* U.S. college and university students have organized in a nationwide protest of food service provider Sodexho Marriott Services' ties to the private prison industry. The protest--supported by United Students Government, a variety of campus groups, as well as a number of faculty, staff, and alumni--are pressuring their institutions to discontinue using Sodexho's services. The conglomerate currently has dining hall contracts with more than 400 colleges and universities nationwide and reportedly receives $1 billion annually from student patronage. Representatives of Sodexho deny being "in the prison business" directly and report that a major shareholder, Sodexho Alliance, intends to divest itself of its stake in Corrections Corporation of America, one of the largest private prison corporations.
* Televangelists Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell did their best to manipulate the presidential election. Both used the legal divisions of their religious right empires to support George W. Bush during the Florida vote recounts. Robertson even boasted on his 700 Club that Jay Sekulow, head of Robertson's American Center for Law and Justice, had been sent to Florida to intervene in the legal wrangling over the ballot recount. Meanwhile, Falwell's Liberty Counsel represented three Florida residents in a lawsuit challenging the manual recounts.
* The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints is eagerly awaiting the 2002 Winter Olympics, which will be held in its backyard--Salt Lake City, Utah. Bent on using the occasion to garner global media attention to publicize Mormon ideals, the church has helped the Olympic effort in a number of ways--from donating funds to the U.S. Olympic Committee's bid effort, to urging members to serve as volunteers, to donating land for the ceremonial Medals Plaza (which saved the USOC about $5 million) and to the Utah Department of Transportation for an access road to serve the event. According to Jan Shipps, an emeritus professor of U.S. history and religion at Indiana University--Purdue University, many Mormons see the 2002 Games as "a public relations bonanza that would cause the 1997 reenactment of the pioneer trek to pale in comparison."
* Christian Week, Canada's national Christian newspaper, reports that evolution is fast becoming extinct in Canadian public schools. While most schools have taught evolution in the past, pressure from religious groups to equally emphasize creationism is resulting in schools eliminating altogether any instruction on the origin of life. In Ontario, the developers of public school curricula have removed virtually all evolution education, calling their curricula "value-neutral." The issue is highly controversial in Prince Edward Island, where creationists and evolutionists have been arguing in the pages of the Guardian, the province's main newspaper, and government officials have assured parents that there is no teaching of evolution taking place in any public school course.
* Speaking of extinct programs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it won't list any more imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act because the program is out of money. A review of the agency's budget, however, finds that it failed to request adequate funds to add species to the list or to designate habitat necessary for their survival. …