Iran, Russia and a New World Order →

September 20, 2011

Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Saeed Jalili has underscored the significance of Tehran-Moscow relations towards the establishment of a new global order. Iran and Russia can establish a new world order based on their common positions on international issues and developments, Jalili said in Moscow on Monday, quoted in an IRNA report. The SNSC secretary, who is in the Russian capital to attend the second international meeting of secretaries of national security councils, added that the world has bypassed the Cold War model and the ensuing unilateralism, which entailed international confrontations with expansionist motives of the West, led by the US. Jalili made the comments at a state university in Moscow, where he told participating students that a hotbed now exists for transpiration of a new world order.
- Press TV

Americans Have Religion - Tailored To Suit Themselves →

September 14, 2011

America has drifted from clearly defined religious denominations to faiths cut to fit personal preferences. The folks who make up God as they go are side-by-side with self-proclaimed believers who claim the Christian label but shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices. Religion statistics expert George Barna says, with a wry hint of exaggeration, America is headed for "310 million people with 310 million religions." "We are a designer society. We want everything customized to our personal needs — our clothing, our food, our education," he says. Now it's our religion.
- USA Today

Blood Supply At Risk to Tick-Borned Parasite →

September 05, 2011

A tick-borne infection known as Babesiosis, which can cause severe disease and even death, is becoming a growing threat to the U.S. blood supply. There are currently no diagnostic tests approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that can detect the infection before people donate blood. Babesia infections are marked by anemia, fever, chills and fatigue, but they can also cause organ failure and death. The still rare disease is known to occur in seven U.S. states in the Northeast and Upper Midwest in the spring and summer.
- Reuters


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2016 Strategic Perspectives Conference by Various Speakers


No Patenting Human Embyros - (Print)

"To become an embryo, you had to build yourself from a single cell. You had to respire before you had lungs, digest before you had a gut, build bones when you were pulpy, and form orderly arrays of neurons before you knew how to think. One of the critical differences between you and a machine is that a machine is never required to function until after it is built. Every animal has to function as it builds itself." –Scott F. Gilbert, Developmental Biology (eighth edition).

Human embryos cannot be patented, according to a law signed by President Obama on Friday. These days, biologists can swap out the genetic material of newts and frogs, clone a lamb from a single adult sheep cell, or "knock out" a specific gene in a mouse in order to see what happens. These technological powers make the concern about patenting experimental humans less than farfetched.  In the effort to escape disease, federal funds are once again free to support embryonic stem cell research.  The days of quilting together bits of DNA to create the perfect baby may or may not be years off. As technology advances, humankind must continually balance the pursuit for good health with the ethical concerns endemic in toying with human life.

No Patenting Humans:
President Obama signed the "America Invents Act" (H.R. 1249) on September 16th after the US Senate passed it September 8 by a vote of 89 to 9. The legislation is primarily an adjustment and updating of U.S. patent laws, but in section 33, the new law specifically states: "Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no patent may issue on a claim directed to or encompassing a human organism."

This little slice of the law prohibits an inventor from obtaining exclusive rights to certain technology used in human embryos. National Right to Life feared the biotechnology industry would develop lines of human embryos with certain genetic characteristics and would then patent and market these embryos as "models" for doing research on cures for certain diseases. There had been a temporary ban on issuing patents for human embryos, but this law makes it permanent.

Biotechnology Industry Organization fought against the ban because it would prevent patents from being issued on embryos produced by human cloning. (Attempts at cloning humans have so far had very little success.) BIO argued in a memo that because there was human intervention taking place in the creation of a "genetically modified embryo" then that embryo should be patentable.

NRLC’s Douglas Johnson commented, "This law recognizes that human life is not a commodity, and that a member of the human family can never be regarded as a mere invention, or as 'intellectual property.'"

Stem Cell Research:
In the meanwhile, two scientists are seeking to bring back the ban on using tax dollars for embryonic stem cell studies. Dr. James Sherley, a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, of Washington-based AVM Biotechnology, have appealed the July ruling that overturned the prohibition on federal funding for stem cell research on human embryos. The scientists have argued that, among other things, federal funds have been diverted from their research that uses adult stem cells for therapies.

The Amazing Body:
Most of us really have no clue how fantastic our bodies are. Every part of the body develops from the single cell of the fertilized egg, from the kidneys and the brain to the cartilage in the ear and the lining of the alveoli in the lungs. Every cell nucleus contains the same DNA, yet each cell uses the genetic coding in the DNA in a specific way, whether to form hard bone in one case or eye jelly in another. The cells pick and choose which portion of the gene they need.

One of DNA's jobs is to code for proteins, which get assembled as chains of amino acids that fold up naturally, comfortably, into globs. Big, messy globs. Yet, each protein is useful because of the precise way it folds up. It's the specific sequence of amino acids that determines how a protein wants to fold, and the shape it takes is what makes it able to do its job. One kind of protein goes into making the heart muscle. Another becomes an enzyme. Certain proteins mesh into the scaffolding of the cell, or form gateways into the cell, or hold cells together. And some get the honor of becoming part of the sonic hedgehog signaling pathway between cells in the hand to make sure babies' fingers form properly. Yes. There are even sonic hedgehog proteins.

We haven't even mentioned the transcription factors that have to be in place for DNA to make RNA copies, or the sentries outside the nucleus waiting to let in only those molecules with the right ID cards. We haven't described the ribosomes or lysosomes or white blood cells or neurotransmitters, or crazy biochemical cascades that go into making blood coagulate after the knife slips when we're cutting onions.

Each cell has a city's worth of industry, and a multitude of these busy little cells make up each organ.  The organs don't work in a vacuum either.  Each of the organs in the digestive and circulatory system cooperate with the skeletal and muscle and endocrine systems, which are all told what to do by the nervous system.  A trillion tiny bits and pieces all do their jobs to make up the organism that we call, "me." And all of it takes place without our thinking about it, while we sit and read this article, only half conscious of our hands on the keyboard and mouse.

We are intricately knit together. Each living creature is a wonder, a masterpiece. Yet, on top of everything else, the trillions of tiny actors that make up "me" don't come together just to move us around like robots. They all work together as we laugh and love and rejoice in life. Our trillions of parts act in harmony so that we can knit hats and play piano concertos and devise cones for the holding of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

Hold Awe:
We have the ability to screen new embryos for potential deformities before implanting them in a uterus. We have the ability to stick human cells into frogs and plug human DNA into cow eggs and genetically modify embryos to take on certain traits. We need to retain some awe. The overwhelming details that go into life should astonish us and make us pause, especially as we make decisions about experimenting on human beings, however small they are. We need to be careful. Designer babies may not be the worst thing we create... and their siblings might not be the only things we destroy. 

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Peoples Is Peoples... And Apes Is Apes - (Print)

There were once a much wider variety of human beings on this planet than there are now, according to new genetic analyses of Neanderthals in Europe and Denisovans in East Asia. Modern humans once interbred with these other groups, apparently sharing genetic material that includes the ability to fight off certain diseases. Yet, not all creatures designated as "hominids" are related to humans.

In 2008, a piece of bone and a tooth of what is believed to be a young girl were found in Denisova Cave in southern Siberia, along with stone blades and body ornaments. Twenty years ago the small bone and a tooth would not have been much to go on. These days, however, 40 mg of real bone from a fossil can tell researchers a great deal of information - if the bone contains enough genetic material for researchers to sequence the DNA.

Researchers were able to compare DNA all around, and it turns out that the Denisovan girl and Neanderthals are related, but not directly. According to comparisons of genetic code, the Denisovan shared a common ancestor with Neanderthals and modern humans.

"It amazed me that we found this other extinct group of humans," evolutionary geneticist Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology at Leipzig, Germany, told LiveScience. "When we got this little finger bone from Siberia, I was totally expecting it to be either Neanderthal or modern human. When it was something else, that was totally surprising and shocking to me."

Ancient humans might bear some superficial physical differences from modern homo sapiens, but they were all still humans and able to breed with one another. In fact, interbreeding between modern-form humans and Neanderthals may have given us modern humans certain genes that helped boost our immune systems.

At the least, Neanderthals share key immunity genes with us, namely the HLA (human leucocyte antigen) class 1 gene. HLA proteins are important in helping the body defend itself against new infections. A variant called HLA-B*73 is found both in modern humans and Denisovans.

There's quite a bit of Neanderthal DNA floating around out there in the population. According to researchers, up to four percent of Neanderthal DNA and up to six percent of Denisovan DNA have survived in modern humans. It's been known for some time now that Neanderthals bred with the people whose descendants are now found in Europe and western Asia. Denisovan genes can also be found in the population of Europe and especially in the people of Asia and the oceanic islands.

No Missing Links
For more than a century, Neanderthals were portrayed as brutish, evolutionary missing links. They brought to mind the knuckle-dragging cave man, little better than apes themselves. Those pictures of Neanderthal are sadly incorrect. Evidence consistently points to Neanderthals as an extinct, but completely human, group of individuals. Neanderthals used tools, buried their dead, and even made musical instruments. The Denisovan bones were found with tools and body ornaments, which are both characteristic of human beings.

In the Bible, Adam's son Seth was born as a replacement for Abel, who was murdered by Cain. However, Cain, Abel, and Seth were not the only children Adam and Eve produced. Genesis 5:4 states that Adam lived another 800 years after Seth was born, and he begat sons and daughters. Seth's importance in the story comes from the fact that it is through his descendants that Noah is born. The only human genetic lines that survived the Flood were those that climbed on board the ark – namely, the genes of Noah's three sons and their wives.

With the Flood, God wiped out nearly all of humanity. He preserved one slender group of genes to continue on through the children of Shem, Ham and Japheth. It should therefore be no shock that we find the remains of other extinct humans that don't look exactly like us. Their gene pools were nearly wiped out.

Apes Are Still Apes:
On the other hand, paleoanthropologists are constantly seeking out new fossils they hope will finally provide science with the missing links between apes and humans. The newest human precursor is Australopithecus sediba. A. sediba was discovered in South Africa in 2008 by a little boy and his dog, and later identified as an australopithecine, a cousin of the famous Australopithecus afarensis, Lucy. 

While A. sediba provides an exciting new puzzle piece for evolutionary paleoanthropologists, its similarities to humans - just like Neanderthal's differences - are superficial. A. sediba has been lauded for having hands strong enough to grasp tree branches while at the same time have hands that could use tools. Its pelvis is also more curved than other australopithecines, which the researchers believe would have made it easier for females attempting to give birth to babies with larger heads and brains. The fact that A. sediba itself has a small head, with a brain capacity of only 420 cc, doesn't discourage the scientists. They consider A sediba to be a possible human ancestor, and therefore the researchers see a human head-friendly pelvis in A. sediba.  Whether this is a case of, "If I hadn't believed it, I wouldn't have seen it," requires a second opinion.

"They are important fossils and remarkably detailed," said paleontologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University in D.C..  Wood stood among those paleontologists  who were not yet willing to support A. sediba as a human ancestor. "I have some resemblances to Warren Buffett, but I'm not a billionaire," Wood says. "A few resemblances does not an ancestor make."

At the end of the day, A sediba is still an ape. She is an ape with long fingers and a wide pelvis. No tools or jewelry were found with A sediba. The apes did not bury their dead nor play handmade flutes. A. sediba simply represents the longing of paleoanthropologists to fill in the gaps between humans and apes on an evolutionary tree.

The difficulty is that the gaps are fairly large. Each new fossil discovery adds just one more individual to either the human family branches or the ape family branches. As much as paleoanthropologists want the two sets of branches to eventually run into each other, as time progresses, they look more and more like two, many-branched bushes and not one single tree at all.

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The Fall Feasts: Rosh Hashanah - (Print)

The Palestinian statehood vote at the United Nations may get slotted for either Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, according to word that has reached Israel's Foreign Ministry.  Placing the vote on either of these upcoming holidays would act as a way to get Israeli diplomats out of the room, unable to offer a final contrary opinion before ballot time.  As Itamar Eichner writes at Ynet News, "If the vote is held on Yom Kippur, there will not be a single Israeli diplomat at the UN."   The significance of a UN vote to create a Palestinian state on the Jewish new year will not be overlooked.
Jewish communities throughout the world will celebrate Rosh Hashanah as the sun sets next Wednesday. Rosh Hashanah literally means "head of the year" and commemorates the anniversary of the creation of the world. It is celebrated on the first day of the month of Tishri, which this year starts at sundown on September 28th and ends on the 30th.

Israeli President Shimon Peres offered a Rosh Hashanah message on Tuesday, saying that he hoped the year 5722 would herald greater peace, security, and ecnomic hope.  "I extend my warm and best wishes to the Jewish people around the world for a year of peace, joy, good health and prosperity."

The commandment to observe Rosh Hashanah is found in Leviticus 23:23-25:

"And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 'Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.'"

It is also mentioned in Numbers 29:1: "And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing the trumpets unto you."

One of the central features of Rosh Hashanah is the shofar. The shofar is an instrument made from a ram's horn that sounds somewhat like a trumpet. In the Bible, Rosh Hashanah is referred to as Yom Teruah, the day of the sounding of the shofar, otherwise known as the Feast of Trumpets. The shofar is often representative of Abraham's offering Isaac to God as a sacrifice on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22). It was then that God provided Abraham with a ram caught by its horns in a thicket as a substitute for Isaac.

Rosh Hashanah is a time of both celebration and repentance. It is a time of spiritual renewal through prayer and deep personal reflection leading up to Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, on the 10th day of Tishri (Leviticus 23:26-28). Rosh Hashanah is when the Jewish people recognize God as King and Judge over all living things. On Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the creation of the world, when "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good," (Genesis 1:31).

The vast majority of Christians are unfamiliar with most of the traditional Jewish holidays. Yet they hold great spiritual and prophetic significance. In Colossians 2:16-17 Paul says, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come.

For more information about Rosh Hashanah or other Jewish holy days and their prophetic significance refer to our briefing The Feasts of Israel.

Rosh Hashanah is a time of forgiveness and new beginnings. Please take some time out of your week for serious introspection. Examine your heart before God and spend time in prayer.

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

[This is the first installment of a three part series on the fall feasts of Israel. Next week’s article will cover Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement.]

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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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