Cloning doctors reveal plans, insult everyone
Tuesday's National Academy of Sciences panel discussion on cloning devolved into a chaotic circus when a team ready to clone humans defended its plans. It got worse when one scientist called the Pope a criminal.

The Washington, D.C., panel (video) was held in hopes of gathering information in order to aid decisions on a United States moratorium on human cloning. The U.S. House of Representatives voted last week to outlaw the experimentation.

But Italian doctor Severino Antinori and Panos Zavos, a Kentucky fertility specialist, plan to work outside U.S. jurisdiction in order to clone humans by the end of the year.

Brigitte Boisselier, a scientific director of Clonaid, joined the doctors onstage. She claims cloning is a way to find "eternal life." She also believes in the Raelian Movement, which claims extraterrestrial scientists started life on Earth. Boisselier hinted that she may already be doing human cloning experiments.

The conference heated up as outraged scientists condemned the two doctors, saying animal cloning has resulted in too many abnormalities. The consensus among attendees was that animal cloning will be perfected, but at this point it would not be responsible, ethical, or effective to try on humans.

Antinori outlined the team's cloning plan (essentially the same technique that produced Dolly the sheep), saying they would guard against abnormalities. The team will use a screening process on cloned embryo cells looking for possible problems. Only normal embryos would be implanted into a volunteer and then closely monitored. The team will select 200 women and implant 10 embryos in each—possibly by November. Panos claimed the team had privileged information on the procedure that it could not give out.

Rudolf Jaenisch, a biologist and animal cloning pioneer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Whitehead Institute, said what the team has in mind was "not good science." He said 1 to 5 percent of cloned animals make it to birth and some of those will die early on.

After his presentation, Antinori held an impromptu press conference and he called those who have attempted cloning in the past "veterinarians" who conducted "scientific manipulation." He went on to call President Bush and the Pope criminals. His justification is unclear.

The Telegraph quoted Antinori as saying, "The Pope is screaming at me. He wants to avoid the condom and IVF. Nobody announced the criminal when President Bush met in Rome the Pope. Vatican is behind the Bush, Vatican is criminal."

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Diplomats rush to Afghanistan as 'evidence' mounts
Afghan Taliban leaders addressed the media on Tuesday armed with Bibles and computer disks that they say prove aid workers in Kabul were converting Muslims to Christianity.

On August 5, authorities shut down an aid agency and arrested its 24-person staff on charges of promoting Christianity. Sixteen are Afghan, four German, two Australian, and two American.

In midst of the allegations, the German-based agency, Shelter Now International (also known as Shelter Germany), has denied the staff did anything of the sort. A spokesman has said Shelter Now is only an aid program and not a Christian organization.

In addition to a Dari version of the Bible and a computerized story of Jesus, Taliban's deputy minister for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice showed reporters a handwritten "confession" from a prisoner and a book on Christianity, Reuters reported.

Today, diplomats from Australia, the United States, and Germany are hoping to travel together to Afghanistan to see the eight foreign detainees. They have not been seen since their arrest. According to Reuters, all three nations have agreed to work together for access and will try for a flight today, but visas may not be available in time. Taliban officials have not responded to notification of the visit.

In the crackdown on the Kabul office, 59 children who were there for schooling have been sent to a separate facility, Reuters reported, where they "would remain until all traces of Christianity were removed."

Afghan authorities say they are holding the workers until the investigation is completed and they will face Shari'ah law, which dictates a punishment of death for conversion of Muslims.

The Catholic Church backs molestation bill
The New York Times
reports today that the Roman Catholic Church has announced its support for a bill that will "add priests and other members of the clergy to the list of people who must report suspected child sexual abuse to the authorities."

The bill is currently in the Massachusetts Legislature. The Associated Press reports this is a critical endorsement. According to the Times:

The move came after the disclosure that Cardinal Bernard F. Law had transferred a priest accused of child molestation to other parishes, where the priest was charged with molesting dozens more.

Lawmakers described the announcement as a significant change that would increase the chance for passage of the bill, which still exempts priests if they learn in the confessional about incidents of child abuse. The Archdiocese of Boston had earlier opposed the bill, saying it would violate the confidentiality between priest and parishioner.
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Old warnings still needed
According to the Associated Press, Deborah Bortner, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), has "seen more money stolen in the name of God than in any other way."

In a statement released this week she said investors must use caution because of "proliferating and increasingly sophisticated investment schemes that play on religious loyalties." According to Reuters:

Classified by regulators as "affinity fraud," the process involves using someone's religion to gain their trust and, ultimately, their money.

Over the past three years, officials in 27 states have taken legal action against hundreds of companies and individuals that used religious or spiritual beliefs to gain the trust of more than 90,000 investors across the nation before taking their money, NASAA said.

The warning is timed to coincide with the sentencing of Gerald Payne, who was convicted in relation to the $448 million Ponzi scheme of Greater Ministries International Church in Tampa, Florida. A Ponzi scheme is built so that investments from new members go to pay off previous investors. On Aug. 6, he received 27 years in prison on fraud charges.

Bortner's warning also cited the case of the Baptist Foundation of Arizona, in which approximately 13,000 people invested $590 million before it declared bankruptcy. Arizona regulators shut down the foundation and three officials confessed in May to defrauding investors.

Christianity Today warned readers of these "Christian" scams in 1998:

Two factors lie at the heart of all these tragedies: first is the level of trust we Christians exercise as we deal with one another. … While we need to trust each other in our congregational lives, a dose of skepticism is always warranted whenever anyone stands to profit from our trust.

The second factor is the enticing promise of something for nothing, or at least something big for something little. … But in investments as in gambling, those who are foolish in small things often get caught being foolish in big things. Contentment is the cure for the gotta-have-it itch. Saint Paul preached contentment in material things (1 Tim. 6:8) and Jesus preached trust in Divine providence for what we eat and what we wear (Matt: 625f).
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