NORAD will still track Santa, despite the government shutdown

Even though the United States government’s shutdown has forced agencies to run with a skeleton staff, it won’t be affecting a long-running holiday tradition.  The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) confirmed that it’ll still be tracking Santa’s journey on Christmas Eve, which it has done so for the last 63 years.

Every year, around 1,500 volunteers take calls and answer emails from kids around the world about the whereabouts of Santa Claus with the help of satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters.

In 2018, NORAD will also be publishing Santa’s location on social media, however, an estimated 140,000 calls are still expected to be made to the hotline, with volunteers taking two-hour shifts to answer enquiries.

NORAD Tracks Santa wouldn’t have started if not for a typo appearing on a newspaper ad back in 1955. The ad was placed on behalf of Sears, purporting to be from Santa himself. The ad read:

“HEY KIDDIES! Call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night”.

The ad published the wrong phone number, which directed to a top-secret CONAD (the predecessor to NORAD) line reserved for reporting a crisis. On duty was Colonel Harry Shoup, who received a call from a child looking for Santa Claus.  Shoup, initially thinking it was a prank, was incensed. But after realising it was indeed from a child, Shoup decided to play along as Santa.  Then, more calls from children came in, thus beginning a long holiday tradition that’s persevered to this day. Even if all in the White House is not well.

Here’s a Map to Help Us Understand America’s Share of Global Wealth

Here’s a map from Mark J. Perry at the American Enterprise Institute that breaks down the U.S. share of the global economy by renaming states according to their matching GDP’s of other countries.

For example, one million residents of Rhode Island have as much money as the 15 million citizens of Guatemala. Illinois’ 12 million have as much wealth as Saudi Arabia’s 28 million. And so on …

USA Map

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Boys Hit Puberty Younger

The New York Times recently highlighted researching showing that boys hit puberty younger but it is unclear as to why:

A large study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that boys are entering puberty earlier now than several decades ago — or at least earlier than the time frame doctors have historically used as a benchmark.

The study, widely considered the most reliable attempt to measure puberty in American boys, estimates that boys are showing signs of puberty six months to two years earlier than was reported in previous research, which historically taught that 11 ½ was the general age puberty began in boys. But experts cautioned that because previous studies were smaller or used different approaches, it is difficult to say how much earlier boys might be developing.

The study echoes research on girls, which has now established a scientific consensus that they are showing breast development earlier than in the past.

The study did not try to determine what might be causing earlier puberty, although it mentioned changes in diet, less physical activity and other environmental factors as possibilities. Experts said that without further research, implications for boys are unclear.

Dolores J. Lamb, a molecular endocrinologist at Baylor College of Medicine and president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, who was not involved in the study said:

“This should perhaps set a standard going forward for being very attentive to puberty in boys and being mindful that they’re developing earlier.  Whether the difference is as large as what they say on some papers 40 years ago is not clear.” However, she added, “this is going to be incredibly useful to pediatricians and urologists.”

The new study also found that African-American boys began puberty earlier than whites and Hispanics, a result that other studies have shown also applies to African-American girls. Researchers said that difference is most likely driven by the role of genes in puberty.

On average, black boys in the study showed signs of puberty, primarily identified as growth of the testicles, at a little older than 9, while white and Hispanic boys were a little older than 10.

Several experts said the study should not be seized upon as cause for alarm, but rather as a way to help parents and doctors gauge what to be aware of in boys’ development and whether to start conversations about social issues sooner.

For the study, researchers enlisted about 200 pediatricians in 41 states to record information on 4,131 healthy boys ages 6 to 16 during their well-child exams.

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Franciscan Friars want you to text your prayers

HOLY NAME PROVINCE TEXT A PRAYER

Just a month after Pope Benedict XVI launched his official Twitter account, other representatives of the Catholic faith are giving new meaning to the term, “religious text.”

The Holy Name Province, self-described as the largest group of friars in the USA, announced that they are now accepting prayer intentions via text.

Called “Text a Prayer Intention to a Franciscan Friar,” the program encourages participants to text the word “PRAYER” to 306-44, according to a release. Senders will then receive a welcome message inviting them to submit their prayer intentions. After they are sent in, participants will receive another text confirming that their prayer has been received and will be prayed for.

Father David Convertino, executive director of development for the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province, said in a statement:

“With technology changing the way we communicate, we needed to offer people an updated way to ask for prayers for special intentions and needs either for themselves or others”

I see this as a great use of technology, an organisation which has existed for years, which many would see as irrelevant offering a connection in a thoroughly credible manner. Do you think text messaging is a good way for religious bodies to connect with their followers? Discuss in the comments below.