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While You Were Sleeping: March 2011 

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An Alabama law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against the fast-food chain Taco Bell for false advertising. The firm insists that Taco Bell should label their “meat” what it really is: “taco meat filling” in all promotional materials, in accordance with USDA laws. Taco Bell’s “beef” is comprised of less than 40 percent meat. According to the USDA, Taco Bell can’t call this substance “beef” at all. Taco Bell’s mixture contains only 36 percent fresh meat, the other 64 percent comprising of mostly fibers, fillers, and industrial additives.
Source: Gizmodo

Last fall, a Ugandan tabloid ran a front-page story titled “100 Photos of Uganda’s Top Homos,” complete with names, photos, addresses, and a banner with the words “Hang Them.” Following the article, David Kato, one of Uganda’s most outspoken gay activists (who was included in this list,) told CNN that he feared for his life. On January 26, Kato was found beaten to death in his home. Kato was a prominent voice against the country’s “Anti-Homosexuality Bill,” also known as the “Kill the Gays” bill. It was introduced in 2009 by David Bahati, a member of the Ugandian Parliament and core member of the powerful American evangelical movement known as “The Family.” The bill was written and promoted with the help of three self-described “expert” American evangelicals, who told Ugandans that homosexual men prey on teenage boys, and homosexuality undermines family values.
Source: The Nation

New research finds that having an abortion does not increase the risk of mental health problems, while having a baby does. The 12-year Danish study included 365,550 women and teenagers who had either an abortion or a first-time delivery between 1995 and 2007, none having a previous history of psychiatric problems. Findings showed that the number of women seeking psychiatric help within the first year after an abortion did not notably change from the number of women seeking help before an abortion. The number of first-time mothers seeking mental help after giving birth was dramatically higher. Scientists credit this to increased hormone levels, sleep deprivation, and stress after delivery, while women who had abortions did not experience these symptoms.
Source: Associated Press

In the third year of Obama’s presidency, federal taxes are at historic lows; the federal government’s take of taxes will be the lowest since 1950. For the third consecutive year, American families and businesses will pay less in federal taxes than they did under former President George W. Bush. Many taxpayers are seeing their bills drop under the Obama administration because of generous tax credits for college students, working families, homebuyers, the working poor, and even the wealthy. Many of these changes were part of the economic stimulus package passed in 2009.
Source: Associated Press

Federal regulators issued new nutrition advice for Americans, their simplest, and bluntest yet: Eat less. In the past, the government’s suggestions have focused more on the content of the foods we choose: salt content, fat content, sugar content. This year’s advice urges people to drink water over sugary drinks like soda, eat more whole grains, and fill your plate with fruits and vegetables. Though the guidelines are in place for consumers, they are expected to put pressure on the food industry to “reformulate” processed foods, reduce sodium, and shrink portion sizes. Big-name corporations like Wal-Mart, Kraft Foods, and Campbell’s Soup have already announced plans to lower salt content and lower prices on fruits and vegetables.
Source: New York Times

The hotly disputed process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has been widely used in recent years across the US for natural gas extraction is now coming under fire by the Environmental Protection Agency. The process injects a mixture of water, sand, chemical additives, and diesel fuel into rock formations underground to open crevices in the rock in order to release oil and gas. The use of diesel fuel in fracking, which was not authorized by the US Government, is a violation of the Safe Water Drinking Act. Chemical components in diesel fuel such as toluene, xylene, and benzene could potentially pollute nearby sources of drinking water. Twelve companies reported having used 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel in their fracking process from 2005 to 2009, in a total of 19 states.
Source: New York Times

Former President George W. Bush cancelled an early February trip to Switzerland after human rights activists threatened protests and legal action over allegations that he had authorized the use of torture with terrorism suspects. Several European human rights groups and the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights said they wanted Swiss prosecutors to open a criminal case against Bush upon his arrival in the country. Representatives from the Center for Constitutional Rights insist Bush canceled his trip to avoid their case, while the former president’s lawyer said that Bush’s appearance was canceled because of the risk of violence, and that the threat of legal action was not an issue.
Source: Washington Post

The recent shootings in Tucson have again raised questions regarding what type of gun regulations are most effective in keeping weapons out of the hands of unstable individuals. But the research has never been done. During the mid 1990s, scientists at the National Centers for Injury Control and Prevention, (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) were emphasizing the importance of studying gun-related injuries and deaths as a public health phenomenon. Alarmed by this, NRA allies on Capitol Hill succeeded in enacting an amendment that cut $2.6 million in funding from the CDC's budget: The exact amount it had spent on firearms-related research the previous year. Many scientists at the NCIP have been asked to restrict what they say about guns and gun policy by the CDC. And many feel they must tread carefully when researching, if researching at all, in order to stay in the influential NRA's good graces.
Source: New York Times

The number of shark attacks globally during 2010 was the highest it’s been in a decade. Total attacks reached 79, up 25 percent from 2009, and the highest since 2000, when attacks reached 80 worldwide. An unusual series of attacks in the Red Sea off Egypt’s resort coast last December (four attacks happened in five days) were attributed to two individual sharks, provoked by a combination of factors: sheep dumped into the water off a cargo ship after dying in transit, divers feeding sharks, and unusually high water temperatures. Strangely, the number of attacks in Florida, the shark capital of the world, declined. Florida experienced 13 attacks, down from their yearly average of 23. Experts say this may be because fewer tourists and Floridians are visiting the beaches.
Source: MSNBC

Fifteen to 20 percent of biology teachers in the US explicitly teach creationism in public high schools, and spend an average of an hour of class time presenting it in a positive light. Federal courts have consistently ruled this practice unconstitutional, but according to a national survey of over 900 public high school biology teachers, creationism continues to thrive in the classroom. Only 28 percent of biology teachers follow the National Research Council’s recommendations to present straightforwardly the evidence for evolution, and explain the ways in which it is a unifying theme in all of biology.
Source: New York Times

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