Items worthy of comment, direct or implied, on a late-November tree of plenty. . .
Kindly contemplate the great good news about Down syndrome detection. A $15-million, eight-year study of 38,000 women - the largest ever - has confirmed the ability of medical science to determine, now in the first trimester, whether a fetus is likely to be born with Down syndrome. It's huge. Notes Dr. Fergal Malone of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, who led the study: "This is going to have a big impact on care for women, not just in the United States but throughout the world."
And this just in about neckties: (1) Our friends the Saudis ban them in Saudi Arabia as symbols of Zoroastrianism, a religion originating in the Persia that is today's Iran; (2) Iran bans them as symbols of the cross.
Can an African-American be a Republican? In deep-blue Democratic Maryland, the answer is yes, but with difficulty. Michael Steele, an African-American, is the state's first Republican lieutenant governor. During the 2002 campaign resulting in his election, the Baltimore Sun dismissed him as bringing to the race little "but the color of his skin"; the president of the state senate termed him an "Uncle Tom"; attendees at a Morgan State College debate apparently pelted him with Oreo cookies.
Now Steele is running to succeed the retiring U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes - and the mean-spirited drumbeat goes on. Somehow the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, currently chaired by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, has obtained a copy of Steele's credit history. The FBI is investigating, as it should. Surely Martin Luther King had Republicans in mind, as well as Democrats, when he spoke of judging people by "the content of their character."
Maybe such rhetoric and antics explain in part why the Democratic National Committee, led by that distinguished moderate Howard Dean, trails its Republican counterpart in fund-raising by nearly 2-1 - even in the face of widely reported problems for the Republicans. This, from The Washington Post: "From January through September, the Republican National Committee raised $81.5 million, with $34 million remaining in the bank. The Democratic National Committee, by contrast, showed $42 million raised and $6.8 million in the bank."
Under Pope Benedict XVI, formerly Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican has decreed - most recently this week - that practicing homosexuals are not welcome in the Catholic priesthood. And the openly homosexual Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, whose consecration threatens schism among Episcopalians, is ecstatic: "We are seeing so many Roman Catholics (becoming Episcopalians), Pope Ratzinger may be the best thing that ever happened to the Episcopal Church."
A recent traveler to Boston passes the word that a leading Episcopal Church there (Trinity) lists "sexual orientation" first in its all-inclusive Statement of Affirmation: "We strive to include all persons without regard to sexual orientation, race, nationality, gender, family configuration, ethnic background, economic circumstances, difference in ability, culture or age."
All sex all the time: A Kaiser Family Foundation study finds 70 percent of television shows include sexual content, with an average of five sex scenes per hour. The 10 shows most popular with teenagers offer 6.7 sex scenes every hour, including depictions of intercourse. According to the Associated Press, "The number of scenes involving sex has nearly doubled since 1998" - from 1,980 to 3,783.
Such data suggest the effects of omnipresent sex on the young. Moreover, they provide continuing support for the proposition that schools offer sex education only to youngsters accompanied by a parent or guardian. Requiring parents to be present at such instruction sessions, perhaps a night, would (a) inject sanity into sex-ed curricula, and (b) encourage discussion of the subject between parent and child.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan Gordon Johnston doesn't like being frisked by "a total stranger" when entering the stadium to watch his team play - and at least temporarily he has won a court case to stop it. Pat-downs are required at all National Football League stadiums except Chicago's (where pat-downs are under discussion) and now Tampa's. Says Johnston: "Hey, this is the United States of America. If you allow this, then it goes to all the other sporting events, then it spreads to restaurants and malls and every place there's a group of people. Then pretty soon what do we turn into?" And: "What's to prevent . . . (friskers') hands to accidentally go otherwheres?"
The NFL's vice president of security, Milt Ahlerich, provides this perspective on the pat-downs: "We are at war. Terrorists want to kill large numbers of Americans. This is a proportional security measure that we are taking in the interests of the fans. . . . Do we have to wait until someone blows up one of our places until we can do the pat-downs? That is the question."