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Jiroemon Kimura poses for a photograph in Kyotango City, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, in this handout photograph provided to the media on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. Kimura, a 115-year-old Japanese man born when Queen Victoria still reigned over the British Empire, became the oldest man in recorded history today, according to record keepers.

Kyotango City Hall/Bloomberg

Secret to healthy aging?

"Japan leads the way in healthy aging," says the New Scientist. "At 82.6 years, not only is its citizens' life expectancy the highest in the world, but healthy life expectancy – the number of years spent in good health – is also top. Japanese men can expect to have 79.3 years of good health, for example. That's 10.5 years above the global average. So what's their secret? A recent analysis by Nayu Ikeda at the University of Tokyo and her colleagues found some clues. The Japanese diet is a healthy one and regular health screens are common. … High blood pressure has become the leading cause of loss of healthy life globally, but in Japan blood pressure has been falling. Schemes to increase the availability of antihypertensive medicines and reduce salt consumption appear to have played a role."

Endless music

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"We all know how irritating it can be when you can't get a tune out of your head," says Britain's Mail Online. "But one woman suffers from such vivid audio hallucinations she has to start vacuum cleaning to escape them. Cath Gamester, 84, has musical ear syndrome, which means she hears half a dozen songs on a constant loop as if they are being played in the room. When she first started suffering from the condition in 2010, the pensioner thought a noisy neighbour was to blame. … But although the mixture of Christmas carols, popular tunes and hymns sound incredibly real, they are actually being produced by her brain." The condition is rare, affecting just one in 10,000 people over 65.

Reading in U.S. schools

"Once aimed at helping struggling readers, English language learners and disabled students, graphic novels are moving into honours and college-level advanced placement classrooms [in high schools] and attracting students at all levels," says the Chicago Tribune. "They're listed as reading material for students in the new 'common core' standards being adopted across the [U.S.], even though some naysayers still question their value in the classroom."

"Sex educator and American University adjunct professor Stef Woods didn't see 'mommy porn' when she first heard buzz about the E.L. James erotic romance bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey at a doctor's office, where the receptionists, nurse and doctor were all reading the book," says The Daily Beast. "She saw a potential class topic. Having taught college classes on activism and social media and sexuality and social media, Woods found [the phenomenon] compelling enough to successfully propose 'Contemporary American Culture: The 50 Shades Trilogy,' which she will teach to 25 students starting in January."

A cure for rubbernecking

Britain's Highways Agency has bought more than 3,000 screens to stop English drivers from rubbernecking when passing by accidents, BBC News reports. "The partitions will be put up to deter drivers who slow down to look at crashes on the opposite [side of the road] and therefore slow down the traffic behind. … Each set has 30 screens which are loaded onto purpose-built trailers and can screen up to 75 metres if used end-to-end. The individual screens are approximately 2.1 metres by 2 metres high."

Stolen game character

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"Authorities in Turkey said they are investigating after a college student reported someone hacked his Knight Online game account and stole his character," United Press International reports. "Ahmet Kaya, 18, of Kutahya province said he spent eight years developing his character in the multilayer role-playing game and he eventually decided to put the character up for sale. … The public prosecutor of the Tavsanli district said the case is being investigated on suspicion of 'hindering, spoiling, effacing or modifying of an information system.' "

Thought du jour

"To have his path made clear for him is the aspiration of every human being in our beclouded and tempestuous existence."

Joseph Conrad

author (1857-1924)

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