eNews For The Week Of July 31, 2012
In This Week’s Issue
- Living Fossils Kick At Evolution - (Read)
- Ebola In Uganda, Jurassic Germs In Georgia - (Read)
- Lebanon: Stuck Between Hezbollah and Syria - (Read)
Memory Verse of the Week
Important News Headlines
A prominent UC Davis neurosurgeon was banned from performing medical research on humans after he and an underling were accused of experimenting on dying brain cancer patients without university permission.
Dr. J. Paul Muizelaar, who earns more than $800,000 a year as chairman of the department of neurological surgery, was ordered last fall to "immediately cease and desist" from any research involving human subjects, according to documents obtained by The Sacramento Bee.
Also banned was the colleague, Dr. Rudolph J. Schrot, an assistant professor and neurosurgeon who has worked under Muizelaar the past 13 years.
Documents show the surgeons got the consent of three terminally ill patients with malignant brain tumors to introduce bacteria into their open head wounds, under the theory that postoperative infections might prolong their lives. Two of the patients developed sepsis and died, the university later determined.
The Sacramento Bee
Throngs of people weighed in on the Chick-fil-A debate at stores across the United States on Wednesday, buying chicken sandwiches to show their support for the restaurant chain and its president's opposition to same-sex marriage. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee dubbed it "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day."
The controversy came about after an interview with the fast food restaurant chain's president and COO, Dan Cathy, appeared in The Baptist Press on July 16 and he weighed in with his views on family.
"We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit," Cathy said. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that."
The US State Department's annual report on International Religious Freedom for 2011 indicates a rise in anti-Semitism and deteriorating religious freedom in China and Iran. With regards to Israel, the report which was released on Monday stated that "the country's laws and policies protect religious freedom and, in practice, the government generally respected religious freedom."
The report further mentioned web sites promoting Holocaust denial operated with Iran's consent; desecration of Jewish synagogues and cemeteries in France; rise in popularity of an openly anti-Semitic party, (Jobbik party) in Hungary; defacing Jewish property in Ukraine, including a synagogue and several Holocaust monuments and soccer matches in the Ukraine and the Netherlands marred by anti-Semitic slogans.
The Coalition of African American Pastors (CAAP) announced at the National Press Club on Tuesday that the grassroots group - comprised of the more than 3,000 members - is a launching a national campaign to support marriage between one man and one woman and to oppose the Obama administration's efforts to advance same-sex marriage. "The time has come for a broad-based assault against the power that be that wants to change our culture to one of men marrying men and women marrying women," CAAP President William Owens said at the press conference, held to announce the Marriage Mandate campaign, which includes a petition seeking 100,000 signatures pledging support for traditional marriage.
Saudi Arabia welcomed with open arms new Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi when he visited Jeddah on Wednesday. Observers described this visit as a sign of the strength of Saudi-Egyptian relations, and a real commitment on Egypt's part of wanting to build a new future in the region after a difficult year, especially since Egypt represents a strong political presence, along with the Saudi kingdom, as they are two active poles of balance in the Arab region.
This Week’s 66/40 Radio Broadcast
The Epistle of James
The Book of James focuses on the believer's justification before men. His robust epistle focuses on the practical Christian walk rather than on doctrine; it is directed toward a living faith. Faith is not believing in spite of the evidence; Faith is obeying in spite of the consequences.
Are “leadership skills” only something for a select few or can everyone benefit from understanding what the Bible says about leadership?
What are Christians called to do during these turbulent times?
How can you make a difference in your family, among your friends and within your community?
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Articles And Commentary
LIVING FOSSILS KICK AT EVOLUTION
In 1938, men fishing off the east coast of South Africa caught a peculiar fish that was identified as a coelacanth ("SEE-le-canth"). This find shocked the paleontological world, because the coelacanth was a fish thought to have died out with the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous Period 65 million years ago. Additional specimens of the coelacanth have since been found in the waters of the Comoros, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Madagascar. It is one of many "Lazarus taxa" – creatures once thought to be extinct, only to be "resurrected" by appearing as real living, breathing organisms long after having disappeared from the fossil record.
Yet, while the coelacanth is believed to have reached its present form 400 million years ago, researchers studying the fish have observed it changing to adapt to its environment. That is, while the coelacanth supposedly hasn't changed much in the past 400 million years, there is still flexibility in its gene pool after all.
"We have thus been able to show that despite their slow evolutionary rate, coelacanths continue to develop and are potentially also able to adapt to new environmental conditions," Kathrin Lampert, researcher at the Ruhr-University Bochum in Germany, said.
It isn't as though the world hasn't changed a bit since the ancestors of today's coelacanths were petrified in mud. If the fish has had the genetic variability to change, it certainly has taken its time getting around to it.
Big Black Gaps:
Darwinian evolution depends on the idea that life on earth has changed over the years due to natural selection and the survival of the fittest species. When the environment changes, those species that are best able to adapt to the new climate or habitat do so, and the rest die out. Darwin presented evolutionary change as a gradual series of steps in which one set of creatures slowly changed into another set of creatures, leaving millions of extinct things streaming behind.
There turned out to be a problem with Darwin's phyletic gradualism, though; it wasn't supported by the fossil record. Darwin expected that as paleontologists dug up more fossils, they would find a lineup of gradually changing forms to support his theory. The thousands of gradual intermediate forms were not found, though. Even the horse series and whale series, pointed to as evidence for the evolution of these creatures, have serious weaknesses [see links below].
To deal with the massive gaps in the evolutionary fossil record, Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldredge proposed the punctuated equilibria theory in 1972. They argued that evolution didn't occur gradually the way Darwin thought it did. Rather, they proposed that evolution took place in spurts. Gould and Eldredge made the case that species remained unchanged for long periods of time, then evolved rapidly when some stress in the environment forced adaptation. Rather than presenting a smooth, continuous, gradual change over millions of years, which the fossil record did not support, they argued evolution had occurred in punctuated spurts of change, with species splitting up to form new species once in a great long while. Since these changes were rare and since fossilization was a relatively rare phenomenon, evolutionists should expect gaps in the fossil record, they said.
Regardless of whether Gould and Eldredge's argument withstands scrutiny, their view of the way that evolution works has something in common with Darwinian gradualism; it still doesn't present actual evidence that one kind of animal turned into another kind of animal.
Gould does have a point; the fossils haven't given us a complete record of life on earth in a tidy series of layers, each containing neatly tagged representations of each type of animal that lived in a location at any time. There are gaps. The coelacanth shows up in the fossil record with the dinosaurs and then doesn't appear in more recent fossil layers. Yet it's still alive and swishing. It's been here all along, but its bones are only preserved in older layers. (How much older... is a question.)
At the same time, the coelacanth DOES show itself in the fossil record. Gould and Darwin both have a problem because they've proposed imaginary missing links that we just plain do not see at all. They also propose change over time, and when creatures show up unchanged after an alleged 400 million years of existence, basically the same as they were in the fossil record, that raises questions.
The coelacanth is an oddity. These bizarre, oily, foul-tasting fish look much as they did when they were buried in rock layers eons ago. They are not alone, either. Other living fossils include the Monoplacophora, a class of mollusks that were found off of Costa Rica in 1952 after having been thought extinct for the past 380 million years. The Laotian Rock Rat was found in 1996 after having been thought "dead" for 11 million years. The ant genus Gracilidris was found in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina even though it had been allegedly extinct for more than 15 million years. And if you want to purchase your very own living fossil, Beds & Borders Nursery in Parrish, Florida has Wollemi pines for sale. A hiker named David Noble found a stand of these of trees in Wollemi National Park near Sydney, Australia in 1994. In the wild they are still one of the rarest plants in the world.
Fossils like these, as well as the Metasequoia, the Nightcap Oak, the Chacoan Peccary (a pig) or Mountain Pygmy Possum were all once thought to have died out millions of years ago, only to be "surprise!" found alive and well after all, relatively unchanged from the way their family members looked before they were locked in stone.
Right now, a well-known living fossil, the nautilus, is in danger because its pretty spiraling shell looks nice as a mantelpiece decoration. While the nautilus has survived several major mass extinctions in earth's geological history, it is currently being wiped out because humans have been harvesting the living creatures for their lovely, valuable, unchipped shells. Except for its recently depleted numbers, the nautilus is otherwise basically the same creature it's ever been. It has survived for a supposed 500 million years, changing enough to evolve into several unique species, some with more complex and others with more simple shell designs, but always still a nautilus.
Paleontologists are hurting for missing links, and even the few they have are lined up on tenuous evidence. The coelacanth demonstrates the danger of paleontologists' making assumptions about the internal organs or DNA of creatures based on their skeletons.
Prior to its being found alive, the coelacanth had been considered a link between fish and land animals. Paleontologists had suggested that the swim bladder of the coelacanth had turned into a lung which allowed it to breathe when it crawled out onto land. When a living coelacanth swim bladder was examined, though, it ruined that idea. The swim bladder was thin and filled with fat and in no position to act like a lung, no matter how much the scientists wanted the coelacanth's lobed fins to act like crawling arms.
Don't be confused. When scientists say life has "evolved," they are right. Families and genera of creatures do change over time. There were once marmot-like gophers with horns and giant sloths as large as VW busses. Yet, the gophers were still gophers and the sloths were still sloths, and on the whole were not so different from the same creatures we see today. Rather than showing a convenient series of evolutionary steps, the fossil record continually shows specific groups of creatures that display wide variety within their groupings, but do not demonstrate much direct evidence of having evolved into something else.
EBOLA IN UGANDA, JURASSIC GERMS IN GEORGIA
A new Ebola outbreak has killed 14 people in Uganda with a total of 36 cases diagnosed as of Wednesday. Since 1976, Ebola has been dreaded for its high fatality rate and for its causing internal and external bleeding in its sufferers. Yet, because Ebola's various strains can only be communicated by direct contact with bodily fluids, and because it does its damage quickly, efforts to contain Ebola have proved successful. As long as the virus can be held back in the jungle, it poses little widespread danger.
In the recent outbreak, however, an ill person managed to reach a hospital in the capital city of Kampala, putting the staff and other patients at risk. Once a lethal virus reaches major cities, the danger suddenly arises that air travel will allow its tendrils to spread across the globe. Ultimately, the scariest diseases may not be the ones we already know, but the ones yet hidden in the swamps, or even the ones we ourselves create in our quest to increase scientific knowledge.
While Ebola kills quickly once its symptoms erupt, it has a 12 to 25-day incubation period. An infected person can walk around, giving kisses, making love, dripping sweat, exposing other people to the still-silent virus. When it does come out of hiding, Ebola hits its victims with fever and vomiting, headaches and diarrhea, rashes and red eyes – the symptoms seen in many common illnesses. Sometimes those with the disease hemorrhage from bodily orifices, a bright red flag for the disease. Death is usually caused by the dysfunction of multiple organ systems.
The current outbreak has been diagnosed as the Sudan strain of Ebola, but it was slow to be recognized - largely because victims presented fever, vomiting and rashes, but no bleeding.
The people of Kampala are alarmed and have taken to not kissing or touching other people for fear of contracting the disease. The Sudan strain of the virus generally has a 65 percent fatality rate. An initial 20 cases were confirmed in the recent epidemic, but that number has been raised to 36.
There is a blessing in the current situation; the person who made it to the hospital in Kampala was already showing symptoms, allowing a quick quarantine of the patient and all medical workers in contact with him. The tragedy is that there is no medical treatment other than giving patients a comfortable environment in which to allow their bodies to fight the virus.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni implored the people of Uganda to be careful, addressing the nation on state and private television Sunday. "I therefore appeal to you to be vigilant. Avoid shaking of hands; do not take on burying somebody that has died from symptoms which look like Ebola. Instead, call the health workers to be the ones to do it. And avoid promiscuity because these sicknesses can also go through sex," he said.
As horrific as it is, Ebola has been around for 30 years and its nature is well known. It has not mutated into a form that can be spread through the air. It kills its victims quickly enough to keep it from spreading far unseen. The bigger concerns are the unknown bugs waiting to catch rides out of the swamps – or out of the laboratories.
Georgia Tech researchers made news in early July by reporting that they had successfully placed the genetic material of an extinct bacterium into a modern E. coli cell, bringing a previously unknown bug back from the dead. They have the bacterium growing in a Petri dish, where it is thriving. Most bacteria are beneficial in nature, yet sufficient numbers of virulent killer bacteria exist in the world to give us pause. When the makers of Jurassic Park created dinosaurs from ancient DNA, they made the gentle, long-necked brachiosaurs with their big, soft eyes, as well as the velociraptors with their razor claws and poor table manners.
So far, the experiment appears to be safe. The Georgia Tech researchers have grown 1000 generations without any apparent danger, and the bacteria grow only half as quickly as their modern counterparts. The fact that microbiologists are raising up long-dead bacteria should give us some concern, though. We don't know how various strains of ancient bugs might have behaved. Great precautions should be taken when playing with these bacteria. We don't want to let loose the next Black Death or killer hemorrhagic fever on the planet without meaning to, all in the name of science.
LEBANON: STUCK BETWEEN HEZBOLLAH AND SYRIA
As the fighting continues in Syria, the world has paid less attention to Syria's neighbor to the south, Lebanon. The fighting in Syria has seriously hampered Lebanon's export trade, and members of the Lebanese government are concerned that Hezbollah's hostility might encourage an attack from Israel, something the March 14 alliance in Lebanon especially wants to avoid.
Lebanon celebrated the 67th anniversary of its Armed Forces on August 1st, and President Michel Sleiman affirmed Lebanon's need to keep out of its neighbor's fights while protecting its own interests. "Yes to keeping Lebanon neutral regarding the axes' political policies and regional conflicts; and no to keeping Lebanon neutral regarding its surroundings, including the Palestinian cause," said Lebanese President Michel Sleiman on Wednesday.
The Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati released a statement to say that his government would soon approve $1.6 billion to improve the country's military.
War Torn Exports:
The war in Syria has hurt Lebanon's pocketbook. Lebanon depends on roads through Syria for forty percent of its export business, but the danger of transporting goods through the embattled land has hugely increased the price of trade. The Syrian struggle has cost Lebanon more than $150 million since the beginning of the year, according to Khaled Farshoukh, head of the Export Development Council.
The number of trucks daring to cross the border has dropped from 300 to 50 per day over the past few months. "This has raised transport fees by about 50 percent," Farshoukh said. "Many insurance companies have refused to issue policies on trucks, while some have raised their fees more than ninefold."
Hezbollah is a source of anxiety for at least one political group in Lebanon. The "March 14" alliance, which won the most seats in the 2009 parliamentary elections in Lebanon, is dedicated to getting Syrian troops out of Lebanon and wrestling free of Syrian influence. The alliance recently called on the international community to actively disarm Hezbollah in the interest of Lebanese security, especially in light of the movement of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles.
The Syrian government has said it would use its chemical stockpiles if attacked by outsiders, and the Syrian rebels have accused the government of moving these weapons to its borders. Israel has voiced concern that the chemical weapons currently under the control of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might fall into the hands of Hezbollah during the conflict. The March 14 alliance wants to protect Lebanon from potential Israeli strikes by stripping Hezbollah of any destructive power.
The alliance has called on the international community to "protect Lebanon from any Israeli attack," pushing for Hezbollah's disarmament in order to "deprive Israel of the pretext it is using to justify its aggression." Israel has blamed Hezbollah and Iran for the July 18th bombing that blasted a bus full of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, and Lebanon would suffer the blows if Israel decided to make an assault on the terrorist organization.
President Sleiman has said that Lebanese territories would not be used as a tunnel for arms in and out of Syria and has called for Lebanon's freedom to use its army for its own purposes. Member of Parliament Mouin al-Merhebi, whose Future Bloc party is part of the March 14 alliance, accused the Lebanese military of doing the "dirty work" of Hezbollah and of being under the control of the terror group. The Lebanese army has responded to Merhebi's allegations with indignation, calling the claims "false accusations" and threatening Merhebi with prosecution.
The people of Lebanon have reason to want both Syria and Hezbollah out of their land; they've demonstrated a desire for liberty from both, but the nation will need resolve to cleanse itself. Syria, Hezbollah, and the Iranian influence will not leave or be disarmed without being forced to do so.
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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