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Briefs (right)

Whole Foods to Offer ‘Animal
Compassionate’ Meat

By Andrew Martin
THE NEW YORK TIMES

Many cows, pigs and chickens will soon be living cushier lives.

But in the end, they will still be headed for the dinner plate.

Whole Foods Market is preparing to roll out a line of meat that will carry labels saying “animal compassionate,” indicating the animals were raised in a humane manner until they were slaughtered.

The grocery chain’s decision to use the new labels comes as a growing number of retailers are making similar animal-welfare claims on meat and egg packaging, including “free farmed,” “certified humane,” “cage free” and “free range.”

While the animal-welfare labels are proliferating, it remains unclear whether they appeal to anyone other than a niche market of animal lovers, particularly since the meat and eggs are roughly up to twice as expensive as products that do not carry the labels.

Mike Jones, a Louisburg, N.C., farmer who is raising “animal compassionate” pigs for Whole Foods, is convinced the new label will find buyers among “recyclers” and “foodies.”

“The recyclers will buy it because they love this kind of agriculture,” Jones said. “The foodies will buy it because they love the taste.”

The increase in animal-welfare labels has been driven in part by animal-rights organizations. The Humane Society of the United States, for instance, has been working for nearly two years to end the practice of confining hens to cages. But, like organic and natural labels, the animal-welfare claims are also a way for food retailers to offer something their competitors do not.

No Skating on the Moon,
Apparently

By Henry Fountain
THE NEW YORK TIMES

OK, so the Moon isn’t made of green cheese. But what about ice?

Well, the Moon isn’t made of water ice, either. At least there don’t seem to be large sheets of it in the soil near the lunar south pole.

That’s the conclusion of a team of astronomers led by Donald B. Campbell of Cornell, who used radar to scan the polar region. In a paper in the journal Nature, they show that distinctive return echoes, thought to be a sign of ice, are more likely just reflections from the rough, rocky lunar soil, the kind left after a crater-making meteor impact.

Astronomers have debated this issue since the early 1990s. The question is not academic: if they exist, large ice sheets could be a source of water, oxygen, and hydrogen fuel for a permanent lunar base.

Most of the Moon’s water — which is thought to have arrived there, as it did on Earth, through bombardment by icy comets — would have boiled off billions of years ago. But astronomers have held out the possibility that in polar areas that are permanently shielded from the Sun, where the temperature remains several hundred degrees below zero, water could have frozen and remained stable for eons.

Italy’s Top Spy is Expected to be
Indicted in Abduction Case

By Ian Fisher
and Elisabetta Povoledo
THE NEW YORK TIMES ROME

Italy’s top spy is expected to be replaced in the coming days, as prosecutors seek his indictment on charges connected to the abduction of a militant Egyptian cleric in Milan by American intelligence agents in 2003.

The expected indictment of Nicolo Pollari is part of a sprawling investigation here, the first in which government officials have essentially been charged with cooperating with Washington to violate the laws of their own government. If Pollari is indicted, he would be by far the most prominent official charged in relation to the scores of abductions of suspected terrorists around the world since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The case’s practical impact on the program of transferring terrorism suspects to another country for questioning, known as rendition, is not clear. Some experts say the program was already languishing, following revelations last year that some abductees ended up in secret prisons.

But any trial, especially one involving a prominent official like Pollari, could shed uncomfortable light on how American allies cooperated in one of the most controversial tactics in the Bush administration’s fight against terrorism.

Iranian Women Should Have
More Children, Leader Says

By Nazila Fathi
THE NEW YORK TIMES TEHRAN, IRAN

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reversing a policy in effect for almost two decades, is encouraging Iranian women to have more children in an effort to increase the country’s population.

“They say two children are enough,” he told Parliament on Sunday, newspapers reported. “I oppose this. I believe our country has a large capacity. It has a capacity even for 120 million people.”

Iran’s population is now nearly 70 million.

Ahmadinejad said his government was willing to reduce the hours women work based on the number of their children.

After the 1979 revolution and the war with Iraq that began in 1980, the government urged families to have more children. U.N. data show that Iran’s population grew to 55 million in 1988, from 27 million in 1968.

But the rapid population increase was seen as an obstacle to development after the war ended in 1988, when the country had to deal with surging unemployment and a declining economy. The government set up free clinics around the country where people were offered free birth-control services and men were encouraged to have vasectomies.

Ahmadinejad said on Sunday that he was in favor of women working outside their homes, but that he feared the burden of work would prevent them from “performing their most important duty: raising the children of the next generation.”

Elaborating on why he wants to increase the population, Ahmadinejad said, “some of our friends mentioned that we live at a sensitive time, but I want to add that humanity is living in a historical stage.”