Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and the campaign manager for President Bush in 2004, is the most powerful Republican in history to identify as gay. Mehlman recently came out to his family and associates and agreed to talk to reporters because he wanted to openly advocate for gay marriage in a fundraiser for the American Foundation for Equal Rights. Mehlman said he will try to persuade people in the Republican party to support marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
Source: The Atlantic
California lawmakers rejected a bill banning plastic shopping bags on August 31. In 2007, San Francisco became the first city to ban single-use plastic bags and a handful of California cities followed. The ban requires large markets and drugs stores to give customers bags made of recyclable paper, compostable plastic, or reusable cloth. Supporters of the bill said plastic bags cause harm to the environment and are expensive to collect and transport to landfills. Democrats and Republicans who opposed the bill said it would be a burden on businesses and consumers. Though the statewide bill failed, Los Angeles County, Redondo Beach, and Santa Monica said they would pursue individual city and countywide bans in the coming months.
Source: Yahoo! News; MSNBC
More than $5 billion in American taxpayer funds has been wasted on hundreds of abandoned or incomplete projects in Iraq. A $165 million children’s hospital goes unused in the south, a $100 million nearly complete wastewater system has been scaled back in Fallujah, and a $40 million prison is deserted in the north of Baghdad. The US Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region District has successfully completed over 4,800 projects including police stations, border forts, and government buildings and is rushing to complete another 233, but 595 have been terminated. According to Col. Jon Christensen, security concerns and escalating violence in certain areas have been the main cause of setbacks in reconstruction.
In Japan, suicide is the leading cause of death among men aged 20-44 and women aged 15-34. Prime Minister Naota Kan said he believes there are too many people suffering emotionally and economically in the country. A study showed more than 32,000 people killed themselves in 2009, costing Japan’s economy $32 billion from income losses, social security spending, and medical costs. The government is setting up a task force in an attempt to reduce the rate and decrease the causes.
Source: BBC News; Guardian (UK)
Traffic deaths in the United States fell 9.7 percent last year due to safety-conscious drivers, more people buckling up, side air bags and anti-rollover technology in more vehicles, coupled with tougher enforcement of drunk driving laws. In 2008, an estimated 37,423 people died on the highways. In 2009, the number dropped to 33,808, the lowest level in more than half a century. The rate of deaths per 100 million miles traveled also fell to a record low, 1.13 down from 1.26. According to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the improvement is also attributed to weak economic conditions which decreased driving.
Source: Yahoo! News
Moderate drinking is associated with a lower mortality rate in comparison to abstainers, according to a recent alcohol study conducted by psychologist Charles Holahan of the University of Texas at Austin. More than 69 percent of abstainers died during the 20-year period in which researchers were following 1,824 participants, while only 41 percent of moderate drinkers died. The benefits of drinking in moderation include improved heart health and sociability. Though alcohol is associated with longer life it can also be addicting, severely impair memory, and increase the risk of cancer. Also, a study by Scott Rick from the University of Michigan and Maurice Schweitzer from the University of Pennsylvania showed that holding an alcoholic beverage makes a person appear less intelligent.
Source: TIME; AOL News
The US Chamber of Commerce, the country’s largest business lobby, has pledged to spend $75 million in this year’s election. Political Director Bill Miller said the chamber is engaging in an effort to ensure that its arguments are heard and to promote ideas that are more supportive of the free enterprise system. The chamber has been a visible player in congressional debates opposing the Obama administration’s initiatives in healthcare, financial regulations, and energy policy. Though the chamber’s politicking leans Republican, they have sided with the administration and against most congressional Republicans in the $700 billion rescue of banks, the $862 billion economic stimulus, and the bailout of the auto industry.
Source: Google News
The number of violent crimes in the United States fell 5.3 percent in 2009, including a 7.3 percent decline in murders, an 8 percent drop in robberies, a 4.2 percent fall in aggravated assaults, and a 2.6 percent decline in rapes, according to FBI statistics released on September 13. In 2009, there were 15,241 murders, the lowest number since 1969. The number of property crimes also fell by 4.6 percent. Motor vehicle thefts dropped 17.1 percent and burglary was down 1.3 percent, the FBI said. In New York City, the largest city in the US, violent crime dropped more than 4 percent, including a 10 percent drop in murders, and property crime fell 5.3 percent. US Attorney General Eric Holder said smarter policing practices and investments in law enforcement play a significant role in reducing crime.
Playing action video games such as “Call of Duty 2” or “Unreal Tournament” could be incorporated into training programs for surgeons or soldiers. According to a study led by Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive scientist at the University of Rochester, action gamers can arrive at decisions faster than nongamers because they collect visual and auditory data more efficiently. Research showed that in a problem-solving exercise, action game players made decisions 25 percent faster per unit time than a group of strategy game players. The study suggests that playing fast-paced video games simulating stressful events or battles could be a training tool for speeding reactions in real-world situations or improving everyday skills.
For the first time, more women received doctoral degrees than men. Last year, there were 28,962 doctoral degrees awarded to women and 28,469 to men, according to an annual enrollment report from the Council of Graduate Schools. Women now earn 70 percent of doctorates in health sciences, 67 percent of doctorate degrees in education, and 60 percent in social and behavioral sciences. Men are mostly dominant in engineering, mathematics, and the physical sciences.
Source: Washington Post