World and Nation

Shorts (right)

Rule to Protect Health Workers Draws Protests

A last-minute Bush administration plan to grant sweeping new protections to health care providers who oppose abortion and other procedures on religious or moral grounds has provoked a torrent of objections, including a strenuous protest from the government agency that enforces job-discrimination laws.

The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to “assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity” financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

But three officials from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including its legal counsel, whom President Bush appointed, said the proposal would overturn 40 years of civil rights law prohibiting job discrimination based on religion.

Report Says Pollution Has Leveled Off, But the Figures Have Holes

Emissions from industrialized countries plateaued in 2006 after six years of growth, the United Nations said Monday. But the countries have not yet reported emissions from the past two years, and the new report did not include large emerging economies like those of India and China.

The U.N. report was released two weeks before the world’s environmental ministers are to meet in Poland to discuss ways to curb greenhouse gases and against the backdrop of the global financial crisis.

In presenting the latest findings, U.N. officials said they were concerned that the economic downturn would add a new layer of uncertainty to the coming talks, because many of the programs under development to curb the emissions that cause global warming require credit and financing.

While they expressed some optimism about the new data, which went through 2006, the last year available, they said the slight decline — one-tenth of 1 percent from 2005 to 2006 — was too small to indicate a significant downward trend.

Overall, among the 40 industrialized countries that reported to the United Nations, emissions had increased by 2.5 percent from 2000 to 2006, leading the climate panel to denounce what it called “continued growth.”