Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Jackson prays with Schiavo's parents: "Summoned by Terri Schiavo's increasingly desperate parents, the Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the hospice Tuesday where the brain-damaged woman entered her 12th day without food or water."

"'She is being starved to death,' the civil rights leader said after meeting with Schiavo's parents. 'She is being dehydrated to death. That's inhumane, it is immoral and it is unnecessary. There is no rational reason for this to happen.'"

"Jackson, a former Democratic presidential candidate and longtime supporter of liberal causes, joined conservatives, including anti-abortion activist Randall Terry, who view Schiavo's case as crucial to building what they call a culture of life."

"Jackson said he was lobbying several state senators to change their votes last week against legislation that would restore the feeding tube. The bill failed, 21-18."

Vatican: Pope getting nutrition from tube: "Pope John Paul II is getting nutrition from a tube in his nose, the Vatican said Wednesday, shortly after the frail pontiff appeared at his window in St. Peter's Square and managed only a rasp when he tried to speak."
Gadgets rule on college campuses: "The American college campus, long an oasis of scholarship and coming-of-age, is now being transformed by a more palpable force: an armada of laptops, cell phones and perpetual connectivity."

"This is college life today, where students are electronically linked to each other, to professors and to their class work 24/7 in an ever-flowing river of information and communication.

"U.S. colleges have been upgrading their computer systems for years, in large part to stay competitive. But the race to lure students with the most robust broadband networks and the hottest gadgets has hit a fever pitch. With many schools offering wireless Internet access anywhere on campus, colleges as a group have become the most Internet-accessible spots in the USA."

"For most undergrads, the non-stop connectivity is the fuel of college life. Online, students get homework and lecture outlines and take part in class discussions. 'It makes it easier to justify skipping class,' says sophomore Kristin Bedinger. She e-mails professors in the wee hours and instant-messages friends to brainstorm assignments. 'I have no idea how anyone made it through college without a (PC) and the Internet,' she says."

"Taking a stand against the onslaught is University of Michigan professor Buzz Alexander. A few years ago, he stopped answering e-mail from students in his introductory English class. 'I just realized I wasn't seeing people in my office. It dehumanizes the relationship. I want to talk to them in person and say, "How are things going?"'"

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Earth's Moon: Still A Puzzle: Paul Lowman, a planetary geologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland: "'I think the origin of the Moon is still an unsolved problem, contrary to what anybody will tell you,' Lowman said.

"Lowman said that there is a treasure trove of data still to be plumbed from data acquired decades ago during the Apollo program. For instance, he has been taking another look at images snapped by moonwalkers from the Apollo 15, 16, and 17 landings, finding evidence for layered structure in lunar highland crust.

"Working with Tiffany Yang, a research colleague, Lowman has reviewed hundreds of lunar surface shots, identifying layers in the surrounding terrain that are not explainable as overlapping layers of ejecta from craters or mare basins. He reported here at the LPSC that this pervasive layering is the expression of lava flows.

"'Data has been sitting around and never properly studied. We were overwhelmed by the information from Apollo. People never went back to it,' Lowman said. Thanks to new and better techniques, like digital processing, giving Apollo-era pictures and other data another look can prove valuable, he said."
The Latest Initiative In Congress: Blogging: "Blogging, the Web-based craft of diary-keeping and commentary, is taking root on Capitol Hill.

"The nonprofit Congressional Management Foundation, which helps educate Congress on running its business, says at least four members—Mr. Pence; Representatives Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois, and Katherine Harris, Republican of Florida; and Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont—have taken up the task on a continuing basis. (Others have used temporary blogs to document trips, said Brad Fitch, the foundation's deputy director.)

"The Congressional bloggers praise the power, popularity and potential of blogging, citing it as one of the most frequently visited parts of their Congressional Web sites."
Colorado Court Bars Execution Because Jurors Consulted Bible: "In a sharply divided ruling, Colorado's highest court on Monday upheld a lower court's decision throwing out the sentence of a man who was given the death penalty after jurors consulted the Bible in reaching a verdict. The Bible, the court said, constituted an improper outside influence and a reliance on what the court called a 'higher authority.'"

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Too Bad Terri's Not a Terrorist or a Condemned Murderer: "In 1984, the New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld a trial court order that authorized a prison warden to feed and nourish a prison inmate over his objection, even though he was mentally competent and wanted to die by starvation. Here we have a judge ordering the removal of food and water to cause starvation. Even if we knew that's what Terri wants, Florida law makes aiding and abetting a suicide a felony, and there's no black-robed exemption.

"Terri Schiavo isn't dying from a disease, she isn't on a ventilator, she doesn't meet Florida's definition of 'persistent vegetative state,' and she committed no crime. She's being killed by a judge on the flimsiest of evidence."
Monument to reopen with safety upgrades: "The Washington Monument will reopen to the public April 1 after the completion of security upgrades, the National Park Service announced Friday.

"The monument has been closed since Sept. 7, when the $15 million project began. The security improvements include vehicle barriers and a new lighting system.

"Visitors will be able to travel by elevator to the top of the 555-foot tall monument when it reopens, but the surrounding 55 acres will remain off-limits until late June, said Vikki Keys, superintendent of the National Mall and memorial parks."
Mother arrested for attempting to intervene in her 14-year old's abortion: "A Southern Illinois woman was arrested last week (March 17) after trying to intervene on behalf of her 14-year old daughter's effort to have an abortion. The girl was allegedly taken to an abortion clinic by the mother of the man allegedly to have impregnated the 14-year old.

"According to the girl's mother, her 14-year old daughter was called off from school in Madison County by a woman posing as the girl's 'grandmother.' The woman took the girl from her home only minutes before the girl's mother returned home from work. It was later determined that the woman who had posed as the 'grandmother' to the school authorities was the mother of the male who had fathered the unborn child the 14-year old girl was carrying. The age of the male has not been released.

"When the parents were notified their pregnant daughter was not at school, they suspected she had been taken to the Hope Abortion Clinic in Granite City. The parents and grandfather were the only persons authorized to request school absence for the fourteen year old female.

"'My husband and I rushed to the abortion clinic where we saw our daughter's name on the roster and the time she had checked in,' the mother said. She then went into the clinic and searched a room filled with young women awaiting abortions but did not see her daughter.

"She took a seat near the main desk and said, 'I was told I could not prove my daughter was there so I began calling her name. A medical tech at the clinic told me , "It's your daughter's rights, it's her body. You have no rights."' After continuing to call out her daughter�s name and telling her 'don't do it,' authorities were called and the mother was arrested.

"The 14-year old told her mother she could hear her but when she asked employees to give her mother a message, they came back to the room and told her that her mother had left."

"The police in the community in which the family lives allegedly told the girl's mom that they couldn't intervene despite her making a charge that her daughter had been raped (by statute) because the charge was stale—7 weeks after the incident. They did tell the girl's mom that, while she had no right to stop the abortion, she did have a right to go into the clinic and speak to her daughter.

"The parents are expected to file charges."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Space venture has West Texas county abuzz: "Even skeptical locals, who've become wary over the years of city slickers with big ideas for their town, perked up when founder Jeff Bezos made his pitch—a spaceport for commercial travel into the beyond.

"Bezos flew into this West Texas town a few weeks ago to tell key leaders how he planned to use his newly acquired 165,000 acres of desolate ranch land. He also gave his only interview so far on the spaceport to the Van Horn Advocate, the weekly newspaper Larry Simpson runs from the back of his Radio Shack store."

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Ashley Smith's Story: "It was a 'textbook case' of how to deal with a hostage-taker. Ashley Smith talked shooting suspect Brian Nichols into turning himself in. After several hours in her apartment, Nichols allowed Smith to leave, and she immediately called the police.

'To avoid this thing becoming even more crazy, it wasn't a question of who was right or wrong, but how do we get this thing taken care of, managed, so nobody else gets killed?' Robert Benjamin, a veteran conflict negotiator in Portland, Oregon told The Christian Science Monitor. 'And her deft touch, unstudied as it was, was quite frankly a moment of brilliance.'

Reading Smith's account of the story, it's clear that sharing her faith with Nichols did much to help them both get through the situation safely."

"Two days before, Smith moved into the apartment where Nichols held her hostage. She works two jobs and recently completed a medical assistant course. Smith was returning from a store at 2:30 a.m. when Nichols held a gun to her back and forced her into the apartment. But by 9 that morning Smith convinced Nichols to allow her to pick up her daughter from Awana."

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Russian Communists Turn to Text Messaging: "After decades of hammers and sickles, red flags and wordy slogans, Russia's Communists are looking to a propaganda device Lenin and Stalin never dreamed of: cellphone text messaging.

"The Communist Party is struggling to regain influence and broaden its aging support base, and its leaders on Saturday called for a fresh propaganda push to attract younger Russians and gain attention despite being largely shut out by the Kremlin-dominated news media."
Nichols' hostage, and how she got away: "Brian Nichols held an unidentified 30-something year-old woman in her apartment in Gwinnett County overnight Friday night, sometimes at gun point, sometimes tied up.

"She talked about her young daughter. She talked about her late husband. And she talked about God. During the more than seven hours she was held hostage inside her apartment, sometimes at gunpoint, the Duluth woman talked about her life until, somehow, she was able to persuade the gunman to untie her and let her go."
iPod World: "There are now 22 million iPod owners in the United States and Apple is now becoming a mass market company for the first time. Walk through any U.S. airport these days, and you will see person after person gliding through the social ether as if on auto-pilot. Get on a subway, and you're surrounded by a bunch of Stepford commuters, all sealed off from each other, staring into mid-space as if anaesthetized by technology. Don't ask, don't tell, don't over-hear, don't observe. Just tune in and tune out.

"It wouldn't be so worrisome if it weren't part of something even bigger. Americans are beginning to narrowcast their own lives. You get your news from your favorite blogs, the ones that won't challenge your own view of the world. You tune into a paid satellite radio service that also aims directly at a small market—for New Age fanatics, or liberal talk, or Christian rock. Television is all cable. Culure is all subculture. Your cell-phones can receive email feeds of your favorite blogger's latest thoughts—seconds after he has posted them—or sports scores for your own team, or stock quotes of just your portfolio.

"Technology has given us finally a universe entirely for ourselves—where the serendipity of meeting a new stranger, or hearing a piece of music we would never choose for ourselves, or an opinion that might actually force us to change our mind about something are all effectively banished. Atomization by little white boxes and cell-phones. Society without the social. Others who are chosen—not met at random.

"Human beings have never lived like this before. Yes, we have always had homes or retreats or places where we went to relax or unwind or shut the world out. But we didn't walk around the world like hermit crabs with our isolation surgically attached. Music in particular was once the preserve of the living room or the concert hall. It was sometimes solitary but it was primarily a shared experience, something that brought people together, gave them the comfort of knowing that others too understood the pleasure of that Brahms symphony or that Beatles album.

"But music is as atomized now as living is. And it's also secret. That bloke next to you on the bus could be listening to heavy metal or Gregorian chant. You'll never know. And so, bit by bit, you'll never really know him. And by his very white wires, he is indicating he doesn't really want to know you."

"But what are we missing? That hilarious shard of an over-heard conversation that stays with you all day; the child whose chatter on the sidewalk takes you back to your own early memories; birdsong; weather; accents; the laughter of others; and those thoughts that come not by filling your head with selected diversion, but by allowing your mind to wander aimlessly through the regular background noise of human and mechanical life. External stimulation can crowd out the interior mind. Even the boredom that we flee has its uses. We are forced to find our own means to overcome it."
City looks at WiFi feasibility: "Winter Springs officials are considering a plan that would allow residents to surf the Internet for free or for a very nominal fee.

"At a recent City Commission meeting, Commissioner Michael S. Blake brought up the idea of having the city provide broadband wireless service, or WiFi, throughout the city. It would be the first such service in Seminole County."

"'A lot of people in Winter Springs work out of their homes and they depend on wireless Internet for their work. This would be wonderful,' said Mayor John Bush.

"Cities in Europe have been quick to jump on the WiFi bandwagon, but there are only a few cities in the United States that have followed suit. They include St. Cloud, as well as Long Beach, Calif., and Milwaukee."

"The technology is in place. Winter Springs already has fiber access to the Internet backbone and it would only be a matter of running the utility from various wireless access points and then back to the base, Blake said.

"'It will attract the right residents … residents who are community-minded and forward-thinking. It will attract the right businesses and create jobs. It's the right thing to do,' he said."

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Hadley Arkes: The logic of any law is to replace private choice with public obligation.
Abortion collides with bankruptcy in Senate: "The ultimate values issue, abortion, collided Tuesday in the United States Senate with one of the ultimate money issues, bankruptcy.

"On Tuesday the Senate voted 53-46 to reject a proposal, sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., that would have stopped violent protesters, whether at abortion clinics or any other lawful business or service, from using bankruptcy law to avoid paying court-ordered fines.

"In this, the first battle over abortion in the new Congress, two Democrats, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, joined with 51 Republicans in voting to scuttle the Schumer amendment.

"Four Republicans joined with 42 Democrats to support the measure. The four Republicans were Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

"Following the vote to kill the Schumer amendment, the Senate then voted 69-31 to shut off debate and proceed to final passage of the bill, which will come later this week.

"The defeat of the Schumer amendment and the success of the cloture vote were major and long-delayed victories for both anti-abortion groups and for credit card companies and retailers.

"Although Schumer hinted from time to time that he might try to filibuster the bankruptcy bill if it did not include his amendment, the cloture vote revealed Tuesday that 14 Senate Democrats wanted no further delays in a vote on final passage of the bill."

"One of the Senate’s leading anti-abortion advocates, Sen. Tom Coburn, R- Okla., said late Monday Schumer's amendment was unnecessary.

"'There hasn't been one' anti-abortion protester whose debts 'have been discharged under the present law,' Coburn said. 'There hasn't been a case where they have been able to hide. If you're going to do that, do it to anybody who breaks the law. How about a rabid environmentalist that spikes trees? Should they be able to use the bankruptcy court?'"

This amendment was not as innocuous as reports indicate. Just as he intended in 2002, and for years prior, Sen. Schumer wants to make sure that any pro-life sidewalk counselor near an abortion clinic could potentially have to pay money to abortion providers for the rest of their lives by keeping them permanently bankrupt.

"'Not a comma has been changed' since 2002, Schumer said."

The National Retail Federation is happy the Schumer amendment failed, too. They're scoring both votes, too!
Wiki Becomes a Way of Life: "Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, has 490,000 articles—in English alone. All together, including its French, German, Italian, Chinese, Spanish and many other versions, it has well over 1.3 million entries.

"But without its 16,000 contributors, Wikipedia would be about as useful as a moldy 1978 edition of Encyclopedia Americana. With them, Wikipedia has become the world's largest effort of its kind, and one that is compared to Encyclopedia Britannica in terms of quality and breadth.

"Among those 16,000 contributors, there are some whose involvement goes far beyond the call of duty. These are the hard-core Wikipedians who spend long hours writing articles, or tweaking existing ones."
White House admits first blogger to news briefing: "With an official credential hanging from his neck, a young man stepped into the White House briefing room Monday as perhaps the first blogger to cover the daily press briefings.

"He found the surroundings to be dilapidated and cramped and concluded that his morning at the White House was 'remarkably uneventful.'

"Garrett M. Graff, 23, writes Fishbowl D.C., a Web log about the news media in Washington. He decided to see if he could get a daily pass for a briefing after a recent controversy raised questions about White House access and who is a legitimate reporter.

"Graff said he got his pass after a week of asking. 'The briefing room ought to be an inclusive place,' White House press secretary Scott McClellan said."

"McClellan said Graff was believed to be the first blogger to be credentialed to attend his morning press gathering and his televised briefing later in the day.

"McClellan ran into Graff in the press room in the afternoon and greeted him as 'the mystery man.' The two went up to McClellan's office to chat."

Inside the Veal Pen: "Many of the (numerous) press stories concerning Monday's visit summed up our response by saying we were 'underwhelmed' and 'unimpressed.' Neither word really captures the overall reaction. It was, after all, the White House.

"It's hard not to be impressed by the residence and office of the leader of the free world. It's hard not to feel a little awe sitting in the famous briefing room, beamed daily live around the world, watching Marines in full dress uniform step smartly by outside and mix with Secret Service officers with machine guns and sniper rifles—especially when Marine One landed on the South Lawn to ferry the President away."
Ten Commandments before high court: "The issue of whether the Ten Commandments can be displayed on government property goes before the Supreme Court Wednesday, in a pair of potentially landmark cases that test religion's cultural and legal status in American society.

"The justices will consider whether displaying the commandments represents state endorsement of religion, or simply recognizes and reflects the role that code has played in U.S. moral and legal traditions."

"Few Christian organizations have spoken out. The National Council of Churches said differences within its membership kept the group from taking a position. The Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Convention have been largely silent."

"The court has tread carefully on the issue. It ruled in 1980 that the Ten Commandments could not be posted in public school classrooms.

"And in October, the justices refused to accept an appeal from former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore. He was removed from office in November 2003 after refusing a federal judge's order to remove a 2.6-ton granite monument bearing the Ten Commandments from the state court building.

"The pervasiveness of the Ten Commandments is evident in the Supreme Court building itself. Inside the courtroom is a series of marble friezes that include not only Confucius, Mohammed and secular figures associated with law, but Moses holding the tablets, without text. The justices can see them from the bench simply by looking up."

Monday, March 7, 2005

SpaceShipOne to go on public display: "The record-setting, privately-built suborbital rocket plane—SpaceShipOne—is headed for a landing at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C.

"Designed and built by aerospace engineer, Burt Rutan and his Scaled Composites team in Mojave, California, SpaceShipOne made piloted back-to-back flights last year to snag the $10 million X Prize.

"SpaceShipOne is to be displayed in the museum's Milestones of Flight Gallery, said Peter Golkin, a NASM spokesman. That gallery exhibits some of the major firsts in aviation and space history.

"Rutan has advised that the scheduled handover to NASM of SpaceShipOne will first see the craft on public display at the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) AirVenture 2005, held July 25-31 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisconsin."
SEC Launches ChoicePoint Probe: "ChoicePoint, the embattled data warehouser, says the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating stock sales by its top two executives. Meanwhile, the company has decided to stop giving personal information about consumers to small businesses. Its shares tumbled on the news."

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