While You Were Sleeping: December 2014 | General News & Politics | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine

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While You Were Sleeping: December 2014



On October 23, 29-year-old Michael Tate Reed Jr. exited his car, urinated on the controversial Ten Commandments monument outside the Oklahoma State Capital, and then ran it over and destroyed it. Once arrested, Reed confessed to police that Satan told him to do it. At press time, Reed was currently under mental evaluation after admitting he had bipolar disorder and had stopped taking his medication. The monument, erected in 2012 by Republican state Rep. Mike Ritze, whose family spent nearly $10,000 to site the six-foot-tall granite tablet, is the subject of a lawsuit by the ACLU and action by the Satanic Temple (no affiliation with Reed), which is demanding a monument of their own next to the Judeo-Christian one.

Source: CBS

On October 22, Nicholas Slatten, a former Blackwater security guard, was convicted of murder after the shooting of 14 unarmed civilians in Baghdad in 2007. Slatten's coworkers Dustin Heard, Paul Slough, and Evan Liberty were convicted of manslaughter. The shooting, along with the shooting in Nisour Square, the killing by Marines of 24 civilians at Haditha, and the abuses of detainees at Abu Ghraib, are of the most notorious cases of misconduct by US personnel in the Iraq War. Mohamad Al Quriashy, the deputy chief of mission for the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, said the US.-Iraqi relationship is strong and would withstand any verdict, but the guilty sentence would be hailed by ordinary Iraqis.

Source: Bloomberg

Fast-food workers in Denmark, who earn $20 an hour, are making two-and-a-half times more than their US counterparts. The release of the information has had American labor activists and liberal scholars pondering why the US is unable to generate the $15-an-hour wages that fast-food workers are rioting over. In the US, fast-food wages are so low that half the workers rely on public assistance programs, according to a study from the University of California, Berkeley. In Denmark fast-food workers are guaranteed benefits, under the industry's collective agreement—five weeks' paid vacation, paid maternity and paternity leave, and a pension plan. Workers must be paid overtime for working after 6pm, and on Sundays. Yet not all economists and business groups agree, some say the comparison is deeply flawed because of fundamental differences between Denmark and the US—including Denmark's high living costs and taxes, a generous social safety net that includes universal health care, and a collective bargaining system in which employer associations and unions work together.

Source: New York Times

Korean carmakers Hyundai Motor Co. and affiliate Kia Motors Corp will pay $350 million in penalties to the US government for overstating their vehicles' fuel economy ratings. This is on top of $395 million the automakers agreed to pay last December in order to resolve claims from the owners of the vehicles. Overall, the companies, total cost for the mileage overstatements come to over $700 million. The US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Justice, and the California Air Resources Board resolved the investigation of the South Korean carmakers' 2012 fuel economy ratings, resulting in the largest penalties ever summoned under the Clean Air Act. Under the accord, which involved the sale of 1.2 million cars and SUVS, the South Korean car firms will pay a $100 million penalty, spend around $50 million to prevent future violations, and forfeit emissions credits estimated to be more than $200 million. In November 2012, Hyundai and Kia conceded that they overstated the fuel economy of their vehicles by nearly a mile per gallon.

Source: Reuters

Seven years after the Mount Airy Casino Resort opened, only about half of the slot revenue forecasted by the Pennsylvania officials has been generated, with little economic spillover outside the resort. New York State officials are keeping a close eye on the Poconos casino, as they are likely to face the same challenges at four new casinos in the state. These issues include optimistic revenue projections for semi rural locations, fast-evolving competition in a market where the novelty of new casinos often fade fast, and a dissonance between resort gambling and traditional family-friendly attractions. William N. Thompson, professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, claims there is very little overlap between the region's traditional tourists and a casino's ordinary customer base. With nearly 1,000 casinos in 39 states, consumers now view them as an everyday local option—like movie multiplexes, bowling alleys, or nightclubs—rather than a novelty.

Source: New York Times

Earlier in the fall, researchers from the National Institute of Health concluded a landmark 20-year study that studied about 84,000 farmers and spouses of farmers, who had been interviewed since the mid-1990s, to investigate the connection between pesticides and depression. The study revealed that seven pesticides, some widely used, may be causing clinical depression in farmers. There is a significant correlation between depression and the use of pesticides, but not all pesticides. The two types linked to depression are organochlorine insecticides and fumigants—which increased the farmers' risk of depression by 90 to 80 percent. The study lays out the seven specific pesticides that demonstrated a reliable correlation to increased depression, all of which are common. One, called malathion, was used by 67 percent of the tens of thousands of farmers surveyed. The study doesn't delve into exactly how pesticides are affecting the farmers, but scientists suggest that pesticides are designed to disrupt the way nerves work, sometimes inhibiting specific enzymes.

Source: Modern Farmer

Eleven women are reported dead in India—with a dozen more in hospitals after a state-run mass-sterilization campaign took a turn for the fatal in November. Over 80 women underwent surgery for laparoscopic tubectomies, performed free of cost at a government-run camp in Chhattisgarh. The camps are held regularly across India as part of a long-running effort to control the booming population, offering incentives such as 1,400 rupee payouts. Four doctors have been suspended since the incident, and police have registered a criminal complaint. The chief minister of Chhattisgarh, one of India's poorest states, ordered an investigation. Death due to sterilization is not a unheard-of problem in India. Between 2009 and 2012, the government paid compensation for 568 deaths resulting from sterilization according the health ministry. The deaths are believed to have been caused by blood poisoning or hemorrhagic shock.

Source: Guardian (UK)

The Village Board of New Paltz voted unanimously to require businesses to stop providing plastic checkout bags to customers for free beginning in April of 2015. The banning or taxing the use of plastic bags is a worldwide initiative that has been gaining traction across the US over the last couple of years. Municipalities in Long Island and Westchester County have already enacted bans. New Paltz will be the first community in Ulster, Sullivan, or Orange County to hop on the ban-wagon. Some argue the ban may become problematic to tourists visiting the village, who will be forcibly charged for alternative bags if they unknowingly arrive empty-handed.

Source: Times Herald-Record

Compiled by Laura Farrell

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