The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: January 26, 2018 — Frozen Edition
No season of the soul
strips clear the face of God
save cold and frozen wind
upon the frozen sod.
• • •
The week ahead is forecast to have the coldest temperatures of the season across the U.S., as the polar vortex drops down from the Arctic Circle to the upper Great Lakes. As USA Today reports:
Using words such as “life-threatening,” “dangerous,” “brutal,” and “unprecedented,” the National Weather Service is preparing us for the extreme cold that’s forecast to roar into the U.S. next week.
“The coldest air of the season will plunge the upper Midwest and Great Lakes into life-threatening conditions” next week, the weather service said Friday. The cold will be most intense from Tuesday through Thursday.
And although the worst of the cold will be over the north-central region, practically the entire eastern two-thirds of the nation will see freezing temperatures, all the way down to central Florida. That’s nearly 200 million people.
In light of the coming cold blast, let us ponder a few frozen things…
The Frozen Doomsday Clock
Braun Strowman’s frozen plunge to benefit Boys & Girls Clubs
Natural frozen ice sculptures along Lake Erie
And of course, the Frozen Man.
• • •
DEFINITELY NOT FROZEN…
Meanwhile, as our friends from Down Under have been telling us here at IM, Australia is suffering from a devastating heat wave. Here’s one report, from the Daily Beast:
Australia—which is in the midst of its summer—has been gripped by a heatwave since November that continues to break records across the country. According to the Guardian, the country recorded its hottest December on record;five of the ten hottest days on record are from last week. The extreme temperatures have killed bats on a “biblical scale,” as well as over a million fish in a river in the southeastern region, according to the Independent. The Australian government’s Bureau of Meteorology blamed climate change for the heatwaves in their 2018 State of the Climate report, and warned of “further increases in sea and air temperatures, with more hot days and marine heatwaves.”
The Guardian reported that humans have not been immune to the long heatwave, either, with dozens of patients checking in to hospitals with heat-related conditions. Health officials have declared the heatwave a threat to public safety, encouraging people to take precautions by limiting time outdoors as much as possible to avoid sun exposure. The extreme temperatures have also caused wildfire deaths, bush fires and an increase in hospital admissions, according to the BBC.
…The Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology said in their 2018 State of the Climate Report that the ocean surrounding Australia has warmed by one degree celsius since 1910 and continues to warm, contributing to longer and more frequent heat waves. Based on their projections, Australia will continue to have less and less cold extremes over the years, and more hot days, heatwaves and droughts.
• • •
FROZEN US GOV’T THAWS…AT LEAST FOR NOW
Friday, President Trump signed a short-term spending bill to re-open the government, ending the longest partial federal government shutdown in U.S. history. Trump signed the stop-gap spending bill just hours after the measure passed the Senate and House. Here are some of the perspectives that were expressed about this:
- President Trump: “I am very proud to announce we have reached a deal to end the shutdown and reopen the federal government…”
- Sen. Charles Schumer: “I hope the president has learned his lesson.”
- Sen. Bernie Sanders: “How pathetic. On Dec. 19, the Senate unanimously passed essentially the same legislation that we will vote on today. We are back to exactly where we started. Thank you, Mr. President, for shutting down the government and holding 800,000 federal employees hostage.”
- Conservative commentator Ann Coulter: “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”
- Right wing commentator Michael Malice: “Apparently a wall isn’t as good as a cave.”
- Sean Hannity: “Anyone out there thinking President Trump caved today, you don’t know the Donald Trump I know. He right now holds all the cards — he will secure the border one way or another.”
- Daniel DePetris, Washington Examiner: “Trump’s border wall drama isn’t over. This is just intermission.”
- Anthony Powers, wild land firefighter, US Forest Service: “Our country is being run by children.”
• • •
BIBLE WORKERS FROZEN OUT OF A JOB…
Employees at the American Bible Society have until the end of this month to sign a statement promising that they will attend church and abstain from sex before marriage, which it defines as between a man and a woman.
Anyone who doesn’t sign the Affirmation of Biblical Community will be out of a job effective Feb. 1.
The new policy was introduced by the society’s board in December 2017, giving employees 13 months to decide whether to sign. While the statement essentially consists of conservative Christian beliefs, the effect of the policy will be to allow the society to terminate LGBT employees and unmarried heterosexuals who are not celibate.
…In a statement responding to questions from Religion News Service, Peterson said the affirmation policy “was introduced because we believe a staff made up of people with a deep and personal connection to the Bible will bring unity and clarity as we continue our third century of ministry.”
…The policy cements a shift that began in the 1990s for the organization — founded in 1816 to publish, distribute and translate the Bible — away from its ecumenical roots toward a narrower evangelical identity.
• • •
A “FROZEN ZOO” GIVES ANIMALS A CHANCE AT IMMORTALITY
The last male northern white rhinoceros — his name was Sudan — died in March, leaving only two members of the subspecies behind: his daughter and granddaughter.
In the past, those stark facts would have spelled the end. But researchers at the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research — home to a frosty menagerie known as the Frozen Zoo — are working to give northern white rhinos a second chance. Since 1975, the institute has been collecting tissues from creatures, some endangered and some not, then growing the cells in the lab and preserving them at a chilly 321 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
Zoos already use reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization for animals like gorillas, and artificial insemination for pandas. (Elsewhere, scientists are considering the merits of resurrecting extinct species such as the woolly mammoth and the passenger pigeon, though they’d have to use ancient DNA for that.) The Frozen Zoo has used its preserved sperm to create pheasant chicks, for example, and has gone as far as making embryos of cheetahs and fertilizing the eggs of southern white rhinoceroses.
Now its zookeepers hope that their dozen northern white rhino samples will become parents to a new generation in a different way: using stem-cell technology to turn preserved white rhino skin tissue into eggs and sperm.
The institute’s research goes beyond baby-making. Scientists there are working on methods to genetically identify meat from primates and duiker antelopes that have been illegally hunted. And in the future, they might use its collection to restore genetic diversity to endangered black-footed ferrets.
Broadening such efforts will take a global network of frozen zoos, write Oliver Ryder, the institute’s director of conservation genetics, and coauthor Manabu Onuma in the Annual Review of Animal Biosciences.
• • •
CONTEMPLATE THESE FROZEN WONDERS FROM RUSSIA
I hope you will take the time to watch this today or in the days to come. It is a terrific contemplation piece from a part of the world we rarely think about. These are drone shots from frozen Baikal Lake (the deepest lake in the world), Olkhon and Irkutsk city.
This is a stunning way to end our “frozen” Brunch today.
Stay warm. And to our friends in Australia, we are praying for cool, refreshing breezes soon.