2005 Shaping Up To Be
Hottest Year Recorded
New international climate data show that 2005 is on track to be the hottest year on record, continuing a 25-year trend of rising global temperatures.
Climatologists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies calculated the record-breaking global average temperature, which surpasses 1998's record by a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, from readings taken at 7,200 weather stations scattered around the world.
The new analysis comes as government and independent scientists are reporting other signs of global warming, such as the record shrinkage of the Arctic sea ice cover and unprecedented high ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico.
Late last month, a team of University of Colorado and NASA scientists announced that the Arctic sea ice cap shrank this summer to 2 million square miles, 500,000 square miles less than its average area between 1979 and 2000. And a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined that sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico were higher in August than at any time since 1890, which may have contributed to the intense hurricanes in the region this year.
Many climatologists, along with policymakers in a number of countries, believe the rapid temperature rise over the past 50 years is heavily driven by the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities that have spewed carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" into the atmosphere. A vocal minority of scientists, however, say the warming climate is the result of a natural cycle.
-- Juliet Eilperin
Frist Is Subpoenaed
On Sale of His HCA Stock
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has been subpoenaed to turn over personal records and documents as federal authorities step up a probe of his July sales of HCA Inc. stock, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
The Securities and Exchange Commission issued the subpoena within the past two weeks, after initial reports that Frist, the Senate's top Republican official, was under scrutiny by the agency and the Justice Department for possible violations of insider trading laws.
Frist aides previously said he had been contacted by regulators but did not mention that the lawmaker had received a formal request for documents. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the investigation, said Frist is expected to testify under oath about what he knew about the company's health in the weeks before he sold stock. Frist has told reporters that he did nothing wrong and that he directed the sale to eliminate potential conflicts as he considered a 2008 presidential bid.
-- Carrie Johnson
and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Study Links Lack of Sleep
To Risk of Serious Illness
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that too little or erratic sleep may be taking an unappreciated toll on Americans' health.
Failing to get enough sleep or sleeping at odd hours heightens the risk for a variety of major illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity, recent studies indicate.
A large, new study provides the latest in a flurry of evidence suggesting that the nation's obesity epidemic is being driven, at least in part, by a corresponding decrease in the average number of hours that Americans are sleeping, possibly by disrupting hormones that regulate appetite. The analysis of a nationally representative sample of nearly 10,000 adults found that those between ages 32 and 49 who sleep less than seven hours a night are significantly more likely to be obese.
The study follows a series of others that have found similar associations with other illnesses, including several reports from the Harvard-run Nurses' Health Study that has linked insufficient or irregular sleep to increased risk for colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Other research groups around the country have subsequently found clues that might explain the associations, indications that sleep disruption affects crucial hormones and proteins that play roles in these diseases.
Not everyone agrees, with some experts arguing that any link between sleep patterns and health problems appears weak at best and could easily be explained by other factors.
-- Rob Stein
Guidelines Offer Ways
To Cut Risk of Crib Death
To minimize the risk for crib death, the nation's largest organization of pediatricians is recommending that babies be put to sleep with pacifiers and in their own beds, despite intense opposition from advocates for breast-feeding and the "family bed."
The American Academy of Pediatrics is for the first time endorsing routine pacifier use and explicitly advocating a ban on babies sleeping with their parents. In both cases, evidence suggests the precautions would cut the risk of suffocation, the group said.
The academy's first new guidance in five years also toughens its long-standing policy that babies always sleep in their backs, saying for the first time that even sleeping on the side is too dangerous. Babies should, however, sleep in the same room as their parents, the academy concludes.
An expert committee convened by the academy concluded the new recommendations are necessary to save more infants from crib death, known formally as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Although the number of babies dying mysteriously in the first few months of life has plummeted in the past decade, recent statistics show the decline has flattened at about 2,500 U.S. deaths a year.
While praised by SIDS activists and other pediatricians, the guidance to parents, grandparents, babysitters, day-care centers and other caregivers drew criticism from proponents of breast-feeding and bed sharing. The evidence that pacifiers are helpful and bed sharing is dangerous is far from conclusive, they said, and the recommendations will hinder breast-feeding and mother-child bonding, which are clearly highly beneficial.
-- Rob Stein
Nobel Prizes Are Awarded
To Economists, Writer
* A retired University of Maryland professor shared the award in economics for his work developing game theory and spreading its use as a tool for preventing conflict and encouraging cooperation among people.
Thomas C. Schelling, 84, who retired from the university in 2003, won the award with mathematician Robert J. Aumann, 75, who retired in 2001 from Hebrew University in Jerusalem, for their analyses of how individuals, countries and businesses make decisions while anticipating the likely response by others.
Game theory has been well studied for decades in Washington as a tool for developing military strategies, such as how to deter or respond to another country's acquisition or use of nuclear weapons. It is also used to explain political campaign tactics, price wars, trade negotiations and the challenges of reaching international environmental agreements.
* Harold Pinter, whose works of brutal spareness, betrayal and conscience spawned legions of imitators and redefined the rhythms of modern drama, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, distinguishing him as one of the few writers for the English-speaking stage ever to be so honored.
Pinter was cited as a dramatist "who in his plays uncovers the precipice under the everyday prattle and forces entry into oppression's closed rooms." Pinter, 75, joins such pivotal figures of the 20th century theater as Samuel Beckett and Eugene O'Neill.
-- Nell Henderson
and Peter Marks