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 on Dec. 11th and Dec. 12th, and on Nov. 12th.)






Background on Adult Stem Cells vs. Embryonic Stem Cells:
(from, 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.