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The truth is out there: 30/01/2009

A weekly look at the world

*It has been a difficult couple of weeks for book-lovers, particularly those in Laredo, Texas. Not only must they mourn the passing of J D Salinger, Erich Segal and crime novelist Robert Parker, but, according to Time magazine, they must now do so without the help of a single bookshop. The city, whose population was 233,152 in the 2007 census, is one of the largest in the US without a bookshop after the B Dalton store closed down. Residents must travel 150 miles for a literary fix.

*As international aid agencies rush food, water and medicine to Haiti's victims, a United States group is sending solar-powered Bibles, ABC news reported this week. The hi-tech Holy Scriptures can broadcast God's word in Haitian Creole to 300 people at a time. The Albuquerque-based Faith Comes By Hearing organisation says its Bible, called the Proclaimer, provides digital quality "faith, hope and love through God's word in audio".

*Haitian Americans are significantly more prosperous than other South American and Caribbean migrants, according to the World Bank's People Move blog. Suggesting that the country's diaspora could be the answer to its reconstruction prayers, the World Bank noted that nearly one-third of Haitian immigrants in the US belong to households that earned more than $60,000 in 2009. In comparison, less than 15 per cent of the immigrants from Mexico, Dominican Republic and El Salvador in the US had that level of household income.

*Humans were an endangered species for more nearly one million years according to scientists from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. A new study calculated that 1.2 million years ago, at a time when our ancestors were spreading through Africa, Europe and Asia, there were probably only about 18,500 individuals capable of breeding. By today's standards this would make them an endangered species, said PhysOrg.com, with a smaller population than today's gorillas and chimpanzees.

*The Australian Sex Party's website crashed this week according to the party's leader, Fiona Patten, when "thousands of people accessed information about the banning of female ejaculation and small-breasted women in adult films and publications by the Australian Classification Board". The outsider political party claimed the board was refusing to classify adult films featuring small-breasted women on the grounds they encouraged paedophilia.

*New evidence in the debate over charging for online newspaper content could make Rupert Murdoch grimace. Newsday, the Long Island daily bought for $650m, put its website behind a paywall three months ago, making it one of the first non-business papers to do so. The website was recently redesigned, to the tune of $4m, and it charges subscribers $5 a week, or $260 a year. According to the New York Observer, the first subscriber numbers are in, and the site now has a grand total of...35 subscribers.