Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pelosi gets unwanted lesson in Catholic theology

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asks for nomination by acclamation for Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

Pelosi gets unwanted lesson in Catholic theology

Politics can be treacherous. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walked on even riskier ground in a recent TV interview when she attempted a theological defense of her support for abortion rights.

Roman Catholic bishops consider her arguments on St. Augustine and free will so far out of line with church teaching that they have issued a steady stream of statements to correct her.

The latest came Wednesday from Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, who said Pelosi, D-Calif., "stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion."

It has been a harsh week of rebuke for the Democratic congresswoman, a Catholic school graduate who repeatedly has expressed pride in and love for her religious heritage.

Cardinals and archbishops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Denver are among those who have criticized her remarks. Archbishop George Niederauer, in Pelosi's hometown of San Francisco, will take up the issue in the Sept. 5 edition of the archdiocesan newspaper, his spokesman said.

Sunday, on NBC's "Meet the Press" program, Pelosi said "doctors of the church" have not been able to define when life begins.

She also cited the role of individual conscience. "God has given us, each of us, a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions," she said.

Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, said in a statement defending her remarks that she "fully appreciates the sanctity of family" and based her views on conception on the "views of Saint Augustine, who said, 'The law does not provide that the act (abortion) pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation.'"

But whether or not parishioners choose to accept it, the theology on the procedure is clear. From its earliest days, Christianity has considered abortion evil.

"This teaching has remained unchanged and remains unchangeable," according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. "Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law."

The Rev. Douglas Milewski, a Seton Hall University theologian who specializes in Augustine, said Pelosi seems to be confusing church teaching on abortion with the theological debate over when a fetus receives a soul.

"Saint Augustine wondered about the stages of human development before birth, how this related to the question of ensoulment and what it meant for life in the Kingdom of God," Milewski said.

Questions about ensoulment related to determining penalties under church law for early and later abortions, not deciding whether the procedure is permissible, according to the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Pro-Life Activities.

Augustine was "quite clear on the immorality of abortion as evil violence, destructive of the very fabric of human bonds and society," Milewski said.

Regarding individual decision-making, the church teaches that Catholics are obliged to use their conscience in considering moral issues. However, that doesn't mean parishioners can pick and choose what to believe and still be in line with the church.

Lisa Sowle Cahill, a theologian at Boston College, said conscience must be formed by Catholic teaching and philosophical insights. "It's not just a personal opinion that you came up with randomly," she said.

Catholic theologians today overwhelmingly consider debate over the morality of abortion settled. Thinkers and activists who attempt to challenge the theology are often considered on the fringes of church life.

However, there is a rigorous debate over how the teaching should guide voters and public officials. Are Catholics required to choose the candidate who opposes abortion? Or can they back a politician based on his or her policies on reducing, not outlawing, the procedure?

The U.S. bishops addressed this question in their election-year public policy guide, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship."

They said that voting for a candidate specifically because he or she supports "an intrinsic evil" such as abortion amounts to "formal cooperation in grave evil."

In some cases, Catholics may vote for a candidate with a position contrary to church teaching, but only for "truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences," according to the document.

It is a complex discussion. The Rev. Thomas Reese, senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University, has some advice for candidates who seek to join the debate: Stick to politics — and support programs that truly help reduce the number of abortions.

"It is a big mistake," Reese said, "for politicians to talk theology."

Fire Ants Kill Man

Fire Ants Kill Man
Friday, August 29, 2008
A central Florida man bitten by fire ants died from those bites.

CHULUOTA -- According to authorities in a regional hospital, Robert Cuningham was killed by an allergic reaction. He died Tuesday night of anaphylactic shock.

Health officials say Cuningham was walking his dog this week in front of his home in the community of Chuluota when he stepped into a fire ant mound. The ants attacked him, and he went into shock a short time later.

Anaphylactic shock can occur as an allergic reaction to the venom of certain insects, animals, medicines, or even food stuffs. In the most severe form of this allergic reaction, it can kill.

Many people prone to this degree of allergic reaction carry antihistamines either in oral or injectable form, in order to ward off its immediate effects. This gives them the time they need for more thorough treatment at a medical facility.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Potato with the human face

Potato with the human face

"Spud" the potato boy
"Spud" the potato boy

"Spud" the potato boy
Olivia Stewart, nine, with "Spud" the potato boy, which her dad found in a bag of Maris Pipers

As a father of three daughters, Andrew Stewart has always wanted a son.
So, when his mother handed him a inch-long potato taken from a bag of Maris Pipers with an uncanny likeness to his nephew, he thought his prayers had been answered.

The carpet fitter, of Higher Bank Road, Fulwood, could not believe the likeness the vegetable he has dubbed 'Spuddy' bears to his young six-year-old relative.

The 46-year-old said: "He is only tiny but you can see a little face and even got the hair which looks like it is blowing in the wind; all the neighbours have been over and they cannot believe the likeness.

"My mum, Evelyn, gave it to me and said to give it to my youngest daughter Olivia, 9, and she will not leave him alone now.

"We have got him in an egg cup and he is like a member of the family now, the only problem is that he is shrivelling up so I am not sure how much longer he will be with us."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Should the votes of dead people be counted at elections?

Should the votes of dead people be counted at elections?
In Yolo County, voters are taken off rolls when death certificates are received
Article Created: 08/23/2008 08:06:17 AM PDT

If you vote by mail, but die before Election Day, does your vote count? It depends on where you lived.

Oregon counts ballots no matter what happens to the voter. So does California. But in South Dakota, if you die before the election, so does your vote.

Increasingly popular mail-in ballots mean voters can now choose candidates up to 60 days before an election, raising new questions about an age-old phenomenon normally associated with trickery in places like Chicago: What should be done with the ballots of the recently dead?

Laws in at least a dozen states are evenly split between tallying and dumping the votes. No one keeps records on how often such deaths occur.

Yet in this year's contentious campaign, the right of every American to a counted ballot has become a rallying cry - even if the voter dies before the tallying starts.

Take the case of Florence Steen, an ailing 88-year-old grandmother born before women had the right to vote. One of her last wishes was to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. She wanted to be part of history, said her daughter Kathy Krause.

Steen was confined to a hospice bed in Rapid City, S.D., when she was brought an absentee ballot weeks before the June 3 primary. She studied it a long time, then marked her choice with such determination her daughter feared she would poke through the paper.

Steen died on Mother's Day. With a heavy heart, her daughter took the ballot and dropped it in a mailbox. "In my mind, her vote counted," Krause

said. "My mother believed she had voted for a woman to be president."

But the women down at the county courthouse told Krause the ballot had to be tossed because state law declared a voter must be alive on Election Day.

So Krause passed that word to the Clinton campaign. And Clinton drew great applause when she told the story in her concession speech four days after the South Dakota primary.

"It's just a goofy law, and it needs to be changed," said Krause, who plans to lobby state legislators to reverse that statute just as soon as her grief eases.

"What about the soldiers in Iraq? What if they vote and they're killed in action, God forbid? Should we take away their vote because they died for their country?"

There are no military standards governing voting by soldiers. Rather, their mailed-in ballots are counted at the individual election districts where they are registered to vote. But like civilian votes, no one keeps track of whether the ballots of soldiers are thrown out because they died after casting them.

"No one can tell you that," said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, head of the Overseas Voting Foundation in Munich. "Every single election jurisdiction can do it the way it wants. And there are more than 7,000 of them."

In California, county elections offices remove voters fromthe rolls when they receive official death notices from family members or the local health department, but such purges are not conducted in the several weeks before an election, said Yolo County Clerk-Recorder Freddie Oakley.

"In most cases, we would not even know if a person died, and (if we did) we wouldn't go through all the ballots and find their envelope," she said.

Oakley said her office has no way of keeping track of how many absentee voters have died before their votes were tallied, but she said she knows it has happened: A few years ago, a county poll worker died on Election Day after having already submitted his mail-in ballot, she said. His vote was counted along with all the rest.

In addition to California, 30 other states allow some form of early voting.

Ballots cast by the dead are usually the focus of fraud allegations, as happened in Washington's extremely tight 2004 gubernatorial race, decided by a margin of 129 votes out of 3 million cast. More than a dozen ballots were linked to dead people.

But some advocates say legitimate, mail-in votes from people who die before Election Day should be counted, particularly in rural elections, where races can hang on a handful of votes.

"In Montana, there have been several legislative seats decided by one, two, three votes," said Tim Storey of the National Conference of State Legislatures, an organization that recently looked at 12 mostly Western states and found that half have no rules governing ballots of the deceased.

Those remaining states - Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota and Utah - demand that such ballots be rejected, leaving Montana and Oregon as the only states that count them.

South Dakota Secretary of State Chris Nelson said he doesn't understand why a dead person's vote should be counted.

"In my mind, it's clear," Nelson said. "You have to be a qualified voter on Election Day. I don't know how someone can say you're a qualified voter if you're deceased."

Pam Smith, director of the advocacy group Verified Voting, disagrees: "By definition, the day you cast a ballot is Election Day. That's it."

Mail-in ballots arrived in record numbers during this year's protracted primary season.

In California's San Diego County, for example, 45 percent of the presidential vote arrived by mail. Similar numbers surfaced across the country. Election experts have predicted that as many as 25 percent of voters will vote by mail in November.

Alabama cracking down on obesity

Alabama, pushed to third place in national obesity rankings by deep-fried Southern favorites, is cracking down on state workers who are too fat.

The state has given its 37,527 employees a year to start getting fit - or they'll pay $25 a month for insurance that otherwise is free.

Alabama will be the first state to charge overweight state workers who don't work on slimming down, while a handful of other states reward employees who adopt healthy behaviors.

Alabama already charges workers who smoke - and has seen some success in getting them to quit - but now has turned its attention to a problem that plagues many in the Deep South: obesity.

The State Employees' Insurance Board this week approved a plan to charge state workers starting in January 2010 if they don't have free health screenings. If the screenings turn up serious problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose or obesity, employees will have a year to see a doctor at no cost, enroll in a wellness program or take steps on their own to improve their health. If they show progress in a follow-up screening, they won't be charged. But if they don't, they must pay starting in January 2011.

Computer technician Tim Colley already pays $24 a month for being a smoker and doesn't like the idea of another charge. "It's too Big Brotherish," he said.

The board will apply the obesity charge to anyone with a body mass index of 35 or higher who is not making progress.

The board has not yet determined how much progress a person would have to show and is uncertain how many people might be affected because everyone could avoid the charge by working to lose weight.

But that's unlikely - a nationwide study released one day before the board's vote shows Alabamians have a big weight problem. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America's Health report found 30.1 percent are now obese.

E-K. Daufin of Montgomery, a college professor and founder of Love Your Body, Love Yourself, which holds body acceptance workshops, said the new policy will be stressful for people like her.

"I'm big and beautiful and doing my best to keep my stress levels down so I can stay healthy," Daufin said. "That's big, not lazy, not a glutton and certainly not deserving of the pompous, poisonous disrespect served up daily to those of us with more bounce to the ounce."

Man Robbed, Warns Others To Watch For Same Scam

Man Robbed, Warns Others To Watch For Same Scam

POSTED: 8:57 pm CDT August 20, 2008
UPDATED: 7:55 am CDT August 21, 2008

One local man said he wanted to tell how he was robbed because he hopes it doesn't happen to others.Paul Malone, a retired Vietnam War veteran, said he was leaving a convenience store when a man with an accent approached him and told him a story about donating money to charity."He was going to give me $10,000, and I would take the rest of the $80,000 and place it in a charity to help the poor," Malone said.

The man then asked Malone to prove he could be trusted by showing he had his own money, so Malone said they went to a nearby bank."All I could think about was, 'This money's going to help a lot of people,'" Malone said.Malone said he withdrew $7,500 and showed it to the man, who then asked to hold the money. When Malone declined, he said the man demanded the money and held out a knife."They're very, very good at what they do," Universal City Police Sgt. Steve Mihalski said. "(Malone) is still shocked that he fell for it."Mihalksi said similar scams have recently been reported in Selma and San Antonio, but with different suspects.Malone said he's now lost a lot of trust in people."I don't know whether I can be nice to anybody that comes up to me," he said. "I'll be running the other direction."