October 29, 2010 in Nation/World

In brief: U.S. waives child soldier penalties

 

WASHINGTON – In a move criticized by human rights organizations, the Obama administration has decided to exempt Yemen and three other countries that use child soldiers from U.S. penalties under the 2008 Child Soldiers Prevention Act.

In a memorandum to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Barack Obama said he had determined that “it is in the national interest of the United States” to waive application of the law to Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen. He instructed Clinton to submit the decision to the Congress with a written justification for the move.

Obama’s memo, released by the White House on Monday, did not include the justification. Administration officials have said, however, that cutting off military aid to those four countries as required by the law would do more harm than good.

Scientists assert billions of planets

LOS ANGELES – At least one in every four stars like the sun have planets about the size of the Earth circling them in very close orbits, according to the first direct measurement of the incidence of such planets, researchers said Thursday.

That means that our galaxy alone, with its roughly 200 billion sun-like stars, has at least 46 billion Earth-size planets orbiting close to the stars, and perhaps billions more circling farther out in what astronomers call the habitable zone, said astronomer Andrew Howard of the University of California at Berkeley, a co-author of the paper.

The discovery of such a large number of small planets so close to stars, reported in the journal Science, is somewhat surprising because it appears to contradict the current theory of planetary formation.

Current models suggest that most planets are born in the outer solar system by the accretion of dust and other materials. That theory says larger planets are drawn into the inner solar system by gravity, but “small ones are stuck on the outskirts,” Howard said. Obviously, he added, the theory “needs something to move them in closer to the host star.”

Astronomer David Charbonneau of Harvard University, who was not involved in the new research, noted that “contradictions have become the norm” in the study of extrasolar planets. “We have come to expect surprises.”

Feds issue rules on for-profit colleges

WASHINGTON – The Department of Education on Thursday issued regulations governing for-profit colleges, a rapidly expanding education sector that has been criticized in Congress for allegedly providing students with poor educations and excessive debt.

Issued after a year of negotiations, the new regulations are intended to improve the Education Department’s ability to monitor the institutions, including compensation for recruiters and the ability to take action against schools engaging in deceptive advertising and marketing. The regulations will take effect in July.

Thursday’s announcement included a provision that requires for-profit colleges to provide prospective students with program graduation and employment rates, provide the department with reports on student debt and incomes, and provide notice when introducing a new program.


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