Month Archives: August 2011

National Banana Split Day

by David Prentice

August 10, 2011

Today is National Banana Split Day! The delicious mixture of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream, on top of a split banana and covered with flavored syrups and additional toppings, was supposedly invented in 1904.

Especially enjoyable on one of these hot summer days. Note that some references say August 25, not August 10, is the official day. Just Split the difference, and chow down on a banana split both days. Enjoy!

Sex Selection Eugenics

by David Prentice

August 10, 2011

A review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association documents the accuracy of a simple blood test for sex determination of a developing human fetus as early as 7 weeks gestation. The study simply looked at the reliability of such tests, but did not bother to address the ethical questions about such tests, other than a brief mention: “A much broader potential application for fetal sex detection is family balancing, which poses ethical concerns.”

The availability of early accurate fetal testing can easily be abused for sex selection or other eugenic abortions. Indeed, ethicists on all sides of the abortion debate recognize the concerns. Pro-choice ethicist Arthur Caplan calls this a “troubling technology”, while Wesley Smith notes:

Society will rise or fall ethically by how we live our individual lives. Thus, we may want a boy or a girl, but that does not mean we should do whatever it takes to obtain our desire.

Eugenic abortions, including sex selective abortions, are unfortunately widespread. Estimates are that over 160 million female babies have been aborted since the 1970’s by parents who wanted sons instead of daughters. And eugenic testing and abortion of individuals with conditions such as Downs Syndrome is also well documented. The eugenic process of sex selective abortion is leading to an estimated 10%-20% excess in young males in China and India. The increasingly easy availability of fetal testing will only accelerate this imbalance, as well as other eugenic practices. As William McGurn has noted, 160 million girls aborted simply because they weren’t boys is a “moral outrage.”

Dr. Bernadine Healy, Former NIH Director, Passes

by David Prentice

August 10, 2011

Dr. Bernadine Healy, the first woman to serve as Director of the National Institutes of Health, died at her home in Cleveland last Saturday. Dr. Healy also served as head of the American Red Cross during the September 11 terrorist attacks, and as Dean of the Ohio State University Medical School.

Dr. Healy was forceful and outspoken, and was a strong women’s health advocate. She said:

I always try not to be strident, but I do try to be forceful about things that are right.”

One of the things about which she was right as well as forceful was stem cells; she noted back in 2009 that embryonic stem cells already were obsolete. Cutting-edge science has passed by embryonic stem cells, not only with the advent of iPS cells as a superior alternative for laboratory studies, but more significantly with adult stem cells for patient treatments now.

Dr. Healy, thank you for your forceful advocacy and integrity.

Religious Persecution on the Rise Internationally

by Rob Schwarzwalder

August 9, 2011

[caption id=”attachment_6387” align=”alignright” width=”275” caption=”Source: Pew Forum, "Rising Restrictions on Religion"”][/caption]

An arresting new study, issued by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, demonstrates that “restrictions on religious beliefs and practices rose between mid-2006 and mid-2009 in 23 of the worlds 198 countries (12%).” However, as the study notes, this 12% figure is misleading: “Because several countries with increasing restrictions on religion are very populous, however, the increases affect a much larger share of people than of states. More than 2.2 billion people nearly a third (32%) of the worlds total population of 6.9 billion live in countries where either government restrictions on religion or social hostilities involving religion rose substantially over the three-year period studied.”

The Pew report is well quantified; “The researchers involved in this process recorded only concrete reports about specific government laws, policies and actions, as well as incidents of religious violence or intolerance by social groups; they did not rely on the commentaries or opinions of the sources.” In other words, the researchers can back up what they claim with hard data, which makes their findings all the more disturbing. Family Research Council believes that religious liberty is a right bestowed by God, which is why we advocate for it here at home and stand with those persecuted for their faith around the world.

In comments to a group of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1789, George Washington noted that “The liberty enjoyed by the people of these states of worshiping Almighty God agreebly to their conscience, is not only among the choicest of their blessings, but also of their rights.” The right of religious liberty is endowed to all men, everywhere, as each of us is made in God’s image and likeness and merits the freedom conscientiously to follow Him. When government interferes with that right, it oversteps its God-given authority. Sadly, such overstepping is far too common in our time.

Christians can write or email the embassies of offending countries, respectfully calling on them to stop persecution of believers in their nations. Some can go to the regions affected to minister to those who are oppressed. Most can give to organizations that help fight persecution (see FRC’s Real Compassion to learn about ministries that work for international religious liberty). And all of us can pray. Let us.

English Riots and Social Conservatism

by Chris Gacek

August 9, 2011

Over the past three nights, there have been many riots in English cities. Here is a map for riots in London alone from August 6-9. The Left is trying to spin the story that budget cuts caused people to burn buildings and steal plasma TVs. Ridiculous. Completely on point are the many articles and books by Theodore Dalrymple. For decades he has been writing about the decline of British civil society and the simultaneous rise of a vicious underclass with little or no moral consciousness.

It is also clear that the British authorities have policies in place to deal with a civilized population that no longer populates that country. A furniture business started in 1867 survived the Blitz but not the Huns of 2011. Here was the caption under two photographs: Croydon: A woman leaps from a burning building in Surrey Street, after flames threaten to engulf her. People stand to catch her as she jumps to safety.

So, the police will need to use greater levels of force to maintain peace. Rubber bullets are being threatened tonight. Maybe.

Laws without moral inhibitions supporting them usually prove ineffective. This is what we have seen in London the past few days. Is it possible that the social conservatives are on to something? Mike Judge of the U.K.s Christian Institute had these comments about the riots.

Pray for a peaceful night in the United Kingdom.

Let HHS Know What You Think

by Family Research Council

August 5, 2011

For more information on the August 1st HHS interim rule which addresses women’s preventive services that insurance providers are now mandated to cover contraceptives with no co-pay, see this new FRC fact sheet.

You have an opportunity to voice your concerns. HHS is receiving comments from the public on the new rule until September 30, 2011. Please Note: all comments submitted to HHS will be made public so be careful not to include personally identifiable information.

According to the notice issued in the Federal Register on Wednesday, August 3rd, you can send comments in a variety of ways:

You may submit comments in one of four ways (please choose only one of the ways listed):

1. Electronically. You may submit electronic comments on this regulation here. Follow

the Submit a comment instructions.

2. By regular mail. You may mail written comments to the following address ONLY: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS9992IFC2, P.O. Box 8010, Baltimore, MD 212448010. Please allow sufficient time for mailed comments to be received before the close of the comment period.

3. By express or overnight mail. You may send written comments to the following address ONLY: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS9992IFC2, Mail Stop C42605, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 212441850.

4. By hand or courier. Alternatively, you may deliver (by hand or courier) your written comments ONLY to the following addresses prior to the close of the comment period: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Room 445G, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20201.

Better Matchmaker for Adult Stem Cell Transplants

by David Prentice

August 5, 2011

Adult stem cell transplants are helping thousands of patients every year. Of the over 50,000 adult stem cell transplants per year, a little less than half use donor (“allogeneic”) adult stem cells, from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. In those cases, it is critical that a proper match be made. Without a good match, the transplanted donor cells may fail to engraft, or worse, may attack their new host, a condition called “graft versus host disease” (GVHD).

Now scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have shown that growing blood-forming adult stem cells in the lab for about a week can overcome much of the problem of immune rejection for these transplants. They developed a recipe for growth of both mouse and human adult stem cells in culture, greatly expanding the numbers of cells available for transplant. They also found that the lab-grown adult stem cells started to produce a specific immune system inhibitor, CD274, on their cell membranes and this also improved transplant efficiency. Overall, they achieved a 40-fold increase in transplantation ability, using mice as a model. They hope to be able to achieve as least as good a result for human adult stem cells.

According to senior author Dr. Cheng Cheng Zhang:

If donor human [adult stem cells] can be expanded in culture and engraft non-matched or low-matched patients without graft-versus-host disease, this strategy will possibly lead to an ultimate solution to problems in allogeneic transplantation.”

In other words, a short period of growth in the lab could mean no more problems in matching for donor adult stem cell transplants.

The research is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

The Devil is in the (Demographic) Details

by Family Research Council

August 5, 2011

Despite critiques of the U.N.s world population predictions, a recent Wall Street Journal article by Jonathan Last could have gone even further in pointing out how bleak the developed worlds demographic picture is.

This past May, the U.N. released its latest report on world demographics, saying that Italy, Poland, and the European Continent as a whole, have rosy demographic futures. Last correctly takes issue with these predictions saying that in order for the world to actually achieve the U.N.s projected numbers, one big assumption had to be made, that starting tomorrow, every country in the world with fertility below the replacement rate of 2.1 will increase its fertility. And this rise will continue unabated, year after year, until every First World country has a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) near replacement.

Mr. Last reasons that this projection is dubious, in part because the U.N.s model was based on data taken from a small group of mostly Scandinavian countries that have recovered (sort of) from sub replacement fertility. Last highlights Sweden, saying that its story is a complicated one, involving pro-natalist policies, culture and not a little luck, though somehow, the U.N. now assumes that all low-fertility, industrialized countries from Russia to Italy to South Korea will follow this same pattern.

While Last does highlight the dubious nature of the U.N.s projections, he has not gone far enough in emphasizing exactly how incorrect they are. His suspicion was correct that other countries will not necessarily follow Scandinavias supposed trend. Though it (reportedly) experienced positive fertility results, even if Swedens success were based on culture and policies, these are not universal. However, the fact of the matter is that any projection made based off the success of these countries will be incorrect.

Focusing on Sweden, the story of their fertility rates must be nuanced to differentiate between the fertility of nationals and the fertility of foreigners (immigrants). According to the Vienna Institute of Demographics, from 1986-2008, the increase in the total fertility rate of Swedens nationals went from 1.76 to 1.85, a difference that is statistically insignificant, and is actually because the dip to 1.76 in 1986 was a TFR underestimate! The total fertility rate of foreigners ranged from 2.24 (1986) to 2.55 (2008)a range that is above both the replacement level, as well as the level of Swedish nationals. Any increase in Swedish fertility levels must be understood with this division in mind, with the result that Sweden would not experience population increases of its young for any reason other than immigration. This casts the U.N.s model into question, as immigration is not a true account for the increase in a countrys fertility. Furthermore, immigration depends strongly on (relative) economic factors, something that varies between countries and is difficult to predict.

Additionally, we all know that Rome was not built in a dayit takes around 20 years before our newborns are ready to enter society as adults, and cultures change about as fast. Why then should the U.N. anticipate that Italy, Poland, Japan or any country would change over night? There is no reason to suspect that we will see a drastic positive change in the fertility habits of individuals and thus, nations any time soon. On the contrary, anti-natal trends are alive and well in the West, cultures are spawning no-kids-allowed movements: Malaysia airlines banned babies from many of their first-class cabins; McDains Restaurant, in Pennsylvania no longer allows children under 6 to dine; Double Windsor bar in New York bans babies after 5 p.m.; a Central Florida homeowners association is considering a ban on children from playing outside, and the examples continue. All of this is strong indication that the trend were seeing, and one modeled by more serious demographers than those at the U.N., is here to stay.

We are still slouching into a demographic crisis, and Last is right to highlight economic concerns that will spin off from low fertility rates.

U.S. Coast Guard: The Lifesavers—4 August 1790

by Robert Morrison

August 4, 2011

Youll always be proud when you hear them play that tune, said Boatswain Mate Chief Clarence Ward Hollowell to the graduates of Lima 74. We were getting ready to march out of boot camp at Cape May, New Jersey.

That had to have been the most miserable, cold, diseased thirteen weeks of my life. When we first arrived, in the middle of the night, they shaved our heads, made us strip down, and put our civilian clothes, our shoes, any watches or rings, in cardboard boxes and address them to our home of record. All the while they were screaming at us and banging on steel trashcans with baseball bats. I would have climbed into that box if I could.

But at the end, Chief Hollowell was right. Wed always be proud when we hear the Coast Guards March, Semper Paratus (Always Ready), played.

We’re always ready for the call,

We place our trust in Thee.

Through surf and storm and howling gale,

High shall our purpose be,

Semper Paratus” is our guide,

Our fame, our glory, too.

To fight to save or fight and die!

Aye! Coast Guard, we are for you.

I am deeply grateful for the years I spent, enlisted and officer, in the Guard. It shaped my thinking. Not just about the military, but about life in general.

Recently, the pro-lifers in a Midwest state told me they regarded their governor as a friend. If we can get a bill through the legislature, we can usually get him to sign it, they said. They thought of him as a great improvement over his liberal predecessor. And, by that standard, he was.

I told my friends that when I was in the Coast Guard, we were always willing to give CPR to someone who washed up on the shore. If their friends managed to pull them through the pounding surf to our Lifesaving Station, we would surely give them coffee and donuts and a warm blanket.

But the reason people respect the Coast Guard is that they go out into the storm. They take risks. I compared the passive friendliness of that Midwestern governor with a genuine hero like Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback. He never held back as a Congressman or Senator in Washington.

Inaugurated just last January, hes already championed bills in Topeka that would require abortion facilities at least to maintain no less than the safety and cleanliness standards that we demand of veterinary clinics and beauty parlors. He wants to cut off funding to Planned Barrenhood.

Sam Brownback moved without delay. And he didnt wait for his friends in the legislature to pull a bill through the body. He waded right in. Sam Brownback is always ready to save lives. Semper Paratus, Governor!

When I served in the Reagan administration, I was impressed, as every veteran was impressed, with the presidents great respect for the military. Under Jimmy Carter, we had been forbidden to wear the uniform of our country in the nations capital. When Reagan swept Carter out of office, he ordered us to wear our uniforms; we obeyed with pride.

All of us who worked for Ronald Reagan knew he had been a lifesaver. He rescued seventy-seven people when he worked as a teen lifeguard on the Rock River in Illinois. We were expected to know that number. That was part of being a true blue Reaganaut.

It was entirely fitting that this lifesaver would be the most pro-life president we ever had.

Saving lives changes your life. Ask anyone in a pregnancy resource center or a law abiding sidewalk counselor. It makes you know you have lived to a purpose. You are forever grateful. You know what the Hebrews meant when they wrote in the Talmud: He who saves one life, it is as if he saved the world entire.

On this 221st Birthday, I salute the U.S. Coast Guard, the Lifesavers.

For His 50th Birthday: The Presidents Greatest Hit

by Robert Morrison

August 4, 2011

The president turns fifty today. Hes a bit grayer now than he was when he ran for the office. Hes not treated quite so much as a rock star. But he did have one really great hit: He got Osama bin Laden. And just in time for a presidential birthday salute, the New Yorker magazine has provided an absorbing account of the May Day raid on bin Ladens compound inAbbottabad,Pakistan.

Reporter-at-large Nicholas Schmidles 11-page article, Getting Bin Laden, gives us the minute-by-minute story of SEAL Team Sixs brave and brilliant raid on the Al Qaeda leaders three-story compound. Many of the details of the raid have appeared in newpaper, TV, and online accounts before. We knew, for instance, that Helo One hard landed inside the compound in a heart-stopping moment.

Would this raid end in humiliating failure? Would it end like Jimmy Carters abortive attempt in 1980 to rescue the American hostages inIran? Eight American soldiers lost their lives at Desert One, Jimmy Carter may have lost his presidency there, too.

Previously, we didnt know that former Defense Sec. Robert Gates had opposed the operation, reminding the presidents advisers he had been in the room when Carters attempt had failed. But Gates objections were politely overruled.

And this time there would be no failure. The SEALs in the downed helicopter piled out safely and ready for action. It was powered descent, and other helos landed outside the compound, ready to join the assault.

From Schmidle we learn that the raiders had with them a Pashto speaker, who was able to chase off local Pakistanis who approached too near the operation. They also had an Arabic speaker, who translated for bin Ladens children and his surviving wives.

What heroism! One of the SEALsall of whom remain nameless for security reasonsrushed in and hugged two of bin Ladens wives, pulling them out of the way to give his brothers in arms a clear shot of the 64 mass murderer. That hugging SEAL knew that those women could well have been wearing suicide vests. He was prepared to lay down his own life to absorb the blast, to save his brothersand the mission. It was Gen. Eisenhower who, after meeting some of the young heroes who would storm Hitlers Fortress Europe on D-Day asked in wonder: Where do we get such men? We may thank God we still get them.

President Obama was prepared to deal with a dead bin Laden. The terrorist leader would have had to throw up his arms and jump naked into the arms of his captors to avoid being shot dead.

Some conservatives have criticized giving bin Laden Muslim rites as his body was heaved into the ocean from the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson.

I dont. There is a wonderful irony in this. Obama watchers will recall that the new president pitched the bust of Winston Churchill out into the snow in his first week in the White House. But Winston Churchill knew something about battling Muslim fanatics.

He shot several Dervishes at point-blank range during the Battle of Omdurman (1898), the last cavalry charge the British Army staged. It was here that Churchill faced death from followers of the dead Mahdi (Expected One), the Muslim leader. Nothing is as exhilarating as to be shot at without result, the ebullient Churchill reported.

Young Winston sharply criticized his commander, Lord Kitchener, for killing the Muslim wounded afterOmdurman, and for allowing the grave of the Mahdi to be desecrated. (Generations of English schoolboys were taught that Lord Kitchener kept the Mahdis skull on his desk as a paperweight.)

Churchill would strongly have approved of President Obamas killing bin Laden, as well as his taking care not to desecrate the body. So who am I to criticize? We have many Chinook helos and many aircraft carriers. And we have plenty of ocean in which to deposit the bodies of jihadists.

Schmidles article speaks candidly of our allies, the Pakistanis. Candidate Obama took heat from his opponents in 2008 for saying he would go intoPakistanand kill Osama if we had reliable evidence he was there. We obtained that evidence and President Obama kept his vow. One of Mr. Obamas advisers was quoted saying we had a real lack of confidence that the Pakistanis could keep this secret for more than a nanosecond. Right.

As if to prove all our doubts about their loyalty, the Pakistani army responded to our raid by arresting whom? Those who had either harbored bin Laden or at least looked the other way? No, our good friends arrested all those who had helped finger bin Laden for our SEAL raid. What other evidence do we need of betrayal?

So today, with his approval ratings headed south, with liberals denouncing his debt ceiling deal as a Satan sandwich, and with his having to sign the blasted thing in the dark, and with no one wanting to claim a signing pen, Im glad the New Yorker has published this excellent article just in time for the presidents fiftieth birthday.

Im also glad to read that President Obama bade farewell to the SEALs as they went in harms way. He told them Godspeed! They responded, once they had taken out bin Laden in that darkened third floor bedroom, Geronimo! For God and Country!

Vice President Biden had been praying the Rosary throughout the raid. He said to Adm. Mullen maybe they should go off toMass.Its sure nice to see our bravest warriors and their civilian commanderswhen the going gets toughclinging to their guns and their religion. Bravo Zulu! On this one, well done, Mr. President!

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