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facts & arguments

Me? I thought you had it

"A former chairman of the [U.S.]joint chiefs of staff says in a new book that while Bill Clinton was in the White House, a key component of the president's nuclear launch protocol went missing," reports. " 'The codes were actually missing for months. This is a big deal,' says General Hugh Shelton. … In his book Without Hesitation, the retired army general writes, 'Even though movies may show the president wearing these codes around his neck, it's pretty standard that they are safeguarded by one of his aides, but that aide sticks with him like glue.' … What apparently went missing was a card with code numbers on it that allows the president to access a briefcase - called the 'football' and kept by an aide always near the commander-in-chief - containing instructions for launching a nuclear attack."

Go to sleep, bundle

"The joy of a new baby starts wearing a tad thin when the little bundle is still waking three or four times a night at nine months of age," the Los Angeles Times reports. "In fact, your infant may be toying with you. A new study shows that infants have the ability to sleep 'through the night' by three months of age. … [T]e researchers did not collect data on whether the infants were breast-fed or bottle-fed. Typically, breast-fed infants wake up more at night for feedings compared with bottle-fed infants."

Who moved the hive?

"Old bees have trouble finding their way to new hives as their memories fade and their ability to learn decreases, scientists have found. Scientists from Arizona State University and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences examined how aging impacts the ability of honey bees to find their way home," The Daily Telegraph reports. "While bees are typically impressive navigators, able to wend their way home through complex landscapes after visits to flowers far removed from their nests, the study reveals that aging impairs the bees' ability to extinguish the memory of an unsuitable nest site even after the colony has settled in a new home."

Bugs: 98

Percentage of people worldwide who host microscopic mites in the follicles of their eyelashes, eyebrows and nose hairs, where they feast on dead skin cells and oil.

Discover magazine

Bullied: 65

Some 20 per cent to 65 per cent of children worldwide say they suffer from bullying, but that proportion may be higher because school violence is "notoriously under-reported" according to a report from Plan International.

BBC News

Sniffers for hire

"Underneath the mattress isn't going to cut it. Neither will tucking it behind the stack of Twilight books. Not even pushing it deep into the toe of a smelly gym shoe. The dog will find it. And he'll know it's not oregano. A new service in Maryland is promising parents peace of mind by allowing them to essentially rent a drug-sniffing dog, a highly trained canine that will come to their house and, within seconds, detect even the tiniest whiff of narcotics," The Baltimore Sun reports. The service, Dogs Finding Drugs, costs about $200 (U.S.) an hour. The canines can detect marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and prescription drugs with trace amounts of those narcotics, as well as guns and explosives.

How to flip coins

With practice, coin tossers can intentionally get "heads" 68 per cent of the time, Wired magazine reports. Here's how to beat randomness:

- Do the flipping. You need to know which side of the coin starts face-up - you'll be going for a specific number of flips.

- Practice. The trick is to flip the coin the same way every time, with the same force behind your thumb. Too many spins and it's too difficult to repeat; too few and it doesn't look fair. Three or four flips are ideal.

- Be smart. If all else fails or if you're not the flipper, choose the side that starts facing up. The probability of a coin landing as it started is 51 per cent.

Boo to Halloween?

"When you're 7 or 8, dark nights are, in themselves, scary enough to spawn all sorts of imaginings," Walter Rodgers writes for The Christian Science Monitor. "Fears are amplified by clattering columns of dry maple leaves driven by a chilly autumn wind. So why do parents today make things worse by perversely turning what I recall as an innocent children's harvest holiday into a cult of death? … I suspect that American parents who buy some truly frightening Halloween paraphernalia for children simply have not seen enough dead people (Hollywood murders don't count). As a reporter, I covered too many murders and too many wars to find anything funny in death fetes."

Thought du jour

"Power is getting others to do one's will."

Garry Wills (1934-), U.S. author and historian