Obama’s stem cell policy overturned

President Obama’s stem cell policy allows human embryos to be destroyed so their stem cells can be “harvested.”  But a federal court has overturned that policy:

A U.S. district court issued a preliminary injunction on Monday stopping federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research, in a slap to the Obama administration’s new guidelines on the sensitive issue.

The court ruled in favor of a suit filed in June by researchers who said human embryonic stem cell research involved the destruction of human embryos.

Judge Royce Lamberth granted the injunction after finding the lawsuit would likely succeed because the guidelines violated law banning the use of federal funds to destroy human embryos.

“(Embryonic stem cell) research is clearly research in which an embryo is destroyed,” Lamberth wrote in a 15-page ruling. The Obama administration could appeal his decision or try to rewrite the guidelines to comply with U.S. law.

The suit against the National Institutes of Health, backed by some Christian groups opposed to embryo research, argued the NIH policy violated U.S. law and took funds from researchers seeking to work with adult stem cells.

via U.S. court rules against Obama’s stem cell policy | Reuters.

There is still oil in the Gulf after all

We earlier blogged about how the oil that gushed out of that BP well in the Gulf appeared to be gone, having been broken down by natural processes.  That was the line from the Obama administration.  But now scientists are finding that the oil, indeed, is out there:

The oil is there, at least 22 miles of it. You just can’t see it.

A lot of the crude that spewed from BP’s ruptured well is still in the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s far below the surface and invisible. And it’s likely to linger for months on end, scientists said Thursday in the first conclusive evidence of an underwater plume of oil from the disaster.

The plume consists of droplets too small for the eye to see, more than a half-mile down, said researchers who mapped it with high-tech sensors.

Scientists fear it could be a threat to certain small fish and crustaceans deep in the ocean. They will have plenty of time to study it for answers.

In the cold, 40-degree water, the oil is degrading at one-tenth the pace at which it breaks down at the surface. That means “the plumes could stick around for quite a while,” said Ben Van Mooy of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, a co-author of the research, published online in the journal Science.

Earlier this month, top federal officials declared the oil in the spill was mostly “gone,” and it is gone in the sense that you can’t see it. But the chemical ingredients of the oil persist, researchers found.

Monty Graham, a scientist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama who was not involved in the new research, said: “We absolutely should be concerned that this material is drifting around for who knows how long. They say months in the (research) paper, but more likely we’ll be able to track this stuff for years.”

via Major study proves oil plume that’s not going away.

Well, I don’t think that even the most optimistic scientists believed the oil literally ceased to exist, violating the law of the conservation of matter.  If the oil now exists only as microscopic dots widely diffused and dispersed, detectable only by high-tech instruments, I’d say that is pretty much what “breaking down” means.  And it’s hard to imagine how oil in this form would be all that harmful, since it’s the sludge that’s so bad for the environment, individual molecules of oil being nothing but carbon.  You’d think environmentalists would be happy that the environment is not being devastated as predicted, but they seem strangely disappointed.  They assume nature is so fragile that man can destroy it, playing down its self-renewing power.  But OK, I’ll admit that the jury is out.  Maybe this will turn into an eco-catastrophe after all.

Three varieties of conservatism

Here are three different political ideologies that go by the name of “conservatism.”  The definitions and descriptions are taken from the first paragraph of their Wikipedia entries.  (You might want to read the rest of the entries.)  Which is better?  And how can advocates of these three possibly work together?

Paleoconservatism (sometimes shortened to paleo or paleocon when the context is clear) is a term for an anti-communist and anti-imperialist political philosophy in the United States stressing tradition, civil society and anti-federalism, along with religious, regional, national and Western identity.  Chilton Williamson, Jr. describes paleoconservatism as “the expression of rootedness: a sense of place and of history, a sense of self derived from forebears, kin, and culture—an identity that is both collective and personal.”  Paleoconservatism is not expressed as an ideology and its adherents do not necessarily subscribe to any one party line.

via Paleoconservatism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Neoconservatism is a political philosophy that emerged in the United States of America, and which supports using modern American economic and military power to bring liberalism, democracy, and human rights to other countries.[1][2][3] Consequently the term is chiefly applicable to certain Americans and their strong supporters. In economics, unlike paleoconservatives and libertarians, neoconservatives are generally comfortable with a welfare state; and, while rhetorically supportive of free markets, they are willing to interfere for overriding social purposes.

via Neoconservatism

Libertarianism is advocacy for individual liberty[1] with libertarians generally sharing a distinct regard for individual freedom of thought and action, as well as a strong suspicion of coercive authority, such as that of government. However, there are also broad areas of disagreement among libertarians. Broad distinctions such as left-libertarianism and right-libertarianism have been identified. Additionally, some distinguish between minarchist and varying anarchist views (such as the libertarian socialist and anarcho-capitalist views) of libertarianism.

via Libertarian

HT:  A comment from Cincinnatus gave me the idea for this

The Washington Post & the student loan scandal

Last week we blogged about the student loan scandal, how some schools–especially for-profit institutions–are sucking in billions of taxpayer dollars from federal student loans, even though the majority of their students can never pay them back.  One of the biggest offenders is Kaplan, which was caught advising students to apply for loans they didn’t even qualify for.  Kaplan is owned by the Washington Post.

The newspaper has admitted that fact in its stories about the scandals.  On Sunday the ombudsman Andrew Alexander responded to reader complaints about conflicts of interest when the paper covers stories involving its corporate holdings.  Alexander thinks everything is all right as long as the paper is transparent about its financial ties.  In his defense of the paper, he let drop a remarkable detail:

But disclosure of The Post Co.’s ownership of Kaplan is especially critical because of Kaplan’s outsize importance to the overall bottom line. The Kaplan division, which offers higher education, test preparation and professional training services, accounted for 62 percent of The Post Co.’s total second-quarter revenues. Its higher education unit, the subject of government scrutiny and proposed regulations, will be in the news for months to come.

Disclosure aside, a separate issue is The Post’s commitment to following the story. “We will give Kaplan the same level of scrutiny as we give the rest of the industry,” said Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, who runs the local news staff that handles education reporting.

via Andrew Alexander – From Kaplan to Buffett, Post gets it right on transparency.

So 62% of the Post’s revenue comes from a questionable college under criminal investigation?  That would mean that 62% of the Post‘s revenue comes from the federal government?  From taxpayer money?  That is to say, cheated taxpayers and bilked students whose defaults will go with them for life?

Not only that, the lead editorial in that same Sunday edition had the effrontery to come out against the President’s plan to cut off federal aid to schools with a smaller pay-back rate of 35%.  (Kaplan’s, I was told, is something like 33%.)

Yes, the Post editorial made clear that it owns Kaplan’s.  But disclosing a conflict of interest does not mean there is no conflict of interest!  Here the editors are using the power of their opinion page to defend their own cash-cow against needed reforms.

Anne Rice is a “believer” but not a “Christian”

You should read this fascinating interview in Christianity Today with Anne Rice, the novelist who first converted to Christianity, then recently said that she is no longer a Christian.  In the interview, she still says she is a “believer” who has “faith in Christ.”  It is just  “organized religion” she can’t take anymore, largely because of her liberal social beliefs.  She says that she still has “community” in her circle of co-workers and friends, who are all “believers.”   Here, though, is a stinging indictment:

Christians have lost credibility in America as people who know how to love. They have become associated with hatred, persecution, attempting to abolish the separation of church and state, and trying to pressure people to vote certain ways in elections.

And yet, she reads conservative theologians and has a special affinity for conservative Bible scholars:

I read theology and biblical scholarship all the time. I love the biblical scholarship of D.A. Carson. I very much love Craig S. Keener. His books on Matthew and John are right here on my desk all the time. I go to Craig Keener for answers because his commentary on Scripture is so thorough. I still read N.T. Wright. I love the Catholic theologian Karl Rahner. I love his writing on Jesus Christ. It’s very beautiful to me, and I study a little bit of it every day. Of course, I love Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. . . .

Sometimes the most conservative people are the most biblically and scholastically sound. They have studied Scripture and have studied skeptical scholarship. They make brilliant arguments for the way something in the Bible reads and how it’s been interpreted. I don’t go to them necessarily to know more about their personal beliefs. It’s the brilliance they bring to bear on the text that appeals to me. Of all the people I’ve read over the years, it’s their work that I keep on my desk. They’re all non-Catholics, but they’re believers, they document their books well, they write well, they’re scrupulously honest as scholars, and they don’t have a bias. Many of the skeptical non-believer biblical scholars have a terrible bias. To them, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, so there’s no point in discussing it. I want someone to approach the text and tell me what it says, how the language worked.

via Q & A: Anne Rice on Following Christ Without Christianity | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Cranach’s book of portraits

Thanks to Paul McCain for tipping me off to this remarkable book of portraits by Lucas Cranach (or possibly his son or his workshop), now made available in digital format online by the Dresden State Archives and Library.

It’s called Das Sächsische Stammbuch: Sammlung von Bildnissen sächsischer Fürsten, mit gereimtem Text; aus der Zeit von 1500 – 1546. That is, in my rough translation, The Saxon Family Album: A Compilation of Pictures of the Saxon Nobility with Rhymed Text, from 1500-1546. It consists of a hand-written manuscript with portraits of the Saxon Princes, Counts, and Electors and their families, virtually all of whom were key players during the Reformation.

Here is John the Steadfast, along with his wife Elizabeth. He is known as “the first Protestant”–the first “protester” of the Church of Rome to be called by that name–and without his forceful defense of Luther (even more so than his father Frederick the Wise) and his practical provision for the evangelical churches, the Reformation would have been crushed.

If anyone can make out and translate the accompanying verses (the larger page is here, he or she will receive the thanks and accolades of us all.

UPDATE: This portrait is Duke John of Saxony, not John the Steadfast. Thanks to Martin Winter who did make out and translate the German verses, so we heap on him the thanks and accolades that we promised. John the Steadfast is on p. 213 of the book, which you can easily find via the link. Martin translates the verses about him, and they are very inspiring. (Go to the comments.) I wonder who wrote those verses, if they too are by a Cranach.


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