Recently in National News Category

Gay marriage bill struck down in New York Senate

      After hours of emotional debate, the New York Senate voted down a bill that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state. The 38-24 decision follows last month's popular vote in Maine that reversed lawmakers' decision to allow gay marriage.
      Gay rights proponents had high hopes that New York would become the sixth state to grant them marriage rights, reported. Before today's vote, the Assembly voted yes and Gov. David Paterson promised his signature on the measure.

      The state's Roman Catholic bishops who have been lobbying hard against passage of the bill released a statement calling the decision "a victory for the basic building block of our society," The New York Times wrote.
To see a map of states' current stances on gay rights, click here

Mixed reception to raised mammogram age

       New recommendations say that yearly mammograms for women between ages 40 and 50 are more likely to cause anxiety than prevent breast cancer.

       The guidelines were released Monday by a task force of independent experts, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, appointed by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

       The problem with low-risk women being screened is that false-positives can lead to unnecessary tests, The New York Times said. Mammograms can find imperceptible, slow-growing cancers that a woman would never notice otherwise.

       The recommendations caused investors to question the need for breast-cancer screening products like Selenia, evidenced in low shares Tuesday for the company that produces the detection tool, the Wall Street Journal said.

       Many middle-aged women registered their comments on the New York Times website in response to the guidelines.  Their reactions ranged from relief to skepticism, the latter particularly in those who had personally encountered breast cancer through friends or loved ones.


Perpetrator of D.C. sniper attacks in 2002 executed

       Seven years after the three-week long series of sniper attacks in the D.C. area that left 10 dead, the mastermind, John Allen Muhammad, was executed on Tuesday.
       Muhammad's final appeal was denied by the United States Supreme Court, and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine denied the killer clemency Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.
       Although this could have meant closure for the grieving families, as they watched Muhammed calmly face his sentence, the sniper never revealed his motives, the Associated Press said.
       "There are no winners here. We are not celebrating. It was a sad day for everyone," said Bob Meyers, whose brother Dean H. Meyers was one of the victims, shot at a gas station, The Washington Post said.
       The Post reported that Muhammed deviated from several typical practices of death row inmates: he declined to meet with a spiritual adviser, he asked that the details of his final meal remain private, and he had no final words.
       In the words of J. Wyndal Gordon, one of his attorneys, "He will die with dignity-- dignity to the point of defiance," the Associated Press said.
       Muhammad's accomplice, then 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo, is serving a life sentence without parole.

Asperger's may be re-labeled on new DSM-V

If some medical experts have their way, Asperger's syndrome will disappear from the official medical manual almost as quickly as it became part of it, The New York Times said.

"It is now a widely recognized diagnosis both in popular culture and among health care and educational providers," said the Disability Scoop, an national online publication that serves the developmental disability community. 

In the revised Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) to be released in 2012, the diagnosis would be included under the more inclusive category of autism spectrum disorder, The New York Times said.

Individuals with Asperger's are pictured as having extraordinary vocabularies, and typically a limited concept of social pragmatics and low spacial awareness.

In a 2001 New York Times article, a young girl with Asperger's described a pencil with a bouncy elephant head as "prehensile,"meaning adapted for seizing or grasping, for example.

One benefit of this new labeling system would be to help people qualify for state services since people who have traditional autism qualify for certain benefits that people with Asperger's do not, The New York Times said.


Ethics investigations leaked to public

Unbeknownst to its critics, the House ethics committee has been monitoring dozens of lawmakers for months, following issues such as corporate influence peddling and defense lobbying, The Washington Post said. 

The investigations surfaced after a lower-level employee improperly posted the report on an unprotected, publically accessible computer network, The Washington Post said.

The committee has now publically acknowledged eight of its inquiries, including investigations of House members Maxine Waters and Lara Richardson, two California democrats, The New York Times said.

The ethics committee has previously kept its activities shielded from the public to avoid unduly tarnishing reputations, a practice which has caused watchdog groups to question its effectiveness.

A committee statement released on Thursday said, "No inference to any misconduct can be made from the fact that a matter is simply before the committee," The New York Times said.

20 year anniversary of unsolved abduction

In 1989, Jacob Wetterling, 11, and two others were biking near their home in St. Joseph, Minn. when a masked gunman forced them to lie on the ground, instructing two of the boys to run away.

Jacob was never found.

Patty and Jerry Wetterling, Jacob's parents, have spent the last 20 years resurrecting their son's memory through a campaign against sex offenders that led to groundbreaking legislation in 1994 called the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, USA Today said.

Aaron Larson, one of the two boys with Jacob on the horrific night of his abduction, is still haunted daily by the memory of what happened, The Star Tribune said.

"I think it's shaped his attitude about everything, from how he values everything to how he makes choices," Fran Larson, Aaron's mother, said, according to The Star Tribune.

Patty Wetterling recently finished writing a book called Jacob's Hope, which she is self-publishing, USA Today said.


Republican vote moves health care reform a step forward

     With its 14-9 vote on Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee became the last of five Congressional panels to approve Baucus' health care reform bill, The New York Times said.
     The critical backing came from Republican Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) who deviated from the rest of her party in a move that both surprised and gave momentum to the White House agenda, The New York Times said.
     "My vote today is my vote today," Snowe said. "There are many, many miles to go in this legislative journey."
     The bill progresses next to the full House and Senate to debate the implications of requiring health care for all Americans in a measure that will cost $829 billion in the next decade, The Washington Post said.

     Conservatives worry that even with government subsidies, health care will be unaffordable. Another of their concerns is that the federal government would be overstepping its responsibilities in creating a public insurance option, the Post said.

Obama to address gay rights activists

Obama will speak on Saturday at a Human Rights Campaign dinner, addressing the gay community's concerns that he is not moving forward in his campaign promises to legally legitimize them.

The dinner precedes the National Equity March, a rally expected to draw thousands to the capital on behalf of the gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual, the New York Times said.

Protesters note with particular concern that Obama has not overturned Bush's Defense of Marriage Act nor taken action against the military's ban on openly gay Americans serving, the Los Angeles Times said.

The House did approve a measure on Thursday that expands the definition of hate crimes to include those based on gender, the Washington Post said.

Call for banks to curtail overdraft fees

     The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., lawmakers and the public have increased pressure for banks to reform their assessment of overdraft fees, USA Today said.
     If banks continue at a steady rate, they will bring in a record $43.6 billion in fees charged to customer's checking accounts, mostly for overdrawing, The Wall Street Journal said.

     The Federal Reserve needs to set the standards for how to determine fees, FDIC Chair Sheila Bair said in an interview with USA Today.

     Some analysts warn that restricting bank's fees will make it more difficult for the economy to recover. Banks have been using money from overdrafts to compensate for loans that have been badly affected by the financial crisis, The Wall Street Journal said.

     The two articles referenced above, one from USA Today and one from The Wall Street Journal, present relatively identical information very differently.  The former focuses on the need for banking reform, citing various officials who support systemic changes. The latter quotes more facts and figures with less editorializing and zero assumptions.

     The Wall Street Journal does add a subjective angle in the last few grafs.  It quotes a VP from a smaller bank whose fees have remained stable through the economic crisis. This struck me as a not-so-subtle hint that consumers can always seek a less mainstream option and save money with a little time and effort. Of course, if consumers kept better tabs on their balances (no pun intended), there would be no overdraft activity on which banks could capitalize.  


Terrorism threat apprehended in New York


     Federal investigators have hard evidence: surveillance tapes, laptop records and phone conversations-- not to mention traces of the chemicals used in the 2005 London subway bombings, according to federal court papers filed in New York City last Thursday.
     The main character in this drama is an Afghan man with permanent U.S. residency who happened to train with al-Qaeda in Pakistan in 2008, The Washington Post said.
     That was how Najibullah Zazi learned how to make explosives using acetone and hydrogen peroxide, chemicals he easily purchased at a beauty supply store near Denver last month, The New York Times said.
     The Post points out that such an internal threat has been a long-time concern of intelligence agencies.

     The Times spends the first few grafs of its article giving the unembellished case facts, waiting until graf 12 to reconstruct the compelling storyline leading up to Zazi's Saturday arrest. The rest of the article, however, reads like a crime novel. The Post sprinkles colorful bits of the story throughout its article so it is less organized overall but an interesting read throughout.

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