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The Buzz

Issue: "Terri Schiavo: In memoriam," April 9, 2005

Terri Schiavo

A 15-year battle over Terri Schiavo's life ended with her death at 9:03 a.m. on March 31. Mrs. Schiavo, 41, had been without food or water for 13 days, following a court-sanctioned order by her husband to withhold them.

"This was not a death, it was a killing," said family friend and Catholic priest Frank Pavone. "This is a case of throwing away a disabled person."

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Mrs. Schiavo's final days, no less than the years since her 1990 collapse from a heart attack, hung on the mercy of a state and federal court system. It consistently sided with Mrs. Schiavo's husband Michael, who remained her court-appointed legal guardian despite a longstanding adulterous relationship with another woman that has resulted in two children. Only hours before she died, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case-the second turndown by the nation's top judicial panel in less than two weeks.

As Mrs. Schiavo entered a second week of starvation and dehydration, her parents and siblings pleaded without success to the courts, politicians, and Mr. Schiavo to reinsert her feeding tube. Mr. Schiavo initially denied but later consented to a Catholic priest administering Communion on Easter Sunday and last rites. She was administered wine but no bread, as her tongue was too dry to take it and Mr. Schiavo would not permit her rehydration.

President Bush, who signed emergency legislation on March 21 allowing federal courts to hear her case, said, "We must continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcome and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others."

Civil-rights activist and liberal preacher Jesse Jackson underscored the bipartisan fight to save Mrs. Schiavo, visiting at her bedside just prior to her death. "Terri had shown vital signs, an amazing will to live," he told reporters. "This has no moral ethical foundation or justification."

Earthquake

In Indonesia, good news and bad emerged in the wake of the magnitude 8.7 earthquake that rocked islands off the coast of Sumatra on March 28. Late last week, Indonesia's government dropped its death toll estimate from 1,000 to about 500. But it also acknowledged its own failure to rapidly deliver food and water to victims on Nias and other islands.

The quake and a reported 700 aftershocks flattened 80 percent of the Niasan capital city of Gunung Sitoli, which had escaped the December tsunami virtually unscathed. The city "is by far the worst possible place on Nias for an earthquake to occur," said Lutheran World Relief worker Jeff Rasmussen after visiting the decimated region. "It's a bustling, crowded town of 30,000 or so . . . with tightly packed buildings . . . and only one road to the airport, which now is damaged." Mr. Rasmussen said those factors and the island's remote location may hamper relief efforts.

The international relief group SurfAid reported that the smaller islands of Asu, Bawa, and Simeulue also suffered massive quake damage, and that the temblor had dramatically shifted the reef system surrounding the islands.

Kyrgyzstan

Pressure mounted on ousted President Askar Akayev to resign, a week after opposition protesters stormed his headquarters and forced him to flee the country on March 24. The "Tulip Revolution," which followed an apparently rigged parliamentary election in the former Soviet republic, soon gave way to wrangling over who should guide the transition. The mountainous Central Asian nation became the latest post-Soviet state to experience people power after revolutions in Ukraine last year and Georgia in 2003.

Africa

Zimbabweans waited in long lines to vote in parliamentary elections on March 31, with longtime autocrat Robert Mugabe predicting a comfortable victory for his ZANU-PF party. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change competed on an unlevel playing field-Mr. Mugabe reserved scarce food aid for his supporters during campaigning, and reports surfaced that MDC election monitors were not allowed at polling sites.

Meanwhile, a measles outbreak in Sudan has killed 500 children and left nearly as many infected with the disease. But, despite a peace agreement that includes the Islamic government channeling aid to the predominantly Christian south, including the stricken area in Eastern Upper Nile, the World Health Organization refuses to intervene with medicine.

In Eritrea, Marxist leaders are intensifying a campaign against church leaders, arresting over 200 Christians this year. Some of those arrested have been imprisoned in darkened metal shipping containers, which turn sweltering or frigid as the weather changes.

Religion

Doctors upgraded Moral Majority and Liberty University founder Jerry Falwell's condition from critical to stable on March 30 and removed the 71-year-old pastor from a ventilator. Mr. Falwell suffered a recurrence of viral pneumonia and was admitted to Lynchburg General Hospital, where he received a call from President Bush wishing him well.

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