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While You Were Sleeping: March 2012 

The gist of what you may have missed.

click to enlarge NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION
  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

On February 1, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced its decision to designate the Atlantic Sturgeon population as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. A large number of sturgeon migrate to the Hudson River to spawn. Increased protection for sturgeon is a result of the ongoing destruction of billions of fish in the Hudson River near Indian Point, general pollution of the river, and invasive species like zebra mussels. Impending threats on the species also include the proposed reconstruction of the Tappan Zee Bridge and toxic waste disposal associated with gas drilling. The Atlantic sturgeon are among 26 species within the Acipenseridae family of the oldest fish on Earth. The NOAA said the Hudson River population of sturgeon is currently around 870 adults, compared to between 6,000 and 7,000 in the late 19th century.

Source: Asbury Park Press

According to the second annual Singles in America study by Match.com, a majority of singles age 21 and over said that they are uncertain about tying the knot. Only 12.7 percent of singles are actively seeking a relationship, while 21.3 percent report they don't have time or prefer to stay unattached. A little less than half are not actively looking for a relationship but say that if they met the right person they would consider it, and 16.9 percent are dating someone. Another 2.2 percent like to play the field. Bella DePaulo, a visiting professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who studies singles and wasn't involved in the survey, said the findings support her belief that many embrace the option of staying single."It smashes probably the most pervasive myth about single people, that what they want most is to escape being single," DePaulo said.

Source: USA Today

The US government has more than doubled its secret list of suspected terrorists who are not permitted to fly to or within the United States. The list, which includes over 500 Americans, grew by 10,000 names in the past year, increasing the total to about 21,000. The new surge of names came after the failed bombing of a Detroit-bound jetliner on Christmas Day 2009 when the standards for being added to the list were lowered. Nusrat Choudhury, a staff attorney working at the ACLU's national security project, said that the expanding list means that more citizens' rights are being violated, as the government will not inform those on the list of their restrictions, making them unable to defend themselves. "It's a secret list, and the government puts people on it without any explanation. Citizens have been stranded abroad," Choudhury said.

Source: Associated Press

Recent tests on Catskill bird species have found disturbing levels of mercury. Methylmercury, the most toxic of heavy metals, is released when coal is burned in power plants. According to the study, "Hidden Risk," conducted by the Biodiversity Research Institute, songbirds and bats suffer from the same mercury effects as humans do, particularly children. The new study proved high levels of mercury have been found in native Northeastern birds such as rusty blackbirds, salt marsh sparrows, and wood thrushes, as well as little brown bats. Gaseous mercury from mining can travel hundreds of miles and settle back in the earth where it is consumed by worms and bugs who feed on the forest ground litter, the birds then ingest the insects, and as a result, are exposed to the mercury. Contamination has caused erratic behavior in birds, with species vocalizing less and abandoning their nests.

Source: New York Times

Reporters Without Borders released its 10th annual Press Freedom Index for 2011-12 on February 3. "Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: The absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them," Reporters Without Borders revealed in their statement. According to the index, Syria, Bahrain, and Yemen received the worst ever rankings. The US ranking fell dramatically in the past year, from 20th to 47th, due to the targeting of journalists covering the Occupy Wall Street movement. The year's index found the same groups of countries at its head, including Finland, Norway, and the Netherlands.

Sources: Reporters Without Borders, Huffington Post

Three Tibetan livestock herders set themselves on fire to protest political and religious oppression by the Chinese authorities. The incident took place February 3 in a remote village in Sichuan Province, bringing the total number of self-immolations of ethnic Tibetans in China over the past year to 19. One of the three men was killed instantly, while the other two, aged 60 and 30, were left severely injured. Tensions were raised, amplifying the turmoil among ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan Province, as Chinese authorities have blocked off monasteries and adopted other aggressive measures, such as cutting off Internet and phone use. Local officials denied that any new self-immolations had occurred and the only issue was the lack of Internet access. The prior self-immolations all involved monks.

Source: New York Times

The achievement gap between rich and poor students has grown significantly, analyses of long-term data by sociologists at universities across the US revealed. Recent data have shown that the gap between the performance of white and black students has narrowed, yet it has worsened between income brackets. Meredith Phillips from the University of California, Los Angeles, used survey data to show that by the time high income students begin their schooling they have spent about 400 more hours in literacy activities than poor children. The balance of college completion between low- and high-income families has also grown—studies show 50 percent since the 1980s. All research was conducted between 2007 and 2008, before the impact from the recession was fully felt, and therefore it is expected that the gap has widened even more.

Source: New York Times

According to a Poughkeepsie Journal analysis of 467 taser reports from 19 police agencies, the number of stun-gun incidents has tripled from 2006 to 2010 in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Police forces aren't required to report stun-gun policies, use, injuries, or even deaths to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, and there were no cases found in which supervisors challenged an officer's use of their taser. According to the the New York Civil Liberties Union, about a dozen people have died in New York after being tased.

Sources: Wall Street Journal, Poughkeepsie Journal

Activists affiliated with the Tea Party are protesting against local and statewide efforts to conserve energy and constrict development, as they believe it is a conspiracy lead by the UN aiming to deny property rights and herd citizens toward cities. The challenges date to 1992, when the UN passed Agenda 21, a resolution that was designed to encourage nations to use fewer resources and conserve open land by developing in already dense regions. The protests have gained momentum in the past two years with the emergence of the Tea Party movement and the group's suspicions about government power and belief that global warming is a hoax. ICLEI: Local Governments for Sustainability USA, a nonprofit based in Oakland, CA, that sells software and offers advice to communities looking to reduce their carbon footprints, is a major target of the movement. On the campaign trail, Newt Gingrich has showed his support and lashed out against Agenda 21.

Source: New York Times

—Compiled by Molly Lindsay

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  • Atlantic sturgeon declared endangered, US drops in Press Freedom Index, and more.

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