August 30th, 2010
11:18 AM ET

Monday's intriguing people

Francis Collins

The director of the National Institutes of Health - an evangelical Christian - told The New Yorker he was stunned by a federal judge's decision last week to halt federal funding for research on embryonic stem cells.

In a profile released Monday, author Peter Boyer writes that Collins has been able to balance science and faith.

His appointment to the job by President Obama had worried some scientists, already concerned by what one called the "theocracy" of the George W. Bush presidency.

"A year later, Obama's appointment of Collins seemed an inspired choice," Boyer writes. "The President had found not only a man who reflected his own view of the harmony between science and faith but an evangelical Christian who hoped that the government’s expansion of embryonic-stem-cell research might bring the culture war over science to a quiet end."
The court order last week changed that. Collins, who also helped map the human genome, spent part of last week calling researchers around the country, telling some of them their projects would have to shut down, Boyer reports.

The order goes beyond politics, Collins told Boyer.

"Patients and their families are counting on us to do everything in our power, ethically and responsibly, to learn how to transform these cells into entirely new therapies," he explained. "It's time to accelerate human-embryonic-stem-cell research, not throw on the brakes."

The New Yorker: The covenant

Natasha Trethewey

The writer, who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, is gaining praise for a critically acclaimed memoir she's just released. "Beyond Katrina: A Meditation of the Mississippi Gulf Coast" is an ode to North Gulfport, Mississippi, where Trethewey's family has lived for three generations. The area is considered one of the most blighted regions along the Mississippi coast, the author said in an essay released last week in The New York Times.

North Gulfport is a city filled with "For Sale" signs, condemned structures, weed-filled lots, and a few neat houses "hunkered against the neighborhood's demise," Trethewey wrote.

While she has now relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where she is a professor at Emory University, her brother Joe and cousin Tammy remain in the area.

Joe tends to the yard outside their grandmother's home, Trethewey wrote, because he cannot afford to fix up the house that is falling in on itself. Blue hydrangeas bloom, thanks to Joe's care. Such a façade keeps the city from condemning the building, she explained, and helps Joe hold onto a piece of the pre-Katrina past.

"Before Katrina, change was natural," Trethewey wrote. "In the post-Katrina landscape, all change is haunted by the devastation of the storm, and thus inseparable from it."

The New York Times: Our loss, through the eye of the storm

NPR: Moving 'Beyond Katrina' through poetry and prose

Craig Fugate

The former fireman and paramedic, who never got a college degree, leads the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Craig Fugate told The New York Times Magazine, in a profile published Sunday, that he knows he's not typical Obama "Ivy League stock."

"I wouldn't hold me up as an example of what people can do without a degree," he said. "I must have fallen through the cracks."

Fugate was orphaned by age 15, and raised by his grandmother.

"Everybody likes to attribute [my emergency management skills] to something in my background, something in my family," he told the Times. "I'm more Zen-like. I don't know if there's a reason."

Raised in Alachua, Florida, Fugate was appointed as Florida's head of emergency management services in 2001 by then-Gov. Jeb Bush. He became FEMA administrator in 2009.

What advice does he offer in the way of preparing for the worst? Stock up on water, peanut butter, and cash, and don't get overwhelmed.

"You have to start defining what you are trying to achieve, what outcome you need to get to be stable and start planning back from that," he said.

New York Times: The storm tracker

soundoff (62 Responses)
  1. STLBroker

    Well, it sounds like you have a great respect for Jesus and resent the way humans beings have screwed up his teachings and words. I couldn't agree more.

    Jesus= perfect Humans= flawed

    That is why I will never be able to put my whole heart and trust in anything other than Jesus. Certainly not science which is done by humans. At one point in our history, scientist were convinced the sun revolved around the earth and one was stupid and unenlightened if they believed otherwise.

    August 30, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      At one point in our history, scientist were convinced the sun revolved around the earth and one was stupid and unenlightened if they believed otherwise.

      Yes, and this "science" was largely unchanged for centuries due to the "church" persecuting anyone that challenged that view which could have easily ended in death. It was SCIENCE that changed this view, not religion.

      August 30, 2010 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Unlike religion, science is an ever evolving understanding of our universe, unlike religion that has its ways set in stone and requires no further explanation for anything.

      August 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • bachdog

      Ptolemy was never a scientist because all his mathematical "explanations" could not reasonably explain the apparent retrograde motion of planets more distant from the sun than earth like Mars and Saturn. But Ptolemy and his Ptolemaic math that put earth at the center of everything, was not based on actual measurements, upon which science depends. Before Ptolemy, an ancient Greek figured out that the measure of the shadow in the deep well at Alexandria would give an approximate measure of the Earth's radius. But this information was lost when the library at Alexandria burned, leaving only a fraction of Aristotle's writings, one of the greatest tragedies of all time.

      August 30, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
  2. bachdog

    If science answered all questions for us, which is a common assumption these days, then why don't we have scientists sitting on the benches of our judicial courts? It's because science is only one part of philosophy, a part that takes numerical measurements, makes reasonable generalizations or conclusions based on probabilities (all math) and then lets the community test her/his claims. Science does not answer questions about morality or justice or beauty, and scientists don't make this claim either. Science is about explanation. Technology is the [current] useful application of science. There is no debate between "HOW" and "WHY" because they are different questions.

    August 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mike

    Is it just me or does anyone else think all these NJ house wives are pigs. Theresa looks like a guy in drag, caroline and jackie are plain trailer park trash loud mouths and danielle is always getting attacked by everyone. I'm embarrassed to be from the same state

    August 30, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
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