Missionary in a Lab Coat

Five years ago, Alynne Maclean quit her job at a biotech firm, cashed in her stock options, and set out to save the world. Or at least part of it.

MacLean, a bioechemist, has become a missionary in a lab coat. She started a small nonprofit called Science with a Mission. Her goal was to develop simple diagnostic tests--called enzyme immunoassays--for illnesses like malaria and typhoid.

The tests, which act like a home pregnancy test, need no high tech instruments or electricity. They give results fast. And they can allow doctors and nurses in the third world to diagnose and treat people quickly.

Maclean was in Congo earlier this year, with promising results.(More on that to come--there've been several news stories on her lately, but all the links are down). She deiivered 5,000 malaria test strips and 1,000 typhoid test strips -- meaning that at least 6,000 patients will not have wait days or weeks for the results of blood tests, days that can mean the difference between life and death.


A mudslide killed 1,400 people in Guatamala today, while an earthquake in Pakistan killed at least 1,300 people.

Please help them if you can.


Alaska Christian College--redux

Full disclosure--I'm not an unbiased observer in the story of Alaska Christian College. The school is affiliated with the denomination I work for, and I have a number of contacts at the school.

That said, the coverage of the school in the Anchorage Daily News has been troubling, on a number of levels. ACC, whose students are 95% Alaska Native or Native American, and an affiliated counseling center, have received around a million dollar in start up funds from the federal government. This has pissed off the Freedom from Religion Foundation , who sued to have the funds cut off.

Yesterday, a federal investigator agreed with them, and the funds were suspended, as reported in the Anchorage Daily News.

Annie Laurie Gaylor of the foundation was patting herself on the back yesterday, in the ADN.

"Our lawsuit has saved taxpayers about half a million dollars that would have been misused to violate the Constitution and indoctrinate a vulnerable set of students," she said. "Underprivileged Native Alaskan students deserve genuine remedial instruction, not Sunday school classes."

Two disturbing things about this story, and one is this quote.

Alaska Native students are "vulnerable" and need to be protected from those who would indoctrinated them in the Christian faith, according to Gaylor.

Did anyone ask any of the students from ACC if they've been indoctrinated. Did anyone ask Alaska Native leaders, if they are worried about this. Did anyone ask the parents of these students if they are afraid that ACC was taking advantage of their children?

The answers, are, at least from the ADN report, are: No. No. and No. I can excuse the Freedom from Religion Folks--because they are crusading liberals who want to protect the students at ACC by cutting funds and putting their school in danger of closing. Never mind that, as the ADN reporting, the school's program is working. This group will never let the facts get in the way of their crusade. They don't care what Alaska Natives want because the Freedom from Religion folks "know better."

But the Anchorage Daily News should know better. There's no excuse for running a story about a school that serves Alaska Natives and not talking to an Alaska Native. (This has been a consistent flaw in the ADN's coverage. Early on the ADN pegged this story as an evangelicals taking advantage of the system story, no matter what the facts were. The ADN has ignored the Alaska Natives in the story.

They also, for the most part, have ignored the other factor in the story. Does the program work, and how does this religiously based program compare to other programs to assist Alaska Native students make the adjustment to college.

The latest story does at least acknowledge that the ACC program works:

The school has had success providing a bridge for rural students. T>hirty students have gone on to take classes at the Soldotna campus of the Kenai Peninsula College after completing a year at the school, including 12 this year, said KPC director Gary Turner.

But the ADN has not, to my knowledge, reported on the context of the story--1) how few Native Alaskans make in through their first year of college and 2) How does the ACC success rate compare to other similar programs?

They should know better.


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