eNews For The Week Of March 13, 2012
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In This Week’s Issue
In The News
Articles and Commentary
- 'After-Birth Abortion' Article Births Outrage - (Read)
- Microchip Medicine - (Read)
- Educational Freedom Bill Considered in OK - (Read)
In The News
Links to interesting articles elsewhere
March 13, 2012
Under fire from a United Nations Human Rights panel, a top Iranian official claims a Christian pastor insulted Islam but denies he faces execution.
Iranian human rights envoy Mohammad Javad Larijani denied that Nadarkhani faces the death penalty, though the sentence was spelled out in a ruling handed down by Iran's highest court last fall. Larijani also offered a new set of charges against Nadarkhani, including preaching to youth without their parents' permission, converting his home into a church and offending Islam.
In recent months, there has been an increasing international outcry for Iran to release Nadarkhani. At the council session, representatives of the European Union expressed concern over numerous human rights violations and the pastor's case in particular. Representatives from Norway and Germany also have urged Iran to review Nadarkhani's case.
— Fox News
March 13, 2012
Eurozone finance ministers gave their final approval to a second bailout for Greece on Monday and turned their fire on Spain, demanding it aim for a tougher deficit target this year in order to get back on target in 2013. Greece, the source of the currency bloc's debt crisis, swapped its privately held bonds at the weekend for new, longer maturity paper with less than half the nominal value, a move that cut its debts by more than 100 billion euros. The exchange paved the way for eurozone ministers to give the final political go-ahead to a 130 billion euro package that aims to finance Athens until 2014.
March 13, 2012
The visiting deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council has called for the expansion of strategic relations with the Islamic Republic.
Yevgeny Lukyanov made the remarks during a meeting with the secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), Saeed Jalili, in Tehran on Tuesday.
The Russian official criticized the West for adopting unilateral approaches toward international issues and said that Russia has a positive attitude toward Iran's scientific and technological advancements.
The SNSC secretary said the two countries' bilateral relationship, which is based on common interests, is of high importance.
— Tehran Times
March 13, 2012
Christians, just like every other member of our species are human, too. And that means that some of us might even be quirky. That combo is often funny. Poking good-natured fun at being slightly offended that the pastor has a nicer car than you do, the humiliation that comes when your kids act up in church, and the hair gel meter for your worship leader is funny because it's real life.
While Christians need to be able to laugh at themselves, this sitcom won't be the conduit. "GCB" has a lot of problems, the largest being that it's just not that funny. As usual, when Hollywood goes this route, it inevitably misses clever and, instead, comes across as condescending and mean. Hollywood's writers, producers, and actors do not take the time to get to know us well enough before they portray us and, therefore, parody Christians based on preconceived notions.
— Fox News
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Articles And Commentary
'After-Birth Abortion' Article Births Outrage
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Two prominent Australian philosophers created a firestorm of outrage recently by arguing that killing newborn children is morally equivalent to abortion, and that mother's rights trumped the rights of their unwanted infants. While the argument may be the next logical step for a society that promotes the destruction of developing children in the womb, the article produced a vehemently negative response from the general public.
Monash University's Alberto Giubilini and the University of Melbourne's Francesca Minerva published the article "After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?" in the Feb 23, 2012 online version of the prestigious Journal of Medical Ethics. The article raised not a few hairs on a few necks and earned the authors death threats amidst the stream of angry responses.
In the article, the ethicists made the case that sometimes unsuspecting mothers will give birth to disabled children, whom they might have aborted had they known of the babies' disabilities before birth. Since these children have as yet no awareness of the lives they are losing, the mothers should have the freedom to cut short their unwanted babies' lives in an "after-birth abortion." (As long as the execution is painless.) The authors make a point of calling the practice "after-birth abortion" and not "infanticide" because they equate it morally with the killing of a fetus rather than a child. They also reject the term "euthanasia" since the mother and not the child is the focus of concern.
In a contorted sense, the authors are right. There is little real difference in killing a child inside the womb rather than outside the womb. The few inches of distance from the uterus to the outside world has little bearing on the nature of the action. A human child is alive, and then she is dead. In neither case did she die as a natural result of her developmental abnormalities; she died because her mother made a decision.
Giubilini and Minerva could be roasted for suggesting that the lives of developmentally abnormal children have less value than others, drawing an outcry from the disabled community, except that the authors did not stop there. They said mothers should be allowed to kill their healthy newborns as well.
The bottom line, according to Giubilini and Minerva, was that newborn children have no real sense of their own lives yet. They are (supposedly) not self aware, and they have no way to miss the future lives they'll never have. Unborn and newly born children are not yet persons, according to the authors. They are "potential persons" and Giubilini and Minerva believe, "the interests of actual people over-ride the interest of merely potential people."
Readers, of course, responded with some disapprobation. One response declared, "These people are evil. Pure evil. That they feel safe in putting their twisted thoughts into words reveals how far we have fallen as a society." Another reader wrote, "The fact that the Journal of Medical Ethics published this outrageous and immoral piece of work is even scarier." Some wrote in to call the authors "murderers" and others suggested that Giubilini and Minerva be executed in an "after-birth abortion" themselves.
The authors expressed no form of remorse when confronted with this stream of wrath, nor did they say, "Hey, we're just presenting one side of an issue. We don't really believe what we're saying." Instead, Giubilini lamented about the lack of academic freedom and "fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society."
Dr. David Pohlmann of Christian Heritage College in Brisbane offered a far more reasoned, academic response to the article, which the JME posted on its site. Dr. Pohlmann thought at first that the authors were merely playing devil's advocate and weren't serious. He was surprised to realize that they were in earnest, and that they used the practice of infanticide in the Netherlands to support their position.
In response, Dr. Pohlmann noted that there indeed was a double standard in defending the life of the newborn but not the embryo or fetus. He said, "If anything, [the authors] draw attention to some of the inept reasons proposed for abortion in the first place. It is 'a nonsense' to argue that just because something is societal practice, that those actions are moral. And just because those in the Netherlands have been allowed, by the Groningen Protocol (2002), to euthanize infants in certain situations, doesn't make this practice something for the rest of the world to emulate."
In other words, if we should not kill newborns, we shouldn't kill almost-borns either.
In their article, Giubilini and Minerva failed to answer one vital question; when do newborns cease being "potential persons" and graduate into "actual persons," then? If the rule of thumb is self-awareness, might children be "aborted" until the age of three months? Eight months? Fifteen years? There are some teen agers that might be good candidates for abortion. How do we know whether newborn or unborn children are self-aware or not? How many people remember being that age?
(As a matter of fact, this writer's mother and twin brothers all do, and this writer has a fond memory of an owl-shaped bottle from early infancy. Some of us have a host of memories from our two and three-year-old lives, and so do not easily dismiss those earliest frustrations of trying to get our father's fuzzy hairs out of our noses because we were still too little to lift our tiny heads off his bare chest.) Who has the right to say that newborns and even the unborn are not self aware? And how few young adults realize what future life they are missing when they die too young? The authors' standards for personhood are hardly objective.
At the same time, Dr. Pohlmann is right. It's nonsense to argue that killing newborns is evil while justifying the killing the unborn. We need to protect all of human life, from youngest to oldest, lest we risk devaluing all.
Echoing the sentiments of many people over the years, Pearl S. Buck said it so well in her book, My Several Worlds, "…[T]he test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its helpless members."
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Those who grow weary of daily needle-delivered doses of certain medicines may soon have a new option: researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have spent 15 years developing an implantable microchip that will do the job - sans the mean poking. Human trials started last year in Denmark, and the results of the in-body test were published in the Feb 15 online edition of Science Translational Medicine. From pacemakers to artificial hips, people are getting used to having new technology placed in their bodies, but imbedding microchips still raises hackles.
People living with type 1 diabetes know the importance of maintaining their regimen of insulin injections. Women suffering from osteoporosis, on the other hand, do not feel the results of missing treatments as readily as diabetes patients. The osteoporosis hormone therapy cannot be swallowed as a pill because it works when sent into the body in specific, discrete amounts, as would be provided by an injection rather than through steady time-release capsule that can be swallowed. According to the Los Angeles Times, 70 percent of osteoporosis patients don't keep up with their daily hormone therapy injections.
"Compliance is very important in a lot of drug regimens, and it can be very difficult to get patients to accept a drug regimen where they have to give themselves injections," says MIT professor Michael Cima. "This avoids the compliance issue completely, and points to a future where you have fully automated drug regimens."
The team at MicroCHIPS, the company that the MIT researchers helped form, used their wirelessly controlled implanted microchips to deliver the Eli Lilly & Co's hormone teriparatide to eight Danish women aged 65 to 70 over the course of 4 months. In one of the cases, the microchip did not properly release the drug and that woman did not complete the study. The other seven women, however, showed measurable improvement in bone formation.
The chip contains a collection of pinprick-sized reservoirs of the drug of interest, capped with a layer of gold nanoparticles that dissolve when hit with an electrical current, releasing the drug into the system. The chip itself is the size of a small coin, inserted under the skin near the waistline and programmed to empty its minuscule wells of hormone on a specific time schedule. While the chip reportedly causes no discomfort, the bodies of these women did recognize the chip as foreign and covered it with a fibrous coating. This minor encapsulation did not prevent the drug from being released into the system.
MicroCHIPS hopes to eventually offer chips that can hold hundreds of doses, and the company will spend the next several years refining this technology and working toward FDA approval.
"You could literally have a pharmacy on a chip," says MIT professor Robert Langer, who cofounded MicroCHIPS. "You can do remote control delivery; you can do pulsatile drug delivery; and you can deliver multiple drugs."
While the microchip would never hold high enough doses of insulin to serve diabetes patients, it could conceivably be used to monitor blood sugar and release the hormone glucagon into a patient's system to raise blood glucose levels when they dropped too low. Treatments for multiple sclerosis or infertility could be delivered according to doctor's orders without the problems associated with skipping doses. Pain medications could be released without the risk of accidental overdose. (According to the Centers For Disease Control, 475,000 emergency room visits in 2009 were the result of prescription drug misuse, and most of the 36,000 drug overdose deaths in 2008 were caused by prescription drugs.)
MicroCHIPS is not alone in health-related microchip technology. Positive ID Corp – the company behind VeriChip - announced last July that it had finished the development of its GlucoChip, a glucose-sensing microchip that would monitor the glucose levels of diabetics.
As convenient as this technology may be, people are still leery about putting microchips into their bodies. Implantable microchips have been previously offered for health purposes, but were rejected by the American general public.
In 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the implantable VeriChip, a radio frequency ID (RFID) tag. VeriChip was marketed as a way to quickly identify patients brought to the hospital unconscious or in other ways incapacitated. The chip, placed under the skin in the upper right arm, gave doctors quick access to patient identity and medical records.
Serious privacy concerns conquered the marketing of VeriChip in America, however, where many worried the technology would eventually lead to mandatory chipping of citizens for identification purposes. Others saw the microchip as a step in the desensitization that would lead to global acceptance of the Mark of the Beast.
Other countries have not held microchips with the same level of suspicion. Even before VeriChip was approved by the FDA, the chip was marketed in Mexico as a tool for identifying children and potentially rescuing them from kidnappers. In October of 2011, Positive ID announced that the Israel Defense Forces had made a VeriChip order to help with "emergency situations and disaster recovery…"
The medical convenience of microchipped medication may or may not win out over the concerns of wary citizens, but as technology continues to provide new ways of dealing with old problems, we may see more silicon offered to our bodies than comes from a simple day at the beach.
Educational Freedom Bill Considered in OK
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Oklahoma House Bill 1551 caused some consternation in the established education system recently because the bill that would encourage teachers to "teach the controversy" about certain scientific issues. The bill has been disparaged as a law that would encourage teachers to attack established views on biological evolution and global warming, but the wording of the bill merely promotes educational freedom.
There have been many polarizing issues in America since its inception, and climate change and evolution are two of today's favorite controversial scientific topics – the kind that pop up in discussions in every dining room and tavern and bus ride across the country. In Oklahoma, as in many other states, science teachers are constantly forced to handle questions and arguments from students who do not agree with the established authorities on these contentious issues. The writers of Oklahoma House Bill 1551 recognize this, stating clearly in the bill:
"The Legislature …finds that the teaching of some scientific concepts including but not limited to premises in the areas of biology, chemistry, meteorology, bioethics and physics can cause controversy, and that some teachers may be unsure of the expectations concerning how they should present information on some subjects such as, but not limited to, biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning…"
The answer the bill seeks to give is simple: Go ahead and analyze and critique these issues, help the students develop critical thinking skills, and teach them to respect people with differing viewpoints. When it's all done, students will still have to learn whatever the state standards require them to learn.
This is not an unreasonable bill. Louisiana passed a similar law, the Science Education Act, in 2008, which has yet to raise any legal problems. The fact is that these issues pop up in high school science classes all the time. Considering the weight of the controversy regarding these subjects in the culture at large, it might behoove all schools to help students work through the various positions as a matter of course. The teacher might as well plan for it and focus all the debate systematically into one or two designated class periods - or use the controversies to spark interest in whatever topic -ie Mendelian genetics - the class needs to cover.
In reality, open discussions in high school could turn out to be either a good thing or a disaster. It all depends on the caliber of the teachers involved and their ability to make sure the various arguments made are analyzed in a well-informed, objective manner. It depends on how well they can address these controversies and still teach the multitude of other things required by their states' standards. How much confidence do we have in our high school teachers to manage debate and to digest complicated scientific information forms that 15-year-olds can understand?
The National Center For Science Education, a not-for-profit organization based in Oakland, California, apparently doesn't have a lot of faith in the teachers. After a similar bill in the Oklahoma Senate, SB 1742 died in committee, the NCSE expressed relief with an article titled, "One down, one to go in Oklahoma."
Science v Religion:
The common complaint bills like HB 1551 generate is that they merely open the door for religion to be taught in the classroom. That, in fact, is precisely what the bill does not do. It states clearly, "The provisions of the Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act shall only protect the teaching of scientific information, and shall not be construed to …promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs or nonbeliefs…"
Instead, the bill declares that the intent of its provisions, "is to create an environment in which both the teacher and students can openly and objectively discuss the facts and observations of science, and the assumptions that underlie their interpretation."
The loud fear of groups like the NCSE is that teachers in Oklahoma will take advantage of the law to promote biblical creationism in the classroom, where naive teens will suck it up. The twin argument to that one is that there is no valid scientific information that contradicts the establishment's views. In 2009, when the state senate tried to pass a similar bill, Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education argued, "Promoting the notion that there is some scientific controversy is just plain dishonest … Evolutionary theory has advanced substantially since Darwin's time and, despite 150 years of direct research, no evidence in conflict with evolution has ever been found."
Tell that to the hundreds of medical doctors, physiologists, pathologists, geologists, physicists, biologists, biophysicists, biochemists, physical chemists, and molecular biologists who have signed a "Dissent from Darwin" statement, declaring skepticism of "claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life" and encouraging, "[c]areful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory…"
That's not even the real issue, though. Even if there were no valid opposition on one side or the other of debates about Darwinism or climate change or human cloning, teachers would still need the freedom to help students analzye the arguments, valid and not-so-valid, when they came up in the classroom.
Taken at face value, the Oklahoma bill simply encourages teachers to allow critical thinking and discussions about hot scientific issues without fearing retribution from above. Ultimately, the answer to potential problems is for teachers to receive proper training to deal with the controversies in a professional, appropriate manner. While teachers have a lot of material to cover in the science classroom, using controversial topics to teach important biological facts should – at the least – draw students into science, get them hungry to learn more, and give them a sense of direction while navigating these heavy and fascinating topics.
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