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Worth noting.

* During a two-week dive in January 2006, researchers from Conservation International, the Netherlands Antilles government, and the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of Natural History discovered a marine life treasure trove. Among the find discovered in the Saba Bank Atoll (a coral-crowned seamount 155 miles southeast of Puerto Rico) were two hundred species of fish (including two new species of goby) and vast beds of seaweed (including at least twelve new species). This cache of biodiversity, however, is threatened by the petroleum transshipment depot on the nearby island of St. Eustatius.

* Even as George W. Bush continues to press for drilling in the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, 267,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from a corroded transit pipeline over an indeterminate period of time and was discovered on March 2, 2006, contaminating Alaska's North Slope. Described by environmentalists as "a catastrophe," the spill covers over two acres 650 miles north of Anchorage.

* In Brazil, more than 80 percent of new cars run on both ethanol and gasoline, and the country has cut oil imports by $400 billion thanks to its sugar crops. Both fuels are available almost everywhere in the country, and since ethanol can cost about a third less than gas at current prices (although the mileage isn't as good), the homegrown fuel is very popular. Japan is reportedly considering a deal to import up to 1.5 billion gallons of Brazilian ethanol by 2008.

* San Francisco is looking to turn poop into power. City officials hope to convert 6,500 tons of dog waste a year into methane that can be piped directly into gas stoves, heaters, turbines, and anything else now powered by natural gas. The pilot program will process the droppings through methane digesters--a technology introduced twenty years ago in Europe, where dog droppings have long been processed along with food and yard wastes.

* The British government announced February 6 that it has established a fund to replace lost U.S. dollars for family services due to Bush's "global gag rule" (which cut off U.S. funding of any organization that continues to counsel women about abortion options) and is encouraging other nations to contribute to it. The money will be distributed to all groups that have lost U.S. financial aid, including the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which has lost $75 million over the past five years. The Family Planning Association of Kenya, where some 30 to 50 percent of maternal deaths are a result of unsafe abortion due to restrictive laws, also chose to forfeit U.S. funding rather than sign the global gag clause.

* With its nation experiencing one of the highest malnutrition, birth, and infant mortality rates in Central America, Guatemala's congress ignited a family planning power struggle in January by overturning President Oscar Berger's veto and unilaterally enacting legislation that requires the government to promote the use of contraceptives and provide sex education classes. The president and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church have vowed to appeal the law. In Guatemala only 40 percent of women use any form of birth control and half of all women have a child before the age of nineteen.

* If a vigorous petition drive to put on hold and force a public vote on the potentially most restrictive abortion ban in the country is unsuccessful, all abortions except those to save a woman's life will be illegal in South Dakota come July 1 and any doctor there who terminates a pregnancy for any other reason--even in instances of rape or incest--could be imprisoned for up to five years and fined $5,000. In Mississippi, where the sole remaining clinic performs 4,000 abortions annually, lawmakers have drafted a bill to ban all abortions except in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the mother's life. And despite two appeals court rulings (New York and California) in late January declaring the 2003 federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act to be unconstitutional, the U.S. Supreme Court, under pressure of the Bush administration, now says it will consider the constitutionality of banning late-term abortion.

* Since 1997 the federal government has spent nearly a billion dollars on abstinence-only programs, with more than a million dollars going to the Silver Ring Thing over the past three years. But in February, to settle a lawsuit charging that the money was being used for Christian proselytizing, the government agreed to stop funding the nationwide program. And under pressure to stop the misuse of taxpayer money to fund ineffective, medically inaccurate, and discriminatory abstinence programs, the Rhode Island Department of Education issued an advisory in March to all its school districts instructing them to stop using a federally funded abstinence-only-until-marriage curriculum in public schools.

* Domino Pizza magnate Thomas S. Monaghan is bankrolling the development of Ave Maria, a proposed Florida town about twenty-five miles east of Naples that will be governed by strict Roman Catholic principles, with no place within its boundaries to access birth control, pornography, or abortions. At the March groundbreaking ceremony, Florida Governor Jeb Bush lauded the development of this new kind of town "where faith and freedom will merge to create a community of like-minded citizens."

* On March 27 a summit of evangelical Christians and conservative Catholic and Jewish activists released its "Values Voters' Contract with Congress," an outline of ten goals they expect their elected officials to accomplish in the near future. Among those aims are legislation to keep under God in the Pledge of Allegiance, passage of the discriminatory Marriage Protection Act, and laws guaranteeing freer religious expression in schools and workplaces, prohibiting human cloning and embryo research, and guaranteeing a "right to life" to all fetuses.

* U.S. scientists are calling on mainstream religious communities to help fight policies that undermine the teaching of evolution. The American Association for the Advancement of Science called intelligent design "veiled attempts to wedge religion--actually just one kind of religion--into science classrooms." Fourteen states are currently considering hills that would restrict the teaching of evolution. In Ohio, Toledo public school teachers admitted to teaching intelligent design. However, recent efforts to undermine science education have failed in conservative Utah, where the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on February 27 overwhelmingly voted down a bill that would have challenged the theory of evolution in science classes.

* Public opposition to gay marriage is declining says the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. A telephone survey conducted March 8-12 found that 51 percent of the public still oppose same-sex marriage, down from 63 percent just two years ago; the number who strongly oppose gay marriage dropped from 42 percent in 2004 to 28 percent; people are evenly split over allowing adoptions by gay couples; and 60 percent of Americans favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military. Meanwhile the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit heard arguments in February urging the court to uphold a lower court ruling that struck down the antigay family law in Nebraska that bans all protections for same-sex couples.

* According to a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota Department of Sociology, atheists are identified as the United States' most distrusted minority. The study found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians, and other minority groups in "sharing their vision of American society." Atheists are also the people Americans least welcome to marry their children.

* A federal discrimination lawsuit was filed on March 2 on behalf of the family members of Claude Green Jr., who died of a heart attack when Welch Chief of Police Robert K. Bowman prevented the administration of CPR because Green was gay and falsely assumed to be HIV positive. The lawsuit charges that Bowman discriminated against Green because of his sexual orientation and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating against someone he perceived to be HIV positive.

* While hospitals and law enforcement agencies long have been accused of dumping homeless people in skid row areas, for Kaiser Southern California Hospital now there's a video record. A surveillance camera outside the Union Rescue Mission shows a sixty-three-year-old woman exiting a taxi and left wandering on the street, still wearing the hospital gown and slippers issued to her at Kaiser Southern when she sought treatment for a fall. A hospital spokesperson denied dumping being "policy," but the Mission president said it was the third such incident that week caught on security camera.

Karen Ann Gajewski is a freelance editor and an editorial consultant to the Humanist.
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Title Annotation:marine life discovered, Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge's oil pipe leak, Brazil autos use ethonal extensively
Author:Gajewski, Karen Ann
Publication:The Humanist
Geographic Code:1U9AK
Date:May 1, 2006
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