Friday, April 29, 2005

Launch Delay

The STS-114 Shuttle launch has been delayed from May to July to allow more time to address potential safety issues. Nevertheless, approval has been given for preliminary work to support a possible Shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Hill Battles

Nearly 300 women lobbied for life issues on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, while a House passed parental notification bill moves on to the Senate and the battle over judicial nominees approaches a decisive moment.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

NASA Chief Michael Griffin and Hubble

George Whitesides and Gary Barnhard of the National Space Society (NSS) make a well reasoned case for restoring a Shuttle servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope, contingent upon a successful STS-114 Return to Flight mission.
Philip Morrison, 1915-2005

Philip Morrison, who was a 'founding father' of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), has passed away at the age of 89.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Happy 15th Anniversary, Hubble Space Telescope!

Images from STScI

The HST was launched on April 24, 1990. This article features two spectacular images released to mark this anniversary.
"...that we will learn to carry one another."
From the homily of Pope Benedict XVI at his Inauguration Mass formally beginning his papacy.
One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. “Feed my sheep”, says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament. My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

ISS Crew Handover
The Expedition 10 crew has handed over control of the International Space Station (ISS) to the Expedition 11 crew, who will be on hand to greet the STS-114 crew next month (probably) as the Space Shuttle returns to flight.

Friday, April 22, 2005

No Embryonic Boondoggle in Maryland
When the Maryland legislature adjourned its three month annual session last week, it seemed like a three-ring circus with some good and some bad results. Thankfully, a dubious initiative to use Maryland taxpayer dollars to fund embryonic stem cell research did not make it through the process.

For more background on the moral problems with embryonic stem cell research and on more promising ethical alternatives, check out Do No Harm.
Energy Bill and Clock Changes
The House of Representatives has passed an energy bill on Thursday with a provision unrelated to oil-drilling in ANWR and other controversies but that will have a direct effect on daily life.
The bill has some provisions not seen in past energy legislation.

It would expand daylight-saving time by two months. The measure's supporters said that could save the equivalent of 100,000 barrels of oil a day. Nobody objected to that provision.

Perhaps it will save 100,000 barrels a day. Or maybe not. Later sunset in March and November also means a later sunrise in those months, which could cut into those savings and raise safety issues for morning commuters and school children.

The bill faces an uncertain fate in the Senate. Perhaps extended daylight saving time is a good idea, but shouldn't this provision see more attention and debate than it's received thus far?

In any event, energy-saving efforts should also include more attention to making outdoor lighting more efficient and less obtrusive.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Blogging Nun
No, I don't think she's the first nun to blog, but Sister Marianne's blog was started on Holy Saturday, just in time to provide insightful commentary on the momentous events currently happening in the Church and the world.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The New Holy Father

Image link from EWTN

Today's historic ascension of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to become Pope Benedict XVI, the 265th Vicar of Christ, will generate plenty of discussion in the coming days. EWTN now has a page of news and info about the new Pope and his selection. His first words (in Italian) from the balcony over St. Peter's Square:
"Dear brothers and sisters, after our great pope, John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple, humble worker in God's vineyard. I am consoled by the fact that the Lord knows how to work and how to act, even with insufficient tools, and I especially trust in your prayers. In the joy of the resurrected Lord, trustful of his permanent help, we go ahead, sure that God will help. And Mary, his most beloved mother, stands on our side."

An article written by Michael Novak at NRO before the election was announced articulately describes the new Pope's challenge to the world.
For Cardinal Ratzinger, moreover, it is not reason that offers a foundation for faith, but the opposite. Historically, it is Jewish and Christian faith in an intelligent and benevolent Creator that gave birth in the West to trust in reason, humanism, science, and progress, and carried the West far beyond the fatalistic limits of ancient Greece and Rome.

To the meaninglessness of relativism, Ratzinger counter poses respect for the distinctive, incommensurable image of God in every single human being, from the most helpless to the seemingly most powerful, together with a sense of our solidarity with one another in the bosom of our Creator. This fundamental vision of the immortal value both of the individual person and the whole human community in solidarity has been the motor-power, the spiritual dynamic overdrive, of an increasingly global (catholic) civilization.
We Have a Pope!!
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is now the Pope, taking the name Benedict XVI. He is now appearing on the balcony over St. Peter's Square. This selection does indicate a strong move to carry on the heritage of JPII. Thanks be to God!!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

As the Conclave Begins
EWTN has a page with links to news and background info on the election of the next pope.
This is Exciting
Space technology is used to decipher ancient manuscripts that could significantly add to the world's cultural heritage.
Academics have hailed it as a development which could lead to a 20 per cent increase in the number of great Greek and Roman works in existence. Some are even predicting a "second Renaissance".
Another Life Saved
As with Mae Magouirk, the case of Clara Martinez appears to be reaching a happy outcome.
Yet Another Fight for Life
This time in Chicago and the endangered woman is named Clara Martinez. Here is the initial report from Blogs for Terri, which is frequently updating the situation.
Martinez suffered a debilitating stroke a year ago and her husband signed a "Do Not Resuscitate" order that led to the disconnection of her feeding tube. She is able to consume liquids through her mouth and, so far, has survived for thirty days without food.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Michael Griffin on Fast Track to Head NASA
While the 'inside-the-Beltway' controversy and media attention have focused on John Bolton's nomination to be U.N. Ambassador, Michael Griffin's Senate hearing to become NASA Administrator only cleared the way for a noncontroversial confirmation that could have Dr. Griffin at his new desk by next week.

In his prepared statement, Dr. Griffin expressed his strong commitment to space exploration:
The nation is not going to abandon space exploration, human or robotic. Given this, the proper debate in a world of limited resources is over which goals to pursue. I believe that, if money is to be spent on space, there is little doubt that the huge majority of Americans would prefer to spend it on an exciting, outward-focused, destination-oriented program. And that is what the President's Vision for Space Exploration is about.

While his answer to a question provides the latest twist in the continuing Hubble Space Telescope saga:
When asked by another senator to speak about Hubble, Griffin said: "With regard to the value of Hubble, the shortest way to say this is that the Hubble, almost by itself, is the instrument that allowed us as a race of people to understand that it is true that we know nothing about 95% of the universe." With regard to robotic servicing, Griffin said: "Before I was nominated I was chair of review committee for the robotic servicing mission. That committee has designated that the mission is not feasible - in terms of the time, money, and period before Hubble may become unusable. I would like to take the robotic mission off the plate. I think the choice comes down to reinstating a shuttle servicing mission or a simple deorbiting mission. The initial decision was made in the aftermath of the loss of Columbia. When we return to flight it will be essentially a new vehicle, with a new risk analysis associated with it. I think we should reassess the earlier decision in light of what we learn after return to flight.
That PVS Diagnosis
Dr. Ronald Cranford, the neurologist whose diagnosis of Terri Schiavo being in a 'persistent vegetative state' was accepted by Judge George Greer and incessantly parroted by the Old Media, apparently was wrong on a similar diagnosis of a previous patient.
( -- A neurologist hired by Michael Schiavo to confirm that his wife Terri was in a persistent vegetative state said he was "105 percent sure" of
that diagnosis, but Dr. Ronald Cranford expressed similar certainty about a patient he examined in 1980 who later regained both consciousness and the ability to

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Space Plans
With the intense events of the past few weeks, it's been a while since I've blogged on space developments. Last week's Space Foundation symposium in Colorado Springs generated intense discussion about the future of space exploration, the role of entrepreneurs and the scientific focus on the space exploration plan announced by President Bush.
After decades of sending probes across the void of interplanetary space, officials are now reshaping how solar system exploration is accomplished. The renovation is due in large measure to the visionary Moon, Mars and beyond directive given to NASA by U.S. President George W. Bush just more than a year ago.

Meanwhile, the Space Shuttle Discovery has been rolled to the launch pad for the first shuttle launch since the loss of Columbia and her crew two years ago.
Mae Magouirk Update
Updated information here. It appears that some aspects of this case are still being sorted out, including the motives of all the parties involved. Never-the-less, Ms. Magouirk appears to have been rescued just in time from a cruel death. For ongoing updates, please check in with Blogs for Terri.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Mae Magouirk Rescued
Breaking news reported by Blogs for Terri.
THANKS TO THE SUPPORT OF ALL OF THE FRIENDS OF TERRI, MY AUNT MAE MAGOUIRK HAS BEEN AIR LIFTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM MEDICAL CENTER ... and receiving IV fluids, nourishment and some of the finest medical care available in the United States! Praise be the name of the Lord GOD... Thanks to Terri's friends... It would NEVER ever have been possible without bloggers who love life , and the truth!! I am racing from my home to UAB now and will type a detailed update after I see my Aunt Mae! Thanks guys, your calls, emails, blogs and prayers did it ALL!!! I so love you guys!!!!!!!!!! Ken Mullinax, nephew of Mae

Pray that Ms. Magouirk recovers from her ordeal and receives continued protection from imposed death.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Another Disabled Woman in Grave Danger
From Fr. Rob Johansen at Thrown Back:
85 year-old Mae Magouirk of LaGrange, Georgia, is currently being deprived of nutrition and hydration at the request of her granddaughter, Beth Gaddy. Mrs. Magouirk suffered an aortic dissection 2 weeks ago and was hospitalized. Though her doctors have said that she is not terminally ill, Ms. Gaddy declared that she held medical power of attorney for Mae, and had her transferred to the LaGrange Hospice. Later investigation revealed that Ms. Gaddy did not in fact have such power of attorney. Furthermore, Mae's Living Will provides that nutrition and hydration are to be withheld only if she is comatose or vegetative. Mae is in neither condition. Neither is her condition terminal.

Additional information at Blogs for Terri.
Pope John Paul II Laid to Rest

Image link from Catholic Forum

Pope John Paul II was laid to rest in Rome after a solemn Mass attended by many world dignitaries and many more common people. (I'm watching the replay on C-Span this evening.) The homily was delivered by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who concluded by saying:
None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi. We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the Mother of God, your Mother, who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

So much has been written about JPII these last few days, it has been impossible to capture it all. However, here is a summary of quite a number of reflections by National Review Online.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Splendor of Truth

Image link from Catholic Forum

A fundamental trait of Pope John Paul II was his persistence in upholding objective truth as opposed to passing conventional wisdom. Thomas Hibbs writes on this in his article at NRO.
During his tenure as pope, John Paul has repeatedly turned his attention to contemporary confusion and insincerity, particularly regarding human rights, not in totalitarian regimes, but in the advanced, western, liberal democracies. He detects a "surprising contradiction" concerning rights. Instead of continuing a trajectory of expansion of rights and greater inclusion, there is a contraction of the scope and application of rights. Instead of curbing oppression, these new formulations introduce the possibility of new and more sinister forms of tyranny. In The Gospel of Life, he wrote,

The criterion of personal dignity-which demands respect, generosity and service-is replaced by the criterion of efficiency, functionality and usefulness: others are considered not for what they "are," but for what they "have, do and produce." This is the supremacy of the strong over the weak.

How did this come about - this strange reversal, this "surprising contradiction," in which the modern proclamation of human dignity and the promise of expanded human rights give way to an indifference or even hostility to those most vulnerable among us?
It depends on how you ask the questions.
During the last couple of weeks, we were constantly bombarded with claims that polls showed overwhelming opposition to congressional & presidential involvement in the fate of Terri Schiavo, or even the possible restoration of hydration and nutrition to her. Not surprisingly, the questions asked often inaccurately stated Terri's condition or other facts in the case.

Now, results of a Zogby poll have been released which contradict those earlier claims.
The Zogby poll found that, if a person becomes incapacitated and has not expressed their preference for medical treatment, as in Terri's case, 43 percent say "the law presume that the person wants to live, even if the person is receiving food and water through a tube" while just 30 percent disagree.

Another Zogby question his directly on Terri's circumstances.

"If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water," the poll asked.

A whopping 79 percent said the patient should not have food and water taken away while just 9 percent said yes.
The poll also lent support to members of Congress to who passed legislation seeking to prevent Terri's starvation death and help her parents take their lawsuit to federal courts.

"When there is conflicting evidence on whether or not a patient would want to be on a feeding tube, should elected officials order that a feeding tube be removed or should they order that it remain in place," respondents were asked.

Some 18 percent said the feeding tube should be removed and 42 percent said it should remain in place.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

"Be not afraid!"

Image link from Catholic Forum

So much is being said about Pope John Paul II's impact on the world and on individual souls. His growth to maturity in Poland at the time of Nazi oppression, followed by Communist oppression, steeled his spiritual character for his call to service in the Church, climaxing in his world changing papacy.

JPII catalyzed the spirit of the people living under Communism and lead to the mostly peaceful manor in which that deeply flawed system fell in much of the world. His challenge to the whole world, in particular our 'liberal' western societies, lives on. As President Bush said today:
Pope John Paul II left the throne of St. Peter in the same way he ascended to it -- as a witness to the dignity of human life. In his native Poland, that witness launched a democratic revolution that swept Eastern Europe and changed the course of history. Throughout the West, John Paul's witness reminded us of our obligation to build a culture of life in which the strong protect the weak. And during the Pope's final years, his witness was made even more powerful by his daily courage in the face of illness and great suffering.

The Holy Father not only challenged societies to live up to what they should be, but also for individuals to have hope, to overcome weakness and sin, and to draw closer to God.
His Holiness Pope John Paul II, 1920-2005
Pope John Paul II passed away in Rome at 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST) today. His service as the Vicar of Christ from 1978 until today was one of the longest and most vigorous in history.