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While You Were Sleeping 

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Prison rates in the US have reached an all time high, with more than one in 100 adults behind bars. The US leads the world in both number and percentage of residents it incarcerates. Due to the tougher state and federal sentencing guidelines imposed since the mid 1980s, some states spend as much as or more on corrections than on higher education.

A University of Hull team in England found that anti depressant drugs like Prozac and Seroxat work no better than a placebo. The number of prescriptions for anti depressants hit an all time high in 2006 in England, but the Hull team’s research showed that the depressed can improve without chemical treatment. The British government is exploring investing more money in alternative treatments for depression, like talk therapy.

More Americans are getting drugs after being exposed to direct-to-consumer advertising for pharmaceuticals. About one-third of Americans asked their doctors about prescription drugs they had seen advertised and 82 percent of those people say their physicians recommended a prescription.

Fish and other wildlife are feeling the effects of antibiotics, hormones, and painkillers that have been flushed down the toilet. But with strict requirements for the disposal of controlled substances, it’s often easier to flush unwanted drugs. In California, San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier created a program where people can drop off their painkillers, sedatives, and other prescription drugs at the police department in refurbished postal collection boxes painted red with biohazard logos. Over 1,800 pounds of pharmaceuticals have been deposited in the county’s 11 drop-off sites over the last year.

As much as 70 percent of America’s $5.4 billion military aid package to Pakistan has been misspent. Since 2002 the US has provided payments for food, fuel, ammunition and maintenance for Pakistan’s over 100,000 troops and about $3.8 billion may have been spent on fighter jets or perks for high-ranking military officials. It is unlikely the cash flow will stop given Pakistan’s importance as an US ally in the war on terror.

India is offering a cash incentive of nearly $3,000 to families who give birth to and raise daughters. Many families there abort female fetuses because daughters require dowries while sons can make money, which has lead to an imbalance in the male-to-female ratio of India’s population.

Hoping to start a baby boom in Turkmenistan, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is rewarding women who give birth to eight or more children with a one time bonus of $25, along with free utilities, public transportation, and dental care for life.

Americans’ credit card debt is now at $900 billion. In 2004 more people went bankrupt than were divorced, diagnosed with cancer, or graduated from college.

In many Western states like Nevada and California, the number of new foreclosure proceedings each month have been greater than the number of homes sold each month. According to RealtyTrac, 153,745 foreclosure notices were sent out across the US in January.

According to a new satellite study, lifeless stretches of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans around the tropics has expanded about 15 percent since 1998. The study’s authors from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Hawaii said that it matches a pattern scientists predicted would occur under global warming.

Sources: Washington Post, BBC News, USA Today, Utne Reader, Guardian UK, New York Times, AP, Columbia Journalism Review, New York Times, New York Times

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