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While You Were Sleeping 

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Al Franken has won the Minnesota senate race after a certified recount that was completed on January 5. The hotly contested election, which dragged on for almost two and a half months after Election Day, was finally decided by only 225 votes, or .007 percent of the votes cast—.006 percent of the eligible voting population.
Source: New York Times

A study to be published in the next issue of Communication Quarterly suggests that the adolescent viewing of romantic comedies gives an inaccurate view of relationships that might damage relationships in the future. These movies, according to Kimberly Johnson and Bjarne Holmes, the psychologists who led the study, tend to depict relationships as “progressing quickly into something emotionally meaningful and significant. Adolescents [are] using these films as a model on which to base their own behaviors, expecting that in doing so, their relationships will progress in kind, [and] are likely to be left disappointed.” Adolescents are less able to distinguish the difference between reality and the media, and often rely on the media to teach them about romantic relationships against their own limited experiences.
Source: Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy

Animal species have been exposed to more than 100,000 new chemicals since the early 1930s and the European Commission has admitted that 99 percent of them are not adequately regulated. Some of the more disturbing chemicals that have been released include “endocrine disrupters,” which interfere with hormones. These chemicals have feminized male species of animals worldwide and there is new evidence that the trend is affecting humans. Research at the University of Rochester shows that boys born to mothers with raised levels of endocrine disrupters are more likely to have smaller penises and undescended testes. Endocrine disrupters have also caused girls to be born at twice the rate as boys in some heavily polluted areas and caused the sperm counts in males of more the 20 countries to be lowered from 150 million per milliliter to 60 million per milliliter over the last 50 years. Dr. Pete Myers, chief scientist for Environmental Health Services, says that the introduction of these and other chemicals into the environment is leading “to the most rapid pace of evolution in the history of the world.” The Environmental Protection Agency set up programs in 1996 and 1998 to test products with endocrine receptors, but the programs have been yet to be implemented.
Sources: Independent, Dallas Morning News

Chuck E. Cheese family-oriented restaurants are often scenes of altercations involving customers. Law enforcement officials report the number of fights they respond to at Chuck E. Cheese is greater than those in other restaurants and in some bars. Most incidents involve arguments between parents or arguments between children escalating until they involve querulous parents. Seventy percent of the restaurants carry beer and wine, which is said to contribute to the problem. In Milwaukee, armed guards were posted at a Chuck E. Cheese branch to reduce violence.
Source: Wall Street Journal

Although the price of sending a text message through the four major cell-phone carriers has doubled from 2005 to 2008, the cost of a text message has not changed, and in fact costs the carriers basically nothing. The only cost the wireless companies have to incur is for the centralized storage equipment. The messages are carried as part of a control channel, a bandwith reserved for the everyday administration of the wireless network. Text messages are limited to 160 characters, the maximum amount of information that can be carried by the control channel. The Senate antitrust subcommittee investigated the two-fold increase in text message costs after the cell-phone industry consolidated from six major carriers to four during the same period.
Source: New York Times

The last traditional rural village in Singapore is set to be demolished for urban expansion. The enclave, 28 houses on land the size of three football fields, epitomizes how the city-state looked before wide-scale urbanization started in the early 1960s. Since then, the population has tripled, and 90 percent of Singapore now lives in government housing. Singapore now is the second most highly populated country in the world. The country has been so aggressive about its expansion that it has increased its land mass by one third since 1957 by dumping landfill into the surrounding water.
Source: New York Times

As a parting gift, the Bush administration seemed to admit its economic policy of the eight last years had been flawed. In an interview on December 17, President Bush stated that “I’ve abandoned free-market principals to save the free-market system,” when pressed about his announcement to bail out General Motors and Chrysler with a $13.4 billion loan. Earlier in December, Alan Greenspan, whose low interest rates helped push Bush’s free-market policies, admitted that his view of economics was “absolutely, precisely” wrong when questioned about them by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz outside the bailout hearing.
Source: Harpers Weekly,

Venezuela has had to limit the scope of its international aid due to plunging oil prices. The country receives 93 percent of its export revenue from oil, whose price has decreased by two thirds since the summer. One of the first programs on the chopping block is a $100 million annual program that provides discounted oil to 220 Native American tribes in 23 states. The move will increase the cost of heating oil for 200,000 American households.
Source: New York Times

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