Friday, March 29, 2013

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News,Science and Technology

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency has issued new requirements for cleansing ballast water dumped from ships, which scientists believe has provided a pathway to U.S. waters for invasive species that damage ecosystems and cost the economy billions of dollars.

Commercial vessels are equipped with tanks that can hold millions of gallons of water to provide stability in rough seas. But live creatures often lurk in the soupy brews of water, seaweed and sediment. If they survive transoceanic journeys and are released into U.S. waters, they can multiply rapidly, crowding out native species and spreading diseases.

Ships are currently required to dump ballast water 200 miles from a U.S. shoreline. But under the new general permit released Thursday by the EPA, vessels longer than 79 feet — which includes an estimated 60,000 vessels — must also treat ballast water with technology such as ultraviolet light or chemicals to kill at least some of the organisms.

The new guidelines don't apply to vessels staying within the Great Lakes, a decision that environmentalists criticized as leaving the door open for ships to ferry invasive species around the lakes.

The permit imposes international cleanliness standards that the Coast Guard also adopted in regulations it issued last year. The EPA said studies by its science advisory board and the National Research Council endorsed the standards, which limit the number of living organisms in particular volumes of water.

Environmental groups contend the limits should be 100 or even 1,000 times tougher, but industry groups say no existing technology can go that far.

"The numeric limitations in today's permit represent the most stringent standards" that ballast water treatment systems can "safely, effectively, credibly, and reliably meet," the EPA said in a statement with the 200-page report it released on the permit late Thursday.

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — The girlfriend of a man who died while in custody of Milwaukee police says a special prosecutor has told family members three officers involved in the incident will not face state criminal charges.

An inquest jury last month recommended a misdemeanor charge of failure to render aid against the officers. Derek Williams died after gasping for air in the back of a squad car in July 2011. The jury's decision was advisory.

Sharday Rose tells the Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/YhcAeDhttp://bit.ly/YhcAeD ) that prosecutor John Franke (FRANK'-ee) told the family Wednesday night he couldn't prove a case against the officers involved with Williams' arrest.

Franke's office says a report explaining the decision will be released Friday.

Two federal investigations into the death remain open.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.comhttp://www.jsonline.com

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Turnout is projected at 20 percent for Tuesday's elections across Wisconsin, which includes statewide races for Supreme Court justice and state education chief.

Wisconsin's voters will choose among more than 9,500 candidates for more than 6,700 state and local offices, as well vote in 76 different local referenda.

The turnout predication came Thursday from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

GAB director Kevin Kennedy says turnout for spring elections with contested Supreme Court races typically has ranged from 18 percent to 21 percent of eligible voters over the last decade, so they expect this year's turnout to be in that range, too.

An exception was in April 2011 at the height of the Capitol protests when turnout jumped to 34 percent. Turnout in last year's presidential election was 70 percent.

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union asked federal education officials Thursday to investigate whether three Wisconsin schools legally separated boys and girls into single-sex classes.

The ACLU and its Wisconsin chapter sent complaints to the U.S. Department of Education's civil rights office in Chicago alleging that Riverview Middle School in Barron and Robinson Elementary School and McLenegan Elementary School in Beloit were violating Title IX, a federal law banning sex discrimination in education.

ACLU officials alleged that Riverview separated its fifth-grade math and language arts classes by sex in 2011. The school discontinued the program this year but plans to reinstate next year. Robinson Elementary has been offering single-sex programs in multiple subjects since 2007, while McLenegan Elementary began offering single-sex classes in the fourth and fifth grades in the 2011-12 school year.

The complaints said neither school district has offered adequate justification for separating boys and girls, relying on discredited scientific theories about how girls and boys learn differently.

"We all want children in Wisconsin to have a quality education, but tracking them into programs that promote stereotypes doesn't help anyone," Karyn Rotker, a civil liberties attorney with ACLU Wisconsin, said in a statement. "Whatever the intentions of the educators who set up these programs, the disproven theories on which they rely actually limit opportunities for boys and girls alike."

Melissa Badger, community relations coordinator for the Beloit School District, disputed the ACLU's assertions. She said the curriculum is the same for single-sex classes and combined-sex classes at the two elementary schools and parents can choose which classes their children attend.

Messages left after-hours Thursday afternoon at the Barron school district's offices and at the U.S. Department of Education's civil rights office weren't immediately returned.

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