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Islamic Terrorist Group Attacks Sinai →

August 10, 2012

The terror group Army of Islam is behind Sunday's terror attack in the Sinai Peninsula, a Qatari website reported on Thursday. According to the report in the Bawaba Ash-Sharq website, Egyptian security forces investigating the attack in which 16 Egyptian officers were killed, have concluded that Army of Islam members carried it out. Army of Islam is an Al-Qaeda inspired Gaza-based terrorist group that wishes to see Gaza run by Muslim Sharia law.
- Arutz Sheva

Gonorrhea Strain Resistant To Almost All Antibiotics →

August 09, 2012

Federal health officials took steps Thursday to head off the emergence of a new gonorrhea "superbug" that's resistant to standard antibiotics. Gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease that infects 700,000 Americans a year, already has become resistant to all but one class of antibiotics and could soon become untreatable, federal health officials warned. The new CDC guidelines call for withholding a potent oral antibiotic now commonly used to treat the infection. Instead, doctors should use an injectable form to which the gonorrhea bacteria seems less likely to develop resistance, along with a second type of antibiotic pills.
- USA Today

North Korea Could Test Nukes in Two Weeks →

August 08, 2012

North Korea is technically capable of conducting a nuclear test in as little as two weeks, according to a study published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Commercial satellite imagery shows an underground tunnel has been prepared for containing a nuclear explosion near the sites used for the regime's two earlier tests in 2006 and 2009, according to the study written by Siegfried Hecker, a scholar on North Korea’s nuclear program at Stanford University in California, and Frank Pabian, a geospatial information analyst at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
- Bloomberg

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ARTICLES AND COMMENTARY

FOSSIL APES: HOMO HABILIS AND HOMO RUDOLFENSIS - (Print)

The famous fossil hunting family, the Leakeys, on August 8th announced the excavation of a face and two jaw bones tentatively belonging to the ancient hominin Homo rudolfensis, with zoologist Dr. Meave Leakey declaring, "At last we have some answers."  The mother-daughter team Meave and Louise Leakey, wife and daughter of Richard Leakey, discovered three new fossils between 2007 and 2009, which they hope will shed light on ancient hominin evolution. Scientists have long struggled to put together an accurate human family tree, one that provides a tidy portrayal of the descent of Homo sapiens from the ancestors of humans and today's apes. Paleoanthropologists have been frustrated to find, however, that the tree of human evolution looks less like a straight and true cedar and more like a wild and untrimmed bush – or set of bushes. This most recent set of finds supposedly clears up questions about one branch, but when putting together broken bits of ancient skulls, things can easily get tangled.

In 1972, a member of the Richard and Meave Leakey team found a new skull at Koobi Fora on the east side of what was then called Lake Rudolf (now Lake Turkana) in Kenya. The cranium possessed a sufficient number of unique characteristics to be considered an oddity. It had a large, flat face and a larger braincase. It was called KNM-ER 1470 and was nudged timidly into the genus Homo as a new species, Homo rudolfensis. The skull had no teeth, no mandible – no lower jaw – and it created a whir of debate over whether it shouldn't be placed within the umbrella of the earlier established taxonomic group Homo habilis.

The newest skull and jaws produced by the Leakeys, discovered within about six miles of the 1470 site in the same region of Kenya, have also been suggested as belonging to Homo rudolfensis, offering evidence that this strange creature was not merely an aberration. KNM-ER 62000 looks a bit like 1470, though smaller in size. The face and partial jaw have been dated to 1.9-1.95 million years in age. The more complete lower jaw has been dated to 1.83 million years ago – all of which match closely in age to the supposedly 1.9 million-year-old 1470 specimen.

Adam or Ape?
The big question between the paleoanthropologists right now is whether 1470, 62000, and the associated jaws should be properly called H. habilis or H. rudolfensis or some new hominin species. The finds have generated some excitement that 1470 might have its own family after all.

In the end, though, it is clear that the discovery has very little to do with human history. Neither Homo habilis nor Homo rudolfensis are considered direct ancestors of modern humans. All concerned agree that the one demonstrated human relation in the area, Homo erectus, existed at the same time as H. habilis and H. rudolfensis.  As Dr. Leakey and her colleagues wrote in the August 9, 2012 issue of Nature, "The new fossils confirm the presence of two contemporary species of early Homo, in addition to Homo erectus, in the early Pleistocene of eastern Africa." 

Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, commented on the Leakeys' new study, saying, "This new material certainly substantiates the idea, long gathering ground, that multiple lineages of early Homo are present in the record at Koobi Fora."

Theirs is a multi-branched lineage, if "lineage" is the right word at all.

More important than the kinship between H. habilis and H. rudolfensis is the question of whether these fossils are related to us.  Should H. habilis even be considered a human cousin? While it has been shoehorned into the Homo genus, a number of studies have placed H. habilis in a completely separate category from H. erectus and other humans.

In 1994, Holly Smith of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Michigan published a study on the teeth of ancient apes and humans and concluded that H. habilis fit better with the apes. After doing extensive analyses of Australopithecus, H. habilis, H. erectus and H. neanderthalensis teeth, Smith stated, "…Restricting analysis of fossils to specimens satisfying these criteria, patterns of dental development of gracile australopithecines and Homo habilis remain classified with African apes. Those of Homo erectus and Neanderthals are classified with humans…"

Dr. Bernard Wood, a former surgeon and a notable expert in ancient hominid specimens, has long distinguished between H. erectus and the ancient apes. In 2007, Wood and paleoanthropologist Dr. Mark Collard updated their 1999 argument that H. habilis and H. rudolfensis should be placed in the same genus as Lucy, the Australopithecine, saying:  "We find that, on balance, the available evidence still supports their suggestion that Homo should be reconfigured such that it includes H. ergaster, H. erectus, H. heidelbergensis, H. neanderthalensis, and H. sapiens but excludes H. habilis and H. rudolfensis…" (Emphasis added.)

Why? According to Wood and Collard, the body size, body shape, locomotion, jaws and teeth, development, and brain size of H. habilis were all like the australopithecines, while the other Homo species were like humans.

Of Daschunds and Great Danes:
The early humans demonstrated variation, but were all similar enough to be considered closely related. Despite size and bone thickness differences, there has been question about whether H. ergaster and H. erectus were separate species, whether H. erectus were not simply a smaller version of H. neanderthalensis, and whether the Neanderthals themselves should even be classified as a separate species from Homo sapiens, based on DNA studies.

H. habilis and H. rudolfensis, on the other hand, are just plain outsiders.

Wood and others, like UC Berkeley evolutionary biologist Tim White and Milford Wolpoff at the University of Michigan, recognize that there can be a wide range of morphologies between members of the same species, and they are not quick to say that H. habilis and H. rudolfensis are that distinct from one another. If we were to compare the skulls of a Pekinese and a terrier and a great dane, it would be easy to assume separate species based on superficial differences.

Associated Press writer Seth Borenstein paraphrased White, saying, "[I]t's similar to someone looking at the jaw of a female gymnast in the Olympics, the jaw of a male shot-putter, ignoring the faces in the crowd and deciding the shot-putter and gymnast have to be a different species." The number of complete specimens are few in number, and it's easy to jump to premature conclusions base on too little evidence.

"So where do we go from here?" Dr. Wood asked in his commentary. "More work needs to be done using the faces and lower jaws of modern humans and great apes to check how different the shapes and the palate can be among individuals in living species."

True Humans:
Ancient humans like the Neanderthals and their smaller cousin H. erectus [see the May 10, 2011 eNews] may have (mostly) died out, but they were just as human as any of us.

Yet, while these scientists look at these issues through evolutionary eyes, their views correspond to the Biblical position that all human beings are ultimately related. If all of humanity but Noah and his family were wiped out, we should expect to see a variety of human groups in the fossil record, but only a relatively thin strain surviving to the present day.

The three fossil specimens announced on Wednesday may provide the world with new questions and maybe some new answers.  The most notable fact, however, is that these specimens were found in the same layer as Homo erectus fossils, ancient apes and ancient humans living at the same time.

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OLYMPIANS AND GOD'S PLEASURE - (Print)

"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." – Eric Liddell

In the movie Chariots of Fire, based on the true story of Olympian Eric Liddell, Liddell's sister complains that he should be doing more important things with his life than running. Liddell responds with the above quote, basically saying that, no, God was pleased when he ran fast.  His doing what God made him to do was a blessing and a joy to both him and his Creator.   As we watch the Olympic games in London, it is easy to see the glory of God displayed in human beings, especially when they recognize His hand on them.

Gabby Douglas has caught the attention of America and the world for several reasons; she gets beautiful height in her leaps and flips, earning her the nickname "the flying squirrel;" she is the first African American to win the all-around gold medal in women's gymnastics (the fourth American ever to do so at all); and she loves Jesus Christ.

After winning the gold medal for the all-around, Douglas notably said, "It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It's kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me."

This determined young lady is an inspiration to everybody. Her dedication to God, her hard work, and her history-making win are an encouragement to those who dream of following in her steps.

Gabby Douglas is not alone, though. There are a significant number of Olympians dedicated to giving God the glory.

Jacob Wukie:
Jacob Wukie loved to go bow hunting as a child. He won a bow hunting world championship at age 15 and went on to compete in archery at the college level. His perseverance in his passion for archery has led him to the 2012 Olympics, where he and the U.S. archery team captured the team competition silver medal after the team had suffered a "medal drought" since 2000.

Wukie credits God with his Olympics success. He had a poor attitude after he just missed making the 2008 Olympics team. He came in 17th in the first round of trials, when the top 16 archers moved on to the next round.

"Instead of trusting God and knowing that He was in control and had a plan for me, I was anxious and frustrated," Wukie said in a Beyond the Ultimate interview. Another archer pulled out in those 2008 trials, and Wukie was able to move forward, but his attitude was negative and he continued to shoot poorly.
,
Wukie had given his life to Jesus as a child, and during the trials he asked God to change his heart and fix his perspective. "The Lord did change my heart, and I became genuinely excited about the future, even though I didn't know what the future held," says Wukie. "I was right where God wanted me, and, as a result, I was very content."

He easily made the 2012 U.S. Olympic archery team, and he, Jake Kaminski and Brady Ellison won the silver medal in the team competition this Saturday. Wukie believes that God's will for him is to keep training and improving in archery, "…[B]ut regardless," he said, "I will be living my life for Christ, seeking to know Him more, and seeking to be used by Him to influence the lives of those around me so that they might know Him as well."

William Reid Priddy:
Reid Priddy is on his third Olympics, and at age 35 is considered an old man in U.S. men's volleyball. Like Eric Liddell, Priddy believes that God is glorified by his hard work and striving to be the best he can be with the talents he's been given.

"I believe that God is most glorified when I use the gifts He has given me to the best of my ability, whether I am on international TV or just training," Priddy told Beyond The Ultimate.

Priddy won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The men's volleyball team did well this year too, though they lost to Italy in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Priddy credits God with using volleyball to make him a better man in all aspects of his life. He gives 110 percent to the game, not for personal glory, but as part of seeking excellence in everything he does, from playing on the volleyball court to living at his home with his family. He believes our goal as Christians should be "to pursue greatness (no matter what you are doing) in the name of God and clinging to the strength He provides. Not with the end goal of winning - though it can be a goal and is part of the process - but rather to become more like God and glorify Him."

Those who serve God do not always win. Sometimes we Christians fall short of the "best" according to the world's definitions. Serving God is not a magic good luck charm. It doesn't guarantee success. It does mean we give Him everything out of our love and dedication to Him. We work our hardest, and then we trust Him with the results. We praise Him whether we win or whether we lose, letting Him work His work in our lives whatever happens.

Jamie Nieto:
Seattle native high jumper Jamie Nieto cleared the 2.29 meter jump at the Olympic games this week, the same height as the three co-third place winners, but because he'd had more earlier misses than the three bronze medal winners, he fell to 6th place. He thus lost his last chance at an Olympic medal. At 35, Nieto will be too old to compete in Brazil in 2016 (barring Abraham-like miracles). At Athens in 2004, he also lost the tie for bronze because of his earlier misses - to Jaroslav Baba of the Czech Republic.

Yet, Nieto has reached the Olympics and has succeeded despite his being the oldest on the U.S. high jump team. "Your only limitations are what you believe them to be, and as long as you put God first, you can achieve all things through Him," Nieto posted on his website.

He told the Christian Post, "I need God in every aspect to help me move forward in my career and being here at the Olympics is a testament."

These are just a few of the Christian Olympians competing for the U.S., and this list does not even touch on the non-American Christians at the London Olympics.

And Others:
Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce called her home church in Jamaica on Sunday to thank the congregation for their prayers. Fraser-Pryce won the women's 100-meter final on Saturday with a time of 10.75 seconds. "I am just excited and if I never knew how powerful God was, I found out yesterday," she said. She has hardly kept her faith in God a secret.

Then there is Leo Manzano, who carried flags for both Mexico and the U.S. when he stood Tuesday in honor of the silver medal he'd won in the 1,500 meters. While he lives in the United States, he says his "roots are still in Mexico."

Manzano's dependence on God comes out constantly in the things he says. He gives God the credit for his victory in London, especially in his ability to race into second place at the very end of the race, despite the blood that oozed down his leg from spike wounds. He calls his final kick ability his "amazing gift from God."

"My legs just felt like they were bricks," said Manzano. "But really something inside me said, 'Keep going; keep going; keep pushing; keep pushing.' As I was coming down the track, I definitely prayed. I said, 'God give me the strength to push through,' and I definitely felt a surge of energy drawn from my body. The next thing I know I'm in second."

"It's been a long time," Manzano said. "I've been on five U.S. teams now. It's finally my turn. Last year, I came off the track, and I was limping off. From that to this, I couldn't ask for more."

Men and women from across the world are competing for medals, demonstrating not just their own abilities, but the amazing beauty and power of the human body and spirit. We are the treasures of God; He made us for excellence, and He is glorified when we push to the limits the talents He has given to us. When we recognize that our gifts are truly from Him, we get to enjoy the blessing of knowing His direct influence in our lives and His joy in us. We get to feel His pleasure. 

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THE SIKHS AND WADE MICHAEL PAGE - (Print)

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;" - Jesus (Matthew 5:44)

Nobody is certain what caused Wade Michael Page to start shooting people at a Sikh temple outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Sunday morning. His rampage killed six people, critically injured three more, and ultimately ended when he turned his gun on himself. It was a senseless, destructive act that appears to be connected to white supremacist ideology; Page belonged to two white power music bands, End Apathy and Definite Hate. He identified himself as a Northern Hammerskin, a racist skinhead group connected with violence.

In every town and community in the world, people can be found who are angry and looking for somebody to blame. Wade Michael Page chose to blame non-whites. He ended seven lives that day and did deep harm to countless others.

The Sikhs:
The response of the Sikh community has been encouraging. They have not called for vengeance; they have remained calm, showing compassion and supporting one another. Their temple was reopened on Thursday, and members of the community and volunteers ventured into it.

The Sikhs are a religious group that do not follow either the teachings of Hinduism or Islam, although they are often confused with Muslims because of the turbans they wear on their heads. The Sikh religion teaches that there is a single God over all the world's religions and reflects the eastern influence of its roots in the Punjab region of South Asia. It teaches that there is a cycle of reincarnation culminating in a final human form, and that by living a virtuous and honest life and turning away from sin, a person will one day merge with God. It is notable that the Sikhs treat men and women as equals and reject rituals like fasting, pilgrimages, superstitions and idol worship. 

Love Your Neighbor:
As peaceful as the Sikh religion is, these people do not know the freedom from their sins that Jesus Christ offers.  We know that the Sikhs are precious to God as well, and that they need the truth to set them free.  Those who believe that white supremacist ideas have anything to do with Christianity have no real understanding of what Christianity truly is. Had Page known Jesus Christ, had he been filled with the love of God and a sense of God's power in his life, he could have handed his griefs and frustrations over to God and trusted Him to handle things. Apparently, Page did not know how to do that. Instead, he took out his anger on a group of strangers going to their place of worship on a Sunday morning.

Nobody appears to know why Page chose the Sikh temple as his target. The Sikh Coalition reacted to the tragedy by speaking out about the Sikh concept of Charhdi Kala or resilience. "The Sikh spirit ... resists fear/ego/anger and compels us to fight for justice for all," the Coalition tweeted. "We are not victims. We are Sikhs." 

Washington Post columnist Rahiel Tesfamariam's reaction to the shooting was to panic at the unseen hosts of sleeping hate-group cells she believes are waiting to shed the blood of non-whites everywhere. She declared, "It reflects the fact that racial hatred is as American as apple pie, and it requires systematic solutions to address it. Hate is an eminent threat in America and it must be fought on American soil with the same persistence used to combat foreign enemies."

If that were so, the book To Kill A Mockingbird and The Cosby Show sitcom would never have been so greatly beloved by the American public.  Jackie Chan would never make audiences of millions laugh and the country would never stand for Hispanic and Jewish Supreme Court justices, let alone a black president.  If Tesfamariam were right, Americans would approve of the shooting of the people at the Sikh temple.  Instead, Americans across the country are grieved that innocent people were attacked in a senseless act of terror. "The majority of people have been standing behind us," said Ravi Singh at the Sikh Religious Society of Palatine in the Chicago area. "It is not an attack against the Sikhs. It is an attack against humanity." 

Tesfamariam's response to the attack was to call for greater cultural diversity training in schools. Even if such questionably valuable "training" were shoved onto teachers' already overloaded plates, however, there would certainly be students who would slip through the cracks, just as they do in all the other subjects - just as Wade Michael Page missed basic American cultural concepts like freedom of religion, being a good neighbor, and not shooting unarmed civilians.

We do not need more cultural diversity training in America, and we do not need to fear neo-Nazis patrolling our streets and playing angry music in basements. We do need to love our neighbors. As we do so, we can show the compassion and reality of Christ to the patient but hurting Sikh community.  We can also demonstrate a better way of life to the angry and frustrated Wade Michael Pages among us, and perhaps unwittingly prevent the next horrific attack.

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MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK

For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
- Psalms 84:10 KJV

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