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While You Were Sleeping: January 2015


Last Updated: 01/05/2015 10:29 am
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Soldiers returning home from war who exhibit symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can obtain drugs for relief as long is it falls under medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Marijuana is not one of those drugs. Some doctors argue that it is a fault in the health system, as the antidepressant drugs often prescribed to patients, such as Zoloft or Proxil, contain highly addictive opiates that make the substances harmful. Because of this, some doctors argue that research on the effectiveness of medical marijuana to treat PTSD is needed. Sue Sisley is one of those doctors. After working with veterans for 20 years as a psychiatrist, Sisley began examining the correlation between marijuana and PTSD at the University of Arizona. She was fired in July of this year. Since then, Colorado's Medical Marijuana Scientific Advisory Council has picked up her research and received a $2 million grant to conduct her triple-blind study involving 76 Arizona-based veterans and doctors from Johns Hopkins. In order to initiate the research, the study needs approval from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environments, which will settle on December 17, as well as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which won't make the decision until April or May of 2015. Currently, eight states allow certain veterans to receive a medical marijuana card. Arizona, which is still in the process, would be the ninth. Source: Rolling Stone

British, Swiss, and US regulators have fined some of the world's biggest banks for a combined amount of $4.25 billion. The banks were accused of conspiring to manipulate the currency markets for a profit-seeking foreign exchange market. Regulators claimed that traders formed groups at the banks and used code names such as "the players," "the three musketeers," and "the A-team" in order to tap into clients' private information, such as pension and hedge funds. The regulators of The Financial Conduct Authority claimed the manipulation was enabled by traders seeking others who planned to trade in the same direction—euros for dollars—and conspired to build a large book of orders that would elevate the average price of the currency exchange. The difference between the average price and the newly created elevated price would then become profit to traders. The fines pose no risk to the health of the banks that settled (such as UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, HSBC, and the Royal Bank of Scotland), only the regulators themselves.

Source: New York Times

The documentation of calorie counts on food menus in chain restaurants, movie theaters, and pizza parlors across the country has now become a requirement of the Food and Drug Administration. These rules will apply to food in vending machines, amusement parks, certain prepared foods in supermarkets, and food establishments with 20 or more outlets, such as fast-food chains and sit-down restaurants. Beverages served in establishments that are listed on a menu will also be included, but mixed drinks at a bar will not. The rules are scheduled to take effect in late 2015, but they are likely to face legal and political opposition from the food industry. Advocates praise the rule as a public education tool to combat America's obesity epidemic, but whether menu labeling will aid healthy eating is still an open question. Health experts believe large-portion sizes and unhealthy ingredients are significant contributors to obesity in the United States. In 2006, New York City, and later Westchester County, became the first to experiment with the effects of posting calorie counts on menus, and since then many other cities, counties, and states have jumped on board, resulting in 18 states and cities adopting the menu-labeling regulation. Source: New York Times

The cost of providing electricity by wind and solar power plants has dropped so low over the last five years that, in some markets, renewable energy is now more frugal than natural gas. According to utility executives, the trend has increasingly accelerated this year after several companies signed power purchase agreements. These agreements provide generous subsidies, making the production of renewable energy cheaper and allowing companies to charge customers a smaller sum. The prices dive especially low in the Great Plains and Southwest, where wind and sunlight are abundant elements. Experts and executives caution that the low prices don't correlate with replacing conventional power plants just yet. Wind and solar farms are still reliant on government subsidies in order to create affordable electricity prices for their customers. But that's not to say that they aren't moving in the right direction for creating an affordable market for the greater population. Source: New York Times

The sale of milk as a beverage has fallen to its lowest mark in nearly 30 years, with nearly half of adults in the US no longer consuming the iconic dairy product. In 2011, the total of US beverage milk sales was 53 billion pounds, the lowest level since 1984 according to figures released by the US Department of Agriculture in August. The shift in consumer habits, and a flood of new beverages in the marketplace—such as sports drinks and bottled teas—has contributed to the decline of milk sales. The dairy industry has stressed that some products that they compete with—such as soy- and almond-based products—use the name "milk" but aren't the real thing, since they don't come from a cow. The fear of antibiotics and synthetic hormones used by the dairy industry has also caused a shift, but the dairy producers claim there's no evidence that their practices are harmful. Currently, the industry is promoting chocolate milk as a sports recovery drink based on evidence that milk's proteins, carbohydrates, and sodium refuel tired muscles. However, if there aren't fundamental changes in the milk business, milk will soon become an irrelevant beverage. Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The world is on track to break the record for hottest year, according to the United Nations weather agency. Preliminary estimates from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) examined land and sea surface temperatures to find the current global average, revealing that temperatures during the first 10 months of 2014 soared higher than ever recorded. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also concluded that 2014 will break all previous high-temperature records. Oceans provide most of the evidence of warming, as they take in the excess heat trapped in the atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions. The higher temperatures have already begun to affect the way we live, as we see heavy rainfall and flooding in some countries but extreme drought in others. As we begin to experience the effects of global warming, the world's three biggest emitters, the US, China, and the EU, have pledged to cut their use of fossil fuels as part of the Lima Climate Change Conference. Other big carbon polluters, such as India, Russia, and Australia, have yet to come on board. Source: Guardian

After reviewing a report that chronicles a compilation of violence, atrocities, and disease directed toward children globally, the UN has resolved that 2014 has been the worst year for the world's children. According to the United Nations' Children's Fund (UNICEF), up to 15 million children are involved in violent conflicts in the Central African Republic, Iraq, the Palestinian territories, South Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine. In the Central African Republic, 2.3 million children were affected, as near anarchy rose within the region. According to the report, up to 10,000 children may have been recruited by armed groups as soldiers, and more than 430 children have been killed or wounded. In South Sudan, 320,000 children are refugees in neighboring countries and 235,000 suffer from malnutrition. Worsening the situation, the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has orphaned thousands of children, and an estimated five million are out of school. Source: New York Times


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