The Dude of Avon?
"A South African anthropologist has asked permission to open the graves of William Shakespeare and his family to determine, among other things, what killed the Bard and whether his poems and plays may have been composed under the influence of marijuana," says LiveScience. "But while Shakespeare's skeleton could reveal clues about his health and death, the question of the man's drug use depends on the presence of hair, fingernails or toenails in the grave, said Francis Thackeray, the director of the Institute for Human Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, who floated the proposal to the Church of England. Thackeray conducted a study in 2001, which found evidence of marijuana residue on pipe fragments found in Shakespeare's garden. Cannabis was grown in England at the time and was used to make textiles and rope."
Keeping an army cool
"The amount the U.S. military spends annually on air conditioning in Iraq and Afghanistan: $20.2-billion," NPR reports. "That's more than NASA's budget. It's more than BP has paid so far for damage during the Gulf oil spill. It's what the G8 has pledged to help foster new democracies in Egypt and Tunisia. … To power an air conditioner at a remote outpost in land-locked Afghanistan, a gallon of fuel has to be shipped into Karachi, Pakistan, then driven 800 miles over 18 days to Afghanistan on roads that are sometimes little more than 'improved goat trails,' [retired brigadier general Steven] Anderson says. … 'And you've got risks that are associated with moving the fuel almost every mile of the way.' Anderson calculates more than 1,000 troops have died in fuel convoys, which remain prime targets for attack."
Death by hide-and-seek?
For political prisoners in China, "deaths behind bars are not uncommon," says Newsweek. "One advocacy organization, the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group, recently published a list of credulity-defying explanations by officials, including death by 'being handed toilet paper,' by 'playing hide-and-seek' and by 'face-washing.' The autopsy of one inmate, who reportedly died after 'squeezing pimples' on his chest, revealed that a sharp instrument had penetrated his chest and heart. … And a man who supposedly died from 'drinking hot water' last year had had his testicles crushed and his nipples cut off, according to relatives."
Fat cars are deadly
"Like Americans themselves, American cars are getting heavier and heavier every year," Slate reports. "Our new cars are more efficient, with average fuel economy climbing and carbon-dioxide emissions falling over the course of the past 30 years. But that is not because they are lighter. The average new car weighed 3,221 pounds [1,464 kilograms]in 1987 but 4,009 pounds [1,822 kilograms]in 2010. Even small-size sedans have packed on the pounds, thanks to more powerful - if more efficient - engines, as well as features like nicer seats, more safety features and more legroom. We pay a hidden cost for our fat cars. … The heavier the car, the safer it is for the driver and the more dangerous it is for other vehicles and people on the road."
Fat before kindergarten
"A four-year-old lumbered into a Boston pediatric clinic. He walked with a limp," reports CNN. " 'He was carrying so much weight, he displaced his hips,' recalled Dr. Elsie Taveras, co-director of the Obesity Prevention Program at Harvard Medical School. The boy, an extreme example of childhood obesity, carried more than 100 pounds and had a body mass index that was over the 99th percentile for his age group. He is part of a disturbing trend among the youngest Americans. Poor diet, huge portion sizes, lack of physical activity, inadequate sleep and uninformed parents are contributing to larger numbers of overweight or obese young children. … One in five kids (ages 2 to 5) is overweight or obese before entering kindergarten. 'This is not school lunch causing this,' said Dr. Sandeep Gupta, director of the Pediatric Overweight Education and Research program at Indiana University Health. 'They're not in school yet.' Families and adults who take care of children are well-meaning but unintentionally making poor food choices, Gupta said."
"Under the right conditions, local culture can be surprisingly persistent," says The Boston Globe. "A new paper by two economists illustrates just how persistent. Towns in Germany where there were pogroms against Jews during the Black Death of 1348-50 were much more likely to also have experienced pogroms in the 1920s, and were also more likely to have voted for the Nazis in 1928, written anti-Semitic letters to a Nazi newspaper, deported Jews after 1933, and attacked synagogues during the 'Night of Broken Glass' in 1938. These local cultures persisted even though Jews were absent from many of these areas for centuries after the Middle Ages. However, there was little persistence in areas with substantial long-distance trade or population growth." The study is published in the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Thought du jour
"The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory."
Paul Fix (1901-83), U.S. actor