Mary behind your left shoulder. Then Mary will either: pull you into the mirror with her, scratch your eyes out, drive you mad, or just kill you on the spot. In older stories, Mary is an executed witch; in more modern stories, she is a victim of a car crash that left her hideously disfigured. However, she is not Mary I of England who got the nickname “Bloody Mary” for her penchant for killing young girls to bathe in their blood, which supposedly preserved her youthful appearance. Ultimately, there is no “truth” to this legend, but you can certainly freak yourself out when trying this, which is what Halloween is all about anyway.

Don’t Bury Me … I’m Not Dead
True
The story goes that a man is buried and then later they find scratch marks and additional signs of a person desperately trying to escape (why they dug up the coffin in the first place is beyond me). This legend isn’t just true—it’s ridiculously true. Thank God for modern medicine and those beeping heart machines. Back in the day, people who appeared dead (mostly due to a lead poisoning-induced coma) were pronounced dead and then buried. Being buried alive was actually common; so common in fact, that wealthy people were buried in “safety coffins,” in which the undead could ring a bell or raise a flag to let the outside world know a grave mistake had been made. “Saved by the bell” is not only a terrific TV show; it’s what people used to say when a dead dude was rescued from his premature burial.

True Hollywood Stories
True
Hello, Clarice … I seriously freaked out the first time I saw Silence of the Lambs. The “it rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again” quote, Buffalo Bill’s weird sex skin dance, Anthony Hopkins and his fava beans thing—that’s some scary stuff. (FYI—the reason Hopkins was so terrifying in that movie is because he never blinks and he was only on camera for seventeen minutes.) The character of Buffalo Bill is based on real-life killer and grave robber, Ed Gein. When police stormed Ed’s property in 1957, they found a wide array of truly ghoulish items: human skulls on the bedposts; chairs, lampshades, socks, a vest made out of skin, and soup bowls made out of human skullcaps. Gein also inspired the characters of Norman Bates (Psycho) and Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

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