Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 17, 1996 A M E

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Date: Thu, 17 Oct 1996 12:25:24 -0700 Subject: [Atheist] AANEWS for October 17, 1996 Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, AMERICAN.ATHEISTS@listserv.direct.net A M E R I C A N A T H E I S T S nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn nnnnnnnnnn AANEWS nnnnnnnnnn #178 uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu 10/17/96 http://www.atheists.org e-mail: aanews@atheists.org In This Issue... * Biased Study In Abortion-Breast Cancer Link? * Colorado Tax Initiative ~~ "Religious Storm" * Taliban Fostering Its Own Rebellion? * Atheist Viewpoint On The Cable... * About This List... Abortion Wars... STUDY LINKING BREAST CANCER, ABORTION WIDELY CRITICIZED A controversial study which purports to find slightly increased rates of breast cancer among women who had undergone abortions is providing fuel for anti-choice organizations, and at the same time attracting critical scrutiny from medical researchers. A research summary appears in the October issue of Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health; among the investigators was Joel Brand of City University of New York, an expert on hormones who according to news reports has been involved with the anti-abortion movement as both an expert witness in court proceedings, and a speaker on religious radio stations. The study was quickly hailed by anti-abortion groups who have charged the "medical establishment" and the pro-choice movement with concealing information about any possible links between abortion and maladies like breast cancer. The head of Christ's Bride Ministries in McLean, Virginia, Brad Thomas, praised the study and charged that "The abortion industry has had a very malicious, malignant effort to keep this information from being aired." But other medical researchers were either cautious or highly critical about the Brind study. Some insisted that even using the study's own statistics, the increase in breast cancer is "barely statistically significant." They also point out the the authors of the report call the increase ''relatively low." Others criticized the methodology of Brind and his team. Yesterday's report was actually a combination of 23 different epideiological studies done over a period of 35 years. This "meta-analysis" technique was originally designed to detect statistical fluctuations and effects too subtle to show up in small, individual trials. Critics note that "meta-analysis" is not always useful, and cannot take into account the different designs and control factors used in different research trials and studies. Even Harvard epidemiologist Karin Michaels, who says that she opposes abortion, announced that she was rejecting the findings of the Brind study, and dismissed meta-analysis as "inappropriate." She added that "studies to date are inadequate to infer with confidence the relation" between abortion and breast cancer. USA TODAY noted that Dr. Brind is "convinced" that his study is valid, "even though he and his colleague included all available studies, regardless of quality." A Range of Findings... Supporters of the Brind report maintain that the findings are "consistent" with earlier studies. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, though, 23 separate studies massaged into Brind's "meta-analysis" report found no pattern linking breast cancer and abortion. Ten other reports detected varying degrees of increased risk, and another ten studies found no increased vulnerability. Three studies actually suggested that abortion had a "protective effect" against breast cancer! Boston University medical epidemiologist Lynn Rosenberg rejected the new study as "invalid," and asked "Why would one want to combine contradictory studies and say the average must be the truth? It makes no sense." Many scientists concur that there could be a link in some cases between abortion and breast cancer since abortion does result in hormonal changes. How significant that relationship might be -- and whether it exists for all women during their fertile years -- remains to be seen. In the meantime, despite its weaknesses and methodological flaws, Brind's report will probably become part of the repertoire for anti-choice groups busy fighting the abortion wars. ** COLORADO TAX INITIATVE GAINS NATIONAL ATTENTION "Religious Storm Nears Colorado" What started as a movement in Colorado to tax non-profit organizations, including churches and religious groups, may spread far beyond the Rocky Mountains after the November 5 election. That's when citizens will get the chance to vote on a controversial proposal known as Amendment 11, a measure that would put churches and most other nonprofit groups on the tax rolls for the first time. Behind the effort is John Murphy, an attorney and critic of institutionalized religion. When Murphy began his crusade and founded Coloradans for Fair Property Tax, most of the pundits thought the measure wouldn't even make it on to the ballot. But 66,000 signatures later, Amendment 11 is causing what one paper describes as a "religious storm," and shaking up some powerful religious groups which over the past decade have moved into towns like Colorado Springs, and become a potent force in local and state politics. Murphy's proposal is no longer being dismissed as a long shot. On Friday, USA TODAY noted that poll in September showed that 38% of the voters agreed with Amendment 11, while 52% opposed it and 10% were unsure. "But both sides agree the numbers are shaky," says the paper, and as a result many non-profits are worried. Indeed, Mr. Murphy's call for fair taxation has united just about all of the religious groups in the state, from evangelicals and Catholics to mainline Protestants, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu groups. The Colorado Association of Non-Profit Organizations has built up a huge $750,000 war chest to fight the initiative, and joined with other organizations including the Church Management Association, Colorado Council of Churches, and even religious right groups such as James Dobon's Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family. Estimates of the total amount being used to fight Amendment 11 run as high as $2,000,000. Supporters of the proposal estimate that taxing non-profits would yield between $70 million and $100 million each year. But for Murphy and others, there are deeper issues than "just the economy, stupid." The underlying question is who should pay for basic services, everything from trash pick-up to fire protection. And Murphy told USA TODAY that the tax free status for many non-profits is unfair, in that it gives them an advantage in competing in the markeptlace with private businesses. He used the example of a wealthy church which offered day care for its members. "These are people who can pay for their damn day care," he told the paper. "Why do I have to pay for wealthy people's kids?" Critics have howled in protest, though, that the Murphy initiative would hurt people who benefit from the outreach of both secular and religious non-profits who provide a wide range of social services -- everything from soup kitchens to clinics and food banks. And the Rev. Lucia Guzman of the Colorado Council of Churches warned that up to 700 churches in the state might have to shut down if Amendment 11 wins at the ballot box. But critics note that more and more of the "charity" claimed by religious groups and other non-profits is really government, taxpayer money which the organizations simply administer. Even the enormous Catholic Charities, USA now depends on government block grants for 65% of its budget. And the Fair Tax groups points out that "If this proposal passes, taxpayers can then contribute the extra money from their decreased tax bills...to the church or non-profit of their choice. It would be their choice, not the governments." Church and State While religious groups have closed ranks and raised their own anti-Amendment 11 campaign budget estimated at $500,000, the squabble transcends question of money. Supporters of the initiative say that it will strengthen state-church separation by treating religious groups in the same way private businesses and other organizations are taxed. A representative of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, though -- a Baptist-funded organization which usually supports First Amendment efforts and opposes school prayer or partisan politicking by churches -- warned that Amendment 11 could ensnare government in religious matters. A spokesman for AU told the Ogden, Utah Standard Examiner that the initiate "would allow religious schools to be tax-exempt, but not the actual buildings in which people worship, while the whole point of religious schools is to support what's being taught in those churches." Support Growing ? Whatever flaws might exist in the Murphy proposal, though, the basic concept of making all non-profits, including religious groups and churches pay at least part of their share seems to be growing. Religious leaders fear that the concept behind the Murphy Amendment could take hold elsewhere, especially as local government scramble to find new sources of funding. A Portland, Maine City Council representative told USA TODAY that "The era of simply allowing nonprofits to hold a larger and larger tax umbrella over themselves is over. " Some cities like Philadelphia are now "asking" non-profits to pay at least some share of their property taxes to help alleviate red ink in the municipal budget. Other towns like Buffalo, N.Y. have begun charging all users for basic services like garbage pickup. The issue of taxing religious and other non-profits is also being raised on the legal front. Last week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether local and state governments can void the property tax exemption for charitable groups if most of the people they serve are not local residents. That case involves a Christian Science summer camp within the jurisdiction of Harrison, Maine, which has been presented a $22,000 a year property tax bill. The city points out that 95% of the campers are from outside the state. Last year, the Maine Supreme Court ruled that the town had the legal right to tax the camp, a decision which according to the New York Times "alarmed religious groups and other nonprofit organizations around the country." The idea of taxing non-profits, or at least charging for services which until now have been provided either free of charge or at reduced rates may appeal in certain urban areas which have seen a serious erosion in the ratable tax base. But win or lose, John Murphy's feisty call for fair taxation has struck a chord; it may prove to be one that the churches cannot silence. ** TALIBAN ''SWEEP'' MAY BE HALTED: KABUL TO BE DM ZONE? A battle for control of the Afghanistan capital of Kabul appears to be shaping up, as former government troops and elements of the Taliban religious militia consolidate their forces against a background of tenuous political and tribal alliances. Yesterday, Taliban officials and representatives of Gen. Rashid Dostrum, an Uzbek warlord who controls provinces in the northern part of the country, agreed to hold peace talks following a five-hour summit. That followed the formation of an alliance last week between Dostrum and the former government military commander, Ahmed Shah Massood, whose forces remain firmly entrenched in the Panshir valley and have been carrying out a guerrilla-style war north of Kabul against Taliban troops. But the prospect of peace talks may turn out to be a Taliban diversion. Since Tuesday, thousands of Taliban militia have been marching toward Kabul, ostensibly to repel attacks by Massood. The Taliban Information Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi said that the new clerical regime, which has instituted strict, authoritarian Muslim law in the areas under its control, "can defend against any attack by the enemy." But the new force heading toward Kabul consists of an estimated 4,000 troops plus supplies from nearby Pakistan which has backed the Islamic warriors in its battle for control of the country. There are now two accounts in the international press of what might be shaping up in the next 24-48 hours... * Taliban may consolidate its forces for a new push into the Panshir in an effort to destroy Massood and his estimated army of 20,000 - 40,000 troops. In the field, Taliban has lost two strategic villages, Charikar and Jebul Siraj; but yesterday Taliban jets, allegedly flown by former government pilots, bombed Charikar killing civilians and international aid workers. Taliban remains in control of the important air base located at Bagram which is located about 30 miles from Kabul and is a possible staging area for an assault on the Panshir. The base is also the new objective for raids by Massood's troops who could use it as a platform for air attacks on Kabul and other Taliban strongholds. The outcome on this phase of the civil war could depend ultimately on who ends up in control of Bagram. * At the United Nations, there is some movement in efforts to have Kabul declared part of an open, de-militarized zone, possibly as a precondition to peace talks among the various factions. Yesterday, an unlikely coalition of representatives from Russia, the United States and Iran urged the Afghan groups to begin mediated discussion. Another factor in the outcome of the war might be Pakistan, which is the Taliban's main source of weapons and other material. Despite efforts by the Taliban to control the movement of refugees throughout the nation, and especially in Kabul, there are reports of large numbers of people pouring into Pakistan. And Taliban may be sowing the seeds of rebellion within its own controlled areas, thanks largely to the imposition of draconian Islamic rule. In Kabul, men are being ordered to pray in public mosques five times a day and grow beards. Women have been confined to homes, and ordered to wear full body covering during the few times they are permitted to go out in public. And a ban on women working has created a crisis, particularly in the health care field where they played a vital role in delivering medical services through clinics and hospitals. "What is left in Afghanistan except death and bombs and killing," asked a Kabul resident to an Associated Press reporter yesterday. "We have nothing left. Even God has forgotten us." ** A Call To All Atheist Couch Potatos! PROMOTE THE ATHEIST VIEWPOINT ON YOUR CABLE SYSTEM One way AA members can help American Atheists expand its outreach is to sponsor our weekly cable TV program THE ATHEIST VIEWPOINT in your community. If your local cable system has a public access channel which accepts outside or "imported" programming, The Atheist Viewpoint may be what your community needs as an alternative to boring Sunday TV evangeloids, or local level religious nuts. This 30-minute program is hosted by American Atheists President Ellen Johnson, and Ron Barrier, our National Media Coordinator. It features news, commentary, guest interviews and the notoriously profane and amusing segment "Fruits to Nuts," a lighthearted look at religious foolery. If you are a member of American Atheists and would like to host The Atheist Viewpoint in your community, just send e-mail to avtv@atheists.org. Often, all it takes is just a little paperwork; and our video production facility can provided tapes in any required format. Atheist Viewpoint is now airing in over 45 cable systems throughout the country; our goal is to re-capture our original network of 135 cable systems by the end of the year, and expand that. You can help! Contact us today if you would like to sponsor the Atheist Viewpoint. ** About This List... AANEWS is a free service from American Atheists, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information about American Atheists, send mail to info@atheists.org and include your name and postal mailing address. Or, check out our cool new site on the web at http://www.atheists.org. You may forward, post, or quote from this dispatch, provided that appropriate credit is given to aanews and American Atheists. For subscribe/unsubscribe information, send mail to aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org and put "info aanews" (minus the quotation marks, please) in the message body. Edited and written by Conrad F. Goeringer, The LISTMASTER (cg@atheists.org). Internet Representative for American Atheists is Margie Wait, irep@atheists.org.

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