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July 20, 2003

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Religion in the News

Christian networks battle over Dish Network
Three major Christian television networks are battling each other in a satellite broadcasting fight that has gone largely unreported. In April, Dominion Video Satellite, which owns the Sky Angel satellite service, sued Echostar, the parent company of Dish Network, saying it violated a 1996 contract. Sky Angel, the company said, had exclusive rights to air Christian content on the Dish Network. So what were the Daystar Television Network and FamilyNet TV doing on new Dish channels? See

Christian Research Institute Accused of 'Na´ve' Bookkeeping
Report by whistleblowers to Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability prompts ministry to pay back funds, shore up accountability. See

Believers tout the healing powers of evangelist Hinn, critics dispel them | No televangelist is bigger than Hinn, whose ministry takes in an estimated $100 million a year (The Colorado Springs Gazette). See

Big Idea Productions says it's looking for a buyer
Earlier this month, federal judge Barbara M.G. Lynn of Texas upheld the decision of a jury that Big Idea Productions, creators of the VeggieTales, owed a former distributor more than $11 million for breach of an unsigned contract. See

Anglicans move to repair 200-year rift with Methodists | The Church of England took the first steps towards healing a 200-year-old rift with the Methodist Church yesterday when the General Synod voted in favour of a "covenant" scheme (The Daily Telegraph, London). See

Pat Robertson loses it in attack on high court | If his followers pray hard enough, God might make these sick and elderly justices see the wisdom of retiring, he said, although the underlying suggestion seemed to be that if they don't, they could be struck dead (Sheryl McCarthy, Newsday\). See,0,5207384.column?coll=ny-ny-columnists

Baylor's president faces off against critics this week amid multiple controversies
Last November, Christianity Today published a story about Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist institution of higher education, and President Robert Sloan's efforts to make it "the finest Christian institution of higher learning on this planet." See

Court: Religious clubs can meet during school day | Public schools may not bar student religious clubs from meeting during student-activity periods held during the school day, a federal appeals court ruled yesterday (The Philadelphia Inquirer). See

St. Louis Archbishop to take over Philadelphia archdiocese | Archbishop Justin F. Rigali was appointed by Pope John Paul II to succeed Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua, who is retiring (The New York Times). See

The meaning behind the words | Are the Bible, Torah and Koran meant to be taken literally? (Daily Pilot/Los Angeles Times). See

Progress Through Theology
An interview with Rodney Stark, author of For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery. By David Neff. See

European Christianity's 'Failure to Thrive'
Why Christendom, born with an imperial bang, is now fading away in an irrelevant whimper.
By Collin Hansen. See

Science in the News


Panel hears a lot about Darwin  Pleas to keep Darwin's theory of evolution in biology textbooks and to not include creationism virtually dominated the State Board of Education's public hearing Wednesday on the next generation of public school textbooks (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, Tex.). See

Darwin in a Box
Are you ready for computers that speed up the process of evolution and teach themselves to think?

Faith-based science is not really science | Few things could be more reckless or dangerous to our nation's health, wealth and well-being than shattering the traditional barrier between science and faith (Chet Raymo, The Boston Globe). See

First HIV hybrid formed in a human revealed
Two different strains of HIV infecting the same woman swapped genes to form a new virus - it is bad news for vaccine researchers. See 

Evolutionary biology: Body plans and simple brains Nature July 17, 2003 p.263
Genes expressed in the vertebrate brain and spinal cord show up in the surface nerve net of a closely related group of invertebrates. Could this mean that brains started out on the body surface? Full Text (members only).

Rapid evolution drives ecological dynamics in a predator–prey system July 17, 2003 p.303


In search of Noah's Ark. He found the Titanic. Now Robert Ballard hunts the quarry of a lifetime (Newsweek International). See

Scientists hunt for evidence of Noah's flood, examine ancient ships in Black Sea (Associated Press). See,0,5082971.story?coll=hc-headlines-local-wire

Rediscovering the lost world of early Christian Europe  A review of Peter Brown's The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200-1000 (Michael Dirda, The Washington Post. See

Fish fossils reveal Roman trade routes
Genetics shows ancient Turks imported Egyptian catfish.
14 July 2003. See

Ancient Egyptian Priest Compound Discovered. July 11, 2003 — Egyptian and German archaeologists have discovered a 2,000-year-old priest settlement in southern Egypt, the Supreme Council for Egyptian Antiquities announced. Buried in the desert sand in Tuna el-Gebel, some 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Cairo, the elaborate dwellings belonged to the priests who worshipped the god Thoth in the form of ibis and baboons. God of wisdom and magic, Thoth — Hermes for the Greek — was credited with many inventions, including writing, geometry, and astronomy. See

Inca Written Language Hidden in Code? July 1, 2003 — The Inca invented a seven-bit binary code to store information more than 500 years before the invention of the computer, according to the latest research into this still mysterious ancient population. See

Extinct Language Reveals Celtic Origins. July 2, 2003 — Although the Roman conquest led to the extinction of the Gaulish language 2,000 years ago, a half dozen rare, surviving Gaulish/Latin bilingual inscriptions have enabled scholars to trace the origins of the Celtic language and many other European languages. According to the study, Celtic branched in two directions from an Indo-European mother language around 3200 B.C. See

Geologist Wanted. The Biblical Archaeology Society would like to locate experts who specialize in isotopic geology who will be in a position to evaluate, when it is released, the report of the Israel Antiquities Authority committee that declared the James ossuary inscription to be a forgery. See


Astronomers Find Most Ancient Planet Yet Astronomers have detected the most ancient planet yet known orbiting a binary system thousands of light years away. The new discovery indicates that planet formation in the Milky Way may have started sooner and been more widespread than previously believed. See

Smoking Supernovae Solve A Ten Billion Year-old Mystery
A team of UK astronomers have announced the discovery that some supernovae have bad habits - they belch out huge quantities of 'smoke' known as cosmic dust. This solves a mystery more than 10 billion years in the making. See

New Surprises from Mysterious Pluto Pluto, the most distant of the nine planets in our solar system, has piqued the curiosity of astronomers once again. It seems the planet's atmosphere is expanding as it travels away from the sun, rather than contracting as expected. See

Discovery Of Quadruply Lensed Quasar With Einstein Ring. Paris - Jul 18, 2003 - Using the ESO 3.6-m telescope at La Silla (Chile), an international team of astronomers [1] has discovered a complex cosmic mirage in the southern constellation Crater (The Cup). This "gravitational lens" system consists of (at least) four images of the same quasar as well as a ring-shaped image of the galaxy in which the quasar reside - known as an "Einstein ring". The more nearby lensing galaxy that causes this intriguing optical illusion is also well visible. See

Sydney meeting hears latest from Sloan Digital Sky Survey. See

'Gassy' Galaxies Found With Few Stars. July 15, 2003 — Some galaxies are mostly gas rather than stars, Australian researchers have discovered, turning conventional thinking on its head, the world congress of astronomy has heard. See

Galactic Maps Reveals Dark Matter's Impact Vast Cosmic Structures. Sydney - Jul 18, 2003 - Astrophysicists have had an exceedingly difficult time charting the mysterious stuff called dark matter that permeates the universe because it's--well--dark. Now, a unique "mass map" of a cluster of galaxies shows in unprecedented detail how dark matter is distributed with respect to the shining galaxies. The new comparison gives a convincing indication of how dark matter figures into the grand scheme of the cosmos. See

Icebound Antarctic Telescope Delivers First Neutrino Sky Map. Sydney - Jul 16, 2003 - A novel telescope that uses the Antarctic ice sheet as its window to the cosmos has produced the first map of the high-energy neutrino sky. The map, unveiled for astronomers Tueday in Sydney at a meeting of the International Astronomical Union, provides astronomers with their first tantalizing glimpse of very high-energy neutrinos, ghostly particles that are believed to emanate from some of the most violent events in the universe -- crashing black holes, gamma ray bursts, and the violent cores of distant galaxies. See

Star-gazers claim to pinpoint the hour Jesus died
Theories on the exact date of Christ's death have been debated for centuries, but now two astronomers claim to have pinpointed it to the exact hour. A computer program checked against Bible references showed that Christ died at 3pm on Friday, April 3, 33 AD, and rose again on Sunday, April 5 at 4 a.m. See


Modified mice show super-healing powers
Thick-skinned mice with a remarkable ability to heal wounds are created by genetic engineering. See

Nanotech for New Organs Scientists have taken what may be a key step toward creating human organs such as livers and kidneys. Taking their cue from the body's own vascular system, researchers from M.I.T. and Harvard Medical School constructed a microscopic device capable of supplying oxygen and nutrients to organ cells. See

Amphibian extract may take adult DNA back to stem-cell state. See

Aspirin Could Reduce The Risk Of Deadly Infections
Adding to the long list of the benefits of aspirin, researchers have found that it is responsible for reducing toxic bacteria associated with serious infections. A study led by Dartmouth Medical School describes how salicylic acid-produced when the body breaks down aspirin-disrupts the bacteria's ability to adhere to host tissue, reducing the threat of deadly infections. See

Protein Holds Promise As New Diabetes Drug Target
Scientists at the pharmaceutical company Hoffman-La Roche have discovered a chemical compound that activates the glucokinase enzyme and that could lead to a new medication for type 2 diabetes. See

Head size gives autism early warning
The brains of autistic children undergo an abnormal and dramatic growth spurt in the first year of their lives, finds a new study. See

New Approach To Gene Knockouts Reveals The 'Master Planners' Of The Skeleton
Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers are moving closer to understanding how the global pattern of the skeleton of mammals is formed during development. In an exceptionally demanding series of experiments, the researchers knocked out entire sets of two families of genes suspected in playing a central role in establishing the pattern of the skeleton in the mammalian embryo. See

UT Southwestern Researchers Define Regions Of Human Genes Highly Prone To Mutation
UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas researchers have taken the first step in defining the sites in human genes most prone to mutation, which eventually could lead to discovery of the genetic bases of many human diseases. See

Earth Science

Dinos Doomed Before Asteroid Strike? July 14, 2003 — The dinosaurs were probably heading for extinction even before an asteroid strike wiped them out 65 million years ago, New Zealand scientists said on Monday. "An unknown number of species may have been in sharp decline when the asteroid struck and the impact winter probably finished them off quite quickly," Hollis said in a statement. See

Learning from the Present: Fresh bones could provide insight into Earth's patchy fossil record. New field studies of unfossilized bones, as well as databases full of information about current fossil excavations and previous fossil finds, are providing insights into how complete--or incomplete--Earth's fossil record may be. See

South Aral Sea 'gone in 15 years'
A new study slashes its life expectancy by decades, and as it dries up it is wreaking havoc on the environment. See

Dust Deals Droughts, Deluges. Greenbelt - Jul 16, 2003 - Dust from the Sahara Desert in Africa may help modify clouds and rainfall both in Africa and across the tropical North Atlantic, as far away as Barbados, according to a study that uses 16 years of data from NASA satellites, ground measurements and computer models. See

New Discoveries In The Himalayan-Tibet Collision Zone. Las Cruces - Jul 16, 2003 - About 50 million years ago, India collided with Asia producing the high Himalayas and Tibetan plateau, a natural laboratory for studying continental collision. During the collision, the Indian lithosphere was dragged down beneath the southern edge of Asia, but how much it was extended beneath Tibet is highly debated. See


High-Intensity Exercise Best Way To Reduce Anxiety, University Of Missouri Study Finds
Recently, most experts have agreed that a moderate to low amount of regular exercise can ease personal tension and stress. However, a new study by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that a relatively high-intensity exercise is superior in reducing stress and anxiety that may lead to heart disease. Moreover, the researchers found that high-intensity exercise especially benefits women. See

Why do we dream? Ernest Hartmann, a professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine and the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Newton Wellesley Hospital in Boston, Mass., explains. See

Where's Poppa? Absent dads linked to early sexual activity by daughters. Long-term studies conducted in the United States and New Zealand indicate that girls are particularly likely to engage in sexual activity before age 16 and to get pregnant as teenagers if they grew up in families without a father present. See

Gene More Than Doubles Risk Of Depression Following Life Stresses
Among people who suffered multiple stressful life events over 5 years, 43 percent with one version of a gene developed depression, compared to only 17 percent with another version of the gene, say researchers funded, in part, by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). See


The Mystery Sea Creature is a Sperm Whale Carcass. July 14, 2003 — The mysterious remains of a gelatinous sea creature found washed up on a Chilean beach have turned out to be those of a sperm whale, according to news reports. See

Cute Clownfish Change Gender. July 11, 2003 — Children who rush out to buy a clownfish, the cute little star of the new Disney cartoon "Finding Nemo," may be getting something that their parents may not have bargained for: Buston found that if he removed the top-ranking female, the breeding male changed gender  and increased in size to become the female breeder. See