Monday, November 10, 2008

Monday Morning Coffee Stops

New York Times: G.I.'s in Remote Post Have Weary Job, Drawing Fire - C. J. Chivers


American soldiers prepared last week for a possible Taliban attack at a small castle at their base, Combat Outpost Lowell, which is near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan and is a frequent target of attacks.

First Lt. Daniel Wright, the executive officer of the American cavalry unit — Apache Troop of the Sixth Battalion, Fourth Cavalry — put things in foxhole terms.

“Basically,” he said, “we’re the bullet sponge.”

The New Atlantis: Ten Years of "Death with Dignity" - Courtney S. Campbell

Death with dignity is the death of choice for relatively few persons. Before the act was implemented, opponents anticipated a demographic migration of near-terminal patients to Oregon, such that Oregon would become a “suicide center” for the terminally ill, with all sorts of ensuing social catastrophes. The empirical evidence does not bear out these projections. In ten years, 541 Oregon residents have received lethal prescriptions to end their lives; of this number, 341 patients actually ingested the drugs. These figures are not only lower than the substantial numbers predicted by opponents, they are even smaller than the more conservative estimates anticipated by advocates. While those figures have generally risen each year, the deaths under the ODDA still comprise a very low proportion of Oregon’s total deaths.


Given the predictions of both the ODDA’s original supporters and opponents, one might be inclined to ask not why are some terminally ill patients seeking recourse to physician-assisted suicide, but rather why aren’t more of them doing so? In some years, and in some cases, the prospect of federal intervention may have had a kind of “chilling” effect—if not necessarily among patients requesting such assistance, then on willing physician participants. There may also be a general demographic factor at work: younger persons may be more willing to support physician-assisted suicide than elderly persons who may be staring their own mortality, or that of loved ones, in the face.

However, a likelier explanation may be that the ODDA served as a catalyst to improved end-of-life care among Oregon practitioners—including the increased use of hospice and palliative care, and the easing of restrictions on the drugs practitioners could provide to relieve pain. This is a very significant possibility, because it implies that ensuring a dignified death may not be a matter of changing the laws so much as a matter of changing medical practices and professional education. Moreover, it suggests that, for most people, a pharmacologically-induced death is not a precondition of a dignified death, nor that the possession of a right entails its subsequent use.

Christianity Today: Keeping the End in View - James R. Payton, Jr.

As evangelicals, we know how to answer the question, "Are you saved?": If we have believed in Jesus Christ, we are saved—right there, right then.

Sometimes, though, the way we talk about salvation makes it sound like little more than a get-out-of-hell-free card. With our emphasis on what sinners like ourselves are saved from, do we know what we are saved for? Is salvation solely about us and our need to be forgiven and born again, or is there a deeper, God-ward purpose?

Washington Post: Adoption's Numbers Mystery - Jeff Katz

Tens of thousands of children in foster care nationwide grow older each year waiting to be adopted, yet a government agency has found that there are far more women seeking to adopt children than there are children awaiting adoption. So why aren't the laws of supply and demand working in U.S. adoptions?

Last month, the National Center for Health Statistics held a research conference on its National Survey of Family Growth. The survey, based on more than 12,000 interviews, is the most comprehensive measure available of the demand for adoption in the United States. The latest study, released in August, found that nearly 600,000 women are seeking to adopt children they do not know. Put another way, imagine that every woman in Chicago between the ages of 18 and 44 wanted to adopt. Are there enough American children to meet this demand? Not even close.

Life and Times of a Preacher Mom: Hope Won - Preacher Mom

Are any other pastors out there a little bit embarrassed at the way a political machine managed to outdo the church on every front - canvassing neighborhoods, embracing people who look and live differently than we do, planting seeds of hope, stirring people to action? People invested huge amounts of time, money and legwork to spread the news of Obama's campaign. People who have never taken part in the political process, who have never voted or even registered to vote, became motivated and became involved. People who have never believed that they mattered or that their voice would even be heard became believers. People who never show emotion cheered aloud and shed tears without shame in public. People who have been beaten down by life time and again let go of their cynicism and dared to hope. People of all races and walks of life, who may not give each other the time of day under different circumstances, stood side by side and accepted that despite their differences they shared a common vision that united them. People believed. They sacrificed. They invested themselves into something greater. They took hold of a hope, a vision, a common goal.

New York Times: Emptying Pandora's Box - Roger Cohen

It would be an exaggeration to say people are happier now that we have less money, but accurate to say there’s a surfacing of shame about the extent of our spend-spend-spend excesses.

The check on this shopping spree stands at $2.6 trillion in American personal debt. That’s a staggering sum.

You can’t wish away debt with a magic wand. The toll for all those home-equity paid Disney vacations will be heavy. Yet I would resist the temptation to say that economic crisis defines our times. No, as Bill Clinton might have said, “It’s the culture, stupid.”

The culture that said the most patriotic act was to shop. The culture that sent the best and the brightest to Wall Street to concoct toxic securities. The culture that said there was no need to balance individual rights and community needs. The culture that replaced thrift with thrills and hope with hype. The culture that said a country at war is not a country that needs to pull together in sacrifice.

Goodbye to all that.

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