daily archive: 03/31/2005
Terri's death, American values, and American obsessions
I am not American. I have no great interest in or liking for America, other than for the fact that in any modern society anywhere in the world, one cannot escape the influences of American politics, the American economy, American culture and the American media.
On the othe hand, I do care about God (although I am not Christian), life and people. I also believe that over the course of our lives, whatever we may do, in our careers or with our families, or even in our interactions with friends or strangers, we all have choices to make, choices that should be exercised thoughtfully and carefully, based on all available information.
Terri's life and death ultimately reflect upon things I care about.
I believe polarising the issue along pro-choice and pro-life lines seriously confuse the real issues.
Firstly, the feeding tube provided Terri with food and water, not medical care.
We may all have a choice whether or not to receive medical care. Apart from the right to refuse medical care, there is a question whether, in the event that there is no viable life ahead, a person can choose (whether prior to the event, or during the event), to end life - euthanasia.
In the US, I understand the law allows the former, not the latter. Removing feeding was backdoor euthanasia.
Euthanasia may be acceptable in some countries, provided that the choice is clear and unequivocal, and that there are sufficient safeguards to ensure this. That is a matter for each society to determine for itself.
However, when American society has rejected euthanasia, for the courts to allow it through the backdoor, without the essential safeguards, and without allowance for a merciful end, so that we have a cruel, long-drawn, painful death, in hypocrisy to say the least.
For Terri, apart from the question whether removing the feeding tube was backdoor euthanasia, determining her choice was impossible in all the circumstances. Even if she did say that she would not want to be kept alive in a coma while watching a movie many years ago (which evidence is questionable, and is not consistent with Michael's earlier position), was it a considered and unequivocal choice? We all say things in passing, which we may not hold to when a serious decision needs to be made.
She was also denied the choice of whether she remained legally married to Michael. Michael made a choice for himself - despite having another woman and children by that woman, he "chose" to remain married to Terri. Would Terri have made the same choice for herself, if she could have known that Michael had another family? There is clearly a conflict in Michael making the decision to remain married both for himself and Terri. Would any of us allow the very question whether our marriage or partnerships continue to subsist at all be determined by our spouses or partners alone?
These basic considerations are apart from the questions as to whether she was really in a persistent vegetative state (whatever that actually means), whether there was any prospect of improvement in her state, and what actually caused her brain damage.
Ultimately, her interests could only be protected by the persons who had her interests at heart, and not those who acted in conflict of interests. Her parents and her siblings were the only ones who actually had her interests at heart, but they were deprived of the opportunity to protect her -by the courts.
Like the courts, the American media and the ACLU never really got to grips with the facts and issues. The presentation of the case in the media has influenced American public opinion to such an extent that a significant majority feel that the right outcome was reached. The case has been presented in the following simplistic terms:
a. Terri was in a persistent vegetative state.
b. She was being kept alive by artificial means.
c. She made a choice not to be kept alive by artificial means.
d. Her husband, who is her lawful guardian (despite having another family), implemented her choice, with the assistance of the courts.
These are hardly the true or undisputed facts.
Why has the media presented the facts in this way? I think it has a lot to do with certain "values" that have come to dominate American society - the pursuit of an ideal life, and the free market ideal that the use of resources should be optimised.
There is an obsession with an "ideal life" - to be successful, rich, famous and beautiful. The obsession with wealth and celebrity are just facets of this. Anyone who falls short is dispensable - as in "Survivor" or any of the new breed of reality TV. The media is particularly obsessed with success, celebrity and beauty - increasingly, it is how it sells itself. The farther one falls short, the more dispensable is that person. The poor and the helpless are easily abandoned. Terri was helpless, and "dispensed with" by the courts. In the process, they "dispensed with" justice.
Secondly, the free market ideal is that resources are utilised where they are most productive. By this ideal, Terri takes up resourcs, but produces "nothing". The love and caring that her family has for her, or that she may have had for her family, meant nothing to the American courts. Therefore, the courts easily reached the conclusion that resources should not be "wasted" on her - she should be deprived even food and water, and ultimately, life itself.
It would be tragic if these "values" continue to spread around the world without regard for what it actually means to be human and a living thing - the spirit to strive for betterment, often against the odds, care and concern for other living things, and the many other intangibles that are part of life, and make us human.
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Pope John Paul in very grave condition
Not a good day today. Pope Close to Death, Receives Communion -Vatican
Pope John Paul was in a "very grave" condition on Friday and appeared close to death after suffering cardio-circulatory collapse and shock, the Vatican said in a statement.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the 84-year-old Pope had been given the "Holy Viaticum" -- communion reserved for those close to death -- and had decided himself not to go to hospital for treatment.
The Vatican statement said the Pope had received cardio-respiratory assistance on Thursday and on Friday morning was still "conscious, lucid and tranquil."
It said the Pope celebrated Mass with his close aides at 6.00 a.m. (11 p.m. EST) on Friday.
Pope John Paul's fragile health took a sharp turn for the worse on Thursday evening as he developed a very high fever caused by a urinary infection.
My prayers are with him this evening, he's a person that I truly like and admire and respect.
UPDATE: He's in a coma
UPDATE: Vatican denies Pope is in a coma
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We Were From A Different Level
He won't allow me to tell you his name. We'll use his initials, I. H. Mr. I.H. is a Jewish shop-owner in Salonica, Greece. He is a Bergen-Belsen survivor, one of the lucky ones, he wasn't sent to the death camps.
I spoke with Mr. H. one April evening, in his beautiful apartment overlooking the Gulf of Thermaikos. He speaks seven languages, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, French, Spanish, English, German. He was 19 years old when he was deported to Bergen-Belsen, where he stayed for two and a half years. Before the war he was a scout in the Maccabees, he's very proud of this. He learned German in the camp.
He said Salonica had a lively and dynamic atmosphere which was lost after the decimation of the Jewish community. His father was in the moving business before the war. I.H. helped in the business because he was good with foreign languages, Hebrew among them.
"Abahushi came from Israel, before the war, and chose the best port workers, and took them to Israel. In Haifa, a special Jewish company took them, found them housing and they took charge of the port of Haifa."
There are still Salonica Jews in Haifa, port workers who recognised him on his last trip there. The children of their children still work on the docks there.
I.H. said that anti-semitism had risen in Greece, before the war. The far-right organisation, EEE, characteristically anti-semitic and aided by the general rise of fascism in Europe, regularly attacked and burned Jewish homes and businesses.
He did not like the German language before the war. His father told him to learn German, "necessary for commerce." I.H. thought it had too many syllables, it was "a heavy language," and he didn't learn it. After the camp he speaks German "better than the Germans." He learned it by ear.
"No one can describe what we saw. We woke at five in the morning. The 'good morning' was 'Sweinrei auchten!' - pigs get up! Where will they take us?
"We wait in line, in lines of five. Five hundred people, two barracks, from 250 each. we were wondering, what happened to the first ones? We were kids, 19-20 years old. Five-by-five, they go in and they don't come out. This is it, we thought, the end, it's over. And we hear nothing.
"They brought two young soldiers, Germans, they had dogs, they watched from right and left that we don't get out of the line. Then I hear this young German, whom I did not know, of course, he tells me 'You, come here!' I thought that meant he was going to kill me in front of the others. This man had me carry stones from one sidewalk to the other, where there was a mountain of rocks. Right-left. And I had to carry them from one sidewalk to the other.
"All 500 died except me. Who was this soldier? Why did he want to do this to me, why?
"Let me tell you why. Because he knew that as an example, he had to make me suffer in front of the others. So the others could see that I had to do this. And this minute I'm alive.
"In my shop, I have dried flowers from the camp. A German came into my shop and was asking something in German. If you want to speak English I answer to you, I told him. I know German but I will not speak it. And you know why? Because I was two and a half years in concentration camp. And the German, what, what, what, auf wiedersen, auf wiedersen, he leaves. He got scared now, he thinks this guy is from concentration camp, maybe he'll kill me."
"Were there many Greeks in Bergen-Belsen with you?"
"We were about 250."
"All from Salonica?"
"All from Salonica."
"How many survived?"
(A long silence.)
"It's a miracle that we are alive. You cannot describe it to anyone. It's very difficult to describe what we went through.
"When we were liberated by the Russians, a Russian officer pointed to the Germans who were tied up and gave the prisoners his gun. He told them "kill him." But no one took the gun to kill him. Even after we had suffered so much and hated Germans so much, no one could kill a human being.
"We were from a different level."
Note to long-timers: if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rerun! Since we're using zorkie's Terra Nostra posts as our weekly feature over at Winds of Change.NET we decided to start the series over from the beginning because it makes more sense that way. We don't really have to rerun it here in order to post it there, but we decided to anyway, because our traffic then was about 200 unique visitors a day and is now about 2000, so, um, that's a lot of people, and this deserves their attention.
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Why is it that some wars occupy the front page of practically every newspaper in the world while some other wars never even make the news? How can a war be going on for twenty years and we barely know about it? Is it because it's happening in Africa? Is it because it's not as "fashionable" to cover as Hamas marches? Is it because the atrocities are so incredible that no one wants to offend our delicate senses? Here's what's happening in Uganda:
It is much harder, Nelson Oyet explains in a monotone, to hack a child with a machete than to shoot him with a gun. He is 16.
Jennifer Atira recounts in a halting voice how she was given as a "wife," at 13, to a commander twice her age who would beat her if she refused to sleep with him. She is glad he was killed. She is now 15.
Ronaldo Mwaka is a "night commuter." To avoid abduction from his isolated village by rebel recruiters, he sleeps in an urban shelter every night and returns to school at dawn. He is 13.
These children and thousands like them are the most poignant legacy of a little-noticed civil war that has shattered the lives of the Acholi people of northern Uganda for almost two decades.
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Doctor explains how Canadian journalist was tortured
The Absurd Canadian
is outraged about the latest news
on Mrs. Zahra Kazemi
's case, a Canadian journalist who died in a Tehran prison in 2003 after being severely tortured. Mr. Shahram Azam, former staff physician in Iran's defence ministry who examined Kazemi's body after she was brought to him, escaped to Canada and is describing the events.
Azam described massive bruising around her head and ears. Her skull had been fractured and her nose broken. Two fingers were also broken and were missing fingernails.
Kazemi also had severe abdominal bruising and showed evidence of being flogged on the legs. There were also signs of a "very brutal rape," according to the doctor.
Also: Ottawa to push Iran on Kazemi case: Pettigrew
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Neither Snow nor Rain
In Greece we say "there's no wedding without tears and no funeral without laughter." Let's smile a little in this thread and share good thoughts and count our blessings. And a shot of cognac to all of you because you've been the best.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic - A retired man in the Czech Republic said Wednesday he had just received a postcard he sent his parents in 1945 when he was a prisoner of war in France.
Karel Brozda, 79, sent the postcard from a U.S. camp at an unspecified location in France on April 5, 1945, he told the Associated Press from hometown of Cesky Tesin on the Czech-Polish border, 240 miles east of Prague.
"Of course, I was surprised when it arrived," he said. "Who knows where it was for 60 years, but what can I do about it?" Brozda said, adding his parents died 40 years ago.
He said the postcard, addressed to his father Jan, was delivered to his brother's family in Poland from Germany in February and they forwarded it to him.
Brozda, who is of Polish origin, was forced to join Germany's troops occupying Czechoslovakia in 1944. He was dispatched to France and later to Germany. In March 1945, he abandoned his army unit and was taken prisoner by U.S. troops.
Man Gets Postcard He Sent During WWII
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She was named Theresa Marie, after Saint Theresa of Avila, but they called her that only when they were mad, which was almost never.
She drew pictures of dogs and horses, Bambi and Thumper, and her Labrador puppy, Bucky.
She grew up in a four-bedroom colonial on a half acre in the suburbs of northeast Philadelphia.
Overweight most of her life, she would cry when she had to buy school clothes.
She loved to peel skin after a sunburn.
She could keep a secret.
Her eyes are brown.
She attended Our Lady of Good Counsel school, where short, stout Sister Idalea knew the best way to pull a kid's hair to make it hurt.
She loved a boy named V.J. Mandez, but he did not love her back.
She learned to drive in a Ford Country Squire station wagon.
She got cold easily. She kept a blanket on the bed even in summer.
She once ran into the house crying because she had run over a rabbit. No one could console her. Her father went outside, came back, and said she was mistaken, there was no dead rabbit in the road. When she finally calmed down and left the room, her dad said, "Man, she nailed it."
She drank nearly a gallon of iced tea a day.
She read Danielle Steele novels. In their defense, she would say, "They are not Harlequins."
She liked to drive her T-top Trans Am past construction sites. She liked blonds.
She slept with her back to the window, so if she was murdered in the night she would not see it coming.
She weighed 200 pounds when she graduated from Archbishop Wood High School.
On her first real date, with a guy named Michael Schiavo, her brother and his friend stood on the front lawn and cheered.
She met Michael her second semester at Bucks County Community College. He was a year older, a foot taller and blond. He was the first guy who ever noticed her.
She has her mother's bushy eyebrows.
At Christmas, she would sneak around the house trying to find where the presents were hidden. Her father set up a train around the tree.
They said grace before dinner and had roast beef on Sundays.
She wrote a letter to John Denver asking him to sing at her wedding. He never wrote back.
She was not a great cook. She made a banana cake with green bananas and laughed when everyone told her how horrible it was.
She clerked at Prudential Insurance in Pennsylvania and in Florida, but wanted a job with animals.
She always made someone else kill the roaches.
Michael proposed after five months of dating. Her parents thought they were too young.
She was married Nov. 10, 1984, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in front of about 250 guests. It was the wedding she had always wanted, except that she refused to wait for warmer weather so she could have a horse and carriage. The tuxedos were gray.
She collected Precious Moments figurines.
When her Christmas tree was crooked, she called her dad for help. He told her to go buy a tree straightener. She called all over looking for one.
Before college she lost more than 50 pounds on a NutriSystem diet.
When she was about 7, her brother Bobby threw a brick at her head and made her cry.
Bobby locked her in a suitcase once and couldn't get her out. He ran for their mom while the suitcase jumped up and down, screaming.
She drove 30 minutes out of her way five days a week to visit her grandmother in a nursing home.
Her friends teased her that at the beach she was always the one the sea gull pooped on. "Don't lie next to me," they would say.
She worked at a dry cleaner in high school.
The movie Jaws made her cry. She was terrified of the ocean for the rest of her life.
Her gerbils were always getting loose and winding up in the air conditioning unit in the basement.
She was born Dec. 3, 1963, the first child of Robert and Mary Schindler. Robert was a salesman, mostly. Mary stayed home with Terri, and then Bobby and Suzanne.
On Saturdays, she went to Mass with her mother.
She was not strong and would not work out.
She bought her brother Bobby his first Bruce Springsteen record, Darkness on the Edge of Town, in 1978. He's been a fanatic ever since.
She always wanted to be a veterinarian and wrote TV zookeeper Joan Embry for advice. Embry said to finish college.
An average student, she dropped out of junior college.
She saw doctors for a benign lump in her breast, a wart on her toe and dizzy spells.
As a child she would spend hours in her room arranging her stuffed animals.
She loved Wham!
When Bucky the Labrador collapsed, she performed mouth-to-nose resuscitation on him. He died in her arms.
She and Michael lived in her parents' basement in Pennsylvania, then in a condo her parents owned in Florida. They paid rent, $400 a month, when they could.
She saw An Officer and a Gentleman four times in one day.
She quit using birth control in 1989 but did not get pregnant.
She is allergic to Benadryl.
She had an intolerance to salad and dairy products.
The night before her wedding, her father sat on the floor of her bedroom and watched her sleep. He was crying. She knew he was there, but never told him.
She loved the TV show Starsky and Hutch so much that she and her friend Sue Pickwell wrote hundreds of letters to Paul Michael Glaser. He, or his people, eventually wrote back.
At 26, she was 5 feet 4 and weighed 110 pounds. When she took off her shirt at night, Michael could see her bones.
She dyed her hair blond and bought a bikini.
She went to clubs with her brother because Michael worked nights. When guys hit on her, she would giggle, grab her brother and say, "I'm here with my boyfriend."
She had neat handwriting.
She had a good tan.
When she rode on the back of Bobby's motorcycle, she held on so tight she left marks on his skin.
Early on Feb. 25, 1990, she collapsed on the floor in the hallway outside her bedroom, gasping.
- Information for this story came from interviews with Terri Schiavo's brother, Bob Schindler Jr., and her childhood friend Diane Meyer, and from court transcripts, Newsday and the Associated Press.
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A battle lost, a war that rages on
It could never happen here. Oh, no. Doctors, nurses, judges, police, all bent on starving a useless eater to death because her life isn't worth living? Never in America.
I'm too stunned to say very much about the conclusion of Terri's public murder right now. Even though I knew hope was probably lost and she'd probably die, I didn't really allow myself to believe what I knew, because that would be a betrayal when she was still fighting for her life, hanging on.
We lost the battle to save Terri, but this isn't over.
There's a war going on. I didn't know it, but there is, apparently. It's a schism in the heart of Western civilization; an ancient war between life and death, and good and evil. papijoe and Marine Momma in the comments compared this to 9/11. I think the comparison isn't overblown. In both cases, America was already being bloodied in an undeclared war, for decades, but didn't wake up to the war being waged on it-not until the enemy made a spectacular and bold attack. They've woken a lot of sleepers up, and I'm one of them. I'm not letting this go. I can't bring you back to life, Terri, but I won't let the ones who killed you bury your memory, or your lesson.
Linger and meditate on that flash presentation, don't be in a hurry to finish it. Look at every picture. We're not so different from them, or so removed. The same strains of thought that led them there are alive and well here. Lives not worth living, human beings who are burdens, people better off dead. People empowered to kill other people not because they've done wrong, but because they're more frail and tenuous.Thanks, FloridaHeat.
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Rest in Peace, Terri
Terri Schiavo died this morning. She lasted twelve days without food and water. God have mercy on us.
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By Thought Alone
Chip reads mind of paralysed man
A severely paralysed man has become the first person to be fitted with a brain implant that allows him to control everyday objects by thought alone.
Matthew Nagle, 25, was left paralysed from the neck down after a vicious knife attack in 2001. He uses a wheelchair and is unable to breathe without a respirator, and doctors say he has no chance of regaining the use of his limbs.
But following an operation at New England Sinai Hospital in Massachusetts, Mr Nagle has become the first patient in a controversial trial of brain implants which could help disabled people to be more independent by tapping into their brain waves.
During the three-hour operation, electrodes were attached to the surface of Mr Nagle's brain. They were positioned just above the sensory motor cortex, where the neural signals for controlling arm and hand movement are produced. Surgeons completed the operation by fitting a metal socket to Mr Nagle's head so he could be hooked up to a computer.
The scientists, lead by Professor John Donoghue, a world expert in neurotechnology at Brown University in Rhode Island, used a computer to decipher the brain waves picked up by the implant. In early trials, Mr Nagle learned to move a cursor around a computer screen simply by imagining moving his arm.
By using software linked to devices around the room, Mr Nagle has since been able to think his TV on and off, change channel and alter the volume. "Eventually, we want him to be able to use it to control the lights, his phone and other devices," said Prof Donoghue.
In the most recent tests, performed earlier this year, Mr Nagle was able to use thought to open and close an artificial prosthetic hand and move a robotic arm to grab sweets from one person's hand and drop them in another. He has also sharpened his skills at computer games by playing the old arcade game Pong.
Prof Donoghue hopes the implant, called BrainGate, will ultimately allow paraplegics to regain the use of their limbs. "If we can find a way to hook this up to his own muscles, he could open and close his own hands and move his own arms," he said. "We're very encouraged by Matthew, but we're cautious. It's just one person. There's further to go, but we're absolutely on the way."
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