News Bites

Little Mud Hut. Caritas International is building 425 adobe homes for Afghan refugees. Construction materials are mainly local clay and water. The refugees, who prefer the adobe homes to canvas tents because of their thermal properties, provide most of the labor. Each unit costs about $110.

Back to the Future. Mary Ramerman, a Roman Catholic lay woman, was ordained as a priest by Peter Hickman (formerly a Baptist minister) who is a bishop of the Old Catholic Church. The Old Catholics split with the Roman Catholic Church in 1870 over papal infallibility. The Roman Catholic Church does not yet recognize the ordination of women as priests.

Reality Bytes. Teen girls use computers 2 percent more than their male counterparts, and 88 percent of teen girls use them for schoolwork (compared to 71 percent of boys). However, women make up only 29 percent of the professional technology workforce, and men hold 92 percent of the executive jobs in the field, according to a recent study by Girl Scouts of America.

Digging Deep. Boston's Trinity Episcopal church will become one of the first churches in the country to use environmentally safe and sustainable geothermal wells to heat and cool its buildings. Trinity's upfront investment is $850,000. "We expect the system to provide savings over the long haul because it uses no fuel and has no moving parts to wear out," said Trinity's David Trueblood.

Crime Pays. BWXT and Bechtel, managers of the Oak Ridge nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee, got a $16 million reward from the Department of Energy for its emphasis on safety—despite the fact that DOE failed the plant on six counts of pollutant discharge into the public water supply.

Ties That Bind. In a high profile meeting last December between Iran's judiciary chief and Sudan's presidential legal adviser, the two countries agreed to institute an international Islamic court of justice.

Trading Places. Nigerian Catholic archbishop Anthony Olubunmi Okogie volunteered to die in place of a woman condemned to death by stoning in an Islamic court for the crime of adultery. The woman, Safiya Hussaini Tungar-tudu, is appealing the conviction.

Tarnished Gold. Who dressed those Olympic torchbearers? While they ran for many good causes, they wore uniforms from Marker Outerwear—a big supporter of the human-rights-impaired government of Burma.

Obey Your Thirst. Ad masters have spun bottled water as a healthy drink, but U.S. standards for tap water are more rigorous than those for bottled water. According to Co-op America, out of 103 brands of bottled water, a third of them had higher chemical and bacterial levels than allowed by state or federal regulations.

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