April 22 - 28, 2007

This column will provide links to, plus quotes and summaries of, on-line articles that might be of interest to the Infidel community. Because theinfidels.org is concerned with educational issues, the articles selected will help to inform and enlighten readers as well as entertain them. In order to conform to "fair use practices," only small segments of the articles will be quoted. One caveat: to read the entire linked article, readers may have to subscribe to on-line versions of newspapers or magazines.

What a terrible week, with the shootings at Virginia Tech evidence of how little is still known and done about mental illness in this country. That 33 people had to die is a travesty, and it's time we as a nation did more to destigmatize the need for consultation and help, for individuals and families, when there is an obvious need for intervention because of brain disease.

That said, other actions that made headlines will have terrible effects in years to come, most notably the decision by the Supreme Court regarding the erosion of rights for women in making decisions about their own healthcare, in regards to abortion. I have included links to three articles/opinions, from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe, and the Washington Times (in that order):

The controversial abortion procedure outlawed Wednesday by the Supreme Court is rarely performed but may offer distinct advantages over other second-trimester abortion methods, Bay Area doctors said Wednesday.

The point, doctors said, is it should be up to medical professionals to decide what's safest for their patients.

"There are medical situations where this procedure is necessary to protect a woman's health," said Dr. Anne Foster-Rosales, chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood Golden Gate. "This ruling tells us that women's health is no longer the priority."

The banned procedure, one of several second-trimester abortion options, is known medically as intact dilation and extraction. It involves opening the cervix and pulling the fetus partway out of the uterus by the feet, then puncturing the skull while it's still in the womb and removing the rest of the fetus.

No one knows exactly how many of these abortions are performed nationwide each year, although estimates range from 2,000 to 4,000, out of about 156,000 second-trimester abortions.

Doctors have argued that the method is sometimes safer than the much more common dilation and evacuation procedure.

To read the rest, click here...

Drawing on the court's decision in 2000 rejecting Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortions, six federal courts had struck down the 2003 federal law. Yesterday's decision marked the first time the high court had approved a prohibition on a specific abortion procedure. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, "The court's opinion tolerates, indeed applauds, federal intervention to ban nationwide a procedure found necessary and proper in certain cases by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists."

The five justices of the court majority and the politicians who passed the law they approved have overruled the best judgment of the doctors who are most informed on this issue. Politics could trump medicine again -- unless backers of abortion rights use the ballot box to steer the country back toward support of a woman's right to end a pregnancy.

Read the rest of the Globe story here...

The Republicans, all of whom have said they would nominate judges like Justices Alito and Roberts, called the decision a victory for pro-life advocates.

"This decision represents a step forward in protecting the weakest and most innocent among us," said Republican Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts.

Abortion has been a defining issue for both political parties since the Supreme Court declared abortion a federal constitutional right.
Jim Backlin, vice president for legislative affairs at the Christian Coalition, said conservatives will focus next on the 2008 presidential race as the way to finish the job and finally overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The next president will likely pick the Supreme Court nominee who could tip the court their direction, he said.

"As soon as there is one more reliable [justice], that'll be five votes to overturn Roe," he said.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the decision vindicated the 2004 victory of Mr. Bush and "shows that elections have consequences." Since conservatives "know that next vacancy is just so incredibly important," Mr. Backlin said, they will work hard for almost any Republican presidential candidate, except Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.

Mr. Giuliani had much at stake in yesterday's ruling because he has been on both sides of the partial-birth abortion debate. Yesterday he said the court's ruling was "the correct conclusion," adding, "I agree with it."

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, called the ruling "a victory for those who cherish the sanctity of life and integrity.

Read the full times article here...

A U.S. megalomaniac, based in Florida, is a self-proclaimed "Antichrist" and has millions of followers in Central America, and is seeking millions more, according to an Associated Press article published in the Austin American Statesman:

GUATEMALA CITY — He calls himself the Antichrist, wears the number 666 tattooed on his arm and claims a following of 2 million people.

And Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is coming to Guatemala whether it wants him or not.

The Central American country has banned the leader of the Florida-based Growing in Grace church, arguing he is a security risk because he provokes conflict with Roman Catholics and evangelicals.

But Miranda still plans to fly in on a private jet Saturday to celebrate his 61st birthday and meet with thousands of followers from around the world.

"It has been predestined and angels will make it happen. He is, after all, God himself," said Axel Poessy, Miranda's media director.

It is the Puerto Rican-born former evangelical priest's latest attempts to expand his following in Central America. Most of his supporters are in Miami and Colombia, but Miranda holds a congress every year in different locations in the Americas. He has a 24-hour Spanish-language television network and a radio program broadcast on 287 stations.

Read the rest of the story here...

Religious scandal, Part II, from my local paper, the Lubbock Avalanche Journal. In Texas, near San Antonio, a monastery apparently housed charlatans and child abusers:

One of five monks facing charges of sexually abusing children told authorities that an inner circle of monks at the monastery there had sex with one another, smoked marijuana and used an eyedropper to produce fake tears on a Virgin Mary icon.

The allegations are the latest revelation into life at The Christ of the Hills monastery, which was allied with the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia from 1991-99. The church broke ties with the monastery when allegations surfaced of indecency by San Antonio-businessman-turned-monk Samuel Greene with an 11-year-old novice monk studying there.

Read the balance of the story here...

Allow me to introduce a positive perspective on religion, from Stanley Fish's blog on the NY Times site, which concerns the teaching of religion within the liberal education tradition, in which analysis trumps dogma:

Leaning into your own understanding – cultivating it, extending it, refining it, adding to it – is what liberal education is all about. The project is to move forward to knowledge you do not yet have rather than to enact a knowledge that is written in the fleshly tables of your heart (II Corinthians, 3:3). The empiricism to which liberal education is devoted – let’s assemble the evidence and figure out where it leads us – is well encapsulated in the familiar saying “Seeing is believing.” The model of religious knowledge inverts that proverb and declares instead “Believing is seeing.” And that is why, as I have already acknowledged, teaching religion in the strong sense – the sense that would internalize its truths rather than study them – does not belong in the public schools, informed as they are by a theory of knowing that puts at its center a mind that stands apart from the objects of its analytical attention.

Read the rest of the blog here...

Now for some much needed humor, from the Miami Herald. In an updating of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," about the Salem witch hunts (and McCarthyism), an unorthodox twist has been added--flamenco:

Manolete is dancing in flip-flops. Even barely shod, the veteran flamenco master can get enough sound out of his stomping to mark the beat with force at a rehearsal for Las Brujas de Salem.

The production is a flamenco interpretation of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, a 1953 play about the notorious Salem witch hunt that Miller wrote to echo the political witch hunts of his time.

At the Jackie Gleason Theater this weekend, New England Puritans, in period gear, will stomp the wooden stage like machine-gun fire in high-heeled flamenco shoes and boots.

Read the rest of the Herald article here...

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