Can Atheists Be Parents?

From a 1970 issue of Time Magazine.

John Burke, an atheist, and his wife, a pantheist, had left the line blank. As a result, the bureau denied the Burkes’ application. After the couple began court action, however, the bureau changed its regulations, and the couple was able to adopt a baby boy from the Children’s Aid and Adoption Society in East Orange.

Last year the Burkes presented their adopted son, David, now 31, with a baby sister, Eleanor Katherine, now 17 months, whom they acquired from the same East Orange agency. Since the agency endorsed the adoption, the required final approval by a judge was expected to be pro forma. Instead, Superior Court Judge William Camarata raised the religious issue.

Inestimable Privilege. In an extraordinary decision, Judge Camarata denied the Burkes’ right to the child because of their lack of belief in a Supreme Being. Despite the Burkes’ “high moral and ethical standards,” he said, the New Jersey state constitution declares that “no person shall be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshiping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience.” Despite Eleanor Katherine’s tender years, he continued, “the child should have the freedom to worship as she sees fit, and not be influenced by prospective parents who do not believe in a Supreme Being.”

(And the resulting SCOTUS decision from 1971)

(via Reddit)

Operation Moolah


There are virtually hundreds of cases where warring nations have made cash offers to the enemy. Sometimes the money is for defections or weapons. Other times it is for aid to friendly personnel or to purchase loyalty to a friendly government. We are going to discuss one of the most amazing of the reward campaigns, the attempt to steal a combat-ready Russian MiG-15 Fighter for one hundred thousand dollars. This entire operation is a mystery. There is still a great deal of doubt about who first conceived the idea of stealing a Russian Fighter plane. To make it even more interesting, there is some doubt as to whether anyone ever really expected to get an aircraft.

Why did the United Nations need to study a MiG-15? The Soviets designed the new fighter just after WWII. It was a high-altitude day interceptor able to operate from rough strips, reach almost Mach 1, be maneuverable at high altitude, armed with cannons, and had the ability to stay in the air for over 1 hour. The Soviets powered it with a British Rolls-Royce jet engine. It had serious shortcomings in handling. The high T-shaped tail obscured the rear and could injure a pilot ejecting from the aircraft, and the canopy fogged up during rapid dives. Still, its performance was superior to that of any Western fighter. The MiG-15 totally outclassed the American P-51 Mustangs, F-80 Shooting Stars, and the F-84 Thunder jets. The Americans had to wait until December 1950 for the arrival of the swept-wing F-86 Sabre-jet. Even then the MiG-15 climbed and dived faster, and was every bit as maneuverable.

The name of this mysterious plot is Operation Moolah, the Korean War effort to entice a Communist pilot to fly a MiG-15 fighter to an allied airfield for a reward of $100,000.

HeLa Cell

From Wikipedia:

A HeLa cell (also Hela or hela cell) is an immortal cell line used in medical research. The cell line was derived from cervical cancer cells taken from Henrietta Lacks, who died from her cancer in 1951.

The cells were propagated by George Otto Gey without Lacks’ knowledge or permission and later commercialized, although never patented in their original form. There was then, as now, no requirement to inform a patient, or their relatives, about such matters because discarded material, or material obtained during surgery, diagnosis or therapy was the property of the physician and/or medical institution. This issue and Ms. Lacks’ situation was brought up in the Supreme Court of California case of John Moore v. the Regents of the University of California. The court ruled that a person’s discarded tissue and cells are not their property and can be commercialized.

Initially, the cell line was said to be named after a “Helen Lane” or “Helen Larson”, in order to preserve Lacks’s anonymity. Despite this attempt, her real name was used by the press within a few years of her death. These cells are treated as cancer cells, as they are descended from a biopsy taken from a visible lesion on the cervix as part of Ms. Lacks’ diagnosis of cancer. A debate still continues on the classification of the cells.

HeLa cells are termed “immortal” in that they can divide an unlimited number of times in a laboratory cell culture plate as long as fundamental cell survival conditions are met (i.e. being maintained and sustained in a suitable environment). There are many strains of HeLa cells as they continue to evolve by being grown in cell cultures, but all HeLa cells are descended from the same tumor cells removed from Ms. Lacks. It has been estimated that the total number of HeLa cells that have been propagated in cell culture far exceeds the number of cells in Henrietta Lacks’ body.

Timeline of the Great Depression

From 1920 to 1945. I’ll post the highlights from 1930:


* By February, the Federal Reserve has cut the prime interest rate from 6 to 4 percent. Expands the money supply with a major purchase of U.S. securities. However, for the next year and a half, the Fed will add very little money to the shrinking economy. (At no time will it actually pull money out of the system.) Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon announces that the Fed will stand by as the market works itself out: “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate real estate… values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up the wreck from less-competent people.” (More)

* The Smoot-Hawley Tariff passes on June 17. With imports forming only 6 percent of the GNP, the 40 percent tariffs work out to an effective tax of only 2.4 percent per citizen. Even this is compensated for by the fact that American businesses are no longer investing in Europe, but keeping their money stateside. The consensus of modern economists is that the tariff made only a minor contribution to the Great Depression in the U.S., but a major one in Europe. (More)

* The first bank panic occurs later this year; a public run on banks results in a wave of bankruptcies. Bank failures and deposit losses are responsible for the contracting money supply.

* Supreme Court rules that the monopoly U.S. Steel does not violate anti-trust laws as long as competition exists, no matter how negligible.

* Democrats gain in Congressional elections, but still do not have a majority.

* The GNP falls 9.4 percent from the year before. The unemployment rate climbs from 3.2 to 8.7 percent.

Blame Atheists

This would be a perfectly sane letter to the Salt Lake Tribune if it wasn’t for the blatant insanity:

In his Dec. 27 letter, Steven Fehr says he believes President Bush is the worst president he has seen. Whenever I hear someone complain about the president, I ask them, “Do you pray for the president of the United States daily?” Is that too much trouble?

There used to be a custom of praying for our president. Perhaps too many people in the United States believe this would be mixing politics and religion. If the majority of the people are agnostic and atheistic, it may be that they are partly to blame for the problems we have. To think one man is responsible for the war and the problems we face in our nation is about as foolish as to not believe in the power of prayer.

(via J-Walk)