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The Halakhic and Moral Challenges of Gene Editing

Jan. 16 2018

In recent years, scientists have developed a technology known as CRISPR, which allows for the manipulation of an organism’s genetic code. Medical researchers have already experimented with using CRISPR to treat diseases, and it promises to yield many breakthroughs in the coming years. If applied to what are known as germ cells, this technology could also be used to halt the transmission of heritable diseases, create “designer babies,” or even engineer children of abnormal height, strength, and so forth. J. David Bleich, a rabbi and halakhic authority, Edwards Burns, the dean of Einstein Medical School, and Neville Sanjana, a cancer researcher, discuss the ethical implications of gene editing, touching on such questions as whether Judaism has a conception of natural law and if there is, indeed, anything immoral about playing God. (Audio, 75 minutes.)

Read more at YU Torah

More about: Bioethics, Genetics, Halakhah, Medicine, Religion & Holidays

 

The Trump Administration Has Said the Right Things about Syria, but Words Are Not Enough

Jan. 30 2018

While praising the White House for recognizing that Iran poses a major threat to American interests in Syria, Jennifer Cafarella argues that Washington still needs a strategy for countering the Islamic Republic and its allies:

The Trump White House identifies Iran as a primary threat. It has verbally committed to the departure from power of Bashar al-Assad. It claims to prioritize repairing relations with Turkey, seeks to destroy al-Qaeda, and wants to refocus the U.S. on Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe. These are the correct goals toward which American policy should strive. . . . The problem is that the strategy Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has outlined [in a January 17 speech] will not accomplish these goals. . . .

American policy in Syria, regardless of any tough administration statements, is to accept Assad and his regime de-facto. . . . The “de-escalation” agreement that President Trump signed in November 2017 with Russia is a surrender not only to Russia, but also to Iran. It heavily favors Assad. In that deal, Russia promised to compel Iran to withdraw its forces from southern Syria. It never happened. Pro-regime forces violate the de-escalation zone with impunity. . . .

Tillerson uses vague terms like “deny their dreams” to describe our strategy against Iran in Syria. He identifies no clear goal against which the U.S. can measure success. He states that the U.S. must deliver an “enduring defeat” to al-Qaeda—and we certainly must. Yet the U.S. Defense Department has offered no vision of how to do that. The strategy Tillerson outlines—and that the U.S. is pursuing—amounts to outsourcing the problem to Turkey, which is actually working with al-Qaeda in Syria. . . .

Two administrations have sought to substitute rhetoric for action and to outsource American interests to local partners. The U.S. must abandon this approach and recognize Syria’s importance to American security.

Read more at Fox News

More about: Al Qaeda, Donald Trump, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy