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News and Trends
September 3, 2007


Eco-friendly Soccer
do u txtwhl drvng?
Telltale Tails
Rocking the Gondola
Too Much Good News?

Eco-friendly Soccer
The Colorado Rapids U-23 team, based in Boulder, has a new slogan: "The World's First Carbon Neutral Soccer Team." This means that all carbon emissions produced by the team (while driving, cooking, etc.) will be offset by donations for reducing greenhouse gases elsewhere. Methods could include planting trees or providing solar power in Africa. Ben Bressler, the team's sponsor, has also started Kick Global Warming to encourage soccer teams worldwide to go carbon neutral. Some experts say that carbon offset is mainly symbolic and does little to change daily habits that cause pollution. According to Roger Pielke Jr., an environmentalist at the University of Colorado, "The reality is that dealing with global warming will require wholesale change."

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do u txtwhl drvng?
Drivers who tap out text messages behind the wheel in Washington State now risk a fine of $101. Governor Christine Gregoire has signed the nation's first law to ban "D.W.T."—driving while texting—with a cell phone or other mobile device. The new law was prompted by an accident last December in which a driver, apparently fixated on his Blackberry, caused a five-car pileup. New Jersey's Legislature is also considering a D.W.T. law, which would carry a $250 fine. Some officials oppose such laws because they are difficult to enforce. Even under the Washington law, D.W.T. is a secondary offense, meaning that the driver must first be pulled over for a more serious infraction.

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Telltale Tails
Dog lovers may think that a vigorously wagging tail means "I am sooo happy to see you," but it turns out to be more complicated than that. The direction of the wag also counts. A recent study at two Italian universities found that when dogs feel positive toward something or someone, their tails wag more to the right side of their rumps; when they have negative feelings, their tail-wagging is biased to the left. For the study, the researchers recruited 30 family dogs and placed them in a cage with cameras that precisely tracked the angles of their tail wags. When shown their owners through a slat in the cage, the dogs wagged enthusiastically to the right. They also wagged to the right when shown an unfamiliar human, but not as vigorously. A cat prompted a tentative right-side wag. But when shown a large, aggressive dog, all the dogs wagged their tails to the left.

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Rocking the Gondola
For more than a thousand years, Venice has had gondolas—the long, narrow boats that serve as taxis on the city's canals—but never a female gondolier. Now, after a decade of struggle, Alexandra Hai has become a gondolier, with limits: A court ruled that she can operate a gondola, but only for guests of one hotel. Other gondoliers resent Hai, pointing out that she failed four licensing tests. Hai, who is German, contends the tests were rigged against her because she's a woman and a foreigner. She says other gondoliers have threatened her and vandalized her boat.

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Too Much Good News?
Journalists at a Russian radio network were shocked this spring by orders from their new bosses: At least 50 percent of their reports about Russia, they were told, must be positive. Russian News Service (RNS) was Russia's largest independent radio network before its takeover by businesses loyal to the Kremlin, the seat of Russian government. In addition to the good-news quota, RNS reporters said they were told not to mention Russian opposition leaders and to portray the U.S. as an enemy. It's one more setback for the media in Russia, where TV networks and major newspapers are state-controlled, and Parliament is considering state control of Internet news sites. Russia has also become one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. Since 2000, when President Vladimir Putin was first elected, at least 14 journalists have been murdered because of their work. At RNS, all four correspondents resigned over the new policies, and listeners are angry. One listener posted on the RNS Web site: "Down with Kremlin censorship! Yesterday elevators were discussed. Today, buckwheat. Are not there any other topics?"

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