New Studies Find Violent Video Games Cause Risky Behavior and Increase Happiness
The Florida Medical Association (FMA) has come out against a state constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana. The lobby representing 20,000 physicians in Florida now officially opposes any legalized form of medical cannabis.
On Nov. 4, 2014, Florida voters will consider the ballot initiative known as Amendment 2, which would allow the controlled use of cannabis for certain Florida patients who obtain a valid recommendation from a licensed physician and receive an identification card from the state. According to the Florida Times-Union, the proposed amendment “comes on the heels of the Legislature’s statewide legalization of ‘Charlotte’s Web,’” a strain of marijuana low in the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and high in the non-psychoactive ingredient cannabidiol (CBD), ”that is said to treat childhood seizures without getting the patient high.”
Dr. Alan Pillersdorf, FMA President, released a statement saying: “We believe the unintended consequences of Amendment 2 are serious and numerous enough for us to believe they constitute a public health risk for Floridians. The lack of clear definitions in the amendment would allow health-care providers with absolutely no training in the ordering of controlled substances, to order medical marijuana.” The FMA has concurrently passed a resolution urging that marijuana products be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and that smoking marijuana, even for medical reasons, be completely prohibited.
Legal prostitution may reduce instances of rape and gonorrhea infection, according to a July 2014 working paper issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
A legal loophole effectively decriminalized indoor prostitution in Rhode Island between 2003 and 2009, which gave researchers Scott Cunningham, PhD, and Manisha Shah, PhD, an opportunity to study the possible effects of legal prostitution. Cunningham and Shah found that ”forcible rape offenses” in the state decreased by 31% from 2004 to 2009, which translates to 824 fewer rapes being reported than would have been if prostitution had remained illegal. The study also found that female gonorrhea infections were reduced by 39%, with 1,035 fewer cases occurring. Three different statistical methods resulted in similar results, and Cunningham stated that “we have convinced ourselves that we have done everything we can do rule out alternative explanations.”
The decriminalization of indoor prostitution in Rhode Island can be traced back to a legislative error. In 1980, state lawmakers narrowed the prostitution statute to avoid infringement of First Amendment rights, but in doing do they inadvertently removed the portion of the law that made paying for sex illegal. The statute retained the laws against pimping, street prostitution, and human trafficking. In 2003, police conducted a sting named “Operation Rubdown,” during which women working in two spas offered sex to undercover police in exchange for money. A state district court judge dismissed the case against the women because no existing law had actually been broken. Prostitutes were able to operate legally from then until Nov. 2009, when the prostitution ban was reinstated. Brothels flourished in the state during the period, which gained notoriety for being the only location in the United States, outside several Nevada counties, where prostitution was not outlawed.
On July 16, 2014, California’s death penalty was ruled unconstitutional by US District Judge Cormac J. Carney.
Carney ruled on a petition submitted by death row inmate Ernest Dewayne Jones, who has been on California’s death row for nearly 20 years. He was condemned to death in 1995 after being convicted of raping and murdering his girlfriend’s mother.
In his ruling, Judge Carney called California’s death penalty system “dysfunctional,” and said that systemic delays in carrying out death sentences in California have created a situation whereby “the death sentence carefully and deliberately imposed by the jury has been quietly transformed into one no rational jury or legislature could ever impose: life in prison, with the remote possibility of death.”
The judge went on to argue that “allowing this system to continue to threaten Mr. Jones with the slight possibility of death, almost a generation after he was first sentenced, violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.”
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Natasha Minsker, Director of the ACLU of Northern California, stated that Judge Carney’s ruling was “the first time any judge has ruled systemic delay creates an arbitrary system that serves no legitimate purpose and is therefore unconstitutional.”
The Israeli government blamed the murders on the political militant group Hamas, which has neither denied nor taken public responsibility for the deaths. Shortly after the bodies were found and a funeral held, Guardianreports that three Israelis kidnapped a Palestinian youth named Mohammed Abu Khdeir in West Jerusalem and burned him to death as revenge for the Israeli victims. Within days, militants in Gaza began launching rockets into southern Israel in response to the killing.
Over 100 rockets have struck Israel since July 7, with more being intercepted by the Iron Dome Missile defense system. The rockets have been aimed at population centers such as Tel Aviv, and have gone 100 km (62 miles) north of Gaza to Hadera, marking the farthest into Israel a rocket from Gaza has ever reached. Both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have claimed responsibility for some portion of the rockets. A spokesperson for the Islamic Jihad said “our activity will expand in accordance with the expansion of Israeli aggression,” while Hamas has pledged to avenge the deaths of at least two of its members killed in the Israeli airstrikes thus far.
Israeli air raids into Gaza have targeted up to 400 sites in the first two days, including many locations associated with members of Hamas, according to CBC news. The Israeli government has also approved the mobilization of 40,000 reserve troops, mostly infantry, to be stationed along the border for a possible ground offensive. So far, 23 Gaza residents are reported dead with 122 injured, making this clash the most deadly since Operation Pillar of Defense against Hamas in Gaza in Nov. 2012. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has instructed the IDF to “take the gloves off” and “prepare for a thorough, long, continuous and strong campaign in Gaza.”
Leaders on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have expressed desire to end the violence…
Of the 43 US Presidents, 30 had college degrees and 13 did not. Eight presidents did not attend college; five attended college but did not earn a degree; 20 graduated college with undergraduate degrees; and 10 earned graduate degrees.
Is an American college education worth it?
According to a Nov. 2013 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study, most Americans are not at college-level proficiency in literacy, math, or technology skills—not even the average US college graduate.
In 2011 and 2012, the OECD administered a standardized test, the Programme for International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), to 166,000 adults aged 16-65 in the 24 OECD countries to compare the literacy, math, and technology skills of adults.
The OECD found that 41.77% of Americans hold a bachelor’s degree, lower than the OECD average of 42.01%. The United States ranked 14th out of 23 (the UK and Northern Ireland were tested together) in percentage of 25-34 year olds with “tertiary education.” Korea was first with 61.63%, followed by Canada (57.26%), and Japan (55.84%). Austria ranked last with 20.34%.
On the literacy proficiency portion of the test, the United States ranked 16th of 23 with 11.51% of adults having an “A” level proficiency, or a college graduate level of reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. The average for all 24 countries was 11.79%. Japan ranked first with 22.56% of adults at an “A” level. Italy ranked the lowest with 3.32%.
On the “numeracy proficiency” (math) portion of the test, the United States ranked 21st of 23 with 8.48% of adults showing an “A” level proficiency. 12.42% was the average for OECD countries. Japan (18.85%) ranked first. Spain (4.06%) ranked last.
The third portion of the test was “proficiency in problem solving in technology-rich environments” and measured how adults used technology to get and use information, communicate with others, and perform tasks, or basic computer literacy skills. The United States ranked 14th of 19 with 5.1% displaying “A” level proficiency. Sweden ranked first with 8.8%. Poland ranked last with 3.8%. Cyprus, Spain, Italy, and France did not participate in this portion of the test.
Should All Americans Have the Right (Be Entitled) to Health Care?
The pro gay marriage movement won court victories in Indiana and Utah on June 25, 2014. A federal judge struck down Indiana’s gay marriage ban, and a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that had overturned Utah’s gay marriage ban.
In Indiana, US District Judge Richard Young found that the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the equal protection clause in the US Constitution. Young wrote in his decision that “In time, Americans will look at the marriage of [same-sex] couples… and refer to it simply as a marriage – not a same-sex marriage. These couples, when gender and sexual orientation are taken away, are in all respects like the family down the street. The Constitution demands that we treat them as such.”
The issuing of marriage licenses to same-sex couples began almost immediately in several Indiana counties, while other counties held off on issuing licenses, waiting for further guidance. Marion County Clerk Beth White said in a statement that the judge’s ruling was sufficient: “Judge Young’s decision on marriage equality sets forth a clear course of action for this office to follow regarding same-sex marriage licenses. It is my responsibility to uphold court rulings that impact this office and that is what I will do.” White’s spokesperson, Erin Kelley, reported that hopeful couples arrived at the clerk’s office within ten minutes of the ruling’s announcement. “It has been a whirlwind,” she told the Chicago Tribune.
Prostitution is legal in Brazil, home to the 2014 World Cup tournament, and host to an estimated 600,000 foreign soccer fans visiting the country for the month-long competition.
While paying for sex has been legal in Brazil since at least as early as 2000, pimping and owning brothels are illegal in the country. One estimate puts the number of prostitutes in Brazil at one million in a country of nearly 203 million.
There are said to be around 2,000 prostitutes working in Belo Horizonte (one of the World Cup’s 12 host cities) alone. Belo Horizonte gained notoriety in 2013 when Cida Vieira, chairwoman of Aprosmig, a local prostitutes’ union, said that the city’s prostitutes would accept credit card payments to make transactions more convenient for World Cup attendees. The city gained still more publicity when Laura Maria Do Espirito Santo, a founding member of Aprosmig, came up with the idea of arranging English lessons for prostitutes so they could better cater to English-speaking soccer fans attending the competition. “The language gets you ahead,” remarked Santo. “We are learning the basics. They say there’ll be 200,000 tourists in Belo Horizonte so it makes a lot of sense.”
ProCon.org, America’s largest provider of free pro and con research on controversial issues, has updated and expanded its information on the controversial health topics of abortion, obesity, and prescription drug advertising to consumers.
These three health topics explore the core questions: “Should abortion be legal?,” “Is obesity a disease?,” and “Should prescription drugs be advertised directly to consumers?”
The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday [June 2] proposed a rule designed to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal plants by as much as 30 percent by 2030, compared with 2005 levels…
On May 28, 2014, US District Judge Gregory L. Frost blocked executions from taking place in Ohio until Aug. 15, 2014, while issues surrounding the state’s new lethal injection methods are resolved. Two executions had been scheduled to occur before Aug. 15, with two more planned for later in the year. Judge Frost ordered the state and lawyers representing inmates on death row to “work together” to resolve their dispute over the use of new drug protocols adopted by Ohio in 2013.
Due to shortages of drugs customarily used to carry out thedeath penalty, including pentobarbital (used to anesthetize the inmate) and vecuronium bromide (used to induce paralysis), states have turned to experimental drug combinations. The new procedures have been blamed for botched executions in Ohio and Oklahoma.
During a Jan. 16, 2014 execution at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, witnesses said they saw inmate Dennis McGuire “choke, clench his fists and seemingly struggle against his restraints for more than 10 minutes” before being pronounced dead, according to the Los Angeles Times. McGuire, 53, was given the death penalty for raping and murdering a pregnant woman. On Apr. 29, 2014 at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, Clayton Lockett stayed alive for 43 minutes after the execution’s commencement and at times “struggled violently, groaned and writhed, lifting his shoulders and head from the gurney,” according to the Guardian. Lockett, 38, was convicted of rape and of killing a 19 year-old woman, who was buried alive as Lockett watched.
Today, President Obama announced more than 300 private and public sector commitments to create jobs and cut carbon pollution by advancing solar deployment and energy efficiency. The commitments represent more than 850 megawatts of solar deployed – enough to power nearly 130,000 homes.
A new study of health care benefits in California, published in Health Affairs on May 5, showed that per year 9% of undocumented immigrants in California visited the emergency room versus 12% of uninsured US citizens in California versus 20% of all US-born citizens in California. Immigrants in the country illegally visit a doctor an average of 1.7 times a year, uninsured citizens visit 1.8 times, and insured citizens visit 3.2 times a year.
California is home to over 2.2 million undocumented immigrants, who account for 6.8% of the state’s population and nearly 25% of the state’s uninsured population. The 2010 Affordable Care Act gave the 3.3 million US citizens in California access to healthcare but did not extend those benefits to immigrants in the country illegally.
The study’s authors concluded that this lack of insurance coverage could lead to more advanced disease and, thus, higher public expenditures to treat immigrants in the country illegally who have not used health care services. They also say extending health care coverage to immigrants in the country illegally could benefit the insurance exchange, and reduce the burden on emergency and safety-net providers like emergency rooms and urgent care offices. California State Senator Ricardo Lara has proposed the Health for All Act, which would extend fully-paid Medicaid coverage to immigrants in the country illegally, stating, “This is an issue that has been a concern at many clinics and non-profit hospitals… If we’re going to fully implement the ACA, the conversation has to include this vulnerable population.”