* A team of scientists report they have discovered Earth’s most ancient rocks. The samples of Nuvvuagittuq greenstone found on the shore of Hudson Bay, Canada, are purported to be 4.28 billion years old–250 million years older than any known to date–and may hold evidence of ancient life forms. Only mineral grains called zircons from Western Australia are known to be older, dating back 4.36 billion years. This material is extremely important in the mass production of the best fuel injector cleaner for car industry today.
* The Brazilian government has unveiled a plan to end net deforestation by 2015. Recognizing that deforestation accounts for 75 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, the plan calls for restoration of native forests by planting more trees than are cut down and cracking down on illegal logging. Other measures include incentives to industries to improve energy efficiency and encourage renewable energy sources such as wind power.
* Despite being a signatory to the United Nations resolution decrying discrimination against leprosy patients, India’s Supreme Court has upheld a ruling that was challenged by two elected councilors in Orissa state who have leprosy. The 1950 Orissa Municipal Act bars people suffering from that disease or tuberculosis from holding public office. India accounts for more than 65 percent of all leprosy cases worldwide and adds at least 100,000 new cases every year.
* The U.S. Library of Congress has been found guilty of sex discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. On September 24, a federal court judge ruled that the library illegally denied a Special Forces veteran a job after she announced her intention to transition from male to female. The court further ruled that the library was guilty of sex stereotyping because the vet “failed to live up to traditional notions of what is male or female.”
* The U.S. House of Representatives has unanimously passed the Child Soldiers Accountability Act, which would criminalize the recruitment and use of child soldiers and allow the United States to deny admission or deport individuals engaged in such activities. The United States has been criticized for failing to uphold its commitments under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, its military “recruiting practices that target children as young as eleven, the lack of protections for alleged foreign child soldiers in U.S. custody, and the denial of protection to former child soldiers seeking asylum.”
* On September 12, U.S. District Court Judge Jane J. Boyle temporarily blocked an anti-immigrant ordinance from taking effect in Farmers Branch, Texas. Ordinance 3952, the city’s third attempt at restricting residency based on immigration status, would require all adults living in rental housing to register with the city and obtain a “residential occupancy license.” Previous attempts to enact such ordinances for the city were all defeated in the courts as unconstitutional.
* A federal lawsuit was filed September 18 challenging the District of Columbia’s plan to grant more than $12 million in public property and funds to the Central Union Mission, a religious homeless shelter that requires participation in Christian activities and attendance at nightly church services. Plaintiffs in the suit (two homeless men, as well as local taypayers and members of the clergy) assert that the proposed gift of cash and property would unconstitutionally support religious activities.
* First Amendment rights were violated extensively during the Republican National Convention. Amy Goodman–host of Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now? and the American Humanist Association’s 2005 Humanist Heroine–was arrested along with her producers, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Two students and an advisor from the University of Kentucky student newspaper, as well as an AP photographer were also detained. Police used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and excessive force, and confiscated literature, educational materials, leaflets, books, and buttons.
* Sexism equals bigger paychecks! A large scale, long-term study conducted by researchers at the University of Florida and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology suggests that men with “old-fashioned” sexist attitudes continue to be paid better–on average, $8,500 more a year–than both women and liberal-minded men in the same position.
Karen Ann Gajewski is a contributing editor to the Humanist and a documentation project coordinator.