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Inside NCR

SOA pics galore, space galore on earth

The School of the Americas has become a scab on the American psyche. NCR has for years reported on the efforts of Fr. Roy Bourgeois and an ever-growing band of protesters to close the place on the grounds that it has been too much at the service of Latin American dictators. In our Dec. 3 issue Pat Marrin reported on the most recent anti-SOA protest, a rousing account of the rousing surge of young activists joining the veterans in this radical struggle, as many see it, between good and evil.

Marrin, whose day job is editor of NCR’s sister publication, Celebration, took along our all-new digital camera and went crazy taking pictures, great ones, one of which was on our Dec. 3 cover. But he had dozens of others with no place to go. So we put them on NCR’s Web site, a gallery of the peace and justice faithful doing what they do at the School of the Americas. Readers may look in on themselves or others they know at www.natcath.org -- just follow the links to NCR online, then to the SOA story, and then to a link at the top of the story.

On the editorial page of the Nov. 5 NCR we ran an Auth cartoon, “Planet Earth: Six Billion and Counting,” which depicted a very crowded planet indeed. Robert H. Fincutter e-mailed us to say the cartoon grossly exaggerates the body count relative to the size of the globe, and he brings some interesting statistics to bear.

Texas is 266,807 square miles, Fincutter writes. Multiply this by 640 acres per square mile, and you get 170,756,480 acres. Put all 6 billion humans in Texas, therefore, and there would be only 36 to the acre, which is about the size of a football field.

Or take the state of Delaware, which has 2,057 square miles. That adds up to 57,345,868,800 square feet. That would give everyone more than a three feet by three feet of space to stand in, and what more could one want?

Heck, if they’re prepared to put up with 2.4 feet by 2.4 feet, the world’s population could fit in Rhode Island. There must be some appropriate punch line for this, but I just can’t think of it.

Our Message in a Bottle messages have been edited and finessed and they’re ready to go if only we had a bottle and somewhere to send it. The entire package will arrive as a supplement in our Dec. 31, 1999-Jan. 7, 2000 issue. Meanwhile, I have a confession to make. I announced some weeks ago that I had written to NASA to ask if they would take our bottle to outer space -- there is always room for one more bottle on such trips, and plenty of room for bottles out there. It was a lie, though a well-intentioned lie: I planned to have the letter sent to NASA by the time readers received their papers, and thus I figured my words would be the literal truth as people read them. But I failed to get the letter written.

And then, as that Mars landing went south, it just didn’t seem the right time to raise the matter of the NCR bottle. We plan to give them a little time to lick their wounds, and then perhaps they can make a PR comeback by launching your messages. Stay tuned.

It’s hard to imagine the amount of stuff that arrives in an average newsroom, from news releases to goofy promotions to weighty tomes, the silly to the sublime. This week’s mail brought a skinny tome that began as follows: “They couldn’t believe their ears ... 2,034 prelates and officials of the Roman Catholic church sat there dumbfounded, filling St. Peter’s Basilica, that Easter Day, 2001, with a colossal hush.” And why this hush? one may ask. That’s because the pope was saying, “I have come to believe in democracy ... and in this new ecumenical council we must complete all the long-delayed programs of Vatican II.”

To which some of the prelates said, “He’s gone mad.” And other stuff like that.

Later that night, the pope couldn’t sleep. Then: “Across the pillow tiptoed a little gray bespectacled church mouse, a modest handbag over her shoulder. Smiling fondly, she whispered, ‘You poor guy. You did it, didn’t you? You dropped the bomb.’ ” And so on.

This masterwork is the work of William Cleary and is called Pope Dreams and is available in all its sublime wisdom for $3.95 from www.1stbooks.com or by calling 802-862-4659.

-- Michael Farrell

National Catholic Reporter, December 17, 1999