News from England, India and Vatican City

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on December 13, 2011

ENGLAND – Police to test laser that ‘blinds rioters’

LONDON – A shoulder-mounted laser that emits a blinding wall of light capable of repelling rioters is to be [tested] by [British] police under preparations to prevent a repeat of this summer’s looting and arson [in London].

The technology, developed by a former [British] Royal Marine commando, temporarily impairs the vision of anyone who looks towards the source.

…The Home Office [similar to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security]…is testing a new range of devices because of the growing number of violent situations facing the police.

The developer, British-based Photonic Security Systems, hopes to offer the device to shipping companies to deter pirates. Similar devices have been used by [British] troops in Afghanistan to protect convoys from insurgents.

The laser, resembling a rifle and known as an SMU 100, can dazzle and incapacitate targets up to [more than one-quarter mile] away with a wall of light up to 10 feet squared. It costs $39,000 and has an infrared scope to spot looters in poor visibility.

Looking at the intense beam causes a short-lived effect similar to staring at the sun, forcing the target [person] to turn away.

“The system would give police an intimidating visual deterrent. If you can’t look at something you can’t attack it,” said Paul Kerr, the firm’s managing director, told [London’s] Sunday Times.

“If police spot someone trying to do something untoward, painting them with this would certainly make them think twice about it,” he said. He said it could also be deployed during hostage rescues.

The Home Office has been considering new forms of non-lethal equipment since the August riots, with the limited range of tasers and CS gas leaving a “capability gap”.

A Home Office spokesman said scientists at its Centre for Applied Science and Technology believe the use of lasers “has merit” and that it will be [tested] by at least one police force. However, they will have to be satisfied the technology does not cause long-term health damage before it can be approved by the Home Secretary. …..

INDIA – British-built Indian capital New Delhi marks 100th anniversary

NEW DELHI – New Delhi, the British-built capital of India, marked its 100th anniversary Monday in a series of low-key events which played down its colonial origins.

Vehicles drive past the Indian Gate monument in New Delhi

The capital’s chief minister had originally planned a series of landmark events, including the recreation of the ‘Coronation Park’ where [in 1911] King George V convened the ‘Delhi Durbar’ as King-Emperor of India and announced his decision to build a new capital to replace Calcutta. [NOTE: The Delhi Durbar (court) was a mass assembly at Coronation Park, Delhi, India, to mark the coronation of a King and Queen of the United Kingdom. It was held three times, in 1877, 1903, and 1911, at the height of the British Empire. The 1911 Durbar was the only one attended by the sovereign, who was George V.]

The 1911 Durbar brought together more than 200 of India’s princes, nawabs and mahajarahs, in an extraordinary demonstration of colonial pomp, complete with caparisoned elephants, model railways, and a city of tent palaces for the royal guests.

…The plans to recreate the original ground as a history park and museum to celebrate India’s links with the commonwealth and English-speaking nations were delayed and scaled back amid criticism by opponents who described it as a ‘celebration of slavery’. …..

‘Dilliwallahs’ are proud of their capital, including Sir Edwin Lutyens’ unique garden city and original ‘colonial’ bungalows. But while many of its leading figures had felt India had reached a point where it could be more relaxed about its colonial past, they underestimated the enduring sensitivity of empire.

O.P Jain, a leading conservationist and one of the leading advocates for recreating the Coronation Park, said it was important to mark the centenary of New Delhi, but it could not be ‘celebrated.’

“To call it the 100 years of New Delhi is OK but Delhi has been a capital all along. We’re not celebrating the slavery of our country. The coronation park was an important event in the history of Delhi and should be preserved, but it is not something which has to be celebrated. I feel everything is part of history, good and bad moments. It’s not a great memory because the wounds of 1857 [The Indian ‘Mutiny’ and its defeat by British-led forces] were still alive,” he said. …..

Pope: Yes to adult stem cells, no embryonic

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI [of the Roman Catholic Church] has reaffirmed his opposition to embryonic stem cell research, saying it’s morally wrong to destroy an embryo no matter how beneficial the resulting treatment is.

Benedict made the comments Saturday to participants of a Vatican conference on adult stem cells convened under an unusual new partnership between the Vatican’s culture office and a small U.S. biotech firm, NeoStem Inc.

Church teaching holds that life begins at conception. As a result, the Vatican opposes embryonic stem cell research because embryos are destroyed in the process. It supports research using adult stem cells.

Benedict said: “The destruction of even one human life can never be justified in terms of the benefit that it might conceivably bring to another.”

(The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at Telegraph.co.uk on Dec. 11th and Dec. 12th, and signonsandiego.com on Nov. 12th.)

 

Questions

1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
a) location/the countries that share its borders
b) the religious breakdown of the population
c) the type of government
d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch] e) the population

[Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to worldatlas.com for a list of continents.]

2. For England:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) List the uses for the SMU 100 (in addition to police using the technology to disperse rioters).
c) Do you support the idea of equipping U.S. law enforcement with this type of device to use on a rioting/looting crowd?  Explain your answer.

3. For India:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Read the information under “Background” below the questions. Then re-read the last two paragraphs of the news brief on India.  Do you agree with Mr. Jain?  Explain your answer.

4. For Vatican City:
a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
b) Read the information on adult stem cells vs. embryonic stem cells under “Background” below.  Were you aware that there were different types of stem cells being used in research with the goal of treating/curing diseases?  Why do you think you did or did not know this?  Explain your answer.
c) The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception.  When do you think life begins?  Explain your answer.


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Background

INDIA:

  • British Raj (rāj, lit. “reign” in Hindustani) was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion.
  • The region under British control, commonly called India in contemporary usage, included areas directly administered by the United Kingdom (contemporaneously, “British India”) as well as the princely states ruled by individual rulers under the paramountcy of the British Crown.
  • After 1876, the resulting political union was officially called the Indian Empire and issued passports under that name. As India, it was a founding member of the League of Nations, and a member nation of the Summer Olympics in 1900, 1920, 1928, 1932, and 1936.
  • In 1947, the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two sovereign dominion states, the Union of India (later the Republic of India) and the Dominion of Pakistan (later the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the eastern half of which, still later, became the People’s Republic of Bangladesh).
  • The eastern-most part of the Indian Empire became the separate colony of Burma in 1937, and this gained independence in 1948. (from wikipedia)

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VATICAN CITY:

Background on Adult Stem Cells vs. Embryonic Stem Cells:
(from pbs.org, a Newshour Extra report on the Stem Cell Research Debate by Lisa Prososki):

Stem cells are universal cells that have the ability to develop into specialized types of tissues that can then be used throughout the body to treat diseases or injuries.

 

[Embryonic] Stem Cell Research is a topic embroiled in much controversy. Scientists are hopeful that one day stem cells will be used to grow new organs such as kidneys or spinal cords as well as different types of tissues such as nerves, muscles, and blood vessels. The controversy sparked by the use of [embryonic] stem cells and research in this area comes from the fact that…these cells are taken from embryos that are just days old. As a result of this, the embryo, which is a developing human life, is destroyed. Many people feel it is immoral and unethical to destroy embryos for the sake of science. To further the debate, while these cells are easily cultured, replicate quickly, and have a relatively long life, embryonic stem cells have not yet been successfully used to provide any kind of therapy for humans and pose risks such as tumor growth and rejection by the body.

 

On the other side of the issue is the use of adult stem cells for research. Adult stem cells are available from a variety of sources including blood from the umbilical cord, the placenta, bone marrow, and even human fat. ….they may have some limitations in the type of tissues they are able to form. For many years, adult stem cells have been used to provide a number of different therapies to people with a relatively high rate of success. Recent research has shown that adult stem cells taken from one area of the body are able to regenerate and form tissues of a different kind. In addition to the proven therapies and research, the use of adult stem cells from a patient’s own body decreases the risk of rejection because the cells are not seen as foreign invaders.

 

All in all, many scientists believe that the use of adult stem cells should be the primary focus of stem cell research based on past success, lower chances of patient rejection, and the idea that adult stem cell research does not spark the moral, ethical, and political debate seen so frequently when the use of embryonic stem cells is considered.

 

ADULT STEM CELLS VS. EMBRYONIC STEM CELLS.
(from njfpc.org/Articles/AdultStem.asp)

  • Adult stem cell research has been on-going for 20-30 years, is not under any government restriction, and does not require the destruction of human life. These stem cells have already been used to treat spinal cord injuries, Leukemia, and even Parkinson’s disease . Adult stem cells are derived from umbilical cords, placentas, amniotic fluid, various tissues and organ systems like skin and the liver, and even fat obtained from liposuction.
  • In contrast, embryonic stem cells are obtained by harvesting living embryos generally 5 to 7 days old, which are destroyed in the process. Most importantly, embryonic stem cells have never yet been successfully used to help cure disease. In fact, in animals they have caused tumors and other complications. Embryonic stem cells are also being touted by some as a possible treatment for repairing the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, but stem cell researchers confess that this is a distortion that is not being aggressively corrected by scientists.
  • A new poll, conducted by International Communications Research, reveals that once Americans understand the difference between adult and embryonic stem cells, Americans strongly prefer funding adult stem cell research that does not destroy human life, by a margin of 61% to 23%. So, what is driving the biotech industry and many government officials to press for government money to subsidize embryonic stem cell research? Free money, and research without ethical limitations.
  • Private industry has not been willing to put up any large sums of money on their own for embryonic stem cell research, because they are not sure it will yield the results they hope for. However, some drugmakers are getting into the field of research utilizing adult stem cells from umbilical cord blood and bone marrow. Investors are now taking notice that adult cells are actually working with human patients, and researchers are finding that these cells appear to be as flexible as the embryonic type.

Resources

ENGLAND: Watch a video about the SMU 100 below: