Monday, April 4, 2011

United Methodists say "when a Qur'an is burned or desecrated [we will destroy] of our own church buildings"!


The governing council of the United Methodist Church of the U.S. wants to make clear to American Muslims that its members firmly condemn the burning of the holy Qur'an and other acts of disrespect for Islam—and it's putting its money where its mouth is. Noting with alarm the violence and danger to human life entailed in several retaliatory church burnings that occurred in Pakistan as the inevitable backlash to the provocative actions of Rev. Terry Jones, the United Methodists have made a very special offer to the worldwide Muslim community, to show their spiritual unity with Muslims who feel themselves threatened as a result of Jones' actions.

At a press conference at New York's Waldorf-Astoria attended by Rev. Jesse Jackson, Catholic Abp. Theodore McCarrick of Newark, religious scholar Karen Armstrong, and Egyptian sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Methodist Bishop Walter M. Itty issued the following statement:

“Every time a Qur'an is burned every religious believer in the world is threatened with harm. Each time a bigoted individual offends the sensibilities of a billion Islamic believers around the world by mocking or depicting the prophet Muhammad, each of us is sick at heart. We people of faith will not permit ourselves to be divided against each other by the apostles of intolerance. We will, we will not be moved. I noted with particular grief in recent days the latest, unavoidable consequence of Rev. Jones' irresponsible and hurtful actions: the destruction of three churches in faraway Pakistan—attacks that entailed armed militants, the hurling of stones, and fires in which civilians could well have been injured. It is fortunate that fire-fighters did not reach any of these churches in time, or those public servants also might have been hurt. I hope that Rev. Jones looks deep into his conscience, and asks himself in prayer how much more damage he is willing to inflict on people of faith worldwide.”

Pausing for a moment, overcome by emotion, Bishop Itty continued by making a pledge of “unconditional solidarity” with Muslims worldwide. “I want to offer my Muslim friends a solemn promise: On the next occasion when someone commits such a bigoted act against Muslims, when a Qur'an is burned or desecrated anywhere in the world, we in the United Methodist community will respond promptly and concretely, by demolishing one of our own church buildings—safely, with the help of licensed explosives professionals, and under the supervision of the relevant local Islamic authorities. There is no need for armed militants or the use of force; I have asked Sheik Qaradawi to work with me and with Muslim groups in foreign countries to make sure that this process is orderly and non-violent, in the hope that we can take what might be a moment that divides Christians from Muslims, and instead make it into a celebration of unity.”

In a brief follow-up statement, Sheik Qaradawi accepted Bishop Itty's offer. “We are willing to undertake this, out of honor for the prophet Isa (Peace be upon him), and as an act of mercy toward these People of the Book.”

Cows Produce Human Breast Milk After Genetic Modification

New York Daily News

Sunday, April 3rd 2011, 2:33 PM

Chinese scientists claim to have genetically modified cows to produce milk with the same nutrients in human breast milk.

Researchers reportedly used cloning technology to mix human and cow DNA to achieve the bizarre feat, London's Telegraph reported Sunday.

"Our study describes transgenic cattle whose milk offers the similar nutritional benefits as human milk," wrote Professor Li in the journal Public Library of Science One. "The modified bovine milk is a possible substitute for human milk."

The "enhanced" cow's milk produced by some 300 dairy cows contains several human proteins found in breast milk, including ysozyme, lactoferrin and alpha-lactalbumin, the scientists claim.

"Human milk contains the 'just right' proportions of protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins for an infant's optimal growth and development," Li, who led the research and is director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University, told the Telegraph.

It is his hope that the modified cow milk could be used as a replacement for breast milk.

"The milk tastes stronger than normal milk," Li said. "Within 10 years, people will be able to pick up these human-milk-like products at the supermarket."

Critics fear genetically modified food, which is widely available in the United States and Europe, is not safe for human consumption.

Parental Television Council Slams NBC Over New "Playboy" Show

By NELLIE ANDREEVA | Friday April 1, 2011 @ 5:56pm PDT
The Parents Television Council has put a second broadcast pilot in its cross-hairs this season. After blasting ABC over the working title of its dramedy pilot Good Christian Bitches, now the TV watchdog is attacking the NBC drama pilot The Playboy Club over the nudity clause in the actors' contracts.

Interestingly, PTC is going after the newly merged NBCUniversal, whose network NBC commissioned the pilot, not after the pilot's producing studio 20th Century Fox TV, whose business affairs department inserted the controversial language. "During last year's public comment period for the Comcast/NBC merger, the PTC called on the FCC to force Comcast to stipulate that it absolutely will not use the public airwaves to distribute pornographic material, the public interest demands no less," said PTC president Tim Winter. "NBC now says it will air a pilot with Playboy in its name and the production company is requiring performers to sign a nudity clause -- something virtually unheard of for broadcast TV. The ink isn't even dry yet on the company merger and we're already saying 'we told you so'."

OK, first, NBC has not agreed to air the pilot, it has ordered it for series consideration and will air it only if the project is picked up to series. Secondly, the nudity clause, which indeed is extremely rare for broadcast series, was put in the actors' contracts by a 20th TV business affairs executive as a hypothetical, with sources close to the production stressing that there is absolutely no nudity in the pilot nor there is any plan for nudity on the potential series. Also, not all of the pilot's actors agreed to the clause, so it is not in everyone's contract. But, given its setting, a Chicago Playboy club in the 1960, and its subject matter, The Playboy Club would certainly be a sexy drama that no one envisions as a 8 PM show.

Read More From Deadline/Hollywood

Scientists Growning Human Hearts In Laboritories

Scientists are growing human hearts in laboratories, offering hope for millions of cardiac patients.

American researchers believe the artificial organs could start beating within weeks.

The experiment is a major step towards the first ‘grow-your-own’ heart, and could pave the way for livers, lungs or kidneys to be made to order.

The organs were created by removing muscle cells from donor organs to leave behind tough hearts of connective tissue.

Researchers then injected stem cells which multiplied and grew around the structure, eventually turning into healthy heart cells.

Dr Doris Taylor, an expert in regenerative medicine at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said: ‘The hearts are growing, and we hope they will show signs of beating within the next weeks.

‘There are many hurdles to overcome to generate a fully functioning heart, but my prediction is that it may one day be possible to grow entire organs for transplant.’

Patients given normal heart transplants must take drugs to suppress their immune systems for the rest of their lives.

This can increase the risk of high blood pressure, kidney failure and diabetes.

If new hearts could be made using a patient’s own stem cells, it is less likely they would be rejected.

The lab-grown organs have been created using these types of cells – the body’s immature ‘master cells’ which have the ability to turn into different types of tissue. The experiment follows a string of successes for researchers trying to create spare body parts for transplants.

In 2007, British doctors grew a human heart valve using stem cells taken from a patient’s bone marrow.

A year later, scientists grew a beating animal heart for the first time.

Dr Taylor’s team have already created beating rat and pig hearts. Although they were too weak to be used in animals, the work was an important step towards tailor-made organs.

In their latest study, reported at the American College of Cardiology’s annual conference in New Orleans, researchers created new organs using human hearts taken from dead bodies.

The scientists stripped the cells from the dead hearts with a powerful detergent, leaving ‘ghost heart’ scaffolds made from the protein collagen.

The ghost hearts were then injected with millions of stem cells, which had been extracted from patients and supplied with nutrients.

The stem cells ‘recognised’ the collagen heart structure and began to turn into heart muscle cells.

The hearts have yet to start beating – but if they do, they could be strong enough to pump blood.

However, the race to create a working heart faces many obstacles.

  • The donor heart is removed from the body; pig hearts may also be suitable.
  • Detergents are then used to strip the cells from the heart leaving behind the protein skeleton or 'ghost heart'.
  • Stem cells grown from cells taken from a patient are then added to the ghost heart.
  • The stem cells then multiply and generate new heart cells. now all that is left is the hope that these will start beating.

Read more:

Afghan Policeman Kills NATO Soldiers

MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Reuters) – A "rogue" Afghan border policeman shot dead two foreign soldiers on a training mission in northern province Faryab on Monday, and hundreds took to the streets for a fourth day of protests against the burning of a Koran by a fundamentalist U.S. pastor.

The shooting was the latest in a string of attacks by Afghan security forces against their NATO mentors, but senior border police said the 23 year-old might have been driven by anger over the desecration of Islam's holy book rather than support for militants' fight against foreign troops.

"It is not clear whether he was inspired by the Taliban, or by the burning of the holy Koran," General Habibullah Sayedkhil, commander of the border police in the north, told Reuters.

The man, who fled after the shooting, had over two years experience in the force and was a disciplined policeman who had not shown signs of extremism, said Najmuddin Sardar, deputy commander of the border police where he served.

Read More From Yahoo News

U.S General Petraeus Says Florida Pastor Burning Quran Has Endangered War Efforts

The Wall Street Journal
KABUL—The Quran burning by a Florida church, which sparked three days of deadly rioting in Afghanistan, poses new dangers for the U.S.-led war effort against the Taliban, coalition commander U.S. Gen. David Petraeus warned in an interview.

Gen. Petraeus, who commands some 150,000 U.S. and allied troops here, spoke after Afghan rioters angered by reports of the sacrilege sacked the United Nations compound in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif, killing seven foreigners, and went on a lethal rampage in the southern city of Kandahar, waving Taliban flags.

The deadly rioting, which the Taliban say erupted spontaneously, has shocked the international community and highlighted the vulnerability of the embattled Afghan government. Urban mob violence against Western targets adds a disturbing new threat in a country that is fighting a mostly rural insurgency, and where foreign and local security forces are ill-prepared for riot control.

"Every security force leader's worst nightmare is being confronted by essentially a mob, if you will, especially one that can be influenced by individuals that want to incite violence, who want to try to hijack passions, in this case, perhaps understandable passions," Gen. Petraeus said in the Sunday interview. "Obviously it's an additional serious security challenge in a country that faces considerable security challenges."

Back in September, when Terry Jones of the World Dove Outreach Center in Gainesville, Fla., first announced his intention to burn Islam's holy book, Gen. Petraeus publicly urged the preacher to abandon the plan, saying it would be exploited by the Taliban and endanger the lives of American soldiers. Rev. Jones's church shelved the idea at the time. But then he reversed course and his church held a "trial" of the Quran and incinerated the book in a videotaped ceremony March 20.

"This was a surprise," Gen. Petraeus said. The Quran burning in Florida, he added, was "hateful, extremely disrespectful and enormously intolerant."

Protesters shout anti-U.S. slogans during a demonstration in Jalalabad province Sunday. Around 1,000 people blocked the main highway from Kabul to Jalalabad and burned U.S. flags, driven by anger at the actions of militant Christian preacher Terry Jones, who supervised the burning of a copy of the Koran in front of about 50 people at a church in Florida on March 20, according to his website.Gen. Petraeus, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and other Western envoys Sunday met President Hamid Karzai to discuss the security crisis caused by the Florida incident. While Gen. Petraeus said he had no doubt that Mr. Karzai is taking the situation seriously, some Western officials have complained that the Afghan president himself has exacerbated the tensions with his pronouncements on the issue.

Most Afghans learned about the Quran burning in Florida only when Mr. Karzai on March 24 condemned the act as "a crime against the religion and the entire Muslim nation," called on the U.S. and the U.N. to bring the perpetrators to justice and demanded "a satisfactory response to the resentment and anger of over 1.5 billion Muslims around the world."

Following Sunday's meeting with Gen. Petraeus and the ambassadors, Mr. Karzai requested in a new statement that "the U.S. government, Senate and Congress clearly condemn [Rev. Jones'] dire action and avoid such incidents in the future." Mr. Karzai issued this demand even though President Barack Obama has already described the Quran burning as "an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry"—adding that "to attack and kill innocent people in response is outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity."

Friday's protest march on the U.N. compound in Mazar-e-Sharif followed a fiery sermon by government-paid clerics in that city's main mosque. By Saturday, however, demonstrators in Kandahar chanted "Death to Karzai" in addition to "Death to America." Nine Afghans were killed and more than 80 injured in Kandahar on Saturday, as protesters attempted to march on the U.N. officers there; shootouts erupted as they were stopped by Afghan security forces.

In fresh Kandahar protests on Sunday, two Afghans, including a child, were killed and 40 were wounded, according to provincial officials. A crowd of about 600 pelted with rocks the headquarters of the provincial governor, shouting "Death to America" and "Death to the slaves of the infidels."

"We cannot see the difference between that man in Florida and the American soldiers here," said Karimullah, a 25-year-old religious student who, like many Afghans, goes by one name and took part in Sunday's Kandahar protests. "They are killing our people here while in the U.S. they burn the Holy Quran. America just wants to humiliate the Muslim world."

Read More From The Wall Street Journal

Parents May Face $100.00 Fines If Their Children Play Outside

Last Updated: Sunday, April 03, 2011 6:42 PM

Parents in one Volusia County subdivision face the possibility of being tagged with a $100 fine every time their children are outside playing.

The homeowner's association is looking at revising its rules and regulations which include just that.

"Some of them, yeah, they don't like the kids playing outside doing too much noise," said mother Luzzette Hernandez.

It's those neighbors who went to the Persimmon Place homeowner's association to include a rule to stop children
from playing outside unsupervised.

Parents whose children are caught doing that would be fined a $100.

"They want to run, play tag with their friends and not have to be charged 100 bucks to do so," said mother Showna Magee.

There are at least 48 homeowners inside Persimmon Place and a home owner's association board members said at least 25 homeowners have to vote in favor of the rule in order for it to pass.

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Atheist Army Group Wants To Be Recognized As Distinct "Faith" Group

The cliche notwithstanding, there are atheists in foxholes. In fact, atheists, agnostics, humanists and other assorted skeptics from the Army's Fort Bragg have formed an organization in a pioneering effort to win recognition and ensure fair treatment for nonbelievers in the overwhelmingly Christian U.S. military.

"We exist, we're here, we're normal," said Sgt. Justin Griffith, chief organizer of Military Atheists and Secular Humanists, or MASH. "We're also in foxholes. That's a big one, right there."

For now, the group meets regularly in homes and bars outside of Fort Bragg, one of the biggest military bases in the country. But it is going through the long bureaucratic process to win official recognition from the Army as a distinct "faith" group.

That would enable it to meet on base, advertise its gatherings and, members say, serve more effectively as a haven for like-minded soldiers.

"People look at you differently if you say you're an atheist in the Army," said Lt. Samantha Nicoll, a West Point graduate who in January attended her first meeting of MASH. "That's extremely taboo. I get a lot of questions if I let it slip in conversation."

The decision on recognition goes first to an Army agency called the Installation Management Command and may be reviewed after that by the Army Chaplain Corps. Neither agency returned calls for comment. MASH members said chaplains at Fort Bragg have been supportive of their effort.

Similar groups of non-theists at about 20 U.S. military bases around the world are watching the outcome at Fort Bragg in hopes it will lead to their recognition, too, said Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.

Obama Announces He Will Be Running For Re-Election In 2012

WASHINGTON -- President Obama formally launched his re-election campaign Monday, urging grass-roots supporters central to his first White House run to mobilize again to protect the change he's brought over the past two years.

The official start of his second White House bid comes 20 months before the November 2012 election.

"We've always known that lasting change wouldn't come quickly or easily. It never does," the Democrat said in an e-mail to supporters announcing his candidacy. "But as my administration and folks across the country fight to protect the progress we've made -- and make more -- we also need to begin mobilizing for 2012, long before the time comes for me to begin campaigning in earnest."

He told them he was filing the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, and directed them to his new campaign website where a launch video featured clips from supporters talking about their continued backing of the Democrat.

"I don't agree with Obama on everything but I respect him and I trust him," Ed from North Carolina says, delivering what's certain to become a key part of the president's pitch as he tries to re-energize liberals who have criticized some of his policies and independents who have fled from him in his first term.

Obama's announcement comes just weeks after the commander in chief directed U.S. military operations to a third major warfront, Libya, and days after the post-recession economy showed more signs of a rebound with a report that the still high unemployment rate had fallen to 8.8 percent.

Widely expected, the procedural step of launching a campaign was planned to coincide with the second fundraising quarter of the year. Filing paperwork will allow the president to begin raising money in earnest for what advisers hope will be a record-breaking haul of more than $1 billion for his campaign, which is based in Chicago. That begins this month; he's slated to visit major money venues of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles in the coming weeks.

Obama faces no primary challenger.

On the other side, the race for the GOP presidential nomination is just getting under way; more than a dozen Republicans are considering seeking the chance to challenge Obama in the next election. Only a few have taken the initial steps toward a candidacy, though several more are expected to this month. It's a wide open race with no clear front-runner.

Nevertheless, Obama said he's not taking anything for granted.

"We're doing this now because the politics we believe in does not start with expensive TV ads or extravaganzas, but with you -- with people organizing block-by-block, talking to neighbors, co-workers, and friends. And that kind of campaign takes time to build," he said in the e-mail.

"So even though I'm focused on the job you elected me to do, and the race may not reach full speed for a year or more, the work of laying the foundation for our campaign must start today," Obama added. He directed them to the new red, white and blue website for what he said was "a campaign that's farther-reaching, more focused, and more innovative than anything we've built before."

The website features Obama's new campaign logo -- 2012 with the rising sun in the background, a version of his 2008 campaign logo -- and announces that the campaign is kicking off.