Mississippi is the state with the highest rate of obesity. The state legislature has passed a bill "saying that any law that might restrict what Mississippians eat or drink has to go through them--barring federal regulations," meaning that no one can pass a law restricting any part of Mississippians' diets. Gov. Phil Bryant is likely to quickly sign this bill. Legislators call it the anti-Bloomberg bill, since Michael Bloomberg's attempt to limit sugared drinks was denied by a state judge. Although it may seem controversial, legislators want this bill to be passed because they don't want to government to tell people what they can and can't eat. The FDA is preparing a nation menu labeling law which would require calorie counts on menus and vending machines. The law was approved three years ago, but it has been hard to implement. The new Mississippi law would not require any formal portion sizes or calorie counts on menus.
The $85 billion of automatic sequestration cuts cut federal programs proportionately across the board. Many of the programs including ones with food stamps and vouchers with housing for the poor help low-income Americans. Sequestration was meant to force legislators to negotiate in Congress. Government agencies have 7 months until September to carry out the budget cuts. Needy families may have to be denied financial and other aid. 125,000 families will be at risk for becoming homeless. 100,000 formerly homeless people may be removed from emergency shelters. Administrators are trying to decide how to cut their budgets by 5.1 percent. Adrianne Todman (director of DC Housing) said that people currently in the program will not be put on the streets. Todman plans in deferring maintenance and leaving staff vacancies open. Eventually, she may be forced to furlough employees. More than 40% of the people in the programs nationwide are children or elderly and more than a quarter live with disabilities. Some places have stopped issuing new housing vouchers. These budget cuts mean that less people will get help. WIC, which provides food and baby formula, will face significant cuts. WIC is considers one of the most effective government social programs. Up to 775,000 low-income women and children according to calculations by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Republicans think that the cuts are a necessary part of ameliorating the economy. President Obama thinks that the "sequester's 'brutal' and 'severe' cuts will 'eviscerate' America's domestic spending." The impact of sequestration will hit families disproportionately.
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The Obama administration has ruled that certain health benefits must be offered by most health care providers by next year. 32 million people will be able to gain access to mental health care coverage. The new ruling will provide the insured with coverage for treatment of mental and behavioral disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and even others. Kathleen Sebelius (sec. of health and human services) said that about 30 million people will see improved health care benefits. The White House wants to expand coverage. Previously, about 20% of people did not have mental health coverage and about 33% did not have substance abuse coverage. Sebelius says that consumers will be able to more easily compare health plans. She said, "it is difficult for consumers to make well-informed choices because benefits, deductibles, co-payments, and other features vary widely among competing health plans." Minimum benefits will vary by the states, depending on specific employers. States can even add extra benefits to plans, but the costs will have to be covered by the states themselves. Costs will be limited to consumers in several specific ways. States will be accountable for enforcing the new laws and standards. The federal government will intercede if needed. Under the new rule, dental care and vision services for children will be covered.
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Last May, President Obama announced his support for gay marriage and said that states should individually tackle the issue. In his Inaugural Address, he alluded to taking a more national solution. Obama recognizes that the states are each working on solutions at their own rates. United States v. Windsor is a case that challenges the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act which defined marriage as a union between a man and woman. In history, marriage laws have always been left up to the states. Obama said that the DMA "tried to federalize what has historically been state law." Another case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, will seek to overturn California's Proposition 8 which banned same-sex marriage. Obama said, "Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commute to one another must be equal, as well," in his Inaugural Address.
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The FDA announced today (1/10/13) that is it requiring manufacturers to cut dosages of sleeping pills. Drugs like Ambien and Zolpimist have been proven to leave people groggy in the morning after taking them. This requires all drugs with the active ingredient zolpidem to be taken in lower doses. This regulation will reduce grogginess in the morning and reduce the risk for accidents while on the way to work. Women eliminate this drug more slowly than men do, so their dosages will be lowered be half. Men's dosages will not be reduced as much. 10 to 15 % of women have zolpidem in their systems 8 hours after taking this, while men have only about 3 % in their systems. This regulation has come about by recent tests that show that people remain impaired from taking such sleeping pills. Doctors will only prescribe larger doses if the lower doses do not work.
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In the aftermath of the Newtown massacre, Democrats in Congress have pushed gun control legislation, while Republicans and guns rights activists have silently held their positions. Guns rights have been a controversial issue for many politicians. Many, like John Yarmuth (moderate Democrat from Kentucky), consider this topic "untouchable." The NRA has been uncharacteristically quiet since the shootings on Friday morning. They have not posted to Twitter since Friday, and they are usually active tweeters. For the mean time, Congress will remain focused on the financial crisis. President Obama said that he plans to take action to rescue shootings but did not give a specific plan. Congressmen are aware of how difficult it will be to challenge public opinion's general support of gun's rights. Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said that although no policy can make up for the shootings, congress needs to realize that they aren't doing enough to protect its citizens. One possible solutions would be to limit the amount of rounds per clip or to ban assault rifles, which he says no one hunts with. Another senator from Illinois, Richard Durbin, wants to introduce legislation that would ban the sale and possession of large clips of ammunition and strips that hold more than 10 bullets. Michael Bloomberg of NY held a conference calling out the president for doing too little in respect to guns. Policy experts have noted the stronger support of gun control after the shooting. Senator Lieberman from Connecticut considers our violent popular culture an effect of the growing mental health crisis and the "proliferation of combat-style weapons." Lieberman believes that weapons were created by the military for use in war. He also credits the violence prevalent in the video game and entertainment industry as a contributer to our culture of violence.
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Kathryn Lehman was once an advocate of banning same-sexd marriages. In the 1990’s, she helped write a law that would ban federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Now, Lehman identifies herself as gay. She support a law called “Freedom to Marry,” which would overturn the law that she helped write, called the Defense of Marriage Act. Lehman is a Republican and she intends to break the stereotype that relegates all gays and lesbians as Democrats. Although gay Republicans can be found regularly, Republican lesbians are much more uncommonly known. These members of the Republican party consider themselves Republican for their beliefs in conservatism in government and economic policies. Some gay Republicans fear that they have lost younger generations to the Democratic party because of President Obama’s open embrace of gay marriage. Lehman expresses no remorse for backing the Defense of Marriage Act because she did not consider herself gay during that time period. Many women in the Republican party come out later in life, not because of political ideology, but because of religious, moral, or family values. Some Republican lesbian women even question the validity of same-sex marriages. Republicans have found it increasingly hard to attract younger generations. Overall, gay Republicans face many of the same and additional problems in comparison to straight Republicans.