EDUCATION The American Civil Liberties Union is putting the theory of intelligent design on trial. Representing eight families in Pennsylvania's Dover Area School District, the ACLU argues that the district's new policy of teaching about intelligent design theory along with lessons about Darwinism amounts to an "establishment of religion." The group filed a lawsuit last week to challenge the policy. Intelligent design advocates argue that the theory doesn't mention God or any religion but merely points to evidence of purposeful design in the physical world. Antony Flew, a leading atheist philosopher, cited intelligent design arguments this month when he announced that he had become a theist.
UKRAINE Tests last week revealed that the level of dioxin in the blood of Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko is the second-highest ever recorded. The concentration of about 100,000 units of dioxin per gram of blood fat is more than 6,000 times the normal level and is the result of an alleged poisoning attempt that left the candidate's face pockmarked and disfigured. Doctors say Mr. Yushchenko, who faces Russian-backed candidate Viktor Yanukovych in a special Dec. 26 election, should recover gradually.
MONEY The Federal Reserve Board moved last week to tighten the U.S. money supply for the fifth time since June, raising the federal funds rate to 2.25 percent. Fed officials indicated that they would continue to raise interest rates at a "measured" pace in coming months.
LAW A jury in California on Dec. 13 recommended the death penalty for Scott Peterson, convicted on Nov. 12 of murdering his wife Laci and unborn son Connor in 2002. Superior Court Judge Alfred Delucchi will decide on a sentence on Feb. 25 and is likely to accept the jury recommendation. Either way, though, legal analysts say Mr. Peterson may end up with a de facto life prison sentence. While California has had the death penalty since 1978, mandatory appeals and a backlog of several hundred condemned prisoners have made executions extremely rare. More than twice as many death row inmates (23) have died of natural causes than have been executed (10) in California since 1978. "This problem of the backlog seems to be insurmountable right now," said Kern County District Attorney Edward Jagels.
SPORTS Talks between the National Hockey League and the players association broke down on Dec. 14 after each side rejected the other's collective-bargaining proposal. The sticking point: The league wants a salary cap with a 35 percent cut for players who make more than $5 million per year. With 414 regular-season games already canceled because of a league lockout, both owners and players say the likelihood of even a shortened season is becoming dimmer. "If they stand by their salary cap," said Ottawa forward Daniel Alfredsson, "the chances are none."
HEALTH Immigrants seem to be assimilating into American culture in at least one way. A study published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 19 percent of immigrants who have been in the United States for at least 15 years are obese, compared to 8 percent who have been in the country for less than a year. The study estimated that about 22 percent of U.S.-born residents are obese. "Trends in obesity among immigrants may reflect acculturation and adoption of the U.S. lifestyle, such as increased sedentary behavior and poor dietary patterns," the study's authors wrote.
WASHINGTON President Bush on Dec. 13 nominated EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt to be Secretary of Health and Human Services. If approved by the Senate, Mr. Leavitt, a former governor of Utah, would administer one of the government's largest cabinet agencies and the large and growing Medicare and Medicaid programs.