Monday, March 31, 2008

Today's Posts

Stem Cells from Hair Follicles Could Be Used to Make New Blood Cells

"Where Are the Babies?" A Pro-Life Hero in Vietnam Answers the Call.

Don't Answer That! The "Most Devastating Indictment of Cell Phones Yet Published"

Barack Obama: Inclusion or Appeasement?

Higher Birth Rates Move Islam Past Catholicism in Number of Adherents

Planned Parenthood Needs More Money. What? $1 Billion Isn't Enough?

Fleeing Chávez

Stem Cells from Hair Follicles Could Be Used to Make New Blood Cells

A new report published in the journal Cardiovascular Research describes how researchers from the University of Buffalo believe stem cells from hair follicles have the potential to be engineered into new blood vessels for bypass surgery.

The study, led by Stelios T. Andreadis, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, points out that stem cells from hair follicles can be used to engineer new blood vessels and regenerate new skin tissue. The researchers said stem cells from sheep hair follicles contain the smooth muscle cells that grow new vasculature. Stem cells from human hair follicles also differentiate into contractile smooth muscle cells.

"Where Are the Babies?" A Pro-Life Hero in Vietnam Answers the Call.

Margie Mason, writing for the Associated Press, has a very compelling story to tell --

Nha Trang, Vietnam -- Sitting cross-legged on a straw mat in the middle of the living room, Tong Phuoc Phuc sings a soothing Vietnamese lullaby. For a moment, his deep voice works magic, and the tiny room crammed with 13 babies is still.

Phuc giggles like a proud papa. He's not related to any of them, but without him, many of these children likely would have been aborted. And to Phuc, abortion is unimaginable.

The 41-year-old Catholic from the coastal town of Nha Trang has opened his door to unwed expectant mothers in a country that logs one of the world's highest abortion rates. In 2006, there were more than 114,000 abortions at state hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City - outnumbering births.

Most pregnant, unmarried Vietnamese women have few options. Abortion is a welcome choice for many who simply cannot afford to care for a baby or are unwilling to risk being disowned by their families.

The communist government calls premarital sex a "social evil." Abortion, however, is legal and performed at nearly every hospital. And unlike in some Western countries where the issue is hotly contested, the practice stirs little debate here.

But shelters for women who want to keep their babies are rare. Phuc promises them food and a roof until they give birth, and then cares for the children until the mothers can afford to take them. In the past four years, he's taken in 60 kids, with about half still living in his two houses.

"Sometimes we have 10 mothers living here ... sleeping on the floor," says Phuc, a thin man with dark, weathered skin and teeth stained brown from years of smoking. "The problem is that a lot of young people live together and have sex, but they have no knowledge about getting pregnant. So they get abortions."

Phuc says he made a deal with God seven years ago when his wife encountered complications while in labor with their son. He vowed that if they were spared, he would find a way to help others. As his wife lay recuperating after the difficult birth, he recalls seeing many pregnant women going into the delivery room but always leaving alone.

"I was wondering, 'where are the babies?'" he says, cradling an infant in each arm. "Then I realized they had abortions."

Phuc, a building contractor, started saving money to buy a craggy plot of land outside town. He then began collecting unwanted fetuses from hospitals and clinics to bury in graves on the property. At first, doctors and neighbors thought he had gone mad. Even his wife questioned spending their savings to build a cemetery for aborted babies.

But he kept on, and now some 7,000 tiny plots dot the shady hillside, many marked with bright red, pink and yellow artificial roses.

"I believe these fetuses have souls," says Phuc, who has two children of his own. "And I don't want them to be wandering souls..."

Here's the rest of Mason's report from the Fresno Bee.

Don't Answer That! The "Most Devastating Indictment of Cell Phones Yet Published"

I hardly ever use my cell phone.

And it's not merely because I'm a troglodyte who eschews whatever modern technology I can get away with; it's because I'm honest enough to know that the world will get along without my input for a while. And I like it that way.

After all, I'm not anyone's stockbroker; I'm not a doctor or a bail bondsman; I'm not toting the direct line from the Kremlin to the White House. I am quite cool with the idea that I can be incommunicado for a bit with nothing unraveling because of it.

And now? Knowing that there's a bunch of scientists who are claiming that the cell phone dramatically increases your chance at getting brain cancer? I'm more committed than ever to keeping my cell phone in its proper place -- in my pocket rather than at my ear.

So, if you disagree with the scientists and want to convince me I'm overreacting, fine. Just call me at home, okay?

Barack Obama: Inclusion or Appeasement?

For millions of Americans, the major attraction to Barack Obama is his call for national unity, a summoning to our shared values and common interests. With his charismatic eloquence, this inspirational ideal has single-handedly made him a political phenomenon and the Democratic front-runner.

But Obama's unity appeal, it turns out, has a weak link, one that is dangerous in a President. For revealing it, we can thank the Rev. Jeremiah Wright or, more precisely, Obama's tepid reaction to the outlandish, anti-American things Wright has said. The more he talks about Wright, the more troubling Obama's approach becomes. In a word, he is guilty of appeasement.

In a private context, his stubborn loyalty to his longtime pastor might be admirable. But as someone seeking the presidency, Obama has flunked a critical test of national leadership. By continuing to defend Wright even as he criticizes some of his remarks as "offensive" and "stupid," Obama refuses to draw the important value and factual distinctions a President must draw in a crisis. At heart, his is a "peace at any price" approach that has no business in the Oval Office...

Would Obama be so naive or craven [as Neville Chamberlain]? Because of his limited experience, we don't know. That's why the Wright episode, the most difficult issue of his idealistic campaign, takes on huge importance. The lessons are not pretty.

He sloppily compared Wright's virulent anti-Americanism with his grandmother's private expressions of racial prejudice in a way that makes them seem equally guilty. He complained repeatedly, including on Friday on ABC's "The View," that the profane, inflammatory remarks captured on video clips are a mere "snippet" of Wright's many sermons.

"People are a mix of good and bad," he said, and added, "I feel badly he's been characterized in this way and people haven't seen the broader aspect of him."

What "broader aspect" offsets such hate and lunacy? With new examples emerging of anti-Semitic writings in the bulletin put out by Wright's church, there is no mitigating context.

And even as he gradually undercuts his initial denial that he knew of Wright's distorted views, Obama still suggests the case reflects how he would behave as President. "Part of what my role in my politics ... is to get people who don't normally listen to each other, talk to each other, who say crazy things, who are offended by each other, for me to understand them and maybe help them understand each other," he said...

(Source: Michael Goodwin. March 30. New York Daily News)

Higher Birth Rates Move Islam Past Catholicism in Number of Adherents

Here's news from Monsignor Vittorio Formenti at the Vatican that Islam has now surpassed Roman Catholicism as the largest single religious group in the world -- 19.2% percent of the world's population compared to 17.4% for Catholics.

The key reason? For those who've read Mark Steyn's remarkable book, America Alone, it's no surprise. Birth rates.

But, more important for the impact on culture than the sheer numbers, is that an awful lot of those counted as Roman Catholics are not practicing the tenets of their "birth religion" at all.

Nor does Roman Catholicism (or Buddhism, Bahai or the Baptists, for that matter) include among their religious beliefs "honor killings," jihad, suicide bombings, death sentences for converts, evangelism by scimitar, and so on.

So, this news from the Vatican certainly isn't good news for Western civilization.

(Note: Let me add here a more direct recommendation of Steyn's America Alone. It is a superb book, timely, insightful and very challenging. Last week it was the focus of one of Vital Signs Ministries' Book It! discussions over here at our home with Quint, Matt, John, Keith, Chet, Claire and I participating. I'm sure they would all add their endorsement of America Alone to mine.)

Planned Parenthood Needs More Money. What? $1 Billion Isn't Enough?

Here in Nebraska and Iowa, we have recently been subjected to a massive media campaign designed to garner new financial support for Planned Parenthood's "essential" services. And neither the Des Moines Register or the Omaha World-Herald (both major supporters of the abortion lobby) have bothered to counter these ads with such relevant facts as those revealed in Planned Parenthood's own annual report, particularly the fact that the organization which is crying over the desperate need for more taxpayer money just recorded an income of over $1 billion!

Here's the story from It presents a lot of very nifty items which can be used in your letters to editors and politicians.

Fleeing Chávez

Life in Venezuela isn't easy these days.

But it isn't the shortage of goods or the dramatic inflation (22 percent last year with even worse rates on such staples as sugar, rice, black beans, pasta, bread and milk) that has upset people to the point of leaving the country in record numbers. The fault lies mainly with the oppressive injustices that are daily staples of the Hugo Chávez "socialist" regime.

Indeed, thousands have already left for the United States, Canada, Spain, Australia, Panama, Portugal and elsewhere. More are packing up everyday, bolting from a dictatorship which undermines personal freedom and private property ownership, which drastically limits economic opportunities, and which engages in actions which destabilize not only Venezuela but the entire region.

Manuel Corao, who runs a newspaper serving the Venezuelan community in Miami, estimates that about three Venezuelans a day arrive in the Miami area intending to stay. "They fear the Chávez government; they fear communism and the dictatorship. It's terrible," said Corao, who came from Venezuela 11 years ago.

"It's not purely a matter of getting better incomes for your work in foreign countries, but an expectation problem," said Ricardo Villasmil, a professor of economic development at the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. "They're hoping for happiness as a whole, peace, liberties and safety."

In Caracas, Alejandra Gonzalez said she was leaving Venezuela because she feared for her 2-year-old daughter. "We have a house, jobs, cars here, but we don't have what we need, that is peace and opportunities," she said. "I don't know if my apartment will be taken away from me in the future or not. There is legal insecurity here."

Here's more from the Statesman (Australia).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Today's Posts

"The Abolition of Fatherhood" -- The Spectator on Britain's Frightening Embryology Bill

The Kremlin Sees Red Over John McCain's Honesty

Taiwan's New President: More Principled Than Pugnacious

Hentoff on Obama, Terri Schiavo, and "Rights of the Living"

Another Passport Scandal?

"One of the Most Important International-Law Decisions in Supreme Court History"

David Paterson Is Through Talking

"The Abolition of Fatherhood" -- The Spectator on Britain's Frightening Embryology Bill

To date, the government’s hand-ling of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill has resembled what might be called ‘Vicky Pollard politics’. Challenged to grant MPs a free vote on these far-reaching and ethically contentious proposals, the Prime Minister’s officials sent hugely confusing signals: ‘Yeah but no but yeah but no but yeah.’ Now the Prime Minister has finally conceded that Labour MPs will be able to vote with their consciences on three key issues: the striking of the phrase ‘need for a father’ from the rules governing IVF treatment; so-called ‘saviour siblings’; and the creation of hybrid human-animal embryos.

The condition is that they step into line and support the Bill as a whole on its third and final reading. So party discipline will still trump moral freedom. But this compromise — messy both in origin and character — seems to have headed off the threat of ministerial resignations, which was Mr Brown’s prime concern.

The fraught politics of this Bill should not obscure its content, much of which is deeply disturbing. The granting of (limited) free votes must be the start of the controversy, not its fudged conclusion. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a legislative package whose moral sweep and potential ethical consequences could be greater...

Please read the Spectator's editorial "The Abolition of Fatherhood." It is a thoughtful, challenging essay which is as relevant to Americans (who are already fighting many of these battles in the public square, if not yet in Congress) as it is to the British.

The Kremlin Sees Red Over John McCain's Honesty

John McCain can't get much coverage by America's mainstream media. After all, they're much too busy with other, more important matters, like swooning over Barack Obama or sniggering over the incessant shenanigans of Hillary Clinton.

But the Russian press is paying attention to the Republican, a lot of attention.

And they aren't happy about what they're reporting.

For instance, note McCain's March 26 speech in Los Angeles in which he said, "We have to strengthen our global alliances as the core of a new global compact, a league of democracies, that can harvest the vast influence of the more than 100 democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests."

That got the Russians' attention. Even more so when McCain added, "We should start by ensuring that the G8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies. It should include Brazil and India, but exclude Russia."

Why exclude Russia? McCain explained, "Rather than tolerate Russia's nuclear blackmail or cyber-attacks, Western nations should make clear that the solidarity of NATO from the Baltic to the Black Sea is indivisible, and that the organization's doors remain open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom."

McCain had already angered Kremlin officials when he opined earlier this month that the recent Russian presidential election "would not pass the smell test in any functioning democracy. The people of Russia are going back to the days...where they don't have the right of free elections or even a free society."

Given their previous anxiety, McCain's L.A. speech must really have spilled some borscht.

Again, I offer this news as a public service since Katie Couric and her pals have been preoccupied.

Taiwan's New President: More Principled Than Pugnacious

The MSM badly fumbled the coverage of Taiwan's recent election of Ma Ying-jeou as president, suggesting that it signaled a bold new move of rapprochement towards Communist China.

William Rusher sets the record straight on this important matter.

Hentoff on Obama, Terri Schiavo, and "Rights of the Living"

Widely-respected author, columnist and human rights defender Nat Hentoff discusses Barack Obama's position on the Terri Schiavo case (and more) in an enlightening Jewish World Review article from which the following excerpts are taken.

In none of the endless presidential candidates' debates has there been a meaningful discussion of the rights of disabled Americans. However, in the Feb. 26 debate in Cleveland, Barack Obama casually and ignorantly revealed his misunderstanding of the basic issue in the highly visible and still-resonating official death sentence of a disabled woman, Terri Schiavo. I have repeatedly called her death the result of "the longest public execution in American history."...

By contrast, in all of this inflamed controversy, the mainstream media performed miserably, copying each other's errors instead of doing their own investigations of what Terri's wishes actually were. Consequently, most Americans did not know that 29 major national disability-rights organizations filed legal briefs and lobbied Congress to understand that this was not a right-to-die case, but about the right to continue living.

Among them were:

The National Spinal Cord Injury Association; the National Down Syndrome Congress; the World Association of Persons with Disabilities; Not Dead Yet; and the largest American assembly of disability-rights activists, the American Association of People with Disabilities. AAPD's head, Andrew J. Imparato, has testified before the Senate that: "When we start devaluing the lives of people with disabilities, we don't know where that's going to stop. You also need to take into account the financial implications of all of this. We have an economy that is not doing as well as it once was and ... one way to save money is to make it easier for people with disabilities to die.

Here's the Hentoff piece in its entirety.

Another Passport Scandal?

When I say "passport scandal" you naturally think about those State Department employees taking peeks at the passport applications of presidential aspirants, right? Well, read through this Washington Times story and you'll definitely have a different take on the term.

It concerns the Government Printing Office (a private company that is the federal government's main printing agency) celebrating an unexpected $100 million in profit with large bonuses to managers, trips to Las Vegas and Paris, and an official photo shoot of the boss (Robert Charles Tapella) that cost $10,000.

And if reading the details of that part of the Times' story isn't enough to get you a little hot under the collar, be sure you think over this item revealed a bit later.

Additionally, The Washington Times' investigation disclosed that the security of the blank-passport production involves computer chips purchased in Europe and then shipped to Thailand for outfitting with a wire antenna that transmits personal data to an electronic scanner at U.S. border entry points. Security specialists said the use of foreign chips and assembly abroad makes the blank passports, a key travel document, vulnerable to theft or counterfeiting.

GPO officials, however, insist the production process is secure.


"One of the Most Important International-Law Decisions in Supreme Court History"

In one of the most important international-law decisions in its history, the Supreme Court on Tuesday restored the Constitution’s prudent balance between politics and law in the quintessentially political arena of foreign affairs. Doing so, Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion concurrently provided individual justice for murder victims, vindication for the rights of states to democratic self-determination, and a searing reminder of why presidential elections — which can chart the high Court’s course for a generation — are crucially important...

The editors of National Review Online have weighed in on the Medellin decision in this striking and superb editorial. Check it out.

David Paterson Is Through Talking

New York's new Democrat Governor David Paterson said yesterday he's no longer talking about his personal life. After all, he's already told us about his numerous adulterous affairs, his wife's affairs, and his marijuana and cocaine use. So what else is to know?

Well, for one thing, an explanation of his out-of-state trips with a former aide, Lila Kirton, to promote Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy remains in order. Also, Paterson should give full disclosure about purchases made with campaign funds at Bloomingdale's and Tiffany & Company while a state senator.

But Paterson thinks he's revealed enough. So, despite the fact that there are still relevant questions on the table AND the fact that his previous errors in judgment and morality have created more than enough reasons to suspect his credibility, Paterson has the gall to start playing the victim game with journalists.

Let's hope they don't play patsy for Paterson and let him get away with his new (but too late already) zipped lip strategy.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Today's Posts

Science vs Abortion: Hundreds of U.K. Babies Born Below Current Abortion Limits

Who Dares Take on the Pork?

More on Barack Obama's Anti-Israel Advisors

A More Dangerous World

Recovering America's Sovereignty in Law

Senator Obama, We're Waiting

LB 606 (Nebraska's Restrictive Cloning Bill) Overwhelmingly Passes

Science vs Abortion: Hundreds of U.K. Babies Born Below Current Abortion Limits

There's a rather noteworthy fact to be considered by British politicos as they consider lowering the gestational age limit for legal abortions; namely, there are hundreds of babies born in the U.K. each year that are below the current limits! A substantial number of those babies survive and thrive.

And with the ongoing development of technology, drugs, and treatments, an even greater percentage will survive and thrive in the years to come.

Remember Sandra Day O'Connor's musings on Roe's trimester system...that technology and advanced medical knowledge was putting it on a "collision course" with science?

Here's the Telegraph story with more.

Who Dares Take on the Pork?

Last Friday a House Appropriations Committee website was so overwhelmed by legislators' wish lists that it crashed, forcing the committee to extend the deadline for earmark requests until Monday. Most members of Congress seem to think the problem with earmarks is like the problem with the committee's server: not any particular person's demands, just all of them together.

On the face of it, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, and the two remaining contenders for the Democratic nomination, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, take a different view: All three supported a one-year moratorium on earmarks that the Senate recently rejected by a wide margin. But only McCain has taken a principled stand against the pet projects that legislators love to slip into spending bills.

"We Republicans came to power in 1994 to change government," McCain told the Riverside, California, Press Enterprise last year, "and the government changed us. That's why we lost the election: We began to value power over principle."

Here's more from Jacob Sullum at Reason Online.

More on Barack Obama's Anti-Israel Advisors

The problems of Barack Obama's relationships just continue to grow.

Most startling of all, of course, is the Senator's refusal to distance himself from the paranoia and anti-American convictions of his spiritual mentor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright. Yet there are other connections that Barack Obama (other anti-Israel connections, at that) that will also serve as serious obstacles to his desire to become President.

For details see this Power Line post and this Avi Tuchmayer article for Arutz Sheva.

A More Dangerous World

Iraq. Tibet. Palestine. Nigeria. Congo. Just listing the "headline" hot spots where human lives are daily at great risk could keep us here awhile.

But violent crimes are all around us, growing in scope and severity, lending substantial credence to the argument that the embrace of inhumane practices (especially abortion) and irreligious philosophies (especially Marxism and hedonism) have thrown the entire world into a culture of death.

Examples from yesterday's news...besides the deaths occurring in the "usual" places?

Here is a case in Buffalo, New York where a thug believed his girlfriend's being with child was "the worst thing that could happen" and so he beat her mercilessly in order to make her lose the baby.

Here is a report on the dramatic rise in gang-related murders and vengeance killings that happen at funerals, causing the morticians of America's inner cities to hire security, install expensive surveillance systems, hold semi-secret funerals...or just retire.

Here's news of the police in the tourist-rich country of Thailand handing out whistles to foreign women to help curb a long series of sexual assaults and killings, violence that occurs most often in such "risky spots" as beaches, valleys, mountains, national parks, and waterfalls.

And here in the comparatively small Midwestern city of Omaha, in a state widely publicized as hosting "The Good Life," three people have been murdered already this week while one gun-wielding coke-head has been shot dead by police.

Goodness knows, it is not pleasant to talk about such things. Yet we must never let our view of the big picture (politics, social issues, ideology -- all quite important) omit the details of the local landscape and how the culture of death has taken root there also: street crime, abortion clinics, drunk drivers, and the euthanasia increasing in our hospitals and nursing homes.

Are there any politicians out there (or, for that matter, any preachers) willing to tackle these most basic of social tragedies?

Recovering America's Sovereignty in Law

Everyone waxing outraged about the big Medellín decision yesterday is focusing on the death penalty, but the Supreme Court did something else entirely: It insulated American law from the international variety. And this modest and limited ruling should help restore those two qualities to U.S. courts, which is no doubt one of the reasons the Roberts Court's political opponents are so livid...

Devotees of using foreign law to overrule American politicians will squawk. But the Medellín majority has delivered a victory for legal modesty and the U.S. Constitution.

The above lines are the opening and closing paragraphs of the Wall Street Journal editorial about the José Ernesto Medellín case, a victory of major consequence in the battle to retain American sovereignty in law. Read the important WSJ commentary that comes between them right here.

Senator Obama, We're Waiting

We were waiting through Barack Obama’s rousing speech on racial equality to hear the bedrock principle of human rights on which racial equality depends. We were waiting to hear the revolutionary words of equality that were incorporated after the Second World War by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We never heard them. The Washington special interests to whom Barack Obama is beholden wouldn’t let him say them, even if he wanted to...

But there was one fundamental oversight in the speech that undermined his argument.
The world learned the hard way what happens when we don’t ground our understanding of human rights in the certainty that all men are created equal, and share the right to life...

He is beholden to special interests that make a great deal of money by denying that people have the right to life. Obama couldn’t say those things ultimately because his official position is that some people are not created equal and do not have equal rights.

And we don’t just mean abortion — though Obama has helped keep abortion legal in all nine months of pregnancy.

In 2002, as an Illinois legislator, Obama went a step further when he voted against the Induced Infant Liability Act, which would have protected babies who were “accidentally” born alive during attempts to abort them.

In a recent debate, Obama said the vote he most regrets was his vote to save Terri Schiavo’s life. Her husband, Michael, wanted Terri dead, even though she was alert and responsive to nurses and family members. He had married again, had a new child with a new woman, and he wanted Terri dead. When a judge granted his request, Congress and President Bush attempted to intervene to save her life, and not just to save her life, but to stop the dangerous precedent. They failed. Now Obama says they shouldn’t have tried.

How quickly he has gone from opposing unwanted children’s right to life to opposing unwanted women’s right to life! History assures us it won’t stop there.

Obama not only opposes the right to life — he says ending it is his highest prior
ity. “The first thing I’d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” he told Planned Parenthood last July. That would immediately turn the United States into the most pro-abortion country in the world...

He couldn’t echo the great fathers of the civil-rights movement because, in his embrace of abortion, he has broken definitively from them.

Walter Youngers’ mother said it best in the play Raisin in the Sun. Youngers is an ambitious young black man whose wife tells him she plans to abort their new child. Youngers says nothing, but Mamma speaks up. Here’s the text taken directly from the play:

“I’m waiting to hear how you be your father’s son. Be the man he was. (Pause. The silence shouts.) Your wife say she going to destroy your child. And I’m waiting to hear you talk like him and say we a people who give children life, not who destroys
them — (she rises) I’m waiting to see you stand up and look like your daddy and say we done give up one baby to poverty and that we ain’t going to give up nary another one. .... I’m WAITING.”

We’re waiting too, Barack.

These stirring passages come from the editors of the National Catholic Register and I urge you to read through the whole article. Very compelling, very convicting. You can find it right here. (Many thanks to Gina over at The Point for highlighting the article.)

LB 606 (Nebraska's Restrictive Cloning Bill) Overwhelmingly Passes

Here's the story on Tuesday's notable action by the Nebraska Unicameral and Gov. Dave Heineman regarding LB 606, an important compromise measure won by pro-life advocates over the deep pocketed, media favored cloning interests of UNMC. Following the text of the report itself, I print a few comments by bioethicist Wesley J. Smith about the uphill fight.

48 of the 49 Nebraskan senators voted Tuesday to pass Legislative Bill 606 banning some human cloning. The measure was quickly signed by Governor Dave Heineman. The measure allows research grants to be given to institutions doing stem cell research without using embryos. The new law also prohibits public funding of research that creates or destroys embryos for stem cell research.

The bill was passed on condition that neither side in the debate would introduce more legislation regarding cloning or stem cell research unless one of three conditions are met: if private sector research is undertaken that destroys human embryos or creates cloned embryos; if scientific advances create new ethical considerations; or if the prohibitions in LB 606 were violated.

The measure was conditionally supported by the spokesman for Nebraska Right to Life, Julie Schmit-Albin, who said, "Though it isn't everything we wanted in LB 700, this is one of those times where we can gain something or achieve nothing and we chose the former." Schmit-Albin was referring to what she called "the true cloning ban." Nebraska Right to Life has been fighting for a cloning ban since 2000.

Previously the bill had included a prohibition only on cloning for reproductive purposes, a common ploy of the pro-cloning lobby to create the appearance of ethical principles. But pro-life lobbyists were able to change the measure to afford a degree of restriction on "therapeutic cloning", or cloning for stem cell research.

Schmit-Albin said her group had opposed the original wording, calling it "clone and kill" legislation. "We vigorously opposed this 'clone and kill' language as it could have emboldened private-sector cloning labs to come into Nebraska, and we are thankful it was removed," she said.

Executive director of Nebraska Coalition for Ethical Research, Chip Maxwell, said that while the bill was not a "comprehensive" ban on reproductive cloning, it does block such research "in the public sector".

Wesley J. Smith responds, "Of course, any existing stem cell lines would not be from cloned embryos since they have yet to be created successfully.

My sources told me that this was going to be a hard sell. The fact that it went through so easily, it seems to me, is an indication of the profound political changes in this field wrought by the IPSC breakthrough. Congratulations to Nebraska. More of this kind of law, please."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Today's Posts

Joni and Friends' Christian Institute on Disability

The Condom Culture: Creating (Not Curing) the Problem

"In Hope of Eternal Life"

So You Want to Escape Morality? Good Luck With That.

A Word of Thanks

C'mon, Senator Obama; Do the Right Thing for America

Regarding Zionism, "Ethnic Bombs" and Obama's Church Bulletin

Joni and Friends' Christian Institute on Disability

Here's a brief letter from Joni Eareckson Tada describing the very exciting ministry, the Christian Institute on Disability. Please read the note, make a mental note to begin praying for its development, and then watch any (or all) of these video clips about the Institute which are available on the right sidebar of this page of Joni and Friends website.

Joni at Biola Chapel (Time: 36 minutes);
Who will be their voice? (Time: 6 minutes); or
Church promo (Time: 3 minutes).

Let's get behind this important ministry in a big way.

Here's Joni's letter:

"Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy"
Proverbs 31:9 (NIV)

Dear Friend,

The idea behind the Christian Institute on Disability began in 1982, just after a Down syndrome child with mild complications was starved to death in a hospital. The parents, doctors, and the Supreme Court of Indiana said the family had the right to refuse to grant permission to operate. They had the right to starve a child to death. I remember thinking, "The life of every disabled person is now in jeopardy!"

Many people think a civilized society would never condone something as horrible as infanticide. But it's happening, here and around the world. Infanticide is only one small component of a much wider assault on God-given life.

With God removed from the public arena, these are dangerous days for families affected by disability. If this downward spiral is allowed to continue, disabled people-and the personhood and dignity of all human beings-will be systematically targeted. Friends, the situation is urgent and the time to act is now!

God has ordained the Christian Institute on Disability for such a time as this. It is my sincere prayer that you will stand firm with us on the front lines, safeguarding the future of loved ones now, and countless generations to come.

The Condom Culture: Creating (Not Curing) the Problem

From the Family Research Council...

So much for truth in advertising!

A full-page ad in major newspapers today sponsored by the Trojan company is loaded with misinformation about the effectiveness of condoms in preventing disease. The page leads off with the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) latest report about the number of teens (one in four) who are infected with an STD. "America is not a sexually healthy nation," the text warns. "We should evolve the way we approach sexual health in our country." Not surprisingly, the company's solution to the problem is supplying more of their product, which the ad implies would help eliminate diseases such as the human papillomavirus (HPV), chlamydia, herpes, and trichomoniasis.

Trojan and their liberal sex education allies are out to persuade Americans that condoms make sex "safe." Not so, says the very government agency that Trojan quotes in its ad. On HPV, the CDC's official position on condom efficacy is entirely contrary to Trojan's. In its report to Congress, the agency plainly states, "The available scientific evidence is not sufficient to recommend condoms as a primary prevention strategy for the prevention of genital HPV prevention." While condoms may reduce the risk of chlamydia, herpes, and other diseases, it cannot eliminate the risk.

Teenagers may be half as likely to contract various STDs if they use condoms correctly, but the problem is that few of them do. It's an established medical fact that teenagers' correct and consistent condom usage is much lower than adults', and the effectiveness of the contraception decreases even more as a result. Beyond disease, condoms are not even a reliable method for reducing teen pregnancy. About one in every five teens using condoms becomes pregnant within one year, according to the National Survey of Family Growth. Condoms are incapable of providing the protection Trojan claims they do.

Once again, the industry is proving that it cares more about profit than prevention. It continues to astound me that our society is willing to tell kids to abstain from the dangers of drinking or smoking but not premarital sex. If America is truly committed to disease prevention, and the emotional well-being of our teens, then we must be committed to abstinence--the only method that works 100% of the time.

"In Hope of Eternal Life"

Amid the daily battles of the culture wars, the Christian must ever be mindful of "the hope that is in us" -- the confident hope that gives us the inspiration, strength and wisdom to fight effectively for the cause of Christ. And that hope, of course, moves us to retain a passion for evangelism, spreading the good news of a coming Kingdom even as we seek to fulfill our biblical responsibilities in this one.

In this regard, then, be encouraged by the testimony of the "coolest cat" in Hollywood's 1960s, Steve McQueen.

...When Steve discovered he had lung cancer, he began to take stock of his life, and to look for the answers and for the hope he had not found during his lifetime. He wanted to know what came next and was yearning for hope in the "beyond." Both his third wife Barbara Minty and his flying instructor Sammy Mason encouraged him in his spiritual search.

McQueen eventually made it to a Billy Graham crusade. By the end of the meeting, Steve McQueen had given his heart to Jesus Christ. He still had many questions, though, and he sent word through one of the evangelists he wanted to meet with Billy Graham. They were able to meet in a limousine on the way to the airport.

McQueen told Graham be believed Jesus was the Son of God and he had put his trust there, but he had many questions about the scriptures. Most importantly, McQueen wanted to know how could he be sure heaven awaited him. Graham turned his Bible to Titus 1 verse 2: "In hope of eternal life, which God, Who cannot lie, promised before the world began..."

The was the verse he had longed to hear. McQueen was excited and asked, "What was that verse again?" and told Graham he needed a pencil and some paper so he could write down the verse. Billy Graham instead gave Steve McQueen his Bible.

Some time after this Steve went to Mexico for some experimental cancer treatments. He died there... but that was not the end of Steve McQueen. They found his Bible in his hands, turned to Titus chapter 1 and verse 2, with his finger laid on top of that verse, his future sealed by God, Who cannot lie."

So You Want to Escape Morality? Good Luck With That.

Oh, for more clear-headed thinking and more carefully-honed prose of the quality that Theodore Dalrymple regularly gives us at City Journal. Here's a fine example, effectively cutting through that fog which envelops most modern discussions of morality.

A Word of Thanks

A couple of thank-yous are in order this morning to fellow bloggers who have recently cited Vital Signs Blog posts on their sites: Randy Alcorn, Gina Dalfonzo at the Point, Jill Stanek, and Steven Ertelt at

Of course, all of these Christian pro-life activists have important and excellent things to say all the time -- that's why they are charter members of the Links Section we have on the lower left side here and why we have urged you before to visit their sites often. They are diligent, prayerful, capable watchmen on the wall.

Again, thanks.

Emitte lucem et veritatem (Send out light and truth)

C'mon, Senator Obama; Do the Right Thing for America

Lionel Chetwynd, the esteemed screenwriter, motion picture and television film director and producer (The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Two Solitudes, The Hanoi Hilton, Varian's War, and many others) has written the most insightful, compelling and respectful critique yet of Barack Obama's "race speech." I heartily recommend it.

Regarding Zionism, "Ethnic Bombs" and Obama's Church Bulletin

Ali Baghdadi, an Arab-American writer and advisor both to Elijah Muhammad (founder of the Nation of Islam) and Louis Farrakhan, wrote this open letter to Oprah Winfrey shortly before her visit to Israel last summer. Not surprisingly, it was a letter full of anti-Semitism which deeply distorted the area's history and politics. Indeed, it took a a few fliers into rank absurdity such as the claim that Israel worked with South Africa on an "ethnic bomb" that would only kill blacks and Arabs.

But what may be a surprise to some is that this open letter was published in the "Pastor's Page" of a church bulletin -- a church which Ms. Winfrey once attended. And which Barack Obama still does.

You may want to read through this online copy of that Trinity United Church of Christ bulletin to get a better idea of what the church is about. Very interesting stuff.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Today's Posts

Just a couple of posts today because Claire and I have an out-of-town meeting to get to...but I'll meet you here again tomorrow with a more typical schedule.

Will We See a Liberal-Leaning Republican Convention this Summer?

Obama's Votes Against Abortion Survivors Defended: With Friends Like These...

Malta Once Again Defies Europe's Coercion,Takes a Bold Stand for the Sanctity of Life

Will We See a Liberal-Leaning Republican Convention this Summer?

My fears that we would soon start seeing some typical "maverick maneuvering" from the G.O.P. nominee are being realized. Take a look at this item that Bob Novak reports, a bad omen for the summer's Republican convention.

John McCain's team that is taking over the Republican Party has decided on Bobbie Greene Kilberg, a liberal Republican from Virginia long detested by conservatives, to run the party's national convention in St. Paul, Minn., in August.

Kilberg, as an aide to President George H.W. Bush in 1990, promoted White House overtures to gay activists. She won an internal power struggle over gay politics with fellow Bush assistant R. Douglas Wead, who was fired as White House liaison to religious conservatives.

When Kilberg appeared on television by McCain's side the night of Feb. 12 after he won the Virginia primary, her presence was resented by conservatives as a sign of contempt for them.

Obama's Votes Against Abortion Survivors Defended: With Friends Like These...

Dana Goldstein, a proud promoter of abortion, even the particularly gruesome procedure known generally as partial-birth abortion, takes space on the blog RH Reality Check to defend Barack Obama from "the beginnings of a conservative smear campaign against Obama's very real history of support for reproductive freedom."

She writes,"During the operation, the fetus' skull is capsized inside of the woman, after which labor is induced and she delivers the fetus. It is a wrenching process, but one that allows a woman or couple to grieve and bring closure to a pregnancy by holding the intact fetus. It also decreases scarring, bleeding, and pain inside of a woman's uterus and vagina.

"The antis want to redefine these fetuses as 'born alive' and require that doctors provide 'resuscitation.' As a state senator, Obama saw BAIPA [Born Alive Infants Protection Act] for what it was: an ideologically-motivated ploy to vilify women and doctors who choose abortion. On the state Senate floor on April 4, 2002, he explained, 'This issue ultimately is about abortion and not live births. Because if there are children being born alive, I, at least, have confidence that a doctor who is in that room is going to make sure that they're looked after.'"...

Ms. Goldstein shares Obama's faith in abortion doctors, later describing them as "caring medical professionals who perform abortions because they are committed to serving women."

She closes her post with this warning, "It is to Barack Obama's credit that, as an Illinois state senator, he voted against BAIPA twice, and then, as chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee in 2003, prevented it from advancing to the floor. It would be naive to believe that a few 'present' votes will make social conservatives forget Obama's pro-choice advocacy on this issue. Indeed, they plan to peel moderate and Republican support away from Obama by painting him as a heartless politician who closed his ears to the cries of 'abortion survivors...'"

Well, he did close his ears to the cries of abortion survivors. And, to most Americans, that's as clear and as callous an act of irresponsibility as one could find.

Therefore, every article that delineates his record on this matter will indeed "peel" support away from the Illinois Senator. In fact, with a few more defenses of Barack Obama of the kind Ms. Goldstein has written, the "social conservatives" won't have to lift a pen.

Malta Once Again Defies Europe's Coercion,Takes a Bold Stand for the Sanctity of Life

A new Council of Europe resolution calling on all member states to legalize and subsidize abortion has once again been rejected by the government of Malta.

Gift of Life, a pro-life organisation, said it found unacceptable any pressure by other countries for abortion to be legalised in Malta.

"This is the clearest attempt yet at international bullying of another sovereign country. It drives home the importance of acting soon to provide our unborn children with the right to life through the Constitution of Malta."

The report, Gift of Life said, was a shameful attempt by members of the council to demonise any state or person objecting to abortion, even if their position was based upon sound pro-life values and documented scientific facts.

"It is all the more detestable as the Council of Europe are supposed to champion human rights yet are calling for member countries to allow laws that clearly contradict the very nature of our humanity."

Gift of Life pointed out that while the line-up of professional advisors to the council included a wide range of pro-abortion experts, no pro-life group was invited to give testimony.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Today's Posts

Gender-Neutral Campus Housing...But Don't Tell Mom or Dad

Magdi Allam -- "The Root of Evil is Inherent to a Physiologically Violent and Historically Conflictual Islam"

March 1983: A Really Bad Month for the Kremlin

Two More Russian Journalists Murdered

Obama's Eloquent But Elusive Error

Gender-Neutral Campus Housing...But Don't Tell Mom or Dad

The days of strictly same-sex rooms in student housing are coming to an end at Willamette University.

Starting this fall, Willamette will offer a new housing option called "gender neutral." It will allow men and women to room together on campus. The program is designed to meet the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered students — commonly called LGBT students — who might not be comfortable sharing a room with someone of the same gender, said Bob Hawkinson, Willamette's dean of campus life.

"The driver here is to create an environment for all of our students that supports their academic work," he said. "It's a matter of fairness and allowing all of our students to have a good, strong home base, an environment where they can be comfortable in their everyday lives."...

Students outside the LGBT community can participate in the program. Parents will not be notified if their child chooses to room with someone of the opposite gender, Hawkinson said...

Magdi Allam -- "The Root of Evil is Inherent to a Physiologically Violent and Historically Conflictual Islam"

Italian editor and critic of Islamic extremism Magdi Allam, who converted to Catholicism from Islam and was baptised by Pope Benedict XVI, today branded his former faith as intrinsically violent.

"I had to do this (abandon Islam)", Allam wrote in a long letter to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
"Beyond ... the phenomenon of extremists and Islamist terrorism at the global level, the root of evil is inherent to a physiologically violent and historically conflictual Islam," wrote the Egyptian-born journalist, who says he has received death threats and is under police protection.

One of seven adults baptised during an Easter vigil yesterday evening, Allam, 55, is an editorial writer and deputy editor at Corriere.

Regarding a combative tone that has made him famous in Italy, Allam wrote: "Over the years my spirit has been freed from the obscurantism of an ideology that legitimises lies and deception, violent death that leads to homicide and suicide, blind submission to tyranny."

(Source: Agence France-Presse article reprinted in Australia's Daily Telegraph.)

March 1983: A Really Bad Month for the Kremlin

It was 25 years ago this month, March 1983, that the Soviet Union went into hysterics, both realizing and arguably beginning the terminal phase in its deadly life cycle. The Kremlin had been deeply troubled ever since the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan in January 1981, a total turnabout from its confident surge in the latter 1970 s, when it looked like Moscow was winning the Cold War.

The Soviet leadership was taken aback by Reagan’s bravado in his very first press conference, where the new president calmly explained to a stunned Washington press corps that the Soviet leadership had “openly and publicly declared that the only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.” Reagan had left no doubt that Jimmy Carter was out of the White House...

Paul Kengor, professor at Grove City College and the author of (among other books) God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life and The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, has a riveting account of the Kremlin's really bad month.

By the way, if you're interested in learning more about Kengor's interest in Reagan, give a listen to this 10-minute Vital Signs interview.

Two More Russian Journalists Murdered

Gadzhi Abashilov, the head of Dagestani state television, and Ilyas Shurpayeva, a Dagestan-born reporter for Channel One television were both mysteriously murdered last Friday. Abashilov was brutally attacked by machine gun fire while in his car. He was killed instantly and his driver was hospitalized in critical condition.

Shurpayev was found stabbed and strangled with a belt in his Moscow apartment.

"Honestly, the entire city was just stunned," my driver said. "Ilyas was our pride – consider him the face of Dagestan. People say he stumbled on something important and told Abashilov. Then they were both killed."

Questions remain

How often those two words are used in relation to the murders of Russian journalists.

Obama's Eloquent But Elusive Error

Interested in the Democratic presidential race, particularly the "train wreck" it has become since the citizenry discovered the bigotry, anti-Americanism, and goofiness of Barack Obama's main mentor?

Well, Michael Goodwin's article in the New York Daily News is a good one to start with on this Monday morning. ("You can't be a President if you won't stand up to an anti-American bigot. More to the point, you can't become President by running against the country or having people around you who hate it.")

But you'll also find of great interest Fred LeBrun's "Eloquent Misstep by Obama" written for the Albany Times-Union. ("If Sen. Barack Obama loses the presidency, he can very likely trace the beginning of the end of his unprecedented run for the White House to last week's much-discussed speech on race. He never should have gone there. It was a deadly mistake, a political blunder of the first order.")

Then there is Obama's own characterization of Jeremiah Wright and his church coming from a Philadelphia radio show just airing today. ("This is not a crackpot church...This is a pillar of the community and if you go there on Easter on this Easter Sunday and you sat down there in the pew you would think this is just like any other church. ... So I don’t want to suggest that somehow, the loops you have been seeing typifies the services all the time. That is the danger of the YouTube era. It doesn't excuse what he said. But it gives it some perspective.")

Oh yes, there's Senator Obama's criticism as "outrageously wrong" an article which appeared in the Trinity United Church bulletin last July. The article in question was a reprint of an op-ed from the Los Angeles Times written by Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzook and justifying the Palestinian terrorist organization's denial of Israel's right to exist. But, of course, the obvious question is "Why did it take eight months for Obama to condemn the article?"

And finally, don't miss Victor Davis Hanson's exceptional piece for NRO. Here's a teaser:

The latest polls reflecting Obama’s near-collapse should serve as a morality tale of John Edwards’s two Americas — the political obtuseness of the intellectual elite juxtaposed to the common sense of the working classes.

For some bizarre reason, Obama aimed his speech at winning praise from National Public Radio, the New York Times, and Harvard, and solidifying an already 90-percent solid African-American base — while apparently insulting the intelligence of everyone else.

Indeed, the more op-eds and pundits praised the courage of Barack Obama, the more the polls showed that there was a growing distrust that the eloquent and inspirational candidate has used his great gifts, in the end, to excuse the inexcusable...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

For Weekend Web Reading

For this weekend, here's a few recommendations:

* A story from the Daily Herald (suburban Chicago) about Alina Fernandez Revuelta, Fidel Castro's daughter who nevertheless is an outspoken, eloquent critic of Castro's Communism. ("Cubans are more pro-American than Americans," she said jokingly.)

* A nifty article from Thomas F. Madden at NRO on the unfounded, anti-religious, and sublimely ridiculous propaganda of the Discovery Channel's "The Lost Tomb of Jesus" aired just a year ago.

* President Ronald Reagan's Address to the Members of the British Parliament, June 8, 1982 (..."We're approaching the end of a bloody century plagued by a terrible political invention -- totalitarianism. Optimism comes less easily today, not because democracy is less vigorous, but because democracy's enemies have refined their instruments of repression. Yet optimism is in order, because day-by-day democracy is proving itself to be a not-at-all-fragile flower. From Stettin on the Baltic to Varna on the Black Sea, the regimes planted by totalitarianism have had more than 30 years to establish their legitimacy. But none -- not one regime -- has yet been able to risk free elections. Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root...")

* "Death on a Friday Afternoon," an Easter-oriented Breakpoint transcript from Chuck Colson.

* "The First Cry from the Cross," a sermon preached in 1869 by Charles Spurgeon.

* And finally, a couple of items related to the candidacy of Barack Obama:

1) "The Pied Piper of Platitudes," a commentary by Mike Rosen in the Rocky Mountain News (It's too bad that Barack Obama, if he's elected in November, won't be the nation's first black president. Bill Clinton has already secured that distinction, so dubbed by Toni Morrison, the black, Nobel Prize-winning author.

But Obama could still be the nation's first woman president, at least in the estimation of Bonnie Erbe, nationally syndicated columnist and host of a PBS weekly panel show. Although Erbe reliably comes at politics and issues from the perspective of a liberal and feminist, she appears to have forsaken Hillary, seduced by Obama's siren song. In a recent column, Erbe declared that, "Obama - metrosexual, pro-choice, pro-health care, and anti-poverty - is, in every political sense at least, more of a woman than Clinton." Hillary, that is, not Bill.

2) "Grandma Got Run Over By A Campaign Speech," by Mona Charen;

3) "With Extreme Prejudice" by James Taranto over at WSJ's "Best of the Web."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Today's Posts

"What, Then, is Left of Christianity?"

The "Eyes" Have It

And the Award Goes to...Adult Stem Cell Research

Obama and the "Typical White Person" (His Grandmother)

"Golly, I Never Knew" -- Obama's Incredulous Claims

The Cost of an Obama Presidency

"What, Then, is Left of Christianity?"

On the opening day of the World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting in Geneva last month, the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Vienna and Austria, Hilarion Alfeyev, gave a speech which must surely have made heaven ring.

Randy Alcorn has excerpts of Bishop Alfeyev's remarks (powerful, challenging, timely to the max) on his website. Check it out.

And then, if you would like to send along a thank-you to Bishop Alfeyev for his excellent exhortation, go to this page of his own web site.