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eNews For The Week Of October 06, 2009

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Shaking Down North Korea's Farmers Markets

October 06, 2009

North Korea's infamous penal system, which for decades has silenced political dissent with slave labor camps, has evolved into a mechanism for extorting money from citizens trading in private markets, according to surveys of more than 1,600 North Korean refugees. Reacting to an explosive rise in market activity, North Korea has criminalized everyday market behavior and created a new kind of gulag for those it deems economic criminals, according to a report on the refugee surveys.

The Washington Post

UN Dealing With 'Religious Defamation'

October 05, 2009

Seeking to break a longstanding impasse between Western and Islamic nations over freedom of expression, the United States has piloted a finely-balanced resolution through the UN's Human Rights Council which the two sides are choosing to interpret differently. The clash between freedom of expression and religious sensibilities, fueled by the furor over the newspaper cartoons satirizing Mohammed, has been one of the most consistently divisive issues in the HRC in its first three years of operation.

CNS News


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Articles And Commentary

What Happens When You Die Part II

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Death is an uncomfortable, often painful subject. We grieve at the deaths of our loved ones, and we work to avoid death for ourselves.  Yet, if the Lord tarries, death waits for all people - even more absolutely than taxes.

Not only does death present a tremendous loss for us in this life, this subject also squarely confronts the issues of Heaven and Hell. Unpleasant. Controversial. And clearly the subject of fanciful folklore in all directions and dimensions.

The Hebrew Sheol, and the Greek Hades, are not the grave. The grave is where the body goes. Sheol and Hades is where the departed spirits go. (For this brief discussion, we'll regard them as equivalent.)

Gehenna, however, is their final disposition. Hades is cast into Gehenna at the end (Rev 20:14). (In fact, their topology appears to be opposites: Hades is presented as geocentric - inside the earth; Gehenna is in "the outer darkness.")

It is significant that Jesus spoke much more about "Hell" than He did about Heaven (about 5 to 1). The very concept of the need for a Savior presupposes the avoidance of the otherwise certain destiny of desolation and eternal punishment. The good news is that you and I are the beneficiaries of a love letter: a letter written in blood on a wooden cross erected in Judea about two thousand years ago and which is the fulcrum of all history and the entire universe. The crucifixion was not a tragedy: it was a crowning achievement. His achievement makes it possible to avoid an otherwise certain destiny.

The Physics of Immortality
There are many in the secular world who do not even take the existence of the "afterlife" seriously. There are many who do, however. Frank J. Tipler, Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University, is a major theoretician in the field of global general relativity, that rarefied branch of physics created by Stephen Hawking and Roger Penrose. In pursuing a mathematical model involving the end of the universe, Tipler (a professed atheist) came to two conclusions (one obvious, and one stunning):

1) Using the most advanced and sophisticated methods of modern physics, and relying solely on the rigorous procedures of logic that science demands, he discovered a proof of the existence of God. (You're thinking, "No kidding, Dick Tracy!")

2) He also now believes that every human being who ever lived will be resurrected from the dead.

He claims to have arrived at these conclusions about God and immortality "in exactly the same way physicists calculate the properties of an electron." (While I personally disagree with much of his published book, this turnabout for a professed atheist is interesting. You can learn more about the resurrection from the most important chapter in the Bible: 1 Cor 15.)

A far more insightful book is by Erwin Lutzer, One Minute After You Die.  Our briefing pack, "Heaven and Hell" also explores the intrinsic architecture of man, why he is immortal (saved or not). In it, we attempt to repair some of the misconceptions about Sheol, Hades and Gehenna, and the real nature of our present physical reality, as well as some of the more problematic issues involved in the "afterlife."

For most people, death is a fearful prospect, a black unknown.  For the believer, death offers an entrance into the presence of Almighty God, our Savior, our friend.  As we lose precious loved-ones, we mourn - but not as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13).  In Christ, we have hope in the life after death, as well as His constant care and direction in this present world.

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Was Ardi Our Ape Ancestor?

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A major fossil find has made its splash in the news recently - a primate named "Ardi" who is believed to date to 4.4 million years ago, 1.2 million years earlier than the famous australopithecine Lucy. Paleoanthropologists are making a big to-do about Ardi, just as they have other ancient ape species found in northern Africa. Despite all the fuss, Ardi - like her neighbor Lucy - is still just an extinct species of ape.

For the past 15 years, the delicate remains of a number of Ardipithecus ramidus specimens have been carefully exhumed and studied. When the bones of Ardi and her fellows were discovered in the early 1990's, they had been trampled and smashed into the mud, and getting them back out for scientific purposes proved a difficult, sensitive task. The bones were not laid out in the matrix in a nice, articulated fashion. Instead, they were jumbled and smashed to "smithereens."  Time reports that, along with Ardi's bones, more than 100 fragments from some 35 Ar. ramidus specimens were found at the site, but after putting them together and doing some digital reconstruction, scientists believe they have a good idea of who Ardi was. 

Ardi is a unique extinct species, but she's still all ape. She had a small brain and an ape's large opposable toe good for grasping things. She doesn't neatly fit into a spot as humanity's missing link, which paleoanthropologists have expected to look like a cross between a human and a chimpanzee. The current excitement hinges on the fact that those who have studied her argue that Ardi was bipedal – that is, she walked upright. The males of her species also had smaller, gentler teeth than the huge fangs of chimps, and her hands were more dexterous than chimp hands.

"This find is far more important than Lucy," National Geographic quotes Alan Walker, a paleontologist from Pennsylvania State University who was not part of the research. "It shows that the last common ancestor with chimps didn't look like a chimp, or a human, or some funny thing in between."

While the popular news media readily state that Ardi walked upright, some researchers do disagree with that conclusion. First of all, the pelvis bones were seriously crushed, adding to the speculative nature of those bipedal claims. Also, Ardi's feet were nothing like human feet. She had that huge opposable toe and no arch.

Anatomist William Jungers of Stony Brook University is skeptical of the claims that Ardi was bipedal. He told National Geographic News, "This is a fascinating skeleton, but based on what they present, the evidence for bipedality is limited at best. Divergent big toes are associated with grasping, and this has one of the most divergent big toes you can imagine. Why would an animal fully adapted to support its weight on its forelimbs in the trees elect to walk bipedally on the ground?"

Kent State University's Owen Lovejoy believes that Ardi stood upright when she walked, but also acknowledged her comfort in the trees, saying, "She has opposable great toes and she has a pelvis that allows her to negotiate tree branches rather well. So half of her life is spent in the trees; she would have nested in trees and occasionally fed in trees…"

People are also excited about Ardi because she dates 1.2 million years older than Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis), who also allegedly walked upright. Yet, there is skepticism about whether even Lucy walked around on two feet. Anatomist Dr. Fred Spoor and his colleagues at University College, London, performed CAT scans on australopithecine inner ear canals, which are responsible for posture and balance, and came to the conclusion that these creatures did not regularly walk around upright as is so frequently claimed (Nature 369(6482):645–648, 1994). Anatomist Dr Charles Oxnard used multivariate analysis to show that Lucy's big toe was opposable, just like in chimpanzees. In fact, B.G. Richmond and D.S. Strait reported in Nature in 2000 that Lucy's wrists demonstrated she was likely a knuckle-walker like other apes. 

A major reason Lucy is often portrayed with human feet, standing upright like a human, is that human footprints have been found in the area where Lucy was discovered. The hardened ash the Laetoli footprints walked through was dated to the time of Lucy using K/Ar testing, and since evolutionists have already decided humans and Lucy did not co-exist, they have concluded that Lucy must have made the prints herself.  (According to the Biblical model, humans and apes were created the same day, and would have lived on the earth at the same time.)

While evolutionary writers make confident statements about the place of new skeletal discoveries in the history of human evolution, there is plenty of room for skepticism. The scientific community might assume an evolutionary relationship between humans and ancient primates, but still struggle to show a true relationship exists. It is wise to look closer at the evidence and question claims that our ancestors ever had feet with opposable toes.

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Freedom Of Speech And The UN

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Put shouting "fire" in a crowded theater aside, freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental rights that Americans enjoy. The liberty to speak one's mind, to offer one's views - even if those views are obnoxious to those around you – is one of the great blessings of living in a free country.

Yet, we sometimes find the strangest people hindering free expression. The Obama Administration, which would be expected to uphold free speech rights, has in fact pushed for limiting freedom of expression in the name of making peace with oppressive regimes. While describing the importance of free speech on one hand, the US pushed to pass a resolution that also condemned those who used their free speech to speak against religion - specifically Islam.

Historically, there have been limits set on free-speech; as in the "fire" example, self-expression has been historically been out-ranked by safety issues. Self-expression can also be demoted according to cultural standards of decency. For instance, Roger Federer can use foul language on the tennis court all he wants, as long as those words don't get picked up on live television. And while we no longer take traitors out and shoot them, national security still trumps over the right to a loose tongue. There have always been limits on freedom of speech for the safety and decency of society.

Yet, our freedom to speak our minds should not be tampered with, regardless of whether our views could offend somebody.

After Muslims rioted in Europe over cartoons depicting Mohammed, Muslim countries pressed the United Nations to pass a resolution condemning articles or cartoons that defame Islam. In an effort to reach out to Muslim countries, the Obama Administration has recently backed a UN resolution that on one hand states that freedom of speech is essential, and yet condemns attacks on religion. The resolution is no law in itself, and is mostly a feel-good concession to Islamic nations, but it is a far cry from promoting true freedom of religion and religious expression in already oppressive Middle East countries.

Certain forms of "expression" are understandably outlawed in a healthy society, things like child pornography and threats to murder people. Religious viewpoints, on the other hand, are absolutely protected free speech.  Americans support freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press, which means allowing those freedoms even when we disagree with what is said.

In fact, religion and politics are two things that should be specifically open to criticism, because they are areas in which it is vital humans have solid understanding of what is true and good. In the spirit of hacking out the truth or the best policy, people are allowed to say what they think - no matter how offensive one person's religious or political views are.  We have to remember that the Truth is often considered offensive, and when we start censoring one group, we all are endangered.

By backing Muslim calls for limiting freedom of speech when it comes to religion, the US has given a moral victory to those countries where human rights are regularly abused in the name of Islam.

James Heiser comments:

"The administration's position should hardly be a shock because the Left almost always speaks of "rights" in terms of group identity — not the individual. Thus every right must be evaluated in terms of identity politics and class struggle (white vs. black, male vs. female, rich vs. poor, bourgeoisie vs. proletariat) and described in terms of victimization and liberation. For the Left, the individual does not have identity or rights — such things are possessions of the collective to which one belongs. Therefore, the administration's position enunciated before the UN Human Rights Council coincides with the interests of Islamists: silencing critics of Islam by making it impossible to criticize their perverse (by Western standards) and militant worldview."

The UN Human Rights Council passed the resolution on Friday.  Christian groups have already launched a campaign to protect Christians in Islamic lands.  The resolution is seen as a danger to religious minorities and dissenters.

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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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