5 to Know: Sandy Hook anniversary, sports bar deck collapse, potato price-fixing & more

6 months after Newtown ... Deck collapse in Miami ... Cheaper cancer-risk tests on the way ... World population predictions ... Potato-farm price-fixing scheme?

1. 6 months since Sandy Hook: What has changed?

What's the story: Today marks this six-month anniversary of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn. On Dec. 14, 2012, heavily armed Adam Lanza burst into the Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 20 children and six adults. On Thursday, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met with relatives of the victims to thank them for working to convince Congress to enact tougher gun laws. Since that shooting, more than 5,000 other people have died because of gun violence and there have been 11 more school shootings. 

Why you should know: If you really want a look at the lasting effects of the Sandy Hook shootings, read the Washington Post's feature on Mark and Jackie Barden, who have devoted their lives to trying to tighten gun laws after losing their 7-year-old son that day. Has their dedication worked? Well, a USA Today analysis showed that while 86 gun laws have passed since the shootings, the effect has been to both tighten and loosen laws, depending on the state. Arkansas and Mississippi both loosened restrictions, while Connecticut, Maryland and Colorado made it a little more difficult to get guns. On a federal level, the Senate blocked a proposal requiring background checks for gun buyers. On Friday, after a day of remembrance in Newtown, Mayors Against Illegal Guns will begin a 25-state campaign to reignite the support for background-check legislation. Will it work?

 

Get the whole story: 6 months since Sandy Hook: What has changed?


 

Miami bar deck collaspes: Divers search for survivors.AP Photo: Miami Herald, Walter Michot

2. Sports bar's deck collapses, dumps scores into water 

What's the story: Dozens of sports fans at a Miami bar were injured when the bar's deck collapsed into the shallow waters of Florida's Biscayne Bay. Authorities estimate there were about 100 people on the deck watching the Miami Heat play the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals, when the deck went down. Along with rescue workers, bar patrons also jumped into the water to help pull people out. Twenty-four people were sent to local hospitals with injuries, two of them serious. 

Why you should know: Deck and porch collapses are nothing new, but luckily with this one there were no fatalities. One of the worst happened in 2003, when a Chicago porch collapsed during a party, killing 13 people and seriously injuring 57. More recently, five people were injured in Long Island when a second-floor balcony crashed to the ground. So when in doubt, stay inside.

 

Get the whole story: Miami sports bar deck collapses


 

DNA patent court ruling: A technician loads patient samples into a machine for testing.AP Photo: Douglas C. Pizac, File

3. Court ruling means more affordable cancer tests

What's the story: This week the Supreme Court ruled that naturally occurring genetic material cannot be patented, which means that testing for the genes that put women at greater risk for breast and ovarian cancers may go from about $3,000 to as low as $99. Up until this ruling, a company called Myriad Genetics had held patents on the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, which make women more susceptible to breast and ovarian cancers. So if you wanted to get tested, insurance companies often didn't cover the steep price, which many women couldn't afford on their own. Dr. Harry Ostrer of New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine was enthused about the possibilities of this ruling saving women's lives. He told a reporter, "If we had really cheap testing, say $99 testing, we wouldn't have to wait until someone had breast cancer or ovarian cancer in the family, we could just tell them, 'You're at risk.'"

Why you should know: When Angelina Jolie came out and said she'd had a double mastectomy after genetic testing showed she had an 87 percent chance of developing breast cancer, one of the main takeaways was that her wealth may have saved her life. Jolie wrote, "It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women." Hopefully, that sometimes insurmountable sum will become a distant memory in the fight against cancer.

Get the whole story: Court ruling means cheaper cancer-risk tests on the way


 

Global population: A main street in Cairo, Egypt.Reuters: Asma Waguih

4. How many humans can one planet hold?

What's the story: The United Nations forecasts that the world's population will increase from 7.2 billion today to 8.1 billion in 2025. Most of this growth will happen in developing countries — more than half in Africa. By 2050, the Earth's population will reach 9.6 billion. Most of the increases are happening in developing countries, where population is predicted to increase from 5.9 billion in 2013 to 8.2 billion in 2050. Meanwhile, in developed areas like Europe and parts of eastern Asia, fertility rates are low and populations are aging rapidly. World life expectancy has risen from 47 in the early 1950s to 69 in 2010. By 2095 it's expected to hit 82. Who's going to take care of all the geezers?

Why you should know: While predicting population trends is an uncertain science, we are definitely adding people to the planet at a steady clip. How will we feed all these new humans? Will we need to outsource farming to other planets? Is there enough oil to fuel all the cars some of them will be wealthy enough to drive? Will our air be clean enough to breathe? Will global warming cause the poles to melt and drown our land masses? Or will we run out of water entirely? So many people, so many questions!

Get the whole story: World to have 8.1 billion people in 12 years


 

Potato price-fixing lawsuit: Potatoes are harvested at a farm west of Idaho Falls, Idaho.AP Photo: Post Register, Robert Bower

5.Potato farm price-fixing scheme?

What's the story: The Kansas-based Associated Wholesale Grocers has filed a suit against United Potato Growers of America and two dozen other farming groups, claiming America's potato farmers are running an illegal price-fixing cartel, driving up spud prices by enforcing strict limits on how many tubers they can grow. Lest you think this is just a bunch of Podunk foodies fighting amongst themselves, the suit accuses the UPGA of using high-tech helpers like "satellite imagery, fly-overs, GPS systems, and other methods to enforce its agreement to reduce potato supply." The potato farmers object to this suit, contending the UPGA is shielded by a 1922 federal law that under some circumstances exempts agricultural cooperatives from antitrust regulations.

Why you should know: Potato salad. Baked potatoes. Mashed potatoes. Potato au gratin. FRENCH FRIES! Is there anything more delicious than a properly prepared potato? No. No, there isn't. Potatoes are the most popular vegetable in the U.S., so if there is price-fixing and gouging going on, this may be tantamount to treason. What do you think? Weigh in on our Facebook page!

Get the whole story: Potato farm price-fixing scheme?

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