April 29 - May 05, 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.


I'm opening this week's news round-up with excerpts from one of my favorite contemporary writers, Humanist and Scientist E.O. Wilson, in his column in the Seattle Post Intelligencer, for Earth Day.

Except for giant meteorite strikes or other such catastrophes, Earth has never experienced anything like the contemporary human juggernaut. We are in a bottleneck of overpopulation and wasteful consumption that could push half of Earth's species to extinction in this century.

As the newest reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stress, we are carelessly destabilizing the planetary surface in ways harmful to our own welfare. Paramount is the irreversible loss of natural ecosystems and species that make up the human life-support system.

Humanity must make a decision, and make it right now: Conserve Earth's natural heritage, or let future generations adjust to a biologically impoverished world.


Read the rest of the story here...


I had cited in last week's column two reports on how abortion rights were being eroded by the U.S. Supreme Court. Here is more information about the court's Catholic majority, which appeared in the NY Times:

The five justices who turned the Supreme Court around last week and upheld the ban on “partial birth abortion” had much in common.

All are men. All were nominated by conservative Republican presidents. And, it was widely noted, all are Roman Catholics.


Read the rest of the times article here...


A more liberal sway for women's reproductive rights is apparent in Mexico City, which is now going to allow abortions in the first trimester. MSNBC characterized this political departure as a "rebuff to the Vatican":

MEXICO CITY - Abortion opponents held candlelight vigils and fasted, while honking convoys of reproductive rights advocates cheered on Mexico City lawmakers who have vowed to legalize abortion Tuesday in the capital.

The proposal, which would take effect with the leftist mayor’s expected signature, has alarmed Mexico’s conservative ruling party and prompted the Vatican to send its top anti-abortion campaigner to the Mexican capital.

A more liberal sway for women's reproductive rights is apparent in Mexico City, which is now going to allow abortions in the first trimester. MSNBC characterized this political departure as a "rebuff to the Vatican":

//MEXICO CITY - Abortion opponents held candlelight vigils and fasted, while honking convoys of reproductive rights advocates cheered on Mexico City lawmakers who have vowed to legalize abortion Tuesday in the capital.

The proposal, which would take effect with the leftist mayor’s expected signature, has alarmed Mexico’s conservative ruling party and prompted the Vatican to send its top anti-abortion campaigner to the Mexican capital.//

Read the rest of the article here...


On another topic concerning women's health issues, a column by Courtney Martin in the Christian Science Monitor caught my eye and raised my ire; Martin alleges that young anorexics might be suffering from a lack of faith. (In fact, there is considerable historical research to the contrary, indicating that religious women, through the centuries, starved themselves in order to appear less "womanly.")

Brooklyn, N.Y. - Worried talk about the next generation of high-achieving, health-neglecting "perfect girls" is everywhere.

Girls Inc. just published the results of its depressing, nationwide survey called "The Supergirl Dilemma," which reveals that girls' obsession with thinness has gotten significantly worse in the past six years. Despite the efforts of the Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty – well-intentioned, though undeniably market-driven – and Love Your Body Day events sweeping every school from San Francisco to Syracuse, 90 percent of teenage girls think they are overweight today, compared with 24 percent in 1995, according to a recent ELLE girl survey.

So what gives? Is it our celebrity-obsessed, extreme makeover culture? Is it the newest version of the age-old story of dysfunctional family relationships? Is it peer pressure – mean girls critiquing one another's every lunchtime indiscretion? Is it the $30 billion a year diet industry?

It is, in truth, all of the above. But there is also another profoundly important – yet little noticed – dynamic at work in the anxious, achievement-oriented lives of America's perfect girls: They have a sometimes deadly, often destructive, lack of faith.

Read the rest of the Monitor article here...


Here is some positive news, this time from The Boston Globe: In the Catholic stronghold of Massachusetts, the Governor wants to end abstinence-only education, even if it means foregoing federal funds:

Governor Deval Patrick wants to end state-sponsored, abstinence-only sex education in Massachusetts, a year after Governor Mitt Romney ordered the Department of Public Health to redirect a long-standing federal abstinence grant to classes that focus exclusively on encouraging teenagers to avoid sexual encounters.

Patrick proposed forgoing the $700,000 grant, which the state has received since 1998, joining at least six other states in rebelling against increasingly restrictive federal mandates about how the money can be used.

The Patrick administration points to the federal government's study of abstinence-education programs, released this month, which found that students in programs focusing solely on abstinence are just as likely to have sex as those not in such programs.


Read the rest of the story here...


In international news: A surge in religious orthodoxy is giving secular Turks pause. The New York Times has been following the struggle against religious incursion in Turkey, where the secularists are fighting to defend the policies of Ataturk, despite political pressure from Islamicists:

ISTANBUL, April 24 — Turkey’s majority political party today chose a prominent leader with an Islamic background to compete for the presidency, a move expected to extend the party’s reach into the heart of Turkey’s secular establishment — and boost a new class of self-described Muslim moderates — for the first time in this country’s history.

The choice of Abdullah Gul, 56, the affable, English-speaking foreign minister who is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s closest political ally, is expected to be confirmed by parliament in several rounds of voting that begin on Friday.

Turkey is a Muslim country, but its state, set up in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is strictly secular, and the presidency is its most important office. The selection of Mr. Gul, whose wife wears a head scarf, is not likely to sit well with secular Turks, some of whom worry that their lifestyles — drinking alcohol, wearing miniskirts, and swimming in co-ed pools — could eventually be in danger.


Read the rest of the Times story here...


Keeping with an international focus, here is an excerpt from the blog by Bill Tammeus at the Kansas City Star, which deals with religion and ethics. Tammeus cites a study on colonialism and religion that deals with the past success of the British in becoming the sovereigns of India. One wonders about the implications of the analysis, applied to the U.S.

...I ran across a really intriguing notion having to do with religion in India and the reason the British were able to conquer the land and colonialize it in ways other nations, especially Portugal, had failed to do. It has to do with the way the Brits treated religion in India:

"A final factor in the British success was the nature of their objectives. There was no head-on collision between British imperialism and Indian society. . . Indian society, whether in its Hindu or Muslim forms, was centered round religio-social systems which showed little trace of political nationalism in its modern sense. The affections of the people were fastened upon social and religious ideals rather than upon political freedom.

Click here to read the rest of the blog...


Back to national news, with an eye to the arts: In Pittsburgh, PA, a new musical has opened, a send-up of boy bands and Christianity. Here are some comments from the review, by Kate Luce Angell, in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

//Politicians and pundits regularly bemoan the polarization of American society, mourning the disappearance of common ground between religious and secular, conservative and liberal.

They should take heart from "Altar Boyz," a musical send-up of N'Sync-style boy bands and mainstream Christianity that manages the neat trick of perfectly skewering each while paying affectionate homage to both. The show offers parody pointed enough for cultural critics but without the sharp edges that might offend religious audience members. Talk about preaching to both sides of the aisle. [...]

I admit I was an Altar Boyz convert from the moment in "We Are the Altar Boyz" when the group noted that "we don't believe in hurtin' or in hatin'/'Cause that's the kind of stuff that leads to Satan." But if that hadn't done it, this line from "Jesus Called Me on My Cellphone" would have: "No roaming charges were incurred/He told me that I should go out in the world and spread His glorious Word."//

Read the rest of this story here...


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