Author: Gajewski, Karen Ann
Date published: March 1, 2012
* According to a December 2011 World Wildlife Fund report, over 200 new species have been identified in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, and Yunnan province of China)- one of the world's most biodiverse areas. More than 100 plants, twenty-eight reptiles, twenty-five fish, and seven amphibian species have been discovered, including a female-only lizard that reproduces by cloning. The WWF warns that many of these new species are endangered due to human infringement on habitat, including planned hydropower dams along the Mekong River.
* According to the Hunger and Malnutrition Report, 42 percent of children under the age of five in India are suffering from malnutrition- a statistic Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls "a national shame." India also has the highest rate of stunted growth among children, and the United Nations Children's Fund reports 20 percent of India's children under age five "suffer from wasting due to acute under-nutrition." Yet at the end of 201 1, the Indian government tabled a landmark bill that would have guaranteed affordable food for more than half the country's population.
* Over 1.3 million condoms have been recalled in South Africa after reports that condoms were breaking and leaking. Over 8,000 boxes of the condoms had been distributed to guesthouses, hotels, restaurants, and bars prior to the recent African National Congress centenary celebrations. South Africa has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, and this is the second time a mass recall of condoms has been issued there (the first in 2007 recalled 20 million).
* According to a 2012 World Health Organization study, while global abortion rates are steady (approximately twenty-eight per 1,000 women a year), the proportion of abortions performed in unsafe conditions and nonclinical environments is on the rise and is the leading contributor to maternal death worldwide. In countries with restrictive abortion laws, most abortions are unsafe (97 percent in Africa, 95 percent in Latin America) compared to 15 percent in Oceania, and 9 percent in Europe.
* Over 2,500 same-sex couples married in Canada received a scare January 13 when the new conservative government announced that marriages of foreign samesex couples were invalid if gay marriage wasn't recognized by their home country. In 2005 Canada became one of the first nations in the world to legalize gay marriage and, as a result, many same-sex couples from throughout the world went there to be married. On January 16, however, Justice Minister Rob Nichol reversed the government's position and affirmed that all same-sex marriages performed in Canada are valid.
* A lawsuit filed January 5 asks a U.S. federal court to strike down a discriminatory new state law in Michigan that bans many public entities from providing healthcare insurance to the domestic partners of their employees. The lawsuit charges that the law violates the constitutional right to equal protection by denying gay and lesbian domestic partners access to benefits available to heterosexual spouses.
* On December 22 the First Judicial District Court of Nevada declared invalid a ballot initiative that would have granted legal protections to fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses. The initiative intended to outlaw all abortions in that state - including in cases of rape, incest, and danger to women's health - as well as common forms of birth control (including the pill and IUDs), in-vitro fertilization, and embryonic stem cell research. The initiative was contrary to the wishes of Nevada citizens who voted overwhelmingly in 1990 to protect a woman's right to choose. Similar initiatives have twice been rejected in Colorado in 2008 and 2010 and in Mississippi this past November.
* A five-year court battle to remove sectarian prayers from public board of commissioners meetings in Forsyth County, North Carolina, finally came to an end January 17 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District, which found that the board of commissioners had violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The lawsuit Joyner v. Forsyth County was originally filed in 2007 on behalf of two women who objected to the sectarian invocations routinely delivered by clergy at board meetings. Each of the lower courts had ruled the prayers unconstitutional.
* Canine post-traumatic stress disorder has been diagnosed in 5 percent of the military dogs deployed by U.S. military forces. Historically used as sentries, canines are now exposed to explosions, gunfire, and other combatrelated violence as they sniff out mines, track down combatants, and clear buildings.
Karen Ann Gajewski is a contributing editor to the Humanist and a documentation project coordinator.