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Gore Pitches Tuition Tax Breaks

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Vice President Al Gore on Thursday touted a series of proposed tax breaks for Americans paying college tuition, saying higher education “cannot be limited to families of wealth and means.”

“We can’t solve the problem without new resources, and that’s why we have got to make it the top priority,” Gore said, repeating proposals he announced earlier in the campaign.

Gore is proposing a tax credit of up to $2,800 per family for those paying college tuition or other post-secondary education. He also is promoting the creation of 401(j) accounts, in which employers’ contributions could be withdrawn tax-free to help pay for education.

Gore’s tax plan comes with some restrictions attached. The tuition tax credit would be reduced for families with incomes over $100,000 and wouldn’t be available for those with incomes over $120,000. Moreover, families already saving for college with a tax-free Educational Savings Account wouldn’t be eligible.

Taken together, the education credits amount to about $55 billion of the $500 billion Gore said he would give taxpayers over 10 years under his slate of targeted tax cuts aimed at the middle class.

Study Finds Dolphins Communicate By Emitting Signature Whistles

NEWSDAY

In an experiment akin to bugging someone’s home, scientists have found that wild dolphins communicate one-on-one by matching distinct whistles.

In fact, each dolphin seems to develop its own “signature” whistle almost from birth, and dolphins emit these sounds as they interact with each other. Dolphins also quickly mimic the “signature” sounds from other dolphins, perhaps as a friend-or-foe recognition system.

The research, reported Friday in the journal Science, was done by Scottish biologist Vincent Janik, who set up a system of microphones on the seafloor in the Moray Firth, in Scotland. His goal was to eavesdrop on the dolphins in a natural setting, without scientists pestering the animals. Janik is a faculty member at the University of St. Andrew.

The important point, he said, is that the results seem to offer hints about the development of human speech. The way the dolphins copy each others’ sound signals is thought “to have been an important step in the evolution of human language.”

Biologist Peter Tyack, at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts, added in a commentary that Janik has added new evidence to the “fascinating similarities in the ways birds and mammals use vocal imitation to interact.”

The dolphin communication system is unusual, he added, because land mammals -- other than humans -- have not evolved the neurological tools needed for mimicking sounds, tools that would lead toward the ability to speak.

Based on his studies in the wild, Janik concluded that individual dolphins each produce signature whistles, while other dolphins can repeat such whistles accurately to address a specific individual.