Enjoined in Holy Matrimony

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 28 2004 6:51 AM

Enjoined in Holy Matrimony

The New York Times leads with, and the others front, the triumph of mob rule in Haiti's capital. The Los Angeles Times leads with the California Supreme Court's refusal to temporarily halt and invalidate San Francisco's gay marriages in advance of a legal decision. (The NYT fronts, and the other papers mention, the marriage of 25 gay couples in New Paltz, N.Y., by the town's Green Party mayor.) The Washington Post leads with the District of Columbia's decision to offer free blood tests to all residents and free water filters to day care centers in order to calm fears of lead contamination. The city's water and sewer authority, which found excessive lead levels in two thirds of the homes it tested last year, will coat leaking lead pipes with phosphate. Democrats on the Hill want to investigate the EPA, which oversees the water authority.

Port-au-Prince had descended into a chaos of carjackings, executions, lootings, extortionate roadblocks, and fires, report the papers' on-site correspondents. President Jean-Bertrand Aristide gave a second CNN interview in which he vowed not to resign, while the U.S.—which 10 years ago backed Aristide against a similar junta—continued to pressure him to quit. The NYT and WP note that the U.S. embassy urged Aristide to impose order in the capital, but a longer quote in the LAT reveals that the embassy in fact blamed Aristide for the violence. The two Timeses say that rebel leader Guy Philippe has backed away from marching directly into the city; he now plans on a long siege.   

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In response to a petition by California Attorney General Bill Lockyer demanding an injunction against San Francisco's gay-marriage licensing, California's top court merely instructed the city and its legal opponents to prepare briefs by March 5 for arguments on March 29. Meanwhile, the New Paltz, N.Y., town clerk refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses to the mayor, who then performed the ceremonies anyway and claimed that state law allowed him to marry couples sans license. (Experts tell the NYT that state law is ambiguous on whether non-licensed and/or homosexual marriages are valid.) He plans to marry at least 50 more couples next week.

The response of state leaders in New York to their own rogue mayor in part mirrored that of California's leaders: A Republican governor (George Pataki) asked a Democratic attorney general with gubernatorial aspirations (Eliot Spitzer) to petition the courts for an injunction. In New York, however, the attorney general refused to cooperate, arguing that he may only seek injunctions against actions causing "irreparable harm," like bodily injury. Lockyer—who, the Post reports, personally supports gay marriage (as does Spitzer)—backed an injunction in order to prevent "legal limbo" and argued that San Francisco cannot challenge the state constitution without a court decision to support its contention. In contrast to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's public memo to Lockyer requesting a lawsuit, Pataki argued that the state health department, rather than his office, made the decision to lobby Spitzer for a crackdown. (The NYT quotes sources refuting Pataki's claim.)

Under the (online) headline, "Gay Marriage Fight Finds Ambivalence From Evangelicals," a piece inside the NYT argues that, while Christian conservatives are largely opposed to gay marriage, they don't see a constitutional amemdment as a priority and would have supported President Bush with or without his campaign for it. The "evangelicals" in the headline, however, turn out to be only a handful of churchgoers interviewed by a reporter in Grand Rapids, Mich.

The LAT "column-one" feature delineates the shrinking role of anatomy in general, and dissection in particular, in medical education. Many doctors fondly recall the weeks they spent slicing through cadavers, inhaling formaldehyde, and memorizing reams of Latin nouns. But anatomy labs are expensive—cadavers have to be stored and ventilated, dissection is time-consuming and requires close supervision—and less relevant as molecular biology and genetics demand increasingly large portions of the curriculum and dissection-simulation software grows more sophisticated. (One program allows users to look at 3-D images of a real cadaver sliced into 1,871 1-mm cross sections.) One top school, UCSF, did away with its dissection requirement two years ago, and many more schools are expected to follow suit as an aging anatomy faculty retires over the next decade.

The NYT front analyzes the potential electoral fallout of John Kerry's famous 1971 antiwar testimony before the Senate foreign relations committee, in which he accused the government of all but forcing soldiers to commit war crimes on a regular basis. At the time, members of Kerry's sponsoring organization, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, accused him of excessive moderation. (In late 1971 he split from the radicalizing group, citing "differences in political philosophy.") Now veterans on the right accuse him of having curried favor with "Hanoi Jane" Fonda, a prominent VVAW financial backer. (Fonda tells the Times that the image-conscious Kerry prevented her from attending the protest that accompanied his Senate testimony.) Less partisan veterans accuse Kerry of mere rhetorical excess. Three paragraphs from the bottom, the article cites a poll showing that only longtime Kerry opponents really care about his testimony.

On the Post opinion page, photojournalist Ken Light relates how his 1970 photo of Kerry at an antiwar rally was digitally manipulated by cyber thieves to show Fonda standing beside him. (A second photo of Kerry and Fonda at a rally is genuine.)

The NYT reefers the death sentence handed down to Japanese cult leader Shoko Asahara, convicted of masterminding the 1995 sarin gas attack on Tokyo's subway. Displaying anything but the typical impassivity the public has come to expect from killers listening to their sentence, Asahara "crossed his arms, smiled, openly yawned, snorted, scratched his head, smelled his fingers, mumbled incoherently and muttered as if reciting mantras."       

Michael Brus, a former Slate assistant editor, is a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City. He is on the clinical faculty of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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