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While You Were Sleeping: April 2014 

A gist of what you may have missed.

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A report by the New York Daily News reveals that clowns are a dying breed. Glen Kohlberger, president of Clowns of American International (an organization acting as a gathering place for amateur to professional clowns), commented on the abrupt decrease in clowns within the past decade: older clowns are passing away and we're left with young people who "go on to high school and college" since "clowning isn't cool anymore." Clown participation has decreased in organizations all throughout the country, along with employment in large-scale circuses. The Daily News also reports that Ringling Brothers Clown College offered jobs to only 11 clowns out of 531 applicants last year, since circus goers have evolved past low brow antics. Perhaps most crippling to the clown cause, the painted faces are also more widely feared than they were in the past. Stephen King's Pennywise and the UK's Northampton Clown, who dressed the part to scare local residents, aren't much help for the future's aspiring clowns.
Source: Independent (UK)

Over the past decade there has been a 43 percent decrease in the obesity rate of two to five-year-old children. Researcher Cynthia L. Ogden for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author of a report to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association states, "This is the first time we've seen any indication of any significant decrease in any group." Though there is no one established cause of this decline, possible reasons could include children consuming less calories from sugary drinks, more women breast feeding, and the influence of families buying lower-calorie foods. Attempts to combat obesity taken on by political advocates like Michelle Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg may be paying off, though scientists remain skeptical. While the new data is welcomed, researchers warn that only time will tell whether this progress will continue.
Source: New York Times

Legislature restrictions forced the last two abortion clinics in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas to shut down, both operated by Whole Woman's Health. Twenty abortion facilities have closed down in Texas from 2011 to this year; the number is expected to drop to six by September. Texas restrictions on the law include that doctors who give abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility, which many hospitals have denied. Whole Woman's Health was accused of unfit medical conditions, state safety violations, and high staff turnover, which the company has denied. Many women now must travel distances up to five hours to seek suitable clinics in Texas, increasing the cost and time needed to get an abortion. Republican lawmaker Rick Perry has stated that he strives to "make abortion, at any stage, a thing of the past." Ms. Davis, a Republican running for Attorney General, claims that getting rid of these health care centers will cause women to suffer, depriving them of lifesaving preventative care, birth control, and cancer screenings.
Source: New York Times

An overwhelming cloud of smog swallowing Beijing, China, caused the country's biggest online face-mask sellers to run out of stock. The World Health Organization's recommended safe limit for the potentially deadly chemicals in smog is 25 micrograms per cubic meter. Beijing's air was recorded officially at a figure of 661, leaving the capital with "choking smog" at the second highest alert on their scale. The air is said to taste "gritty" and citizens can only see a few hundred meters in front of them. Children are being kept indoors during school, while some schools have even been closed down. The pollution is widely blamed on the use of coal burning, climatic factors, and increased car use and economic growth.
Source: Yahoo! News

"Going green" has a new definition: guacamole. Chipotle Mexican Grill threatens to take away the avocado taste-bud pleaser, along with one or more salsas, since global climate change may affect the availability of ingredients, causing an inflation in prices. Chipotle uses an astounding 35.4 million pounds of avocados per year. The California crop is not in immediate danger, but it's expected to become more scarce due to dry future weather conditions, resulting in a 40 percent drop in avocados over the next 32 years. The company's commitment to organic farming makes their avocados all the more vulnerable. Beef and produce prices have already increased within the past year due to drought conditions, taking a toll on Chipotle's funds. The restaurant chain uses local produce grown within 350 miles of its restaurants whenever possible; California would likely be the first to suffer from a guac deficit.
Source: Think Progress

On February 16, 2009, Poughkeepsie resident Charla Nash traveled to the Stamford, Connecticut home of her friend and employer Sandra Herold to help Herold lure her pet chimpanzee inside. Travis, a 200-pound ape, went berserk and ripped off Nash's nose, lips, eyelids, and hands before being shot to death by police. Nash is currently in a Massachusetts convalescent facility awaiting a second attempt at a hand transplant, made a final appeal to Connecticut legislators on March 18 regarding her $150-million dollar lawsuit against the state. Nash, who is blind, contends that the state of Connecticut had the authority and obligation to seize Travis. States are generally immune from lawsuits of this type.
Source: Associated Press

"E-liquids"—the extracted form of nicotine that is the business end of an "e-cigarette"—contain powerful neurotoxins that are causing an increasing number of accidental poisonings, especially among children. The potent liquid nicotine is tinctured with a cocktail of flavorings, colorings, and assorted chemicals to feed the fast-growing, unregulated electronic cigarette industry. Since 2011, there appears to have been one death in the United States, a suicide by an adult who injected nicotine. But less serious cases have led to a surge in calls to poison control centers. Nationwide, the number of cases linked to e-liquids jumped to 1,351 in 2013, a 300-percent increase from 2012, and the number is on pace to double this year. Of the cases in 2013, 365 were referred to hospitals, triple the previous year's number. "It's not a matter of if a child will be seriously poisoned or killed," said Lee Cantrell, director of the San Diego division of the California Poison Control System. "It's a matter of when." The nicotine levels in e-liquids varies. Most range between 1.8 percent and 2.4 percent, concentrations that can cause sickness, but rarely death, in children. But higher concentrations, like 10 percent or even 7.2 percent, are widely available on the Internet. A lethal dose at such levels would take "less than a tablespoon," according to Cantrell, "Not just a kid. One tablespoon could kill an adult," he said.
Source: New York Times

A third of Americans believe that the Food and Drug Administration is "deliberately preventing the public from getting natural cures for cancer and other diseases because of pressure from drug companies," according to a recent study by Eric Oliver, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. The study surveyed 1,300 Americans to see whether they agreed with six popular medical conspiracy theories—such as the link between vaccines and autism, or the belief that water fluoridation is a cover-up to allow companies to dump dangerous chemicals into the environment. According to Oliver's research, about half of Americans agree with at least one medical conspiracy theory. Oliver, who has studied political conspiracy theories, was not surprised by the findings. "These narratives seem like very compelling explanations for complicated situations," Oliver said.
Source: JAMA Internal Medicine

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  • A crisis for clowns, guacamole trouble, choking smog, and more.


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