BendingSpoons writes: The Supreme Court ruled against a high school student who was suspended after displaying a 14ft banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." The student, Joseph Frederick, unfurled the banenr as the Olympic torch passed through his hometown of Juneau, Alaska. As a result, principal Deborah Morse suspended him for ten days, stating that banners advocating drug use had no place at a school-sanctioned event. Frederick challenged his suspension in court, arguing that the banner's message was nonsensical and expressed only his right to say whatever he wished. Frederick's lawsuit was supported by various religious groups, who were concerned that a negative outcome would restrict students' rights to religious expression. In the end, the Court upheld the suspension by a 5-4 majority. "The message on Frederick's banner is cryptic," wrote Chief Justice Roberts. "But Principal Morse thought the banner would be interpreted by those viewing it as promoting illegal drug use, and that interpretation is plainly a reasonable one." The case is Morse v. Frederick, 06-278.
BendingSpoons writes: More than 120 scientists across seven federal agencies have been pressured to remove the phrases "global warming" and "climate change" from various documents. The documents include press releases and, more importantly, communications with congress. Evidence of this sort of political interference has been largely annecdotal to date, but is now detailed in a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held hearings on this issue yesterday; the hearing began by Committee members, including most Republicans, stating that global warming was happening and greenhouse gas emissions from human activity were largely to blame.
The OGR hearings presage a landmark moment in climate change research: the release of the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC report, drafted by 1,250 scientists and reviewed by an additional 2,500 scientists, is expected to state that "there is a 90% chance humans are responsible for climate change" — up from the 2001 report's 66% chance. It probably won't make for comfortable bedtime reading; "The future is bleak", said scientists.
BendingSpoons writes: Five years ago, a 112-car train derailed outside of Minot, North Dakota. Over 240,000 gallons of anhydrous ammonia leaked out of the car, resulting in one death and the hospitalization of hundreds. Why is this news? Because newly released 911 tapes reveal a breakdown in Minot's emergency broadcasting — a breakdown that some are attributing to media consolidation. When panicked residents called emergency dispatch, they were advised to tune into KCJB, the designated local emergency broadcaster. However, KCJB — along with Minot's five other commercial channels — was owned by Clear Channel; the music was piped in from out of state, and no one was in the station to respond to calls. 911 callers were therefore directed to radio stations that provided no emergency information. The problem of "local" news stations unable to transmit information about local emergencies is now raising concerns about both national security and media consolidation.
BendingSpoons writes: "A Seattle school board has placed a moratorium on screenings of "An Inconvenient Truth", having found its subject matter too controversial. Echoing the language of the evolution debate, the school board found that students must be told that global warming is only a theory and presented with an opposing viewpoint. The ban was prompted by the complaints of a parent: "'Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He's not a schoolteacher,' said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. 'The information that's being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is.... The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD.'""