The National Resource Centers lost 47% of its funding when Congress agreed to trim the budget to avoid a government shutdown in April. The move would have seemed inconceivable 10 years ago in the wake of 9/11 terrorist attacks. The U.S. Department of Education tasked the centers to provide colleges across the country with the means to teach languages such as Farsi or Pashto, which are important to national security. The centers operate on 50 campuses, and some schools already have moved to end certain language courses.
Despite efforts to ramp up security after Sept. 11, 2001, the United States is still "dangerously vulnerable" to chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, according to a study from an independent panel that includes members of the group that investigated government mistakes prior to the 9/11 attacks. The report says thousands of the nation's chemical plants remain unprotected and efforts to reduce access to nuclear technology and bomb-making materials have slowed.
The pressure is on the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass some kind of energy legislation in the three weeks lawmakers are in session before recessing for the fall election season. Gaining traction from the failed bills, Republican candidate Sen. John McCain has goaded the Democrats about refusing to allow more domestic drilling, saying this is their last chance to offer Americans relief at the gas pump before November.
In the book "Poisoned Profits: The Toxic Assault on Our Children," journalists Philip Shabecoff and Alice Shabecoff describe how lax government regulators have allowed for an environment that exposes children to a host of toxic chemicals. A Washington Post review of the book gives the authors credit for raising the profile of children's environmental health, but says the book's hard-sell approach and failure to provide context and perspective work against it.