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While You Were Sleeping: July 2013 

click to enlarge Somali Pirates
  • Somali Pirates

Since 2005, attacks by Somali pirates have been costing companies about $5 billion a year, making oversea commerce through the Indian Ocean both costly and lifethreatening. In June, three accused pirates faced a trial, the first of its kind in the nation, in the US District Court in Norfolk, Virginia, on the charges of the murder of four Americans in 2011. Due to international efforts, Somali piracy is drastically declining—their last successful hijacking occurred over a year ago. Cognizant of the threat Somali pirates pose to tankers and commercial ships of all kinds, companies in Iran, China, and India now employ warships to escort convoys as a preventative measure. Additionally, ships have become more keen on traveling in convoys with armed guards on board, and the US Navy has also used drones for aerial surveillance. By these means, 21 countries have successfully jailed more than 1,100 suspected pirates.
Source: Los Angeles Times

The US is the world leader in medical spending, though studies suggest other countries offer commensurate care for much less. As the most expensive procedure the average healthy American will undergo, colonoscopies are the primary contributor to the nation's $2.7 trillion annual health care bill. Each year 10 million Americans receive a colonoscopy, often paying more than they would for a child birth or an appendectomy. With prices ranging by state, New York tops the list, with providers charging as much as $8,577—about $7,000 more than the national average. In other countries, citizens can expect to pay only a few hundred dollars. Part of the problem is that the procedure is typically performed in surgery centers instead of doctors' offices, driving up costs to fund the maintenance of facilities and the salaries of a much larger staff. Gastroenterologists are also the highest paid doctors, usually earning about $433,000 or more a year. The anesthesiologists who aid them, studies show, can be superfluous, as anesthesia itself is often unnecessary. Usually a Valium-like drug is adequate for a colonoscopy and saves a significant portion of the costs. Overall, Americans simply receive colonoscopies too frequently. Whereas other countries utilize different preventative options, colonoscopies remain Americans' go-to for ensuring colon health.
Source: New York Times

Joblessness was found to be a factor of higher death rates among white women, a study published by the Journal of Health and Social Behavior shows. The findings revealed that the odds of dying for less educated women were 66 percent greater than their more educated peers from the period of 2002-06. The health survey organized by the National Center for Health Statistics, drew data from about 47,000 women ages 45 to 84. Research was need to explain the growing gap in mortality between women without a high school diploma and those with a high school diploma or more, but findings uncovered that joblessness had a dramatic effect, even after controlling for factors like income and health insurance. White women without a high school diploma lost five years of life expectancy. Among all factors featured, employment and smoking were the most significant variables in mortality rates for women.
Source: New York Times

The American Civil Liberties Union reports that blacks are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for the possession of marijuana. The number of marijuana arrests has risen between 2001 and 2010, accounting for roughly half of all drug arrests in the US. During this time, the racial disparity of these arrests has increased by 32.7 percent. Part of the cause is cops' tendency to patrol low-income, minority neighborhoods and conduct routine friskings, which frequently result in possession charges. In targeting these specific areas, they hope to curb large-scale violent crime by stringently penalizing smaller offenses.
Source: Slate

Since February, Guantánamo Bay inmates have been protesting their detention with a hunger strike. Out of the 103 currently on hunger strike, an all-time high of 41 inmates are being force-fed through tubes inserted up their noses and into their stomachs, with four hospitalized. A special military medical team was flown to Cuba specifically to execute this practice and detainees said they are often physically aggressive when doing so. The hunger strike was catalyzed when guards conducted a search of prison cells that resulted in the discovery of hidden contraband among the inmates. The strike's persistence, said a lawyer defending detainees, is a result of the military's refusal to negotiate with them productively in addition to Obama's lack of action. In 2008, Obama promised to close the base entirely; however, the inmates remain held without trial, including many of whom have been cleared for release for years. Human rights activists condemn force-feeding, calling it a violation of prisoners' rights, while international medical experts simply identified the practice as inhumane.
Source: Guardian (UK)

As more Americans opt for hybrid, electric, or fuel-efficient vehicles, the revenue state governments obtain from gas taxes is decreasing every year. In order to make up for the financial disparity, many states are beginning to charge drivers of these green cars extra fees. For example, in North Carolina, a state whose gas taxes account for over half of its overall revenue, the annual fee proposal would charge $100 for electric vehicle owners and $500 for hybrid-vehicle owners. Other states have already taken similar measures: Last year, Washington state passed a bill to charge a $100 annual tax for owners of electric cars, exempting any that do not travel over 35 mph. Virginia currently has an annual surcharge of $64 for hybrid vehicles, though they have lifted their gas tax and replaced it with a wholesale fuel tax. New Jersey is trying a different approach as the state government considers a bill that would subject every driver, no matter the type of car they drive, to a fee of 0.84 cents per mile in place of their existing gas tax. Additionally, automakers are doing their part to meet nationally legislated standards that mandate that all cars and light-duty trucks must have 54.5 mpg by 2025.
Source: US News

Deer have been getting themselves into trouble this month, but they would have been far worse off without human intervention. In Florida, two deputies helped a deer with a chip bag caught on its head, while a woman in Minnesota rescued a deer that had gotten its head stuck in a plastic jar. When two Monroe County Sheriff's deputies were on patrol, they spotted the deer-in-need on the side of the road. The cops pulled over and cautiously approached the deer, which calmly waited for their assistance. After they removed the Doritos bag from the deer's head without meeting resistance, it scampered away.

Janet Murphy of Hermantown, Minnesota, encountered a deer with a jar stuck on its head in her backyard, prohibiting it from eating or drinking. She immediately called 911 and the Department of Natural Resources, neither of which offered her any help. Murphy contacted Wildwoods, a wildlife rehabilitation organization in a nearby town. A volunteer from the organization came to her home with a 10-foot catch-pole, a long metal rod with a cable noose that could be cinched over the container to remove it. Figuring the deer would be more comfortable with Murphy since it had been frequenting her yard for four days, the volunteer left the pole with her. Murphy later saw an opportunity when the deer lay down on the edge of the woods and approached it with the catch-pole. When she secured it around the jar, the deer went into a frenzy, but Murphy was successful in pulling it off. Once free, the deer immediately went down to a wet area in the woods for a drink and later returned to Murphy's yard to eat from her deer feeder.
Sources: Sun Sentinel and Duluth News Tribune

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