Coming Up in CQ Researcher

Heart Health
The shocking death of 58-year-old “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert in June from a sudden heart attack was all-too-common for middle-aged Americans. One in every six heart attacks has sudden death as its first, last and only symptom. Overall, about 40 percent of both women and men die of a heart-related ailment. But there is some good news: The cardiovascular-disease death rate has been dropping. In 1999, the American Heart Association declared a goal of reducing deaths from cardiovascular illnesses by 25 percent by 2010 – a goal that already has been reached. In January, coronary heart-disease death rates were down by 25.8 percent, and stroke deaths were down 24.4 percent. But heart-related health troubles are far from over. Despite steady progress for the past 60 years, sedentary lifestyles and a diet heavy on saturated fats and processed carbohydrates like non-whole-grain flour have taken a toll on Americans’ health. There are now several generations of Americans at risk for cardiovascular disease over the next several decades.
By Marcia Clemmitt

U.S. Border Fence
America is rushing to build 670 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexican border by the end of the year. The fence, or wall, as many along the border call it, is to include 370 miles of fencing intended to stop illegal immigrants on foot and 300 miles of vehicle barriers. The Bush administration is using unprecedented authority granted it by Congress to waive environmental, historic and cultural protection laws to speed construction. No one claims that building physical barriers along roughly a third of America’s 2,000-mile southern border will stem illegal immigration by itself, but supporters believe it is an essential first step in “securing the border,” providing a critical line of defense against illegal migration, drug smugglers and even terrorists. Opponents see it as a multi-billion-dollar waste that will only shift illegal immigrants toward more dangerous and difficult routes into the country, while doing environmental, cultural and economic damage.
By Reed Karaim

Gay Marriage Showdowns
The California Supreme Court gave gay-rights advocates a major victory in May by ruling that the state’s constitution guarantees same-sex couples the same marriage rights as opposite-sex pairs. Thousands of same-sex couples from California and other states – since California does not have a residency requirement – have already taken advantage of the decision to obtain legal recognition for their unions. Opponents, however, have placed on the state’s Nov. 4 ballot a constitutional amendment that would deny marriage rights to same-sex couples by defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Similar proposals are on the ballot in Arizona and Florida. The ballot-box showdowns come as nationwide polls indicate growing support for some legal protection for same-sex couples, but not necessarily marriage equality. In California, early polls showed support for the ballot measure, but more recently it has been trailing. Meanwhile, marriage-equality cases are pending before state high courts in Connecticut and Iowa, with decisions expected soon. Massachusetts became the first state to legally permit gay marriage, in 2004.
By Kenneth Jost