AirTalk for June 24, 2010

Mercer 6149

Betting on welfare

A review of records by the Los Angeles Times has found that welfare recipients are able to use their state-issued debit cards to withdraw cash from ATMs in more than half of the casinos and card rooms in California. The debit card system is thought to be a more efficient way of distributing and tracking welfare benefits, but is cash delivery the best option for recipients? How can the state ensure that welfare payments are used for their intended purpose?
Mercer 8368

California hit by whooping cough epidemic

California is facing the worst whooping cough epidemic in 50 years. Incidence of pertussis is cyclical, with cases peaking every two to five years, and the California Department of Public Health has reported 910 cases this year, quadruple the number reported last year from the same period. The CDPH recommends that children be vaccinated against the highly contagious disease, and that parents, family members, and caregivers of infants get a booster shot. What's behind the increase, and how can whooping cough be prevented and treated?
Mercer 8373
After Pennsylvania native Josh Fox was offered $100,000 to lease his land for natural gas drilling he began investigating an extraction method called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The process pumps large amounts of water underground to fracture rock and release natural gas, and, according to Fox can release toxins into public water supplies. Industry has responded that his claims are unsubstantiated and that the film's most impressive images--homeowners lighting their tap water on fire--weren't shot on fracking-adjacent land. Yet, Fox sees major similarities between the oil drilling and natural gas industries – many natural gas companies have limited safety regulations and no set-in-stone procedure in case of emergencies. How dangerous, and what are the long-lasting effects, of hydraulic fracturing? Who are you more inclined to trust?
Mercer 8372

It costs over $200,000 to raise a child

These days, raising a child does not come cheap. In fact, it costs 22 percent more to raise a kid now than it did in 1960. In a recent study called “Expenditures on Children by Families,” The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that a middle-income, two-parent family that gave birth to a baby in 2009 will spend around $11,650 to $13,530 annually until the child is 17 years old. That amounts to $222,360 in total. But, what’s really behind this increase in cost? Are more parents are choosing to place their children in private schools? And, kids today are peer-pressured into having the newest technological gadgets – leaving indulgent parents with empty pockets. Are there more doting parents now than in 1960? Where are increased child-rearing expenses coming from?
Mercer 8370

Is junk food the new tobacco?

Less fat, less salt, more exercise, limit meat and sweets. So says the USDA committee reviewing the agency's dietary guidelines. Exhaustive research and the use of the newly minted Evidence-Based Nutrition Library has yielded… the same advice we’ve heard for 30 years? Why, then, are Americans fatter than ever? Are we obstinately overweight? Given the serious risks associated with obesity, why has policy lagged so far behind nutritionists’ consistent findings? And, if you replace “junk food” with “tobacco” would lawmakers rigorously regulate?
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