Monday, October 31, 2005

Katie Wernecke gets to go home

"A 13-year-old girl with cancer who was put into foster care after her parents refused to allow radiation treatment will be reunited with her family, a judge ruled today.

"Faced with her deteriorating health, state district Judge Jack Hunter said Katie Wernecke would be better off with her family in Agua Dulce, near Corpus Christi, than in the custody of the Houston foster parents she was assigned by Child Protective Services.

"He said that all sides were well intentioned but the stops, starts, and delays in Katie's treatment as grown-ups continued to battle were doing more harm than good." ...

House Republican Study Committee reining in Leadership

"President Bush and Republican leaders in Congress would like to avoid confrontations with the Republican Study Committee, but that does not seem to be an option anymore. Budget conservatives are asserting themselves in ways that were unimaginable just a few months ago, and with about 110 members—the exact roll is confidential—the RSC is leading the charge.

"They are rapt about the cause of smaller government, finicky about whom they let in and a little sensitive about outsiders learning too much about how they operate. Membership is by invitation only.

"They are quite literally the card-carrying conservatives who have hijacked the debate this fall over how the government spends its money. Prospective RSC members are reviewed by a 15-person board, which scours their voting records and public statements for evidence of their philosophy. The privilege of joining comes with a wallet-size card inscribed with the organization’s six core principles, and members are encouraged to use it to assess legislation." ...

Specter praises Alito

"At a news conference in Philadelphia, [Sen. Specter] sharply criticized Bork as 'having the most extreme ideology of any nominee ever,' while offering praise for federal appeals court Judge Samuel A. Alito, also a conservative, who has been mentioned as a possible replacement for O'Connor." ...

Harry Reid on Alito: 'we want to cooperate'

"BLITZER: The New York Times, among other publications, says one of the front-runners that the president can name, maybe even as early as tomorrow, is Samuel Alito of New Jersey. He's a third circuit court federal judge right now. You've looked into his background. If the president were to nominate him, would that be acceptable to you?

"REID: Well, I'm not going to rule out anyone. I've—that is not one of the names that I've suggested to the president. In fact, I've done the opposite. I think it would create a lot of problems.

"But keep in mind, Roberts, Justice Roberts, who's now our chief justice, we had a very dignified hearing. I think that Senator Leahy and Senator Specter did outstanding job.

"And that's what we want to do: we want to cooperate; we want to make this, I repeat, a dignified hearing."

CNN Late Edition Full Transcript

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Nature of Rights

"The American Founders and Lincoln took seriously the notion of 'natural rights'—that certain rights were grounded in the very nature of human beings, and those rights would remain the same in all places where that nature remained the same. They would hold even in exotic places, as long as human beings were still distinguishable from the subhuman and the superhuman. And so, the concept of 'human rights.'

"Lincoln understood then that the republic did not begin with the Constitution, but with the Declaration of Independence and with that 'proposition' from which everything else emanated: 'all men are created equal.'" ...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Bridges to Re-election

"In 1996, one year after the Republican takeover, a full 512 out of the 535 members of Congress had a record that reduced—not increased—overall discretionary outlays. Yes, before Republicans lost their way, even the traditional big-spending Democrats were running scared and voting to cut the budget.

"Remember the days when Republicans used to make fun of Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., the king of pork who ran the Senate Appropriations Committee with an iron fist? The GOP promised things would change if we put them in charge. They did! In the 2005 budget, Ted Stevens, the Republican who now chairs that committee, set aside $646 million in pork for his state of Alaska. Byrd's $399 million for West Virginia paled by comparison.

"The latest outrage occurred last week when Dr. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., the freshman senator who travels home every weekend to take care of patients and stay connected to the real world, asked the Senate to cut a half billion dollars set aside for two Alaskan bridges that have been tucked into the highway bill. The Senate says it is looking for offsets for Katrina spending. Don't believe it!

"The first bridge would connect Ketchikan, a fishing village of 8,900 to an island with 50 residents and a small airport, even though a ferry runs every 15 minutes. According to USA Today, this boondoggle will be nearly as long as the Golden Gate and higher than the Brooklyn Bridge.

"The second bridge would connect Anchorage to a network of swamps and an 'ice' burg with one resident. They are essentially 'bridges to nowhere.' A logical place to cut, but no! Coburn was joined by only 14 other senators.

"Incidentally, John McCain, R-Ariz., who at least once a year makes pork a big issue, wasn't among them." ...

S.Amdt. 2165 to H.R. 3058
Senate Roll Call Vote #262: 15-82

Sen. Coburn also offered a similar amendment to "prohibit any funds under the Act from being used for a parking facility as part of the Joslyn Art Museum Master Plan, in Omaha, Nebraska":

S.Amdt. 2093 to H.R. 3058
Senate Roll Call Vote #260: 86-13

Incidentally, the numbers are nearly flipped because #260 was a vote to "table" (or ignore/reject) the amendment, while #262 was a vote on passage. Also, Sen. McCain supported Sen. Coburn's efforts on this amendment.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Bush Wants U.N. to Deal With Syria Report

"President Bush on Friday [Oct. 21] called on the United Nations to convene a session as soon as possible to deal with a U.N. investigative report implicating Syrian officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

"'The report strongly suggests that the politically motivated assassination could not have taken place without Syrian involvement,' Bush said after helping dedicate a new pavilion at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Southern California.

"The U.N. investigative report, which Bush called 'deeply disturbing,' established a link between high-ranking Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies in Hariri's murder Feb. 14 in Beirut." ...

In its World News Tonight email from October 21, ABC News said, "The U.N. report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri reads like a mafia page turner.

"It reveals evidence that points to the Syrian president's brother, brother-in-law, and even Lebanese intelligence officials as key suspects" and how their "amazingly complex plot penetrated Hariri's state-of-the-art security."

Libnen.com has the UN report by Commissioner Detlev Mehlis available for download: 555 KB PDF

ABC News: Venezuelan Tribes Protest Chavez Expulsion Order

"Puerto Ayacucho—Hundreds of indigenous Venezuelans marched Friday to protest President Hugo Chavez's threat to expel a group of U.S.-based evangelists, amid intensifying government scrutiny of foreign missionaries operating in the country.

"The protesters including some who traveled for days by boat from their homes in the dense Amazon jungle showed their support for New Tribes Mission, which Chavez has accused of 'imperialist infiltration' and exploiting indigenous communities." ...

Trip to Louisiana an eye opener

"In the wake of the hurricanes that shook the Gulf Coast to its physical and moral core, many thoughts crossed my mind. The overarching theme of these thoughts was to do whatever I could to help. Yet I found myself doing nothing.

"Musing with Jonathan Ference '07 one night, I commented that it felt selfish to want to do something yet care too much about my grades here at Swarthmore to drop everything to help these people in their most dire hour. So we made a moral compromise and planned a trip to Louisiana for fall break to volunteer.

"Jon and I drove from Swarthmore to Baton Rouge, La., on the first Sunday of break and ended up at the main Federal Emergency Management Agency refugee camp. Despite the recent condemnation of FEMA, this place was absolutely astounding.

"An entire RV park with full hookups—electricity, water, and sewage. The camp contained about 700 RVs, each holding between four and seven people. Residents got three free meals a day and paid no rent. This program will last for 18 months."

"We spent Monday and Tuesday helping people move into their new 'homes' and handing out supplies, such as toiletries and linens, that non-profit organizations had collected.

"The most amazing part to me was that some people actually had more at the FEMA camp than they had had in their old homes in New Orleans. So many people were just happy to have a place to call home. A society that gave them nothing before the hurricanes was suddenly giving them everything they needed.

"The FEMA camp had exhausted its need for volunteers by the end of Tuesday, but we were lucky enough to meet up with a group from Bryan College in Tennessee." ...

Katie Wernecke may never go home

"13-year-old Katie Wernecke is no longer refusing her court ordered treatment for Hodgkin's Disease.

"During a hearing, lawyers for Katie said she is now willing to comply with doctor's prescription of chemotherapy and radiation treatment to cure her disease. This change comes as Katie is reportedly fearful she might die if she contues to refuse the treatment.

"Katie remains in foster care, but she wants to be reunited with her parents. On Monday, Judge Jack Hunter will decide if and when she can return to her mother and father." ...

Judge Jack Hunter will decide if Katie gets to see her parents again? This is what makes state institutions like Child "Protective" Services in our country so dangerous.

The Wernecke's Church should be rallying around this family, organizing protests, and demanding that her parents have a right to be parents. The only thing more outrageous than the state taking over the parenting of Katie is those around her family not standing up to the establishment.

I usually avoid using words like "demand" and "outrageous," but this situation merits their use more than most. People need to open their eyes and see what's going on here. This is abuse of power.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Young Democrats Sharpen Tactics Against Old Rivals

"As part of the new approach, House and Senate Democrats are devising an alternative agenda of key policies. Ryan is pushing proposals aimed at drastically reducing the number of abortions over the coming decade by offering support and services to pregnant women. Others are crafting a plan for reducing U.S. dependence on imported oil by using more domestic agricultural products, an approach that would have significant appeal to Midwestern voters.

"'We can't be Dr. No to everything Republicans do,' said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). 'We have to provide our own positive ideas.'

"The rise of the new breed, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Barack Obama (Ill.), the Senate's only African American and the keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, marks a generational divide in a party long dominated by Northeastern liberals and Southern conservatives.

"Unlike some of their forbears, the newcomers are pragmatists who view the past decade of GOP rule not as an aberration but as a sea change in political campaigning, fundraising and lobbying to which Democrats must adjust. They arrived in Washington as challengers and are comfortable questioning the establishment—because they have not been part of it." ...

Venezuela Debates New Tribes Mission Expulsion Order

"Though President Hugo Chavez last week ordered New Tribes Mission to leave Venezuela, the mission reports it hasn't received an official expulsion order and says it won't leave on media reports alone.

"U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield has asked Chavez's government to reconsider its plan. Brownfield denied that NTM missionaries are CIA spies, as Chavez claimed in a nationally televised speech on October 12. At that event, Chavez announced NTM's imminent expulsion from Venezuela, where it has ministered among indigenous peoples since 1946. Chavez did not set a date for the expulsion, but said he would give the missionaries time to 'gather their stuff.'

"The U.S. ambassador has offered to mediate discussions between NTM and Venezuela."

"The expulsion order was also made by Liborio Guarulla, governor of Amazonas state, where NTM primarily ministers. NTM's spokesperson, Nita Zelenak, said that NTM has not received formal papers from the state's governor or the national government.

"NTM Venezuela field director Chuck Marshall said that army soldiers came to one NTM family's home in Amazonas state to ask them to leave. The missionary asked for the soldiers' written authorization, but the soldiers had none and left. Should Venezuelan officials present NTM workers with formal papers to leave, 'We would ask our people to comply,' Marshall said." ...

Groups Support NTM Staying in Venezuela

"Christian organizations around the world are rallying behind New Tribes Mission as it faces the possibility of being expelled from Venezuela after nearly 60 years of service to the indigenous people of the country.

"As New Tribes Mission's field committee, Marcos Brito and Tim Fyock, along with NTM's Venezuelan lawyer, Dr. Andrade, address the Venezuelan media through national television and radio programs, Christian agencies are supporting NTM's stance and praising its mission work in Venezuela and throughout the world.

"'Our response here at Voice of the Martyrs is essentially sadness at the lost of the people of Venezuela, of the service of New Tribes Mission if in fact this threat is followed through on and all the missionaries are forced to leave the country,' said VOM Spokesman Todd Nettleton.

"'This is a mission organization with a great history of service in that country; a great history of service to the people of Venezuela, the indigenous people, the tribal people and the poor people.'" ...

Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church

"Post-11 a.m. stragglers were common at Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist on a recent Sunday, though those who arrived in time for the opening hymn sang along with gusto, sans hymnals. The congregation was relaxed, laughing along with the pastor at times, at other times rising with him, clapping, and hollering. Visitors received a warmhearted welcome; this reporter and another first-timer were asked to address the congregation."

"[Senior Pastor Kendrick] Curry's sermon was merciful in both subject matter and duration. His apocalyptic theme connected recent events—Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, avian flu, earthquakes—with the Gospel of Matthew's 'wars and rumors of wars.' The time of the second coming of Christ is near, Curry told the congregation, amply footnoting his words with Biblical references.

"He took a brief swipe at gays and lesbians, but praised the compassion of Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who offered hurricane victims doctors and cheap oil, respectively. Curry held up the U.S. government’s refusal as evidence of 'pridefulness and arrogance.'" ...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sen. Coburn: It's about principles, not power

The following is a partial transcript of comments and responses by Sen. Tom Coburn to the College Republicans at George Washington University:

SEN. COBURN (13:30): In practice, Republican politicians behave pretty much the same as Democratic politicians—they can't resist spending money. The main difference is the Democrats seem to be willing to raise taxes to pay for theirs, and the Republicans seem to be willing to let you pay for it—the next generation.

We've heard plenty of talk about reforming Medicare and Social Security to make them sustainable for the future, but the only action we've seen is Medicare Part D—the thing I talked about before. The politically expedient move rather than the tough move based on visionary leadership of what's great for our country in the future.

The American people agree with Republican thought, but they demand that the actions match the words. And this next election cycle is going to be another watershed year in our country like 1994.

The American people are listening again; they're awake; they're paying attention. They do that every now and then in looking at the government. They participate in a higher level. Well, the attennas are up, and if the Republican party wants to stay in power, it'll start matching its action to its words. That means that the things have to change, and they have to change in a big way.

The long term consequence is the nation's going to be plunged into a fiscal crisis from which it's hard to imagine a recovery unless we have such visionary leadership.

Think about China, the European Union, and even India when we have an unfunded liability for Medicare of $37 trillion right now, an unfunded liability for Social Security of $10 trillion. That's more unfunded liability than the nation's private net worth.

In other words, we owe more already on what's coming in Medicare and Social Security than the whole value of every asset in our country.

American people are listening; they're looking for leadership. Leadership doesn't mean you win. It means you put forth the ideas to solve the problems. And the paradox in politics that I've found is it's ok to not win; what is not ok is to not fight to win. And that's the problem today that we face as a party is we have to have people willing to fight—willing to stand up and take on the status quo.

So, if you believe American ideas are better for the world—ideas like liberty and justice for all, personal responsibility and individual rights, then you need to work for a Republican party that actually lives up to the principles that it proclaims. And I hope that you will do that.


STUDENT (25:30): Senator, you emphasized personal responsibility and personal accountability a lot in your speech in maintaining a positive vision for where we want to carry forth the country with our nations leaders.

I just was wondering if you could speak a little about—recently there's been a lot of accusations back and forth about certain Republican leaders and certain things with cronyism with positions up in government.

And I was just wondering, how—amid these accusations—how can we maintain a positive vision, especially for the Republican party so that these accusations and other issues won't really affect us in 2006 and 2008?

COBURN: Well, let me answer you real directly: It's OK if the Republicans lose control, for our country in the long run, because one cycle won't make a difference, two cycles won't make a difference. The fact is, the American people are going to recognize what people stand for, and you see more and more people not vote party than vote person.

Oklahoma when I ran was 60% Democrat; my first congressional seat was 80% Democrat; I was elected with 53% of the vote. I would say the most important thing is— those kind of things have been going on for years in party politics.

You know, I don't know how much of that is true. But that fact is, as our loyal opposition, no matter who they are, whether it's us in the minority, or the Democrats, when we stoop to that to gain political power, it speaks more about those that are stooping than it does about the very people that've been accused.

The point is, we ought to be reconciling. We ought to be saying, "That's not the way to run our country. The way to run our country is through positive vision: 'Here's what I will do; here's what I do believe, and hold me accountable.'"

The press is an integral part of that—of holding us accountable to do what we said we would do. Every person that serves in Congress that I know—they're great people. You know, they really do love our country. But they have divided loyalties. And I put a limitation on myself. I did it in the House, and I did it because I didn't want to be—

Have y'all ever read about the pursuit of The Inner Ring by C.S. Lewis? Ever read any of his stuff? This pursuit of power that you continue to try to get to the next level and the next level—and it's about you. It's kind a like peeling an onion when you finally get there, and you've completely peeled an onion—you've taken every layer off, what do you have? Nothing.

So this pursuit for the power of being in the inner circle—in the inner ring— When all's said and done in life, that's not it. There's no peace; there's not joy in that.

So putting limits on yourself in life to say, "I want to limit myself so I don't fall into that trap of saying, 'The most important thing is for me to get reelected.'" Do you realize there's hundreds of thousands of people in this country that can do a better job in the Congress than the Congress that's sitting today? Think about that—hundreds of thousands of people across this land.

So, this idea that we're so important is what drives that partisanship and that attack. And the press loves the attack. You know, it's meat. "Let's go watch you and him fight."

It's not about what's best for our country, and it's really not about what's truthful. If it's 'what about truthful' you'd wait until the court case comes out or the FCC investigation's finished or the hearings are finished, and then you find out what it is. But that's all you hear about—all you read about.

So, it's about the fight; it's not about truth. And what we need to do is recognize the value of that. And I think that stuff's been going on for years because we're human, and people are going to make mistakes. I don't know if they have been or not, but I don't think they're important. I don't think it's important at all.

What's important is, where do we go from here? How do we fix all the big problems that are in front of our country? And how do we do that where we bring everybody together, Republicans and Democrats, independents of all minds and thought and say, "Don't we really want a secure, wonderful, growing, successful America in the future?"

That's what I want. I want opportunity for my grandkids. I've got four grandkids, and I want the same kind of opportunities for them that've been available to me.

So, I think it's important for you to pay attention when you're reading and hearing that stuff. Look below it. What's it really about? It's about the pursuit of power. That's just something that the dog's gnawing on the bone on. The fact is the meat's already gone and we'll find out—the truth'll come out, and we'll get to see it.

It's kinda like Iraq right now. The reports coming out of Iraq on the press are atrocious compared to what's really happening. For every one decent story that's actual, you'll have 10 or 12 that slant it in such a negative way. War is terrible. But the fact is, we have to win there. And as the press drives the support away from the American public, what they're really doing is hurting our country.


QUESTION (36:45): I'm wondering how you see the reduction in partisanship that you were talking about before—how you believe that should go on.

COBURN: I think you lead it by example. I'm partisan for issues, but not about party. I'm partisan for principles. But partisanship— what you see today with partisanship is about attacking personal—it's about going after individuals, going after what they said.

You know, how many of you all have ever said something you wish you could get the words back? Yeah, every one of us is human. The fact is, it's what's in here that really counts, and I think the way you model—not bipartisanship. What you ought to be modeling is "How do we work the best way together for the good of our country?" And that's not by making the other person look bad.

You know, it's the old deal when your mother told you when you point your finger because when you're pointing your finger you have three pointing back at you. And the fact is, partisanship to me is childish. It's hurtful. Most of the time it's a half truth. A half truth is a whole lie. If you just think about the principles of—

The reason for partisanship, remember the motivation behind partisanship is for gain—for power gain. Why can't ideas and principles win? I think if we had leadership based on that where if you had leaders on both parties that say, "We commit to non-partisanship. We're going to fight over the ideas, fight over the principles, and whoever wins wins. Let's let the American people know."

One of our biggest problems in Congress is the American people don't know enough about what goes on up here. The wonderful part of C-SPAN, for example, covering the Congress and covering committee hearings is great for the American people to see.

But we need more of it. We need listings of the votes. We need a comparison paper every week. "Here's what Coburn said; here's what he did." Holding us accountable. And if you do that in both parties, what you're going to do is you're going to see people get down to work of solving the problems rather than work to try to gain power to solve the problems.

Senator Gregg: $850k leadership deficit

"Millionaire Sen. Judd Gregg announced Thursday that he won $853,492 in the Powerball lottery." ...

George Allen: The Reagan of 2008

"A tobacco-chewing, horse-riding, cowboy boot wearing politician called George could be the Republican party's choice for president in 2008.

"With George W Bush in political freefall, speculation is intensifying about his successor. The rising star among conservatives is George Allen, senator for Virginia and former governor of the state." ...

Vonage Goes to Washington

"Frank Cavaliere may lack certain resources available to other lobbyists, like a network of grassroots activists or a political action committee treasure chest, but he has at least one inducement to offer: T-shirts the color of tangerines."

"Vonage, a 5-year-old company in the midst of preparations for an initial public offering, hopes Congress says no to very little it offers, or at least doesn’t make life more difficult by adopting a host of new regulations.

"If a lighthearted way to make an impression, the T-shirts are part of a serious push to build a Capitol Hill network of friends as Congress moves to rewrite telecommunications policy." ...

"The Wall Street Journal wrote an article that detailed how stranded officials in New Orleans working out of a hotel linked a laptop to an Internet connection. President Bush's first contact with local officials after the storm was made on a Vonage connection."

MA: Oppose Homosexuality = No Voting

"The trial of a Massachusetts man who was arrested after disputing the teaching of homosexuality in his son's kindergarten class has been continued until next month.

"In April, David Parker, of Lexington, spent a night in jail and was charged with criminal trespassing after refusing to leave a scheduled meeting with officials at the Estabrook Elementary School unless they gave him the option of pulling his child out of certain classes.

"Parker says the officials had indicated they would agree to a notification policy then suddenly refused. He insists he has done nothing wrong and is willing to contest the charge rather than plea-bargain."

"The dispute began last spring when Parker's then-5-year-old son brought home a book to be shared with his parents titled, 'Who's in a Family?' The optional reading material, which came in a 'Diversity Book Bag,' depicted at least two households led by homosexual partners."

"Parker insists he has done nothing wrong and represents a danger to no one.

"A no-trespass order issued against him by the school—which includes all district property—is 'simply an intimidation tactic' against anyone who might protest the school's pro-homosexual policies regarding elementary school children, Article 8 says.

"Parker cannot drop off or pick up his children from school; attend his children's sports events or other school activities; meet with his children's teachers at parent-teacher conferences; attend or participate in school committee meetings; or even vote on election day at his local polling place, a public school." ...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Abortion Debate No One Wants to Have

"If it's unacceptable for William Bennett to link abortion even conversationally with a whole class of people (and, of course, it is), why then do we as a society view abortion as justified and unremarkable in the case of another class of people: children with disabilities?

"I have struggled with this question almost since our daughter Margaret was born, since she opened her big blue eyes and we got our first inkling that there was a full-fledged person behind them.

"Whenever I am out with Margaret, I'm conscious that she represents a group whose ranks are shrinking because of the wide availability of prenatal testing and abortion. I don't know how many pregnancies are terminated because of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome, but some studies estimate 80 to 90 percent." ...

"Margaret does not view her life as unremitting human suffering (although she is angry that I haven't bought her an iPod). She's consumed with more important things, like the performance of the Boston Red Sox in the playoffs and the dance she's going to this weekend. Oh sure, she wishes she could learn faster and had better math skills. So do I. But it doesn't ruin our day, much less our lives. It's the negative social attitudes that cause us to suffer."

"In ancient Greece, babies with disabilities were left out in the elements to die. We in America rely on prenatal genetic testing to make our selections in private, but the effect on society is the same.

"Margaret's old pediatrician tells me that years ago he used to have a steady stream of patients with Down syndrome. Not anymore. Where did they go, I wonder. On the west side of L.A., they aren't being born anymore, he says.

"The irony is that we live in a time when medical advances are profoundly changing what it means to live with disabilities. Years ago, people with Down syndrome often were housed in institutions. Many were in poor health, had limited self-care and social skills, couldn't read, and died young. It was thought that all their problems were unavoidable, caused by their genetic anomaly.

"Now it seems clear that these people were limited at least as much by institutionalization, low expectations, lack of education and poor health care as by their DNA. Today people with Down syndrome are living much longer and healthier lives than they did even 20 years ago. Buoyed by the educational reforms of the past quarter-century, they are increasingly finishing high school, living more independently and holding jobs."

"Margaret is a person and a member of our family. She has my husband's eyes, my hair and my mother-in-law's sense of humor. We love and admire her because of who she is—feisty and zesty and full of life—not in spite of it. She enriches our lives. If we might not have chosen to welcome her into our family, given the choice, then that is a statement more about our ignorance than about her inherent worth.

"What I don't understand is how we as a society can tacitly write off a whole group of people as having no value. I'd like to think that it's time to put that particular piece of baggage on the table and talk about it, but I'm not optimistic. People want what they want: a perfect baby, a perfect life. To which I say: Good luck. Or maybe, dream on."

"This question is a small but nonetheless significant part of what's driving the abortion discussion in this country. I have to think that there are many pro-choicers who, while paying obeisance to the rights of people with disabilities, want at the same time to preserve their right to ensure that no one with disabilities will be born into their own families.

"The abortion debate is not just about a woman's right to choose whether to have a baby; it's also about a woman's right to choose which baby she wants to have."

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Venezuelans Criticize Missionaries' Expulsion

"Members of a Venezuelan indigenous tribe on Saturday criticized President Hugo Chavez's order to expel a U.S. missionary group he accused of links to the CIA, saying the decision goes against the interests of their impoverished communities.

"Jose Kayupare of the Puinare tribe challenged Chavez's claims that the Sanford, Fla.-based New Tribes Mission constituted an 'imperialist infiltration' that was exploiting native communities.

"'For those of us who live in the jungle, this really is a decision that the majority of indigenous people in Amazonas don't support and that we are not going to accept under any circumstances,' Kayupare told reporters."

"He said the New Tribes Mission has helped Indian communities ravaged by malaria and other diseases in Venezuela, sometimes airlifting the sick to medical assistance, when the government and others had abandoned them."

"'Why don't they ask (the Indian communities) ... if they've really been abused?' asked Domingo Gonzalez, an indigenous Venezuelan working with the group.

"'The indigenous Venezuelans need to be heard, not to be spoken for,' Gonzalez said, accusing the government of being 'the ones who really harm and oppress them.'"

"Amazonas Governor Liborio Guarulla, acting on Chavez's decision, on Friday ordered New Tribe[s] missionaries in the area to leave." ...

NTM: we want to stay so we can help

"Since 1946, New Tribes has served Venezuela's indigenous communities through translation, church planting, literacy, humanitarian aid, and community development projects, almost entirely in the country's western-central Amazonas state, which borders Colombia.

"NTM works with twelve ethnic groups in Venezuela, nine with established churches, and has completed five Bible translations. Four other translations are in progress.

"Thirty of the 160 NTM missionaries in the country are Venezuelan nationals."

NTM statement: "'We are confident that President Chavez wants the best for the people of Venezuela. New Tribes Mission considers it a privilege to have served the indigenous people of Venezuela for the past 59 years. We deeply desire to be able to continue serving them.'"

"Specifically addressing Chavez's accusations, she said, 'Any kind of air travel we do, we always do within the guidelines of what the government allows. We always file reports.' On the lavish lifestyle issue she said, '(The missionaries) live in homes that make it possible for them to continue the work that they do. The homes that they live in are very simple.'

"In Venezuela as in every area where NTM ministers, 'our goal is to help and to eventually work ourselves out of a job,' Zelenak said. 'As the church is established and the Bible is translated, they don't need us any more. Until that time, we want to stay so we can help them.'"

"Samuel Olson, president of the Evangelical Council of Venezuela," cited "NTM's many endeavors among Venezuela's indigenous people: building health units and dispensaries, schools where children are taught academics in their own indigenous languages by indigenous teachers.

"In addition, the group has planted churches with indigenous leadership. At NTM's Bible institute, Venezuelans have become involved in reaching unreached groups within the nation's borders." ...

NTM: Our goal is to serve indigenous people

"New Tribes officials also have not heard directly from the Venezuelan government, she said. 'All we know is what President Chavez said in his speech.'

"The U.S. State Department is 'watching the situation closely,' said Janelle Hironimus, a spokeswoman. 'We have been in contact with the missionary organizations in Venezuela and, to our knowledge, the Venezuelan government has not required any missionary organizations to leave.'

"A statement posted on New Tribes' Web site said Chavez did not give a time frame for expulsion of the missionaries."

"New Tribes has been in Venezuela since Aug. 1, 1946, and it is one of the organization's largest missions. The missionaries work in 12 tribes and have made five translations of the Bible in the country." ...

New Tribes Mission Urges Prayer

"NTM has 160 assigned missionaries in Venezuela working with 12 indigenous groups. Their teams have been active for nearly six decades.

"New Tribes' Nita Zelenak says their primary concern is for the indigenous people of Venezuela whom their missionaries serve. She adds, 'We would very much welcome an opportunity to address his concerns and to help him better understand our organization and the work that we do there.'

"They are more than a missionary force, she explains, adding, 'In addition to the religious teaching, our missionaries work in areas of humanitarian assistance, community development and literacy.'

"Zelenak urges prayer. 'Probably our first prayer request would be that President Chavez could better understand New Tribes Mission as an organization and the work that we do in Venezuela.'" ...

Plane-spotting at Gravelly Point

"The booming sound of a low-flying airplane may not fit into your idea of a day at the park, but for many Gravelly Point visitors, it's the main attraction. Located on the shore of the Potomac River, just a stone's throw away from the airport, the park is a hotbed for aircraft spotting, a decades-old pastime that involves relaxed to obsessive watching and photographing of airplanes.

"On any given weekend when the weather is right, the park is full of tourists and locals who come to Gravelly to see commercial jets make their final descent into Washington. With a view of the Washington Monument to the north and a cool breeze coming off the river, the park is considered one of the best spotting areas in the country."

"For many, the primary appeal is not the planes themselves but the compelling pictures they inspire. Gravelly is a haven for professional and recreational photographers looking for something a little more exciting than snapping portraits of flowers."

"Though it's hard to ascribe an exact history to something as simple as observing planes, some say spotting as a hobby began in Europe during World War II. With radar technology in its infancy, some countries encouraged their citizens to watch the skies for enemy aircraft.

"As commercial air travel grew, the activity became a leisurely pursuit practiced all over the world." ...

Friday, October 14, 2005

New Judge for Katie Wernecke coming

"Juvenile Court Judge Carl Lewis stepped aside Thursday in the case of 13-year-old cancer patient Katie Wernecke."

"Last month, Lewis barred Katie's father from visiting her after state officials, who are overseeing her care, complained that he was interfering with her treatment. The Texas Supreme Court overruled Lewis' decision and granted her father restricted visitation rights.

"The Supreme Court's order maintains neither parent will have access to Katie if it is [to] deter treatment. All contact must be scheduled ahead of time and in cooperation with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

"In a cover letter attached to his order, Lewis said that ruling played a role in his decision." ...

Thursday, October 13, 2005

To a very special Dartmouth freshman class...

Student Assembly President Noah Riner, Class of 2006From Student Body President Noah Riner:

"You've been told that you are a special class. A quick look at the statistics confirms that claim: quite simply, you are the smartest and most diverse group of freshmen to set foot on the Dartmouth campus. You have more potential than all of the other classes. You really are special.

"But it isn't enough to be special. It isn't enough to be talented, to be beautiful, to be smart. Generations of amazing students have come before you, and have sat in your seats. Some have been good, some have been bad. All have been special." ...

New Tribes Mission expelled from Venezuela

"Venezuela will expel the US evangelical group New Tribes Mission, which has been active in indigenous communities along the southern border with Colombia and Brazil since 1946.

"'They will leave Venezuela,' President Hugo Chavez Frias said. 'They are agents of imperialist penetration ... they gather sensitive and strategic information and are exploiting the Indians. So they will leave, and I don't care two hoots about the international consequences that this decision could bring.'

"New Tribes, an evangelical organization that has long had close ties with the U.S.-based Summer Institute of Linguistics, is active in a number of countries in Asia and Latin America, and in Venezuela has focused its efforts on the Yanomami, Ye'kuana and Panare indigenous groups and other ethnic communities in the southern part of the country."

"Since the 1970s, New Tribes has drawn heavy criticism from many quarters, including leftist political groups, environmentalists, indigenous organizations, academics, Catholic Church leaders and even members of the military. The controversial group has been accused of prospecting for strategic minerals on behalf of transnational corporations and of the forced acculturation and conversion of indigenous people.

"Sociologist and environmentalist Alexander Luzardo, who 20 years ago published a report on the New Tribes Mission's operations in the Amazon jungle, welcomed Chavez' decision.

"He told IPS that the decision 'complies with what is stipulated in the constitution of 1999, which establishes indigenous peoples' right to self-determination and to respect for their beliefs, values and customs.'"

"During the group's most active period, roughly 20 years ago, New Tribes missionaries from the United States numbered close to 200, said Luzardo. They were mainly concentrated in Tama-Tama, a spot where several rivers meet in the heart of the southernmost Venezuelan state of Amazonas.

"This area is believed to be rich in minerals like uranium. For many years, New Tribes built airstrips and modern installations that contrasted sharply with the rustic constructions in the indigenous communities they ministered to.

"The now defunct National Identity Movement, which grouped together cultural, environmental and indigenous organizations in the 1980s, maintained that New Tribes acted as a cover for the prospecting of geological and mineral wealth coveted by corporations that provided funding for the Summer Institute of Linguistics. These included General Dynamics, a defense industry contractor, and Ford.

"Nevertheless, the demands made at the time for the expulsion of the New Tribes Mission from Venezuela eventually faded into oblivion, as did public concern over the activity of the group, which has also experienced divisions in recent years, Luzardo commented.

"But that changed with the announcement made by Chavez, who noted that "while indigenous people live in extremely difficult conditions, New Tribes have power plants, radio systems and airstrips well maintained with tractors and mowers, where planes fly in from abroad without going through any kind of customs check."

"His reference to the potential consequences of the measure is likely due to the fact that New Tribes belongs to the Evangelical Council of Venezuela and could accuse the government of religious persecution."

"Chavez stressed that 'we are not going to run roughshod over anyone, we will give New Tribes time to pack up their things and go.'" ...

New Tribes Mission had no comment on the announcement.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

DC Public Transportation Tracking

"The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority plans to spend $830m over the next five years to upgrade its fleet of buses and overhaul its scheduling system. The plans were spurred by recommendations in June from a panel of bus managers from Houston, New York, and San Mateo, California, which made wide-ranging recommendations for Metro’s bus fleet.

"The Metro authority's 1,460 buses serve more than 350 routes and make 442,787 trips daily. Under the new plan, Metro will spend $488m introducing 900 new buses.

"It will also invest in technology to help match routes to demand and allow customers to track buses’ whereabouts via cell phone or the internet.

"Popular bus stops would get electronic signs, with an eye towards eventually installing such signs at every bus stop. The plan also calls for a new radio system to improve communication with drivers on their routes." From an Economist.com email

Monday, October 10, 2005

On the National Mall, It's a Fresh New Testament

"Six years ago Palau—70, born in Argentina, educated in Oregon, once mentored and employed by Billy Graham—had the insight that he might reach more people by creating elaborate events featuring plenty of fun and food along with faith. He invited popular Christian bands, edgy Christian skateboard heroes with a portable half-pipe, and admired Christian athletes—all to perform, and to speak of their faith. He added a section for children including characters from the faith-based VeggieTales videos. In six years, Palau's organization estimates, 4.5 million people have attended its festivals in the United States and Latin America.

"It is spectacle as communication, with testimonials woven in. Christian iconography is scarce. A gospel message floats on the wings of a rock or rap lyric, or in the personal story of a tattooed skateboarder, or in the moral of a tale starring a cucumber." ...

Sunday, October 9, 2005

DC Festival: rains come down, hands go up

"The opening day of DC Festival, a Christian evangelical gathering on the Mall two years in the planning, was undercut by bad weather yesterday as heavy rain forced organizers to cancel many events and truncate their spiritual outreach.

"The $3.4 million, two-day festival, which represents the Washington debut of evangelical preacher Luis Palau, drew a fraction of the 100,000 that organizers had hoped to attract. Early in the evening, festival officials estimated the crowd at 5,000 but increased the figure to nearer 10,000 by the time the festival ended about 8:30."

"The youthful, multiethnic crowd of corporate executives, college students and families with small children stood on the grass of the Mall clutching umbrellas and wearing raincoats. Some sat in lawn chairs. They seemed oblivious to the almost continuous downpour."

"Festival spokesman Craig Chastain said officials would decide early today about additional changes in the scheduled program."

"Officials of Palau's ministry, based in his home town of Portland, Ore., were disappointed at the meteorological setback, but like their leader, they put their frustration in a spiritual context.

"'Luis is at peace about it,' Chastain said. 'It has been his dream of coming here for 40 years, and there's a level of disappointment. But it's not going to steal our joy. We've always approached what we do, not through numbers but by people making a decision for Christ. For Luis, if one person raises his hand, it will be time well-spent.'" ...

"Despite the soaked-out event, Palau earlier said he was encouraged that 'close to 1,500 people have given themselves to Jesus Christ' as a result of his evangelistic outreach at pre-festival events over the past two weeks.

"At one point in the afternoon, members of the Nation of Islam, wearing T-shirts and jeans, surveyed the area where the festival was occurring—the same spot where a huge crowd is expected to convene next week for the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March. Said one Muslim: 'We are just checking things out.'"

Friday, October 7, 2005

Party Time on the National Mall

"The Mall [is] suited up for another showcase event. This time, the trappings are a skateboard park, a food court, dozens of volunteer stations, two huge tents for hundreds of celebrity guests, three JumboTron screens to project onstage musical performances, and banners bearing the names of such corporate sponsors as Amtrak and the Washington Capitals."

"DC Festival, on Oct. 8-9, is the latest production of Oregon-based Christian evangelist Luis Palau, who has been drawing large crowds since introducing his concept of 'festival evangelism' six years ago.

"The event, in the making for two years, is being supported by nearly 900 Washington area churches. Organizers hope to draw as many as 200,000 people over the two days, which would make the $3.4 million affair the largest religious assembly on the Mall since an estimated half-million attended a Promise Keepers rally in 1997."

"DC Festival will feature top-flight Christian contemporary musical acts. Stars of extreme sports will demonstrate their skateboarding and biking skills, as well as talk about their Christian faith. Faith-based 'VeggieTales' actors will entertain children.

"'There will be something for everybody,' Palau spokesman Craig Chastain said. 'We want the community to see that the church can throw a good party.'"

"The event—which has the slogan 'Great Music! Good News!'—will be the Washington debut for Palau, who has held more than a dozen such festivals in other U.S., European and South American cities. Long known as a top preacher in the Latino world, the Argentine native has become widely recognized in Anglo evangelical circles with the success of his festival approach."

"Palau officials said that since they changed their gatherings in 1999, attendance has risen almost tenfold. Recent festivals have drawn 200,000 in the Twin Cities, 300,000 in Fort Lauderdale and a million in Palau's hometown of Buenos Aires. Before committing to a city, Palau's team makes it a point to secure local grass-roots support for a festival. In Washington, Palau said, he particularly wanted—and got—the backing of area African American churches." ...

"Despite his success, Palau acknowledged that there is a risk that things will not go well when he gives his spiritual message. 'I always think they're going to run to the bathroom, buy Cokes and hamburgers and disappear till the next musical group shows up,' he said. 'Amazingly, they don't. I'm as amazed as the next guy.

"'I think we don't give credit to people that their spiritual interest is as high as it is.'

"But the Palau method is at work here too, he added. 'We keep the best [musical] act for after my preaching,' he said. 'We're not stupid.'"

Watch a video about DC Festival!

Monday, October 3, 2005

Sens. Coburn & Obama: Rebuilding with accountability

"So far, Congress has approved $62 billion for Gulf Coast relief and rebuilding. In the few short weeks since Hurricane Katrina hit, the government already has spent $14 billion, nearly the entire amount spent on the deadly Northridge Earthquake that devastated Los Angeles in 1994."

"Most of this money will go directly to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is twelvefold the money FEMA was given last year—more than it has ever before been entrusted to spend. If FEMA's record during the rescue effort and in the years before indicates how it will perform in the rebuilding task, this should concern every taxpayer and every citizen who wants to help the millions of Americans devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

"Unfortunately, even before this storm, rebuilding efforts involving FEMA and other government agencies have a history of fraud, corruption and waste when there is no oversight or accountability on how the funds are spent."

"We must ensure the Gulf Coast rebuilding has strict oversight and accountability so taxpayer dollars are not wasted or abused. This is why we have introduced legislation called the OVERSEE Act that would create a Chief Financial Officer to oversee all expenditures associated with Hurricane Katrina relief and reconstruction. The Hurricane Katrina CFO would be staffed with experts from relevant federal agencies and would have management and oversight over any agency using federal funds for the recovery. The CFO will be appointed by the president but must be Senate-confirmed.

"The CFO will issue monthly financial reports to Congress for oversight, and the Government Accountability Office will issue quarterly reviews of the CFO work and recovery activities. Our bill will give legal authority to one person to cut through red tape and make financial decisions that involve multiple government offices and agencies. Thus authorizing one CFO is the only way to achieve a coordinated effort.

"But the important thing is this bill would ensure that public funds are allocated properly before they are spent, not after. We believe the president's proposal for a team of inspectors general is not a good substitute for one chief financial officer carefully watching dollars as they go out the door. A clear lesson in this tragedy is that one point person tends to be more effective than many point persons. Currently, an inspector general can examine expenditure of public funds only after they are spent. We need oversight before the fact, not after—when it is too late to undo mistakes." ...

Buying what should be free

"Political bloggers who offer diverse views on Republicans and Democrats, war and peace argued on Thursday that they should be free of government regulation.

"The notion was echoed by some members of the government agency trying to write rules covering the Internet's reach in political campaigns.

"Amid the explosion of political activity on the Internet, a federal court has instructed the six-member Federal Election Commission to draw up regulations that would extend the nation's campaign finance and spending limits to the Web.

"The FEC, in its initial rules, had exempted the Internet.

"Bloggers told the Committee on House Administration that regulations encompassing the Internet, even ones just on advertising, would have a chilling effect on free speech. The FEC vice chairman also questioned the necessity of any rules.

"'I strongly believe that the online political speech of all Americans should remain free of government review and regulations,' said Michael E. Toner." (Word)

"Toner argued that political activity on the Internet fails to meet the campaign finance law's threshold to stop corruption or the appearance of corruption. Toner urged Congress to pass a law that pre-empts the court's action and ensures that the Internet remains exempt from campaign finance rules." ...

Blogging Past the Censors

"A Paris-based media watchdog has released a free guide with tips for bloggers and dissidents to sneak past Internet censors in countries from China to Iran.

"Reporters Without Borders' 'Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents' is partly financed by the French Foreign Ministry and includes technical advice on how to remain anonymous online. It was launched at the Apple Expo computer show in Paris on Thursday and can be downloaded in Chinese, Arabic, Persian, English and French." ...

"The San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation also published an online guide this year to help Web diarists keep their blogs anonymous. That includes pointers on anonymizing technologies, including the EFF's own Tor, and tips on keeping postings out of search engines. The guide, though, was mostly aimed at preventing firings rather than bypassing censorship."

Constructs of the Physical World

"Folders do not exist in Gmail. Everything's dumped into the inbox and your only alternative is to move it into the archive.

"However, I can add 'labels' to conversations. So instead of dumping a message into a folder on 'running,' I can simply label it 'running.' I can add multiple labels, whereas a message can only exist in one folder without making a copy. With labels, I can organize based on both whom I'm talking with and what I'm talking about.

"Google seems aware that folders are a construct of the physical world and don't make much sense when digital objects can appear in multiple places at once. But society may not be ready for such a monumental shift in thinking." ...

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