While You Were Sleeping: December 2012 | National | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram

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While You Were Sleeping: December 2012

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Arabica beans, from which 70 percent of the world's coffee is made, are at high risk of extinction, according to a new study by researchers at the Royal Botanic Gardens in England and the Environment and Coffee Forest Forum in Ethiopia. Climate change and deforestation threatens Arabica plants, which are highly vulnerable to temperature changes, pests, and disease. Coffee-producing countries such as Ethiopia, Brazil, and Colombia exported 93 million bags of coffee in 2009 and 2010. The study predicts a best-case scenario of a 38 percent reduction in land capable of yielding Arabica by 2080, and a worst-case scenario of a loss between 90 and 100 percent.

Source: CBC News

According to the International Energy Agency, the United States will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world's leading oil producer by about 2017, becoming "all but self-sufficient" in meeting energy needs. The reports indicate a shift in global energy systems, due primarily to the US's unlocking of new reserves of oil and gas found in shale rock from hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. Dr. Fatih Birol, chief economist of the energy agency, bases the prediction of increasing American self-sufficiency on more oil production and improving energy efficiency, particularly with the Obama administration's new fuel economy standards for cars. Birol estimates that a rise in power plants fueled by cheap natural gas would cut US electricity prices to half that of Europe's. According to the report's predictions, the US will overtake Russia as the leading producer of natural gas in 2015, and will become a net oil exporter by 2030.

Source: New York Times

According to research published in an October issue of the journal Science, elevated levels of cesium are still being detected in about 40 percent of fish caught off the Fukushima coast of Japan. The findings suggest that radioactive particles from last year's nuclear disaster have accumulated on the seafloor and could contaminate sea life for decades. Radioactive cesium is associated with an increased risk of cancer in humans. Japan continues to ban the sale of 36 species of fish since the Fukushima disaster, affecting one of the region's principal industries. Local fisherman have resumed small-scale commercial fishing for species, like octopus, that have cleared government radiation tests. Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator of the Fukushima plant, is building a 2,400-foot-long wall between the site's reactors and the ocean to reduce the chance of undetected leaks, a project that is estimated to take until mid-2014. Radiation readings in waters off Fukushima and beyond have returned to near-normal levels.

Source: New York Times

McDonald's sales have dropped for the first time since 2003. Global revenue at McDonald's restaurants open at least 13 months fell 1.8 percent for the month, dropping 2.2 percent in the US and Europe and 2.4 percent in the region encompassing Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. CEO Don Thompson cited the "pervasive challenges of today's global marketplace" for the declines. Rival fast food chains, like Burger King, Wendy's, and Taco Bell, are reviving their brands with improved menus and new TV ad campaigns. Food chains like Panera Bread are also increasing competition with higher-quality food at a slightly higher price point. In response to the drop, US outlets are refocusing on the Dollar Menu, Europe outlets will offer new meal combinations, and Asia will offer items tailored to local tastes.

Source: NPR

As of the end of October, President Obama has authorized a total of 284 drone strikes in Pakistan since he's been in office, six times more than the number during President George W. Bush's eight years in office. The number of estimated deaths from the Obama administration's drone strikes is more than four times what it was during the Bush administration—somewhere between 1,494 and 2,618. While Bush targeted leadership ranks of al Qaeda, Obama expanded the targeting to include the entire network of allied groups. The "signature strikes" target groups of men based on patterns of suspicious activity rather than individual militants. According to the Pew Research Center, majorities in almost every other country disapprove of drone strikes, arguing that they kill too many civilians and breed more terrorism. According to an analysis of the drone campaign in Pakistan by the New America Foundation, the civilian casualty rate has been dropping sharply since 2008 while the percentage of militants killed has been rising. Under the Obama administration, 11 percent of fatalities were civilian and 89 percent militants. Under President Bush, the civilian fatality rate was 33 percent, and the militant rate 67 percent. The CIA recently proposed to expand the strike program into other regions.

Sources: Slate, CNN

A September Pop Warner football game in Massachusetts between the Southbridge Pee Wees and the Tantasqua Braves ended with a final score of 52-0 and five preadolescent boys with concussions. Two Tantasqua players were hit so hard in the first play that their coach pulled them off the field. Six plays into the game, another Brave was removed after a hard hit. The last boy was hurt in the final play of the game. An official with the Tantasqua team said the eyes of one of the boys were rolling back in his head. The game went on without officials intervening despite the injuries and the fact that the Braves no longer had the required number of players to participate. Southbridge coach Scott Lazo accused the Tantasqua coach of not properly training his team and jeopardizing them by not forfeiting. In October, the Central Massachusetts Pop Warner league suspended both coaches for the rest of the season, barred the referees who oversaw the game from officiating any more contests, and put the presidents of both programs on probation. Four of the five injured boys have resumed playing football for Tantasqua.

Source: New York Times

In October, 14,500 pages of files documenting the Boy Scouts of America's cover-up of decades of sexual abuse, from 1959 to 1985, were posted on the website of Kelly Clark, the Portland attorney who used the files as evidence in a 2010 lawsuit he won against the Scouts. The files, maintained by the Scouts since soon after their founding in 1910, consist of memos from local and national Scout executives, handwritten letters from victims and their parents, and newspaper clippings about legal cases. The files contain details about proven molesters as well as people who were wrongly accused. The website crashed after receiving more than 200,000 hits within the first few hours of the posting. Clark said his firm received about four dozen e-mails from people about the documents, about half from people interested in filing lawsuits who say they were abused when they were in the Scouts. Some e-mails were from people who told of other alleged perpetrators who are not in the files. At least six people have contacted reporters for the Associated Press with questions about reporting sex abuse when they were in the Scouts, though none agreed to speak to the AP on the record. Attorney Paul Mones, Clark's colleague, said uploading the files "democratized" information that was only available to lawyers and the Scouts.

Sources: Associated Press

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