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Morning Cup of Links: Nerf Sniper

The government of North Korea has offered to stop their nuclear activities and submit to inspection in exchange for food. This could be a sign that Kim Jong Un may be a different type of leader.
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Duck Face: The Race For The Cure. The first step is in recognizing the symptoms and the rapid spread of this dreaded disease.
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Neighborhood Watch is a new comedy starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, written by Seth Rogan. The premise is killer: "Suburban dads form a neighborhood watch group to get time away from their families, only to discover a plot to destroy Earth."
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Against Big Bird, The Gods Themselves Contend In Vain. Who knew that the Sesame Street Muppet could stamp his foot and change the rules of the Egyptian afterlife? The entire special is available to watch on YouTube, starting with part one. (via Metafilter)
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Cynthia Germanotta is better known nowadays as Lady Gaga's mother. She talks about the singer's childhood and their new foundation to fight bullying.
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Flying robotic helicopters called Quadrotors play the James Bond theme. They are not controlled remotely by humans, like toys; rather all the moves are programmed through computers.
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What are the odds? A New Jersey woman was born on Leap Day, and then gave birth to a daughter four years ago, also on Leap Day.
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More Americans Are Treating Themselves to ‘Second Breakfast.’ In most cases, more frequent meals are a healthy choice, but only if they stay small.
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Check Out This Awesome Steampunk Nerf Sniper Rifle. Now imagine the confusion it will cause some future civilization when they excavate this in a few million years.
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Witness Possibly the Worst Own Goal in Soccer History. It's an ill wind that blows no good.
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The Harrowing Lives of Child Miners in the Early 1900s. Little boys fit down in the shafts better than grown men and demanded less money for their labor.
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6 Albums Inspired By Outer Space. Ah, the days when people were still inspired by space...

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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