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While You Were Sleeping: August 2011 


On June 27, the Supreme Court rejected the law banning the sale of violent video games to minors in California. The law never took effect because lower courts in 2005 and 2007 said it violated free speech rights. In a 7-2 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional. “For better or worse, our society has long regarded many depictions of killing and maiming as suitable features of popular entertainment, including entertainment that is widely available to minors,” said Justice Samuel Alito. Regulations are now left up to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which assigns ratings for each game. The federal obscenity law only applies to sexual conduct. However, many games mix sex and violence. An ad for Duke Nukem Forever reads, “This game has bazookas. Both types,” with half-naked schoolgirls by the hero’s feet. “The court’s tougher line on sex parallels the movie industry’s voluntary ratings system, which is much quicker to give a rare NC-17 rating for sex than for violence—but the industry has not done much to explain its double standard, either,” said Time writer Adam Cohen.
Source: Salon, The Wrap

The US is falling behind in the world of “green” technologies. Many European countries like Japan and China have pushed for carbon-reducing technologies, including a rapid growth in solar and wind power industries. Out of the three largest wind farm operations in the US, only one, NextEra, is American. US homes are also failing to save energy: “The United States was a nearly untouched market with 120 million homes, most of them very energy-inefficient,” said Bill Rumble, the commercial director of The Mark Group, a British home-insulation company that specializes in cutting energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. They have recently set up an office in Philadelphia. European countries have issued tighter energy-efficiency standards for their appliances and machinery and are developing innovative designs to use less energy. California is the only US state to use these standards.
Source: New York Times

According to census data, adoptions by gay couples have increased 11 percent since 2000. Since same-sex couples cannot marry in most states, adopted children don’t have the rights and protections given to children of heterosexual parents. The process is a state-by-state decision. It is illegal for same-sex couples to adopt in Utah and Mississippi. In Arizona, social workers are required by law to give preference to heterosexual couples for adoption. There are currently 115,000 children waiting for adoption.
Source: New York Times

On June 9, an unemployed 59-year-old walked into a bank in North Carolina. He slipped a note to the teller that said he was robbing the bank of one dollar. He then waited for police to come arrest him—in order to receive health care in jail. James Verone, charged with larceny, has a growth on his chest, a problem with his foot, two ruptured disks, and no health insurance.
Source: Huffington Post

New research from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine found that the psychoactive chemical in magic mushrooms may have lasting spiritual and medical benefits. The researchers said they figured out just the right amount of hallucinogen psilocybin to give to the adults volunteered during their experiment. Fourteen months later, 94 percent of the volunteers said it was one of their top five most meaningful experiences—39 percent said it was the most meaningful. Participants said they felt they understood themselves better and had an overall spiritual experience. Even their relatives and friends reported the volunteers were happier and calmer. Professor Roland Griffiths said he and his colleagues are looking to see if psilocybin could ease fear and anxiety for cancer patients or others facing death.
Source: Time

On June 22, the Power NY Act was passed. The law lets customers pay off their energy-efficient charges through their monthly electric bills. The on-bill financing legislation supposedly will cut carbon emissions, lower utility bills for working families, create 14,000 living-wage jobs, and more. On-bill gives access to energy-saving retrofits to moderate-income property owners. It also allows NYSERDA, New York State’s energy authority, to raise $5 billion in private investment in the state’s energy economy.
Source: TreeHugger

On June 30, Kansas granted a license allowing only one of the three abortion clinics in the state to continue operating. Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri has “the highest standards of patient care and has rigorous safety procedures in place,” said Planned Parenthood president Peter B. Brownlie. The license comes with regulations—size of rooms, stocking of emergency equipment, ties to hospitals, and medication and blood supplies. The organization described the requirements as “unnecessarily onerous.” South Dakota and Mississippi are the only other states in the nation with one abortion clinic. In an attempt to shut down the other two clinics, US District Judge Carlos Murguia temporarily blocked the state from imposing the new licensing restrictions on July 1. One of the two clinics, Aid for Women in Kansas City, can open its doors until further notice.
Source: New York Times

While participating in a motorcycle helmet protest on July 2, a man was killed when he went over the handlebars of his motorcycle and hit his head. When Parish, NY, resident Philip A. Contos, 55, hit his brakes of his 1983 Harley Davidson motorcycle, the bike fishtailed and went out of control. He was pronounced dead at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. According to the State Police, Contos would have survived if he had been wearing a Department of Transportation-approved helmet.
Source: The Post-Standard

Based on data available as of April 1, a preliminary examination of executive pay in 2010 found that top American executives’ paychecks are growing. The median pay for top executives at 200 big companies was $10.8 million in 2010—a 23 percent increase since the 2008 recession. “Pay skyrocketed last year because many companies brought back cash bonuses,” said Aaron Boyd, head of research at Equilar. Some of the highest-paid executives were those in the media. Philippe P. Dauman, the chief executive of Viacom, was the highest-paid executive last year, earning $84.5 million.
Source: New York Times
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