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While You Were Sleeping 

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Republican State Senator Don Barrington of Oklahoma has proposed a bill that would prohibit anyone in the state from wearing a hoodie in public. The purpose of the bill is "to make businesses and public places safer by ensuring that people cannot conceal their identities for the purpose of crime or harassment." The law would have a number of exceptions: Hoods would be permitted for "the pranks of children on Halloween"; masquerade parties; while exhibiting "an educational, religious, or historical character"; religious purposes; inclement weather; or during "exhibitions of minstrel troupes, circuses, sporting groups, mascots or other amusements or dramatic shows." The bill would amend a law passed in 1923 that prevented people from wearing hoods, masks, or coverings "during the commission of a crime or for the purpose of coercion, intimidation or harassment," originally meant to discourage Ku Klux Klan activity. According to the New York Times, Sen. Barrington says mask-wearing protesters at the Capitol building prompted the proposed amendment, as well as masked protestors in Ferguson, Missouri.

Sources: Slate, New York Times

A study conducted by researchers at the Free University of Berlin concluded that listening to sad music elicits a positive emotional response. Liila Taruffi and Stefan Koelsch, the authors, found that sad songs elicit a number of positive emotions from listeners, including but not limited to nostalgia (which was the most common response at 76 percent), peacefulness, tenderness, transcendence, wonder, and power. The study participants also reported a number of perceived rewards, the two most popular being "no 'real-life' implications' and "empathy," neither of which can be gained from listening to happy music.

Source: Utne Reader

A study published in The Lancet states that the average global human life expectancy has increased by more than six years to 71 since 1990. The number can be attributed to a decrease in deaths caused by cancer and cardiovascular disease in high-income countries as well as a decrease in diarrhea and neonatal complications in others. There has been a 40.5 percent decrease in deaths caused by communicable, maternal, neonatal, and nutritional diseases, an 18.5 percent decrease in deaths caused by noncommunicable diseases, and a 20.8 percent decrease in deaths caused by injuries in the 188 countries the study covered. The only significant increase in cause of death was from diabetes, urogenital, blood, and endocrine diseases, which increased by 14.5 percent.

Source: Time

In November 2014, wind turbines produced 100 percent of Scotland's domestic electricity, with a 7 percent surplus. Now a report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says a fossil-fuel-free Scotland isn't only feasible, but achievable, by 2030. The report also states that renewable energy is more viable than the current policy goal, which assumes carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology will be fully operational despite the fact that there are zero commercial-scale CCS operations in the UK. Using renewable energy would cost nearly £1.2 less than using a CCS-fitted thermal plant, at £663 million versus £1.85 billion. Currently, electricity production makes up about a third of Scotland's emissions.

Source: Guardian

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly received over half of his campaign funding from just three affluent American families: the Falic, Book, and Schottenstein families, for a total of about $130,000. The Falic family owns the Duty Free Americas airport shops, as well as a number of high-end fashion brands like Perry Ellis, Hard Candy, and Urban Decay. The Book family owns Jet Support Systems, the world's largest independent provider of cost-maintenance programs for turbine-powered aircraft, and the Schottenstein family owns the American Eagle fashion chain. Prime Minister Netanyahu called for a dissolution of Parliament and early elections after firing his finance and justice ministers, claiming recent public criticism of his policies made the country ungovernable. The next elections will be held on March 17.

Sources: Slate, New York Times

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) published a report last month stating that more than 2,200 people die of alcohol poisoning in the United States annually—approximately six per day. The majority of those people are non-Hispanic whites, who made up 68 percent of deaths, while 76 percent of them were male between the ages of 35 and 64. Alcohol poisoning is caused by drinking a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time. The CDC defines binge drinking as any pattern of drinking that raises one's blood alcohol concentration to .08 grams percent or above. This typically occurs when men consume five or more drinks in two hours, four or more for women.

Source: New York Times

A federal judge struck down a law last month that prohibited the sale of foie gras in California for the past two and a half years. Production is still banned statewide, but the sale is once again legal. The controversial French delicacy was banned on the basis that its production was inhumane. Foie gras translates to "fatty liver" in English, and is traditionally produced by force-feeding ducks and geese until their livers swell, a process called "gavage." An opinion piece by Mark Bittman of the New York Times titled "Let Them Eat Foie Gras" contends that while the delicacy is targeted, foie gras is statistically insignificant compared to the nation's chicken broiler industry, in which he estimates that more chickens are killed hourly every day than ducks and geese are killed annually to produce foie gras.

Source: New York Times, Atlantic

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. barred the practice of Equitable Sharing, a civil asset forfeiture program at the Justice Department in which federal law enforcement agencies "adopted" seizures by state and local law enforcement on January 16. The program allowed state and local law enforcement agencies to use federal law to seize cash, cars, and other property while keeping up to 80 percent of the proceeds. According to an analysis conducted by the Washington Post, the proceeds from Equitable Sharing made up 20 percent or more of annual budgets for hundreds of police departments and sheriffs' offices. The analysis also found that police spent the proceeds with "little oversight," purchasing luxury vehicles, weapons, and military-grade gear. Holder said that seizure adoptions will still be employed by local and federal law enforcement, but only when public safety is considered at risk or criminal activity is clearly involved.

Source: Washington Post

A federal appeals court upheld the New York State requirement that New York state public school students be vaccinated before attending on January 7. Three parents in New York City had protested the legislation, saying it violated students’ constitutional rights to religious freedom. The argument was based on the ethical dilemmas associated with using human tissue cells to create vaccines and the beliefs that the body is sacred and shouldn’t receive foreign chemical or biological elements. The New York City Law Department based their decision in the best interest of public health.

Sources: Daily Freeman, New York Times, National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, History of Vaccines

The Obama Administration adopted a new set of rules on New Year's Eve that lessen the burden of low-income patients at nonprofit hospitals. The rules clearly define that nonprofits, which make up 60 percent of the nation's hospitals, must adhere to detailed requirements to qualify for tax-exempt status. The new rules also state that patients eligible for financial aid cannot be charged more than "amounts generally billed" to those who have private or federally funded insurance. There is no specific number assigned to each hospital, which means some may offer free care to anyone below the federal poverty level while others will offer care to those who make more than that $11,670 figure. Some hospitals may provide discounts on a sliding scale for people with incomes thrice that. In addition, nonprofit hospitals will be required to give patients at least 120 days before taking "extraordinary collection actions," which include consulting with debt collection agencies and reporting debts to credit bureaus.

Source: New York Times

Compiled by Kelly Seiz

  • Foie gras, Scottish wind, hoodie bans, and more.

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