Thursday, January 24, 2002 to  Thursday, January 31, 2002
F r i d a y ,  F e b r u a r y  1,  2 0 0 2
F r i d a y ,  F e b r u a r y  8,  2 0 0 2
Saturday, February 9, 2002 to Thursday, February 14, 2002

CBS Interactive Special

A presentation on Organ Procurement Organizations (by state), charts and figures on organ waiting lists, organ transplant history, and a potential future source for human organ transplants - pigs:

(click for CBS Interactive Special)

Nigeria Blasts Toll Reaches 1,000
Saturday, February 2, 2002

Excerpts from article updating the death toll from an explosion in Lagos, Nigeria:

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The death toll from last weekend's disaster at an army weapons dump in Lagos has risen to more than 1,000, officials have said.

Most of the dead and missing are children who drowned in a canal during a stampede from the scene of a series of huge explosions on Sunday.

Nigeria's Home Affairs Commissioner Musiliu Obanikoro, speaking on the private Lagos radio station Rhythm on Saturday, said: "From everything I have seen, as more bodies have been found over the days, the number of people who are deceased is now over 1,000 people."

... The Nigerian Red Cross, which has reunited 1,800 children with their parents and is feeding 11,500 people displaced by the blasts, says 460 people remain unaccounted for.

The disaster is believed to have started when a fire erupted triggering a series of explosions that lasted for hours.

The blasts spread shells and flaming debris for kilometers around the army depot in the northern Ikeja neighborhood of Nigeria's crowded commercial capital. ...

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DNA Downloads Alone
Tuesday, February 5, 2002

Excerpts from article describing a key aspect of the manner in which precursors to life (as we know it) may have gotten their start around four billion years ago:

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Chemists have reproduced the basic process of information transfer central to all life without the catalysts that facilitate it in living cells.

Two million years ago life looked
like this. Four billion years ago
it was a different story.

They show that DNA alone can pass its message on to subsequent generations. Many researchers believe that DNA-like molecules acted thus to get life started about four billion years ago - before catalytic proteins existed to help DNA to replicate.

The experiment ... might create a new basis for the precise synthesis of useful polymer materials. It may even hasten the advent of synthetic biology: the creation of life from scratch. ...

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Myth Versus Miracle
Tuesday, February 5, 2002

The following article addresses the fundamental core nature of religion and a key question which all of faith would be well-served to tackle head on ...

"Does the truth matter and how can one distinguish faith from delusion, empty claims from manifested realities, over-zealous devotion (what many want to be true) from the actual nature of being (revelation of a world constrained and comprehensible solely within the boundaries of physics, not make believe)?" ...

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Was Juan Diego an Aztec to whom the Virgin Mary appeared almost 500 years ago? Or is he simply the leading character in a feel-good fairy tale?

Millions of Mexican Catholics and Pope John Paul II believe that Juan Diego was real, and pilgrims come from all over this country to visit, built near the site where the Virgin is believed to have appeared.

Hanging over the altar is Juan Diego's cloak, bearing an image of Mary said to have appeared miraculously. Thousands of people a day ride a moving walkway that passes below the cloak, the nation's most sacred religious relic.

Devotion to the Virgin, and to Juan Diego, is so fervent here that many pilgrims make the last part of the journey on their knees.

The basilica is the second most visited Catholic shrine in the world, with 20 million visitors last year, behind only St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

... A vocal minority of priests and church historians, including the former head priest of the Basilica of Guadalupe, has opened an emotional national debate here by publicly stating what some scholars have long believed: that there is no convincing historical record that Juan Diego ever existed.

They say he was probably fabricated by Spanish conquerors as a means of converting the country's native tribes to Catholicism.

"It's a story, like Cinderella was a story," said the Rev. Manuel Olimon Nolasco, one of seven men who signed four letters sent to the Vatican recently, asking John Paul to reconsider the decision to grant sainthood.

Olimon and the others argue that adding Juan Diego's name to the church's hallowed roster of saints might make millions of Catholics feel good, but that his candidacy does not meet the church's rigorous standard of documentation for those it canonizes.

... [Olimon says] Mexico's 90 million Catholics, and millions more Mexicans in the United States, are a powerful political force that the church wants to please.

"We are not asking that people stop their devotion," he said. "But we think the process should be made with history in mind. The truth is very important."

In Mexico, few are listening to those arguments. Many find the debate irrelevant: To them, Juan Diego exists not because historians say he does, but because generations of their families have been devoted to him. That is unlikely to change. ...

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Safer / More Productive Pregnancy?
Wednesday, February 6, 2002

Excerpts from articles describing data which indicates sexual intimacy (of various kinds) between partners enhances the chances of a successful pregnancy:

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Oral sex makes pregnancies safer and more successful - study

New research suggests oral sex may not only help a woman conceive but may make her pregnancy safer and more successful.

The Australian study found that semen contains a growth factor which helps persuade a mother's immune system to accept sperm.

It claims to have found evidence that regular exposure before pregnancy, especially by mouth, helps her immune system get used to her partner's sperm.

Disorders during pregnancy often stem from the battle between the immune system and the foetus as a 'foreign body'.

Many of its 'foreign' proteins come courtesy of the father's genes so if the mother is regularly exposed to them her body is more likely to accept them.

Professor Gustaaf Dekker, from the University of Adelaide, said: "If there's repeated exposure to that signal then eventually when the woman conceives, her cells will say, 'we know that guy, he's been around a long time, we'll allow the pregnancy to continue."

... Sex 'primes woman for sperm'

Regular sex with the same man may prime a woman's immune system not to reject his sperm when they try to conceive, scientists suggest. The theory could partly explain why humans have sex even when they aren't trying for a baby.

Even a year before conception, exposure to sperm, either through intercourse or other sex acts, can have protective effects against problems ranging from infertility to miscarriages and high blood pressure during pregnancy.

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When Mind Meets Machines
Thursday, February 7, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the current and future state of human-machine interaction known as bionics:

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Once the stuff of science fiction and 1970s television, the idea of engineering replacement parts for the human body is making its way toward reality. Scientists around the world are working on all kinds of bionic spare parts, including groundbreaking technologies that communicate in near-real time with the brain.

... While the next-generation techniques to restore vision, hearing, and mobility are at different stages of development, they all involve the same principle. If there is a defect in a part of the nervous system that converts outside information into electrical messages for the brain, or vice versa, then it should be possible to bypass the defect with technology that can do the translation.

... Research is under way to develop “brain-computer interfaces” that would allow individuals to control artificial or paralyzed limbs by thinking about moving them.

... Scientists have already demonstrated that it is possible to use electrodes to detect certain patterns of brain activity. A computer then recognizes these patterns as movement commands and directs a robotic arm to make simple movements, such as grasping.

It may be possible to produce more complex movements by decoding neural signals arriving at the limb, instead of those emerging from the brain.

... Certain preliminary technologies may someday lead to implants in the retina that provide partial vision to people with retinal disease.

... Results may come somewhat sooner in the field of auditory brain-stem implants, microelectrode arrays that directly stimulate an auditory processing center in the brain. ...

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Genetic Evidence: How Evolution Redesigns Bodies
Friday, February 8, 2002

Excerpts from articles describing the discovery of genetic evidence for significant alterations in body design:

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Biologists have uncovered important genetic evidence about how evolution redesigns animals.

It explains how large-scale changes to body plans can arise from very simple genetic mutations, or errors.

The scientists say these mutations occur in regulatory genes that control embryonic development.

They believe such "mistakes" would have caused crustaceans with limbs on every segment of their bodies to evolve 400 million years ago into a radically different shape: six-legged insects, and then into other types of animals.

... "How can evolution introduce big changes in an animal's body shape and still generate a living animal?

... "Until now, no one's been able to demonstrate how you could do that at the genetic level with specific instructions in the genome."

Writing in the journal Nature, the researchers show that this could be accomplished with relatively simple mutations in a class of regulatory genes, known as Hox. These act as master switches by turning on and off other genes during embryonic development. ...

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