News for Friday, March 24, 2006

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Albert Cannon

Albert Cannon, age 80 of Lawrenceville, died Friday, March 24, 2006. Arrangements by Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 300 Simonton Road, Lawrenceville, GA. 30045. (770)962-3100

Pat Van Tassel

Pat Van Tassel, age 65 of Loganville died Wednesday, March 22, 2006. Arrangements by Tim Stewart Funeral Home, 2246 Wisteria Drive, Snellville, Georgia 30078. (770)979-5010

Mercedes Alvarez

Mercedes S. Alvarez, age 68 of Snellville, GA died March 23, 2006. Arrangements by Tom M. Wages Funeral Service, Inc., Snellville Chapel. (770)979-3200 www.wagesfuneralhome.com

Gas station lawsuit dropped; another continues

LAWRENCEVILLE - A lawsuit filed against the Gwinnett County Commission after it denied a gas station rezoning near Lilburn has been dropped.

Why are we deleting Dads?

When New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd asked, "Are Men Necessary?" in the title of her funny book critiquing today's gender-confused culture, I took the question to be a rhetorical play on E.B. White and James Thurber's "Is Sex Necessary?"

I wrote in response that, yes, men are necessary, if not to certain women, then certainly to children, who, despite the creative inventions of many modern mothers, seem to love their daddies. At least they love the idea of Daddy, since so few children these days get to have a real one. A third of all American children are born to unwed mothers and half will sleep tonight in a house where their biological father does not live.

This past Sunday, the New York Times was replete with stories that answer both Dowd's question and that posed by Thurber and White. Not only are men not necessary, but neither is sex in many cases.

The cover story of the Times' Sunday Magazine, for instance, was headlined "Looking For Mr. Good Sperm" and featured women who have given up on Mr. Right and are searching instead for a good vial of sperm.

Another Times story was about "virtual visitation," which allows absent dads to stay in touch with their kids through instant messaging and webcams. A third told the plight of unwed fathers powerless to block the adoption of their babies.

Finally, the fourth was a first-person narrative by a woman who married and had a child with an incarcerated murderer, whom she later abandoned. The dad, not the baby.

While such distilled summaries can't tell the whole story, the unspoken essence is that women have all the power when it comes to children, and men are only as good as their sperm count.

The most potent of these stories was the one about Mr. Sperm, as it underscored how Techos is winning the war against Eros, and leaving us spiritually poorer for the victory. In one particularly chilling segment, women went looking for specific features in sperm donors to achieve a certain look in their children.

Our embrace of superficiality is rarely so vividly displayed as when a black woman chose a Latino donor so her child would have lighter skin and nonkinky hair. A Jewish woman opted for a 6-foot-2 German Catholic with blond curls and blue eyes in order to avoid Jewish traits she found unappealing and, one can't help proposing, to make a point her therapist can sort out.

Of course, people who marry and couple the traditional way also make genetic selections, if often unconsciously. But the calculated, literally detached selection of a stranger's body fluids versus the random matings that passion inspires feels as sterile as the vial containing the lucky specimen.

Obviously, there is difference between infertile couples who resort to sperm donation and single women who can't manage a relationship with men for whatever reason.

While it's easy to understand a woman's desire to have a child, it is less easy to understand how it was decided that fathers are nonessential. I find little comfort in the fact that some sperm donors agree to meet their "offspring" when the child reaches age 18.

Ego gratification on one end balanced against narcissistic self-fulfillment on the other offers little to soothe the restless soul. Or the child, who might like to have a real daddy tuck him in at night.

Or, perhaps, attend her piano recital, rather than hear her piece played during a virtual Internet visit, as one dad did in the Times story about long-distance parenting.

Virtual visits may be fun and a great way to stay in touch with friends and family, but they're never a substitute for being there.

From the stories, we can infer that the sperm-shopping women didn't set out to be alone in middle age and make families without fathers, or that the virtual dads hoped to have long-distance relationships with their children. We also can figure that unwed fathers don't mean to produce accidental babies only to lose them. Nor that the prisoner-wife dreamed of someday having a child with a convicted killer. Life is full of surprises.

And mistakes.

There's something terribly wrong with this picture, and it is this: These are sad stories that reveal symptoms of a diseased culture in which human relationships have no moral content and children are treated as accessories to adult lives. Yet, these trends are portrayed as the latest gosh-gee fashions.

A society in which women are alone, men are lonely, and children don't have fathers is nothing to celebrate.

And a future world filled with fatherless children -- bereft of half their identity and robbed of a father's love, discipline and authority -- won't likely be a pleasant place to live.

Kathleen Parker, an Orlando Sentinel columnist, welcomes comments via e-mail at kpark er@kparker.com. Her column appears on Friday.

Suwanee begins ticketing at red light

SUWANEE - Red-light camera ticketing began Thursday in Suwanee, the fifth government in Gwinnett to begin using the technology to issue tickets for the traffic violations.

House approves illegal immigration bill

ATLANTA - The House passed legislation Thursday aimed at curbing illegal immigration in Georgia but not before tightening some provisions of the bill that cleared the Senate and easing others.

The measure, which passed 123-51, is on the short list of this year's top priorities for Republicans in control of both legislative chambers. Polls have consistently shown illegal immigration to be a major concern of voters in Georgia and other states.

The bill addresses criticism that illegals are draining state coffers by requiring adults seeking many public services to prove they are U.S. citizens are in the country legally.

It targets complaints that illegal workers are depressing wages and taking jobs away from legal residents by requiring companies seeking government contracts to verify that their employees are not illegal immigrants.

During a debate that lasted fewer than two hours, the bill's supporters said the state needs to do something to stem the flow of illegal immigration into Georgia because Congress has failed to act.

"The people of this country want our borders secure. ... They do not want to be overtaken by illegal immigrants,'' said Rep. Dan Lakly, R-Peachtree City. "The states need to rise up and send a message to the federal government.''

But opponents said the bill appears to be aimed more at punishing illegal immigrants than at reducing their incentive to come to Georgia by cracking down on employers who hire them.

At the urging of lobbyists for the farm industry, the House committee that approved the bill earlier this week significantly delayed the effective dates for the provision requiring government contractors to verify their workers' legal status.

Meanwhile, companies that are not working for the government would be subject to even less scrutiny. Under the bill, businesses that pay an illegal worker more than $600 per year would not be able to write that amount off on their taxes.

Rep. Brian Thomas, D-Lilburn, who introduced a bill with tougher restrictions on employers, accused lawmakers of caving in to businesses that rely on illegal workers.

"We as a state can hold all employers in Georgia responsible for knowingly and willingly hiring illegal workers,'' he said. "(But) we don't really want to stop the flood, do we?''

Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth, one of three Hispanic lawmakers in the General Assembly, warned that shutting off illegal immigrants from the work force would drive up the costs of food, building materials and home furnishings.

But Rep. Alan Powell, D-Hartwell, said illegals deserve to be treated as criminals.

"What part of 'illegal' do people not understand?'' he asked. "It's illegal to be here undocumented.''

While the House version of the bill takes a more lenient stand toward employers than the bill passed by the Senate, House members also inserted a tough provision originally passed by the lower chamber as a separate bill.

The provision, sponsored by Rep. Tom Rice, R-Norcross, would require illegal immigrants to pay a 5 percent surcharge on any money they wire out of the country.

Because of the changes the House made, the bill now goes back to the Senate.

If senators don't agree with the House changes, as is likely, the two chambers would appoint three members each to a conference committee to try to reach a compromise.

Temple helps Tigers smother Redick, Duke

ATLANTA - J.J. Redick came into Thursday night's Sweet 16 game holding numerous school and ACC records.

Two indicted in kidnapping attempt

LAWRENCEVILLE - Two men were indicted by a Gwinnett County grand jury this week in connection with the violent kidnapping of a 22-year-old woman from her apartment in December.

In Brief

local

Lawrenceville company to pay back wages to employees in overtime case

•ATLANTA - The U.S. Labor Department said it has recovered $124,790 in back wages for 63 employees of a Lawrenceville painting business.

Buford wins pitchers duel

BUFORD - In a pitchers duel, the team that makes the best adjustments generally wins the game.

Police Reports

Group of men attack man

•LAWRENCEVILLE - A 20-year-old Lawrenceville man was attacked by seven suspected gang members Tuesday at Herrington Woods Apartments on Herrington Woods Court.

Delta, pilots ordered to start negotiations

WASHINGTON - The head of an arbitration panel on Thursday ordered the management and pilots union at Delta Air Lines Inc. to immediately begin negotiating for an agreement to avoid a collapse of the 77-year-old airline.

Legislature OKs State Court judge

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Legislature has cleared the way for a sixth judge to take the bench in Gwinnett County State Court.

Middle school student arrested after bus fight

DULUTH - A quarrel between two 13-year-old students turned violent Wednesday morning, when one cut the other with a knife while they were both on a bus, according to a school police report.

Linder answers questions from Central seniors

LAWRENCEVILLE - U.S. Rep. John Linder reaffirmed his support for the war in Iraq, and made bold statements on other controversial issues, when he answered questions Thursday from the graduating class of Central Gwinnett High School.

To punish, or not to punish?

Here's the state of American justice right now: Andrew Selva, 46, confesses to raping two young boys in Ohio and is sentenced to probation by Judge John Connor, who believes Selva has a curable ''disease.''

'Patriot pride' helps save park

LILBURN - For years, Gerald Mitchell drove his star football player back and forth from his Collins Hill district to Lilburn's Lions Club Park because he didn't want to leave the local ball club.

The line of attack

OBITUARIES

BUFORD

SPEARS, SANFORD, JR.

Sports calendar

Baseball

April 3-7: Renz Baseball will be holding a baseball/softball Spring Break Camp April 3-7 from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. each day. The cost per camper is $125. Eight indoor baseball/softball cages and private lessons are available. For more information or to register, visit renzbaseball.com or call 770-271-4554.

Bennett back with Gladiators for playoff run

DULUTH - Called into head coach Jeff Pyle's office for an interview after practice, Josh Bennett sits down in full gear.

Man sentenced for child porn

ATLANTA - A north Georgia man who served more than five years as a Boy Scout troop leader has been sentenced to probation and home confinement for possessing dozens of video clips of child pornography, authorities said.

Letters to the Editor

Americans deserve better from Congress than just lip service

Many of us were initially excited last week to learn that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. was poised to introduce his S.2454 Securing America's Borders Act and claimed it was an "enforcement-only" bill.

It first appeared that the amnesty-awarding bills introduced by McCain, Kennedy and others lusting for big-business contributions would be replaced by the Frist legislation.

Wrong! And still another lie from the Republican Party.

Getting to Know ... Gregg Tavani

Gregg Tavani, 30, is in his fifth season as the head boys soccer coach at Duluth High School and his eighth year of coaching overall. The Dunwoody High graduate is always busy with the sport, coaching two local youth club teams as well as running his popular Tavani Soccer Camp during the summer.

Jordan scores five goals in 7-0 rout of Buford

LILBURN - Providence continued to prove that it is going to be contending for a state championship this year as the Stars rolled past Buford 7-0 on Thursday.

State Senate budget boosts pay for public safety workers

ATLANTA - The Senate Thursday adopted a 2007 budget that would offer additional pay raises to state public safety employees above the increases earmarked for Georgia teachers and other state workers.

The $18.65 billion spending plan, which passed 50-3, also would extend state-funded home and community-based services to more than 2,000 of Georgia's frail elderly, mentally retarded and physically and developmentally disabled.

"To me, this is a monumental step,'' said Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who heads the Senate budget subcommittee with jurisdiction over the state Department of Human Resources. "We're actually putting our money where our heart has been.''

The budget, recommended by Gov. Sonny Perdue in January and approved by the House earlier this month, moves next to a House-Senate conference committee.

Three appointees from the House and three from the Senate will negotiate a compromise to bring back to their colleagues. Typically, lawmakers adopt the following year's budget on the next-to-last or last day of the 40-day legislative session.

Locally, the Senate sided with the House on a couple of key spending items affecting Gwinnett County.

Like the House budget, the Senate earmarked $1 million in startup costs for Georgia Gwinnett College. Senators also agreed to leave $2 million set aside for the new Hamilton Mill branch library in the midyear budget, meaning that money will be available before the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

The governor proposed 4-percent raises during the coming year for Georgia teachers and increases of 2 percent to 4 percent for state employees.

The House then upped the ante another 3 percent for about 10,000 employees in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the state departments of correction, pardons and paroles, and public safety.

On Thursday, the Senate voted to extend those additional raises to rangers who work for the Department of Natural Resources.

Elsewhere in the budget, the Senate kicked in more money for some items and reduced funding for others.

On the plus side, senators added $800,000 to help the State Ethics Commission handle additional duties assigned to the agency in an ethics overhaul passed by lawmakers last year, restored $200,000 in planning money for passenger rail service that had been cut by the House and added $250,000 to open a trade office in China.

"China is the hottest market in the world now,'' said Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee.

However, the Senate yanked $300,000 both Perdue and the House had recommended to hire eight additional inspectors to check construction sites for compliance with the state's erosion-control law.

The Senate also added $37 million in borrowing for building projects, bringing the total to just less than $1 billion.