Teach Doubts About Evolution,
Kansas Education Board Says
The Kansas Board of Education decided that students will be expected to study doubts about modern Darwinian theory, a move that defied the nation's scientific establishment even as it gave voice to religious conservatives and others who question the theory of evolution.
By a 6 to 4 vote that supporters cheered as a victory for free speech and opponents denounced as shabby politics and worse science, the board said high school students should be told that aspects of widely accepted evolutionary theory are controversial. Among other points, the standards allege a "lack of adequate natural explanations for the genetic code."
The bitterly fought effort pushes Kansas to the forefront of a war over evolution being waged in courts in Pennsylvania and Georgia and statehouses nationwide.
The Board of Education does not mandate what will be taught to public school students, a decision left to local school boards. But by determining what students are expected to know for state assessment tests, the board standards typically influence what students learn.
-- Peter Slevin
Down Syndrome Now Can Be
Detected in First Trimester
A first-trimester screening test can reliably identify fetuses likely to be born with Down syndrome, providing expectant women with that information much earlier in a pregnancy than current testing allows, according to a major study.
The study of more than 38,000 U.S. women -- the largest ever conducted -- found that the screening method, which combines a blood test with an ultrasound exam, can pinpoint many fetuses with the common genetic disorder 11 weeks after conception. That allows women to decide sooner whether to undergo the riskier follow-up testing needed to confirm the diagnosis. Current tests for Down syndrome are offered about 16 weeks into a pregnancy.
Screening women before the second trimester allows those who might opt to terminate a pregnancy to make that decision when doctors say an abortion is safer and less traumatic. It also gives those who want to continue the pregnancy more time to prepare emotionally for their child's condition, and provides earlier reassurance to those whose babies are healthy, avoiding weeks of anxiety, said Fergal D. Malone of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, Ireland, who led the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Word of the study triggered criticism from opponents of abortion, however, as well as from those who object to its use to prevent the birth of children with Down syndrome, the most common major chromosomal abnormality, occurring in about 5,000 babies born each year in the United States. It causes distinctive physical features, developmental problems and an increased risk of a variety of health problems that usually shorten the child's life span.
-- Rob Stein
GOP Leaders Demand Inquiry
Into Leak of CIA Secret Prisons
Congress's top Republican leaders demanded an immediate joint House and Senate investigation into the disclosure of classified information to The Washington Post that detailed a web of secret prisons being used to house and interrogate terrorism suspects.
The Post's article has led to new questions about the treatment of detainees and the CIA's use of "black sites" in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
"If accurate, such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences, and will imperil our efforts to protect the American people and our homeland from terrorist attacks," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) wrote to the chairmen of the House and Senate intelligence committees.
The letter instructs the committees to refer to the Justice Department any information it uncovers that might constitute a violation of the law.
But Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told Senate leaders that Congress should hold off on a probe until the Justice Department completes its own inquiry
The CIA General Counsel's Office has also notified the Justice Department that a release of classified information took place in connection with the Post report, a senior administration official said.
The article said the CIA has operated a covert prison system that at times included sites in eight countries, including democracies in Eastern Europe.
-- Jonathan Weisman
Grokster Ltd. Agrees to Stop
Offering Software Downloads
Grokster Ltd., whose popular software let consumers trade music online for free, all but shut down under legal pressure from the entertainment industry, which viewed the song-sharing as theft.
In a settlement with the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Music Publishers' Association, Grokster agreed Monday to stop offering downloads of its software and to no longer support the system.
"There are legal services for downloading music and movies," according to a statement on the company's main Web page. "This service is not one of them." The page also directed users to industry-backed Web sites warning that file-sharing of copyrighted songs or videos without paying for them is stealing.
Entertainment industry executives hope other services, such as Kazaa, Morpheus and LimeWire, will follow Grokster's lead.
-- Jonathan Krim and Frank Ahrens
Supreme Court to Weigh In
On Military Panels for Detainees
The Supreme Court agreed to rule on the legality of the Bush administration's planned military commissions for accused terrorists, setting up what could be one of the most significant rulings on presidential war powers since the end of World War II.
President Bush has claimed broad power to conduct the war against al Qaeda and said questions about the detention of suspected terrorists, their interrogation, trial and punishment are matters for him to decide as commander in chief.
But the court's announcement that it would hear the case of Osama bin Laden's former driver, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, shows that the justices feel the judicial branch has a role to play, as well. The court has focused on whether Bush has the power to set up the commissions and whether detainees facing military trials can go to court in the United States to secure the protections guaranteed by the Geneva Conventions.
The justices have chosen to intervene as the Senate is mounting its first sustained challenge to the administration's claim that it alone can determine what interrogation methods are proper for suspected terrorists who are detained.
-- Charles Lane
Amtrak Fires President After
Government Finds Problems
Amtrak's board fired its president after a government investigation found repeated management problems with the rail service.
David L. Gunn's firing follows a three-year tenure marred by clashes with the Bush administration over the direction of the financially beleaguered rail service.
Amtrak Chairman David M. Laney praised Gunn's tenure but said that Gunn resisted needed changes.
Amtrak's management has come under heightened criticism recently. The Government Accountability Office issued a report that said Amtrak needed fundamental improvement in many areas, including cost control, goods and services purchasing and overall accountability. In response to the report, Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta criticized Amtrak's operations and promised stricter oversight of the railroad's finances.
-- Keith L. Alexander