Tuesday Reads: Autumnal Equinox Edition

autumnal equinox

Good Morning Sky Dancers!!

 

Today is 2014’s autumnal equinox, when day and night are equal in length. From now on, the days will get shorter and the nights longer, as we approach winter. Actually, autumn officially began in the Northern Hemisphere last night at 10:29 Eastern time.

From Sky and Telescope:

Astronomically speaking…the fall season…comes to the Northern Hemisphere on Tuesday, September 23rd at 2:29 Universal Time (10:29 p.m. EDT on Monday, the 22nd). At that moment, the Sun shines directly on Earth’s equator, heading south as seen in the sky. For us northerners, this event is called the autumnal equinox….

The apparent position of the Sun in our sky is farther north or farther south depending on the time of year due to the globe’s axial tilt. Earth’s rotational axis does not point straight up and down, like the handle of a perfectly spinning top, but is slanted about 23½° with respect to our orbit around the Sun.

Another way to think of this is that the plane defined by Earth’s orbit around the Sun (called the ecliptic) is tilted with respect to the planet’s equator. From our perspective, the Sun follows the ecliptic in its path through the sky throughout the year. Each day the Sun’s daily arc moves northward or southward, depending on the time of the year. To observers at northern latitudes (in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, for example), the Sun appears to sneak higher in the sky from late December to late June, only to drop down again from late June through late December. The equinox occurs when the Sun is halfway through each journey.

This axial tilt also produces our seasons. When Earth is on one side of its orbit, the Northern Hemisphere is tipped toward the Sun and receives more direct solar rays (and more daylight hours) that produce the familiar climes of summer. Six months later, when Earth is on the opposite side of its orbit, the Northern Hemisphere is tipped away from the Sun. The slanting solar rays heat the ground less and daylight is shorter, producing the colder winter season.

What else happens at the equinox?

Day and night are nearly the same length; the word “equinox” comes from the Latin aequinoctium, meaning “equal night,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. However, a poke around your almanac will show that day and night are not precisely 12 hours each, for two reasons: first, sunrise and sunset are defined as when the Sun’s top edge — not its center— crosses the horizon. Second, Earth’s thick atmosphere refracts the Sun’s apparent position slightly when the solar disk sits very low on the horizon.

The Sun rises due east and sets due west, as seen from everywhere on Earth; the equinoxes are the only times of the year when this occurs.Should you be standing on the equator, the Sun would pass exactly overhead at midday.

Were you standing at the North Pole or South Pole, the Sun would skim completely around the horizon.

Harvesting, by G. Myasoedov

Harvesting, by G. Myasoedov

The autumnal equinox marks the pagan festival of Mabon, “when livestock is slaughtered and preserved to provide enough food for the winter.” From Huffington Post,

Mabon is a harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance.

“Mabon is a time to reflect on the previous year, when we can celebrate our successes (likened to bringing in the harvest) and assess which crops, projects, or dreams didn’t come to fruition,” the Los Angeles-based pagan leader Laurie Lovekraft told HuffPost.

The pagan website The White Goddess explains:

This is the time to look back not just on the past year, but also your life, and to plan for the future. In the rhythm of the year, Mabon is a time of rest and celebration, after the hard work of gathering the crops. Warm autumn days are followed by chill nights, as the Old Sun God returns to the embrace of the Goddess.

The holiday is named after the Welsh God, Mabon, son of Earth Mother goddess Modron.

Some pagans mark the holiday by enjoying rich feasts with seasonal foods like apples, pomegranates and root vegetables. Many also observe rituals honoring the goddess’transition from mother to crone.

Endless War News

The US (and some Arab allies) have carried out airstrikes in Syria. From The Guardian, US confirms 14 air strikes against Isis in Syria.

The most intensive barrage of air strikes launched against Islamic State (Isis) since the US fight against the terror group began last month thundered into northern Syria until after dawn on Tuesday, heralding a new phase of a war that Sunni regional powers have vowed to help lead.

Large explosions were reported in the group’s stronghold of Raqqa, in eastern Syria, as well as in Idlib province. There were unconfirmed reports that attacks had also taken place near Deir Azzor and western Aleppo.

A Pentagon statement said the 14 strikes against Isis targets were carried out with Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Jordan confirmed it its airforce had “destroyed a number of targets that belong to some terrorist groups that sought to commit terror acts inside Jordan” without making explicit reference to Syria.

More details from The New York Times (I’m unable to quote from the article), and from The BBC, 

The Pentagon said warplanes, drones and Tomahawk missiles were used in the attacks, which targeted several areas including IS stronghold Raqqa.

Syria’s foreign ministry said its UN envoy was informed about the strikes against IS, which controls large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

Activists say at least 70 IS militants were killed in the strikes….

It said a total of 14 strikes destroyed or damaged IS training compounds, command and control facilities, vehicles and storage sites.

The US military will continue to conduct air strikes against IS targets in Iraq and Syria, it added.

US Gen Martin Dempsey, America’s highest-ranking uniformed military officer, said the strikes were conducted to show IS militants they had no safe haven. “We certainly achieved that,” he told reporters.

Separately, Centcom said US forces also attacked a network of al-Qaeda veterans named Khorasan who had established a safe haven west of Aleppo and were plotting imminent attacks against the West.

Experts say members of the secretive group are believed to co-operate with al-Nusra Front – Syria’s al-Qaeda-affiliate – using its training bases and resources.

President Obama plans to speak about the Syrian strikes this morning at 10AM.

Autumn landscape, by Vincent Van Gogh

Autumn landscape, by Vincent Van Gogh

Economics News

The U.S. Treasury Department has issued a new tax rules designed to prevent companies from moving operations out of the U.S. Bloomberg Businessweek reports, Lew Tries to Limit Tax-Cut Deals With Inversion Crackdown.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew’s crackdown on inversions will get an immediate test as eight U.S. companies with pending deals decide whether to proceed — and other companies contemplating a foreign address now have to think twice.

That’s exactly what Lew had in mind.

“This action will significantly diminish the ability of inverted companies to escape U.S. taxation,” Lew told reporters on a conference call yesterday. “For some companies considering deals, today’s action will mean that inversions no longer make economic sense.”

The Treasury announcement heightened the tension between the government and companies considering obtaining a foreign address to lower their tax bills. Lew and President Barack Obama made clear that they were prepared to use rule-making authority to try stop some deals, even at the risk of a backlash from the companies and from Republicans, who already complained that Lew’s moves went too far.

A wave of inversions caught lawmakers’ attention this year when large companies such as Pfizer Inc. (PFE) andWalgreen Co. (WAG) explored transactions andMedtronic Inc. (MDT), AbbVie Inc. and Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW) moved forward with deals.

More from The Wall Street Journal:

Treasury officials took action under five sections of the U.S. tax code to make inversions harder and less profitable, removing some of the appeal that has made the transactions more common in recent years, particularly in the pharmaceutical industry.

In an inversion, an American company reincorporates for tax purposes in a tax-friendlier country such as the U.K. or Ireland, typically while maintaining much of their operations in the U.S. Most recent inversions sprang from mergers of a U.S. firm with a smaller foreign firm after regulatory steps taken during President Barack Obama’s first term curbed other types of inversions.

The Treasury rules will make it harder for companies that invert to use cash accumulating abroad—a big draw in recent deals. In addition, the government has made it more difficult to complete these overseas mergers.

The tax changes took effect immediately, officials said, and applied to all deals that hadn’t closed by Monday.

Autumn Forest, by Thomas Kinkade

Autumn Forest, by Thomas Kinkade

And from the AP via Bloomberg, Ahead of the Bell: Inversion rules sting stocks.

Shares of several companies stumbled Tuesday before markets opened and a day after the Treasury Department announced new regulations that aim to make it tougher to pull off overseas mergers and acquisitions that trim U.S. corporate tax bills.

The new measures attempt to keep companies from finding ways to access earnings from a foreign subsidiary without paying U.S. taxes, including “hopscotch” loans, in which companies shift earnings by lending money to the new foreign parent company while skipping over the U.S.-based company. Another rule change would make it harder for merged or acquired companies to benefit from lower foreign taxes by tightening the application of a law that says the American company’s shareholders must own less than 80 percent of the new, combined company.

About 50 U.S. companies have carried out moves known as inversions in the past decade, and more are considering it, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service.

An inversion happens when a U.S. corporation and a foreign company combine, with the new parent company based in the foreign country. For tax purposes, the U.S. company becomes foreign-owned, even if all the executives and most of its operations remain in the U.S. Inversions can help companies generate significant tax savings over time in part because the United States has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world, at 35 percent.

Awwwwwwww . . . too bad corporate bigwigs. I so don’t feel sorry for you.

Offbeat News

I have a few offbeat stories for you. The first one is especially for JJ. ABC News reports, ‘Little People, Big World’ Star Jeremy Roloff Is Married.

“Little People, Big World” star Jeremy Roloff, 24, married Audrey Mirabella Botti Saturday afternoon in Oregon.

Autumn Landscape, by Wassily Kadinsky

Autumn Landscape, by Wassily Kadinsky

Jeremy’s twin brother, Zach, was his best man, while the bride wore a gown designed by Lauren Graebner of Eva’s by Reclamation, People magazine reports.

The bridesmaids wore flower crowns and Botti, 23, wore a larger crown designed by Vanessa Schmidt. Roloff wore a suit from ProperSuit, which he shared on social media.

More details, photos, and tweets at the link.

From the Leicester Mercury (UK), Pictures released of two 1,000-year-old skeletons holding hands found in Leicestershire.

Pictures were released today by the University of Leicester, showing two 1,000-year-old skeletons holding hands, which have been discovered.

The pair of skeletons, which are centuries-old and holding hands have been uncovered at a ‘lost’ chapel by archaeologists.

The Mercury reported last week that the remains, of a man and a woman, were found at the Chapel of St Morrell, an ancient site of pilgrimage in Hallaton.

It is believed the pair holding hands are of a similar age.

Whoever they were, the man and woman must have died at the same time.

Leading the project is professional archaeologist Vicky Score, of the University of Leicester, who works on the project during her holidays.

She said carbon-dating on nine skeletons uncovered since the dig began had revealed them to be from the 14th century.

“’We have seen similar skeletons before from Leicester where a couple has been buried together in a single grave. The main question we find ourselves asking is why were they buried up there?” she added.

“There is a perfectly good church in Hallaton. This leads us to wonder if the chapel could have served as some sort of special place of burial at the time.”

See more photos at ABC News.

I found earlier articles about skeletons of couples embracing each other. From NBC News, Prehistoric Romeo and Juliet Discovered.

They died young and, by the looks of it, in love. Two 5,000-year-old skeletons found locked in an embrace near the city where Shakespeare set the star-crossed tale “Romeo and Juliet” have sparked theories the remains of a far more ancient love story have been found.

Archaeologists unearthed the skeletons dating back to the late Neolithic period outside Mantua, 25 miles south of Verona, the city of Shakespeare’s story of doomed love.

Buried between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, the prehistoric pair are believed to have been a man and a woman and are thought to have died young, because their teeth were found intact, said Elena Menotti, the archaeologist who led the dig.

“As far as we know, it’s unique,” Menotti told The Associated Press by telephone from Milan. “Double burials from the Neolithic are unheard of, and these are even hugging.”

Autumn Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh

Autumn Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh

Another one from HuffPo, Skeletons ‘Embracing’ In Death May Represent Gruesome Ancient Siberian Custom.

For years researchers in the Novosibirsk region of Siberia have puzzled over dozens of ancient grave sites containing bodies buried face to face, some seemingly with hands clasped as if in an eternal embrace.

But soon DNA tests may help provide an answer to the key question: Are these the graves of star-crossed lovers, or could the remains be evidence of a gruesome ancient custom?

The bodies are part of a massive burial ground located in the Siberian village of Staryi Tartas, the Siberian Times reported. Altogether, close to 600 tombs have been discovered in the area, dozens of which contain the so-called “embracing” couples.

The graves are believed to belong to the Andronovo culture, which existed in the area during the second and first millennia B.C.E., according to Britannica. Yet many of the bodies in the graves are believed to be from the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries B.C.E., the Siberian Times reported….

“We can fantasize a lot about all this,” Vyacheslav Molodin, an archaeology and ethnography expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Siberian Times. “We can allege that husband died and the wife was killed to be interred with him as we see in some Scythian burials, or maybe the grave stood open for some time and they buried the other person or persons later, or maybe it was really simultaneous death.”

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread.


25 Comments on “Tuesday Reads: Autumnal Equinox Edition”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    The Christian Science Monitor on Hillary’s letters to Saul Alinsky.

    Do Hillary Clinton’s ‘radical letters’ actually reveal her inner pragmatist?

  2. bostonboomer says:

    The owner of the Baltimore Ravens made an appearance yesterday. Eonline’s take:

    The 7 Most Cringe-Inducing Statements From Baltimore Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti

  3. Pat Johnson says:

    I’ve always felt fortunate to live in New England!

    We truly have 4 beautiful seasons to look forward to each year. Even the harsh winters make us long for Spring, followed by Summer, with an eye on the glorious Fall.

    You chose some gorgeous illustrations of what this season is like in NE, bb!

    The passing of one season into the next outshines even the worst happenings in the world today.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks, Pat. We really have had some great fall weather too. Yesterday was absolutely perfect!

      • Beata says:

        The weather is beautiful here too. Crisp air and sunny skies. The leaves are starting to turn.

        Lovely paintings in this post, BB. Vasili Kandinsky is one of my favorite artists.

        Nature and art. Two refuges. Thank you.

        • bostonboomer says:

          Hi Beata,

          Long time, no see. Indiana is so gorgeous in the fall. New England is too, but nothing can really touch Southern Indiana at this time of year. I have such happy childhood memories of going down to Brown County in autumn. It wasn’t so commercial yet in those days. People would wave from their front porches to any car that went by.

        • Fannie says:

          Hey Beata, glad to hear from you. Missing ya.

      • Fannie says:

        I am ready for change in weather, and will do a little traveling.

  4. dakinikat says:

    http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/senate-races/218581-gops-scorched-earth-kansas-plan

    Control of the Senate is potentially at stake in Kansas, and the GOP is beginning to double down.

  5. Well, that was an interesting wedding. I could not watch that reality show, the father was/is a horrible person.

    Hey BB, did you see this?
    The Political-Messaging Huckster Behind Roger Goodell’s Awful Presser

    Roger Goodell was talking, but the words weren’t his alone. “That speech was all Frank,” says an associate of pollster Frank Luntz, lord of the dark arts of political messaging, who frequently works with Goodell and the NFL. “As soon as I heard Goodell’s intro, I was laughing.”

    The part that got him giggling was the line “We will get our house in order first.” The NFL commissioner used that same phrase minutes later, in response to a question from a New York Post reporter about whether he would resign.

    “That’s textbook stuff that Frank uses all the time,” says the source.

    Why, yes it is: “Getting our house in order” shows up as No. 4 on Luntz’s list of nine “Phrases that prioritize” from his book, Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business from Ordinary to Extraordinary.

    At various points in the conference Goodell also said, “The NFL has to take care of its house,” “There are things we need to clean up in our house,” and, “We are going to clean up our house.”

    As it happened, Luntz himself was watching the press conference, in his capacity as a Fox Sports 1 talking head (he moonlights as a Fox News commentator and analyst). Not long after the commissioner left the podium, Luntz gave his review.

    “This,” he puffered, “was language perfection.”

    So Luntz was on fox talking up his own work…

    Luntz, wreathing Goodell’s press conference in kudos and hosannas.

    “I’m supposed to be a professional,” Luntz said on Fox Sports 1. “I couldn’t have done it as well as he did.”

    Luntz did preface the hummer with a teensy critique of the commissioner. “I would have told him, ‘Don’t read the opening, speak from the heart,'” Luntz said. (The opening, of course, featured the Luntzian riff about housecleaning.) And he did mention getting work from the league. “I’ve done a number of projects with NFL teams as well as the NFL,” Luntz said, “and I want the viewers to know that.”

    Alas, the source close to Luntz tells us that disclosure was nowhere near full. The way the associate describes things, Luntz wasn’t confessing his own bias so much as misleading the audience by downplaying his personal role in shaping Goodell’s words, which, per our source, are apparently far from “language perfection.

    • janicen says:

      Well nobody else could praise it so Luntz may as well praise it himself! So Luntz is on Fox now? I stopped watching CBS this morning when they started passing him off as their “political analyst”. No, he’s a Republican hack. lol!

    • bostonboomer says:

      Oh no. Frank Luntz? No wonder Goodell is such a horrible communicator. Thanks, JJ.

  6. dakinikat says:

    O M G

    Michele Bachmann Credits Phyllis Schlafly With Ending The Cold War – See more at: http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/michele-bachmann-credits-phyllis-schlafly-ending-cold-war#sthash.vuRXphKX.dpuf

    Rep. Michele Bachmann recently sat down for an interview with WND to discuss her undying admiration for the Eagle Forum’s Phyllis Schlafly, whom Bachmann credited for ending the Cold War and for just generally being “the epitome of womanhood.”

    “I believe that Phyllis Schlafly is the most consequential female woman in public policy in the last fifty years of the 20th Century,” Bachmann declared. “Had there not been a Phyllis Schlafly, I believe that we wouldn’t have seen a rise of the pro-family movement. Had there not been a rise of the pro-family movement, I don’t believe that there would have been a Ronald Reagan. Without a President Ronald Reagan, I don’t think we would have seen the ability to defeat the evil, and yes that’s what it was, Soviet empire and to bring a conclusion to the Cold War. Just as Ronald Reagan was consequential, Phyllis Schlafly was extremely consequential because she was a tee to tee up this president that we had”:

    The Minnesota Loon worships Ultimate Evil.

  7. RalphB says:

    For the fans…

    • bostonboomer says:

      Thanks for the news. I don’t care for either of those actors. Oh well . . . maybe it will still be good. I’m disappointed there won’t be a female lead, as was originally suggested.

  8. RalphB says:

    On the attacks on Syria/ISIL front, I’ve got some views I haven’t heard expressed elsewhere and they’re counter-intuitive enough to give me pause. Last night when I heard the attacks on Syria contained aircraft from the US and 5 Sunni Arab states, it was kind of a proud moment. It also got me thinking of potential outcomes which would not be terrible.

    The thing which has been largely missing in Middle East stability since the Iraq war turned the region upside down is a counter-power to Iran’s influence. It seems to me that’s the major reason we can’t get the hell out of there. If getting together against ISIL can allow Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE to become what Saddam once was in Iraq, we may finally be able to exit the region.

    That’s a terrifically optimistic view I know and I’m interested in other opinions. Thanks,

    • bostonboomer says:

      Interesting point of view. I hope you are right. I wonder how much those countries really contributed?

      • RalphB says:

        According to a guy from some place in the ME last night, it sounded like quite a lot but that wasn’t firm, I don’t think. They all have modern air forces and weaponry, so they could. Just the fact that Jordan and Saudi Arabia admitted it, or any of them really, surprised me. That means something all by itself.

      • RalphB says:

        One interesting thing that makes me feel better about my opinion is that I think it’s original and I’ve heard no talking head say anything like it, so far. 🙂

  9. RalphB says:

    Watched Maddow for the first time in a while for a few minutes tonight and she seems absolutely hysterical. Has she always been that way and I didn’t notice? Unwatchable.

    • bostonboomer says:

      She gets on my nerves. I wish I could like her; she’s really smart, but the way she talks just drives me nuts.