SACRAMENTO, Calif.

State may ban ‘conversion therapy’ for gay minors

A first-of-its-kind ban on a controversial form of psychotherapy aimed at making gay people straight is speeding through the California statehouse.

Supporters say the legislation, which passed its final Senate committee Tuesday, is necessary because such treatments are ineffective and harmful.

“This therapy can be dangerous,” said the bill’s author Sen. Ted Lieu. He added that the treatments can “cause extreme depression and guilt” that sometimes leads to suicide.

Conservative religious groups reject that view and say the ban would interfere with parents’ rights to seek psychological care for their children.

The bill would prohibit so-called reparative therapy for minors and obligate adults seeking the treatment to sign a release form that states that the counseling is ineffectual and possibly dangerous.

SAN DIEGO

Plastic debris altering ocean habitat, researchers say

An increase in plastic debris floating in a zone between Hawaii and California is changing the environment of at least one marine critter, scientists reported.

Over the past four decades, the amount of broken-down plastic has grown significantly in a region dubbed the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Most of the plastic pieces are the size of a fingernail.

During a seagoing expedition, researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography found that a marine insect that skims the ocean surface is laying its eggs on top of plastic bits instead of natural flotsam like wood.

Though plastic debris is giving the insects places to lay eggs, scientists are concerned about the manmade material establishing a role in their habitat.

“This is something that shouldn’t be in the ocean, and it’s changing this small aspect of the ocean ecology,” said Scripps graduate student Miriam Goldstein.

OCEAN CITY, N.J.

Voters in dry resort town reject proposal to allow BYOB

The same disdain for alcohol that drove Christian clergymen to establish this Jersey shore town that calls itself America’s Greatest Family Resort led voters to overwhelmingly reject a proposal Tuesday that would have let restaurant patrons bring their own wine or beer to enjoy with dinner.

A referendum on whether BYOB should be allowed was soundly rejected by a 2-to-1 margin. Final unofficial tallies showed the referendum received 3,137 “no” votes, and 1,425 “yes” votes.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.

Autopsy: Ultra-marathon runner died of heart disease

Ultra-marathon runner Micah True died from heart disease while on a routine 12-mile run in late March in the mountains of southwestern New Mexico, according to an autopsy report released Tuesday.

The report showed that True, 58, had cardiomyopathy, a disease that results in the heart becoming enlarged. While medical examiners couldn’t point to the cause of the heart disease, they said True’s left ventricle, which pumps oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, had become thick and was dilated.

Chemical tests showed that True was mildly dehydrated and had caffeine in his system. He also had some abrasions on his elbows, forearms, knees and shins.

True’s body was discovered March 31 along a stream in a remote part of the Gila Wilderness. The search for him began days earlier after he failed to return from a run. Friends had theorized that he stopped at the stream to wash up after a fall while running on the rugged terrain.

BEIJING

China kicks Al-Jazeera reporter out of the country

Al-Jazeera’s sole English-language reporter in China has been expelled, the pan-Arab news network said Tuesday. It’s the first time since 1998 that Beijing has kicked out an accredited foreign journalist.

Melissa Chan’s expulsion is seen as China’s latest attempt to punish international media whose reports the authoritarian government dislikes and sees as besmirching its global image. The move “seems to be taking China’s anti-media policies to a new level,” Bob Dietz, the Asia coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said in a statement.

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera said in a statement that it had no choice but to close its English-language service’s bureau because Chan’s press credentials and visa were not extended. Chan is a U.S. citizen who worked for the network in China for five years. She had reported extensively on sensitive topics such as illegal seizures of farmland and the imprisonment of petitioners from the countryside in unofficial “black jails.”

The U.S. State Department said it had followed Chan’s case closely and was disappointed in the Chinese government’s decision.

DAMASCUS, Syria

Annan: Peace plan is last chance to stabilize nation

International envoy Kofi Annan gave a bleak assessment of the crisis in Syria on Tuesday, saying violence remains at “unacceptable levels” and warning that his peace plan is the country’s last chance to avert a disastrous civil war.

Annan insisted there is still hope and said the presence of U.N. observers has had a calming effect on the crisis, which has killed at least 9,000 people since March 2011.

“There is a profound concern that the country could otherwise descend into full civil war and the implications of that are frightening,” Annan told reporters in Geneva after briefing a closed-door session of the U.N. Security Council in New York by videoconference. The observation mission, he said, “is the only remaining chance to stabilize the country.”

Syria has become one of the bloodiest conflicts of the Arab Spring, and world powers have been unable to stop the violence. Syrian President Bashar Assad still has a firm grip on power, and his regime portrays his opponents as terrorists out to weaken the country.