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eNews For The Week Of August 25, 2009

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In This Week’s Issue

In The News

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In The News

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Netanyahu Visits London With Strong Position On Jerusalem

August 24, 2009

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu arrived in London on Monday for two days of meetings with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and US Mideast mediator George Mitchell, making clear that he will not allow anyone to question Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem. The US and Israel have been wrangling for weeks about the nature of a settlement freeze that US President Barack Obama called for in the early days of his presidency, and which the Palestinians have now made a condition for restarting negotiations.

The Jerusalem Post

Korean Scientist Faces 4 Years Over Stem Cell Fraud

August 24, 2009

South Korean prosecutors told a Seoul court on Monday they wanted a four-year prison term for disgraced scientist Hwang Woo-suk, whose research team has been linked to major fraud in its once-celebrated stem cell studies. The 57-year-old Hwang, touted as a global stem cell pioneer and treated as a national hero, was indicted in 2006 on charges of embezzling 2 billion won (then $2 million) of research funds from two domestic companies using fabricated reports.

The Korea Times

Freed Journalists Criticized For Endangering Refugees

August 21, 2009

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, the two American journalists released after nearly five months in North Korean custody, have been widely portrayed at home as victims of unduly harsh punishment by a repressive government for simply doing their job. But...in South Korea, human rights advocates, bloggers and Christian pastors are accusing them of needlessly endangering the very people they tried to cover: North Korean refugees and the activists who help them.

The New York Times


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Articles And Commentary

Texas Schools Will Teach The Bible

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Texas high schools will be offering Bible literacy classes this fall, according to a 2007 Texas law now officially going into effect.  As expected, plenty of people are criticizing Texas for weakening the Church-State boundary.  Others, though, laud the law for working to brick in an essential part of high schoolers' education.

In 2007, Texas passed House Bill 1287, which requires that Texas public high schools offer "elective courses on the Bible's Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament and their impact on the history and literature of Western civilization." Problems with funding and training put the law on hold for two years, but this year the classes will be available all over the state. The law stipulates that the lessons are to be taught objectively, in an academic manner and should neither promote nor disparage religion. Instead, they should "teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture." Teachers have to get a special certification that qualifies them to teach the course, lest the class become a daily devotional time.

School districts have some flexibility about how to implement the law in their own high schools. Wylie High School will offer a Bible literacy class using a textbook approved by the Texas Education Agency. Abilene Independent School District, though, will simply include Bible literacy information in other classes on literature or history.

Social studies teacher Jennifer Kendrick taught a Bible literacy course at New Braunfels High School three years ago, and 25 students have signed up for it this year.

"We cover comparative religion and study the archetypes in the Bible, as well as its influence on literature and Western civilization," Kendrick said. "One unit talks about the books of the Bible and the other is more of a comparison of other religions," and their history, she said.

"This is not Christianity 101," said Eric Thaxton, an English teacher who will be teaching the class at Wylie High School. "This is the Bible and its influence. If someone in the class is not a Christian, I hope they get the same out of it as everyone else."

Plenty of people have already accused Texas of failing to recognize the separation of Church and State over this law. Some have blamed Texas with one-upping the Taliban, and others have insisted that education on the Bible should be relegated to the Sunday School classroom.   Some parents are concerned their kids will be taught that the Bible is true.  Others fear the opposite, that their kids will be taught that the Bible stories are merely mythology.  There is always the risk that teachers will push their agendas, whichever way they might lean. However, as long as schools stick to the rules and teach the Bible objectively, students will simply learn more about the Bible and be free to draw their own religious and spiritual conclusions about its contents.

Even completely secular educators, though, can argue that Texas is in the right.  This can be seen simply from a quick look at Shakespeare.

Shakespeare and the Bible:
Shakespeare helped create the English language. We teach Shakespeare to unappreciative school children because his works offer excellent literature, and his stories are entertaining to boot. A knowledge of Shakespeare is useful toward a good education for another reason; a massive number of common idioms and phrases have come to the world through his plays.

The same is true of the Bible. The Bible gives us poetry and drama, legal documents, history, and romance, and is arguable the world's most excellent collection of literature, ancient or otherwise. And not only are the Bible stories worthy reads in themselves, but a massive number of common idioms and sayings come to us from the Bible. In fact, a knowledge of the Bible is vital for understanding much of Western literature, because allusions to the Bible pop up constantly. We don't only find the Bible in obvious places like Paradise Lost by John Milton, but in the writings of John Steinbeck and O. Henry, Mark Twain and William Faulkner. Biblical references pervade Western literature.

In fact, Shakespeare himself alludes to the Bible so regularly that some folks have speculated he was one of the scholars that translated the King James Version. The story of Cain and Abel alone shows up in Shakespeare 25 times, and a conservative estimate of Shakespeare's biblical allusions runs about 1200 in number.

Shakespeare also refers to Greek and Roman mythology a great deal.  Frankly, students who are ignorant of Greek and Roman myths will be hard pressed to understand many of Shakespeare's allusions.  Nobody would question a course on Greek mythology in a public school classroom.  Yet, Shakespeare used the Bible with relish. The Bible influenced all of Western history and law, literature and society far more than even the Greeks. 

And that's the point. Not only is it okay that the Bible be taught in public schools, but it is vital if students are to have a good understanding of Western literature and culture. People should not be attacking public schools for offering classes on the Bible. They should be upset if schools fail to offer classes on Bible literacy. Leaving it out for fear of breaking the sacred Church and State barrier is detrimental to the basic education of our students.

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Eating Test Tube Burgers

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Food is always big news. From the dangers of a high-McDonald's lifestyle to the potential cancer-fighting benefits of chocolate, people are always interested in food. In those parts of the world where people don't necessarily eat every day, a steady food supply is serious business. At the same time, researchers and scientists have developed some bizarre methods for producing food, and the products may or may not be as great as their advertisers claim.

Test Tube Meat:
CNN reports that research group New Harvest has been working on creating "meat" in a laboratory. In an effort to get away from the hassles of animal production, with the space and grain requirements, New Harvest researchers are growing their protein-rich products in steel vats.  New Harvest also claims its lab-made meat comes free of the diseases that can be found on normal animal farms. 

The process does not require anything exotic like big computers recombining atoms. Nature is still used, after a fashion. The eggs of cows or pigs are collected from a local slaughterhouse. Those eggs are fertilized and the resulting embryos are put in a nutrient solution where they can grow as big and strong as embryos can without a uterus involved. The in-vitro meat can't replace a chicken leg or steak, but it can work as ground meat, sausages or chicken nuggets.

"Cultured meat would have a lot of advantages," said Jason Matheny of New Harvest. "We could precisely control the amount of fat in meat. We could make ground beef with an ideal fatty acid ratio -- a hamburger that prevents heart attacks instead of causing them."

Environmentalists and animal rights groups are excited about the prospect of moving the world's meat supplies from the stockyard to the lab. They visualize a world with no more cramped chicken runs packed with birds that are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. They imagine rainforests safe from bulldozers because new fields are not needed to grow crops to feed cattle.

One environmental scientist was less than impressed with the plan, however, commenting on the CNN article:

"Animal cells do not manufacture protein out of wishes and moonbeams. There will be a feedstock, likely based mostly on soy and corn to balance the protein content just like animal feed today. It will be heavily chemically processed to break it down into a form muscle cells can use. There will be waste from this process which will be chemically similar to the waste produced by animal digestion. The metabolic processes of the tank meat will also produce waste which will be essentially identical to the waste produced by metabolism in an intact animal."

In other words, this isn't a food-from-nothing effort. There will still be feed and waste issues to deal with. We cannot grow in-vitro burgers "in a cup" in space for 700 years while WALL-E stacks our garbage into skyscrapers, fun as that sounds.  At the same time, it would seem that, pound for pound, growing embryos would require less feed and would emit less waste than a steer that eats for half a year before it's slaughtered.

Either way, there is something perverse about eating animal embryos, even coated with sweet and sour sauce. It might not be Soylent Green, but it will still take a long time to convince consumers that in-vitro is all good to eat.  

Organic Continues To Thrive:
Test tube chicken nuggets are not the only option. There are other alternatives to hormone-filled chickens squished in cages. As the economy has slowed down, folks have been returning to their own backyards. People with a few acres are taking advantage of their land to let a bullock or two forage during the summer. Gardens grown with heirloom seeds and old-fashioned manure can be guaranteed free of chemicals and genetically modified vegetables. A few happy chickens wandering around the yard not only eat bugs, and poop out natural fertilizer, but they offer hormone-free eggs and even an occasional healthy supper of chicken and dumplings. Feathers are messy, but we all make trades in life.

Organic farms have flourished in recent decades as people shy away from the hormones and chemicals and genetically modified produce that have overtaken supermarket shelves. Even in the cities, rooftop and vacant lot gardens have cropped up. A good supply of tomatoes or basil can be gathered from potted plants on a balcony, and they taste miles better than the ones from the store.   

Future Famine?
In Revelation 6:5-6, the Bible speaks of a time when a simple measure of wheat will cost an entire day's wages. Famines are not new, and there will be some terrible ones in the future. The problem is not lack of resources or overpopulation, however. The majority of famines on earth are man-made. The horrible economic conditions of the future will be caused by mismanagement and corrupt government rather than a lack of land or water, or even of a shortage of embryonic-beef burgers.

The Christian's Famine Today: 
Too many Christians today suffer from malnourishment; we are living in famine conditions but the famine has nothing to do with food. Our famine is like the one that Amos spoke of:

"The days are coming," declares the Sovereign LORD, "when I will send a famine through the land - not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD." - Amos 8:11

Let's put as much effort into feeding ourselves with the Word of God as we do putting supper (with or without in-vitro burgers) on the table.  After all, man does not live by bread alone.

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Rockets, Russia, and the Korean Peninsula

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South Korea successfully launched a rocket on Tuesday, hoping to put a satellite into space from its own territory for the first time. The launch ended in disappointment when the satellite overshot its intended orbit, but Russia's assistance has offered South Korea's space program a solid jump start. In the meanwhile, North Korea has shown some slight softness in recent weeks.  While South Korea and the United States are skeptical of real good will, there is hope Kim Jung Il's failing health may mean he is serious about making a deal.

South Korea has long been a strong United States ally. When it asked the US to help with its young space program, however, the US declined for fear of starting an arms race on the Korean peninsula. South Korea then turned to Russia for assistance. Seoul has long had to depend on other countries to shoot its satellites into orbit, and the ability to launch its own rockets is a big boost to the Asian nation.

Assisting in the space program is not Russia's first cooperation with South Korea. Russia has launched South Korean satellites in the past, and the two countries regularly cooperate on several different levels. Korean conglomerates like Samsung and LG have research centers in Russia, where they've hired hundreds of Russian engineers and scientists to improve the technology in their products. Korea found a surplus of unemployed educated Russians available and has made use of them. Samsung and LG both develop in Russian software platforms for the digital technologies in their cell phones and other digital products. The Russians are also willing to share intellectual property with Korea.

"The Japanese, Germans, and Americans either deny access to their state-of-the-art technologies or charge exorbitant license fees to Korean rivals," says senior researcher Cho Joong Hoon at the state-funded Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology. "Russians are also more accommodative in negotiating terms for sharing intellectual properties after joint R&D."

In the meanwhile, North Korea has been behaving less antagonistic than usual. First, it welcomed former US President Bill Clinton and released the two South Korean journalists it was holding hostage. Pyonyang then released a South Korean businessman, and even sent a delegation to the funeral for South Korea's late President Kim Dae Jung last weekend.

Certainly, the North's long-range missile program continues despite the world's chagrin, but North Korea has also expressed willingness to open up talks with the United States again. That is, it will talk with the US alone, minus the other countries at the six-party talks of the recent past.

South Korea suspects the North will try to shove a wedge between the US and South Korea, but also trusts the US to share the content of the discussions. Seoul and Washington are in agreement that there can be no nuclear program in North Korea, and Seoul will only offer Pyongyang economic aid according to how well the North sticks to its commitments to denuclearize.

North Korea's deceptive ways are well known; Pyongyang has already twice agreed to get rid of its nuclear program but hasn't ever followed through. In light of Kim Jong Il's failing health, though, the current situation may possibly be different than in the past. If Kim is getting ready to pass the baton to his youngest son, there could be an opportunity to make a real deal with North Korea. Then again, Kim's treachery may last as long as he does... and get passed right along to his son.

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The views and opinions expressed in these articles, enews and linked websites are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views held by Koinonia House. Koinonia House is providing this information as a resource to individuals who are interested in current news and events that may have an impact on Christian Life and Biblical trends. Koinonia House is not responsible for any information contained in these articles that may be inaccurate, or does not present an unbiased or complete perspective. Koinonia House disavows any obligation to correct or update the information contained in these articles.

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