Body Art for the Modern World

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Paul Van Hevel, Guest ContributorLast Modified: 21:12 p.m. EDT, 8 September 2014

Medusa, Body Painting, Photo by One Step 2 FarSAN DIEGO, California -- Photography and art are prominently featured in The Report. The website is anchored by photography, but artists by virtue of their unique and at times revolutionary view of the world are also presented.

Today, we feature a brief post about body art in its historical and modern equivalent, as well as how you can enjoy this art form on a more personal level.

Reasons Why People Love Body Painting

The art of painting the body is not as new as some people may think. For centuries, people in every culture have found ways to add to their natural features in either a temporary or a permanent form.  Body painting differs from the more permanent art of tattoos in the fact that they are only temporary.

According to Bella Volen, "body painting with clay and other natural pigments existed in most, if not all, tribalist cultures.  Often worn during ceremonies, it still survives in this ancient form among the indigenous people of Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Islands, and parts of Africa, India, Japan and more.”

The art still practiced in much of the world today often represents a rite of passage in either their social or spiritual life and is an integral part of the wearer’s advancement through the years. There are several different reasons why someone may choose to have their body painted.

Traditional Significance

When you’re considering our history, odds are that you’ll find body painting was a significant part of our past. Most often, it was one of the customs of our ancestors and was done to represent some major rite of passage in life. In many cultures it was a common practice for weddings, reaching adulthood, to celebrate new life or to mourn a death.

Religious Significance

It also has a religious or spiritual representation in many cultures. The Hindi, for example use body painting in many of their festivals and celebrations to honor their gods and goddesses with the beautiful henna designs.

It’s Art

No matter what your culture, people will always be able to enjoy true art in the world around them. Body painting is a way to transform the human body into a living, breathing, walking work of art that is not limited to distant lands.

For those who truly appreciate this type of living art, the idea of providing your body as a canvas for true artists at their best can be an exhilarating experience. Whether you enjoy this type of art form for its beauty or for the skill of the artist, there is one thing for sure. Having your body painted will bring you positive attention by offering you and those around you a unique experience that everyone can appreciate.

According to Sean Avram, who is featured on the show Skin Wars, “everyone deserves a chance to feel beautiful and to be treated special and told how good they look…. It is a very inclusive art form that generates a positive atmosphere as people enjoy the creation of the art in awe.”

As Oscar Wilde famously said, “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.”

Follow OneStep2Far on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Guest Contributor: @OneStep2Far_DM

NASA Embarks on Asteroid Capture Mission

NASA Orion Space Craft Capturing Device, Photo Courtesy of NASA

NASA Orion Space Craft Capturing Device, Photo Courtesy of NASA

NASA is developing a mission that will "identify, capture, and redirect" a chosen asteroid and set it in orbit around the moon, according to their website.

Two designs are being considered: one is a large inflatable bag-like system, the other is a robotic arm that would snag a sizable chunk off of a larger asteroid.  Later this year, NASA will decide which approach to start with.

Astronauts aboard the Orion spacecraft will visit the captured asteroid in 2020 and will return with samples in order to study the asteroid's composition.  As well as knowledge for knowledge's sake, this will provide NASA with an opportunity to test out equipment that can be used for a possible mars landing and will also prevent any asteroid/earth collisions, such as the one that killed the dinosaurs or the one featured in Michael Bay's movie Armageddon.

Asteroids are chunks of matter left over from the formation of the solar system, and studying them can lead to new insights on the formation of Earth. As well as looking back, asteroid study can also help us move forward. They can be literal stepping stones for space pioneers set to explore deeper into the solar system and also contain resources such as water that can be of use to astronauts traveling through space.

Since 2010, NASA has been keeping an eye on objects close to our planet via their Near Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study, and last year the Asteroid Initiative was launched which narrowed the focus specifically to asteroids. Since then, they've found about 1,217 Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), ranging from the size of a car to larger ones the size of a small moon. Of those identified, six are seen as good candidates for the relocation project.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @SJJakubowski

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War Porn: The Death of James Foley

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ALEPPO, Syria -- We have become a world of sensates, who require more and more input only to receive less and less gratification. We live in a world, and in fact this website and the millions of others like it, inhabit a sphere dedicated to satisfying the immediate need for any information or misinformation that we may seek.

Today, we awoke to the news that another journalist had fallen in the line of duty while trying to expose gross injustices in war-torn Syria. His death was as brutal as, or more so than, the hundreds of murders captured by video and being circulated through the web depicting the torturous final moments of people chosen by radicals to demonstrate the nature of their resolve.

The radical 'du jour' was ISIS, a.k.a. Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham, but yesterday it was Boko Haram, tomorrow it may be Hamas, the next, The Ayran Brotherhood, perhaps the KKK,  Al-Qeda may rattle a saber or two, but in the end, the name of tyranny is less important than the fact that "all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." ~ Edmund Burke.

It is easy for us to blame the evil perpetrators for their reprehensible behavior, and indeed, we should feel outraged, but in so doing we must examine ourselves for our role in this dance of the macabre. ISIS would be just another group of religious zealots killing, maiming, and torturing people in the name of their version of "god," but for social media.

ISIS has learned to harness the power of social media to promulgate its ideology, but more insidious, they understand that human nature will do the rest. Much like the style of horror movies known as "torture porn" for its gratuitous amount of screaming, nudity, and bondage; the industry continues to produce these movies because there is an appetite for it. It satisfies a certain type of voyeurism that requires sadism to complete the experience.

Hence, more and more violence, for less and less satisfaction, as proven by the plethora of disturbingly violent videos and graphic images that crisscross the web. Most cannot be authenticated, but lacking in provenance doesn't stop people from 'sharing' and circulating it. Thus is the case with the horrific beheading of James Foley, an American journalist who reported from conflict ridden areas of the world as a freelance photojournalist for the GlobalPost.

That we would wake up this morning to millions of shares of the images captured by an ISIS adherent of Foley's lasts moments, should make us all feel soiled. ISIS heinously, with malice aforethought, and in cold-blood staged the beheading of Foley for the sole purpose of having us, the audience, disseminate it. They are the bait trap, into which we have climbed, and thus poisoned, we leave believing we have escaped, when in fact, we have become the carrier of that which will kill not only us, but everyone with whom we come in contact.

Like pornography, once the image has been viewed it can never be removed nor unseen. There is no such thing as a degausser for our brains. That is what makes pornography so pernicious, it repels and attracts, the image horrific or seductive continues to gain strength and relief is only found in revisiting the image, thus trying to recapture the initial sensation, it becomes addictive.

ISIS knows this as well as any successful purveyor of illicit material. They know that they only have to put it out there, and if one person views it, and even if that person is appalled and simply wants to share their outrage with their social media network, ISIS has already accomplished the goal of proselytizing through the power of concentric exposure.

That Foley had to die under such tragic and inhumane circumstances is heartbreaking. That his mother had to hear about or read about the fact that the world was greedily consuming the last moments of the life of her child is unimaginable. That his family and friends were not even allowed the dignity and privacy to begin the mourning process without the vivisection of their tragedy is shameful. That news media outlets lacked both decorum and humanity in posting the graphic video and images of Foley's beheading is morally reprehensible.

That we have a choice to share or not share the video and images of Foley's murder is the greatest and most powerful choice we can make in this situation. That, and to remember that "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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Lightning Strikes Twice? Malaysia Airline Tragedies

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:10 p.m. DST, 17 July 2014

Malaysia Airline Flight MH17 Fatal Crash - 07.17.14, Painting by Richard Lee

DONETSK, Ukraine -- First, we preface this article with our sympathies for the families and friends of the 295 people who died when a Malaysian Airliner was shot down over eastern Ukraine earlier today.

It is a horrific tragedy, in a world which has become increasingly violent, whether by design or happenstance, and for which there is no explanation.

The tragedy of Flight MH17 could also be considered a "smoking gun" for a conspiracy theorist.  By definition a theory is based upon postulation not fact, and to postulate that a conspiracy exists without evidence is the very definition of an infinite loop.

Though not a mathematician, it seems statistically improbable that two Malaysia Airlines' planes would crash, killing 239 and 295 people respectively.  Flight 370 was lost in the Indian Ocean and the reason for its crash has yet to be determined.

According to M.I.T's Sloan School Statistician Arnold Barnett, "if you take one flight a day, you would on average need to fly every day for 55,000 years before being involved in a fatal crash. (Source: ABC)

However, it would seem that the caveat to this postulate is that it only applies if you are not on a flight originating from or flying to Kuala Lumpur.  Both planes disappeared while in a cruising altitude of 10,000 metres (33,000 feet) and otherwise showing no signs of distress.

Flight 370 vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board after it took off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. Flight MH17 originated from Amsterdam bound for Kuala Lumpur and is reported to have been brought down by a Buk anti-aircraft system.  The possible culprits in this latest Malaysian Airline disaster were quickly identified as a pro-Russian separatists group which admits to previously downing cargo planes, but vociferously denies any involvement in this attack.

Or it could be those pesky Russians, a perfect scapegoat easily maligned given their recent bad behavior and Cold War Era reputation. This is not to state that Russia couldn't have been involved, or that Russia is a country intent upon promoting peaceful coexistence with other countries, a position easily discredited by its current hostilities with Ukraine.

Russia is a perfect scapegoat, but this seems a pedestrian and all together too neat explanation for two catastrophes disparate in every other way except Kuala Lumpur.  Sometimes the most obvious is a distraction, very much like the character Oz in The Wizard of Oz, who upon discovery states "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"

Amidst the cacophony of calls by world leaders to investigate the cause of this crash and bring the guilty to swift and harsh justice, there is no one to blame for the deaths of the 239 passengers of Flight 370 who seem to have receded from the public's mind in lieu of more current affairs.

But, what if this was less about the improbability of two airlines from the same carrier crashing just 4-months apart, than a targeted assassination of an individual or individuals who were somehow traveling from or to Kuala Lumpur, and the rest of the family and loved ones were simply 'collateral damage?'

In the light of the pain that many people are experiencing today as a result of this tragedy, this speculation brings no closure, no comfort, and no answers.  But, as initially proffered, there is more to this story than meets the eye, and it is the stuff that conspiracy thrillers are made of.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

Is Clean Water Technology a Solution for Africa?

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Sarah Joanne Jakubowski, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified: 21:25 p.m. DST, 30 June 2014

Chief Executive Officer of N&M Technologies, Head Office, South Africa

GHANA, Accra -- Earlier this month, Medwyn Jacobs, CEO of New and Master Technologies (N&M) once again presented at Annual Ghana National Health Environment and Safety (NAHES) Conference where he reintroduced N&M’s water harvesting machine that can take water out of the atmosphere and filter it into usable drinking water.

N&M Technologies is a proud South African registered and based company that was established in 1989 by the current CEO, Mr. Medwyn Jacobs. N&M's focus has always been to meet the challenges facing South Africa and Africa through new and innovative means, and addressing Africa's clean water problems is one of them.

Mr. Jacob's had hoped to convince NAHES participates in 2013 to adopt the clean water generating solution that his company offered; however, the lack of enthusiasm has Jacobs worried because a year later nothing has changed. Yet, the stakes are higher than ever since groundwater sources across Africa have been depleted and people on the Continent are running out of places to look for water.

"Your country has so much humidity," Jacobs said to conference attendees. "You will never be short of water." Even better, he promises to open factories in Ghana that produce the machine, creating jobs and keeping resources local. However, reception of the machine during this conference remained half-hearted.

The audience questioned the machines safety. Had it been tested in a variety of humidities? Perhaps it would act differently in different settings? They questioned its efficiency. Can you reuse the filter? What if somebody didn't follow directions, reused the filter and gets sick?

Those at the conference did choose to sample the water produced by the machine, raising their glasses in a toast to N&M and Ghana before ceremoniously drinking the pristine water; but at the end of the day, Jacobs was no closer to deploying his company's solution than in 2013.

Potable water is a grave problem in many countries with emerging economies. It is especially dire in Asia, Africa, and South America. According to the World Health Organization there are “780 million people don't have access to clean water, and 3.4 million die each year due to water-borne diseases.”

N&M’s machine could be one remedy to this problem, and the fact that Africans seem reticent to deploy this on a larger scale is problematic. The technology of water reclamation from the air is not new. There is an Israeli company called Water-Gen that has developed an Atmospheric Water-Generation Units using its "GENius" heat exchanger to chill air and condense water vapor.

Their solution has been deployed on a large scale and according to an April 2014 article by CNNco-CEO Arye Kohavi explained that "The clean air enters our GENius heat exchanger system where it is dehumidified; the water is removed from the air and collected in a collection tank inside the unit.

From there the water is passed through an extensive water filtration system which cleans it from possible chemical and microbiological contamination," he explains. "The clean purified water is stored in an internal water tank which is kept continuously preserved to keep it at high quality over time."

The system produces 250-800 liters (65-210 gallons) of potable water a day depending on temperature and humidity conditions and Kohavi says it uses two cents' worth of electricity to produce a liter of water.” (Source: CNN)

N&M often researches foreign ideas and technology to develop innovative solutions, and perhaps if the idea of large-scale water reclamation from the air is not readily adopted, Ghanians and other Africans may be open to another aspect of water generating systems like portable water purification systems.

These machines may be of great assistance to communities where the people are subject to the daily backbreaking tasks of carrying water for cooking, washing, and bathing over many miles in hostile conditions, often in contaminated, non-biodegradable containers, such as plastics that previously contained toxic liquids/materials.

“Water-Gen has developed a portable water purification system. It's a battery-operated water filtration unit called Spring. Spring is able to filter 180 liters (48 gallons) of water, and fits into a backpack -- enabling water filtration on the go. You can go to any lake, any place, any river, anything in the field, usually contaminated with industrial waste, or anything like that and actually filters it into the best drinking water that exists," says Kohavi.” (Source: CNN)

This is not to say that individuals in Africa can afford a single device, but perhaps in the near future, the South African company N&M could partner with a company like Water-Gen to increase market share in Africa. Through the economies of scale, such a partnership could potentially introduce life-saving alternatives to porting and drinking contaminated water. The most important aspect of this opportunity is that the solution to address this critical issue is available and now it is just a matter of scaling and adoption, and with this, perhaps N&M will receive a warmer reception at the 2015 NAHES conference.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @SJJakubowski

India to Recognize Third Gender

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INDIA - A decision was made on 15 April 2014 in favor of the 3 million Indians who are transgender. On legal forms, there is now a third category marked either "transgender" or "other." The Indian constitution orders against gender discrimination and more and more people are beginning to realize that that includes more than just men and women.

Transgender is defined as someone who has acquired physical characteristics of the opposite sex, who identify as neither male or female, or who present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

Among other things, transgendered people now have the legal right to adopt children and to have the same jobs as non-transgendered people. Before the law, the majority was either restricted to "show" careers -- singing and dancing -- or to a life of begging or prostitution. Now if needed they can be included in welfare programs that help provide jobs, education and healthcare.

Public toilets for the transgender community as well as transgender-specific health services are now available. India has also launched public awareness campaigns to fight the stigma against transgender people.

Since the ruling, 28,000 people have chosen to identify themselves as "other" on voter registration forms.

Follow Sarah on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @SJJakubowski

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Life-Changing Water Found Below Kenya's Surface

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Jessamy Nichols, Africa CorrespondentLast Modified:12:28 p.m. DST, 23 September 2013

African Child Drinking Clean Water, Photo by The OptimizersKENYA, Africa - The Lake Turkana region of Kenya is known for the skeleton found in the region that dates back to 1.5 million years ago, making it one of the suspected origin locations for humans.

Over the eons of cradling human civilizations, the Turkana region has gradually become more and more arid over time to become the drought-stricken area it is today.

However, there has been a recent discovery by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that revealed that below the region's surface, there is 200 billion cubic meters of freshwater reserves in an underground aquifer. Furthermore, this vast supply can supply the entire country's population of 42 million people for 70 years!

This statistic is an unbelievable figure, as this water source has the potential to completely change the livelihoods of Kenya's 17 million citizens who lack access to safe water.

Despite this highly welcomed news, it is imperative that the Kenyan government assures that the water is managed and distributed in an equitable, appropriate manner. The supply has grand economic potential, but the country's leaders should instead look to the human rights potential and ensure that the masses have access to it. Fulfilling people's right to clean water could completely change the lives of millions and improve the standard of living.

This is a crucial opportunity for Kenya and the following decisions about the aquifer could play a huge rule in the country's trajectory.

Follow Jessamy on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Africa Correspondent: @JessamyNichols