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U.S. Supreme Court to hear gay marriage cases

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The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it will hear two major same-sex marriage cases, marking what some say could be a decisive move in the "defining civil rights issue of our time," the Christian Science Monitor reported.

The two cases center respectively on California's Proposition 8, which struck down the state's legalization of same-sex marriage, and the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to legally-married same-sex couples, the Associated Press reported. According to the Christian Science Monitor, the Supreme Court will likely hear the cases next spring.

Many supporters of same-sex marriage celebrated the news, the New York Times reported. According to the Associated Press, opponents of same-sex marriage were pleased by the announcement.

"We believe that it is significant that the Supreme Court has taken the Prop 8 case. We believe it is a strong signal that the court will reverse the lower courts and uphold Proposition 8," John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, told the Associated Press.

Some supporters of same-sex marriage concerned about what could happen if the court decides that same-sex marriage is not constitutionally protected, the New York Times reported.

"There is no question that it is a risk," California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom told the New York Times. "If they nationalize it and reject it, that's going to take decades to come back to the court."

4 men sue New Jersey gay conversion group

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Four gay men who underwent conversion therapy filed a civil suit against their therapists Tuesday, charging the group with fraud under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, the New York Times reported.

The group, Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing, which is based in Jersey City, is charged with falsely claiming to be able to eliminate homosexual desires in its clients, the Chicago Tribune reported.

JONAH was founded by Arthur Goldberg and Alan Downing. The group -- which, despite its named, is not religiously affiliated -- describes itself as working "directly with those struggling with unwanted same-sex attractions," the New York Times reported.

According to the New York Times, these therapists -- part of a larger group including conservative religious leaders and self-identified "life coaches" -- argue that homosexuality is caused by childhood trauma, such as sexual abuse or parenting issues.

JONAH clients underwent therapy sessions that included removing all their clothes or beating effigies of their mothers, the Chicago Tribune reported. Minimum weekly prices for therapy sessions were $100, with an additional $60 charged for group therapy sessions.

The four men and two of their mothers are being represented by lawyers from the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights group.

"The defendants peddled antigay pseudoscience, defaming gay people as loathsome and deranged," one of the group's lawyers, Sam Wolfe, told the New York Times.

FDA releases injury records for energy drinks

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The Food and Drug Administration released records Thursday about fatality and injury filings tied to three energy drinks, the New York Times reported.

The filings relate to the popular Rockstar Energy, Monster Energy, and 5-Hour Energy. According to the New York Times, the FDA has received 13 fatality reports mentioning 5-Hour Energy, and has confirmed 5 fatality reports on Monster Energy.

Filing an incident report does not mean that a death or injury is necessarily related to a product, the New York Times reported.

An FDA statement said they "must carefully investigate and evaluate all possible causes before deciding whether the product actually caused the medical problem," CBS News reported.

But records used in New York Times reporting show that more than 30 cases related to the drinks since 2009 were "serious or life-threatening," CBS reported. Among symptoms reported to the FDA were convulsions, heart attacks and one case of a spontaneous abortion.

Senators Richard Durbin of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut wrote to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg Thursday requesting a meeting on energy drinks, the New York Times reported.

One third of young Americans are college-educated

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A record one-third of young Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 hold bachelors degrees, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Research Center, the New York Times reported.

The report, which analyzed recent census data, showed that people in that numbers of people in that age group who graduated from high school or completed some college also increased.

According to the report, the economic recession and declines in job opportunities may be responsible for the increases, the New York Times reported. As a result, more Americans may see higher education as necessary.

A 2009 Pew Research survey showed 73 percent of adults thought college education was necessary, in comparison to 49 percent in 1978, USA Today reported.

But the report showed that despite the increases, other nations have still surpassed the United States in college completion rates, USA Today reported.

Study shows suicide rate rose during economic downturn

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Suicide rates in the United States have spiked in the years since the economic downturn, according to a study released Sunday, the New York Times reported.

The study, which was published on the website of the medical journal The Lancet, showed that between 2008 and 2010 the suicide rate increased four times faster than between 1999 and 2007.

According to the New York Times, similar studies in Spain, Italy and Greece have showed similar trends during economic downturns.

In addition to presenting the data, the researchers behind the study said politicians should do more to combat mental health, Reuters reported.

"There is a clear need to implement policies to promote mental health resilience during the ongoing recession," said Aaron Reeves -- a Cambridge professor who led the study -- to Reuters.

New York students will return to school Monday

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New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg called for the city's students to return to school Monday after a week-long break following Hurricane Sandy, the Associated Press reported.

All of the city's 1,700 public schools -- which serve about 1.1 million students -- will re-open Monday, with the exception of 57 that were severely damaged by the storm, the Associated Press reported.

Two of the schools that experienced the most damage were John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, which was damaged by a fire, and Beach Channel High School in Queens, which was flooded, the New York Times reported.

According to the New York Times, students who attended schools that are now damaged will be relocated and some classes may be split up.

Eight school buildings are being used to house people whose homes were damaged in the storm, the New York Times reported. Classes will resume in those buildings.

Preparations underway as Hurricane Sandy nears

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States along the mid-Atlantic coast prepared Sunday for Hurricane Sandy, a potentially life-threatening storm, the New York Times reported.

Public officials ordered schools closed, airlines cancelled flights and Gov. Michael Bloomberg ordered public transportation systems closed and low-lying parts of the city evacuated, the Washington Post reported.

The storm has already hit the Caribbean, killing more than 60 people, the New York Times reported. According to the Washington Post, it will cross eight states and move into Canada and is expected to bring torrential rains and winds of up to 75 mph.

President Obama attended a briefing in Washington with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, according to the New York Times. He said federal officials are "making sure that we've got the best possible response to what is going to be a big and messy system."

According to computer tracking systems, the Washington Post reported, Hurricane Sandy will likely hit U.S. shores between the Delmarva Peninsula and Rhode Island.

14,000 at risk for meningitis from contaminated drug

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About 14,000 people in the United States may have been infected with meningitis after taking a contaminated drug, the New York Times reported.

Of people who used the drug -- a steroid injection used to treat conditions like arthritis and multiple sclerosis -- 282 have been diagnosed with meningitis and 23 have died.

According to the Star Tribune, seven cases have been reported in Minnesota.

The state Health Department has contacted over 120 clinics whose patients might be at risk. Allina Health disclosed that over 600 patients across its clinics and hospitals received the contaminated injections.

The contaminated drugs were manufactured by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. and were shipped to 23 states.

Federal appeals court rules in favor of same-sex unions

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A federal appeals court for New York's Second Circuit ruled Thursday that same-sex couples are entitled to federal benefits, Salon.com reported.

The decision is the second by a federal appeals court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, the New York Times reported. The decision, which was delivered by Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, holds that DOMA violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

According to the New York Times, the case, Windsor v. United States, is the first in which a court has applied heightened scrutiny -- a high level of constitutional protection -- to same-sex unions.

The case was brought by Edith Windsor, who faced $363,053 in federal taxes after inheriting a house from her deceased wife, Thea Clara Spyer, the New York Times reported. The marriage, which took place in Canada in 2007, was not considered a legal union under DOMA -- a consideration that would have eliminated the tax bill.

The case may go to the U.S. Supreme Court in what could be a consideration of the same-sex marriage issue as a whole.

After VP debate, uncertainty on both sides

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Thursday's vice-presidential debate spurred criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, but snap polls show that viewers did not agree on a winner, the New York Times reported.

Current vice president Joe Biden and his opponent, Representative Paul Ryan, contested issues including taxes, job creation and President Barack Obama's foreign policy, the Washington Post reported.

According to the New York Times, Democrats were generally pleased with Biden's performance, while Republicans seized it as an opportunity to ask if the Vice President has come "unhinged."

"His actions just reinforced all of the perceived negatives held by swing voters about him," Keith Madden, a spokesman for Governor Mitt Romney's campaign, told the New York Times. "The interrupting and smirking demonstrated a real lack of composure that folks look for in a vice president."

According to the New York Times, both sides agreed that Biden's demeanor during the debate could affect the outcome of the presidential campaign.

Prior to last week's presidential debate, polls showed Obama holding a strong lead over Romney, the Associated Press reported. The polls now show a tightening margin, with the latest Gallup Poll showing Obama at 48 percent and Romney at 46 percent among registered voters.

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