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News briefs, part 1

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>New Jersey, Michigan to Vote on Balanced-Budget Amendment

>The Washington Post

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>The grass-roots drive to call a constitutional convention for a balanced-budget amendment faces its first critical tests of the year Tuesday in the legislatures of New Jersey and Michigan.

Proponents of the measure assert that favorable votes in those two states would trigger action under Article V of the Constitution to create the first such convention since 1787. Two-thirds of the states -- 34 -- must call for a convention,and 32 previously have passed resolutions for a balanced-budget convention.

Since the drive began about 10 years ago, however, three of the states that called for the constitutional convention -- Alabama, Florida and Louisiana -- have passed resolutions rescinding their earlier action. A court test would have to determine whether those states can be counted.

But action in New Jersey and Michigan also might increase the pressure on Congress to act favorably on a balanced-budget amendment proposal when it is offered this spring. Tuesday, state senators in those two states will hold party caucuses to determine how many votes there are on the issue.

Confusing Signals Make Global Warming Predictions Difficult

The Los Angeles Times

EUREKA, Northwest Territories

In trying to sort whether the world's current warming trend is merely part of the natural variation in climate, or the more worrisome result of runaway fossil-fuel consumption, glaciologist Roy Koerner, a research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada, has come up against a key problem facing scientists who are trying to identify an Arctic thaw: The telltale warming itself is almost hopelessly mixed with, and obscured by, other signals.

Although the Arctic ecosystem is relatively simple, with far fewer forms of plant and animal life than are found in the more temperate zones, it nevertheless features a wide array of key natural processes, which are poorly understood and which often seem to interact with the temperature in confusing, contradictory ways. Consider precipitation. "It sounds strange, but we're still trying to figure out how snow fits into the whole picture of the climate system,'' said David A. Robinson, a climate expert at Rutgers University who has documented a reduction in the snow cover of the Northern Hemisphere.

As Koerner points out, most climate modelers suspect that as the Arctic warms, there will be more snow and rain. But ultimately, an understanding of these complex and obscure interactions should answer pressing questions about the fate of Arctic pipelines, roads and seaside villages -- and about some of the Arctic creatures dear to the hearts of nature-lovers.

Colorado Delegation Stirs Controversy in Germany

Los Angeles Times

BONN, Germany

With their own state's image tarnished by its new anti-gay initiative, a large delegation of elected Colorado officials and community leaders launched a "journey for justice'' Monday to learn about intolerance more than 5,000 miles from home.

The privately funded tour of Germany was led by Lt. Gov. Michael Callihan, who raised the ire of Bonn officials with a news release that appeared to compare the wave of right-wing violence here with human rights abuses in Iraq, Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"We travel to Germany to stand in solidarity with the millions of people who recognize the danger of the rising neo-Nazi movement,'' his statement said. "Our travels could just as easily be to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Somalia or Iraq, where there also exist grave injustices to the human body and mind.''

At the Federal Press Office, a government spokesman said the statement was "totally unacceptable to compare a democracy like ours ... to places such as Bosnia. It's pretty shameless, really.''

The group planned to visit Dachau in Bavaria -- the German state with the lowest rate of racial violence by neo-Nazis and skinheads. But there were no plans to visit eastern Germany, which experts consider the powder keg for attacks against foreign asylum-seekers; there also were no meetings set up with right-wing youth or those who work with them.


Roller Coaster

By Arnold Seto

A weak frontal system passed through our area last night. Northerly winds associated with this front will continue to advect colder arctic air into the area. Tonight, the center of a high pressure system will have passed, shifting winds to the south and moderating temperatures through early Thursday morning. Then, another, stronger cold front will bring colder air and a possibility of rain.

Today: Mostly sunny with a few scattered clouds. Breezy 10-15mph (16-24 kph). High around 30 F (-1 C).

Tonight: Partly cloudy. Mild southerly winds 5-8mph (8-12 kph). Low 20-23 F (-5 to -7 C).

Wednesday: Partly cloudy with weak winds from the south 5-10mph (8-16 kph). High 42-45 F (6-7 C).

Thursday: Colder, Mostly cloudy. Fairly strong northerly winds 15-25mph (24-40 kph). Chance of rain. High 27-37 F (-3 to 3 C).