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eNews For The Week Of July 16, 2002

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In This Week’s Issue

Articles and Commentary



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Articles And Commentary

Will Your Neighbor Be Spying On You?

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For over 30 years, the Neighborhood Watch program has helped local officials, law enforcement, and citizens protect their communities. The success of this program has been dependant upon the willingness of people to look out for suspicious activity in their neighborhoods and to report that activity to the police.

Since 9/11 the term "suspicious activity" has taken on a whole new meaning. In an effort to expand the traditional role of the Neighborhood Watch program into terrorism watch, President Bush is introducing a new volunteer Citizen Corps program called Operation TIPS - the Terrorism Information and Prevention System. This pilot program is to start next month in ten major cities with the objective of recruiting 1 million people to watch for and report suspicious terrorist activity. TIPS is recruiting those, such as letter carriers, utility employees and truck drivers, whose routines would help them to identify unusual events. The program will give these a formal way to report suspected terrorist activity.

The TIPS website states that, "This broad network of volunteer efforts will harness the power of the American people by relying on their individual skills and interests to prepare local communities to effectively prevent and respond to the threats of terrorism, crime, or any kind of disaster."

TIPS is one prong of President Bush's Citizen Corps program. At the federal level, the government would promote Citizen Corps and develop training standards and materials, as well as provide the finances needed to run the programs. At the state level, a state coordinator will help local governments and community organizations to come together and consider local needs and ways to avoid pitfalls. The effort seeks to place watch-keeping power in the hands of United States citizens - through a federally funded program.

The Justice Department will be the central agency running the TIPS project. When volunteers call in to report suspicious terrorist activity, the Justice Department will enter the information into a central database, which can then be accessed by state and local agencies. Having all the information in one location will make it simpler to correspond related information and to prevent important tips from falling through the cracks.

At the same time, many are concerned with the federal government's collecting a database of information on United States citizens, and the abuse that could come from such a system. There is the possibility that those volunteers who have occupations that allow them to enter homes could be used to spy on people and collect information without a warrant. Others consider that this program could take time and resources away from real threats by wasting them on useless tips. Vigilantism could also be an unwanted result of such participation. According to a 1992 report by Harvard University's Project on Justice, the accuracy of informant reports is problematic, with some informants having embellished the truth, and others suspected of having fabricated their reports.

Some see the voluntary TIPS program as a prelude to something more sinister. The former East German police, the Stasi were famous for their snooping on citizens. When their headquarters were opened up after the fall of the Berlin wall, it revealed a huge catalogue of notes on their citizens that had been taken over the past 40 years.

We the people of the United States should remain aware and ready to alert our local authorities if we notice activity related to terrorism. However, we should avoid supporting government programs that hold databases of notes on American citizens, and that encourage citizens to spy on one another.

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The Changing Face of Human Evolution

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We are told that science is always changing.  New information comes on the scene, and scientists work to figure out how that information fits in - or doesn't - to current theories and explanations. No field of science, however, appears to evolve as constantly as that of paleoanthropology - the study of ancient man and the apes that allegedly contributed to man's evolution. Most recently, a very interesting and 'old' skull was discovered in the African country of Chad, and has successfully turned the entire past 70 years of study of human evolution on its head.

The skull of this widely publicized new find, Sahelanthropus tchadensis, nicknamed Toumai, has caused considerable ripples in the scientific community for a number of reasons;

Sahelanthropus tchadensis is indeed a remarkable find for the paleoanthropologists, but for an odd reason; he tells the scientists that human evolution is not as neat and tidy as they had assumed forty years ago. "A find like this does make us question the trees people have built up of human evolution," said Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum, London. Toumai has been given an age at least 3 million years older than popular human-ape links like the australopithecines such as Lucy.  However, some of Toumai's facial characteristics are more advanced than Lucy's. If a younger skull looks more ape-like than an older skull, that causes problems in considering the younger fossil a possible human ancestor. Toumai is forcing the scientists to reconsider simplistic explanations concerning human evolution.

Anthropologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University in Washington DC noted, "When I went to medical school in 1963, human evolution looked like a ladder." In the old models, apes evolved neatly, step by step, into humans. However, now he sees human evolution looking more like a bush - a bush with many dead ends. While scientists have seen "human-like" characteristics in a number of ape fossils, they are now having to debate if and how those individual apes even relate to each other. It becomes a game of mixing and matching. According to Wood, the lesson to learn is that evolutionary relationships cannot be based on appearances alone.

In fact, it can be difficult to determine specifics about a creature based on pieces of a skeleton. Scientists have made the following uncertain descriptions regarding this newly discovered skull.

Regarding the true nature of Toumai, Wood says, "My guess is that it's neither a chimp nor a human ancestor - it's a creature that was living at the same time."

The difficulty with all these speculations regarding human evolution is that these paleoanthropologists begin with the a priori belief that humans did indeed evolve from apes. From there, the scientists try to work every new skull into the belief system they already hold. If, like Sahelanthropus tchadensis, the skull doesn't fit into the normal mold, they are willing to change their views on how human evolution happened. However, few ever ask the question, "Did humans evolve from apes at all?"

In spite of the growing confusion regarding human evolution, scientists are confident that further fossil discoveries will fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle. We will not be surprised, however, if the puzzle continues to grow more disjointed and new pieces create even more questions than they answer. After all, science is always changing, but the Word of the Lord endures forever (1Peter 1:25).

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What To Do About Iraq

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Throughout the past decade, Saddam Hussein has been a continual sliver in the eye of the United States and the Western world. Baghdad lied to U.N. weapons inspectors about the weapons they were producing, until it became clear that Iraq had been working on developing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Finally, Saddam refused to allow any more U.N. weapons inspections. Iraq's hatred for the United States and Israel, combined with the development of these weapons of mass destruction, have led the U.S. to seek a way to remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.

Even while America and England consider possible plans for dealing with the Iraq problem, people like Dr. Rowan Williams, the most likely candidate for the next Archbishop of Canterbury, are decrying any attack against Iraq. Dr. Williams has said there could be no justification for assaulting Iraq unless it had first invaded another country. Several Church of England clergy members signed Dr. Williams' recent declaration that, "We deplore any military action that regards the deaths of innocent men, women and children as a price worth paying in fighting terrorists, since this is to fight terror with terror."

At the same time, the United States and Great Britain are both concerned about saving the lives of thousands of their citizens, who are under threat from this dangerous, hostile regime. Waiting until Iraq sent a first strike could be considered negligence on their part, and could easily cost far more lives in the long run. "September 11 is nothing compared to what chemical, biological and nuclear weapons could do," Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told reporters Monday. "The president has said that it is too dangerous [a situation] to leave alone and too dangerous to wait for them to hit us," he said. At the moment, however, Mr. Wolfowitz said, Washington has made no decisions regarding any specific plan of action toward Iraq.

In the meanwhile, several hundred former Iraqi military officers are living in exile, many of whom are also interested in having Saddam Hussein replaced. Haider Ahmed, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress (INC) based in London, said that they are ready to fight to oust Saddam. However, he said they would prefer the U.S. to support a rebellion within Iraq rather than attack Iraq itself. While there are many dissidents, represented by communist, democratic, monarchist, and Islamic groups, Ahmed believes they could all work together to overthrow Saddam because they all have many common goals. "Everyone agrees on the need for change, the need for democracy and an elected government, and freedom of speech," he said.

Western officials, however, are not so sure. They do not believe that the internal opposition against Saddam is as united or strong as would be necessary to fight against the Iraqi military and win.

Many papers are propagating a host of rumors. The Daily Telegraph has reported that rebel forces in Iraq are already being aided by U.S. and British troops, while the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir has been reporting that the U.S. has been negotiating with Qatar, Jordan, Kuwait and Turkey in order to use those nations' territories as launch pads for an attack against Iraq. According to As-Safir, Jordan has already agreed to allow the U.S. to enter Iraq from the Hashemite kingdom. According to sources, 1,600 U.S. soldiers and officers are deployed in northern Jordan and the U.S. has been discussing issues with all Iraqi opposition groups.Jordan has fervently denied these reports, and the U.S. has repeatedly said that the President has approved no plan against Iraq at this time.

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A Clarification

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In response to some emails we received regarding the "Our Wounded Integrity" article in last week's eNews: We would like to clarify that we did not intend to imply that accountants were the sole cause of the Enron and WorldCom Inc scandals. We recognize that accountants are generally honest people.Our intent was to point out that not all criminals spit tobacco and sport tattoos. In fact, some of the most dangerous criminals are those who are well educated, wear ties, and go into big business. Powerful businessmen who engage in criminal activity can become extremely dangerous because the work they do touches every one of us through the economy. Unfortunately, many people do not realize the amount of damage that the dishonest dealings of 'white collar' criminals can cause a nation.

We also recognize that there is no connection between criminal activity and drinking carrot juice.


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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