June 17 - 23, 2007

This column will provide links to, plus quotes and summaries of, on-line articles that might be of interest to the Infidel community. Because theinfidels.org is concerned with educational issues, the articles selected will help to inform and enlighten readers as well as entertain them. In order to conform to "fair use practices," only small segments of the articles will be quoted. One caveat: to read the entire linked article, readers may have to subscribe to on-line versions of newspapers or magazines.

The biggest news this week is in human biology: The work done by DNA, genes, and "junk DNA" has to be rethought, according to new research by several cooperating organizations under the umbrella of ENCODE, or the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements. Here is a report from the Boston Globe.

The ENCODE research builds on the historic Human Genome Project, largely completed in 2003, which cataloged the genes. Instead of the "big picture" look at the entire structure, the ENCODE project fine-combed selected sites in the genome in extraordinary detail. Half the sites were known by scientists to affect gene replication and protein coding; the other half were random samples from across the genome, including swatches of "junk."

A long standing assumption in genetics has been that cellular organisms are run by genes, which instruct cells to produce proteins thought to be the main driving mechanism in cells. But according to the study, obscure sections of the genome, the "junk DNA," may play an even more critical role in health and evolution than genes themselves.

Read the rest of the Globe article here...

More news on biology, this time regarding stem cells, in an editorial published in the Chicago Tribune:

Congress and the president recently showed they still were stalemated over easing federal restrictions on stem cell research funding. That is disappointing. But scientists in the field aren't waiting around for the pols to settle their differences. They're making progress.

In recent weeks, researchers announced that they had reprogrammed ordinary cells from mice, dialing back their developmental clocks so they are virtually indistinguishable from embryonic stem cells. That's exciting news because if it works in humans, such a method could offer a way to create a limitless supply of stem cell lines without using human embryos. And that would almost certainly skirt the ethical and moral objections of Bush and others, clearing the way for more federal funding of research that could lead to treatments or cures of heart disease, cancer, paralysis, diabetes and many other illnesses.

Find the rest of this Tribune article here...

The Kansas City Star reports that a program on Bible study, which has been incorporated into the military for some time, has finally been removed, under threat of legal action:

Fort Leavenworth removed Bible study guides from its Web site this week after a religious foundation called the materials anti-Semitic and threatened a lawsuit.

Military Religious Freedom Foundation President Mikey Weinstein said although he is disgusted that terms like “Jewish problem” were used on the site, his legal objection is not aimed at one’s biblical views or interpretations.

The foundation, a nonprofit watchdog group that works to maintain separation between church and state in the military, is infuriated instead that the subjective Bible study guides were allowed to be posted to a government Web site at all.

Fort Leavenworth officials removed the study guides almost immediately after they learned about the foundation’s opposition.

Read the rest of the Star article here...

The Dallas Morning News has a blog site devoted to religion, which offers facts and opinion from all sides of the spectrum, including violations of church/state. Here is a story about the Catholic Church asking its members to stop donations to Amnesty International, because AI supports a woman's right to an abortion in cases of rape, incest and health:

Amnesty International claims to stand up for human rights around the world.

The Catholic Church regards abortion as the taking of an innocent life.

So a couple of months ago, when Amnesty revised its policy of neutraility on abortion and urged governments to ensure access to abortion services for women in cases of rape, incest or risk to the mother's life or her health, the organization put itslef on a collision course with the Vatican.

The collision has occurred.

On Wednesday Cardinal Renato Martino (right), head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, called on Catholics to stop contributing to Amnesty International, saying the organization's support of abortion was a betrayal of its commitment to human rights. Here's an Associated Press story about Martino's comments.

Read the rest of the blog here...

More news from the Boston Globe, which reported on the Massachusetts Legislature's vote regarding "gay marriage":

The Legislature, in a vote as swift as it was historic, reaffirmed the state's first-in-the-nation same-sex marriage ruling yesterday, unequivocally protecting the rights of gays and lesbians to wed in Massachusetts until at least 2012.

Read the rest of the Globe article here...

According to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, a female Lutheran minister is leading the initial votes to replace a bishop who is retiring. If elected, she would become the first woman in any major denomination chosen to be a resident bishop in the Pittsburgh area.

A woman who has served as assistant to Bishop Donald McCoid has emerged as the leading candidate to replace him as bishop of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
With 506 clergy and lay delegates voting at Thiel College in Greenville, Mercer County, the Rev. Martha Clementson had a commanding lead after the second ballot, with 181 votes. The balloting is scheduled to continue through today./

Read the balance of the article here...

One last story concerning religion, from an international perspective. The Christian Science Monitor has been following attempts by moderate Muslims in Indonesia to blunt Middle East extremism:

The most populous Islamic country in the world, Indonesia, is emerging as a would-be peacemaker in the troubled Middle East and a moderating counterbalance to jihadist extremism.

The steps are tentative, as perhaps befits a mystic land, as complex as the wayang, the popular Indonesian shadow play in which puppets are manipulated behind a backlit curtain.

Some critics are skeptical that Indonesia will have much heft. In the world scheme of things, Indonesia is not a political heavyweight. But with a largely Muslim population of about 240 million, it is forging a significant example of how democracy and Islam can successfully coexist.

Read the rest of the Monitor story here...

Keeping an international focus: A terrific opinion on free speech, by the editorial board, was published in the Austin American-Statesman, "The Right to Speak: Repressive Governments and Their Enablers Must be Reminded that Freedom has no Mute Button."

The world is increasingly more connected through rapid technological changes in the Internet, satellite television and cellular phones, but the freedom of expression is as embattled as ever. [...]

The most effective way to fight the enemies of free speech is with more speech. And that includes pressure on the White House and Congress and on the companies that empower dictatorships with technology that should be employed in the name of freedom.

Read the rest of this artile here...

Finally, just for laughs, here are some "people on the street" opinions about James W. Holsinger, nominated by Bush for the post of Surgeon General. Holsinger wrote a paper that claimed homosexuality was "unnatural":

Bryan Seifkes,
"Yes, but Holsinger wrote that right after Antonio broke up with him. Clearly the guy was hurting a little bit."

Read the rest of this one here...

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