- The Washington Times - Friday, October 6, 2006

Nobles: Drs. Andrew Fire and Craig Mello, whose scientific breakthrough opened up a whole new field of medicine.

An interesting bit of trivia about the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine is that usually many decades pass before a researcher is honored for a discovery. This is to make sure the discovery is thoroughly tested and approved by the scientific community.

So when Messrs. Fire and Mello won the award this week for work they had done together in 1998 it was considered — in Nobel terms — the very definition of hastiness. Not that anyone was objecting. What the two American scientists did was discover a way to “silence” specific genes. Since many of humanity’s worst ailments — cancer, heart disease, etc. — are the result of genes, the finding in short order proved revolutionary.

Since then, scientists have been hard at work locating certain genes to “silence” through the disruption of messenger RNA — the agent inside a cell that basically orders a certain protein to be produced. According to the New York Times, two gene-silencing drugs designed to treat macular degeneration are in clinical trials. And that’s just the beginning of what scientists expect from this promising field. “The field exploded after the Fire and Mello paper,” said one RNA expert.

For giving “silence is golden” a whole new meaning, Messrs. Fire and Mello are the Nobles of the week.

Knaves: Jeanetta Rainey, a vice principal in Prince George’s County who needs to go back to school.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for school administrators: If you think a student is somehow violating the sacred separation of church and state doctrine, don’t do anything. Otherwise, you’ll just end up looking foolish.

So it was with Ms. Rainey, who admonished a 12-year-old girl at Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School in Laurel last month for reading the Bible during her free time. According to a lawsuit filed by Amber Mangum’s mother, the vice principal told Amber that reading the Bible violated school policy.

It’s anyone’s guess what Ms. Rainey was thinking. The school’s administrative procedures clearly state that students “may read their Bibles or other scriptures.” The ACLU, of course, and other virtuous civil-liberties organizations are no where to be found. That probably wouldn’t be the case if young Amber had been reading the Koran — but then neither would Ms. Rainey likely have said a word.

For finding religious violations in all the wrong places, Vice Principal Rainey is the Knave of the week.

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