- - Wednesday, December 12, 2012

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa has become the nation’s first public university to include optional questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on its application, a move hailed Wednesday by advocates hoping to improve the college experience for gays.

University officials say the move sends a strong signal that they value the diversity that gay, bisexual and transgender students bring to campus. They say that knowing some students’ sexual orientation will allow them to track their enrollment and graduation rates and promote housing, student groups and programs that might improve their social and academic success.

The new application asks students whether they “identify with the LGBTQ Community.” The item is listed with other optional questions about topics such as interest in military programs and fraternities and sororities. A second change added “transgender” as an option for an applicant’s gender.

NEW YORK

Mayor hits brakes on pedicab rates decision

NEW YORK — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hit the brakes Wednesday on a proposal to keep tourist-toting pedicabs from charging confusing, sometimes exorbitant rates.

The plan — the latest in a series of attempts to regulate the tricycle taxis in recent years — was up for Mr. Bloomberg to consider signing Wednesday. But after a pedicab driver complained that the city was unfair to the pedal-powered cabs, Mr. Bloomberg said he wanted “to find out a little more” about the proposal.

He said he’d announce by Friday whether he’ll sign the measure.

About 700 pedicabs now ply city streets, according to the New York City Pedicab Owners’ Association. The vehicles, resembling giant tricycles with three-passenger carriages in the back, mainly jaunt around Central Park and other midtown Manhattan landmarks.  

PENNSYLVANIA

Man sues Boy Scouts, Mormons over sex abuse

PHILADELPHIA — A Delaware man sued the Boy Scouts of America and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Wednesday over childhood sexual abuse committed by the scoutmaster at his church-sponsored troop.

Melvin Novak sued Wednesday in state court in Philadelphia, charging in part that newly released Boy Scout “perversion files” show the organization hid abuse claims for years.

“They knew about this conduct, they knew what was going on, and they covered it up in the most despicable way,” lawyer Stewart J. Eisenberg said at a news conference attended by Mr. Novak and his father.

The lawsuit names the larger Mormon church and the Downingtown-area temple Mr. Novak attended.

Mr. Novak’s abuser, Vance Hein, is in prison for a parole violation related to his 1999 misdemeanor conviction in Mr. Novak’s case.

OREGON

Police: Mall shooter used stolen rifle

PORTLAND — The gunman who killed two people and himself in a shooting rampage at an Oregon mall was 22 years old and used a stolen rifle from someone he knew, authorities said Wednesday.

Jacob Tyler Roberts had armed himself with an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and had several fully loaded magazines when he arrived at a Portland mall Tuesday, said Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts.

The sheriff said the rifle jammed during the attack, but the shooter managed to get it working again. He later shot himself. Authorities don’t yet have a motive but don’t think he was targeting specific people.

Two people — Cindy Ann Yuille, 54, of Portland and Steven Mathew Forsyth, 45, of West Linn — were killed, and another, Kristina Shevchenko, whose age could not be confirmed, was wounded and in serious condition Wednesday.

CALIFORNIA

Distant galaxy regains title as oldest in universe

LOS ANGELES — A galaxy once considered the oldest has reclaimed its title, scientists reported Wednesday.

Poring through Hubble Space Telescope photos, the team recalculated the galaxy’s age and determined it is actually 13.3 billion years old — not a mere 13.2 billion.

The dim galaxy filled with blue stars was first noticed last year by a different group of researchers, who also used the workhorse telescope to make the previous age estimate. It reigned as the most ancient galaxy observed until last month when it was knocked off its perch by another distant galaxy.

Now it’s back on top after the team used a longer exposure time to get a clearer view of the earliest and far-off galaxies. Seeing the most distant galaxies is like looking back in time and this one existed when the universe was in its infancy — about 380 million years old.

From wire dispatches and staff reports