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28 aprile 2008

Religion a figment of human imagination

DOCUMENTI Andy Coghlan, New Scientist

Humans alone practice religion because they're the only creatures to have evolved imagination.

That's the argument of anthropologist Maurice Bloch of the London School of Economics. Bloch challenges the popular notion that religion evolved and spread because it promoted social bonding, as has been argued by some anthropologists.

Instead, he argues that first, we had to evolve the necessary brain architecture to imagine things and beings that don't physically exist, and the possibility that people somehow live on after they've died.

26 aprile 2008

Pray-in at S.F. gas station asks God to lower prices

DOCUMENTI David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle

Rocky Twyman has a radical solution for surging gasoline prices: prayer.

Twyman - a community organizer, church choir director and public relations consultant from the Washington, D.C., suburbs - staged a pray-in at a San Francisco Chevron station on Friday, asking God for cheaper gas. He did the same thing in the nation's Capitol on Wednesday, with volunteers from a soup kitchen joining in. Today he will lead members of an Oakland church in prayer.

Yes, it's come to that.

"God is the only one we can turn to at this point," said Twyman, 59. "Our leaders don't seem to be able to do anything about it. The prices keep soaring and soaring."

Gas prices have been driven relentlessly higher this year by the bull market for crude oil, gasoline's main ingredient. A gallon of regular now costs $3.89, on average, in California, while the national average has hit $3.58.

13 aprile 2008

In Italy, crime pays and may get you elected

DOCUMENTI Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times

Voters' ballot choices this weekend read like a laundry list of what ails the country.

ROME – When they vote this weekend, Italians can choose among any number of convicted felons or the odd TV go-go dancer on the ballot. Not to mention the personal friends, relatives and, in one case, the physical therapist of party leaders putting together potential governments. Crime does not disqualify you from running for office in this country, nor are qualifications necessarily necessary.

Campaign season for the election of Italy's 62nd government in the last 63 years has highlighted the long line of unresolved problems undermining the country, thwarting important change and stymieing what was once a fabled icon of culture.

A beautiful, romantic country of olive-dappled landscapes and cobblestoned piazzas famed for its food, fashion and bella figura, Italy is today a land awash in corruption, economic decay, political ennui, rampant impunity and a fast-declining standard of living. Inflation is among the highest in Western Europe, growth the lowest. Record numbers of people report feeling poorer than ever.