China's burgeoning greens
"Authorities ordered a solar-panel manufacturing plant in eastern China to close after four days of protests by hundreds of villagers who have accused the facility of causing air and water pollution, Chinese media reported Monday," says the Los Angeles Times. "The decision is an indication of the growing power of environmental protesters to sway government policy in China. As many as 500 villagers participated in the protests near Haining, an industrial city of 640,000 in coastal Zhejiang province. … Chinese media have shown a surprising degree of boldness in reporting the incident. Reporters from a Zhejiang television station alleged that factory security guards attacked their production crew and destroyed a video camera. In response, the factory issued an on-air apology to the reporters and promised to fire the security guards, who it said were temporary employees."
"Are you your brother's keeper? Only as much as you look like him, according to a new study," says The Boston Globe. "Among full biological siblings, facial resemblance was associated with greater emotional closeness and willingness to help one's sibling. Similar-looking siblings also reported less conflict the more time they spent growing up with each other, while dissimilar-looking siblings reported more conflict the more time they spent growing up with each other."
When men shrink
"You're not just getting older. You're probably getting shorter, too," The Wall Street Journal says. "Height loss is a natural part of aging – some people start shrinking slightly as early as 30. Losing too much height too rapidly, however, can signal a high risk for hip fractures, spinal fractures and even heart disease, particularly in men, several recent studies have found. 'If you are a female, between the ages of 45 and 65, and you notice you are shrinking, that's pretty usual,' says Marian Hannan, an epidemiologist at Hebrew SeniorLife, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School. 'If you're a man, it may be a warning sign to speak to your health-care provider.' "
As free as the air?
"The atmosphere is worth at least 100 times the value of the global economy, according to John Thornes of the University of Birmingham, U.K.," says the New Scientist. "Thornes based his calculation on the current value of carbon dioxide under the European trading scheme, and says the true worth of the services that air provides is likely to be much higher."
The dangers of a tattoo
"Although sleazy 'scratcher shops' with unskilled artists and dubious safety records are largely a thing of the past, scientists are growing concerned about what's going into tattooed skin, not just how it got there," says the San Francisco Chronicle. "New research has turned up troubling findings about toxic chemicals in tattoo inks, including carcinogens and hormone disrupters. Inks, which are injected into the skin with small needles, have caused allergic rashes, chronic skin reactions, infection and inflammation from sun exposure, said Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington. A study published in July suggested that phthalates and other chemicals may be responsible for some of those problems. That raises questions about more serious, long-term risks such as skin cancer, scientists say. … Recently, the Food and Drug Administration launched new studies to investigate the long-term safety of the inks, including what happens when they break down in the body or interact with light. Research already has shown that tattoo inks migrate into people's lymph nodes."
Cursing over schnapps
"Shoppers in Germany might feel a little embarrassed about asking for 'Ficken' schnapps by name – after all, the drink is named after the German word for 'f---.' But the manufacturer can take solace in the fact that the brand name is now legally protected. [Last week] Germany's Federal Patent Court ruled that the word 'ficken' can be registered as a trademark," Der Spiegel reports. "The German liquor manufacturer EFAG Trade Mark Co. had taken the case to the country's highest patent court after its attempts to get the name of 'Ficken' schnapps registered with the German Patent and Trademark Office had failed. … Following its legal victory, EFAG will now own the 'Ficken' trademark for clothing, mineral water and fruit drinks, as well as alcoholic drinks. In its ruling, the court explained that, although the name is unquestionably in poor taste, it is not 'sexually discriminatory' and does not violate public morals."
"The naming of hurricanes has sometimes been controversial," reports the Chicago Tribune. "In the fifties, lists were adopted with only female names, a practice that some people viewed as sexist. In 1979, male names were added. Further diversity has occurred with inclusion of Spanish and French names. But in 2003, [Democratic]Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), complained about the lack of African-American names on the list."
Thought du jour
"More and more, our life has been governed by specialists who know too little of what lies outside their province to be able to know enough about what takes place within it."
Lewis Mumford (1895-1990), U.S. historian and philosopher