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click to enlarge The number of refugees crossing borders to escape conflict and persecution increased to 11.4 million people in 2007. - FINBARR  O€™REILLY
  • Finbarr O’Reilly
  • The number of refugees crossing borders to escape conflict and persecution increased to 11.4 million people in 2007.

The number of refugees crossing borders to escape conflict and persecution increased to 11.4 million people in 2007, an increase of 1.5 million since 2006, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for more than half of the world’s refugees in 2007. The United Nations said in June that this number could grow due to factors such as climate change and scarce resources. Eighty percent of the refugees remain in developing countries in the immediate vicinity of their own countries.
Source: New York Times

Noise pollution has been proven to be more than a just annoyance; recent studies conducted by the World Health Organization revealed that noise pollution can be detrimental to one’s physical health. Individuals who are subject to daily noise pollution are likely to have higher blood pressure, which puts them at an increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and dementia. Even those who seem unaffected by the noise and remain asleep when a plane flies overhead experience increased blood pressure, as revealed in a sleep study conducted by Imperial College London.

Seventy percent of Americans affiliated with a religion or denomination believe that other faiths beside their own can lead to salvation, according to a survey conducted in 2007 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The telephone survey of more than 35,000 adults also revealed that more than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion, and 70 percent of the unaffiliated believe in God. The survey also confirmed findings from previous studies that most religiously and politically conservative Americans are those who attend worship services most frequently and that for them, the battles against abortion and gay rights remain the key issues in regard to an individual’s salvation.
Source: New York Times

New York City plans to convert 6.9 miles of Manhattan into a car-free park for three Saturdays this month—the least congested of the year in the borough—in the recreational experiment Summer Streets. The idea originated 32 years ago in Bogota, Columbia, in an effort to reduce car exhaust. Business owners have expressed concern that the experiment, which will take place from 7am to 1pm on August 9, 16, and 23, will reduce the flow of customers and hurt sales, and taxi drivers are worried about the inconvenience and reduced number of rides that may result from sealing off major traffic routes from the Brooklyn Bridge to East 72nd Street.
Source: New York Times

June was the deadliest month for US troops in Afghanistan since the war began in late 2001. Twenty-eight US troops died due to roadside bombs, small arms fire, and rocket attacks. As of July 10, a total of 533 US combat deaths have occurred to date in Operation Enduring Freedom. Though summer traditionally brings increased fighting in Afghanistan as the mountainous terrain becomes more passable, experts on the war have noted that the level of violence has been incrementally increasing since 2002. Additionally, a shortage of ground troops in Afghanistan has led the Pentagon to significantly intensify its air campaign in the first half of the year to the highest levels since 2003 to fight the resurgence of the Taliban.
Source: Washington Post and USA Today

The European Union reached an agreement at the end of June to cap emissions from aircraft in an effort to regulate global greenhouse gasses. All airlines arriving or leaving airports in the EU would be required to buy pollution credits beginning in 2012, joining other industrial polluters that trade in the European emissions market. This could mean further fare increases for passengers. American officials warned that the requirements would be illegal under the convention governing international civil aviation, but the proposal still needs the approval of the European Parliament and individual countries before it is made official.
Source: New York Times

Endangered species may be becoming extinct 100 times faster than previously thought. Leading ecologists claim that the methods used to predict when species will die out dramatically underestimate the speed at which some plants and animals will become extinct, as the models fail to include the proportion of males to females in a population, or the success rate of reproduction. If correct, some of the 16,000 endangered species worldwide threatened with extinction could have months instead of years left. An updated list of endangered species is due out from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in October in October.
Source: The Guardian/ UK

Wal-Mart is sourcing more produce sold in its supercenters from local farmers in an effort to offset soaring transportation costs which are increasing food prices. In the past two years, Wal-Mart has increased the number of local US farmers it works with by 50 percent. Fruits and vegetables bought locally—grown and sold in the same state—now account for a fifth of the produce available in Wal-Mart stores.

Hospitals will be required to have codes of conduct and processes for dealing with inappropriate staff by next year, as mandated by Joint Commission, an independent organization that accredits most of the nation’s hospitals. Outbursts and condescending language from doctors toward nurses threaten patient safety and increase the cost of health care, as a nurse is less likely to correct or question a doctor’s actions and diagnoses if he/she is fearful of their superior, according to the safety alert issued by Joint Commission on July 9. Hospitals that fail to create behavioral codes of conduct will risk losing their accreditations.
Source: Los Angeles Times

The US ranks first in the world in consumption of marijuana, cocaine, and tobacco
, according to a new study released in June by the World Health Organization. For this first cross-national drug-use study, more than 54,000 people in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Oceania were surveyed using a standardized methodology. In the US, 73.6 percent of those surveyed admitted to having used tobacco, 42.4 percent admitted to having used marijuana, and 16.2 percent admitted to having used cocaine, far outranking New Zealand, the second highest-ranking country for cocaine with 4.3 percent having admitted to using the drug. Only in alcohol use was the US denied the top spot, taking sixth place. (Ukraine, where 97 percent of those surveyed have admitted to drinking alcohol, was tops.) WHO determined that drug use is more prevalent in wealthier countries and that a country’s drug policies have little impact on use.
Source: Austin Chronicle

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