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While You Were Sleeping 

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A study from the January edition of the New England Journal of Medicine found that US soldiers suffering concussions while in Iraq were more likely to report a wide range of physical and mental symptoms in their first months back home than those with other injuries. Headaches, poor sleep, and balance problems were among some of the symptoms reported. The study also found those soldiers were at higher risk for post-traumatic stress disorder. One in six US troops has suffered a concussion while in Iraq.

Scattered in a half-mile radius, 53 sea lions were found dead with their skulls crushed in on the Galapagos Island of Pinta. No other animals were found killed. Ecuadorean authorities have increased patrols of the island, and have no leads.

Despite a large drop in manufacturing jobs, union membership rose by 311,000, to 15.7 million last year—the biggest rise since 1983. The report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that for the first time Western states had a higher unionization rate than Midwest states and that membership grew most in construction and health services.

President Bush and top members of his administration made at least 935 false statements linking Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with Al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction between 9/11 and the start of the war in March 2003.

In 2007 ExxonMobil posted the largest annual profit by a US company in history: $40.6 billion. Given the high prices for oil at the end of the year, the company also set a record for biggest quarterly profit with a net income of $11.7 billion for the last three months of 2007.

In 2002 Ireland passed a 33-cent-per-bag tax on all plastic bags. Within weeks, plastic bag use had dropped 94 percent. Nearly everyone in the country has converted to shopping with reusable cloth bags. In January about 42 billion plastic bags were used worldwide; most of them were not reused, becoming nonbiodegradable waste in landfills.

About 54 million people have died from malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia, and malnutrition since the beginning of the second Congo war in 1998, according to the International Rescue Committee. Every month about 45,000 people, half of them children, are dying in the Democratic Republic of Congo. UNICEF reported that Congo is one of 11 countries where 20 percent of children die before the age of five.

Studies published in the journal Science show that most biofuels today are causing more greenhouse gas emission than conventional fuels. The studies showed that destroying natural ecosystems to become cropland-supporting biofuels not only releases greenhouse gases when they are burned and cleared, but also deprives the planet of natural sponges to absorb carbon discharge.

Held in place by underwater currents, 100 million tons of garbage is circulating in the ocean like a plastic soup. Covering an area twice the size of the continental US, the world’s largest garbage dump is floating in the Pacific Ocean. The waste was originally discovered in 1997 by oceanographer Charles Moore, who warns that if consumers do not cut back on their use of plastic disposables the garbage could double in size over the next decade.

On February 14, Steven Kazmierczak shot and killed five students at Northern Illinois University before committing suicide. It was the fifth school shooting in a week.

Sources: New York Times, Agence France-Presse, New York Times, Associated Press, Center for Public Integrity, Associated Press, New York Times, Guardian/UK, New York Times, Guardian/UK, Los Angeles Times

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