Ore. psychiatrist to open assisted suicide clinic

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) A psychiatrist who the state has reprimanded for wrongly prescribing drugs says he plans to open a facility in Portland and charge fees to help patients end their lives under Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act. Stuart G. Weisberg has mailed invitations to local doctors and politicians inviting them to a July 21 “presentation” at a restaurant to unveil his new business, End of Life Consultants LLC. Weisberg did not return calls Wednesday (June 23) seeking more information on his venture, which apparently would be the first of its kind in the nation. Weisberg filed incorporation papers with the state June 2.

Does sexual frustration fuel Islamic violence?

(RNS) Did alleged Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan lose control, at least in part, because he was sexually frustrated? That’s one of the questions being asked in the investigation into the Nov. 5 rampage that left 13 people dead and dozens more injured. According to reports, Hasan visited a nearby strip club in the weeks before the massacre and was frustrated by his inability to find a pious Muslim wife.

COMMENTARY: There is no life in state-sanctioned killing

(RNS) Every so often, the glint of morality — or common sense — flashes across the television screen. Witness a recent episode of the television drama “House.” One doctor tells another: “It is impossible to take another person’s life and remain unchanged.” That’s all I’ll say; I don’t want to ruin the program for you if you haven’t seen it. But if you’ve been following the death penalty debate recently, it has to make you wonder.

Pope thanks N.M. governor for death penalty repeal

VATICAN CITY (RNS) New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on Wednesday (Apr. 15), hours before a Catholic group lit up Rome’s Coliseum to honor New Mexico’s recent abolition of the death penalty. Richardson, a former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, led a state delegation to Rome for the evening lighting ceremony, which was sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic group whose activities include a world-wide campaign against capital punishment. Earlier in the day, Richardson attended Benedict’s weekly public audience in St. Peter’s Square, where he was seated in the front row of spectators, along with Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan of Santa Fe.

60 Oregonians died under assisted suicide in 2008

PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) Sixty Oregonians ended their lives last year by taking a lethal drug dose prescribed under the Death With Dignity Act, state officials reported Tuesday. That’s the highest annual total in the 11-year history of the law, 11 more than in 2007. Deaths from a drug prescribed under the Oregon law now account for 2 of every 1,000 deaths in Oregon. In all, 401 terminally ill Oregonians have died this way since 1997, when Oregon made it legal for a doctor to prescribe a lethal drug dose to a terminally ill patient who makes the request orally and in writing.

Updike’s last abode

John Updike was a writer who cared about religion, so it seems fitting to note his death here. Admirers of his work will find these images, of the hospice where he died, sad but irresistible, as we wonder how the master would have described his last surroundings. Maybe he left some last pages that will let us know.

Palestinian Christians share Ramadan spirit

c. 2008 Religion News Service JERUSALEM _ Hala Jahshan, a resident of the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, isn’t a Muslim, but like many Holy Land Christians feels enriched by the Ramadan traditions of Muslim neighbors and co-workers. “Palestinian Muslims and Christians live together, we share the same destiny and we join in each other’s celebrations,” said Jahshan, who greets tourists at the Melia Center, an embroidery cooperative for Palestinian women. While holiday celebrations have the potential to underscore differences and exacerbate tensions between religious groups, Palestinians say holidays like Ramadan (which ends here on Sept. 30) tend to bring Christians and Muslims _ and sometimes even Jews _ closer together.

Forever overhead

We lost a great writer Friday night when David Foster Wallace, known to fans as DFW, passed away, apparently by suicide. Though he professed to be an admirer of John Donne’s poetry and Kierkegaard’s philosophy, Wallace was not known to be religious. Likewise, in his essays, short stories and novels he rarely addressed religion overtly. In one of his few stories centered on religion, “Good People,” Wallace is at his empathetic best, as he gets inside the head of a young Christian encountering a moral dilemma. My favorite Wallace short story, though, has to be “Forever Overhead,” which imagines a boy on his 13th birthday on a diving board.

Small-town cop tracks struggle in spiritual journal

c. 2008 Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly LEXINGTON, Ill. _ Spencer Johansen has been the popular police chief of this rural Illinois town (population 1,900) for 18 years and always thought he’d retire here as the police chief. But then some seemingly inexplicable things started happening. “I missed a couple of court dates, nothing major, they were just minor traffic cases,” he told Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

Why does sex play such a large role for fringe sects?

c. 2008 Religion News Service (UNDATED) What is it with sects and sex? The Texas probe into alleged child abuse at a polygamous compound started with an anonymous phone call about underage girls having sex with adult men. Reports circulated of rumpled bed linens inside the sect’s glistening temple. Its imprisoned leader, Warren Jeffs, reportedly has dozens of wives and would grant and deny wives to his male followers depending on their perceived worthiness.

RNS Daily Digest

c. 2008 Religion News Service Christian school gives all freshmen iPod or iPhone (RNS) Abilene Christian University will be the first university in the nation to provide all incoming freshmen with an Apple iPhone or an iPod touch, according to school officials. “We are not merely providing cutting-edge technology tools to our incoming students,” said Kevin Roberts, the school’s chief information officer, according to the university’s Web site. “We are also providing the Web applications that ensure these tools will become critical to the students’ learning experience.” The school in Abilene, Texas, which is affiliated with the Churches of Christ, said 93 percent of students already bring a computer to campus. iPhones or iPods will be distributed beginning this fall and will allow students to receive homework alerts, answer in-class surveys and quizzes, and check their meal and account balances, along with more than a dozen other web applications, Roberts said.

Book chronicles sect’s troubled past

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Like the circumstances of his birth, nothing about Ricky Rodriguez’s life was normal. His death, in 2005 at the age of 29, would be no different. He was born to an American woman, Maria Zerby, who embraced the gospel of “flirty fishing” that used sex as a tool to recruit new members to the Children of God, a 1970s Christian sect now known as The Family International. Overseeing it all was David Berg, whose gospel of sexual liberation also included adult-child sex.

10 minutes with … Keith and Molly Moore

c. 2007 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Zachary Moore, though born prematurely in July 2002, seemed normal at first. Slowly, however, his parents began to notice alarming changes in their son. “We never could overcome issues with lack of weight gain (and) over about a two-week period his skin became tight and seemed to not be growing,” writes Zachary’s father, Keith, in “Old at Age 3,” a book about his son’s fight against Progeria, a rare genetic disease that causes accelerated aging in children. “We knew something bigger was wrong with him.” According to the Progeria Research Foundation, the disease affects as many as one in 4 million to as few as one in 8 million people.