Hetherly, Marian, The Humanist
* Five former Bosnian Croat soldiers were sentenced this past January to prison terms ranging from six to twenty-five years in connection with what has been called one of the most notorious incidents of the Bosnian war. The International War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague jailed the five and acquitted a sixth man for the April 1993 massacre of 116 Muslims and the destruction of 170 houses and two mosques in the village of Ahmici in central Bosnia.
* Tampa, Florida, church deacon Sam Smithers has been sentenced to death for the brutal murders of two prostitutes. During the trial, the court was told the forty-six-year-old Smithers was extremely emotionally disturbed from abuse he suffered during childhood from his fanatically religious mother.
* David and Jennifer Mayer of El Cajon, California, were convicted last fall of slowly starving their toddler to death because of their belief that God doesn't like fat children. Zechariah Mayer died of chronic malnutrition in January 1999, a few weeks short of this third birthday, weighing nineteen pounds--the same weight doctors' records said he was two years earlier.
* After five years of talks, 130 governments have finalized a legally binding agreement for protecting the environment from risks posed by genetically modified organisms. Under the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety agreed to in January, governments will indicate whether they are willing to accept agricultural imports that may contain the organisms, while exporters are required to clearly label and in some cases provide advance detailed information about shipments.
* Scientists say they have cloned a monkey--the first nonhuman primate to be cloned--in an experiment to create genetically identical lab animals for use in testing. The birth of Tetra, a rhesus macaque, at the Oregon Regional Primate Research Center in Beaverton was produced by splitting a very early embryo into four pieces--unlike Dolly the sheep, which was cloned by taking the nucleus out of an adult cell and using it to reprogram an unfertilized egg.
* Internet privacy advocates in January asked a U.S. federal appeals court to block new rules that would enable the FBI to track the locations of cellular phone users and potentially monitor Internet traffic. The rules come from a Federal Communications Commission decision issued in August 1999 after the FBI and telecommunications industry representatives were unable to agree on technical standards that would facilitate electronic surveillance in accordance with the controversial Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act enacted by Congress in 1994.
* So-called crush videos--that depict women crushing small animals beneath high heels, often during sex acts--are banned under legislation signed by President Clinton in December. The new law establishes federal penalties for the creation, sale, or possession of "a depiction of cruelty to animals" with the intent to distribute it--except for those of "serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value," which are exempt on free speech grounds.
* London-based Sheik Omar Bakri Muhammad has issued a fatwa (Islamic death sentence) against Terrence McNally for his controversial play Corpus Christi. The play depicts Jesus as gay and has caused an outcry from Christian and Muslim fundamentalists in the United States (where the play premiered) and abroad. …