Monday, October 12, 2009

World won't end in 2012 Mayans insist

MEXICO CITY (Oct. 11) — Apolinario Chile Pixtun is tired of being bombarded with frantic questions about the Mayan calendar supposedly "running out" on Dec. 21, 2012. After all, it's not the end of the world.
Or is it?
Definitely not, the Mayan Indian elder insists. "I came back from England last year and, man, they had me fed up with this stuff."
It can only get worse for him. Next month Hollywood's "2012" opens in cinemas, featuring earthquakes, meteor showers and a tsunami dumping an aircraft carrier on the White House.
At Cornell University, Ann Martin, who runs the "Curious? Ask an Astronomer" Web site, says people are scared.
"It's too bad that we're getting e-mails from fourth-graders who are saying that they're too young to die," Martin said. "We had a mother of two young children who was afraid she wouldn't live to see them grow up."
Chile Pixtun, a Guatemalan, says the doomsday theories spring from Western, not Mayan ideas.
A significant time period for the Mayas does end on the date, and enthusiasts have found a series of astronomical alignments they say coincide in 2012, including one that happens roughly only once every 25,800 years.
But most archaeologists, astronomers and Maya say the only thing likely to hit Earth is a meteor shower of New Age philosophy, pop astronomy, Internet doomsday rumors and TV specials such as one on the History Channel which mixes "predictions" from Nostradamus and the Mayas and asks: "Is 2012 the year the cosmic clock finally winds down to zero days, zero hope?"
It may sound all too much like other doomsday scenarios of recent decades — the 1987 Harmonic Convergence, the Jupiter Effect or "Planet X." But this one has some grains of archaeological basis.
One of them is Monument Six.
Found at an obscure ruin in southern Mexico during highway construction in the 1960s, the stone tablet almost didn't survive; the site was largely paved over and parts of the tablet were looted.
It's unique in that the remaining parts contain the equivalent of the date 2012. The inscription describes something that is supposed to occur in 2012 involving Bolon Yokte, a mysterious Mayan god associated with both war and creation.
However — shades of Indiana Jones — erosion and a crack in the stone make the end of the passage almost illegible.
Archaeologist Guillermo Bernal of Mexico's National Autonomous University interprets the last eroded glyphs as maybe saying, "He will descend from the sky."
Spooky, perhaps, but Bernal notes there are other inscriptions at Mayan sites for dates far beyond 2012 — including one that roughly translates into the year 4772.
And anyway, Mayas in the drought-stricken Yucatan peninsula have bigger worries than 2012.
"If I went to some Mayan-speaking communities and asked people what is going to happen in 2012, they wouldn't have any idea," said Jose Huchim, a Yucatan Mayan archaeologist. "That the world is going to end? They wouldn't believe you. We have real concerns these days, like rain."
The Mayan civilization, which reached its height from 300 A.D. to 900 A.D., had a talent for astronomy
Its Long Count calendar begins in 3,114 B.C., marking time in roughly 394-year periods known as Baktuns. Thirteen was a significant, sacred number for the Mayas, and the 13th Baktun ends around Dec. 21, 2012.
"It's a special anniversary of creation," said David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin. "The Maya never said the world is going to end, they never said anything bad would happen necessarily, they're just recording this future anniversary on Monument Six."
Bernal suggests that apocalypse is "a very Western, Christian" concept projected onto the Maya, perhaps because Western myths are "exhausted."
If it were all mythology, perhaps it could be written off.
But some say the Maya knew another secret: the Earth's axis wobbles, slightly changing the alignment of the stars every year. Once every 25,800 years, the sun lines up with the center of our Milky Way galaxy on a winter solstice, the sun's lowest point in the horizon.
That will happen on Dec. 21, 2012, when the sun appears to rise in the same spot where the bright center of galaxy sets.
Another spooky coincidence?
"The question I would ask these guys is, so what?" says Phil Plait, an astronomer who runs the "Bad Astronomy" blog. He says the alignment doesn't fall precisely in 2012, and distant stars exert no force that could harm Earth.
"They're really super-duper trying to find anything astronomical they can to fit that date of 2012," Plait said.
But author John Major Jenkins says his two-decade study of Mayan ruins indicate the Maya were aware of the alignment and attached great importance to it.
"If we want to honor and respect how the Maya think about this, then we would say that the Maya viewed 2012, as all cycle endings, as a time of transformation and renewal," said Jenkins.
As the Internet gained popularity in the 1990s, so did word of the "fateful" date, and some began worrying about 2012 disasters the Mayas never dreamed of.
Author Lawrence Joseph says a peak in explosive storms on the surface of the sun could knock out North America's power grid for years, triggering food shortages, water scarcity — a collapse of civilization. Solar peaks occur about every 11 years, but Joseph says there's evidence the 2012 peak could be "a lulu."
While pressing governments to install protection for power grids, Joseph counsels readers not to "use 2012 as an excuse to not live in a healthy, responsible fashion. I mean, don't let the credit cards go up."
Another History Channel program titled "Decoding the Past: Doomsday 2012: End of Days" says a galactic alignment or magnetic disturbances could somehow trigger a "pole shift."
"The entire mantle of the earth would shift in a matter of days, perhaps hours, changing the position of the north and south poles, causing worldwide disaster," a narrator proclaims. "Earthquakes would rock every continent, massive tsunamis would inundate coastal cities. It would be the ultimate planetary catastrophe."
The idea apparently originates with a 19th century Frenchman, Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, a priest-turned-archaeologist who got it from his study of ancient Mayan and Aztec texts.
Scientists say that, at best, the poles might change location by one degree over a million years, with no sign that it would start in 2012.
While long discredited, Brasseur de Bourbourg proves one thing: Westerners have been trying for more than a century to pin doomsday scenarios on the Maya. And while fascinated by ancient lore, advocates seldom examine more recent experiences with apocalypse predictions.
"No one who's writing in now seems to remember that the last time we thought the world was going to end, it didn't," says Martin, the astronomy webmaster. "There doesn't seem to be a lot of memory that things were fine the last time around."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Baby snatched. Yikes!

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 1) - Eric Peterson heard a bang on his door in his quiet Nashville neighborhood and opened it to a woman covered in blood.
She pleaded with him to go rescue her children. She said she had left them at her house a few doors down to get help after a woman stabbed her with a kitchen knife. By the time Peterson got to the home, the baby was gone.
A woman posing as an immigration agent snatched a newborn from a Nashville, Tenn., home and repeatedly stabbed the baby's mother when she tried to intervene, authorities said Wednesday. Maria Gurrolla, 30, told reporters she had never seen the kidnapper before. "I need my baby back," Gurrolla, shown, said in Spanish.

Authorities are searching for the baby boy and the woman his mother says was posing as an immigration agent and snatched him from her home.
Maria Gurrolla told reporters she had never seen the woman before she showed up at her door Tuesday evening. She said the woman got a knife from the home and stabbed her several times.
"I need my baby back," the 30-year-old mother said Wednesday through an interpreter outside Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Gurrolla said she did not see the woman take the baby because she ran to Peterson's home. Peterson told The Associated Press she was "covered from her head to her toe with blood" with gashes on her neck and upper chest.
She asked him to save her children from the "lady in the kitchen" who had a butcher knife. When he got there, he saw a woman speeding away from the home. He brought Gurrolla's 3-year-old daughter back safely to his house, but found no baby, he said.
Gurrolla, who had a long scratch on her face, said the woman, whom she described as white and "robust", did not say anything about wanting to take the baby, who was on the sofa.

"She said she was an immigration officer and she was there to arrest her," said Gurrolla's cousin, serving as interpreter. It was not clear if Gurrolla was an immigrant, but police said she has lived in Nashville for at least 10 years. The cousin said the family did not want to discuss her legal status.
Police issued an Amber Alert with a picture and description of a 30-year-old woman. They questioned a woman matching the description in Buffalo, N.Y., but determined she wasn't involved.
Dr. William Dutton said Gurrolla had a penetrating chest wound and her lung had collapsed. He said she also had deep stab wounds to her neck, but was in stable condition. He said she still has physical signs that she gave birth recently. He described the birth as complicated but declined to elaborate.
A blue yard sign outside Gurrolla's home in the community of mostly single-family brick houses in south Nashville announces, "IT'S A BOY!" Police spokeswoman Kristin Mumford said she doesn't know whether Gurrolla was targeted because of the sign.
Peterson said as he was making his way to Gurrolla's house, a woman with a ponytail was behind the wheel of a gray 2-door Honda that sped away from the home.
As he approached Gurrolla's yard, a young girl in a diaper walked from around the back of the house. He left her with Gurrolla and the woman he lives with and headed back to look for the baby.
He sent his pet pit bull in first to check things out, then went in through the back door.
"As I preceded into the kitchen, I saw a puddle of blood, a big puddle of blood," he said.

He searched everywhere but found no baby. When he told Gurrolla, that's when she first started to cry. Police said the baby's father was at the home later Tuesday night, and Sharon Kimble, who lives with Peterson, said the toddler's father came later to pick her up.
Police spokesman Don Aaron said investigators were interviewing Gurrolla and her family again about the abduction.
A sketch artist is working to come up with a drawing of the kidnapper's face.
"We don't have any indication at this point that this is anything but a stranger child abduction," Mumford said. "We're not ruling out anything, but we have no reason to believe that the family is not being completely truthful."
Mumford said police are retracing the mother's activities before the attack, such as a visit to a local Walmart. Hoping to find a witness, police released a photo of a car that was parked near Gurrolla's at the Walmart and later followed her down the road.
Aaron asked the public for tips on the case and said it was a top priority for police in the area.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.
2009-09-30 11:04:32