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Worth noting.

* The Sixth World Atheist Conference is being held January 5-7, 2007, in Vijayawada, India, bringing together atheists, freethinkers, humanists, rationalists, and social change activists from around the world. Key speakers will include Levi Fragell, former president of the International Humanist and Ethical Union; Sonja Eggerickx, the current IHEU president; and Volker Mueller, president of the Freethinker Association. (For details go to: atheistcentre@yahoo.com.)

* The latest United Nations climate summit concluded November 20, 2006, in Nairobi, Kenya, with the adoption of a five-year program and fund to help developing countries address global warming. A UN report released prior to the talks forecasts dire climate impacts, particularly on parts of Africa, and urges that measures be taken to "climate proof" African societies, economies, and infrastructure as yields of major crops are expected to fall and large portions of cities could disappear under rising seas. All of this comes a month after the release of a British report warning that unabated climate change will eventually cost the world between 5 and 20 percent of global gross domestic product annually. And still another study, published by Texas biologist Camille Parmesan, presents evidence that animal and plant species have already begun dying off or are changing due to global warming.

* According to a recent World Health Organization report, more than one million African babies die within their first month of life--500,000 within the first twenty-four hours--most from infections that could be easily and cheaply prevented with antenatal and newborn care. Two-thirds of African women receive some antenatal care, but only 10 percent get preventative treatment for malaria and only 1 percent of HIV-positive mothers get the treatment necessary to prevent transmission of the disease to their newborns. WHO believes infant mortality would drop significantly with the introduction of more midwives and heath education for mothers.

* Despite opposition from doctors, women's rights groups, and diplomats, abortion has been virtually outlawed in Nicaragua with the signing of a bill on November 17, 2006, by President Enrique Bolanos that bans abortion in nearly all cases--including when a woman's life is in danger. President-elect Daniel Ortega, who once supported abortion rights, changed his stance during the recent elections to court voter support from the heavily Catholic constituents.

* "Out of wedlock" births in the United States have climbed to an all-time high. Of the 4.1 million babies born in the country in 2005, more than 1.5 million (nearly 40 percent) were to unmarried women, most in their twenties, thirties, and forties (teenage pregnancies have decreased). Factors contributing to the rise include women "hearing their biological clock" who no longer fear a stigma about being unmarried and are financially positioned to support a family.

* Medical marijuana patients scored a major win with the November 16 ruling by California Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt Jr. which stated that medical marijuana laws can coexist with federal law prohibiting all use. The Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215) was challenged by several California counties as invalid because it conflicts with federal law, but the judge ruled in favor of it. Since California voters passed the medical marijuana law in 1996, ten other states--Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington--have adopted measures protecting qualified patients from prosecution.

* In what is considered an important legal precedent, a Georgia man was found guilty of performing female genital mutilation on his two-year-old daughter. Khalid Adem, an immigrant from Ethiopia whose culture practices female circumcision, was convicted of aggravated battery and cruelty to children, and was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. The practice, a tradition in some African cultures, is widely condemned by human rights groups and has been outlawed in the United States since 1997.

* Humanists and church-state separation supporters mourn the loss of Humanist Pioneer Philip K. Paulson, perhaps best known for his 1989 lawsuit to have the Mount Soledad Easter Cross removed from San Diego public property. In the seventeen-year course of the legal conflict, Paulson was victorious in all of his litigation, which will continue under his co-plaintiff Steve Trunk.

Karen Ann Gajewski is a freelance editor and an editorial consultant to the Humanist.
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Author:Gajewski, Karen Ann
Publication:The Humanist
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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