web posted March 5, 2001
Animal rights group enlists Jesus in vegetarian Easter campaign
What wouldn't Jesus do? That's the question one animal rights group wants Canadians to ask themselves this Easter before sitting down to a heaping plate of turkey or ham. In a twist on the popular Christian campaign - What Would Jesus Do? - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is hoping to convince Canuck carnivores that the Messiah wouldn't eat meat. Not a bite.
To make sure people get the point, the U.S.-based group is distributing a graphic Easter card that's sure to stir up controversy - and might just put a few meat lovers off their Easter dinner.
The card depicts a knife-wielding Christ standing in front of his apostles at the Last Supper, slicing open a cow's neck as rivers of blood spurt out.
The caption reads: Jesus Was The Prince Of Peace, Not A Bloody Butcher.
PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich acknowledges the card will upset some people, but says it's the best way to get the message across.
"We would, in most situations, prefer to go a little too far than to go not far enough," he said.
"The card forces people to think about the bloodshed and cruelty involved in eating meat. People need to realize that if they're eating meat, they're promoting cruelty to animals."
Friedrich said conditions in slaughterhouses and factory farms make a mockery of Christ's teachings about compassion for all God's creatures.
He said animals often arrive at slaughterhouses frozen and injured, only to be dragged from trucks, hung alive on hooks and sliced open.
He noted that, under the law, it would illegal to treat cats and dogs the way cows and pigs are treated.
"Every decent person can only be offended morally and spiritually by the cruelty that is inflicted on God's creatures," Friedrich said.
"They've been turned into Frankenstein animals - they're genetically bred, pumped full of hormones, mutilated, abused in horrific ways that mock God."
Friedrich urges people to try vegetarian alternatives at Easter, like tofu turkey.
Farmers and industry officials deny animals are abused. They say every effort is made to ensure an animal's suffering is minimized.
Father Gordon Davies, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Toronto, agrees Christians should be concerned about how animals are treated. But he questions PETA's methods.
"There's absolutely nothing in scripture about vegetarianism - and I happen, actually, to be a vegetarian," he said.
"We should treat animals better . . . but there are proper ways to promote the ethical treatment of animals. It's unfortunate that they would, as it were, try to rewrite the Bible to promote their cause.
"I think they simply undermine the credibility of their other studies in which they do point out to the public in a very valuable way the unethical treatment of animals that does go on."
Friedrich said that while some may not like the way PETA does things, demand for the Easter cards is growing. The group has sold or distributed 10,000 cards and is printing more.
PETA is no stranger to controversy. It came under fire for a previous campaign aimed at Christians, called Jesus was a Vegetarian.
It also upset the meat industry with a campaign claiming meat causes impotence.
Most recently, PETA attacked Burger King and McDonald's for the way their suppliers treat animals.
The group, which boasts 600,000 members worldwide, has attracted many celebrity supporters, including Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson.
The What Would Jesus Do? campaign is a grassroots Christian project that reminds people to behave as Jesus would in a situation.
Pentagon's latest weapon: a pain beam
The Pentagon unveiled its latest weapon on March 1, a non-lethal beam that fires electromagnetic waves at the skin, heating it instantly to painful levels without internal or permanent damage.
Touted by enthusiasts as the biggest military development since the atomic bomb, the Vehicle Mounted Active Denial System (V-MADS) is easily transportable and is considered ideal for "crowd control."
By using certain portions of the electromagnetic spectrum, it penetrates the skin to a depth of about 1/64th of an inch.
Used properly -- that is, for less than three seconds -- it causes no serious long-term injuries. The U.S. Marine Corps, which developed the V-MADS over the past 10 years along with the U.S. Air Force, would not say what happens if the weapon is misused.
"This is going to save lives," said Major Dave Anderson at a briefing in Washington yesterday, where a model of the weapon was on display. "It gives the commander another option that is not deadly force ... We are very excited."
Easily mounted on a vehicle or a roof, it can be fired from up to 750 metres away, making it especially useful in dispersing crowds.
"I can tell you we have no plans on using this on Canadians," noted one U.S. official yesterday. "We don't see our embassy in Ottawa being besieged any time soon."
Maj. Anderson said the waves utilized by the V-MADS fall between microwave and infrared rays on the spectrum.
The waves, whose exact length, frequency and amplitude are classified, cause water molecules in the skin cells to vibrate. That rapidly produces heat and causes discomfort. The invisible waves can pass through clothing but halt just beneath the skin's surface.
Maj. Anderson said the heat irritates nerve sensors in the skin but does not damage internal or reproductive organs. The weapon's beam has no effect on electrical equipment, such as pacemakers or computers.
Project officials said the human body begins to feel pain at about 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The V-MADS weapon heats the skin to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit in less than three seconds.
"I lasted about a second before I pulled my hand away," said Maj. Anderson, who described the sensation as similar to touching a hot light bulb. The sensation stops, with no lingering effects, as soon as the person leaves the beam's path.
A report this week in Marine Corps Times described the technology as rivaling the atomic bomb.
"That's a bit of a stretch, but it's in the ball park at least," said John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a Washington defence policy organization.
He said it could be a very useful tool during peacekeeping missions in which outnumbered soldiers must disperse a hostile crowd without causing any permanent injuries.
"What they want is something that will heat people up enough that they will run away, but not heat them up so much that they will explode," Pike said, adding it is too early to tell whether it will be effective.
First, scientists must continue tests to guarantee V-MADS is truly non-lethal, he said, and then convince a skeptical public.
"I think the first problem will be difficult and the second problem will be very difficult," Pike said.
Military officials say the effective range of 750 metres means V-MADS would allow soldiers to remain outside the reach of most small arms fire.
Scientists are developing a vehicle-mounted version, and Maj. Anderson added they are also looking at plane-, ship-mounted and hand-held models. The weapon will not be ready for field use until at least 2008.
Maj. Anderson maintained that people's involuntary reaction to resist pain will force subjects to flee before the weapon can do any permanent damage. But the V-MADS' operator will determine how long it is trained on a subject, and when pressed, Maj. Anderson admitted it could be dangerous if used improperly.
While military officials say its development cost -- US$40-million over 10 years so far -- and complexity will keep it out of enemy hands, Pike was not convinced.
"It's a heck of a lot easier than an atomic bomb. Just do the math, the military said it spent less than $50-million developing this thing. There's a heck of a lot of countries that have $50-million to spend."
And with that comes the threat a rogue state such as Iraq could develop a more dangerous version and use it against American troops, he said.
"The fact that Captain Kirk says set the phasers on stun, definitely
means the phasers have another setting. Just because the Americans have
them set on stun does not mean the Iraqis would."
Greenspan backs tax cuts, urges discipline
In testimony that largely mirrored that delivered to Senate lawmakers six weeks ago, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan on March 2 repeated his backing for tax cuts but warned a House panel against the possible erosion of fiscal discipline in the United States.
He told the House of Representatives Budget Committee that the chances of a return to budget deficits as a result of poor fiscal policy were "not negligible."
However, Greenspan said despite economic weakness, government receipts should be well-maintained in the near-term and reiterated that it is better to use surpluses for tax cuts than spending increases.
If it is decided that the surpluses need to be reduced, "it is far better, in my judgement, that the surpluses be lowered by tax reductions than by spending increases," he said. He indicated he felt there was some urgency to make a decision about this with budget surpluses piling up.
"Without policy changes, private asset accumulation is likely to begin in just a few short years," he said. He has warned that government acquisitions of private assets would create distortions in financial markets.
"Congress needs to make a policy judgement regarding whether and how private assets should be accumulated in government accounts," Greenspan said.
Louisiana student sues to get Bible club, Christian athletes club
The sophomore class president at a St. Martin Parish high school sued the school system in federal court on March 2 because she was not allowed to start a lunchtime Bible club and a Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The lawsuit against the Saint Martin Parish School Board contends that a school which allows any club not directly related to course work to use the school must also allow religious clubs to do so.
Attorney Mathew D. Staver filed the lawsuit two days after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a New York State case which makes the same claim.
Louisiana is among eleven states which filed briefs supporting the contention that students' right to free speech is violated when all religious clubs are barred after-hours use of school buildings.
Opponents say the clubs amount to using schools as churches.
School Superintendent Roland J. Chevalier said he could not comment because he had not seen the lawsuit or even been told about it.
Dominique Begnaud, 15, is a member of several school teams and several student clubs at Cecelia High School.
She asked principal Malcolm Calais in the fall for permission to start a Bible club and a Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Her letter said the Bible club would meet in the gym or a classroom on Wednesdays during lunch, and did not give a time for FCA meetings.
The St. Martin Parish School Board responded that allowing any religious clubs would violate the Constitution's separation of church and state. Its letter said Begnaud should hold such meetings at her church or home, according to the lawsuit.
That stand violates the 1984 Equal Access Act, Staver said in a news release. He said the law forbids public schools from discriminating against any club because of religious or political content.
"Equal access means equal treatment," he said. "If school administrators can't understand the simple message of equal access, you wonder how they can teach children anything."
The Equal Access Act would cover an after-school club, but not one which meets during school hours, said Joe Cook, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Louisiana chapter.
"If you allow one noncurriculum club, you've got to allow these others," he said.
However, he said, the group would have to be entirely student-led and student-run, and could not have any adult members or any regular adult speakers or faculty sponsors.
Begnaud's letter said her group would prefer to have a parent or church member lead the group, but that a student would lead it if necessary. The FCA "is sponsored by a teacher from the school," she wrote.
Byrd: Clinton legacy is lower standards, GOP Congress
The Senate's senior Democrat blasted former President Clinton on March 4 for "lowering of the standards of our culture" and leaving as his legacy a Republican Congress.
West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd made the remarks on "Fox News Sunday," calling President Clinton's last-minute pardons "malodorous" and a distortion of presidential power.
"They stink," Byrd said. "I think he abused the constitutional power that is there for purposes when there's a need to make justice out of injustice, to correct an incorrection. But they were abused."
The interview was also marked by Byrd's use of a racial slur during a
discussion of civil rights and U.S. race relations, a statement for which
he later apologized.
Byrd, 83, is a stickler for Senate parliamentary rules and an avid student of history. Colleagues watched him closely during Clinton's 1999 impeachment trial.
Byrd eventually voted against removing Clinton from office, but he had nothing kind to say about the former leader of his own party.
"I didn't care for him," Byrd said. "His lifestyle didn't match mine. I'm not saying that I'm an icon of perfection, but I didn't care for him."
Since leaving office, Clinton has come under heavy fire for incidents ranging from his initial selection of pricey office space in Midtown Manhattan, to a dispute over furniture he and his wife took from the White House, to the pardons.
And many Democrats have joined Republicans critical of the pardons -- particularly that of Marc Rich, a billionaire financier who had been listed as an international fugitive by the Justice Department, wanted on tax and fraud charges.
Byrd acknowledged that he never attended any of Clinton's State of the Union addresses before Congress, but he did attend President Bush's recent budget speech before lawmakers.
Asked about Clinton's legacy to Democrats, Byrd said, "You can see it right here on Capitol Hill and down at the other end of the avenue."
"We have a Republican House, a Republican Senate and a Republican White House. That's part of his legacy," he said.
Byrd added that Clinton presided over a lowering of cultural standards.
"I've been in Washington now 49 years. And in these past few years, I've seen a more rapid deterioration in the country's culture than ever before," he said.
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