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While You Were Sleeping: November 2012 

The gist of what you may have missed.

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An antijihad ad created by Pamela Geller, executive director of the American Freedom Defense Initiative and publisher of a blog called Atlas Shrugs, went up in 10 subway stations across Manhattan near the end of September. The ad reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” It went up after a court victory by a conservative commentator who once headed a campaign against an Islamic center near the World Trade Center. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York initially refused to run the ad, but a federal judge ruled that it is protected speech under the First Amendment. The subway ad cost Geller about $6,000, and the MTA said they would stay up for a month. Recently, the ad also appeared on San Francisco city buses.
Source: Seattle Times

According to the first study that compares medical records for vaccinated and unvaccinated girls, shots that protect against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) do not result in increased sexual activity. The findings dispel the myth that getting the shots encourages promiscuity—a concern often expressed by parents. The study, which involved nearly 1,400 14-to-15-year-old girls enrolled in a Kaiser Permanente health plan in Atlanta, examined up to three years of records showing whether they sought pregnancy tests, chlamydia tests, or birth control counseling. The study found no difference in rates of these sexual activity markers between girls who got the shots at age 11 or 12 and unvaccinated girls. HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend the series of three HPV shots for girls and boys at age 11 or 12.
Source: CBS News

Thousands of people have lost jobs on Wall Street over the past two years. Now, annual compensation for those who still work in the financial district is at a near-record level according to a New York State comptroller report that uses data largely from 2011. Firms have been cutting jobs rather than compensation costs to keep their employment positions competitive and to attract the best talent. Nearly half of all revenue on Wall Street goes to paying workers—total compensation rising four percent from last year to more than $60 billion. This number does not account for year-end bonuses, which can easily account for more than half of a Wall Street professional’s total compensation. While pay remains high, it has declined since the 2008 financial crisis. Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd C. Blankfein made $68.5 million in 2007, and $12 million in 2011.
Source: New York Times

There is less pressure to wear helmets in international bike-share systems, and many opt out of the safety precaution. Many researchers agree that the pressure to wear helmets discourages people from getting on a bike at all. This leads to higher rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes in places that take a hard stance against riding without a helmet, like the US. A helmet-enforcing bike-share program in Melbourne sees about 150 rides a day, while Dublin, where the terrain and climate are rougher but helmets are not mandatory, has more than 5,000 rides daily. European researchers argue that focus should be turned to safer bike lanes and riding conditions. Despite 21 cyclist fatalities last year, Mayor Bloomberg’s administration has rejected calls for a mandatory helmet law for New York’s 10,000-cycle bike-share program scheduled to begin next year.
Source: New York Times

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill in September legalizing autonomous vehicles on the state’s roadways. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the law allows Google to test out its self-driving car in the state if there is a licensed driver in the driver’s seat, paving the way for manufacturers to begin selling autonomous cars by January 2015. Questions circulate regarding the legalization, including what happens when a self-driving car gets pulled over or causes an accident. Or, how would an autonomous car react if faced with a choice between hitting either a shopping cart or a stroller?
Source: Slate

Fourteen New York City high schools are distributing birth control and Plan B (also known as the morning after pill). The Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health Care program has been operating the pilot program since January, and more than 1,000 students have been served so far. Parents were given the option to opt out, but only two percent of students have been excluded at their parent’s request. The school district is looking to expand the program to include injectable birth control. Though school nurses need a doctor’s permission to give out pain killers like Tylenol or Advil, students are guaranteed access to contraceptive pills.
Source: Public Radio International

A study published in September that was conducted by a team of researchers at Hiroshima University found that people did more productive work after seeing pictures of baby animals. Nearly 50 university students were asked to perform a simple task in three different scenarios: after viewing pictures of adult cats and dogs, after viewing photographs of appetizing food, and after viewing images of kittens and puppies. The last option caused the highest rise in productivity.
Source: Mother Jones

A test conducted in 2007 by the Ohio Secretary of State found that all five voting systems used in Ohio, a state whose electoral votes narrowly swung two elections toward George W. Bush, have critical flaws that could undermine the integrity of the voting process. Teams were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines at polling stations, and introduce malignant software into servers at boards of election. Reports showed that Hart InterCivic was one of the companies that made easily corrupted voting machines and central servers. One of Hart InterCivic's owners, HIG Capital, is the 11th largest of all the contributors to Mitt Romney's campaign; and Solamere Capital, the investment firm run by Romney's son Tagg, shared business interests with the investment fund.
Sources: New York Times; Forbes

According to an epidemiological study published in October in the Journal of the American Medical Association, cholesterol levels have dramatically improved over the last two decades. High levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol) and low levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol) can significantly increase the risk of heart disease. Public health officials have recommended eliminating trans-fatty acids and cutting back on unhealthy foods. Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering statin, is the bestselling drug in history. The study used three surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted from consisting of questionnaires about health behaviors and medication as well as cholesterol tests from thousands of participants. The average total cholesterol levels, including all age groups, sexes, and ethnicities, dropped from 206 to 203 to 196, with levels of LDL dropping and HDL rising. The authors of the study do not credit the cholesterol drop to people losing weight, exercising more, or eating fewer foods with fatty acids.
Source: Los Angeles Times

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