Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 29, 1996 (Nightowl Edition) Date: Mon, 29 Jul 1996 16:2
Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for July 29, 1996 (Nightowl Edition)
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 1996 16:21:16 -0700
Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net
nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnnn
#113 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu7/29/96 (Nightowl Edition)
In This Issue...
* Rain Misses Texas, Hits Virgin Islands -- Sorry!
* Disunity Over Abortion Plagues GOP Delegate Ranks
* Jews Squabble From NY to Jerusalem
* TheistWatch: Hear The Ringing Of The Bells!
* About This List...
FOLLOWUP: When It DOES Rain, It Pours!
Today's morning AANEWS dispatch informed readers about events in West
Texas, where religious leaders and politicians are exhorting citizens to
"pray for rain" in the midst of an unusually bad drought throughout the
region. We mused that god must be an absolutely terrible weather forecaster,
or is otherwise disinterested in the fate of his supplicating subjects. It
WILL rain, eventually, which in the minds of the faithful will constitute an
"answer" to prayers.
But what about folks who get too much of a good thing? Associated Press
reports that in the Virgin Islands, cathedrals and churches are packed, and
there is even a Hurricane Supplication Day when people are "pleading with God
to grant them protection against storms." The Rev. Jerome Feudjio told the
flock that "God has control of all the natural elements," which would surely
raise doubts as to His motivation in the Texas dryspell which is ruining
crops, killing livestock, and bankrupting hard-working farm families (what
about ''family values'', anyway?).
Apparently, Hurricane Supplication Day is an event which dates back 270
years. As an experiment, it seems to be a bit of a failure, as the Virgin
Islands region remains one of the hardest-hit parts of the world during
hurricane cycles. And this year, god didn't even wait for the Supplication
Day, but instead apparently chose to launch a sneak-attack on the Islands on
July 8 when Hurricane Bertha -- the first of the season -- demolished or
damaged thousands of homes on St. Thomas and St. John.
DISUNITY OVER ABORTION PLAGUES GOP RANKS
While fundamentalist anti-choice religious groups like the Christian
Coalition maintain firm control over most Republican state organizations, a
new survey conducted by Associated Press suggests that delegates to the
upcoming party convention are less than in agreement over abortion. AP found
that 41% of delegates wish to retain the GOP platform plank which supports a
Human Life Amendment and would ban virtually all abortion in the United
States; 34% oppose the measure; some 25% did not express an opinion. "The
overall results indicate a lack of consensus on the abortion issue among
Republican activists, considered more conservative than the public at large."
The figures come as a surprise to many observers, especially considering
the number of state party organizations which are considered "locked up" by
fundamentalist, anti-abortion groups like the Coalition. Even so, Gary Bauer
of the Family Research Council declared that "There's no question that the
(anti-abortion) plank will stay."
Are Fundies Ready to Walk?
Bauer joined a chorus of other religious leaders in criticizing feelers
from Sen. Robert Dole's campaign organization about choosing a pro-choice
running mate for the vice presidential slot, or amending the party platform
with a statement on "tolerance." "Things are stretched real tight right
now," Bauer told the media. "I don't think the Dole forces realize how tense
this party is right now."
But the tensions is both in and outside of the convention hall. While 34%
is a significant chunk of delegates to oppose so fundamental a part of the
GOP platform, there is also the gap between the complexion of the convention
delegates and Republican voters. Exit polls showed that during the
primaries, 57% of GOP faithful said that abortion should not be an issue in
the platform, compared with 38% who insist that it should. Support for a
Human Life Amendment was strongest in the South and Midwest, considered
crucial areas in the Dole campaign. But some party strategists are beginning
to panic, especially over states like Florida which indicate that President
Clinton stands a good change of winning the GOP stronghold. "We're wasting
precious resources defending our turf," Republican insiders have declared.
The tolerance debate has taken on a dynamic of its own, as well.
Christian Coalition Director Ralph Reed insists that he "can live with" a
tolerance statement, but only as long as it does not apply specifically to
the abortion plank. That negotiated true between the Dole camp and Reed & Co.
could break down, though, if the presumed nominee from Kansas happens to
select a pro-choice running mate.
Buchanan Wild Card?
Meanwhile, word was received today that Pat Buchanan has turned down an
offer to address the GOP convention via satellite link. On Sunday, sources
revealed that GOP Chairman Haley Barbour offered Buchanan "a role" at the
convention and a speaking opportunity, but that the content of the speech
would have to be first approved by the Dole organization. That contradicted
earlier reports by convention planners like Paul Manafort, who had declared
that the conservative commentator would have no role without first endorsing
Dole and presumably the rest of the ticket.
Dole's refusal now puts the issue back into the Dole camp, and it creates
a problem for Ralph Reed who has been trying to smooth out differences
between the presumed nominee and his primary challenger. It also raises the
prospect that Buchanan would run as an independent for the presidency,
possibly on the US Taxpayers Party ticket which is directed by Christian
Reconstructionist Howard Phillips.
JEWS SLUG IT OUT IN JERUSALEM, NEW YORK CITY
For the third weekend in a row, Orthodox Jews flooded onto Bar Ilan Street
in Jerusalem, blocking cars, yelling, and demanding that the traffic artery
be shut down during the Sabbath. Meanwhile, there is word that their
soul-mates in New York are involved in what today's New York Times describes
as "nasty political and religious infighting that years ago split Kiryas Joel
(nighborhood) into two angry camps."
The Jerusalem riots involve attempts by Orthodox fundamentalists to exert
more control in the secular Israeli society, especially following the
election of Likud candidate Banjamin Netanyahu in June as the country's new
Prime Minister. In order to cobble together a working coalition, Netanyahu
has turned over ministries and money to the various religious groups, which
also have won a record 26 seats in the Israeli Knesset. Groups like United
Torah Juadism and the National Religious Party have vowed to "turn the
Knesset into a synagogue," although secular Israelis like the Meretz Party
are determined to prevent such a debacle.
In New York, the conflict is taking place in a town about fifty miles
northwest of Manhattan known as Kiryas Joel which has been the site of
fighting and squabbling for years. Several years ago, there was a small riot
there when a woman got on a bus and refused to later surrender her seat to an
Ultra-Orthodox male, as demanded by religious law. According to The Times, a
dissident faction at Kiryas Joel wants to build their own synagogue, and say
that buses taking their children to events and school are even pelted with
stones. The split involves a faction loyal to a late Grand Rebbe who died 17
years ago, Joel Teitelbaum. Controversy began when his nephew, Moses,
succeeded him as Grand Rebbe. Some dissidents believe that the community has
strayed from the teachings of the late religious leader, and they have
established their own school, or yeshiva which has some 400 students.
The conflict at Kiryas Joel has now reached a new high-point, though. The
village's Hilltop Maternity-Convalescent Center has been shut down due to
arson; according to investigators, the fire was set in a basement hours
before a fund-raising event was scheduled to be held by a Brooklyn Rabbi who
sympathizes with the dissident faction. That has all sides pointing fingers
and raising suspicions about each other.
Another dispute centers over a publicly financed school for Hasidic
children who have learning disabilities. No religion is permitted in the
school, of course, which receives government funds; that policy is under
attack by one of the Kiryas Joel factions, but some insist that the school is
operated in defiance of state-church separation guidelines. When school
critic Joseph Waldman ran for the local school board in 1990 against the
wishes of the local synagogue and its leaders, he lost and his children were
promptly expelled from the village's yeshiva. "In recent months...three of
his cars have been burned in his front dirveway," reports The Times, adding
"He said he was too frightened to run for the school board again."
MORE PSEUDOSCIENCE IN RUSSIA
The fall of "godless" communism has created a bonanza for new age cranks,
hucksters, fortune tellers and pseudoscience peddlers, according to media
reports and a story in Britain's Electronic Telegraph. "The country is being
swamped by astrologers, UFOlogists, soothsayers, para-psychologists, bogus
doctors and other charlatans," reports the newspaper, "whom genuine
scientists make few efforts to contradict."
Among the disturbing trends:
* An official in the Presidential Security Service is paid to prepare
astronomical horoscopes of the leaders of the nation. In addition, there is
a slew of TV programs dealing with pseudoscience topics like astrology, where
scientists are often portrayed as "oppressors" and "fighters of new ideas."
* Crank cures are being offered for everything from AIDS to alcohol and
* In the Ukraine, "huge sums" of money were paid to a main who said he
could move clouds and bring rain to drought-plagued regions.
* Nearly $480 million was spent by State research laboratories on programs
runs by quacks trying to discover how alleged phenomenon like "torsion
radiation" could affect distant populations.
* Nationalist political demogogue Vladimir Zhironovsky blamed the election
of Boris Yeltsin on the phases of the moon.
THEISTWATCH SHORT SHOTS
In Britain, 64-year-old Midge Mather chopped down the door of the village
church and cut the bellropes with an axe, insisting that the sound of the
bells had driven her to frustration and dispair. The event took place in the
early hours of Sunday morning when Ms. Mather -- after listening to the
chorus of gons for a half-hour on Saturday -- smashed her way into the
building. The London Times notes that the attack "was the culmination of an
eight-year feud between Mrs. Mather and the church. She objects to the use
of the tower by bellringers from around the country and had threatened to
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