How did 9/11 affect American Muslims?
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Question: How did 9/11 affect American Muslims?
Barrett: It certainly had a profound effect on Muslims in this country. It required them to, I think, think much more critically and seriously about their religion and their own involvement with the religion. What does the religion mean to them? Who tells them what the religion means? How ought the religion be explained to their neighbors, to non-Muslims? Did they have something to do with the terrorists who brought this tremendous devastation on the country? Was there any connection between the two of them? Or should they be entirely swearing off any connections – saying those people by definition aren’t Muslims because of what they did. And I can go into any of that in more detail that you’d like. But one, I think, very important and somewhat counterintuitive reaction was that for many Muslims, 9/11 actually suggested to them, if not for the very first time in a very pointed way, that they considered themselves to be Americans; and that they now needed to define or redefine themselves as Americans and figure out what their connections were to this country; to realize that their connections and their involvements in this country are coming to or already have transcended or eclipsed their connections to the old country; and figure out a way to be a Muslim here, but to live here. Because they discovered they needed in one way or another to basically declare themselves . . . not in a legal loyalty oath, although some were essentially required to do that when the FBI called them in and said, “Who are you? What are you about? What are your ideas?” But even people who had no direct connection to any of the investigations that followed 9/11, I think they felt the question in the air. “Who are you? What are your loyalties? How do you sort yourself out in light of the controversy that surrounds your religion?” And that prompted many people to say, “Well you know who I am? I’m an American.” And to dig in, and even to demand their rights to say that the FBI shouldn’t be doing this, and the FBI shouldn’t be doing that. And so in an interesting way, 9/11 could in the long run – barring unforeseen future events – actually be . . . could turn out to be the opening of a door that helps advance Muslim integration in this country. It’s very counterintuitive. But as I say come back in 50 years, and I think that question will still be worth looking at.
Recorded on: 12/4/07
Questioned about their identity in the aftermath of 9/11, many American Muslims answered "I am American."
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- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
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- The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?
But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.
What's dead may never die, it seems
The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. Think a dialysis machine for the mind. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.
BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.
The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.
As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.
The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.
"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.
An ethical gray matter
Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.
The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.
Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.
Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?
"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."
One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.
The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.
"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.
It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.
Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?
The dilemma is unprecedented.
Setting new boundaries
Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."
She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.
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