Nature of Reality News ArticlesExcerpts of key news articles on the nature of reality
The great watershed event of this present chapter in American life has been the 9/11 attacks and all that has ensued in response, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as here at home. The terms in which the attacks were understood and the framework in which the U.S. would respond were laid out very quickly after 9/11 by the president. It was a battle of good against evil, "us" vs. "them." We Americans were encouraged to think of ourselves as "good and compassionate," terms in which the president frequently described us, while those who opposed us were evil people who "hated our freedom." I can go along with this a little ways. The attacks of 9/11 were an appalling evil. Where the line is drawn between good and evil is another matter. The Soviet dissident and author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, "If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." Lincoln resisted the temptation that comes in every time of conflict and fear, in every polarized situation, to draw the line between good and evil between the two sides. Lincoln famously wrote, "In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party." That is not to say that Lincoln doubted that slavery was evil. He did not. But he refused to claim his own side as God's or to depict, as Bush does, any who opposed him as the embodiment of evil.
What exactly did Democratic candidate Dennis Kucinich see hovering above actress Shirley MacLaine's house 25 years ago? Now, after keeping quiet about the incident for a quarter of a century, the two people who say they were at Mr. Kucinich's side that evening have come forward to describe an event which they say left them convinced that there's intelligent life in outer space. "At no time did I feel afraid, even though I felt very small," says ... Paul Costanzo. "I sensed that I was in the presence of a greater technology and intelligence." The close encounter ... took place in September 1982 at Ms. MacLaine's former home in Graham, Wash. [Kucinich] ... lived there for the better part of a year. Also in residence was Mr. Costanzo, a Juilliard-trained trumpet player and jujitsu black belt, who worked as Ms. MacLaine's assistant, personal trainer and bodyguard. Mr. Costanzo's girlfriend at the time ... was visiting when the UFO incident took place. The day was strange from the start. For hours, Mr. Kucinich, Mr. Costanzo and his companion noticed a high-pitched sound. "There was a sense that something extraordinary was happening all day," says the girlfriend. Mr. Kucinich spotted a light in the distance, to the left of Mount Rainier. What they saw in the far distance, according to both witnesses, was a hovering light, which soon divided into two, and then three. After a few minutes, the lights moved closer and it became apparent that they were actually three charcoal-gray, triangular craft, flying in a tight wedge. The craft approached to within 200 yards, suspended over the field just beyond the swimming pool. Both witnesses say it emitted a quiet, throbbing sound -- nothing like an airplane engine. The craft held steady in midair, for perhaps a minute, then sped away, Mr. Costanzo says. "Nothing had landed," he says. "No strange beings had disembarked. No obvious messages were beamed down. When they were completely out of sight, we all looked at each other disbelieving what we had seen."
Note: This article amazingly was published on the front page of the Wall Street Journal!
Lyndon Johnson relished summoning underlings in to confer with him while he sat on the toilet. Richard Nixon authorized illegal wiretaps on perceived enemies because, as he later told an interviewer, "when the president does it, it's not illegal." Bill Clinton wantonly had sex with intern Monica Lewinsky. Why is it said that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely? In the past few years...research has zeroed in on what an intoxicating elixir power can be. And one thing has become clear: The phrase "drunk with power" is often a dead-on description. These new studies show that power acts to lower inhibitions, much the same as alcohol does. It explains why powerful people act with great daring and sometimes behave rather like gorillas. "Disinhibition is the very root of power," said Stanford Professor Deborah Gruenfeld, a social psychologist who focuses on the study of power. "For most people, what we think of as 'power plays' aren't calculated and Machiavellian -- they happen at the subconscious level. When people feel powerful, they stop trying to 'control themselves.'" People with power...tend to be more oblivious to what others think, more likely to pursue the satisfaction of their own appetites, poorer judges of other people's reactions, more likely to hold stereotypes, overly optimistic and more likely to take risks. People who are naturally selfish grow even more selfish if they attain power, while people who are naturally selfless and giving become more so with power. Henry Kissinger discerned that power is "the ultimate aphrodisiac." "Nearly all men can stand adversity," said Abraham Lincoln, "but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
Note: This most excellent article graphically describes the problems that can occur when a hierarchical political systems places certain individuals in positions of great authority. For more on this fascinating topic, click here.
A bone fragment believed to be part of Adolf Hitler's skull has been revealed as being that of an unidentified woman, US scientists have said. The section of bone - marked with a bullet hole - was used to support the theory that Hitler shot himself. Russian scientists said the skull piece was found alongside Hitler's jawbone and had put it on display in Moscow. But US scientists said DNA tests revealed it actually belonged to a woman aged between 20 and 40. An archaeologist from the University of Connecticut travelled to Moscow, where the fragment has been on show in the city's federal archive since 2000, to take a sample. Nick Bellantoni said he had suspected even before the bone was tested that the fragment did not come from an adult male. DNA tests confirmed that the bone fragment came from a female. Doubts about exactly how Hitler died have persisted for decades. Russian officials said that the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun - who reportedly committed suicide in a Berlin bunker in 1945 - were removed from a shell crater shortly after they died. The piece of skull forms part of a collection that also includes a section of a bloodstained sofa where Hitler is believed to have shot himself after swallowing a cyanide pill.
In June, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a controversial survey in which 70 percent of Americans said that they believed religions other than theirs could lead to eternal life. This threw evangelicals into a tizzy. After all, the Bible makes it clear that heaven is a velvet-roped V.I.P. area reserved for Christians. But the survey suggested that Americans just weren’t buying that. The evangelicals complained that people must not have understood the question. The respondents couldn’t actually believe what they were saying, could they? So in August, Pew asked the question again. Sixty-five percent of respondents said — again — that other religions could lead to eternal life. But this time, to clear up any confusion, Pew asked them to specify which religions. The respondents essentially said all of them. And they didn’t stop there. Nearly half also thought that atheists could go to heaven — dragged there kicking and screaming, no doubt — and most thought that people with no religious faith also could go. What on earth does this mean? One very plausible explanation is that Americans just want good things to come to good people, regardless of their faith. We meet so many good people of different faiths that it’s hard for us to imagine God letting them go to hell. In fact, in the most recent survey, Pew asked people what they thought determined whether a person would achieve eternal life. Nearly as many Christians said you could achieve eternal life by just being a good person as said that you had to believe in Jesus.
A Dutchman who is able to withstand freezing temperatures that would kill most people will submerge himself in icy water for almost two hours in a world record bid. Wim Hof, known as "The Ice Man", has spent the last 20 years testing his talent in the most extreme conditions from scaling mountain tops wearing nothing but a pair of shorts to swimming under sheets of ice [at] the north pole. Now he is set to break his own world record by submerging himself in a Plexiglas container filled with ice at temperatures as low as -20 degrees for more than 1 hour 45 minutes. Mr Hof discovered his unusual talent over 20 years ago during a stroll in the park in his native Holland. "I was really attracted to it. I went in, got rid of my clothes. Thirty seconds I was in and a tremendous good feeling when I came out and since then, I repeated it every day." It was the moment that Mr Hof knew that his body was different somehow: he was able to withstand fatally freezing temperatures. Mr Hof began a lifelong quest to see just how far his abilities would take him. In 2000, dressed only in a swimsuit, he dove under the ice at the North Pole and earned a Guinness World Record for the longest amount of time swimming under the ice. Whilst many scientists around the world find Mr Hof's ability an anomaly, Mr Hof says it is merely a case of mind over matter. Practising an ancient Himalayan meditation called "Tummo," or Inner Fire, Mr Hof says he can generate his own heat. Mr Hof now travels the world teaching the technique through his record attempts, lectures and talks.
A fellow at New York City's Weill Cornell Medical Center, Dr. Sam Parnia is one of the world's leading experts on the scientific study of death. Last week Parnia and his colleagues at the Human Consciousness Project announced their first major undertaking: a 3-year exploration of the biology behind "out-of-body" experiences. The study, known as AWARE (AWAreness during REsuscitation), involves the collaboration of 25 major medical centers through Europe, Canada and the U.S. and will examine some 1,500 survivors of cardiac arrest. TIME spoke with Parnia about the project's origins, its skeptics and the difference between the mind and the brain. What sort of methods will this project use to try and verify people's claims of "near-death" experience? When your heart stops beating, there is no blood getting to your brain. And so what happens is that within about 10 sec., brain activity ceases — as you would imagine. Yet paradoxically, 10% or 20% of people who are then brought back to life from that period, which may be a few minutes or over an hour, will report having consciousness. So the key thing here is, Are these real, or is it some sort of illusion? In my book What Happens When We Die? ... I wanted people to get both angles — not just the patients' side but also the doctors' side — and see how it feels for the doctors to have a patient come back and tell them what was going on. There was a cardiologist that I spoke with who said he hasn't told anyone else about it because he has no explanation for how this patient could have been able to describe in detail what he had said and done. He was so freaked out by it that he just decided not to think about it anymore.
Note: How interesting that when something amazing happened that this cardiologist could not explain, he chose not to think about it rather than consider that there might be some deeper explanation. For an excellent analysis of how this kind of thinking stops scientific progress, see our essay on fluid intellignece available here.
The Vatican's chief astronomer says there is no conflict between believing in God and in the possibility of extraterrestrial "brothers" perhaps more evolved than humans. "In my opinion this possibility exists," said the Reverend José Gabriel Funes, head of the Vatican Observatory and a scientific adviser to Pope Benedict XVI, referring to life on other planets. "How can we exclude that life has developed elsewhere," he said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano. The large number of galaxies with their own planets makes this possible, he noted. Asked if he was referring to beings similar to humans or even more evolved than humans, he said: "Certainly, in a universe this big you can't exclude this hypothesis." In the interview headlined, "The extraterrestrial is my brother," he said he saw no conflict between belief in such beings and faith in God. "Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God. This is not in contrast with our faith because we can't put limits on God's creative freedom," he said. "Why can't we speak of a 'brother extraterrestrial'? It would still be part of creation." Funes, who runs the observatory that is based south of Rome and in Arizona, held out the possibility that the human race might actually be the "lost sheep" of the universe. There could be other beings "who remained in full friendship with their creator," he said.
Note: For a fascinating summary of evidence presented by government and military professionals for the possible presence of extraterrestrials here on Earth, click here.
Wim Hof [is] known as 'The Ice Man." Scientists can't really explain it, but the 48-year-old Dutchman is able to withstand, and even thrive, in temperatures that could be fatal to the average person. It's an ability he discovered in himself as a young man 20 years ago. "I had a stroll like this in the park with somebody and I saw the ice and I thought, what would happen if I go in there. I was really attracted to it. I went in, got rid of my clothes. Thirty seconds I was in," Hof said. "Tremendous good feeling when I came out and since then, I repeated it every day." It was the moment that Hof knew that his body was different somehow: He was able to withstand fatally freezing temperatures. Hof began a lifelong quest to see just how far his abilities would take him. In January of 1999 he traveled 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle to run a half-marathon in his bare feet. Three years later, dressed only in a swimsuit, he dove under the ice at the North Pole and earned a Guinness World Record for the longest amount of time swimming under the ice: 80 meters, almost twice the length of an Olympic-sized pool. When he didn't experience frostbite or hypothermia, the body's usual reactions to extreme cold, his extraordinary ability started to get the attention of doctors who specialize in extreme medicine. Dr. Ken Kamler, author of Surviving the Extremes, has treated dozens of people who tried to climb Mount Everest, and instead nearly died from the frigid temperatures. He couldn't believe it when he got word of a Dutchman making the ascent with no protection other than a pair of shorts. "People are always looking for new firsts on Everest. It's been climbed so many times now, people climb it without oxygen, they climb it with all different kinds of handicaps. But no one has come close to climbing Everest in those kinds of conditions," Dr. Kamler said. "It's almost inconceivable."
Note: Wim Hof's charity foundation, Happy People of the World, is based in the Netherlands. Visit the Web site by clicking here.
The deployment of the first armed battlefield robots in Iraq is the latest step on a dangerous path - we are sleepwalking into a brave new world where robots decide who, where and when to kill. Robots are integral to [the U.S.'s] $230bn future combat systems project, a massive plan to develop unmanned vehicles that can strike from the air, under the sea and on land. Congress has set a goal of having one-third of ground combat vehicles unmanned by 2015. Over 4,000 robots are serving in Iraq at present, others in Afghanistan. And now they are armed. Predators and the more deadly Reaper robot attack planes have flown many missions ... with inevitable civilian deaths, yet working with remote-controlled or semi-autonomous machines carries only the same ethical responsibilities as a traditional air strike. But fully autonomous robots that make their own decisions about lethality are high on the US military agenda. They are cheap to manufacture, require less personnel and, according to the navy, perform better in complex missions. This is dangerous new territory for warfare, yet there are no new ethical codes or guidelines in place. Policymakers seem to have an understanding of [Artificial Intelligence] that lies in the realms of science fiction and myth. Their answer to the ethical problems is simply, "Let men target men" and "Let machines target other machines". In reality, a robot could not pinpoint a weapon without pinpointing the person using it or even discriminate between weapons and non-weapons. Autonomous robots are not like other weapons. We are going to give decisions on human fatality to machines that are not bright enough to be called stupid.
The $73.5 billion global biotech business may soon have to grapple with a discovery that calls into question the scientific principles on which it was founded. Last month, a consortium of scientists published findings that challenge the traditional view of how genes function. The exhaustive four-year effort was organized by the U.S. National Human Genome Research Institute and carried out by 35 groups from 80 organizations around the world. To their surprise, researchers found that the human genome might not be a “tidy collection of independent genes” after all, with each sequence of DNA linked to a single function, such as a predisposition to diabetes or heart disease. Instead, genes appear to operate in a complex network, and interact and overlap with one another and with other components in ways not yet fully understood. According to the institute, these findings will challenge scientists “to rethink some long-held views about what genes are and what they do.” Biologists have recorded these network effects for many years in other organisms. But in the world of science, discoveries often do not become part of mainstream thought until they are linked to humans. With that link now in place, the report is likely to have repercussions far beyond the laboratory. The presumption that genes operate independently has been institutionalized since 1976, when the first biotech company was founded. In fact, it is the economic and regulatory foundation on which the entire biotechnology industry is built. The principle that gave rise to the biotech industry promised benefits that were equally compelling. Known as the Central Dogma of molecular biology, it stated that each gene in living organisms, from humans to bacteria, carries the information needed to construct one protein.
Common sense tells us that influencing the past is impossible -- what's done is done, right? Even if it were possible, think of the mind-bending paradoxes it would create. While tinkering with the past, you might change the circumstances by which your parents met, derailing the key event that led to your birth. Such are the perils of retrocausality, the idea that the present can affect the past, and the future can affect the present. Strange as it sounds, retrocausality ... has been debated for decades, mostly in the realm of philosophy and quantum physics. Trouble is, nobody has done the experiment to show it happens in the real world, so the door remains wide open for a demonstration. It might even happen soon. Researchers are on the verge of experiments that will finally hold retrocausality's feet to the fire by attempting to send a signal to the past. It should all be doable with the help of a state-of-the-art optics workbench and the bizarre yet familiar tricks of quantum particles. If retrocausality is confirmed -- and that is a huge if -- it would overturn our most cherished notions about the nature of cause and effect and how the universe works.
British scientists have developed an antigravity machine that can float heavy stones, coins and lumps of metal in mid-air. Based around a powerful magnet, the device levitates objects in a similar way to how a maglev train runs above its tracks. The device exploits diamagnetism. Place non-magnetic objects inside a strong enough magnetic field and they are forced to act like weak magnets themselves. Generate a field that is stronger below and weaker above, and the resulting upward magnetic force cancels out gravity. Scientists have used diamagnetism to make wood, strawberries and, famously, a living frog fly. "That force is strong enough to float things with a density similar to water, but not things with the density of rocks."
Astronomers have spotted huge cloudlike plumes erupting from Mars – a phenomenon that scientists are at a loss to explain. The bright flares, which have now died away, towered higher than anything else observed in the Martian atmosphere. Their tops reached some 150 miles in altitude, more than twice as high as the highest Martian clouds, and they sprawled across 300 to 600 miles, researchers report in this week's Nature, a science journal. The researchers initially were skeptical, but "we came to the conclusion that what we were seeing is actually real," says study co-author Antonio García Muńoz, a planetary scientist at the European Space Agency. The plumes are "exceptional. … It's difficult to come to terms with this." This scientific brainteaser first came to light in early 2012. "I don't think it's real. Basic physics says this can't occur," [Planetary scientist Todd Clancy of the Space Science Institute] says, adding that the conditions in Mars's upper atmosphere don't supply the necessary ingredients for clouds. In response, study co-author Agustin Sánchez-Lavega, a planetary scientist and physics professor at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, notes that 19 different observers captured the strange eruptions. He considers the source of the formations "open to discussion," he says via e-mail.
Note: Here is a picture that shows Mars' strange behavior. For more along these lines, see concise summaries of deeply revealing news articles about our enigmatic universe from reliable major media sources.
A powerful sun storm—associated with the second biggest solar flare of the current 11-year sun cycle—is now hitting Earth, so far with few consequences. But the potentially "severe geomagnetic storm," in NASA's words, could disrupt power grids, radio communications, and GPS as well as spark dazzling auroras. The storm ... won't hold a candle to an 1859 space-weather event, scientists say—and it's a good thing too. If a similar sun storm were to occur in the current day—as it well could—modern life could come to a standstill, they add. That storm has been dubbed the Carrington Event, after British astronomer Richard Carrington, who witnessed the megaflare and was the first to realize the link between activity on the sun and geomagnetic disturbances on Earth. During the Carrington Event, northern lights were reported as far south as Cuba and Honolulu, while southern lights were seen as far north as Santiago, Chile. The flares were so powerful that "people in the northeastern U.S. could read newspaper print just from the light of the aurora," Daniel Baker, of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said at a geophysics meeting in December 2010. In addition, the geomagnetic disturbances were strong enough that U.S. telegraph operators reported sparks leaping from their equipment—some bad enough to set fires, said Ed Cliver, a space physicist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory in Bedford, Massachusetts. If something similar happened today, the world's high-tech infrastructure could grind to a halt.
Note: For more on this, click here and here. The first article talks about the vulnerability of the world's nuclear reactors to such a storm. If telegraph systems failed in the solar storm of 1859, how much damage do you think such a storm would do to our modern electronics? And why aren't more people talking about this?
Is it preposterous to consider the existence of parallel universes? Or is it preposterous not to? Physicist Brian Greene would tend toward the latter view. The Columbia University theoretical physicist's latest book, "The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos," follows up on his two earlier books for popular audiences, "The Elegant Universe" and "The Fabric of the Cosmos." Those works presented step-by-step guides to string theory and space-time, respectively, leavened with pop-culture references and analogies drawn from everyday life. Greene doesn't explain just one scenario in which unreachable universes co-exist alongside our own. He delves into nine possibilities, drawn from different corners of scientific speculation. As a string theorist, Greene is used to ... criticism. Like parallel universes, the idea that matter's fundamental building blocks are tiny vibrating strings or multidimensional membranes has often been knocked as unprovable, unverifiable, unfalsifiable speculation. "That's provocative nonsense," Greene [commented]. Theorists are not just pulling this stuff out of thin air. Rather, they're being led to seemingly wild conclusions while working within what he called "the tight straitjacket of mathematics." The math is clearly suggesting that there may be other universes out there.
Note: For an excerpt from Greene's intriguing book, click here. For summaries of many other major media articles which raise fascinating questions which stretch our beliefs of what is real, click here. And for lots more intriguing information presenting evidence for a rich new paradigm, click here.
The Brain: A Secret History [is] a television series which reveals how much we have learnt about ourselves through the work of some of the 20th century's most influential, and deeply flawed, psychologists. In the course of making the series we found rare archive and first-hand accounts of the many inventive and sometimes sinister ways in which experimental psychology has been used to probe, tease, control and manipulate human behaviour. High on the list of psychologists ... was Stanley Milgram. Some claim that what Milgram did was ethically and scientifically dubious. I have always thought it was justified and hugely important, but I had never had the chance to interview any of the "volunteers" who had unwittingly taken part in his notorious experiment, to get their perspective. What Bill and the other volunteers who took part weren't told was that the electric shocks were fake – and that both the Experimenter and the Learner were actors. The real purpose of the experiment was to see how far the volunteers would go. Stanley Milgram had asked colleagues how many people they thought would go all the way and administer a lethal 450-volt shock. Most said less than 1 per cent – and those would probably be psychopaths. Yet Bill, like 65 per cent of the volunteers, gave an apparently lethal electric shock when told to do so.
Note: For an amazing, six-minute ABC News clip on a modern day version of the Milgram experiment, click here.
The Deepwater Horizon disaster is not just an industrial accident – it is a violent wound inflicted on the Earth itself. It lays bare the hubris at the heart of capitalism. This Gulf coast crisis is about many things – corruption, deregulation, the addiction to fossil fuels. But underneath it all, it's about this: our culture's excruciatingly dangerous claim to have such complete understanding and command over nature that we can radically manipulate and re-engineer it with minimal risk to the natural systems that sustain us. But as the BP disaster has revealed, nature is always more unpredictable than the most sophisticated mathematical and geological models imagine. In the arc of human history, the notion that nature is a machine for us to re-engineer at will is a relatively recent conceit. In her ground-breaking 1980 book The Death of Nature, the environmental historian Carolyn Merchant reminded readers that up until the 1600s, the Earth was alive. Europeans – like indigenous people the world over – believed the planet to be a living organism, full of life-giving powers but also wrathful tempers. There were, for this reason, strong taboos against actions that would deform and desecrate "the mother", including mining. [But] with nature now cast as a machine, devoid of mystery or divinity, its component parts [can] be dammed, extracted and remade with impunity.
Note: For illuminating insights into the nature of reality and the reality of nature, click here.
The Casimir effect governs interactions of matter with the energy that is present in a vacuum. Success in harnessing this force could someday help researchers develop low-friction ballistics and even levitating objects that defy gravity. For now, the U.S. Defense Department's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched a two-year, $10-million project encouraging scientists to work on ways to manipulate this quirk of quantum electrodynamics. Vacuums generally are thought to be voids, but Hendrik Casimir believed these pockets of nothing do indeed contain fluctuations of electromagnetic waves. He suggested [that] as the boundaries of a region of vacuum move, the variation in vacuum energy (also called zero-point energy) leads to the Casimir effect. Recent research done at Harvard University, Vrije University Amsterdam and elsewhere has proved Casimir correct — and given some experimental underpinning to DARPA's request for research proposals.
Note: Debunkers of the new energy movement have long claimed that zero point energy is a theoretical construct which cannot have practical applications. This article shows that attitudes are now shifting. For lots more reliable information on what's still hidden from the public on the new energy front, click here.
Most of us take for granted that those rectangular green slips of paper we keep in our wallets are inviolable: the physical embodiment of value. But alternative forms of money have a long history and appear to be growing in popularity. It's not merely barter or primitive means of exchange like seashells or beads. Beneath the financial radar, in hip U.S. towns or South African townships, in shops, markets and even banks, people throughout the world are exchanging goods and services via thousands of currency types that look nothing like official tender. Alternative means of trade often surface during tough economic times. "When money gets dried up and there are still needs to be met in society, people come up with creative ways to meet those needs," says Peter North, a senior lecturer in geography at the University of Liverpool and the author of [a book] on the subject. He refers to the "scrips" issued in the U.S. and Europe during the Great Depression that kept money flowing and the massive barter exchanges involving millions of people that emerged amid runaway inflation in Argentina in 2000. "People were kept from starving [this way]," he says. Closer to home, "Ithaca Hours," with a livable hourly wage as the standard, were launched during the 1991 recession to sustain the economy in Ithaca, N.Y., and stem the loss of jobs. Hours, which are legal and taxable, circulate within the community, moving from local shop to local artisan and back, rather than leaking out into the larger monetary system. The logo on the Hour reads "In Ithaca We Trust." Alternative (or "complementary") currencies range from quaint to robust, simple to high tech.
Note: Read the entire article at the link above to learn about the great range of uses and benefits provided by alternative currencies.
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