Thursday, February 24, 2005

Rocket-fueled milk?

From the report today of, this is a tad disconcerting:

A toxic component of rocket fuel has been found in breast milk of women in 18 states and store-bought milk from various locations around the country.

The chemical, perchlorate, can impede adult metabolism and cause retardation in fetuses, among other things. It leaches into groundwater from various military facilities.

The report includes a graphic that shows where the adulterated milk samples appeared. California, New York and Arizona had the most numbers of rocket-fuel tainted milk samples, but higher concentrations of the chemical showed up in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma (oh dear us) and Florida. The home of the space shuttle had astronomically high samples.

That can't be healthy.

It's one thing when the conspiracy- and armageddon-inclined folks start waxing about chemtrails in the American skies* but when regular scientists start reporting rocket fuel in the baby's milk (breast or bottle) then something is very very wrong.

*In the interest of full disclosure, we must confess that recent observations of the skies are leading us toward at least suspecting that perhaps there is something going on up there.

That'll teach the hussy

In theocratic Iran, that bastion of enlightenment and soon-to-be nuclear power, a teenage girl reports being raped and kidnapped to authorities and discovers that She Must Have Brought It On Herself.

The court dismissed the girl's claim that [she] was raped. It said she had sex of her own free will, the official Iran Daily newspaper reported.

The girl was sentenced to 100 lashes because her accusations of rape and kidnap could have landed her partners a death penalty, the Tehran judge said.

Since sex outside of marriage (or harem, we suppose) is illegal, the two young men involved in the incident were found guilty of lesser charges and sentenced to 30 and 40 lashes each.

The girl is "fortunate" in that she could have been given a death sentence (stoning is a favorite). But 100 lashes? People have died with lesser lashings.

Never forget: these Islamic men of peace would like to teach the whole world to sing song in perfect sharia harmony, including America.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Farewell, Dr. Gene

We were saddened to learn that Dr. Gene Scott of Los Angeles had died of a stroke at 75.

Dr. Gene, a cigar-chomping, oft-cussing televangelist who founded his own church and satellite TV network, was one-of-a-kind. Entertaining, goofy and occasionally even inspirational. And 100% red-blooded America. If the phones weren't ringing with enough pledges, Dr. Gene would light up another cigar, wheel his forefinger around a time or two and command the band to keep on playing "until you get up off your asses and start dialin' in."

It was pragmatic in a rough-hewn, Andrew Jacksonian sort of way. It fascinated us, and we're Roman Catholics. There was no danger of a conversion but it did surprise us from time-to-time how ecumenical Dr. Gene could be. He was no stranger to history, and he did not try to pretend the Protestant churches existed before 1520. Behind the theatrics and odd appearance there was a real intellect and an earthy spirituality that perhaps only God Himself could totally appreciate.

Dr. Gene was so entertaining that the local "morning zoo" radio guys in Tulsa came up with their own knock-off (tribute) version: Dr. Gene Squat. Sometimes they were as funny as the real thing.

For whatever reason -- the arbiters of good taste might have intervened with the cable company -- Dr. Gene's grainy signal quit showing up late nights on Tulsa TV, and thus we lost contact a few years back. Another victim of the corporate homogenization of the airways. It was a sad loss then, and a sad loss today.

Israel: 4th Commandment violation

The online edition of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports:

Survey of elderly in Israel shows abuse, neglect are widespread

Sad that in the nation of people who pioneered the concept of "Honor thy father and thy mother" there seems to be a lack of respect for the elderly in nursing homes.
Then again, as bad as the numbers are from the Israel study, they might well be much worse in the United States.
This is not to denigrate those consciencious caregivers who do their jobs with love and respect -- still a majority, we would imagine. Yet anecdotal evidence suggests that there are growing numbers of workers who are not qualified, caring or capable, and there is plenty of direct evidence that many nursing home owners (or owners' groups) simply do not allocate adequate personnel to do the job.
All of which reminds us of a big scandal in Oklahoma. Stay tuned.

Terri Schiavo on the brink

Something deadly serious is taking place in Florida, and it has national implications -- perhaps even beyond the 2000 presidential voting mess. The State of Florida is about to give its legal sanction to a murder of a young woman. Michael Brown of Spirit Daily sums it up this way:

It's high noon in America when it comes to that disabled Florida woman whose feeding tubes could be removed as early as this week and it is beyond comprehension that a nation could sit back and watch the slow, painful death of a woman who can talk, who is aware, who expresses laughter, who has swallowed on her own, who expresses fear, whose parents love her.

This is not a woman who wants to die; this is a woman who, against all odds, has battled for 14 years now to live -- and who has been mysteriously prone to utter the words, "Help me."

It is a woman who prays when a priest is there, who watches out the window for her mother, who some believe could become a functioning human being, could even speak whole sentences, with proper therapy -- which, apparently, she has not received for years.

Never has it been truer that all it takes for evil to triumph is for the good to do nothing.

We're going to do nothing as the torment of her parents reaches an excruciating and unimaginable climax?

We're going to let them pull the plug on her?


We received an e-mail today from a friend who had been contacted by Catholic and urged to join a campaign to encourage Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to intervene again. We reprint the e-mail here:
Date: Mon, 21 Feb 2005 18:49:55 -0800
From: "Catholic Answers"

A woman is about to be murdered, and you probably already know her name--Terri Schiavo.

Please help us rescue Terri from a horrible death by starvation! The moment her feeding tube is removed, Terri will begin a long, slow, painful death by starvation and dehydration.

We need your help NOW to rescue Terri from her cruel executioners. They've already tried to kill her once before, and she fought to stay alive. But this may be the last chance Terri gets.

Will you help save her life?

If you've heard about Terri only through the news media, you've probably been led to believe things like this:
* Terri brain dead.
* She is in a coma.
* She's a vegetable.
* Extraordinary means are being used to keep her alive.
* She wants to die but her parents stubbornly won't let it happen.

None of these things are true! Terri is NOT brain dead. She is NOT in a coma. She is NOT in a "persistent vegetative state." And she is not on ANY life-support system.

When her parents visit her, Terri laughs, she cries, she moves, and she makes child-like attempts at speech with her mother and father. Sometimes she will say "Mom" or "Dad" or "yeah" when they ask her a question. And when they kiss her hello or goodbye, she looks at them and "puckers up" her lips. She's able to sit in a chair, she loves to listen to her favorite music, and she recognizes her brother and sister when they come to visit.

Board-certified neurologist Dr. Jacob Green of Jacksonville, Florida, who examined Terri, said unequivocally: "She is not in a vegetative state." When asked if it would be ethical to remove her feeding tube, he said, "I'd call it murder."

Terri receives food and liquid through a feeding tube because she can't swallow. In other words, Terri depends on food and water to stay alive-just like everybody else!

But her husband, Michael, wants to disconnect her only means of food so that she will slowly starve to death. Medical experts all agree that death by starvation and dehydration is perhaps the most painful, the most tortuous, and the most agonizing way to die.

Yes, Terri's injury left her disabled. But there are tens of thousands of disabled people who depend on gastro feeding tubes every day, and they live otherwise normal lives. Terri can breathe for herself. She is not on a ventilator. Her vital organs are working fine, which means she is not hooked up to a machine. Furthermore, she is NOT dying or being "kept alive" by artificial means. She does not have a terminal disease, and she will be able to feel pain if she is starved to death.

And that could start to happen in the next few days.

Time is running out for Terri. Her feeding tube could be removed THIS WEEK!!! There is one last court procedure that is being tried to save Terri's life, but if it fails her feeding tube could be removed Wednesday. If that happens then only thing that may save her might be action by Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Governor Bush has already fought to save Terri's life. The last time her feeding tube was removed he stepped in and snatched her back from the brink of death. The Florida legislature even passed a special law--"Terri's Law"--to give him the authority to keep her alive.But then the law was struck down by a judge, putting Terri's life on the line once again. If the courts continue their anti-life crusade against Terri and others like her, the only thing that may save her would be action by Governor Bush.

The attorneys who are fighting for Terri's life have a few more possible ways to prevent Terri's murder. But these are last-ditch efforts that may or may not work. The courts are decidedly on Michael's side--not Terri's.

So that means we have to come to Terri's aid-especially through the amazing power of prayer and sacrifice--but also by sharing this story with everybody you know, and encouraging Governor Jeb Bush to do everything he can to rescue Terri once again.

Here's what you can do . . .

1.) First, PRAY for Terri--harder than ever before! Not enough people are praying for Terri right now. And she needs our prayers now more than ever.

2.) Second, FAST along with Terri if and when her feeding tube gets removed--and then offer up your sacrifices for her.

3.) Third, please ENCOURAGE Governor Bush to do everything he can to rescue Terri. Since time is of the essence, we recommend that you send him an e-mail by clicking this link: Or, if you prefer, you can call his office at the Florida State Capitol at (850) 488-4441.
Terri doesn't have to die. If you'll carry out the steps above, we can win this battle and save Terri's life.

Please do your part--immediately--because tomorrow may be too late.
Sincerely, Catholic Answers
There is nothing we can say any stronger or more urgently, other than to share our overall feeling that if we allow Terri Schiavo to be murdered by the State, we will have failed an important test. God is watching to see how we handle this high profile case, and if we fail, many of us fear that there are bad days ahead for our morally crumbling Republic.

Hard choices: Medicare Viagra

Between the narcissism of Baby Boomers and the naked greed of the drug manufacturers, the poor American taxpayer doesn't stand a chance. [It is so embarrassing sometimes to be a "boomer."]

Under a new Medicare prescription drug benefit law set to go into effect in January 2006, 41 million Medicare recipients will be covered for Viagra, Cialis and Levitra. Unless you've been hiding under a rock for a decade, you know what these drugs are used for. Aging men will correct their erectile shortcomings at the expense of the U.S. Treasury. If you will pardon the express, this might be the ultimate in "pork barrel" politics.

The New York Times explores the worry that the costs of the new program might overwhelm an already super-expensive new benefit, but it gives no estimates as to how much it will cost or whether the "enhancement benefit" might be responsible for the latest revisions in the projected cost of the Medicare program, expected to be somewhere near $720 billion over ten years. (When the government says $720 billion, that's the floor, not the ceiling.)

Fortunately, a few congressmen want to stop this latest nonsense before it starts:

"The thought of Medicare wasting vital resources on performance-enhancing drugs is unconscionable," said Representative Steve King, Republican of Iowa. "The focus should be on providing coverage for needy seniors."

Mr. King has introduced a bill that says Medicare cannot cover drugs "prescribed for the treatment of impotence."

Representative James P. Moran, Democrat of Virginia, a co-sponsor, said: "Here we are using money that could go to cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses and diverting it into the sex performance of men over 65. It's a scandal."

Naturally, spokespersons for the drug makers defend the program. Said Eli Lilly's Kindra Strupp:
"Erectile dysfunction is not a trivial thing for men who suffer from it. We've heard from thousands of men that it can interfere with their intimacy, erode their relationships with their partners, damage their self-esteem and lead to depression."

Well, yeah, getting old is a real bitch. Sorry to be blunt, but getting "too old to cut the mustard anymore" is part of the human condition. If any of these aging Boomers want Viagra at $9 or $10 a pill, let 'em pay for it out of their Social Security checks. Why should taxpayers fork over additional billions so that retirees can still get their jollies?

The truth is that the drug companies want a pipeline into the U.S. Treasury. That's called securing one's profit base. (Wonder if Ike would've warned against the Erectile-Pharmaceutical Complex if he'd only known?) Boomers want the buzz to continue indefinitely (so much for "Hope I die before I get old ..."). Liberals want to have a big pity-party for those men who are losing it to hardening-of-the-arteries, diabetes, hypertension, and no one wants to face the truth that these are contra-indicated conditions for taking such medications.

There are voices of sanity out there.
"These are essentially lifestyle drugs," said Daniel J. Callahan, co-founder of the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institute in Garrison, N.Y. "This is not a good way to spend a limited amount of money, at a time when other medical needs are greater. In many men, impotence is simply a function of age, though it may also be a result of disease."

And then there are those others:

Arthur L. Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, said the issue had forced policy makers to ask, "What emphasis will we give to quality of life as a goal for pharmacological intervention?"

"Erectile dysfunction drugs don't save anybody's life, but make life more meaningful," Mr. Caplan said. "A fundamental principle of medical ethics is respect for the patient's right to self-determination. If you ask Medicare beneficiaries what they want, you will find that sexual function is high on the list. Many men would say that sexual dysfunction is just as important as loss of the ability to hear or to walk a mile."

He's probably right. But we'd bet these men are not yet deaf nor disabled.

Kofi's Mea Culpa

U.N. Sec-Gen Kofi Annan's screed in today's Wall Street Journal isn't very persuasive except perhaps to those who still believe that the U.N. Mission Remains Vital . But consider the situation: Billions of dollars siphoned through mismanagement, theft and corruption. "Peace missions" that never end because the U.N. has more vested interest in justifying its existence than in actually settling disputes among nations (or peoples). Burgeoning bureaucracies that envision U.N. taxes, U.N. troops (owing allegiance solely to the U.N.) and total U.N. control. The U.N. serves as a sounding board and enabler for those who seek to create a new worldwide religion to replace at least one troublesome old-time faith (Christianity).

Kofi treats the various scandal reports as if they were merely demerits handed out by a school principal, while he laments that the negative press the U.N. receives in the WSJ and elsewhere is deeply damaging the aid effort to homeless children and such. Sure, Kofi, that's taking responsibility ... Not!

It gets worse. He tries to turn chicken manure into chicken salad by venturing that
Even the scars left by past differences can be turned into today's opportunities. Precisely because the United Nations did not agree on some earlier actions in Iraq, today it has much needed credibility with, and access to, Iraqi groups who must agree to join in the new political process if peace is to prevail. The U.N. can be useful because it is seen as independent and impartial.

How about craven and cowardly? How about compromised and contemptuous, as in we did not want to endanger the billions of petro-bucks that we were massaging in the Oil-for-Food program?
Even more shocking are widespread cases of sexual exploitation and abuse of minors by peacekeepers and U.N. officials in the Congo and other African countries. Both the U.N. Secretariat and the member states have been too slow to realize the extent of this problem, take effective measures to end it, and punish the culprits. But we are now doing so, and I am determined to see it through.

Give the devil his due: Kofi mentions the sex scandals coming to light that implicate dozens, if not more, U.N. "peacekeepers" in Africa. But his record suggests that with the exception of the dismissals of a few department heads and perhaps hanging one or two representative scapegoats out to dry (metaphorically speaking, since the U.N. itself has no punitive structure in place), nothing much will be done.

(Permit me a brief MSM rant: until the press handles the U.N.'s sex scandals as it has treated the priest abuse cases in the Church, there is no justice. The U.N. should not get a pass.)

You get the feeling, reading this op-ed piece, that Kofi might actually be worried that the U.S. will take its considerable contributions and clout and walk away. We certainly hope so.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Shrink punished for speech?

Here's a chilling item if you believe that free speech should be interpreted with a wide latitude. A 60-year-old psychiatrist in Oregon has run afoul of the State for discussing the "New World Order" with his patients.

A state government panel in Oregon has barred a psychiatrist from practicing medicine because he talked to his patients about the "new world order," saying such discussions could cause "emotional

George F. Wittkopp, M.D., 60, signed a disciplinary order by the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners on Feb. 3, agreeing to stop practicing medicine due to "unprofessional conduct and repeated acts of negligence," according to a report in the Portland Oregonian.

"This is all about religion and politics," Wittkopp told the paper. "It's not about competence."

That's right, your eyes do not decide you. Dr. Wittkopp has agreed to quit his practice in lieu of paying a $5,000 fine and attending some sort of psychological rehab or training.

Wittkopp is among those who actually believe there is a movement afoot to establish "a world government, a world economic system, and a world religion." What a silly notion! No one has proposed such a thing except for certain influential people directly and indirectly linked to the United Nations.

The medical examiners allege that Wittkopp inappropriately prescribed medications to six patients, based on records they examined, and:
In 2003, the board decided Wittkopp's practice of talking to patients about the "new world order" reflected "poor medical judgment that could be destabilizing and cause patients to suffer mental and emotional duress."

It would be easier to file all of this under "Crazy & Not Easily Believed" except that we're coming across more and more of it, and the file is bulging.

Tax hikes no fix for Social Security

News that raising the ceiling on Social Security taxes over $90,000 is one of the steps being considered for the proposed "fix" should surprise no one. Of course the way it is portrayed in headlines suggests it's a done deal and that Dubya is 100 percent behind it. The fine print says something else.

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said raising the cap on Social Security taxes is just one option among many being advocated.

"Just because he said it was an option doesn't mean he embraced it," Duffy added.

Of course raising the ceiling is wildly popular with Democrats and therein lies the danger: Bush might offer the ceiling hike as a bone to gain Dem support of his plan for independent personal savings accounts. He should resist the impulse to compromise.

Democrats were eager to help President Ronald Reagan "fix" Social Security back in the 80s, and that resulted in higher payroll withholding taxes for most wage-earning Americans. It wasn't a fix but a postponement, and in the meantime American workers gave more of their hard-earned pay to the government. In its gratitude, the government has spent every penny.

For those naive enough to believe that there actually exists a Social Security trust fund, a place where monies, securities, or precious metals are kept against the day they will be needed to pay for your retirement needs, please remove yourself to a place where there are no sharp objects. All Social Security monies are spent shortly after they arrive in Washington. Those that are not used to fund Social Security check are used in the general treasury, and a record of the IOU is made instead. The government has billions of dollars of IOUs where the mythical truth fund is supposed to be. The actual money you sent in has gone in part to subsidize the Grammy Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, pothole repair in Fairbanks, AK, etc.

What will happen in a few years? Since the Baby Boomers are numerous and are, by virtue of our science, guaranteed to live longer than any previous generation, there will not be enough salaried workers to sustain a positive cash flow within just a few years. This leads to two inter-related problems:

A) The Social Security Administration will need to cash in more and more of the old IOUs with the U.S. Treasury. The Treasury will have to come up with the money somewhere, either taking it from the general fund or by borrowing money from the private sector (American or worldwide). As the dollar loses influence and value overseas, this may get very hard to do.

B) The billions of dollars each year that Congress has grown accustom to spending (we'd say "in the style of a drunken sailor" but that is mean-spirited and unfair to the drunken sailors) are going to shrink and disappear, starting in about 2010, just five short years away. Congress then must decide to 1) borrow money to keep existing programs funded, competing against the needs of Social Security in the world-wide credit market, or 2) cut programs big time, or 3) raise taxes on all Americans substantially.

All this will happen with or without Social Security reform and private investment accounts. But private accounts will cushion the blow for younger workers and perhaps stimulate enough economic growth through investment in American enterprise to generate more revenues for the government, thus ameliorating the need for big tax hikes or big program cuts.

Will it work? No one knows for sure. What is for sure is that if we do nothing we are going to be in one hell of a mess within a very few years, a lot quicker than the head-in-the-sand liberals of either party would have you believe.

In the meantime, the idea to collect Social Security's 12.4 percent tax on incomes over $90,000 is a bad idea for many reasons. It would be a tremendous disincentive to the upper middle class who invest, fund and initiate much of the small business growth in this country, and domestic small business is the backbone of the American economy, the only real patriotic companies still in business, we're afraid. Raise the tax and see the Golden Goose, already quite ill, go into a coughing fit, vomit and die.

Another reason it is such a bad idea is that those earning over $90,000 in wage-earning jobs will derive no additional Social Security benefit for their sacrifice. People will figure this out and they will find ways to legally avoid the tax or hide their incomes. Altruism only cuts so far.

Remember, liberals never saw a tax that they didn't like, usually so well that they'll increase it later. True Social Security reform means thinking outside the old liberal box -- it's the only chance we have of climbing out of the hole we've dug.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

It oughta have a name ...

For those who have not already heard, (Near Earth) Asteroid 2004-MN4 will get close enough to wipe out a communications or weather satellite but should miss a direct hit on Earth.

That will be on Friday, April 13.

Oh, and 2029 A.D.

Unless of course something changes its trajectory in the meantime, or a mistake in math was made, or it's really gonna hit us and astronomers think we're better off in Mushroom Status. (Kept in the dark and fed you-know-what).

Our complaint? This rock that is as wide as a 100-story building (1,050 ft.) ought to have a real name. Our up-and-incoming close encounter (24 years away) gives it a status that is deserving of something cool. How about Shiitake?

Linguistic lessons for Dems?

New DNC chief Howard Dean, while proclaiming that Democrats are going to reach out to evangelicals and other "people of faith, including me," may have tipped too much of his hand by enlisting an adviser to coach members of Congress on tactics.

Earlier in the week, congressional Democrats hosted a study session with University of California-Berkeley linguist George Lakoff on how to communicate the Democratic commitment to moral and religious values.

That's exactly how we would guess a Democrat would respond: hire an expert on linguistics from that hotbed of Christian evangelicalism, Berkeley.

The Washington correspondent for Christianity Today says we can expect more hot talk about God from Dems in coming months.

At least two years ago Democrats started to worry that they were painting themselves into a small corner of a mostly religious America as the secularist party. Democrats started holding workshops on how they could win the support of religious voters. However, they couldn't quite master their lessons or demonstrate their sincerity in time for the 2004 elections.

Master their sincerity?

The outgoing Democratic leader Terry McAuliffe declared that one of his outstanding accomplishments was the establishment of a Center of Faith at the DNC. However, the current confidential staff directory of the DNC doesn't list the name, director, or phone number of the Center. A DNC staffer says that a consultant who works out of her home handles the Center's work.

Sure signs of the highest priority. What are Howard Dean's credentials?

As governor of Vermont, Dean promoted homosexual civil unions. His presidential campaign stumbled over clumsy attempts to display biblical literacy and religious values. At one point the governor was quoted as declaring that the Book of Job is his favorite New Testament book.

Now Dean is talking serious religion. What prompted his amazing conversion?

Dean said they accepted the conclusion that the election was decided by perceptions of voters that the Democrats were indifferent, at best, to religion and moral values.

Oh, ya think? Check out the view from Dem pollster Celinda Lake:

Pollster Celinda Lake told the women Democratic leaders that "the most powerful predictor of the 2004 vote was religion. The religious 'others' and the nonreligious voted for us. The worst voters were against us."

Huh? Worst voters?

Catching her misstatement, Lake said she meant that the voters among whom the Democrats had the worst support were the evangelicals and Catholics.

Misstatement or inadvertent truth?

Showing his new linguistic expertise, Dean advised the women in the Dem leadership to avoid the term "pro-abortion." Instead they should say something like, "There is not anyone I know who is pro-abortion." (Of course not. Just pro choice, and the choice must be abortion.)

There's much more to the article, but you should read the whole thing yourself. The writer, Tony Carnes, does an objective job throughout, so much so that you wonder how he managed it.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Fatima visionary Lucia has died

Sister Lucia, the 97-year-old Portugese nun who was one of the three children who experienced apparitions of the Virgin Mary in 1917, has died in her convent cell. May she rest in peace.

Her passing, on Sunday, Feb. 13, has barely drawn notice in the mainstream American press (why are we not surprised). Not even the reliable Drudge has mentioned it. But in Portugal a national period of mourning has been declared, and millions of Catholics around the world, including American Catholics, are praying for her soul.

Historically and religiously speaking, the events of Fatima in 1917, and the secret messages entrusted to the three children that later were revealed, are no small potatoes. For those who believe in the message of Fatima, had the world paid attention initially it might have avoided a second World War, the rise of the Soviet Union and the communist bloc countries, and the near apocalyptic rush to nuclear Armageddon in the second half of the 20th Century.

For those who are unacquainted with the events at Fatima, which include the famous Miracle of the Sun witnessed by perhaps as many as 70,000 people (including international reporters for such outlets as the New York Times), this would be a good time for a backgrounder. For this we would recommend Michael Brown's
Spirit Daily website, and in particular the articles here and here.

A couple of excerpts:

She was arguably (with St. Bernadette of Lourdes) the most famous Marian seer in history, a 97-year-old who had first seen the Blessed Mother in 1917 at the age of 10, with cousins Francisco, 9, and Jacinta, 7 -- whose deaths preceded her own by more than eighty years.

In all that time she had been cloistered in convents, most recently in Coimbra, Portugal, a Carmelite who had lived out her vocation in stunningly successful fashion -- never desiring publicity, never making claims beyond what the Blessed Mother told her, never speaking in public -- not only the most famous seer of the twentieth century but with Mother Teresa of Calcutta the most famous nun in the world.
John Paul II, whose departure will be seen as at least equally prophetic, has privately speculated that the fulfillment of Fatima is now at Medjugorje in Bosnia-Hercegovina, where seers have claimed to have received secrets since just after the 1981 shooting. Whether those secrets may soon begin to materialize, and whether Sister Lucia's death is a sign of the times -- an indication, along with major natural events, that the world is entering an exciting but precarious time -- are likely to preoccupy many of those who have followed the incredible story of Sister Lucia and her two cousins, who died in 1919 and 1920. Many are those who believe that her death will foretell of major events that may now be on the horizon, her passing on the 13th -- the anniversary day of those months when Mary did appear -- one more sign from Heaven.

Even if you are not Catholic we think you'll find the story compelling. Given the events of history that have borne out Sister Lucia's witness, there is considerably more strength in the Fatima message than in, for instance, the "Left Behind" books. But we'll let you be the judge of that, naturally.

Just don't let the MSM's news blackout keep you in the dark.

Rampant U.N. sexploitation

Attention all you who continue to insist that the United Nations represents the pinnacle of humanity's moral achievement. Do not pay attention to this story in the LA Times (free registration required):

UNITED NATIONS — A scandal about the sexual abuse of Congolese women and children by U.N. officials and peacekeepers intensified Friday with the broadcast of explicit pictures of a French U.N. worker and Congolese girls and his claim that there was a network of pedophiles at the U.N. mission in Congo.

ABC News' "20/20" program showed pictures taken from the computer of a French U.N. transport worker. The hard drive reportedly contained thousands of photos of him with hundreds of girls. In one frame, a tear can be seen rolling down the cheek of a victim.
The staffer, Didier Bourguet, 41, is facing charges of sexual abuse and rape in France. His lawyer, Claude de Boosere- Lepidi, said in court last week that there was a network of U.N. personnel who had sex with underage girls and that Bourguet had engaged in similar activity in a previous U.N. posting in the Central African Republic. Bourguet's case is the only one that has been prosecuted among 150 allegations against about 50 soldiers and U.N. civilian officials who have served in the Congo peacekeeping mission. At least seven cases of sexual exploitation and abuse have been
documented against peacekeepers based in Bunia, a northeastern town. One civilian has been suspended until the investigation is complete, and another has resigned. The U.N. is conducting further investigations and expects to find more cases. Secretary-General Kofi Annan sent a letter to the Security Council on Wednesday announcing a set of strict measures designed to stem the sexual abuse that has haunted peacekeeping operations for decades. [Bold Emphasis added.]

Anyone naive enough to believe that Kofi Annan is any more willing to get to the bottom of this scandal than he was the Oil-for-Food program should be locked away for their own protection. If the U.N. were merely a country club in rural Georgia, our collective moral outrage would've shut the place down. The United Nations is a cruel joke perpetrated upon an undeserving world. Why have we not yet renounced membership?

An engraved invitation?

Vincente Fox, president of Mexico, wants a wide open border with the United States.

Vincente Fox, president of Mexico, is in Algeria offering to do away with diplomatic and official passports between the two countries.

Vincente Fox apparently is not concerned with the war against Islamo-fascist terrorists.

Or as Little Green Footballs (aka today's Hat Tip) explains it: "This is his way of asking George W. Bush to throw the southern border wide open."

From El Universal Online :
Four accords were being signed during his visit, Fox told Algerian government-controlled daily El Moudjahid, ranging from exchanges in education, art and culture to a decision to do away with visas in diplomatic and official passports.

As Austin Powers would say, "Yeah, baby! And how long do you think it'll take someone to figure out a quick way to sneak a suitcase nuke into San Antonio?"

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The ABCs of plague creation

A. Take an existing dread disease, pretend it's a political problem and brow-beat the taxpayers into shelling out megabucks for research into drugs that delay or indefinitely postpone its worst effects.

B. Change no behavior. To change behavior might give the public the idea that this is a disease like any other disease, one that has risk factors which could be avoided.

C. Add methamphetamine to your lifestyle.

What do you get as a result? A Superfast Killer HIV Strain.

Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) -- New York City doctors have discovered a man with a previously unseen strain of HIV that is resistant to three of the four types of anti-viral drugs that combat the disease, and progresses from infection to full-blown AIDS in two or three months, the health department said.

``We've identified this strain of HIV that is difficult or impossible to treat and which appears to progress rapidly to AIDS,'' said New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden. ``We have not seen a case like this before. It holds the potential for a very serious public health problem.''

The case was diagnosed in a New Yorker in his mid-40s who reported multiple male sex partners and unprotected anal sex -- often while using the drug crystal methamphetamine.

``It is likely there are others infected with this strain and this individual has infected others,'' Frieden said. The case is ``extremely concerning and a wake-up call,'' he said.

But will anyone heed it?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

A Mother-to-be Fights Back

It's not exactly "man bites dog" but it's definitely a better outcome than the Missouri case a few weeks back. A Pregnant Kentucky Woman Fought Back against a knife-wielding woman who was attempting a copycat involuntarily caesarian.

FORT MITCHELL, Ky. (AP) - A nine-months' pregnant woman fought off and killed a knife-wielding woman who may have been trying to steal the baby, police said Friday.

Police said 26-year-old Sarah Brady acted in self-defense in killing Katherine Smith on Thursday. No charges were filed. "

The details of the story are chilling.

Smith, 22, had been falsely telling neighbors for weeks that she was pregnant, and a search of her apartment after her death revealed a full baby nursery, investigators said.

"She had everything in place that you'd expect to have in place with a newborn coming," said Steve Hensley, police chief in this Cincinnati suburb. Brady, 26, was treated for cuts at a hospital.

Police said that about a week ago, Smith called Brady, a stranger, and asked her to come over and pick up a mistakenly delivered package.

Brady picked up the package, the two spoke briefly and she left, according to police. Thursday's attack occurred after Brady went to pick up a second package at Smith's apartment, police said.

What is amazing, 24 hours after the story hit, is that there has been no followup report that we can find. In the Missouri case the press fell all over itself with followups and sidebars, most of them attempting to transmute a killer into a sympathetic victim. This time the good guys win, but where is the feature story lauding the heroics of a woman who would not submit to butchery? Is it because successful self-defense is seen as a conservative concept?

This story deserves more than a splash behind the obits on Page B-17. If recent history is any indication (and the worst fears realized) other crazed women may be out there contemplating similar thefts. Perhaps publicizing Sarah Brady's heroic defense of her own life, and that of her unborn child, will act as a deterrent.

One cannot miss the poetic irony in that the brave mother-to-be is named Sarah Brady. This version understands that the concept of self-defense might actually require the most extreme measures, what law enforcement refers to as "deadly force."

Friday, February 11, 2005

Brits Find Ruptures on Seabed

Keep an eye on earthquake reports and your ear to the ground. USGS seismic readings are showing an even greater amount of shaking going on along the entire West Coast of the United States, with some fairly large tremors in Alaska near area where several volcanos have shown recent activity. Most of this started at or shortly after the big 9.0 (or 9.2) Indonesian quake of December 26.

And speaking of that seminal quake, the Associated Press is reporting that a British undersea vessel has discovered
Huge Ruptures on the Seabed :

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) - The first images of the seabed that was rocked by the earthquake that triggered Asia's catastrophic tsunami revealed huge ruptures spanning several miles along the Indian Ocean's floor.

The United States, meanwhile, said it was preparing to more than double its pledge for tsunami relief to $950 million.

[Half the story was an irrelevant rehash of yesterday's financial news. Typical AP editing.]
The images of the seabed were from a British naval ship collecting data off the coast of Indonesia's Sumatra Island that could be used to help governments develop a tsunami early warning system for the Indian Ocean region. "
"There are features which we would think are something like the Grand Canyon would look," Tim Henstock, a scientist aboard the HMS Scott, told BBC News. "You can see huge piles of mud maybe a few hundred meters (yards) thick." The images show "slide scars" more than six miles wide resulting from the 9.0 magnitude quake on Dec. 26, the world's biggest in 40 years.

What the AP story did not say -- apparently the reporter and his editors were not that curious -- is whether anything could be determined about near-term seismic shifts from the look of the seabed.

We're not trying to be alarmists, but we do think the public deserves better reporting than we're getting on the plentiful seismic and volcanic activity that seems to be coming in waves on all sides of the Ring of Fire since December 26. The media is focused on celebrity trials, the Democrats' new Dean of Omissions, and other assorted triva. Or it will be trivia if we are ignoring what could be the next REAL story of the 21st Century.

Modern-Day Moses?

What started out appearing as a horror story of one sort became just a sad twist on an old Bible story. A baby once thought to have been tossed from a moving car was actually turned in by the real mother:

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) - A woman who claimed to have rescued a newborn boy after he was thrown from a moving car was actually the child's mother, fabricating the story to conceal her pregnancy, officials said Friday.

The woman, who kept her pregnancy a secret from her family and others, had planned to take the baby to authorities, Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne said. She then built her story after seeing two people argue inside their car, he said; the baby was never thrown.

It's not as horrible as we first thought," Jenne said. "The baby was never thrown out of a moving car. This is the case of a disturbed woman who gave birth and did not want to keep her child."

Isn't it odd how the story parallels the Biblical story of Moses who was set adrift on the Nile by his Israelite mother (in the vicinity of the Pharaoh's daughter) hoping to save his life from the Pharaoh's edict to have all Hebrew newborn boys killed. The substantial difference today, of course, is that no one had been trying to kill this baby (unless you count the horde of abortion advocates who would have gladly done the deed). The motivation of Moses' mommy we understand. The motivations of this mother are at best conjecture.

At least both stories have a happy ending.

Evolution Solution: Humility

We were reading a snarky op-ed piece by Edna Devore, the director of Public Education and Outreach for the SETI Institute, complaining that only 55% of all school districts in the United States teach evolution as scientific fact in their classrooms. Not enough, she wails.
Evolution is fundamental to modern biology, geology and astronomy. Ignoring or discarding fundamental scientific understandings of the natural world does not prepare our children well for the future. As America strives to "leave no child behind," it’s time that evolution is not left behind in our science classrooms.

(We cannot resist whimsical reflection on why the director of Public Education & Outreach of the SETI program, that bastion of evolutionary knowledge (NOT!), is so concerned about the future dissemination of the Doctrine of Evolution. Perhaps she fears that the alternative universe involving a Creator would injudiciously refuse to create Extraterrestials (ETs) for her colleagues to discover.)

She blames "politics" but what she's really railing against are politics driven by fundamental Christians (and others) who object to the teaching of evolution as scientific fact. Of course, she doesn't actually say this but is there any doubt who is standing in the way of progress, as she defines it?
Today, we find the fossil remains of extinct creatures that wandered the shores of the ancient American sea high in the Rockies and layered in the badlands of the US and Canada. The evolution of life on our planet is evident in these layers of rock and fossil. In Africa, fossil evidence of early hominids links us to ancestral species. Where did we come from? We six billion humans find our biological genesis in these African fossils.

Well, maybe.

We've been spending time with our 7th grade son using a fairly standard science text that is less than ten years since it's printing. There is no reluctance here to discuss evolutionary theory, since we subscribe to the notion that science and Christian faith are not blood enemies but rather are dear friends who just think about things differently. Still, it amazes us time and again as the textbook cites as absolute fact evolutionary speculations that have been overturned by new studies since 1996.

The ugly secret about evolution, or at least the way it's presented by too many scientists and textbooks, is that much of it is built upon educated guesses that reflect the presuppositions of early researchers, some of whom had theological axes to grind. Now some, maybe even most, of those educated guesses might turn out to be correct someday. Maybe. At least a few, perhaps even quite a few, may turn out to be just so much balderdash.

What would lend credibility to evolutionists and the textbooks they write would be an attitude of humility and scientific reserve, an occasional acknowledgement along the lines of "well, this is what we think, the best educated guess we can make given what we know and what we have learned, but we don't know for sure and heaven knows the truth could surprise the hell out of us someday."

Does that make science less scientific?

No, it makes it more fun and less confrontational. It has the added benefit of being closer to Truth than science is often presented today.

Yes, a little more humility is in order, and not just for religionists.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Expensive Slippin' & Slidin'

Some expensive homes in Southern California are sliding into oblivion and media are reporting that a geologist is preparing to descend 50-ft. beneath the homes in quickly dug holes to figure out why.

The homes are above the Riverside Freeway in the Santa Ana Canyon, near Anaheim. One is 6,000 sq. ft. No small abode. And it's slouching to Gomorrah, so to speak, at the rate of an inch an hour.

Yes, it's been raining and snowing in SoCal, but you have to wonder if the slew of low level earthquakes that have rocked the state in the past few days has had anything to do with it. The media doesn't seem (or doesn't want) to notice the seismic data but you can read it for yourself here:

There are 247 earthquakes listed on a map that doesn't even include all of California, all of them within the last week (168 hours) and a good number of them in the last three or four days.

Hi-Tech Dirty Money?

Disturbing. A Philadelphia TV station is reporting that the FBI has taken over an investigation of an incident in which members of the Russian mafia, operating out of that city, may have seeded drug money with a bioweapon.

KWY-TV, otherwise known as CBS-3, reports on the
Dirty Money : (Hat Tip: Drudge)

Earlier this month, Pennsylvania State Troopers intercepted $250,000 dollars during a routine traffic stop. The alleged drug money, which had been sealed in plastic, was being driven from Columbus, Ohio to Northeast Philadelphia.

According to law enforcement sources, after counting the seized cash, troopers began feeling ill and one trooper was even hospitalized with flu-like symptoms. Sources tell CBS 3 that tests on the cash counter revealed the presence of a toxin derived from the bacteria staphylococcus.

The FBI is being tight-lipped about the incident, according to the report, but other sources are telling the station that ...
"... a warning has been issued at both the state and federal level, recommending that officers should take extra precaution and wear protective masks when handling suspected drug money, now more than ever."

Well, that's well and good for law enforcement, of course. But what happens if someone actually tries spending some of that money somewhere?

Guess we'd better stock up on some latex gloves before our next evening out.

Second thought: Maybe this is the credit card industry's way of inducing the holdouts among us to quit using cash? We trust them less than the Russian mafia.

New tax in 2006 budget?

The future's uncertain and the end is always near.

Or thus sung Jim Morrison a generation ago. It is as true now as it was for him in 1971. That's why many people purchase life insurance: to protect their families from the loss of the income stream should the wage-earner(s) die. In insurance industry terms, the concept is one of "indemnity," and it means setting to rights something that has been lost.

Life insurance benefits are not taxed by the federal government because they are not the "winnings" in a lottery -- money someone receives that he or she would never have realized had they not gambled. The proceeds from life insurance come from a pool of collective premiums kept by insurance companies in safe investments against the hazard of premature death. These monies merely replace most of what would have taken place had the wage-earner lived. In other words, the survivors are indemnified. They are given a chance at normal life.

There is word today that someone in the Bush White House may not understand the basic concept of life insurance. There are reports that the new 2006 budget seeks to levy a tax on at least some types of life insurance benefits. Our first warning came from an email contributor to George's daily update at . We went to the official documents at one U.S. government website and read, in ominous language on page 17 of the 27 page budget summary:
Apply an excise tax to amounts received under certain life insurance

There are no details.

Assuming there may be taxation fire in this bureaucratese smoke, What in hell are the Bush budget people thinking? Listening to the Republican rhetoric of the last eleven years, we thought the idea was to get rid of death taxes and, furthermore, to get government out of the picture when it comes to all estate planning.

Taxing life insurance benefits is an idea only a liberal can truly love. It would make a shambles of the careful financial planning that (admittedly a minority) of people have done over the years. Furthermore, how could we trust an administration to work for tax reform of any sort (including Social Security) if it tries to sneak something like this past us?

We will concede right now that we have nothing but our paranoia and a couple of ominous lines to justify any real panic, but that is enough to justify raising the taxpayer alert level to orange.

We'll keep looking for more information. If you know something or come across anything, pass it along at

Pope John Paul II will not resign

Pity the western press when it comes to covering the Vatican, and especially when it concerns this pope.
Richard Owen of The Times Online is trumpeting a report that Cardinal Angelo Saldono, the Vatican Secretary of State, is publicly suggesting that
Pope John Paul II might resign over his latest illness (reported to be the flu, complicating his ongoing Parkinson's Disease).

Let's see, what did Cardinal Soldano say?
"... that the decision should be “left to the conscience of the Pope”. He added: “We should have faith in him. If there is one man who knows what to do, it is he.”

Oh, absolutely. That's conclusive proof, isn't it? Coming on the heels of a recent statement by the pope that he could no more resign his office than Christ could have "resigned" in the middle of the crucifixion, Cardinal Soldano would have to be completely tone deaf to his boss in order for his statement to mean anything other than a statement of support.

Let's see if Mr. Owen has any more "proof":
On Sunday an aide read a message from the Pope, saying: “In this hospital, in the middle of other sick people, I can continue to serve the Church and all humanity.” The comments were seen as a rebuff to those calling on him to resign.

Uh, excuse us, Mr. Owen. That doesn't sound like the prelude to a retirement. (Who do you think you're covering? Kofi Annan?)

But perhaps we're being just a bit judgmental. How about this bit of "proof"?
However, asked if a Pope who was unable to speak could govern the Church, Cardinal Sodano said: “The Lord knows how the Pope guides his Church. We do not have to worry about it. The Lord is great.”

First, on its face it is a testament to the power of Jesus Christ working through His vicar, the Bishop of Rome. If you are not Catholic you don't have to believe it, but you at least have to smart enough to realize that faithful members of the Catholic Church, including the Pope and his curia, do believe. Only by ignoring faith can a reporter twist Cardinal Soldano's words to imply that he was virtually kicking the pontiff while he was down.

Oh, yeah, and that typical Times-ian reliance on the anonymous "Vatican Insider" who, it was reported, is shocked -- SHOCKED!!! -- that Soldano would speak thusly. The Times uses more anonymous sources than a crack cocaine cartel. How damned convenient for them.

The media elite may never understand this but the rank-and-file of the Catholic Church do not want John Paul to resign. We want him to live as long as possible and die in the saddle, so to speak. His pontificate has been long and distinguished, filled with diplomatic, theological and even artistic successes. Under his direction our Church is well on its way to recovering from a half-century of worldly excess, corrupted theology and institutional weakness brought about by mostly good intentions. He has reformed seminaries and priestly formation, and he has helped refine and meld traditional Church teaching with the instructions of the Second Vatican Council.

Now, in his afflicted and aged body, John Paul II is still leading us in the imitations of Christ, bearing in his body, as St. Paul once wrote, sufferings of the cross that Jesus in His mercy allows His followers to share. It is an example the Church, indeed even the world, needs to witness so that we might follow in our own way. Christianity on earth is not yet the triumphal parade to the new Jerusalem though we are assured that this is our destination. For now it is the struggle in weakness and humility, a sharing in the plight of the hungry, the ill, the persecuted and the disenfranchised, as we share the good news that the Redeemer lives, and welcomes all to new life eternal.

The pope knows that the way to holiness is not through power and wealth. The road is narrow, rocky and uphill that leads to reconciliation and eventual reward. And Jesus walks beside each who chooses this difficult journey.

This is why the pope will not resign. He has no interest in making life easier for his Vatican staff. To do so would be counter-productive. He has no mandate from God to take the easy way out himself. Lord knows the pope deserves the rest, but he knows his is coming soon anyway. The blessed rest of the faithful servant.

Monday, February 07, 2005

A peculiar survival story

It's hard to know whether they should be awarded medals for stupidity or paraded in front of a nation as examples of "can do" and "never say die," but we must admit we are amazed and moved by the odd saga of a quartet of Seattle Quiznos workers who refused to abandon their jobs even though the owners disappeared and their last paychecks bounced.

Things started going south in November, store manager Dawna Lentz said, when the owners of the month-old store went AWOL. She wouldn't be more specific. So Lentz, 25, rallied the three other employees who didn't quit when the paychecks stopped coming. Food supplies were bought with cash from the register, as was the special Quiznos bread, which she got from other local franchises.

Wages were also paid with what cash was available, with Lentz carefully tallying each worker's hours and how much he'd been paid (or not) on the back of his worthless last paycheck. "I like working here," said employee James Zambrano, 26, even though he was still owed about $450.
"Everybody gets along like family."

Apparently none of the employees knew how to contact the sandwich chain, but a member of the public did, and Quiznos sent a team in to provide new owners, back wages, and relief help and supplies. The four who wouldn't quit are still employed.

It's sort of a modern Horatio Alger success story except that it displays a shocking lack of understanding of business economics, and considering the economic education of most Americans today it's totally believable. Yet it's happy ending makes up for its logical shortcomings, and you can bet that the four employees just got a cram course in Business Economics 1001 no college prof could duplicate.

Can a movie treatment be far behind?