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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Policymakers Look to Space
Senator Sam Brownback addressed the Space Transportation Association (STA) breakfast Tuesday morning, calling for the space industry to become less bureaucratic and defensive and more forward looking. As chairman of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, Senator Brownback takes a leading role on topics ranging from future space policy to biotechnology research and related ethical issues.

On Wednesday, the full Senate Commerce Committee held a stimulating hearing on the future of NASA in space.

Finally, the President may be considering looking outward again, according to this article.

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Sunday, October 26, 2003

Persistently Vegetative Press
The apt description of much of the Old Media from Father Rob Johansen, who is on the front line in Florida assisting Msgr. Malanowski in ministering to Terri and the Schindler family and talking with supporters and press. Father Johansen is part of the Alt Media in action, posting reports from Florida at his blog Thrown Back.

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Friday, October 24, 2003

Suborbital Activity
From Randall Clague of XCOR via Rand Simberg, the FAA has clarified the regulatory regime for suborbital spaceflight.

Meanwhile, I'll be participating in Suborbital Action Day on Capitol Hill on Monday to further educate Congress on the importance of impending legislation addressing this issue.

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Alt Media counters Old Media myths
If the only information you've received on Terri Schiavo's situation so far is from the Old Media (centralized print and TV sources), you may be surprised to learn that that information may contain serious inaccuracies or sometimes even outright distortions. The following exerpt from an e-mail I received the other day compares Old Media myths with more accurate information from Alt(ernative) Media sources (terrisfight.org and other sources seriously covering this story).


MYTH: Terri has been in a persistent vegetative state, a coma, or is
terminally ill, for 13 years.
FACT: NO. Terri is disabled and has brain damage, but is not in PVS, coma,
or terminally ill.

MYTH: This is just a "religious" issue.
FACT: NO. While Terri's religious rights have definitely been criminally
denied, it is fundamentally a disability issue in which her civil rights as
a disabled citizen have also been denied.

MYTH: Food and hydration are "extraordinary means", and thus a patient has
the right to refuse.
FACT: NO. Even, and especially, in secular terms, while the use of
ventilators, drastic surgery, experimental "therapies", etc., are
extraordinary means and may be refused, food and hydration have always been
defined in medicine as ordinary means, or "palliative care" (as is the use
of antibiotics, needed X-rays, minor surgery, etc.). For Catholics, it is
morally permissible to refuse extraordinary means, but not morally
permissible to refuse ordinary means, or palliative care (including food and
hydration).

MYTH: Removal of food and hydration is "death with dignity" and painless.
FACT: NO. Removal of food and hydration is "death with gross indignity"
and monstrously painful and ugly even with morphine or other drugs.

MYTH: The issue is the "right to die".
FACT: NO. The issue is the "right to live".

MYTH: A husband always makes surrogate medical decisions for his disabled
incompetent wife that are based solely on her best interests.
FACT: NO. It is well known and documented that many family members of
disabled patients are tired of their difficult situation and want to get rid
of the problem (i.e., the disabled patient).

MURKY:
-- Terri left no written directives, and a 10-years tardy "witness" who
claims she said something to the effect.
-- There are legal submissions to the court, including by nurses who cared
for Terri, concerning her husband's abuse of Terri.
-- There are conflicting medical and legal testimonies by "experts".
-- There are conflicts of interests with the husband's lawyer and the judge
because of direct as well as indirect ties to the Florida euthanasia
lobbyists and hospices.
-- There is a great moral distinction between direct and intentional
killing, and allowing someone to die, letting the disease or condition take
its course. While that is taking place, all basic and fundamental
palliative medical care should be given to the patient to make his/her death
as dignified as possible -- including food and hydration.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Old Media versus Alt Media
Tonight, both ABC and CBS evening 'news' programs presented a pathetically one-sided 'right to die' spin on the Terri Schiavo case, which would lead viewers to believe that Governor Bush, the Florida Legislature and even Terri's family are the villains. The only 'experts' presented were doctors, lawyers or 'bioethicists' who attempted to denigrate Terri's condition and the efforts of the Governor and legislature to protect her. They never bothered to show the views of these physicians.

The Terri Schiavo story just points up the divergence in how people obtain and use information in our society. The centralized institutions that have disseminated information for years, including most major newspapers and television networks are the 'Old Media'. They tend to present very packaged news items that often reflect a single point of view, not only within the individual news organization, but across the community of the Old Media.

Much is made of the generally 'liberal bias' in the Old Media. While there are arguments over how this bias predominates on foreign policy and economic issues, the Old Media mind-set appears to be in the most lock-step on social/cultural issues such as abortion and other life issues, attitudes on sexuality, etc. Thus the blatant 'right to die' spin in the Terri Schiavo case.

One thing the Old Media will not report on very much is their competition. Various alternative avenues have sprung up over the last couple of decades including talk radio, radio with Christian or other independent points of view, and of course the Internet in its various forms. We'll call these media sources the Alternative Media, or Alt Media for short. The Alt Media has claimed increasing influence in public affairs in recent years.

The Alt Media began to receive a lot of attention after the 1994 elections, when the political establishment and the Old Media were stunned by the Republican takeover of Congress. Since then, campaigns of politicians across the ideological spectrum have exercised an increasing Internet presence in order to communicate their message, recruit volunteers and raise campaign funds.

The Alt Media has also played an increasing role in public issues. The war in Iraq generated heated discussion on talk radio and rallies for and against the war were announced and largely organized on the Internet.

Perhaps more than in any other issue so far, the Alt Media not only covered the Terri Schiavo story, it played a pivotal role in bringing about the actions that have, so far, prevented Terri's death. Months ago, with the help of supporters, Terri's family established a web site, terrisfight.org. This site provides background information on Terri and her situation, affidavits and other documents and letters related to her case, and the compelling videos showing Terri responding to her parents' gestures. This information contradicts the Old Media's scripted view of a 'right to die' case.

As the court process carried on over the past few years , her plight has been covered by public advocacy groups, particularly within the prolife and disability rights movements. As the legal situation became increasingly threatening this year, the Terri Schiavo case picked up more attention on talk radio, e-mail and web sites, including blogs. (The word 'blog' is short for weblog, a web site formatted as a journal so that its author(s) can make frequent posts of opinions and experiences.)

As Terri's court imposed death sentence approached last week, the increasing number of concerned citizens began to turn to Governor Jeb Bush to use his authority to protect Terri's life. By the weekend, the Governor's public e-mail account was swamped with messages. When he chose to seek authority from the legislators, their addresses were quickly disseminated by the various Alt Media and were quickly deluged by the swelling grassroots effort to save Terri. In a rare move, the Florida Senate moved its scheduled Tuesday evening vote ahead to the afternoon. Once Terri's law was passed, Governor Bush quickly signed the bill and ordered Terri's feeding tube reinserted.

So what ABC and CBS tried to describe as arbitrary intrusions by the Florida Legislature and Governor into the judicial process were actually the actions of leaders compelled by the communication of concern by constituents and many concerned people outside the state. This case of so many people networking to save one person's life could be said to be the Alt Media's finest hour. This Alt Media will continue to grow and change. It will have increasing power, for good or evil, to influence the direction of society. But don't hold your breath waiting for Dan Rather to tell you that.

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It's not over yet.
Terri Schiavo is receiving fluids but her situation is still not in control of those who have her best interests at heart.

One thing that can be done is to contact Governor Bush at jeb.bush@myflorida.com and THANK him for taking the action he's already taken to protect Terri's life and ask him to use his authority to ensure that her rights and those of her family are protected.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Another victory for life!
As Florida's elected officials acted to protect Terri Schiavo, the US Senate late this afternoon passed the bill to protect babies from being partially pulled from the womb and having their brains sucked out. Twice before, a partial birth abortion ban has passed Congress. The difference is we now have a President who will sign it! Of course pro-abortion forces will immediately launch a court challenge, so the fate of this new bill will likely be decided at the Supreme Court.

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Action! Thank God!
The Florida State Senate moved up its scheduled vote to this afternoon and passed Terri's Bill. (Senate President Jim King came around to supporting the bill.) The House agreed to the Senate version after originally passing the bill last night. Governor Bush quickly signed the bill and ordered Terri's hydration and nutrition restored. (I haven't seen confirmation yet that this has actually happened. Reportedly, she will require a period of intravenous hydration before the feeding tube can be restored.)

Michael Schiavo's attorney plans a court challenge to the Governor's new authority, and Terri faces a challenging recovery from six days of dehydration. Keep praying!

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Monday, October 20, 2003

Incredible audio/visual imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope
Click here for this Australian program, which includes a stirring musical accompaniment. (May take a few minutes to download, but well worth it.)

Meanwhile the Expedition 8 crew has arrived at the International Space Station. The crew includes NASA Astronaut Michael Foale, who serviced Hubble in December 1999.

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Sunday, October 19, 2003

Breaking News
Governor Bush calls for special session of the Florida State Legislature on Monday to "put an immediate moratorium on all dehydration and starvation deaths currently pending in Florida." Read the press release at Terri's web site. The appalling thing is the press release indicates the Senate President is reportedly opposed to the bill! Pray that this passes immediately and is not too late for Terri!

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Saturday, October 18, 2003

Still no word from Jeb...
...even with more legal premise that he can act.

WorldNetDaily reports that e-mails are coming through terrisfight.org at a rate of 10 per second! That probably doesn't count the number going directly to his public e-mail address:

jeb.bush@myflorida.com

Please join in encouraging Governor Bush to act quickly to save Terri's life.

Meanwhile, an opinion piece by Bill Press is so loaded with all the lethal, dehumanizing cliches that it could almost be a parody. Sadly, he actually believes this stuff. But an opinion piece by Diane Alden really hits home on the details of death by dehydration and starvation and on the bigger picture, where this is taking worldwide civilization. God help us if we let it happen!

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Friday, October 17, 2003

To mark His Holiness Pope John Paul II's twenty five years of service...
...as Pope, here's an article concerning his vision of the complementarity of Faith and Reason.

For more information on Pope John Paul's twenty fifth anniversary and the beatification of Mother Teresa, check out the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). If you don't receive EWTN via cable or satellite, you can access their webcasting service.

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Thursday, October 16, 2003

Are there any courageous leaders out there?
Terri Schindler-Schiavo is dying. The videos show she is not comatose or in a "persistent vegetative state" (whatever that fuzzy euphemism is supposed to mean).

So far, Governor Jeb Bush has not acted, though lawyers working on her case say he can. Statements by her Bishop and other religious leaders have been tepid at best.

Life Matters! (formerly Epivalothanasia) cites a number of bloggers speaking out on Terri's behalf, including one being posted from the vigil outside Terri's hospice.

Terri's father and sister were just on FoxNews' Hannity & Colmes tonight describing the suspicious circumstances surrounding her impaired condition and they directed viewers to the web site terrisfight.org.

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China's first spaceflight
As can be seen from the links at SpaceToday.net and SpaceDaily, there are many more reports and commentaries on this event than there is time to read.

Interesting commentaries include Glenn Reynolds' article describing this flight as part of China's emerging from centuries of retreat from the world and Jim Oberg's commentary emphasizing the positive implications of China's flight.

I do see China's venture energizing the world space community, but probably not in the form of a Sixties style space race. US space policy is already being re-examined following the Columbia tragedy, and this may further spur the calls by some for NASA to be directed toward new human exploration beyond Earth orbit.

Also, there are military implications of this venture, especially given the non-democratic and often ruthless nature of the Chinese government. Here too, the response by the Pentagon will probably not be a crash program response, but vigilance and development of new capabilities.

Finally, if space is to be moved beyond today's situation as a preserve for military, scientific and limited commercial activity, it is necessary to provide a favorable economic and regulatory environment to the new entrepreneurial efforts to develop affordable and robust space transportation. Rand Simberg provides a good description of the Commercial Space Act of 2003 which addresses the most critical current issues related to that environment.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Deadly order...
by courts being carried out against Terri Schindler-Schiavo, as her feeding tube was removed this afternoon. If nutrition is not restored in several days, Terri will die a painful death by thirst and starvation.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush met with the family today and reportedly asked his staff to explore all possible actions to possibly intervene and save Terri, as reported in this World Net Daily article. It's a little puzzling why the Governor didn't anticipate facing this situation and explore the options ahead of time. Perhaps he put more faith in the courts than they deserve.

Let's pray that he finds an option and acts with wisdom and courage to protect Terri's life.

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Return to Earth
Yang Liwei returned safely to Earth aboard Shenzhou 5. Links provided by SpaceToday.net and SpaceDaily. Will comment more later. Got home late and it's getting past my bedtime.

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Capitol Hill Bash
Attended a party this evening near Capitol Hill to benefit the Susan B. Anthony List, a spirited and effective Political Action Committee which focuses on electing prolife women. The SBA List also supports prolife men opposing pro-abortion women candidates.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The Dragon has wings!
First reports from SpaceDaily, CNN and Fox News.

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Monday, October 13, 2003

China Launch Imminent
Three 'taikonauts' have arrived at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, where at least one of them will be launched possibly as soon as Wednesday (possibly Tuesday evening here in the US).

This launch will not have the shock value of the 1957 Soviet Sputnik launch, given that the Chinese have lifted some of the secrecy around the launch to gain a build-up of publicity. Some in the media are downplaying the flight as repeating forty year old accomplishments of the US and the Soviet Union. This is not entirely true, as the Shenzhou spacecraft has features to allow it to be used to assemble small space stations.

Space advocates hope that this new entry into human spaceflight will re-energize US space activities. Given media fickleness, it's not certain how this will play out. What can be pointed out is that while our Shuttle system is more sophisticated and capable, it is also very fragile, given that it is grounded following the February Columbia tragedy. The question is how to make our space transportation industry more robust. This is not merely a task for NASA, but a national policy decision demanding the attention of the White House and Capitol Hill. There is already some motion in that direction, with the introduction of the Commercial Space Act of 2003.

Finally, an intriguing article has been published by China Daily describing China's future plans in space emphasizing the use of energy and resources in space.

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'Travesty of justice'...
describes the latest legal twist in the case of Terri Schindler Schiavo. Federal judge Richard A. Lazzara refused to intervene, allowing probate Judge George Greer's order to starve Terri to death at her husband's request, starting on Wednesday, October 15, to stand. Terri's parents and supporters have not given up, as described in this World Net Daily article.

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Returned from my travels
Catching up on blogging after preparing for and traveling to the Space Frontier Foundation conference.

I flew out a day early, on Wednesday, to make the pilgrimage up to Mojave, a hotbed of entrepreneurial space activity. On Thursday, visited with the folks at XCOR and took the airport van tour.

Back to LA for the conference. There appeared to be a sense of renewed optimism based on the progress of the start-up companies, some of whom are competing for the X-Prize. One highlight was a luncheon address by House Space Subcommittee Chairman Dana Rohrabacher, sponsor of the Commercial Space Act of 2003. The biggest surprise announcement of the conference was of a new X-Prize entry.

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