World and Nation

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Same-Sex Marriage Bill Advances in Maine

Maine could be the next New England state to embrace same-sex marriage after the state Senate voted Thursday to legalize the practice.

The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 21-14 for a bill that would allow gay couples to marry starting later this year. The measure appears to have even broader support in the House of Representatives, which will take it up on Tuesday.

Gov. John Baldacci, a Democrat, used to oppose same-sex marriage. But since the bill was introduced in January, he has said he is keeping an open mind.

The vote was the latest victory for gay rights groups in New England, which are campaigning to get same-sex marriage approved in all six of the region’s states by 2012. Massachusetts and Connecticut already allow same-sex marriage, and the Vermont Legislature approved it last month.

The New Hampshire legislature is likely to send a same-sex marriage bill to Gov. John Lynch in the coming weeks, though Lynch, a Democrat and an opponent, might veto it. A bill has been introduced in the Rhode Island legislature but is unlikely to be acted on this year.

Eden? Maybe. But Where’s the Apple Tree?

Locations for the Garden of Eden have been offered many times before, but seldom in the somewhat inhospitable borderland where Angola and Namibia meet.

A new genetic survey of people in Africa, the largest of its kind, suggests, however, that the region in southwest Africa seems, on the present evidence, to be the origin of modern humans. The authors have also identified some 14 ancestral populations.

The new data goes far toward equalizing the genetic picture of the world, given that most genetic information has come from European and Asian populations. But because it comes from Africa, the continent on which the human lineage evolved, it also sheds light on the origins of human life.

“I think this is an enormously impressive piece of work,” said Alison Brooks, a specialist on African anthropology at George Washington University.

The origin of a species is generally taken to be the place where its individuals show the greatest genetic diversity. For humans, when the new African data is combined with DNA information from the rest of the world, this spot lies on the coast of southwest Africa near the Kalahari Desert, the research team, led by Sarah A. Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, said in this week’s issue of Science.

Motorola Scrambles to Revive Its Lost Cell-Phone Glory

Motorola has had its ups and downs. Fifteen years ago, a gray brick Motorola handset was synonymous with mobile phone. Sales slipped, but the company came back five years ago with the sleek Razr, the must-have cell phone.

Motorola’s cell-phone sales are now falling at the rate of almost 50 percent a year. Bereft of a smash hit, the company finds itself in its darkest hour. Once responsible for half of the cell-phone sales in the world, its share of the market has plummeted to 6 percent.

Industry analysts are questioning not whether Motorola will again become dominant but whether the handset division will survive.

“They’re stuck heavily in the handset death spiral,” said Edward Snyder, an analyst with Charter Equity Research. “If they have tens of billions of dollars they want to pour into this black hole, they might be able to save it. Even then, there are no guarantees.”

Sanjay K. Jha, Motorola’s co-chief executive who was brought in from Qualcomm last year, still contends he can fix the handset business. He said that for now, he was not interested in market share or hit products — not with losses mounting. “I’m interesting in break-even performance,” he said in an interview. “I’m trying to build a stable machine.

“We need to have profits under all circumstances, and then have hits on top of that,” he said Thursday after Motorola announced that the operating loss in the handset division grew to $509 million in the first quarter from a loss of $418 million a year ago.

These are seemingly modest goals for a company that has strong brand recognition. But new tough competitors like LG, Samsung and Apple have transformed the market with phones that can do anything a computer can do and more.

Immigration Agents to Turn Their Focus to Employers

In an effort to crack down on illegal labor, the Department of Homeland Security intends to step up enforcement efforts against employers who knowingly hire such workers.

Under guidelines to be issued Thursday to Immigration and Customs Enforcement field offices, agents will be instructed to take aim at employers and supervisors for prosecution “through the use of carefully planned criminal investigations.”

Senior officials of the Homeland Security Department said Wednesday that illegal workers would continue to be detained in raids on workplaces. But the officials said they hoped to mark an abrupt departure from past practices by making those arrests as part of an effort to build criminal and civil cases against employers.

Under the Bush administration, the officials said, most raids were conducted largely on the basis of tips that an employer was hiring illegal workers, rather than on information gleaned from audits of employer records or undercover investigations. As a result, agents rounded up thousands of illegal immigrants but rarely developed the evidence necessary to show whether businesses were knowingly using illegal labor.