A week after a massive earthquake hit Haiti on January 12, Florida-based Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines resumed docking ships less than 100 miles from the quake's epicenter. Labadee, on Haiti's northern coast, provides tourists with jet-ski rides, parasailing, and hommack-delivered rum cocktails. A Royal Caribbean executive cited the economic importance of the resort to Haitian citizens. The company also sees it as an opportunity to deliver much needed supplies (delivering 40 pallets of food on their first docking) to the earthquake survivors. One passenger onboard the ship posted on an Internet message board, protesting vacationing where "tens of thousands of dead people are being piled up on the streets, with the survivors stunned and looking for food and water." Royal Caribbean has pledged $1 million to the relief effort—part of which will go to helping 200 Haitian crew members.
Source: Yahoo! News
Research has shown that young people devote an average of seven-and-a-half-hours to media use a day. The study, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found that watching TV, playing video games, using a computer, and music consumption has risen over an hour a day in the past five years. According to Vicky Rideout, who directed the study, the huge increase can be attributed to the transformation of the cell phone into a content delivery device. "What surprised me the most is the sheer amount of media content coming into their lives each day,” said Rideout. The Kaiser report found a difference in heavy and light media users when it came to academics as well, although they haven't determined cause and effect; nearly half of those who consumed more than 16 hours a day received “fair or poor” grades, while only about a quarter of those consuming less than three hours daily reported the same results.
Source: Chicago Tribune
California courts unanimously rejected a law which sought to limit the amount of marijuana a medical patient can legally possess. The law, which passed in 1998, had allowed medical marijuana patients to possess an unspecified amount. The Legislature attempted to get the law down to eight ounces of dried marijuana. The Supreme Court said only voters could change amendments that they have added to the State Constitution. A few weeks after the rejection, the Los Angeles City Council adopted a comprehensive medical marijuana ordinance to strictly control dispensaries. The ordinance would require marijuana shops to locate at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks, libraries, residential lots, and other dispensaries, and to have the LAPD closely monitor their accounts for profits. The ordinance caps the number of dispensaries at 70, with an exception for stores registered before 2007, leaving Los Angeles with around 150 stores.
Sources: New York Times and Los Angeles Times
Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), has proposed to strip the Environmental Protection Agency's right to limit emissions of greenhouse gases. Through the Clean Air Act, the Supreme Court granted the EPA legal authority to limit such emissions in 2007. “If Congress allows this to happen there will be severe consequences,” Murkowski said. According to Murkowski, it would lead to businesses closing or moving overseas, the curtailing of domestic energy production, and raise the cost of housing and agriculture. Her resolution would require a majority vote in the Senate and the House, plus the signature of President Obama. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), who opposes the resolution, said “It would be better for Congress to pass bipartisan comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation making our economy and businesses more efficient and globally competitive.”
Source: New York Times
A military arms supplier has agreed to drop biblical references engraved on their weapons. Trijicon Inc. has multimillion dollar contracts with the Pentagon and sells to Australian, New Zealand, and British militaries—their current contract with the US Marine Corps is $660 million dollars. A Trijicon spokesman said the small scriptural references were introduced by the founder of the company before contracts with the military began in 1995. The engravings, referring to Bible verses such as JN8:12 and 2COR4:6, were not given much notice until an ABC News report aired at the end of January. Trijicon has never been secret about their Christian roots, but they have agreed to stop engraving the weapons. They say their “decision to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate.”
Source: New York Times
After placing an unprecedented hold on more than 80 Presidential nominations in order to secure earmarks for his home state, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) backed down in February. According to ABC News, a week after announcing he would filibuster all the presidents appointments, Sen. Shelby claimed it was just an attempt “to get the White House's attention.” According to Shelby's spokesman John Graffeo, Shelby hoped to get the Air Force's aerial refueling tanking acquisition and the FBI's Terrorist Device Analytical Center addressed. For months, Shelby, with strong ties with the military-industrial complex and big banks, has been trying to reverse a $100 billion contract given to Boeing to build refueling tankers for the military. Shelby wanted the contract to go to Northrop Grumman/EADs—which have given him heavy financial campaign support. Both programs would have been located in Shelby's home state of Alabama.
Source: ABC News
A US college student was detained and interrogated in a Philadelphia airport in August 2009 by FBI because he was carrying a set of English-Arabic flashcards. Nicolas George, 22, was on his way back to college when he was detained for five hours without being told why. A US Transportation Security Administration supervisor asked him about who was responsible for the 9/11 attacks and about Osama Bin Laden. Then he was handcuffed and locked in a cell for two hours before he was “abusively” questioned by two FBI agents. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit aginst the officers from the TSA, FBI, and Philadelphia police charging them with violating George's constitutional rights of free speech and to be free from unreasonable seizure.
The nation's illegal immigrant population declined by nearly 1 million people in 2009—the sharpest decrease in three decades. The number of illegal immigrants living in the US dropped from 11.5 million in 2008 to 10.8 million, according to a new report from the US Department of Homeland Security. This marks the second consecutive year of decline. California's illegal immigrant population dropped by 250,000 to 2.6 million people, accounting for 25 percent of the nation's illegal immigrant population. Arizona's illegal population dropped by 17.8 pecent followed by Florida (14.3 percent), New York (14 percent), and New Jersey (10 percent). Researchers believe the decline can be attributed to restricted jobs due to the weak economy and stricter boarder control.
Source: Los Angeles Times
On the brink of the Obama administration eliminating federal funding for abstinence-only sex education, a new study has shown an abstinence-only program helped delay sexual activity in middle school students. In the study, conducted by Dr. John B. Jemmott III of the University of Pennsylvania, only about a third of the randomly assigned students who participated in the abstinence-only classes started having sex in the next 24 months. Of the students assigned to general health information or only safer sex classes, half began having sex in the next two years. Among the kids taught comprehensive sex education covering both abstinence and safe sex, 42 percent began having sex in the same time frame. Supporters of abstinence-only sex education hope the study encourages the White House to include funding for abstinence-only programs. The Jemmott study did not advocate abstinence until marriage as the federally supported abstinence programs previously in use did, and contained only medically accurate information.
Source: New York Times