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"I recently heard two priests, Joseph Fessio, S.J., and John McCloskey (spokesperson for Opus Dei), say that if the Church changes the teaching on contraception, it will cease to exist," writes Garry Wills in the New York Review of Books (December 5). "Just think--all the original and saving truths of the Church (creation, incarnation, resurrection, the sacraments, last judgment, eternal life) are not worth a thing if condoms are allowed. Every other aspect of Catholic life and thought through the ages is held hostage to this one 'truth.' This seems a high price to pay just to spare a pope the embarrassment of admitting that he can be wrong on some things."

People not quoted in the regular media. From the on-line newsletter the "View from the Ground" (November 9): "Consider the question that has been asked again and again by CHA residents at community meetings convened for the purpose of presenting the Plan for Transformation--a plan under which thus far more than half of the family public housing units in the city have been demolished and scarcely any new housing has been built. The question takes a somewhat different form depending on where the meeting is held. On the West Side, residents ask, 'When the Bulls built the United Center, they continued to play in the old Stadium until the new stadium was ready. Why is this different?' On the South Side, they ask, 'When the White Sox built the new Comiskey Park, they continued to play in the old Comiskey Park until the new park was ready. Why is this different?'"

A holiday to remember. Who needs the Sharper Image when you can buy a remote-controlled rat from Chicago's own American Science & Surplus? According to the December catalog, "This radio-controlled rat moves forward, turns left, spins around, stares at you with red, glowing eyes. Dark-gray plastic, he's about 13" from his pointed little nose to the point of his tail. Works up to 50 feet from the wireless hand-held controller. Requires (3) 'AA' batteries, (1) 9 volt battery and a kid 8 years or older, none of which are included."

Do retired soldiers make better presidents than chicken hawks? Maybe so, to judge from retired general Anthony Zinni's October 10 talk to the Middle East Institute (available at www.cdi.org/terrorism). "I have a couple of heroes," he said. "One is George C. Marshall, a great general that led us through a great war to victory. Look what that general did after the war. He didn't look to fight more wars; he didn't look to leave the situation in the condition in a place where those wars would rebreed themselves. Look at General MacArthur in Japan. He was a man who suffered through Bataan and Corregidor and lost his troops to a horrific enemy. He reached out to the Japanese people and used other means to recreate stability and prosperity. Look at Generals Grant and Lee, where Grant wanted the mildest of surrenders where dignity was maintained and where friendship and connection could happen, where Robert E. Lee did not want to go into the hills and fight guerrilla wars....Look at General George Washington who avoided a second war with England, despite everybody pressing him to go to war a second time....Look at General Eisenhower that didn't see the solution at Indochina in getting involved when the French were engaged with the Viet Minh. He saw that as a loser strategy, despite everybody clamoring about the dominoes that would fall. Like those generals who were far greater than I am, I don't think that violence and war is the solution....I don't believe that we ever lost a battle in Vietnam. I don't believe we ever lost a battle in Somalia. I don't believe we ever really lost a battle once we committed ourselves to Korea, but we didn't resolve the situations politically the way we wanted to in any of those instances."

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