World and Nation

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Atheists Send Message on 800 Buses

The advertisement on the bus was fairly mild, just a passage from the Bible and the address of a Christian Web site. But when Ariane Sherine, a comedy writer, looked on the Web site in June, she was startled to learn that she and her nonbelieving friends were headed straight to hell, to “spend all eternity in torment.”

That’s a bit extreme, she thought, as well as hard to prove. “If I wanted to run a bus ad saying ‘Beware — there is a giant lion from London Zoo on the loose!’ or ‘The ‘bits’ in orange juice aren’t orange but plastic — don’t drink them or you’ll die!’ I think I might be asked to show my working and back up my claims,” Sherine wrote in a commentary on the Web site of The Guardian.

And then she thought, how about putting some atheist messages on the bus, as a corrective to the religious ones?

And so were planted the seeds of the Atheist Bus Campaign, an effort to disseminate a godless message to the greater public.

“There’s probably no God,” the advertisements say. “Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

Spotting one of the buses on display at a news conference in Kensington, passers-by were struck by the unusual message.

Not always positively. “I think it’s dreadful,” said Sandra Lafaire, 76, a tourist from Los Angeles, who said she believed in God and still enjoyed her life, thank you very much. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I don’t like it in my face.”

CNN Health Reporter Is Contender To Become Surgeon General

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and CNN health reporter, is the leading contender to become the next surgeon general, a pick that would give the moribund office a higher profile but one that has received a mixed reaction among public health advocates.

Gupta, who confirmed on Twitter that he had been approached by the Obama transition team, discussed the job with the president-elect late last year in Chicago. He did not respond to an e-mail message seeking comment.

According to people at CNN and in the Obama transition team, Gupta is likely to make a decision about taking the job within a few days. News of his selection was first reported on Tuesday by The Washington Post.

Gupta presides over a small media empire that, in addition to his regular work on CNN, includes appearances on the “CBS Evening News” and columns in Time magazine. His first book, about the search for immortality, was published last year. He is paid for speaking engagements, a controversial practice for a journalist. The All American Talent & Celebrity Network lists his speaking fees as ranging from $30,000 to $50,000.

If he takes the job, Gupta would be accepting an ailing patient. The status and authority of the surgeon general, the titular head of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, has been on the wane for decades. It experienced a brief revival under C. Everett Koop, whose principled stand against cigarette smoking gave the office national credibility and new life as a popular public health adviser. Successive surgeons general, with small staffs and low profiles, have sought to capitalize on Koop’s success, with mixed results.