Editorial: Meanwhile, in other news ...

  • Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2013 12:28 a.m.

Here are short takes on some other headlines that happened while the media — and much of the world — were fixated on a courtroom in Florida:

Encouraging cancer research: Duke University scientists have used a new polio virus treatment to shrink aggressive brain tumors known as glioblastomas. The trial treatments of human patients are still in their early stages, but doctors say they are very encouraged by the dramatic shrinkage of tumors in some of the patients. The Duke study, which uses the Sabin 1 virus strain developed in the 1950s, is among several research projects using modified viral agents to stimulate the body’s own immune system to combat the growth of cancer cells. Although cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the United States (behind heart disease), the Duke research underscores the amazing progress being made in treatment and the importance of funding research into more effective therapies.

Social media for the soul: Many churches have embraced Facebook and other forms of social media to connect with their congregations, but Pope Francis is taking online outreach to a higher level. The Vatican has announced the pope will grant plenary indulgences via Twitter during World Youth Day 2013, which will be held later this month in Brazil. The indulgences, which are a remission of punishment for a sin, can reduce the time a soul spends in purgatory — not a bad deal for 140 characters or less. Religious experts have largely applauded the pope’s plan as a way to appeal to youth while providing spiritual benefits to a worldwide audience.

Back from the brink: As poisonous as Washington’s political atmosphere seems, it would have gotten even more toxic if the U.S. Senate’s Democratic leadership had resorted to the so-called “nuclear option” over delayed confirmation votes on several Obama administration appointees. The change would have stripped the minority party — the GOP, in this case — of the ability to obstruct a “yes or no” vote on appointees by threatening to filibuster, a stalling tactic that currently can only be overridden with 60 votes. While it’s always tempting for the party in power to change the rules in pursuit of legislative advantage, it’s rarely a good longterm strategy. That’s a lesson the Republican majority in North Carolina should consider as it rewrites some of the state’s voting laws to end early voting and discourage some college student balloting. Inevitably, the political winds shift, and the blowback can be painful.

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