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A renowned geneticist claims a major advance toward creating life in a laboratory. We look at the possible benefits and drawbacks, as well as ethical and religious questions raised by "synthetic biology." Also, Stocks dive on worries about European banks and political tensions in Korea, and South Africa tries to put its own stamp on an international extravaganza, the World Cup.

Banner image: President Barack Obama (R) presents a 2008 National Medal of Science to biologist J. Craig Venter (L) during an East Room ceremony October 7, 2009 at the White House. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Making News Stocks Dive on Worries about European Banks, Korean Political Tensions 7 MIN, 38 SEC

There was some good news about US consumer confidence today, but it didn’t matter to Wall Street, which was focused on other issues. That’s according to Kate Gibson, markets reporter for MarketWatch, base in New York City.

Kate Gibson, Markets Reporter, MarketWatch

Main Topic Synthetic Cells: Momentous Breakthrough or Ethical Morass? 35 MIN, 31 SEC

In the 1990's, J. Craig Venter beat a team of international scientists in deciphering the human genome. Last week, he announced a breakthrough in creating life in a laboratory, what he called "the first self-replicating species… whose parent is a computer." Has he really created new life or just modified existing life? In either case, there's already debate over the pros and cons of man-made organisms. Venter envisions vaccines, bio-fuels, even reversing global warming. Skeptics warn of medical accidents and biological weapons getting into the wrong hands. Does "synthetic biology" mean playing God? Would the benefits outweigh the risk of unintended consequences?

David Biello, TED Talks (@dbiello)
Clyde Hutchison, Distinguished Investigator, J. Craig Venter Institute
David Baltimore, California Institute of Technology
Julian Savulescu, Director, Oxford University's Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

Human Enhancement

Julian Savulescu

Reporter's Notebook South Africa Tries to Africanize the World Cup 7 MIN, 35 SEC

In the days of Apartheid, South Africa was barred from soccer tournaments around the world. Now, for the first time, it's about to host the World Cup, and is struggling to put an African stamp on a global event. The manager of South Africa's organizing committee says, "We are just the organizers…we are the stage" for "FIFA's World Cup," referring to the Zurich-based governing body of world soccer. That's according to Celia Dugger of the New York Times, who also reports that "poking a finger in the eye of authority is part of [South Africa's] national DNA."

Celia Dugger, South African Co-Bureau Chief, New York Times

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