The weekly report on US and International policy
by Edwina Rogers


Earth’s Climate Agenda – The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works have held a hearing on “Road to Paris: Examining the President’s International Climate Agenda and Implications for Domestic Environmental Policy”.  Secular Policy Institute staff have attended this event. 




Expanding Our Knowledge, Historic Pluto Mission – The New Horizons spacecraft has completed a historic fly-by of Pluto, NASA says, making its closest pass at 7:49 a.m. ET.  The unmanned, piano-sized spacecraft was traveling at nearly 31,000 miles per hour when it passed about 7,750 miles above Pluto. 

New Horizons will continue traveling out into the Kuiper Belt, a region scientists think is filled with thousands of other small, icy worlds. Scientists say the probe will continue sending back data about Pluto for several months.  New Horizons was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Jan. 19, 2006, and traveled more than 3 billion miles to reach Pluto. It’s the first mission to Pluto and its five moons.

The mission completes what NASA calls its initial reconnaissance of the classical solar system: The space agency has now sent probes to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.


Critical Thinking And Education –  Over the past several weeks the the SPI has contacted every senate office with a research paper and amendment request for SPI member organization Foundation For Critical Thinking.  We are seeking language that makes it more clear that professional development funds to states can also be used for training teachers in critical thinking.critical-thinking1


Faith-Based Charities Want To Expand Discrimination With Taxpayer Funds – SPI and other organizations through Americans United are signing a letter to the Obama Administration to review and repeal the Bush-era OLC memo that asserts that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) provides a blanket override of statutory prohibitions on hiring discrimination.  The Obama Administration recently cited this memo to allow religiously affiliated VAWA grantees to ignore VAWA’s ban on religious hiring discrimination in its funded programs.  And the National Association of Evangelicals, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and others are seeking to extend the memo’s reach and have just cited it to claim that they can refuse to perform services required by a federal grant or contract if they have religious objections. For more information about faith-based abuse, please read this comprehensive report by SPI.