Daily Archives: July 17, 2012

Facebook Monitors Your Posts and Chats To Catch Sexual Predators

Facebook Monitors Your Posts and Chats To Catch Sexual Predators

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Ever wonder if Facebook is reading your posts? Well, it is—or, its computers are, at least. And if you say the wrong thing, you could be locked up.

That’s the takeaway from a recent Reuters article, which recounted a case in which Facebook’s software detected a man in his thirties allegedly trying to set up a meeting with a 13-year-old Florida girl for sex. From Reuters:

Facebook’s extensive but little-discussed technology for scanning postings and chats for criminal activity automatically flagged the conversation for employees, who read it and quickly called police.

Officers took control of the teenager’s computer and arrested the man the next day, said Special Agent Supervisor Jeffrey Duncan of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The alleged predator has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of soliciting a minor.

Facebook’s chief security officer told Reuters that the company’s monitoring software uses actual chats that led to sexual assaults to predict when another might occur. This is eerily similar to the hypothetical software I discussed in an article last month on whether police could arrest people based on suspicious-looking Google searches. I noted in the piece that while the idea might sound far-fetched, the technology already exists, and it might even be legal.

In Facebook’s case, the scanning hasn’t stirred outrage—probably because it seems to be focused on catching sexual predators. There are two reasons why online predators make sense as an initial target for automatic-monitoring algorithms. First, soliciting sex with a minor on the Internet is a crime in itself, not just a prelude to a crime (like, say, searching Google for ways to murder someone in their sleep). And second, sexual predators are unlikely to elicit much sympathy, so the public is more likely to tolerate intrusive means of nabbing them. Facebook is fighting creepy with creepy.

The key to the technology’s success—from a public-opinion standpoint, and possibly from a legal standpoint—is avoiding false positives. Arresting an innocent person based on a Facebook chat would surely cause controversy. So according to the Reuters piece, Facebook dials down the algorithm’s sensitivity, to minimize the chances of this happening.

It seems clear that this technology has the potential to do some good. But that shouldn’t blind us to the fact that it represents a further erosion of our online privacy, one more serious than selling our personal information to advertisers.

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10 best towns for raising a family

10 best towns for raising a family

Family Circle magazine identifies 10 family-friendly towns and suburbs nationwide that make the grade in housing costs, school quality, green space and ‘giving spirits.’

When you’re looking for the right place to live, your judgment is based upon a variety of factors, including where you are in your life. That hip downtown loft, which you find delightful as a young single, probably won’t work for a family of four.

These days, we’re reading a lot about how young people and empty-nesters are flocking to urban cores, choosing city life over suburbs. But what if you’re looking for a nice place to raise a family? Not only is a high-rise condo not necessarily an ideal environment, but the neighborhood schools also often are not places you’d want to send your children for a good education.

Family Circle has compiled a list of the 10 best towns for families, based on affordable housing, good neighbors, green spaces, strong public-school systems and “giving spirits.” The towns are showcased in the August 2012 issue of the magazine.

To create the list, the magazine and a research firm compiled a list of 3,335 towns with populations between 11,000 and 150,000. From those, they pulled areas with a strong concentration of family incomes between $55,000 and $96,000. They then looked at housing affordability, school quality, health care, green space, crime rates and financial stability.

Here is Family Circle’s List of the 10 Best Towns for Families:

  • Bay Village, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland.
  • Lake Oswego, Ore., a suburb of Portland.
  • Vail, Ariz., a suburb of Tucson.
  • Fishers, Ind., a suburb of Indianapolis.
  • Ballwin, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis.
  • Louisville, Colo., 20 miles from Denver.
  • Longmeadow, Mass., in western Massachusetts near Springfield.
  • Fort Mill, S.C., 20 miles from Charlotte, N.C.
  • Zachary, La., a suburb of Baton Rouge.
  • Oak Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.

What do you think about these choices? Are those the criteria you would apply in seeking a family-friendly community?

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Psychic Protection for the Witch in Everyone!

Psychic Protection for the Witch in Everyone!

Find out more about psychic protection here…

Psychic Protection for the Witch in Everyone!
As part of the launch of my new book, The Witch’s Shield: Psychic Protection and Psychic Self Defense, I wanted to share the techniques that helped me maintain psychic boundaries and a healthy sense of safety. Though few of us learn them when we should, I really think they are basics of psychic hygiene. If you learn to take care of yourself on a daily basis, you can avoid problems in the future. I learned these techniques studying the art and science of witchcraft, hence the book title – The Witch’s Shield. I’ve shared them in classes for both witches and non-witches alike with great success.
Sometimes the word “witch” scares people off. I can understand that. I thought it was silly at first. When my first teacher, a good family friend, revealed she was a witch, I didn’t understand. But I soon found out the spiritual traditions of witchcraft stretch across the globe and throughout time. Witches were the priestesses and priests of the ancient world. They kept the mysteries of magick and psychic ability. A witch is someone who does magick, not only for her- or himself, but for the good of the community. Sometimes the first step in helping our communities, in helping the world, is helping ourselves by finding health, balance, and clarity. Only then can be devote energy to help others.
So, with that in mind, the wisdom of the witch broadens for us. We might not all identify spiritually as witches, but these techniques of psychic protection and magick are universal, and can apply to anyone as long as the person is open to magick, change, and personal responsibility. You will find similar wisdom in the traditions of shamanism, energy healers, ceremonial magicians, and other New Age seekers.

Here are seven psychic protection techniques from which anyone can benefit:

1 – Smudging – Smudging refers to passing yourself or an object through sacred smoke as a means of purification. When burned, certain herbs release a high vibrational energy that is used to purify unwanted, harmful forces – what most people call negative energy. Herbs like sage, cedar, sweet grass, pine, and lavender can be burned, as well as incenses such as frankincense, myrrh, and copal. Simply wave the smoking substance around you and make sure you pass through the smoke. Don’t do too much. It’s an energetic process, not a physical one, so you don’t have to feel like you are asphyxiating.

2- Sea Salt Bath – Similar to smudging, taking a sea salt bath can cleanse the physical body as well as the energy. Put two tablespoons of sea salt or kosher salt in your bath water and soak. Imagine all the stress and harmful energy you have accumulated or taken on from others flowing into the water. Sit in the bathtub as its drains and imagine it flowing down the drain, neutralized by the salt and water. I have a friend who puts a spray bottle of sea salt and water and gives herself a little spritz and sponge bath. The salt neutralizes any harmful energies, and then she just wipes it off. It’s a great way to clear yourself if you’re on the run and a bath is too time consuming.

3 – Amulet – Symbols and charms have long been lauded for their protective powers. In almost every culture, there is a tradition of wearing or carrying a particular amulet, often blessed by a priest/tess, to confer the powers of divine protection upon the wearer. Take a symbol you find sacred and divine. Find it in a jewelry or pendant form. If you cannot, try drawing the symbol on a piece of paper or wood, and carrying it with you. If you are Christian, use a cross. If you are Wiccan, use a pentacle. Hindu, try the Ohm symbol. There are a variety of symbols, from the Star of David to the Hammer of Thor. Find the one that speaks protection to you. Smudge the amulet and hold it in both hands. Think about protection and infuse your thoughts into the amulet, activating its power to protect in the name of your divinities. Carry the charm with you to receive its protection.

4 – Protection Stone – Like a symbolic amulet, you can carry a stone known for its protective and grounding qualities with you. Most dark colored stones have magical associations with protection. Some of my favorite choices are hematite, smoky quartz, onyx, obsidian, jet, and aragonite. Other stores that are protective include red jasper, amber, citrine, and clear quartz. Like an amulet, cleanse your stone and infuse your intention into it.

5 – Meditation – Meditation is one of the greatest keys to psychic defense. Regular meditation practice leaves you clear, centered, and in a mental place where you can respond to potential threats, rather than unconsciously react to them. It doesn’t matter the style or tradition of meditation. Regular practice is the key. You will not get the long term psychic protection benefits of meditation by doing it only once every few weeks. It must be like exercise, done regularly. I suggest at least three times a week. If you can do it daily, so much the better.

6- Healthy Emotional Boundaries – Emotional boundaries are not the most esoteric form of psychic defense, but one that quite a few people leave out. Sometimes psychic defense – particularly from people who are harmful to us, intentionally or unintentionally – is the ability to say “no” and stick to it. If someone asks you to do something or go somewhere, and you only say yes because you are afraid of being “mean” or “letting them down” but you know its not a good situation for you, you must learn to say no. As an adult, only you define what is acceptable and unacceptable in your life. Draw those boundary lines and stick to them.

7 – Living Your True Will – The best form of psychic self-defense is to live out your true will. What is your divine purpose? Find it! Then actually live it. If you are doing what you are meant to be doing, the universe will support you and very little anyone else does or says will be able to stop you. You true will, or what some call your magical will, is not your destiny. It doesn’t happen regardless. This your partnership with the divine. You must choose to fulfill it. But once you choose to be a full, conscious partner with the divine, you will have a divine protection that will help you in all of life’s difficult areas.

For more information and an expanded view on these techniques, and a whole philosophy on psychic protection, look to my full length work, The Witch’s Shield: Psychic Protection and Psychic Self Defense. May the divine guide, bless, and protect each of your steps.

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The Do’s And Don’ts of Witches

THE DO’s AND DON’Ts OF WITCHES

WITCHES DO NOT DO EVIL…
They believe that doing evil and harm is against all ethical and moral laws.
Witches simply do not do harm (even to themselves).

WITCHES DO NOT WORSHIP SATAN…
Simply put: He’s THEIR boy…NOT Ours. Witches do not have a Satan/Devil or any
all-evil deity in their religious structure. Witchcraft is a religion that
underscores polarity and views the God and the Goddess as equal entities.

A MALE Witch IS NOT A WARLOCK…
The word Warlock is a Scottish word meaning “oath breaker”, and became a term
designating a male Witch during the ‘burning times’. A Male Witch is simply
that.

WITCHES WEAR CLOTHING OF EVERY COLOR AND EVERY STYLE…
Many Witches do choose to wear black clothing or ritual robes. The color black
is the culmination of all vibrational rates of light on the material plane.
Black absorbs light information and helps Witches be more receptive to psychic
impressions and energies.

WITCHES COME FROM EVERY SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND ETHNIC BACKGROUND…
Many Witches are professional people holding positions of responsibility such as
Doctors, Nurses, Police Officers, Teachers, etc. Witchcraft does not
discriminate against color or ethnic origin and does view everything as equal in
the eye of the Goddess and the God.

WITCHES DO USE SPELLS…
A spell is a thought, a projection, or a prayer. Other religions use prayer,
meditation, projection and ritual to produce an intended result. The word
‘spell’ does not imply doing evil or harm.

WITCHES DO USE MAGIC WANDS…
Often you see the use of magic wands in children’s cartoons and movies making
the idea seem frivolous. In actuality, they are used in healing for directing
energy.

WITCHES DO USE WITCHCRAFT AS A SCIENCE, AN ART AND A RELIGION…
They use their knowledge and magic in harmony with the Universe and Nature
around them.

THE WORD “WITCH” HAS A DEEP AND RICH HISTORY…
As defined by the English Oxford dictionary, “Witchcraft” is a Celtic
(pronounced Kell-tick) word meaning the wise, good people. “Wicce” (wick-kay)
designates a female Witch whereas “Wicca” (wick-kah) designates a male Witch.

IN THE RELIGION OF WITCHCRAFT WE VIEW THE PENTACLE AS AN AMULET AND
A SYMBOL FOR PROTECTION…
The five-pointed star represents the human body and the earth. In combination,
the star surrounded by the circle represents the human body encompassed by the
protection of the Goddess/God force. The pentacle is the symbol for Universal
Wisdom.

WITCHES DO CONCERN THEMSELVES WITH ECOLOGY…
They have never forgotten the basic fact: the world is not our enemy. Neither is
it inert, dumb matter. The earth and all living things share the same life-
force. They are composed of patterns of intelligence, of knowledge, and of
divinity. All life is a web. We are woven into it as sisters and brothers off
All. Witches need to be grounded in both worlds and awake to their
responsibilities for both worlds. It is only by being responsible human beings
that we can be responsible Witches and only responsible Witches will survive.*

*Except from “Power of the Witch” by Laurie Cabot.

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Reclaiming: The Etiquette of Witchcraft

Reclaiming: The Etiquette of Witchcraft
The Etiquette of Witchcraft
This article by M. Macha NightMare appeared in the Summer 1996 issue of the Reclaiming Newsletter.
The Etiquette of Witchcraft, Reclaiming Style
The greater community of Witchcraft- throughout the U.S. and abroad- has a few rules of etiquette of which to be cognizant.  I am well aware that ours is not a religion of “rules” (especially in the ecstasy-based Reclaiming Tradition), but in order for us to be free of inhibitions, to feel we are in “safe space,” to get the most out of what we are doing and to protect those whose identity as Witches were it revealed, would compromise them in their mundane lives, it is imperative that everyone know and agree to abide by the following general policies:
1.  First and foremost, a magickal circle is not for observers; it is
participatory and experiential.  A circle is a religious rite and all
participants should conduct themselves in a manner respectful to the Goddess. If one is not prepared to focus and contribute his/her attention and efforts to the ceremony, one does not belong in the circle.  If one does not wish to participate, s/he should excuse her/himself before the pre-rite meditation and grounding begins.
2.  The taking of photographs is inappropriate and impermissible.  As noted in item 1 above, the ritual, and memories of it, are to be carried in one’s heart;
they are not a proper subject for objective observation and documentation.  The exception to this is when all participants have been asked before the ritual has begun, and all agree; or when the ritual is “staged” specifically for the taking of photographs, filming or videotaping. Photographing rituals requires special tact and sensitivity.
3.  Craft groups and circles are not inviolably solemn, but they are serious in
central purpose.  Inappropriate talking, joking, laughing, etc. are not only
rude and disrespectful of the Goddess, the Mighty Ones, the priest/esses of the ritual  and other celebrants, but also they interfere with concentration and
continuity of the ceremony.  She commands us to have mirth and reverence; humor and laughter are gifts of the Goddess.  Our attitude, conduct and energy should reflect both the joyousness and the solemnity of this our celebratory religion. There will be a period within the ritual for the sharing of food, drink and good wishes, and time for conversation and merrymaking.
4.  Since traditional lore teaches that consecrated object easily absorbs
energy (becomes “charged”), tools, such as wand, chalice, athame, jewelry, drum and other ritual regalia, should not be touched by someone other than the owner without the owner’s express permission.
5.  Once the circle is cast, all celebrants should consider themselves in it
for the duration.  It is preferable for one to take care of personal needs
before the ritual is begun, but if one finds it necessary to use the toilet,
feels faint or whatever, one can either ask for assistance or “cut a door” in
the circle and leave, carefully closing and sealing it afterwards.  The circle
is intended to contain the energy and focus, and when it is casually entered
and exited, that energy can become dissipated or lost and focus shattered.
6.  Anyone who is drunk, stoned or otherwise inebriated does not belong in
circle.  In addition, the use of drugs or alcohol (this includes the smoking of
cigarettes) in circle is unacceptable behavior; it can show disrespect and it
puts the user(s) on another wavelength than the nonuser(s).  The exception to
this is when the use of chemicals is sacramental and understood and accepted by everyone in the circle.
7.  People who invite others to rituals are responsible for preparing the
guest(s) as to what is expected of them, how to behave, etc.  Guests cannot be
expected to know what’s going on all on their own, especially if it’s their
first Craft ritual, but much can be done by the person who invites them to make them feel more comfortable and included by giving them some information ahead of time about how things work and how people are expected to behave.
8.  What occurs in circle is sacred and not to be talked about with those who
were not part of the circle.  This mainly applies to small, private rituals,
and we in Reclaiming are more casual about rehashing big public ones, but if
one is invited to a ritual presented by another Craft tradition, this rule is
inviolate.
The above guidelines are freely adapted from archival material graciously
provided by Valerie Voigt.
Many thanks for reading and observing these few, simple, common-sense, but
essential, guidelines.
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Today’s Quiz – Who Is Your Guide?

Who Is Your Guide?

by Cait Johnson

 

Each one of us has powerful inner guides to help us find our way along the  path of our life-journey. These guides bring gifts for us and offer very  specific help. When we connect with the guide we need in the moment, our journey  becomes smoother, we feel supported, and we can make swift soul-progress.

Is your present guide a powerful Shaman King, spirit-centered Priestess  Queen, questing Knight, or youthful Child? Find out with this quiz:

Make note of the numbers of the following statements that are TRUE for  you.

1. I need to make wise plans for my future and set better boundaries and  limits.

2. I would like to feel more safe and secure.

3. I feel out of connection and as if I’m living superficially–but I know  there’s more to my life than this.

4. I am hungry for nurturing, passion, deep feeling, and/or inspiration.

5. I feel as if I have lost something important that would improve the  quality of my life.

6. I need to feel more galvanized to go after what I need.

7. I need more playtime in my life: everything feels like a chore.

8. Old, painful memories and feelings have started to surface in my life and  I am sick of repeating my old patterns.

9. I feel completely unsure of where I am at the moment, sort of lost in the  fog–as if I know nothing at all.

If you answered TRUE to 1 or 2, the Shaman King is the guide who will help  you now. Look to this grounded, wise, powerful part of your Self to help you  feel stable, safe, and able to plan and protect yourself. Collect images of  mature and stable power to keep with you. Give your Shaman King a name. Imagine  being filled with his strength and certainty.

If you answered TRUE to 3 or 4, the Priestess Queen is your guide. This part  of you can help you to feel more deeply connected to All That Is, deeply  nourished and alive to the wonder of living. Find pictures of this archetypal  helper to keep where you will see them and feel supported. Give your Priestess  Queen a name. Visualize her walking beside you, sharing her qualities of  spirit-filled grace and dignity with you.

If you answered TRUE to 5 or 6, the Knight can help you to find what you  seek. This questing part of the Self is a great helper when you know there’s  something you need. Visualize a bold companion who knows every step of the  journey that leads to what you most deeply desire. Give this companion a name.  Imagine him or her beside you as you venture into unfamiliar territory.

If you answered TRUE to 7 or 8, the Child will help you to reconnect with  your playful inner child-self, who knew exactly what she loved to do. She can  show you what you need to do in order to heal from old wounding and create  healthier new patterns for yourself. Collect old photos of yourself and imagine  asking that child-self for her input.

If you answered TRUE to 9, your guide is the Mystery. Difficult though it may  be, you need to trust that you are not meant to know–AND that it is alright not  to know right now. Eventually, things will become clearer. Right now, see if you  can enjoy being in the place of not-knowing.

 

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Lighten Up – Circle Etiquette

Circle Etiquette

Never summon Anything you can’t banish.

Never put asafoetida on the rocks in the sweat lodge.

Do not attempt to walk more than 10 paces while wearing all of your ritual jewelry, dream bags and crystals at the same time.

When proposing to initiate someone, do not mention the Great Rite, leer, and say, “Hey, your trad or mine?”

Never laugh at someone who is skyclad. They can see you, too.

Never, ever set the Witch on fire.

Looking at nifty pictures is not a valid path to mastering the ancient grimoires. Please read thoroughly and carefully from beginning to end so that your madness and gibberings will at least make some sense.

A good grasp of ritual and ritual techniques are essential! In the event of a random impaling, or other accidental death amongst the participants, (see next rule) a quick thinker can improvise to ensure successful completion of the Rite. Make them another sacrifice, Demons like those.

Watch where you wave the sharp pointy items.

Avoid walking through disembodied spirits.

Carry an all purpose translators dictionary in case the ritual leader begins talking in some strange and unknown language.

Avoid joining your life force to anything with glowing red eyes.

If asked to sign a contract or pact and you are experiencing doubts or reservations, sign your neighbors name. Malevolent entities rarely ask for photo ID.

Blood is thicker than water. Soak ritual garments an extra 30-45 minutes.

While drunken weaving may be mistaken for ecstatic dancing, slurring the names of Deities is generally considered bad form.

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WOTC’s Cartoon of the Day for July 17 – I Swear Married People, lmao!

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