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Briefs (right)

California Parents Sue
Over Intelligent Design Course

By Laurie Goodstein

A group of parents are suing their small California school district to force it to cancel a four-week high school elective on intelligent design, creationism and evolution that it offers as a philosophy course.

The course at Frazier Mountain High School in Lebec, which serves a rural area north of Los Angeles, was proposed by a special education teacher in December and approved by the board of trustees at an emergency meeting on New Year’s Day. The 11 parents are seeking a temporary restraining order to stop the course, which is held during the winter session that ends Feb. 3.

Last month, a federal district court in Pennsylvania ruled it was unconstitutional to teach intelligent design in a public school science class because it promoted a particular religious belief. After the ruling, people on both sides of the debate suggested it might be constitutionally permissible to examine intelligent design in a philosophy, comparative religion or social studies class.

But the parents, represented by lawyers with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, contend that the teacher is advocating intelligent design and “young earth creationism,” and is not examining those ideas in a neutral way alongside evolution.

Intelligent design posits that biological life is so complex that it must have been designed by an intelligent force. Young earth creationism holds to the Biblical account of the origins of life and the belief that the earth is 6,000 years old.

EPA Looks to Overhaul Fuel
Economy Ratings

By Micheline Maynard

The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed the first major overhaul in 20 years in the way it calculates fuel economy ratings for cars and trucks, a shift the agency said would reduce mileage estimates by 5 percent to 30 percent, depending on the type of driving and kind of vehicle.

The new testing method, according to Stephen L. Johnson, EPA’s administrator, would come much closer to bridging “the gap between what the window sticker says and what consumers can expect in their fuel economy.”

The EPA expects to introduce the changes starting with 2008 models, which will go on sale as early as a year from now.

Consumer groups have long complained that the EPA’s ratings are far too optimistic, compared with fuel economy that drivers achieve under real-world conditions. Recent tests by Consumer Reports magazine, for example, found that EPA window stickers could be off by up to 50 percent.