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Cultural Commentary

Is the same-sex marriage battle lost?

A same-sex wedding cake topper is seen outside the East Los Angeles County Recorder's Office on Valentine's Day during a news event for National Freedom to Marry Week in Los Angeles, February 14, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/David McNew) "Is gay marriage a reality?  Has the train left the station?"  That's the question I'm being asked more and more as every day seems to bring news of another victory for same-sex marriage supporters.

Last week, leaders of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted during their General Assembly to change their Book of Order to describe marriage as being between "two people."  Their decision opens a path for same-sex marriage in the denomination's 10,000 churches.  Now a majority of the church's 172 regional bodies must approve the decision before it becomes final, a process that may take up to a year.  The body also approved a measure to allow pastors in states where same-sex marriage is legal to officiate such weddings.

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Sitting causes cancer

A man sitting on his couch in his underwear eating a bowl of cereal (Credit: Lisa F Young via Fotolia)You may want to stand up to read this Cultural Commentary.  It turns out people who spend most of their day sitting have an increased risk for certain kinds of malignancies, particularly colon and endometrial cancers.  In fact, those who spend the most hours watching TV have a 54 percent increased risk of colon cancer.  Regular exercise apparently does not offset the risks of too much sitting.

Tony Gwynn was anything but sedentary.  This Hall of Fame baseball player was one of the best hitters and most gracious athletes of his generation.  He died last week at the age of 54, a victim of oral cancer.  More than 40,000 people are diagnosed with this disease each year; only a little more than half will be alive in five years.  Gwynn blamed chewing tobacco for his disease.  After his untimely death, many are calling for a complete ban of tobacco in baseball.

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Are killer robots in our future?

Robots at the USR Factory, awaiting final programming and processing prior to shipment (Credit: Twentieth Century Fox)Today's headlines are dominated by the escalating violence in Iraq, continued civil war in Syria, a suicide bombing in Nigeria, and the early stages of the Boston Bomber's trial.  Meanwhile, here's a story you may have missed: killer robots may be in our future.

Robots are already working alongside humans in factories and warehouses, where they load boxes, drill and weld car parts, and move food from one conveyer belt to another.  But they are about to become far more ubiquitous, from driverless cars to delivery drones.  Robots have already caused at least 33 workplace deaths and injuries in the U.S., and the next generation will have much more autonomy and freedom as they interact with us.  As a result, manufacturers are developing extra protective measures and software designed to keep robots from contacting humans.

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How did O. J. Simpson change the culture?

California Highway Patrol chase Al Cowlings, driving, and O.J. Simpson, hiding in rear of white Bronco (Credit: The Los Angeles Times/Al Schaben) Twenty years ago last Tuesday, 95 million TV viewers (a third of America's population) watched O. J. Simpson flee police in a white Ford Bronco.  The 16-month-long media event that followed transformed news coverage forever.  In those days, CNN was the only 24/7 cable news channel, but Fox News and MSNBC soon followed, as did "reality" television.  A media professor notes that the chase was a "harbinger of an entirely different media landscape. . . . Fifty years ago, what you would've turned away from as outrageous, you turn to as kind of normal and interesting.  And then you can't do without it."

Meanwhile, Actor Harrison Ford reportedly broke his ankle while filming the next Star Wars film.  He rose to global stardom in 1977 as Han Solo in the first movie in the franchise.  Apparently a door from his spaceship, the Millennium Falcon, collapsed and fell on top of him.

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Is President Obama to blame for the current global crises?

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks as he and President Bronislaw Komorowski of Poland hold a news conference after their meeting at Belweder Palace in Warsaw June 3, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque) Three months ago, Russia seized Crimea.  Last Thursday, Russian tanks rolled into eastern Ukraine.  Last Saturday, Russian separatists destroyed a Ukrainian transport jet, killing 49 people.  On Monday, Moscow stopped transporting natural gas to Kiev.  Two months ago, the U.S.-sponsored peace talks between Israel and Palestine failed after the Palestinians announced a unified government that would include Hamas.  Now Israel is blaming Hamas for the kidnapping of three teenagers as tensions continue to escalate.

Meanwhile, militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have captured Mosul, Tikrit, and now Tal Afar.  They are executing mass numbers of Shiites everywhere they go.  The U.S. is considering an alliance with Iran in its attempt to beat back the Sunni insurgency.  However, Iran has been designated as a state sponsor of terrorism and continues to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

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