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A shopper leaves a Gap store in Freeport, Maine.

Pat Wellenbach/Pat Wellenbach/AP

American sameness

"We Americans take fierce pride in our individualism, but you wouldn't know it by looking at our subdivisions and shopping malls," says Miller-McCune. "From Boston to Burbank, we buy the same nationally advertised products at the same chain stores and restaurants, happily embracing conformity as we proudly proclaim our uniqueness. Why does our self-image fail to reflect reality? Researchers led by University of Virginia psychologists Shigehiro Oishi and Felicity Miao offer an intriguing answer. They argue our willingness to move far from home leads us to crave the comfort of sameness in our immediate surroundings. 'Residential mobility, the very factor that allows Americans to pursue their individual desires, ironically facilitates the uniformity of American landscapes,' the researchers write in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology."

Pricey parking spots

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"In some downtowns across the country, a scarcity of parking has driven demand into the stratosphere – even in places where home prices are declining," reports The Wall Street Journal. "In some buildings, parking costs are nearly on par, on a per-square-foot basis, with the apartments themselves. … As prices rise, some luxury-condo owners have purchased parking spots as investments. … In some extreme cases, out-of-the-ordinary parking features have actually driven up prices on condos. A building in Manhattan's Chelsea neighbourhood … features an 'En Suite Sky Garage' – an elevator that brings your car right to your apartment."

Me, my stuff and I

"It's a monument to our acquisitive society – the brightly lit shed on the edge of town offering 'storage solutions,' " says BBC News Magazine. "Society has always had its hoarders. But in the 21st century, people are farming out their junk to the growing number of self-storage facilities. … It's a worry for society. People are using valuable land in prime areas of overcrowded cities like New York and London to build these warehouses, spending money on renting the units and in the process accumulating more and more stuff. … Oliver James, psychologist and author of Affluenza, says that the self-storage phenomenon can be explained by consumerism's effect on how we view ourselves. Our identity has increasingly become associated with products, he argues, and not just the mortgage and the car, but smaller items. … 'You wouldn't want to throw yourself away, would you?' "

Woman v. bear

"A Juneau, Alaska, woman says she knows it was stupid to punch a black bear in the snout to save her dog," Associated Press reports. "But Brooke Collins says the attack happened so fast that all she could think about was keeping her dachshund, Fudge, from being killed. The 22-year-old says as soon as she let her dogs out Sunday, Fudge started barking and she saw the bear carrying him like a salmon. Ms. Collins told the Juneau Empire she did the first thing she thought of and punched the bear's face and scooped away her dog when it let go. The startled bear took off through bushes to a mountain. Fudge suffered some claw and bite marks, but they weren't deep."

Chimps out of labs?

"Scientists, politicians and animal activists are rising up to defend apes," says the New Scientist. "There are nearly 1,000 research chimpanzees in the United States – the only country other than Gabon to conduct medical research on chimps. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is now deciding these chimps' fate. A ban on chimp use may have little long-term human impact. Our closest living relative does not always make the best model for human diseases: rhesus monkeys, for instance, more closely mimic human HIV infections. Chimps are more difficult to care for than other lab animals, and can become socially withdrawn in the lab. Researchers into hepatitis C say chimps are vital to their work as the only lab animals susceptible to the virus. But Alexander Ploss of Rockefeller University in New York told a meeting of the IOM [last month]that 'we are more than halfway' to engineering mice with human livers that may replace chimps."

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Kilimanjaro mystery dog

"A dog has been spotted apparently alive and well at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain," The Telegraph reports. "The rust-coloured animal was seen by a tourist at Uhuru peak, the mountain's highest summit between 5,730 and 5,895 metres above sea level, where temperatures range from minus 4C to 15C. The sighting has baffled scientists who have questioned what motivated the dog to scale such heights and how he could have survived without a proper food source on the desert-like stony plains of the volcanic Tanzanian mountain." A tourist firm's spokesman told Tanzania's Citizen newspaper that a dog was spotted on the mountain 10 years ago. "When the tourists showed us the picture of this dog we could not believe our eyes," he said. "How it survived in such freezing conditions and what it ate during that time remain a mystery to us."

Thought du jour

"Being rich is having money; being wealthy is having time."

- Margaret Bonanno (1950-), U.S. writer

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