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Fulton Files 

Fulton’s Half Column of Religious War, Terrism and Brains

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With Saturday’s University of Utah match against Brigham Young University behind us, and bickering over Main Street Plaza before us, word has it that the Salt Lake Valley is a seething cauldron of Mormon and non-Mormon tensions. Wrong. Very wrong.

If last week’s menu of events from around the world and across the nation are any indication, we still know how to mind our manners. Not to sound blasphemous or anything, but thank God.

Consider: After Ohio State University’s victory over Michigan last weekend, a whole mob of sore winners hurled bottles, set fire to furniture and cars, then lunged pieces of turf at law enforcement officers. State troopers hauled out the pepper spray and 45 were arrested. Here at Rice Stadium some yelled themselves hoarse, but most filed out and drove home like civilized people.

Meanwhile, next door in Kaduna, Nigeria, Christians and Muslims got medieval on each other and, in no time at all, 215 corpses and a whole lot of charred religious buildings dotted the landscape. And over what? A newspaper article concerning the Miss World pageant, in case you’ve not yet heard. Of course, a beauty pageant in any country with a sizable Muslim population was bound to run into snags. What’s next? A pork vendor’s convention in Israel? Still, 215 dead pales somewhat beside the Mountain Meadows Massacre (120 dead) and Haun’s Mill Massacre (17 dead). And even those took place more than 100 years ago. Let’s not be so hard on ourselves.

Mollifying the situation is Mayor Rocky Anderson. When he’s not sparring with City Councilman David Buhler, our fearless mayor quotes from President Gordon B. Hinckley’s Standing for Something at Saturday morning meetings with the citizenry. It’s stone-cold genius.

• As Walter Benjamin once reminded us, “Money stands ruinously at the center of every human affair.” In last week’s Sunday edition, the Deseret News liked reminding us that Utahns pays some of the lowest property taxes in the nation. That’s great news. If you own property. Up in Deer Valley, those earning less than $40,000 qualify for possible affordable housing units. The rest of us, the great unwashed with no real-estate holdings, still pay a sales tax on that necessity of all necessities—food.

Of course, the situation will only get worse if you’re not biting your way from society’s upper crusts. As Slate business and finance writer Daniel Gross noted earlier this month, U.S. corporations last year paid a mere $144 billion in taxes while, as of this year, corporate income tax revenues are 22 percent less than they were in 1997. Meanwhile, there’s frenzied talk about making President Bush’s $1.35 trillion tax cut permanent. It’s back to the good old days of budget deficits, people. So who’s going to pay the bill once we’ve slapped leather with Iraq, Iran or any other nation W. deems “terrist”? That great big national credit card stretches all the way into the purses of grandchildren yet to be born.

He’s innocent! The saga of Dr. Robert Weitzel ended last week after his acquittal by jury on two counts of second-degree felony manslaughter and three misdemeanor counts of negligent homicide. Now, for the man one defense expert called “ahead of his time,” it’s off to one year in federal prison for two counts of prescription fraud involving morphine, the same pain-killer he was accused of recklessly prescribing to his elderly patients.

In other medical news, make certain you never have a heart attack near Washington, D.C. When Deborah Wilson apparently started feeling chest pains, she phoned 911. But instead of taking her to the hospital, where people are normally diagnosed or declared dead, the district’s crack medical examiner’s team simply bagged Wilson’s body, then took her to the morgue where she was promptly refrigerated. But when a physician’s attendant hauled her corpus out to diagnose a cause of death, he felt a pulse. So, too, did an attending physician. No matter, three hours after Wilson’s body was picked up, and 20 minutes after someone finally noticed a pulse, she expired. The entire story ran in the Washington Post, along with this immortal paragraph from a medical expert: “Cyril Wecht, the coroner in Allegheny County, Pa., and past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, said a pulse is a sign that a person is alive.”

• Here in the United States we take “terrism” very seriously. In fact, “if you’re not with us, you’re against us,” as our fearless president’s bellowed at top volume. It follows, then, that you, too, could be a “terrist” if you dare disagree with W. or his right-hand man, John Ashcroft. Under the newly passed Homeland Security bill, your entire personal and financial history could fall under federal investigation if you so much as own a Koran or eat hummus on a regular basis.

Across the pond in Germany, folks tend to look at the phenomenon of politically motivated crimes from a more analytic view. Soon after Andreas Baader, Ulrike Meinhof, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan-Carl Raspe—the cell of the 1970s’ Badder-Meinhof gang—all killed themselves in prison, German authorities cracked open the evil-doers’ skulls, then preserved their brains in formaldehyde for scientific study at the University of Magdeburg’s Tuebingen Institute. Since a German magazine uncovered the story, university officials have been reluctant to release their findings. But they speculated that Meinhof’s violent behavior might stem from a brain tumor operation she had as a youth. Germans have a penchant for brains, alright. When Albert Einstein died, they spliced his noodle into 240 pieces and put it on display. Meinhof’s daughter, journalist Bettina Roehl, wasn’t amused. She’s filed a lawsuit alleging that the peace of her dead mother was disturbed.

No doubt future generations of German scientists will want to examine more German brains to discover why their elders were so obsessed with American cheese-actor David Hasselhoff.

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