HIV Travel Ban Persists Abroad

Just a handful of nations persist in banning visits by HIV-positive foreigners, following President Barack Obama’s decision to lift the travel ban in the United States. Ki-moon, is working to end discrimination against those infected with HIV around the world—and in his home nation. South Korea has deported 521 foreigners diagnosed with HIV since 2008, and requires foreign residents to take HIV tests annually, as well as if they want to extend a work or residency permit.

Regulators Swipe at Electronic Cigarettes

Smokeless electronic cigarettes may win converts, following new Centers for Disease Control evidence that secondhand smoke can raise the risk of heart disease by up to 30 percent in nonsmokers. The devices are battery operated, and dispense with burning tobacco; instead, users inhale a nicotine-infused vapor as the tip of the e-cigarette glows with a small red light. Proponents say that hit of nicotine doesn’t have the same health risks, especially for non-users. E-cigarettes have no odor and produce no smoke from combustion, which means e-smokers can get around smoking bans in public places. But no smoke doesn’t mean no fire.

Zap! The Other Side of Video Game Violence

As legislators around the world try to rein in video game violence, a new spate of research is finding a flip side to all the virtual carnage. In the United States, warlike videogames are being used, with initially positive results, to treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Advocates say that video games help veterans, many of whom are already experienced gamers, overcome their doubts about psychotherapy and confront shocking events, reports American Medical News. One such game, “Virtual Iraq,” which takes its lead from the consumer video game “Full Spectrum Warrior,” can be tailored to meet a particular patient’s experience, by recreating the specifics of a traumatic event — even down to sounds and smell. But don’t violent video games spur violence?

Across the Heartland, U.S. Military Suicides Spike

From Ohio to Texas, newspapers around the United States are running local stories on a surge in suicides and trauma involving members of the U.S. military. The Cleveland Plain Dealer is looking at the apparent suicide of Army Pvt. Keiffer Wilhelm. At Fort Hood, in Texas, multiple soldiers have committed suicide every year since the Iraq war began, the Austin American Statesman reports. The Indianapolis Star did a four-part series in September that detailed how Sgt.

Homeless Gain Further Hate Crime Protections

Homeless people are gradually being included in hate crimes laws, as the number of fatal attacks on the homeless remains steady even as overall attacks decline. Last November, tracked reports of sometimes deadly attacks on homeless people around the nation, and noted both skepticism about claims of a trend in hate crimes, as well as new protections against such attacks. At the state level, these included emerging regulations in Florida, California, Massachusetts, Alaska, Ohio and Washington. Now, other states are starting to give homeless individuals the same legal status afforded other groups protected by hate-crime legislation, according to recent reports in the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times. In May, Maryland became the first to take action, when a Republican lawmaker added homelessness to a hate-crimes bill — to illustrate what he thought was the absurdity of assigning certain groups protected-class status.

Overweight and Undernourished in America

Obesity among young people is a growing problem in the United States — and so is malnutrition, according to two new studies that look at how children eat, and how they don’t. In 30 states, nearly one out of every three children is obese or overweight, according to a study released July 1 by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study finds similar concerns and rates for U.S. adults. On the same day, another report was made public with a different set of numbers — in 13 states, one out of every five children under the age of five go hungry. That report, released by the nonprofit Feeding America, documents the impact of hunger not just on the child, but on the whole nation.

No Pregnant Pause

Teen pregnancies are in the pop spotlight, from the Oscar-winning film “Juno” (right) to MTV’s new reality show “16 and Pregnant.” Talk about reality: More than 750,000 U.S. teens will become pregnant in 2009, while globally the number reaches 14 million. Photo: Handout

Teenage Sex: No Pregnant Pause

Teen pregnancies are in the spotlight, from Sarah Palin’s unwed daughter Bristol in magazines and on TV with her baby in her arms, to 2007’s Academy Award-winning film “Juno,” and MTV’s new reality show “16 and Pregnant.” Talk about reality: This year in the United States, more than 750,000 teenagers will become pregnant, according to a report in Women’s E-News, while the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed the teen pregnancy rate increased by three percent in 2006 — the first such U.S. increase in 14 years. The United States has the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the developed world — 14 times higher than Japan, and twice that of Australia and Canada, according to the World Health Organization. Globally, WHO notes that more than 14 million teenage girls have babies each year — most in developing countries. Though it does not attribute its statistics, the Christian advocacy Web site notes that teen pregnancy rates in Latin America and Africa are double — and in some cases even quadruple — those of the United States.

Can Superfund Weather Climate Change?

Global warming coupled with funding shortages are hurting efforts to clean up the most dangerous waste sites in the United States, activists say. A study by the nonprofit Center for Health, Environment and Justice found that extreme weather conditions like hurricanes and tornadoes, which may be related to climate change, are causing more damage at toxic waste sites. Advocates say that if Congress does not renew “polluter pay” fees, which ended in 1995, Superfund will remain short on cash, and the problem will only get worse. In Colorado, The Monte Vista Journal reports that the Summitville Superfund site is underfunded, and that polluted water leaking from a mining facility there affects a river used for agriculture, livestock and recreation. –Ronnie Lovler/
“Global Warming hits SLV”
The Monte Vista Journal, March 26, 2009
“Superfund Report”
The Center for Health, Environment and Justice, March 19, 2009

Herbicides Come to Southwest Border Fight

In an effort to fight illegal immigration, the United States Border Patrol plans to spray a chemical herbicide on tall plants near the Texas-Mexico border. The Carrizo cane is an invasive plant that grows up to 30 feet high and provides a cover for illegal border crossers, thieves and smugglers, according to the Houston Chronicle. Helicopters will spray the plants “until all plant life in the area is poisoned.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Border Patrol say the herbicide imazapyr is safe for animals, but critics say the chemical’s safety is questionable and could threaten the water supply of towns near the river. Government agents asked Nuevo Laredo’s water utility to turn off their water pumps before the spraying, reports El Paso’s Newspaper Tree.