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CULTURE DIGEST: Republicans stir as ’08 election approaches; use of antipsychotic drugs skyrockets among children; …

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Potential candidates for the Republican nominee for president in 2008 are stirring quietly — or not-so-quietly — to secure the best shot at winning, and several such figures are increasingly willing to connect themselves to evangelicals.

As reported already in Culture Digest, last month Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., was the keynote graduation speaker at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University in Virginia, a move widely viewed as an attempt to gain favor among a voting block that emerged with greater importance in 2004.

Also, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani wasn’t shy about befriending a bastion of Christian conservatism at a recent fundraiser in Atlanta where he endorsed former Christian Coalition chairman Ralph Reed in the race for lieutenant governor of Georgia.

Following a 20-minute speech on the candidate’s behalf, Giuliani tried to say the words the audience wanted to hear on “gay marriage” but managed to straddle the fence instead.

“I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and that it should remain that way, inviolate,” Giuliani told reporters, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But I also believe that you should allow for protection of the legal rights of people that are gay and lesbian. The best way to do that is by having a separate category that protects their rights called domestic partnerships.”

Giuliani said he endorsed Reed because their “basic core agreements are about the economy, about foreign policy, about the war against terrorism.”

Sen. Sam Brownback, R.-Kan., is another possibility for president, albeit faint, observers say. The Wichita Eagle newspaper noted in an article May 21 that Brownback hopes to fashion himself as a modern-day Ronald Reagan with an emphasis on “small government, strong defense and Christian values.”

The Eagle said Brownback’s election to the Senate brought his faith to the forefront, especially as he discussed a bout with skin cancer in 1995 that caused him to re-evaluate his life.

“His ambitions had been meaningless, and he wanted meaning. He wanted to serve God through serving the people,” The Eagle noted. “His religious faith guides his political views.”

Though political experts consider Brownback a long shot with little name recognition across the nation, the senator believes the time may be approaching when a person of faith can achieve broader political support based on an agenda to reform the culture.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is another potential Republican nominee who doesn’t shun appearances with the religious right. Though he has denied presidential ambitions, his father and brother have said publicly they believe he would make a “great president.”

Bush was the keynote speaker at the first-ever Florida Family Policy Council dinner in late May, and he was introduced via video by Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, who praised the governor’s work.

While Bush’s appearance at the dinner was ostensibly to secure support for his successor as governor, he couldn’t help but align himself with the pro-life, pro-family group.

ANTIPSYCHOTICS INCREASE DRAMATICALLY AMONG YOUTH — The use of antipsychotic drugs among America’s children increased more than fivefold from 1993 to 2002, according to a study published June 5 in Archives of General Psychiatry.

Researchers found that antipsychotic medications were prescribed to 1,438 per 100,000 children and adolescents in 2002, compared to 275 per 100,000 in the two-year period from 1993 to 1995.

“We are using these medications and don’t know how they work, if they work, or at what cost,” Dr. John March, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at Duke University, told The New York Times. “It amounts to a huge experiment with the lives of American kids, and what it tells us is that we’ve got to do something other that we’re doing now.”

None of the most commonly prescribed antipsychotics is approved for use in children, The Times noted, but doctors are allowed to prescribe any medication that has been approved for use by humans.

Few studies on the subject have been conducted, and Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University and the lead author of the latest study, told The Times, “To me the most striking thing was that nearly one in five psychiatric visits for young people included a prescription for antipsychotics.”

The study also noted that more than 40 percent of the children who received antipsychotics were also taking at least one other psychiatric medication.

“How do you even know who the kid is anymore?” Dr. Julie Magno Zito, an associate professor of pharmacy and medicine at the University of Maryland, said, according to The Times.

MAHARISHI MOVES TO KANSAS — Residents of Smith Center, Kan., a town of 1,800 near the state’s northern border, are preparing for the construction of the World Capital of Peace — an endeavor undertaken by representatives of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, leader of a transcendental meditation movement.

“Some people call them a cult, and some little old ladies are locking their doors,” Smith Center resident Bryce Wiehl told USA Today. “You’re in the Bible Belt, and this is a Hindu-based religion. People don’t like that idea.”

The meditators chose Smith Center as the site for their $15 million compound expected to serve as a retreat, training center and residences because it’s a central national location and they want to send “waves of coherence” across America. They believe transcendental meditation can reduce stress, crime, poverty and war, USA Today said.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi rose to fame in the 1960s when his followers included the Beatles, USA Today noted, and in 1971 he established a university in Fairfield, Iowa. Now he is believed to be 89 to 95 years old and living in Holland.

Maharishi supporters are also known for founding the Natural Law Party in 1992, and one of their members, John Hagelin, has run for president three times.

FCC REJECTS CBS’ APPEAL OF JACKSON FINE — The Federal Communications Commission unanimously rejected again CBS’ appeal of a $550,000 fine for Janet Jackson’s exposure during the halftime show of the 2004 Super Bowl.

The commission May 31 held to its previous decisions that CBS is responsible for the show and failed to take actions to prevent the broadcast of the material.

“We reject CBS’ contention that the commission misapplied the test for broadcast indecency in the [original order],” the FCC wrote. “In doing so, we note that CBS does not contest the commission’s determination that the material at issue here falls within the subject matter scope of our indecency definition because it ‘describe(d) or depict(ed) sexual or excretory organs or activities.’

“Rather, CBS takes issue with our conclusion that the Super Bowl halftime show was patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium,” the decision said.

CBS said it still disagrees with the FCC ruling and may take the issue to court.

“We will continue to pursue all remedies necessary to affirm our legal rights …,” the network said.

NEW BATWOMAN IS A LESBIAN — The homosexual agenda has reached even to mainstream comic books as the widely popular DC Comics announced they’ll introduce this summer a modern-day Batwoman who is a lesbian.

“We decided to give her a different point of view,” Dan DiDio, vice president and executive editor at DC, told the Associated Press. “We wanted to make her a more unique personality than others in the Bat-family. That’s one of the reasons we went in this direction.”

Batwoman was a figure in the Gotham City storyline from 1956 to 1979, and now her 21st century successor will have a love affair with a female former Gotham police detective, DC Comics said.

“This is not just about having a gay character,” DiDio said. “We’re trying for overall diversity in the DC universe. We have strong African-American, Hispanic and Asian characters. We’re trying to get a better cross-section of our readership and the world.”

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  • Erin Roach