Nobel Peace laureates demand end to sexual violence in war
By JIM HEINTZ, CARLEY PETESCH and MARK LEWIS
Saturday, October 6
OSLO, Norway (AP) — Raped after being forced into sexual slavery by the Islamic State group, Nadia Murad did not succumb to shame or despair — the young Iraqi woman spoke out. Surgeon Denis Mukwege treated countless victims of sexual violence in war-torn Congo and told the world of their suffering. Together, they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their campaigns to end rape and sexual abuse as weapons of war.
The award “is partly to highlight the awareness of sexual violence. But the further purpose of this is that nations take responsibility, that communities take responsibility and that the international community take responsibility,” said Berit Reiss-Andersen, chairwoman of the committee, which bestowed the $1.01-million prize.
“Dear survivors from all over the world, I would like to tell you that, through this Nobel Prize, the world is listening to you and refusing indifference,” Mukwege, 63, told a news conference outside the hospital he founded in Bukavu in eastern Congo, where he has treated tens of thousands of victims — among them “women, teenage girls, small girls, babies,” he said Friday.
“The world refuses to remain idle with arms crossed facing your suffering. We hope that the world will not put off acting with force and determination in your favor because the survival of humanity depends on you,” Mukwege said.
Murad, 25, was one of an estimated 3,000 girls and women from Iraq’s Yazidi minority group who were kidnapped in 2014 by IS militants and sold into sexual slavery. She was raped, beaten and tortured before managing to escape three months later. After getting treatment in Germany, she chose to speak to the world about the horrors faced by Yazidi women, regardless of the stigma in her culture surrounding rape.
In 2016 she was named the United Nations’ first Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking, and her advocacy helped spur a U.N. investigation that is collecting evidence of war crimes by Islamic State extremists.
In a statement, Murad said she was “incredibly honored” by the prize.
“As a survivor, I am grateful for this opportunity to draw international attention to the plight of the Yazidi people who have suffered unimaginable crimes since the genocide” by IS, she said. “Many Yazidis will look upon this prize and think of family members that were lost, are still unaccounted for, and of the 1,300 women and children, which remain in captivity.”
This year’s peace prize comes amid heightened global attention to the sexual abuse of women — in war, in the workplace and in society — that has been highlighted by the #MeToo movement.
“#MeToo and war crimes are not quite the same thing, but they do, however, have in common that it is important to see the suffering of women,” said Reiss-Andersen of the Nobel committee.
In the United States, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also noted that the award comes amid a global reckoning over sexual violence. She tweeted a link to the Nobel announcement, saying “the timing of this topic is extraordinary as we fight for the end of #ViolenceAgainstWomen.”
Many of the women treated by Mukwege were victims of mass rape in the central African nation that has been wracked by conflict for decades. He faced great personal risk in doing so: Armed men tried to kill him in 2012, forcing him to temporarily leave the country.
Solange Furaha Lwashiga, a Congolese women’s activist, noted the surgeon’s work repairing not only the physical damage but also the mental scars suffered by the victims, empowering them. “Dr. Mukwege brings smiles and helps repair women from the barbaric acts of men in Congo,” she said.
Mukwege was in surgery — his second operation of the day — when the peace prize announcement came, and he learned about it from patients and colleagues who were crying with joy.
Mobile phone footage showed a smiling Mukwege jostled by dancing, ululating medical colleagues in scrubs in the hospital’s courtyard.
Eastern Congo has seen more than two decades of conflict among armed groups that either sought to unseat presidents or simply grab control of some the central African nation’s vast mineral wealth.
“The importance of Dr. Mukwege’s enduring, dedicated and selfless efforts in this field cannot be overstated. He has repeatedly condemned impunity for mass rape and criticized the Congolese government and other countries for not doing enough to stop the use of sexual violence against women as a strategy and weapon of war,” the Nobel committee said .
Murad’s book, “The Last Girl,” tells of her captivity, the loss of her family and her eventual escape.
The Yazidis are an ancient religious minority, falsely branded as devil-worshippers by Sunni Muslim extremists. IS, adopting a radical interpretation of ancient Islamic texts, declared that Yazidi women and even young girls could be taken as sex slaves.
Iraqi President Bahram Saleh praised the award for Murad, saying on Twitter that it was an “honor for all Iraqis who fought terrorism and bigotry.”
Congo’s government congratulated Mukwege, while acknowledging that relations with him have been strained because of his criticism of the government.
In a statement, President Joseph Kabila’s special representative said: “We are proud that the fight and initiatives led by (Democratic Republic of Congo) through Dr. Mukwege, for the re-establishment of the dignity and the respect of women is finally recognized internationally.”
In other Nobel prizes this year, the medicine prize went Monday to James Allison of the University of Texas and Tasuku Honjo of Kyoto University, whose discoveries helped cancer doctors fight many advanced-stage tumors and save an “untold” numbers of lives.
Scientists from the United States, Canada and France shared the physics prize Tuesday for revolutionizing the use of lasers in research.
On Wednesday, three researchers who “harnessed the power of evolution” to produce enzymes and antibodies that have led to a new best-selling drug won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
The winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, honoring Alfred Nobel, the founder of the five Nobel Prizes, will be revealed on Monday.
No Nobel literature prize was awarded this year due to a sex abuse scandal at the Swedish Academy, which chooses the winner. The academy plans to announce both the 2018 and the 2019 winners next year — although the head of the Nobel Foundation has said the body must fix its tarnished reputation first.
The man at the center of the Swedish Academy scandal, Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden, was sentenced Monday to two years in prison for rape.
Heintz reported from Moscow and Petesch from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writers Cara Anna in Johannesburg, Dave Bryan in Cairo, Bassem Mroue in Beirut, David Keyton in Stockholm, Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations and Saleh Mwanamilongo in Kinshasa, Congo, contributed to this report.
Manchin scorched from both sides after Kavanaugh vote
By STEVE PEOPLES
Monday, October 8
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Danielle Walker cried on Joe Manchin’s shoulder after she shared her story of sexual assault in the senator’s office. She thought he listened.
The 42-year-old Morgantown woman said she was both devastated and furious when Manchin became the only Democrat in the U.S. Senate to support President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
“I feel raped all over again,” Walker told The Associated Press.
A day after Manchin broke with his party on what may be the most consequential vote of the Trump era, the vulnerable Democrat is facing a political firestorm back home. While Republicans — including one of the president’s sons — are on the attack, the most passionate criticism is coming from Manchin’s very own Democratic base, a small but significant portion of the electorate he needs to turn out in force to win re-election next month. A Manchin loss would put his party’s hopes of regaining control of the Senate virtually out of reach.
Walker, a first-time Democratic candidate for the state legislature, said she may not vote at all in the state’s high-stakes Senate election. Julia Hamilton, a 30-year-old educator who serves on the executive committee of the Monongalia County Democratic Party, vowed to sit out the Senate race as well.
“At some point you have to draw a line,” Hamilton said. “I have heard from many, many people — especially women. They won’t be voting for Manchin either.”
Manchin defended his vote in a Sunday interview as being based on fact, not emotion. He praised the women who shared their stories of sexual trauma, Walker among them, but said he “could not find any type of link or connection” that Kavanaugh was a rapist.
The woman who testified to the Senate about Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford, accused him of sexual assault but not rape when they were high school students more than 30 years ago. Two other women stepped forward late in the confirmation process to accuse the appeals court judge of sexual misconduct in high school or college. Their stories resonated with women who had suffered sexual trauma and fueled opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
“They weren’t going to be satisfied, or their healing process, until we convicted this person,” Manchin told The Associated Press. “I couldn’t do it. You talk about two wrongs trying to make a right. It just wasn’t in my heart and soul to do that.”
Manchin insisted over and over that his vote wasn’t based on politics.
There is little doubt, however, that his vote was in line with the wishes of many West Virginia voters, who gave Trump a victory in 2016 by 42 percentage points. There simply aren’t enough Democrats in the state to re-elect Manchin. He needs a significant chunk of Trump’s base to win.
One West Virginia Trump supporter, 74-year-old Linda Ferguson, explained the politics bluntly as she watched the parade at Saturday’s Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins.
“If he didn’t vote for Kavanaugh he could have kissed his seat goodbye,” Ferguson said.
While he may have represented the majority of his state, Manchin’s political challenges are far from over.
The clash over Kavanaugh, who was confirmed by the Senate on Saturday, has injected new energy into each party’s political base. While that may help Democrats in their fight for the House majority, which is largely taking place in America’s suburbs, there are signs it’s hurting vulnerable Democrats in rural Republican-leaning states like North Dakota, Missouri and West Virginia. Phil Bredesen, who said he would have voted for Kavanaugh, could also face new challenges in his bid to flip Tennessee’s Senate seat to the Democratic column.
For much of the year, Manchin has held a significant lead in public and private polls over his Republican opponent, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Yet Republican operatives familiar with the race report a definite tightening over the last week.
In an interview, Morrisey called Democrats’ fight against Kavanaugh a “three-ring circus” that “energized a lot of people in West Virginia.”
He acknowledged that Manchin voted the right way for the state, but called the vote “irrelevant” because another swing vote, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, had already given Kavanaugh the final vote he needed.
“He waited until the last possible minute after Susan Collins declared for him to take a position, effectively allowing Maine to decide how West Virginia’s going to decide,” Morrisey charged. “We shouldn’t reward that kind of cowardice.”
Echoing the attack, Donald Trump Jr., mockingly called Manchin “a real profile in courage” on Twitter.
When asked about the social media jab, the West Virginia senator slapped away the insult from the younger Trump.
Donald Trump Jr. is “entitled to his opinion, he’s just not entitled to his own facts to justify what he’s saying. He doesn’t really know anything,” Manchin told the AP.
The Democrat conceded that he followed Collins’ lead out of “respect” — he didn’t want to get in the way of her high-profile Friday afternoon announcement on the Senate floor.
“Nothing would have changed my vote,” Manchin declared. “Susan took the lead, Susan did the due diligence. … She’s going to give her speech and I’m not going to jump in front of 3 o’clock. I’m just not going to do it.”
That wasn’t good enough for Tammy Means, a 57-year-old florist from Charleston, who was among thousands tailgating outside West Virginia University’s football stadium in Morgantown on Saturday.
Means, a registered Democrat who voted for Trump, said she also voted for Manchin in the past.
“I’m not going to anymore. Nope,” she said with a laugh as she sipped a Smirnoff Ice. She’s glad Manchin voted for Kavanaugh, but said, “He’s just doing it so he can get elected.”
Across the parking lot, 63-year-old John Vdovjac said he was deeply disappointed by Manchin’s vote. Still, the Democrat said he’d probably vote for Manchin this fall.
“I recognize the position he’s in because the state’s heavily Republican now,” said Vdovjac, a retired educator from Wheeling, as he helped grill hotdogs and hamburgers. “But he’s lost my loyalty.
Manchin knows he needs to explain his vote to his constituents, although he didn’t have any public events scheduled this weekend. Before and after the AP interview, conducted at Charleston’s International House of Pancakes, he told everyone who would listen — including his waitress — that his Kavanaugh vote was not based on emotion.
“I made my decision based on facts,” the senator told Kevin Estep, a 57-year-old registered Democrat and Trump voter who was eating buttered pancakes with his family.
“You hang in there and vote your heart,” Estep, who lives in nearby St. Albans, told the senator.
After Manchin left the building, Estep warned that the #MeToo movement “is like a dam that’s about to break open.”
Asked whether he’d support Manchin this fall, he responded, “Always.”
Could villains clone themselves to take over the world?
October 8, 2018
Professor of Biological Sciences, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Ph.D. Student in Plant Biology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Hua Lu receives funding from National Science Foundation.
Jessica Allison works for Dr. Hua Lu.
University of Maryland, Baltimore County provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
If asked about clones, most people think of evil sci-fi characters. However, in real life, the word “clone” often has broader, far more positive applications. Just as office workers replicate documents by using copy machines, scientists like us who study plant disease use the biological equivalent of a copier to clone genes, cells, and tissues, as well as entire organisms.
The most common type of cloning done in the lab is gene replication. Each gene is a segment of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acids) that is made up of pairs of chemicals called bases. These base pairs form DNA’s iconic double helix. Depending on the species, the whole genome could have anywhere from few thousands to billions of base pairs that make up just a few to tens of thousands of genes. The human genome alone has 3 billion base pairs that make up about 30,000 genes.
Genes code for traits such as eye color and height, as well as crucial features like the development of the heart and the five senses. Some genes can even predispose people toward certain diseases or personalities.
In order to unlock the secrets of life hidden in DNA, scientists are examining how individual genes function. To do so, they first copy a section of DNA that contains the gene of interest. Copying, or cloning, is often done via a biochemical reaction called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, that mimics natural DNA replication. Once copied, the gene of interest can also be inserted to a plasmid (a ring of DNA) which is taken up by the simple bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli).
When the E. coli replicates, the plasmids are also replicated, generating exponential copies of the gene. Gene cloning helps scientists reveal the sequence of DNA in a gene that encodes a trait. This ultimately enables them to manipulate the trait in an organism by modifying the gene – for example, changing its expression level and/or changing its sequence. Through these manipulations, scientists can figure out what the gene does and how it works. In some cases, such information can lead to earlier detection and better treatments of debilitating medical conditions and diseases.
Cloning cells, tissues and organisms
Similarly, scientists can clone whole cells and tissues by providing the right nutrients and environment. Done carefully, cell cloning is used to replace dead cells in hospital patients. For replacement of larger body regions, tissue cloning is vital.
Some organisms can even regrow whole parts of their bodies in response to organ loss; for example, lizards can regrow their tails and planarians (a type of flatworm) can replace their own heads. For some plants, in vitro culture has been routinely used to generate many copies of certain organs: for example, hairy roots or multiple shoots, without the presence of the whole plant body.
However, the cloning of animal organs is not so easy for human researchers to accomplish. Organ cloning is not just simply putting the correct types of cells together to make tissues and then the tissues together to make an organ. To make a functional organ, such as a heart that can beat, one needs to go back to the beginning of heart development and find a heart progenitor cell. Then this cell is somehow to be tricked to go through the steps for heart development in the absence of the context of the whole body and eventually grow to be the heart. How we can achieve this is still a mystery. Scientists are working hard, but only the future will tell if we can accomplish human organ cloning at a level that would revolutionize successful organ transplants and replacements.
All of this, however, pales in comparison to the cloning of a whole multicellular organism. Cloning an organism produces an exact genetic replica without requiring sexual reproduction. Plants are undoubtedly the champions in this respect; some plants can simply regrow from cuttings or grow a clone from parts of their bodies.
But animal cloning has encountered several obstacles. This process currently involves transferring a nucleus (DNA) from a donor adult cell to an egg cell that has had its nucleus (DNA) removed. This chimeric cell is then stimulated to become embryonic or pluripotent, meaning it can divide and differentiate into other types of cells and eventually form an embryo. Although this might appear simple, this is the most challenging step of cloning an organism.
Once the embryo is obtained, the next step is quite straightforward; the embryo is implanted into a female’s womb and the clone will continue to develop. This implantation step is commonly done in humans as part of the process of in vitro fertilization. Babies produced through in vitro fertilization carry one set of DNA from the father (sperm donor) and another set from the mother (egg donor). However, clones will have the same chromosomal DNA as the initial adult cell that donates its nucleus (DNA). Because of the difficulties associated with the cloning process, few experts in the world have successfully cloned animals. Additionally, some of the cloned animals exhibit health problems or reduced lifespans. Despite this, the list of cloned animals continues to grow, including sheep, cows, oxen, cats, dogs, deer, horses, mules, rabbits and rats.
With cloning of whole organisms a reality (though currently not feasible for widespread use), you may wonder if one day, an evil villain would be able to make thousands of copies of him or herself. Would that evil villain then take over the world?
The answer to this question has many layers.
Let’s consider the individual clones. Since they are humans, the clones will not simply respond to commands like robots or be puppet-like extensions of the original villain. As with identical twins, the clones may share predispositions, but their personalities will not be the same. Since so much of personality and behavior is influenced by the environment, the clones may even grow to oppose the villain! And, while the villain may not care, there are ethical issues involved with human cloning. Would society accept the act of cloning? Would clones be given the full rights of natural-born humans? How would it affect families if they decided to clone deceased loved ones?
Even amid these questions, organismal cloning has tremendous applications for society. It helps us to save species around the world from endangerment and extinction, although it doesn’t generate the genetic diversity required to maintain a healthy population. It is also an important tool to study diseases and to replicate individual organisms with important or rare characteristics that could be lost through breeding, such as cows with high milk production or animals that can make valuable medicinal compounds.
Although both promising and exciting, the road of cloning entire organisms is filled with ethical pitfalls and scientific conundrums; perhaps as a society, we are not ready to deal with the evil villains and their clones just yet.