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While You Were Sleeping: September 2010 

As many as one in 78 American homeowners is facing foreclosure on their property this year, according to Reality Trac, Inc., a foreclosure listing firm. Of the 1.7 million homeowners who received foreclosure-related warnings during the first half of this year, up 8 percent from the number of homeowners who received them in the first half of 2009, more than a million are likely to have their properties foreclosed upon by the end of 2010. Unemployment, slow job growth, and a weak housing market have spread the risk of foreclosures beyond the previously affected top-tier metropolitan areas.
Source: Yahoo! News

World War II, the most expensive war in US history, cost $4.1 trillion in 2010 dollars. The $1.15 trillion tab thus far for post-9/11 war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan comes in second—and the House of Representatives recently approved spending another $59 billion to fund President Obama’s troop-increase plans in Afghanistan. The latest spending provisions include $33.5 billion to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan and other military costs, and $6.2 billion for State Department aid programs in the region. A 2007 estimate by the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could more than double by 2017.
Sources: CNN; BBC News

Adults over age 50 are as much at risk as the young when it comes to consequences from unprotected sex, warns the Health Protection Agency at the International Aids conference in Vienna. According to the HPA, a UK organization that works to protect the public from disease and environmental hazards, 299 people over the age of 50 were diagnosed as HIV-positive in the UK during 2000. In 2007 diagnosed cases within the same population more than doubled, to 710. Though patients who were diagnosed may have contracted the virus earlier in their lives, at least half had been infected recently—suggesting that they had been engaging in unprotected sex. Those over the age of 50 account for only 8 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases.
Source: Guardian (UK)

Cell phones, television, video games, and the Internet are significantly cutting into shut-eye time for many teens. According to the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, teenagers are averaging 2.5 to 3.5 fewer hours of sleep than the nine hours recommended for the age group—and much of this discrepancy comes from technological distractions. Adequate sleep is necessary for long-term memory, learning, attention, and health.
Source: Chicago Tribune

Thirty-two United States soldiers killed themselves in June—the highest number in a single month since Vietnam. No trends can be seen among a unit, camp, post, or station, says Col. Chris Philbrick, head of the Army’s suicide prevention task force, and there’s no answer as to why there has been an increase in the number of soldiers committing suicide. In 2009, a record-breaking year for US military suicides, 245 soldiers killed themselves. The 32 soldiers who committed suicide in June brings the total number of US Army suicides for the first six months of 2010 to 145 soldiers. As a follow-up to their response to the 2009 suicides, the Army released a suicide prevention video, “Shoulder to Shoulder: I Will Never Quit,” which will be incorporated into suicide prevention training for new troops and the yearly training for all soldiers.
Source: CNN

According to the latest annual US National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration’s report, global warming is undeniable and the shifting climate is to blame for much of the extreme weather witnessed in 2009. The past decade has been the hottest on record (reliable record keeping began in the 1880s), with surface air temperatures from more than 7,000 weather stations worldwide reporting increased temperatures. The most recent report marks the first time that scientists have compiled data on numerous climate indicators, including ocean temperature and sea-ice cover, to examine overall climate trends.
Source: National Geographic

Girls are showing signs of puberty at a younger age, reports a study published by the journal Pediatrics. Though the age of first menstruation remains between 12 and 13, the study show that girls as young as seven or eight have started developing breasts. Early puberty may be caused by the additional body fat and sex hormones in overweight girls, but environmental chemicals that mimic estrogen are also believed to play a part. The longer lifetime exposure to estrogen and progesterone that comes with early puberty can slightly increase the risk of breast cancer. The study also shows that, weight considered, Black girls often develop significantly earlier than white and Asian girls.
Source: New York Times

Licensed midwives will soon be able to practice independently in New York State. Professional midwives have been licensed in New York State for decades to provide prenatal care, deliveries, and gynecological care but have been required to do so in conjunction with an obstetrician or hospital. When St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan closed its doors last April, midwives associated with the hospital and its physicians were left unable to practice, due to the termination of their written practice agreements. Hundreds of patients were left without care. The Midwife Reform Bill rescinds the requirement for a written practice agreement. The vote passed through the Assembly with a vote of 95-17, and passed the Senate with a vote of 61-0. Signed into law by Governor Paterson on July 31, New York is the 16th state to allow midwives to practice without signed agreements.
Source: New York State Assembly; Local Care Midwifery

Ebrahim Hamidi, an 18-year-old heterosexual Iranian, is facing execution on false charges of homosexuality. Accused of sexual assault following an arrest two years ago, Hamidi’s accuser has since admitted he lied. In Iran, those convicted of homosexual acts can be lashed, hanged, or stoned to death. Seventy-six nations prosecute people based upon sexual orientation and in seven of those nations, same-sex acts are punishable by death. Comparatively, 53 countries have antidiscrimination laws on sexuality and 26 countries recognize same-sex marriage.
Sources: Guardian (UK); The Independent (UK)

Between 100 and 200 underground fires are burning across the US. Caused by spontaneous coal combustion, lightning, or a single spark, many of these coal fires have been burning for years or even decades. Concealed beneath the ground, these conflagrations are expensive to fight and nearly possible to extinguish, which leaves firefighters few options but to monitor the blaze. An underground fire in Centralia, Pennsylvania, was allowed to burn for 48 years, because extinguishing it would have cost $600 million—in 1983. Though largely unseen and ignored, these fires, according to geologist Anumpa Prakash, harm both our health and the environment. According to geologist Glenn Stracher, surface vents emit at least 40 toxic compounds; including carbon dioxide, methane, and mercury and are estimated to spew 40 tons of mercury and 3 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions each year.
Source: TIME

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