eNews For The Week Of June 12, 2012
In This Week’s Issue
- Futile Recall: Wis Voters v. Ill Lawmakers - (Read)
- Computer Chips Invented To Control Muscle Cells - (Read)
- A Flag Day Salute - (Read)
Memory Verse of the Week
Important News Headlines
The picture of a woman in a hospital bed next to the baby she was forced to abort has caused outrage across China and the world. Women's Rights Without Frontiers has learned that a woman was forcibly aborted at seven months of pregnancy on June 3, 2012. According to a report by the China-based human rights organization 64Tianwang, the woman, Feng Jianmei, was beaten and dragged into a vehicle by a group of Family Planning Officials while her husband, Deng Jiyuan, was out working. The officials asked for RMB 40,000 ($6270) in fines from Feng Jianmei's family. When they did not receive the money, they forcibly aborted Feng at seven months, laying the body of her aborted baby next to her in the bed. Feng is under medical treatment in Ankang City, Zhenpin County, Zengjia Town, Yupin village.
The Franklin County (MO) Commission today resurrected a practice noticeably absent from its last several meetings: prayer.
The three-member commission approved a new invocation policy that calls on volunteers from the community to offer prayers at the beginning of each meeting.
Presiding County Commissioner John Griesheimer previously had opened meetings by praying for the St. Louis Cardinals, for the unemployed and for rain, typically concluding each with "in Jesus' name."
But Griesheimer ceased praying after he received a letter recently from the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri demanding that he stop because it said the action violated the Constitution.
Russia is forging closer ties with China as it rejects foreign intervention in Syria, opposes US domination of international affairs and rebalances its foreign policy in favor of Asia and former Soviet states. After returning to the Kremlin last month, Russian president Vladimir Putin declined invitations to meetings of the G8 and NATO in the US and made only brief stops in Paris and Berlin between more substantial visits to autocratic Belarus, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Beijing. Its advocates see it as a potential counterweight to NATO, with the distinction that it forswears interference in nations' internal matters, a crucial caveat for central Asian autocrats and for Russia as it fights rebels in the North Caucasus and a China tackling Tibetan and Uighur separatism.
The Irish Times
Nigerian authorities say gunmen and a suicide bomber targeted two Christian churches on Sunday, killing 3 people and wounding at least 41.
The attacks took place in the country's restive northeastern region and the so-called "middle-belt" in central Nigeria. The middle belt divides the country's mostly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.
The first attack took place in the central city of Jos, where a suicide bomber detonated his car outside of a church. Local officials say two people were killed and 41 wounded. Christian youths assaulted local Muslims in retaliation. Please pray for protection for the people of Nigeria, that the power of God's love would heal the enmity between people and bring a multitude of souls under the blood of Christ.
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Articles And Commentary
FUTILE RECALL: WIS VOTERS V. ILL LAWMAKERS
"We're headed in the right direction," Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said many times last week. "We're turning things around. We're moving Wisconsin forward."
Walker won a highly visible recall election June 5th by a strong majority, demonstrating that Wisconsin voters are not ready to fire their governor, despite the crowd of protestors camping for months outside the capitol. The reality is, his policies have been working.
Walker made headlines with his efforts to keep the state of Wisconsin within its budget by eliminating unions' collective bargaining rights for public workers, including the state's teachers. The purpose of the legislation was to cut spending without having to raise taxes in order to pull out of a $3.6 billion budget deficit. It meant that state employees would have to pay a portion of their own medical insurance and pensions in order to keep more public workers from being laid off. The unions in the state made a major clamor over the legislation and led continual demonstrations in protest.
This is not an easy, prosperous time for most states, and some are in serious trouble. California's budget is a voracious monster with a $16 billion deficit. Illinois needs to magically produce $83 billion worth of pensions from an empty savings account. Yet, rather than dealing with desperately required pension reform, the Illinois legislature used the last hours of the session to vote on qualifying miniature horses as service animals.
Ralph Benko quipped at Forbes.com, "So… a miniature Cavalry rode to the rescue of the citizens of the, too-aptly nicknamed, Sucker State. The session closed with miniature horses being elected service animals and without the people of Illinois being nefariously saddled with the pension obligations."
The problems are real. Everybody sees them. Too few legislators want to be that bad guy who votes to cut spending – who makes the hard decisions to chop off limbs to save the rest of the body.
The unions poured millions into a campaign to oust Walker and replace him with Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, and fiscal conservative groups spent even more on television ads, mail, and phone calls to keep Walker in office. At least $66 million total, which could have been better spent elsewhere, had been put into the recall battle by the 21st of May, and the unions have credited Walker's win last Tuesday to the deeper pockets of the Republicans. Yet, the controversy was in the news on a constant basis and both sides of the matter were well known. And as Ramesh Ponnuru at Bloomberg pointed out, it may be that Walker's campaign received more money because his was the more popular position after all.
Wisconsin's taxpayers are apparently more practical than Illinois' legislators. The fact that local school districts can renegotiate contracts with their employees is saving the Wisconsin state government (taxpayers) $1 billion. Indiana is also a success story. It got rid of collective bargaining for state workers six years ago and during the recession has managed to both avoid raising state taxes while also largely avoiding layoffs.
A major temptation during financial crises is to go after the big businesses or "rich," to capture much-needed funds. There's a rationale that argues that the rich don't really deserve their money (they only have it because they're corrupt and their great granddaddies were moonshiners anyway). Robin Hood is still a hero. There's a hole in that way of thinking, though; people who are successful in business tend to seek environments where business is good and avoid situations in which business is bad. In other words, if Illinois raises and keeps high taxes, the financially savvy leave the state and move elsewhere. In December, 2011, the nonpartisan Illinois Policy Institute issued a report that an average of one Illinois taxpayer moved out of state – primarily to right-to-work states with lower state and local tax burdens - every ten minutes between 1995 and 2009, taking with them $26 billion in taxable income.
One of the complaints waged against Walker in the recent recall battle was that he was cutting spending to schools while giving tax cuts to the rich and to corporations. The 2011-2013 budget did save $800-900 million on K-12 education over two years compared to the previous budget. It also offered tax breaks that favored businesses, both small and large, tax breaks that would mean a loss of about $200 million during those same two years. However, those tax cuts could mean bringing business into the state, providing jobs, conveniently at a time when neighboring Illinois' high tax rates are driving people out.
If Wisconsin's experience is similar to what has been seen in Indiana, the municipalities that now have more control over what they pay their workers may have the budgets to hire more employees as years go by.
America should probably not look at Wisconsin as a crystal ball for what will take place in November. Even those who voted for Obama were unwilling to kick out Walker. What Wisconsin does say, however, is that legislators should stop treating the electorate like greedy children that demand full faces and recognize that voters are adults - who know the value of balancing a checkbook.
COMPUTER CHIPS INVENTED TO CONTROL MUSCLE CELLS
As kids many of us took a bit of wire, a battery, and a light bulb and were pleased to find the bulb glowing brightly once all parts were attached. The electric current flowed beautifully through the wire to the bulb, and Thomas Edison himself could not have been prouder. Sometimes, though, there was a breakdown in the system. The light bulb didn't light. The battery was dead or the bulb had burned out, or there was a break in the wire.
Our bodies also operate using electrical charges. Rather than pulses of electricity carried by electrons, however, negative and positive ions pass electrical charges from our brain to our muscles, telling our muscles when to expand and contract. The biochemical signals that carry charge through our bodies can also fail, and when that happens, researchers at Linköping University hope that a new transistor chip can still pass on the signals for a variety of functions, potentially helping people who suffer from paralysis.
"We can, for example, send out signals to muscle synapses where the signaling system may not work for some reason. We know our chip works with common signaling substances, for example acetylcholine," says Magnus Berggren, Professor of Organic Electronics and leader of the research group.
Electricity and Ions:
Electrical signals move through our bodies a bit differently than the way they pass through copper wire. The electrons can flow passively through a wire at the speed of light. Our bodies, however, do not behave like solid-state copper. We're mostly water, and our bodies send electrical signals in a way that works in an aqueous solution.
In water, electricity isn't passed along by mere electrons, but by whole ions – protons, neutrons, and electrons together. A neutral atom has an equal number of protons and electrons, with the positive and electric charges balancing each other out. An ion, on the other hand, is an atom or molecule that has more or fewer electrons than the number of protons, which gives it a negative or a positive charge.
Salt water is made up of countless sodium and chloride ions, for instance. When salt is dissolved in water, the chlorine atom easily snatches an electron from the sodium, making the resulting chloride ion electron-heavy, therefore giving it a negative charge. The sodium that has lost an electron now has more protons than electrons, giving it a net positive charge. These ions in an aqueous solution can easily pass on electric charge. If we place both a wire from a battery and a wire to a light bulb into salt water, the electricity from the battery can be passed along by these ions to light the bulb without the wires ever touching.
Our nerve cells use ions to pass on electric charges from our brains, but nerves are not very good conductors. Electricity can pass down the long tube-like axon of a nerve cell, but not very far. Along the axon there is a cluster of sodium and potassium ion channels, however, which open up when the electricity hits them. This allows a flow of positive ions into the cell, depolarizing the cell. That is, it makes the voltage increase. This provides a little spark of electricity, called an "action potential" and the electrical charge is sent down the next nerve cell to the next cluster of sodium potassium ion channels, which send another little spark down the next axon.
This is active propagation. The electrical signals cannot just passively pass like in electrical wires. They can't travel at the speed of light; they travel up to only 100 meters per second, much slower than the speed of light because the electrical signals are passed along in this active fashion. Pain signals travel even more slowly, which is why it can take a few seconds to feel a hit or a cut.
Neurotransmitters are responsible for sending the actual electrical signal from one neuron to the next. Between neurons are gap junctions called synapses. The electrical signal travels down the neuron until it reaches the end of the axon, causing the neurotransmitter to be released into the synapse, and it diffuses across the synapse to a receptor at the dendrite end of the next neuron.
The purpose of the synapse is to allow the neurons to communicate with one another. We're a collection of cells working together in a synergistic way. Synapses can be created and destroyed, especially in early brain development. We're born with most of the neurons that we need, and learning is largely a process of adding synaptic connections where we need them, developing the inner connections necessary to keep a memory or perform a motor task. Memory formation involves physical changes that are the result of a repeated use of a synapse. It may be physically changed to be a stronger synapse connection.
Acetylcholine (ACh) is a neurotransmitter that activates skeletal muscle. When a nerve impulse from the brain hits the ACh, it binds to receptors on skeletal muscle tissues, acting like a key to open the lock of a gate that allows sodium ions to shoot into the cell. The end of the chain reaction that follows results in a muscle contraction. If the brain fails to make or send ACh in proper amounts, though, there can be failure in the body's ability to move.
The Linköping University team has combined ion transistors into circuits that use ions like ACh to send messages through the body. Researchers at Karolinska Institute then used these transistors to control the delivery of Ach to target cells. This means that we could use computer chips to artificially control the paths of signals to muscle cells. The results of the research were published in the most recent issue of the journal Nature Communications.
These technologies offer hope for those who have lost mobility due to nerve damage. They might be able to give paralyzed people the ability to move again, or may enhance precision of movement in the rest of us. Yet, the bizarre possibilities of one day remotely controlling human muscle offer more sinister implications as well, providing science fiction writers wonderful villain material that could, in fact, one day be a reality.
A FLAG DAY SALUTE
The history of the American flag is as rich and diverse as the history of the nation it represents. It has been displayed in one-room schoolhouses and has waved in triumph on the surface of the Moon. It has been sprinkled in pieces near the North Pole. It has covered the caskets of thousands of brave military men and women. And every June 14, on Flag Day, it hangs proudly on front porches across the United States.
While militiamen and regulars still fought off the British in lonely farm fields, it was clear the new United States would need its own flag to represent the country. On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the following resolution: "Resolved: that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." The Congress detailed the meaning of the colors, writing that, "White signifies Purity and Innocence; Red, Hardiness and Valor; Blue signifies Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice."
As America gained new states, additional stars were added to the flag design. The Flag Act of 1818 designated the 4th of July following a state's admission as the day that its new star would be placed on the flag. Over the years, the flag has changed 26 times to accommodate the additions of new stars. (Early flags had a variety of designs using the same number of stars). On July 4, 1960, the 50th star was added to the flag in honor of Hawaii, which entered the Union on August 21, 1959.
The flag bore 15 stars and 15 stripes in 1812 when another war with the British threatened the young nation. By September of 1814, the British had gained some devastating victories. The White House had been burned and President Madison and his beloved wife had fled to safety. During the night of September 13, 1814, the British naval fleet bombarded Fort McHenry in Baltimore harbor. For nearly 25 hours they fired their cannons at the American defenses. Francis Scott Key watched the attack from the deck of a British prisoner-exchange ship. Throughout the battle bombs exploded in the air above the fort and the new Congreve rockets shone red across the sky. Then, silence commandeered the dark night, and the young American lawyer and his friends feared that Fort McHenry had surrendered. As the dawn's first glimmers began to waken the sky, however, the three men were delighted to see that magnificent flag still flapping over the battered fort. The British invasion of Baltimore had been prevented. The flag above Fort McHenry was massive in size. Each individual stripe measured two feet in width. The impressive sight inspired Key to write the poem that later became our national anthem.
"The Defense of Fort McHenry" was published in the Baltimore Patriot on September 20th, 1814, and then many more times in other papers around the country. "The Star Spangled Banner" (as the poem came to be called) became one of several popular national songs, and was adopted as the United States' national anthem on March 3, 1931. Two original copies of the poem exist today, one owned by the Maryland Historical Society and one preserved in the Library of Congress. The enormous Ft. McHenry flag, now fragile with age, may be still be viewed in the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of American History.
President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed "Flag Day" to be a national celebration day in 1916. In 1949, President Harry Truman signed the National Flag Day Bill, which proclaimed June 14 a day of national observance and honor of the flag. On Flag Day in 1954, President Eisenhower signed a bill that added the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. In reference to this act, he once wrote "These words ["under God"] will remind Americans that despite our great physical strength we must remain humble. They will help us to keep constantly in our minds and hearts the spiritual and moral principles which alone give dignity to man, and upon which our way of life is founded."
For the past 235 years it has represented our nation and served as a symbol of freedom and valor. It embodies what is best about America. Thus long may it wave, over the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Memory Verse Of The Week
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
James 5:4 KJV
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