The Supreme Court ruled eight to one in June that workplace discrimination law was violated in 2008 when Samantha Elauf was denied employment at Abercrombie & Fitch based on her decision to wear a hijab. Elauf was backed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when she sued the company; this is the third time Abercrombie has been sued concerning headscarves. At the time of Elauf's application, the company enforced a strict "look policy" that banned head coverings and hired employees based on attractiveness. The policy has since been adjusted to allow for individual expression, yet Abercrombie still claimed that they did not have to make accommodations for Elauf because she did not request any. The Court ruled that religious needs may be gauged indirectly by employers in relation to company policies, and that prospective employees need not speak of their religion.
Source: Huffington Post
Nebraska is the first conservative state in over 40 years to ban the death penalty, joining Washington, D.C., and 18 other states. Lawmakers voted 30 to 19 in May in favor of the ban on grounds that the death penalty is inefficient and expensive, overriding Republican Governor Pete Ricketts's veto that would keep capital punishment intact. No one has been executed in Nebraska since 1997. It is unclear whether or not the 10 men on death row in Nebraska will be given lethal injections; Governor Ricketts has been adamant about carrying out their sentences. Connecticut, New Mexico, and Maryland are three states that have abolished the death penalty, but only for crimes committed after the repeal was passed.
Sources: New York Times, Journal Star, NPR
Over 40 million chickens and turkeys have died or been slaughtered since December in the largest outbreak of avian flu in the US to date. The H5N2 strain of bird flu is currently a low risk to humans, but precautions are being taken to prevent contamination; it is unclear how fatal this particular strain of bird flu could be to humans. Asian H5N1 flu virus, proven lethal to humans, is the parent of the three strains of avian flu currently found in the US. Health officials have required cullers and barn workers to wear protective gear, and advised all who have come in contact with affected poultry operations to take Tamiflu, a flu preventative. Calamity has wracked the egg industry as a result of the mass poultry massacre; prices of wholesale eggs have doubled since May and prices of eggs have risen in grocery stores. To help soothe worried bakeries and restaurant owners, the USDA has allowed pasteurized eggs to be imported from the Netherlands. Health officials are hopeful that the heat of summer will help kill the H5N2 virus and allow poultry flocks to repopulate.
Sources: New York Times, NPR, USDA
Theft typically represents 1 percent of any retailer's sales. For Wal-Mart, that 1 percent translates to $3 billion in losses from the $300 billion in revenue it pulls in each fiscal year from its 4,555 locations nationwide. Half of the theft problem is associated with food. Greg Foran, head of Wal-Mart's US operations, announced in June that theft and "unknown shrinkage" have been named urgent elements to be handled by the corporation. This "unknown shrinkage" was identified after first-quarter earnings were announced, and it could be the result of mistakes in inventory as well as customer and employee theft.
Sources: Reuters, Time
The Lancet reported in June that the global diabetes rate rose 45 percent from 1990 to 2013, Type 2 being the most prevalent. This rise can be directly correlated to the rise in global obesity rates. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the study, the largest-ever analysis of global disability, which drew on more than 350,000 data sources in 188 countries. Proportions of populations living with any given disorder in a year were calculated to measure the overall burden of disability; it was found that numbers of people living with disability have gone up as a result of population growth and aging. Diabetes, as a share of the overall burden of disability, moved to No. 7 in 2013 from No. 10 in 1990. In China, the prevalence of diabetes rose 56 percent over the period of the study; 71 percent in the US; 60 percent in Saudi Arabia; and 52 percent in Mexico. Saudi Arabia has the most extensive rate of diabetes, with 17,817 cases per 100,000 people in 2013. Globally, rates of communicable diseases such as malaria are declining while rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer are on the rise.
Source: New York Times
Living on a noisy street can be stressful and sleep depriving, and new studies suggest it can be fattening as well. Swedish researchers studied 5,000 people in Stockholm and found that those with the biggest waistlines reside on busy blocks, near airports, or close to train tracks—the heaviest living near all three. It's not only stress eating that contributes to the phenomenon of noise-induced weight gain. Noise pollution also augments the amount of cortisol in the endocrine system, a hormone that stimulates abdominal fat growth. The most the study has to say regarding preventative tips is to "sleep on the quiet side of the house," an option that is likely unavailable to anyone plagued by potentially fattening noise pollution.
Criticism aimed at the Red Cross accuses the organization of using donated funds—a total of $488 million—inefficiently when responding to the debilitating effects of Hurricane Sandy on Haiti in 2010. Critics sifted through memos, e-mails from top officers, and exclusive accounts from a dozen insiders to source their scathing account of the organization's mismanagement of funds. The most shocking discovery: after two project announcements dedicated to building permanent homes in Haiti, the organization's permanent home count settled at a total of six. That number looks even more starkly incongruous when considering that the Red Cross has claimed it has provided homes for over 130,000 Haitians.
Sources: Slate, ProPublica
For those that break out into hot sweats at the mere thought of flying, there's good news. British airways and the Mindfulness Institute have teamed up to provide anxious flyers with a series of meditation videos. The videos are to be shown before a flight while the nervous passenger is still in the terminal, midflight to lull away any surfacing nerves, and just before landing. The videos even incorporate the potentially perspiration-inducing plane noises into the calming exercises. British Airways has also provided an online course titled "Flying with Confidence" to relax panicking passengers before they enter the terminal.
In 2010, the US threw away 133 billion pounds of food. That's 31 percent of the available food supply. That enormous amount of food waste is part of what Trader Joe's former president Doug Rauch says compelled him to launch Daily Table, a new not-for-profit supermarket located in Boston that sells only expired and discarded foods. According to Rauch, plenty of food that is technically expired is still edible. Those little black stamps that mark "best by" dates on food packaging are not food safety dates, they are meant to aid stores in cycling their produce. So food that has passed the date isn't bad—just less fresh. Daily Table sells a slew of heavily discounted food, including a carton of a dozen eggs for 99 cents. Shoppers are reportedly paying just $30 for a week's worth of enough groceries to feed their families.
Sources: USDA, Grubstreet, Dailytable