Friday, March 2, 2007
Early in his presidency, George W. Bush issued an executive order
creating a White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives that
gives billions of dollars to religious groups of its choosing
without oversight. No politician dares to challenge it, but a
group of atheists who pay taxes sued in federal court, arguing
that it violated the "establishment clause" of the 1st Amendment.
An appeals court ruled that the case can go forward. However,
the White House director short circuited the process by asking
the Supreme Court, stacked with conservatives, to weigh in. The
issue is whether taxpayers have standing under the establishment
clause to challenge the way the executive branch uses money
appropriated by Congress. The Court heard oral arguments this
week and is expected to rule before adjourning for the summer.
The speedy New Horizons probe has gotten a boost from Jupiter on
its way to Pluto. As it left Jupiter yesterday, the Long Range
Reconnaissance Imager on board New Horizons took a spectacular
picture of the plume from the Tvashtar volcano on Io. The plume
was discovered by Hubble just two weeks ago.
The arrest of astronaut Lisa Nowak on charges of planning to
kidnap and murder a romantic rival raised questions about plans
for dealing with instability in space. The Associated Press
obtained NASA's written procedure. It calls for binding wrists
and ankles with duct tape, tying down with bungee cords and
injection with tranquillizers. Meanwhile, fuel is being removed
from the shuttle before sending it back to the garage to repair
damage from a hail storm, delaying launch until at least the end
of April. The shuttle is expected to retire in 2010, "if a tree
don't fall on it" first, as the song goes. A replacement won't
be ready before 2005. Budget cuts are likely to delay plans for
a new manned spacecraft to replace the shuttle to at least 2015.
Inevitably, it raises questions the value of humans in space.
The documentary, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," airs on the Discovery
Channel, Sunday. It claims to have found a tomb in Jerusalem that
held the remains of Jesus, his wife Mary Magdalene, their son
Judah, his mother Mary, and assorted other family members.
Coming just before Easter, it outraged the faithful who point out
it couldn't be the same guy, that one ascended bodily into
heaven. The War Between Religion and Science, ignited by the
Intelligent Design movement, is heating up. According a front
page story in today's Weekend Journal section of the Wall Street
Journal, it's now generational. The story says that the new
thing in adolescent rebellion is to be excessively devout,
driving liberated parents nuts.