Dec. 21 marks the winter solstice.
Regardless of the religion, ethnicity, or political party you’re associated with, you very likely celebrate a December holiday that revolves around the winter solstice. And what is that exactly?
A solstice is when the sun appears at its highest, northernmost point relative to the equator (the summer solstice) or its lowest, southernmost point (the winter solstice). The easiest way to think of the winter solstice is that it’s the date when the sun reaches its lowest annual altitude. From the winter solstice forward, the sun will get higher in the sky.
These end of times predictions didn't live up to their hype.
If the end is nigh—or tomorrow, according to the end of the Mayan calendar which abruptly stops on Dec. 21, 2012--then it wouldn’t be the first time. Since the beginning of recorded history, humans have predicted humanity’s extinction.
Not all omened end times attract attention. Some are more flamboyant--with their comets, planetary alignments, Antichrists and UFOs--than others.
Here are famous predictions that clearly didn’t bring about the end of the world, but offer us perspective on mankind’s enduring sense of precariousness.
Firearm ownership and violence in the U.S.
Right now, more than ever, gun control is a hot topic. The powerful gun lobby is once again at odds with reputable polls that indicate Americans believe in limits on gun use, reports The New York Times.
As both sides argue over the meaning of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," let's take a look at some of the facts surrounding gun ownership and violence in the U.S.
Violence in the U.S.
Kieran Healy, a sociologist at Duke University, made this graph of “deaths due to assault” in the United States and other developed countries.
As Healy writes, “The most striking features of the data are (1) how much more violent the U.S. is than other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries (except possibly Estonia and Mexico, not shown here), and (2) the degree of change—and recently, decline—there has been in the U.S. time series considered by itself.”
A shift in firearm purchases, and in attitude.
According to national polls and reports on firearm retailers, gun ownership among women in the U.S. has been steadily rising. The trend is coming to light following information provided by authorities that Nancy Lanza, who was shot by her son prior to his rampage on the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT, owned the weapons used to kill her, 20 elementary schoolchildren, and six adults.
Nancy Lanza has been linked to the two handguns and the semiautomatic rifle Adam Lanza took to the school, and to two additional hunting rifles.
NBC News reported in March that, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, gun-store owners have recorded a 73 percent increase in female customers in recent years (dates not specified).
Firearm ownership and homicides relative to the rest of the world.
Around the world, there are more than 656,000,000 firearms in the hands of civilians. A fresh batch of eight million small arms are manufactured every year, plus 10 to 15 billion rounds of ammunition. That’s enough to shoot every person in the world — twice.
Where does the U.S. rank in gun ownership and gun violence relative to other countries of the world?
As the Sandy Hook community tries to come to grips with the school shooting, residents wish the media would let them grieve in peace.
“Newtown is an honest and genuinely beautiful place,” wrote Newtown native Sean Beaudoin today in The Weeklings. The former Sandy Hook Elementary School student recalls “soft light and the friendly teachers and the smell of disinfectant on hallway tile,” as he reluctantly readies himself to return to his hometown for the holidays.
Less than a week ago, the small Connecticut town of just under 30,000 people was unknown to the better part of the world. Now, a media circus has descended upon Newtown as audiences from around the globe pay close attention to one of the grisliest crimes of the century.
“I turn on the TV and Anderson Cooper was on my street,” said a man at the General Store on Main Street Monday afternoon, reports DenverPost.com.
“Enough is enough,” another woman was quoted.
The extraordinary nature of ordinary people.
There have been times, too many times, like now when we need a reminder that people are at their core kind and good. That we look out for each other. That we don’t turn off the part of us that tells us to put someone else’s needs above our own wants.
Fortunately, you don’t have to look far. Doing right seldom makes the news, but here is a small sampling of stories that did in 2012. Tip of the hat to Gawker, which compiled 26 Moments that Restored Our Faith in Humanity This Year, with some moving images of people caught in the act of being good.
Never-before-seen story turns up in Danish archive
Once upon a time, there was a Danish author who wrote stories like The Ugly Duckling and Thumbelina. He wrote nearly 160 fanciful tales that set flight to young minds. Nearly 200 years after Hans Christian Andersen penned his first story, what is believed to be a previously unknown fairy tale by the author was discovered in a Danish archive, reports WIVB.com.