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Can you identify the following and explain how they are related?1. james-v-allridge-iii.jpg2. barnett-slepian.jpg3. 6-weeks.jpgAnswers:1. James V. Allridge III – a death row inmate, who claimed he was innocent. He was one of 24 others who were executed by the state of Texas in 2004.2. Barnett Slepian, M.D. – an upstate New York gynecologist who was shot and killed while making soup in his home by anti-abortion activist James Charles Kopp.3. Embryo, 7 weeks gestation – Almost 90% of elective abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of gestation.There are many who believe the killing of the first two individuals is justifiable, while the termination of a non-sentient 7 week old embryo is unconscionably evil. The horrifying supreme court reversal of it’s decision regarding the Federal Abortion Ban case paves the way for further restrictions on women’s reproductive freedoms, and will endanger lives. The so-called “Partial Birth Abortion Ban” refers, in reality, to a relatively rare form of late term abortion (really called intact dilation and extraction). It is usually performed when a severely deformed fetus must be removed, and when a normal delivery may endanger the life of the woman. In either case, it makes up less than 1% of all abortions, and is simply a political wedge that has been used to begin the demolition of a woman’s control over her reproductive health.The Bush legacy will live with us for generations to come.

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The Vatican has determined that babies who die without first being baptized may not be forced to spend the rest of their afterlives in limbo. This announcement should come as a relief to those who have lost newborns before they could get baptized, as well as to those who have suffered miscarriages. It should also comfort those who have had abortions, although they, unfortunately, still face eternal damnation in the fires of hell. Cindy Wooden of the Catholic News Service (CNS) explains that this latest change in traditional Catholic teaching can be looked at as we would any scientific hypothesis, “Like hypotheses in any branch of science, a theological hypothesis can be proven wrong or be set aside when it is clear it does not help explain Catholic faith.” The study was released today in the prestigious scientific journal Origins, a publication of the Catholic News Service. It’s release was felt to be of particular importance because, the document states, “the number of nonbaptised infants has grown considerably, and therefore the reflection on the possibility of salvation for these infants has become urgent.” Further studies will need to be conducted to verify and confirm these findings, but the Church has decided to begin teaching the new dogma immediately so as to save as many babies as possible.

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Beyond politics there lies the dangerously inane. At Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s first hearing of a special committee set up to discuss mandatory limits on “greenhouse” gases, Republicans let out their own form of noxious gas. Doubts and denials about the possible threats to national (not to mention global) security and to energy independence that we face from global warming were raised by the likes of Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin.

“Unfortunately, this debate hasn’t been characterized by common sense. It’s been characterized by extremism.”

– Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin

Although the magnitude of the threat to our national security is unclear, the prospect is more than concerning enough to warrant a close look. It took us this long to even acknowledge the existence of human-induced climate change. Now it’s time to understand the degree to which it will effect us, on all levels. How sad that common sense is in such scarce supply in the houses of power.

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The Bush administration warns against reading too much into the latest in a stream of evidence concluding the all too obvious, that abstinence-only education is a worthless, dangerous educational policy. Another thinly-veiled, religion as government policy pushed by the Bush administration. A policy that has deprived children of intelligent sex education, while endangering their heath. This latest piece of evidence comes in the form of a multi-year, experimentally-based impact study of the Administration’s mindbogglingly wasteful and dangerous plan to fund abstinence education above other, more rational approaches to sex education.The study was conducted for Congress by Mathmatica Policy Research, Inc. Of no surprise, the data confirm that children’s sexual behaviors are not altered by participation in the federally funded abstinence only programs. The same percentage of children have sex at the same average age whether enrolled in the programs or not. The only difference is that the money diverted to this useless program was money not earmarked for the truly important and effective programs that actually provide scientifically sound and proven preventive health education to our nation’s children. This costly and failed policy (Bush is requesting $141 million next year) is yet another example in a long list of irrational, often religiously and politically based federal schemes, that skirt, distort, or outright deny scientific realities. This final, congressional report on the uselessness of the policy was announced on Friday, April 13 in the hopes that the media and the public would get little exposure to it. In fact, the New York Times ran a minuscule box of an article on the very bottom of page 20.Thankfully, the program expires this year, and there is a chance that Congress may do right by our children by gutting this sickening and embarrassing piece of legislation from the books. But, the newly opened National Abstinence Education Association, a conservative lobby for the abstinence only programs, has hired the renowned PR firm that worked for the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth smear machine. We wait once again, with baited breath, for reason to prevail…

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The New York Times recently ran an article on the subject of miracles. Specifically, the article adressed the question of whether a French nun’s claim of being cured of Parkinson’s disease was a miracle performed from beyond the grave of the late Pope John Paul II.This matter-of-fact article reporting the potentially miraculous curing of Sister Marie Simon-Pierce of her Parkinson’s disease by the late John Paul II left me stunned. Not because of the enormous significance of such a supernatural feat, but because of the journalist’s unflinching credulity. The fact that many believe in the existence of miracles should not free journalists, or their papers, of the obligation to report stories of objective, truthful, and meaningful substance. If indeed this woman was cured of Parkinson’s Disease, that is a scientific occurrence of immense significance, yet this aspect of the story was not even approached. The truly fascinating story here is that in the 21st century the existence of miracles and the supernatural can remain unchallenged while evolution and global warming is debated.While this may be a trivial story, I could not let it go unaddressed. It was, once again, an example of how inured we have become to the term “miracle”. Usually the term is used in accordance with the third definition of The New Oxford American dictionary,

“an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something”.

For example, “the separation of the conjoined twins was nothing short of a miracle”. The term, used in this way, however, does a disservice to the great skill and science that lies behind this wonderful feat, and subtly (and irrationally) lends to it a level of supernatural significance. Physicians who operate on conjoined twins rely on a great level of skill acquired through rigorous training, and supported by generations of scientific advances. They certainly do not rely on supernatural forces of any kind. In the above NYT article, the term “miracle” is used with it’s original definition in mind,

“a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency”.

There are only two ways to read this article. One requires us to interpret it as tongue-in-cheek reporting on the laughably irrational notion of supernatural miracles. The other is to assume it was meant as an objective piece of journalism on an issue before the Vatican. Neither interpretation is acceptable nor passes as valid journalism. Unfortunately, I found the substance of this article more worthy of The Weekly World News than The New York Times.

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