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eNews For The Week Of May 10, 2011


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NIH Announces New Rapid Detection Test for Prion Diseases

May 09, 2011

Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), report that they have developed a method - 10,000 times more sensitive than other methods - to detect variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (vCJD) in blood plasma. vCJD is a type of prion disease in humans that leads to brain damage and death. The NIAID researchers also used the test to rapidly detect scrapie, a prion disease of sheep, in infected hamsters, some pre-symptomatic. Because animals and people can be infected for years before symptoms of disease appear, scientists have tried to develop a rapid and sensitive screening tool to detect prion diseases in blood, which would assist in efforts to prevent the spread of prion diseases among and between species, via the blood supply or otherwise.

NIH.gov

Japan Quake Death Toll Nearing 15,000

May 09, 2011

The death toll from the recent 9.0-magnitude quake and tsunami in Japan has reached 14,919 people, while 9,893 remain unaccounted for, Kyodo news agency reported on Monday citing police data. Among six prefectures affected by the March 11 disaster, Miyagi registered the highest number of victims - 8,924. About 119,000 people have been evacuated from the disaster zone and accommodated in 2,400 temporary refuge centers in 18 prefectures across the country.

RiaNovosti

Southern Tornadoes Aftermath - Food, Sweat and Prayer

May 09, 2011

Tornadoes that wreaked havoc across the Southern and Eastern USA two weeks ago left great need in their wake. Tuscaloosa's Mayor Walt Maddox has faith in his city and his people, and they have faith in him. All have faith that God will see them through. Prayer, and a good knowledge of how government works, has carried him ever since. He walks among the devastated in the catastrophically hit parts of the city. He takes information and people with him to aid those who don't know, trust or understand government help. he Red Cross had 25,000 ready-to-eat meals, mobile clinics and medical staff on the way April 29. The Salvation Army was providing emergency shelter on the same day, as was Samaritan's Purse. Local volunteers are staffing many of the service and food centers. Americares and Direct Relief International were establishing with the appropriate authorities, where to set up full-scale clinics.

Gather Inc

Chernobyl Today: Wildlife Sanctuary Or Den of Decay?

April 14, 2011

The Chernobyl Exclusion Zone now encompasses more than 1,600 square miles of northern Ukraine and southern Belarus, a ragged swatch of forests, marshes, lakes, and rivers. Armed with permits to enter the zone, radiation dosimeters, and nearly invisible mesh "mist” nets commonly used by ornithologists, Møller and Mousseau caught birds nesting within the same habitat in areas with both high and low levels of contamination and assessed them for evidence of mutations. They found a strong correlation between highly contaminated areas and physical changes that ranged from partial albinism (white patches in feathers) to malformed tails. In uncontaminated areas, they noted, these physical changes occur much less frequently. They have gathered a rising mountain of data and published dozens of papers, all suggesting that the chronic low-level radioactivity of the zone and the hot particles that find their way into the soil and food in the area cause long-term damage to the organisms that live there.

Wired.com


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Articles And Commentary

Human Origins: Apes Or Adam?

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Thirty years ago, paleoanthropologists Donald C. Johanson and Richard Leakey got into a heated quarrel - on television - over human origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Johanson had discovered the famous australopithecine Lucy, and he contended that Lucy represented a human ancestor. Leakey, who grew up on fossil digs in Africa and whose team discovered Turkana Boy in 1984, argued that humans dated back before the australopithecines, and therefore Lucy did not fit into the lineage of humans.

While the debate ended without bloodshed, it is remembered for the passion of its participants. Thirty years later, the Arizona State University Institute of Human Origins is celebrating its anniversary during 2011–2012 with the theme of “Becoming Human: 30 Years of Research and Discovery.” Johanson and Leakey returned to the American Museum of Natural History to discuss the fossil evidence for human ancestry, this time with far more humor and far less venom. While the two have had their differences, they agree on one thing – that human beings evolved from apes millions of years ago.

Paleoanthropology is the fascinating study of ancient humanity through the excavation of bones and evidences of human culture from thousands of years ago. Of course, the majority of paleoanthropologists long to find out not only about ancient humanity, but also about the descent of mankind from the apes. This motivation to find missing links colors every new hominid discovery. From Lucy to Turkana Boy to Peking Man, paleoanthropologists believe they have found pieces of humanity's ancient family tree - the links between the apes and modern day humans. But, do any true missing links exist? Or is tree of ancient humanity really just a pair of two separate bushes – one of apes and one of humans?

We cannot begin to go through all the hominid finds made over the past 150 years in this short article, but we can touch on the most familiar.

Neanderthal:
The term "Neanderthal," still brings to mind a thick-skulled knuckle dragger with far more brawn than brain power. The Neanderthal man had heavy bones and those distinctive heavy eyebrow ridges. His chin was smaller and rounded, the center of his face jutted forward, and his skull was low and elongated. It was easy to portray him as a primitive man, closer to the apes. Today, though, scientists generally agree that Neanderthal was a highly intelligent, creative, true human being. In fact, Neanderthal had an average cranial capacity (and therefore brain size) of 1,485 cc, with a range of 1,245–1,740 cc, slightly larger than the modern human average of 1,350 cc. While greater cranial capacity doesn't necessarily equal higher intelligence, it does look good on Neanderthal's resume.

In his book Buried Alive, orthodontist Jack Cuozzo describes the poor reconstruction of certain original Neanderthal skulls to make them appear more ape-like and "primitive." For example, he argues that the Le Moustier specimen was reconstructed in a way that made the jaw appear more ape-like than it would have been naturally. Cuozzo also makes the very interesting argument, based on his knowledge of jaw and tooth growth, that it appears that Neanderthals lived to be several hundred years old.

According to Live Science November 15, 2006, "[E]xcavations and anatomical studies have shown Neanderthals used tools, wore jewelery, buried their dead, cared for their sick, and possibly sang or even spoke in much the same way that we do. Even more humbling, perhaps, their brains were slightly larger than ours."  There is no question that the Neanderthal was a fully functioning human.

Homo Erectus:
Many different hominid discoveries fall into a broad Homo erectus classification. These humans include Peking Man, Java Man, and early African Homo ergaster specimens like Turkana Boy. H. erectus was a smaller person, with an average cranial capacity of 973 cc.  This falls into the low end of modern human range, which is about 700–2,200 cc according to Molnar's Races, Types, and Ethnic Groups (1975). H. erectus bodies are generally described as very much like modern humans, though thicker boned. It is the H erectus skull that has been particularly classified as more primitive. The large brow ridges and flat, receding forehead, the smaller, forward-jutting jaw and large teeth all are considered primitive characteristics - as is the long, low-vaulted cranium and occipital torus.

Yet, these are features that Neanderthal also has, and Neanderthal is regarded as fully human. It can be argued that Homo Erectus is in fact just a small version of Neanderthal.

Harry Shapiro writes in his 1974 book Peking Man, (George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London, p. 125):

'But when one examines a classic Neanderthal skull, of which there are now a large number, one cannot escape the conviction that its fundamental anatomical formation is an enlarged and developed version of the Homo erectus skull. As in Homo erectus, it has the bun-shaped protrusion in the occiput, the heavy brow ridge, the relatively flattened crown that from the rear presents a profile like a gambrel roof. Its greatest breadth is low, just above the ears, and the absence of a jutting chin is typical.'

He wrote that back when Neanderthals still had a fairly brutish reputation, but that doesn't change the basic implication. H. erectus has generally been considered a couple of steps closer to the apes than we are, but if he was rather like a smaller version of the Neanderthal, his features should not necessarily be considered primitive. In fact, modern day Australian Aborigines also display many of these features, and they will be quick to assure us that yes, they really are humans too. 

H. erectus finds show he had the intelligence and technology of any humans stuck out in the wilderness.  For instance, stone tools found with Peking Man show that he cut down trees, trimmed his wooden clubs and dismembered the animals caught as food. Peking Man also made use of fire. It appears that in the search for missing links, H. erectus has too quickly and erroneously placed in the less-than-fully human category.

Lucy:
The first australopiths were uncovered by Mary Leakey in Tanzania in 1959, and the Leakey family has uncovered many more specimens there in the Olduvai Gorge since. The name australopithecine means "southern ape" and Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis), discovered by Donald Johanson in 1974, was likely about as bright as chimpanzees today. The estimated cranial capacity of A. afarensis was between 375 and 540 cc and it has the large jaws and small brain cavity of apes. Lucy also has the short legs, long arms and pot belly of an ape. The thing that excites paleoanthropologists is some analysis that argues Lucy walked upright.

Yet, as we noted in our article on Ardi in October, 2009, Anatomist Dr Charles Oxnard used multivariate analysis to show that Lucy's big toe was opposable, just like in chimpanzees. B.G. Richmond and D.S. Strait also reported in Nature in 2000 that Lucy's wrists indicated she was actually just a knuckle-walker like other apes. Lucy is often portrayed with human feet and standing upright, but not necessarily because of her actual morphology. Human footprints have been found in the hardened ash at Laetoli, near where Lucy was found. The footprints were dated to the time of Lucy using K/Ar testing, and since most evolutionists believed that humans and Lucy did not co-exist, they have concluded that Lucy must have made the prints herself.

And Others?
Cro Magnon was an ancient physically modern man.

Toumai (Sahelanthropus tchadensis) was an ancient ape that is dated older than Lucy but with features "younger" than Lucy's. Definitive conclusions on Toumai are hard to come by.

Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus) was an ape, long extinct, whose skeletal remains were horrible crushed and therefore difficult to interpret objectively.

Homo habilis is arguably an invalid taxon made up of a mixture of fossils from both apes and humans

New hominid remains are found every year, always with much fanfare. Rather than clearing up the question of human ancestry for evolutionists, though, these always seem to just add another twig on the already-twiggy branches of either humans or apes. They have yet to provide a true trunk that links the two branches together.

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Happy Birthday Israel

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On Monday, Israel celebrated its Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers. Then, at sundown, celebrations began for Israel's Independence Day. The 5th of Iyyar (May 9 this year) marks the 63rd anniversary of State of Israel and another year of Israel's successful survival in a hostile world. 

Monday was a sober day in Israel as its people remembered the 22,867 soldiers, both  men and women, who have died for Israel since 1860. That was the year Jews began to leave the safety of Jerusalem to build new Jewish neighborhoods. Special ceremonies also honored the 3,971 civilian victims of terror.
 
At 8:00pm Sunday night, a one-minute siren sounded in communities all across Israel. Vehicles stopped, and Israelis rose to their feet to remember their fallen countrymen. Again the sirens sounded on Monday morning at 11:00am. Again everybody stopped what they were doing and stood in honor of the fallen for two minutes. Military ceremonies around the country began immediately after the sirens quieted. 

To kick off Independence Day celebrations Monday night, prominent Israelis lit 12 torches at Israel's national cemetery on Jerusalem's Mount Herzl. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin, who lit the first torch, said in his speech: "Israel of 2011 is a Jewish and democratic state, which shines proudly in the heart of an oppressive and cruel Middle East."

Rabbi Shimon Rosenberg, whose daughter and son-in-law perished in the November 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, India, lit a torch along with his grandson, Moishi Holtzberg, who survived the attack. Other torch lighters included people like Gadi Bashari, whose Sweet Heart organization gives aid to soldiers, disabled people and new immigrants, and Michael Goldman, a Holocaust survivor who served as a police officer at the trial of Nazi criminal Adolf Eichmann.

Israel's Independence Day is a joyful celebration with picnics and parties and air force flybys.  Young Jewish scholars from all around the world come to compete in Israel's annual BIble Quiz in front of the prime minister. The Israel Prize is awarded on this day to the top minds in the country.   (Because the Israel Prize has so often gone to secular men or people with particularly leftist views, the Makor Rishon Hebrew-language newspaper has taken to naming its own alternative winners of the Israel prize in honor of Independence Day.)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a televised statement in honor of Israel's Independence Day. "The establishment of the State of Israel is nothing like the establishment of other countries," he said. "Few against many, our sons and daughters fought to realize our independence. We have come a long, remarkable way in the past 63 years. From a poor and weak country we have turned into a strong and well-established state, a global technological power with an army admired all over the world, with scientists, writers, agricultures, everything."

According to the Israeli government statistics, Israel’s population grew by 155,000 since last year to 7,746,000.  There were just 806,000 Israelis when the nation was established in 1948.  A full 75 percent of the population is Jewish and 21 percent is Arab.  Small non-Jewish immigrants and minority groups make up the other four percent.

Israel has had a rough 63 years, from its War of Independence in 1948, to battles for its existence in 1967 and 1973, and through the constant threat of terror acts within its borders. Israel's security forces are some of the best trained in the world. At one time, every one of Israel's near neighbors was its enemy. It faced hostile armies on all borders. Now, Israel is at peace with Egypt and Jordan. It has serious enemies in the international community and among terror groups within its territories, but it also has some very strong friends. Even then, with God's help, Israel will stay safe.

Israel is the land of the Bible, and Jerusalem is the City of David, the city in which the Messiah will take His throne. As Israel celebrates another year of its existence, it also brings us one year closer to that day when the Son of David will begin his earthly rule, and the wolf will lay down in peace with the lamb. There will be plenty of false cries of "peace" before that day, followed by great turmoil. Still, that day will come, and the Messiah will reign, praise the Lord.

Please continue to pray for Israel, for Jerusalem, and for the leaders and people of Israel.  May the Lord's kingdom come, may His will be done.

Happy Birthday, Israel.

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Turkey Holds UN Conference Bashing The Rich

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Turkey is hosting a major UN conference in Istanbul this week in order to "establish a vision on how the world will struggle against poverty and hunger." Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan bashed "rich" countries in his speech at the 4th U.N. Conference on the Least Developed Countries, or LDC-IV, Monday, saying, "I am sorry to say that the developed, rich countries have not shown satisfactory interest in this important conference."

Twelve prime ministers participated in the meeting's opening ceremony Monday, and more heads of state are expected to arrive during the conference, which runs until May 13. At least 44 ministers and 47 international organization leaders are expected to participate, along with more than 1,000 business enterprises. Focusing on the business side of the issue, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon promoted Least Developed Countries (LDCs) as investment opportunities rather than as charities.

"It is time to change our mindset," Ban said in his speech at the opening ceremony. "Investing in these countries is an opportunity for all. First, it is an opportunity to release the LDCs from poverty, hunger and diseases, which is our moral obligation," he said. "Second, investing in LDCs can provide the stimulus that can help propel and sustain global economic recovery."

In 1971, there were 25 LDCs, according to the United Nations. Today, there are 48, and just three nations – Botswana, Cape Verde, and Maldives – have escaped the LDC status in the past 30 years.

Of course, there are those who came to the conference with a more specific agenda. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joined the conference early this week, promoting his own ideas about how to end the poverty of LDCs through redistribution of resources. He said, "A map must be drawn of the wealth and natural resources of LDCs, to be circulated among leaders of these countries." Ahmadinejad also suggested that the wealthy nations should lower their military spending and give that money instead to LDCs. Ahmadinejad insisted, "At least 10 percent of the military expenditures of the world's 40 countries that exceed $1,200 billion must be allocated for LDCs."

Other ideas are less extreme.  Barry Coates, executive director of Oxfam, New Zealand, argues for debt cancellation for the LDCs, especially fo those new debts taken out in response to the global financial crisis. Stephen O'Brien, the UK international development minister for Africa, would improve the trade opportunities for LDCs by, for instance, allowing duty free access for LDC exports. 

Millions of people live in desperate poverty in these 48 Least Developed Countries, and from a purely economic position, the best thing for them is to grow job opportunities for their populations. Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, managing director at the World Bank, believes LDCs in Africa should make the most of their agriculture, and sell finished products and processed foods rather than simply exporting raw materials.  Turkish Ambassador Mithat Rende told the Turkish news outlet Today’s Zaman, "When you are generating sustained economic growth or activity, you should think about how you can also generate employment. Without generating employment you cannot do much."

Rende, however, believes the only way for the necessary changes to occur and for these countries to build their economies and climb out of poverty is through global agencies like the United Nations.  He visualizes global cooperation to deal with these longstanding economic problems. He said, "We’d like to highlight that all people have the right to benefit from global wealth and prosperity; it is in the interest of all to deal with global challenges and poverty. It is also our moral obligation and that of the global community as well. We need a paradigm of development, of growth, to achieve sustained growth for all, for the international order..."

Men like Rende may truly believe that global answers exist for these global problems.  Regardless, this conference in Turkey is being used to promote global unity and cooperation as a means to cut the number of LDCs in half over the course of the next decade.

"We are talking about the conscience of the international community, and we should talk about collective happiness," Rende said.

Unfortunately, while those things sound lovely, the human race has a sin problem.  Selfishness, corruption, greed, and hunger for power tend to get in the way.  It is good to find ways to help the LDCs get on their feet and succeed in feeding their peoples.  However, global governance will not work toward peace and "collective happiness" in a world dominated by corruption.   According to the Bible (versus Revelation 13) only international order that will bring true justice and peace will be the one in which the Messiah rules in righteousness (Isaiah 11).    Until then, all other forces working to bring global unity will likely fail or will lead to an international order that looks more like that found in Revelation 13. 

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