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While You Were Sleeping for December 2015 

click to enlarge Grandpa Woodstock - CHRISTINE ASHBURN
  • Christine Ashburn
  • Grandpa Woodstock

A new excuse for bad behavior: Blame Woodstock. "My childhood was far from normal, and I was exposed to many things a young man my age had no business being around," Stephen Haberstroh, 52, wrote in a recent letter to Brooklyn federal court Judge Edward Korman. Haberstroh, who pleased guilty to growing and distributing more than 600 pounds of marijuana earlier this year and faces up to seven years in prison at his sentencing in the near future, was referring to his childhood in Ulster County's most well-known small town. "He was raised by his mother and father under modest circumstances, during a time of cultural turbulence in Woodstock, New York," his lawyer, Joseph Bondy, wrote to the judge in pushing for probation. "Given the timing and location of Mr. Haberstroh's upbringing, he was exposed to a variety of drugs at an early age."

Source: New York Post

Still dreaming of becoming an astronaut? Good news! NASA is looking for new space travellers for an upcoming series of crewed launchings of rocket launches currently in the planning stages. Job openings will be posted on the federal government's official jobs website, USAJOBS, on December 14. The application deadline will be in February, with the final selection in May 2017. Selected candidates will be joining an exclusive club. Currently, the agency has 47 active astronauts. That is less than one-third the number at the height of the space shuttle program in 2000. Despite the reduction in the number of astronauts at NASA, the last call for applications, in October 2011, solicited more than 6,300 applications. NASA chose eight candidates two years later, an acceptance rate of 0.13 percent. Good luck, would-be space travellers!

Source: New York Times

Growing scientific evidence suggests that getting up and grooving with others has a lot of benefits. A recent study in Biology Letters found that synchronizing with others while dancing raised pain tolerance and also encouraged people to feel closer to others. This could have positive implications for dance movement therapies, which are already showing promising results in the treatment of Parkinson's and dementia. Humans have danced together in groups throughout history. And with a rise in dance activities ranging from Zumba to flash mobs, collective dancing—an activity that involves synchronizing with both the musical beat and fellow dancers—shows no signs of letting up.

Source: Quartz.com

Beck's beer, despite its label stating "Originated in Bremen, Germany," is brewed in St. Louis. In 2013 lawsuit, irate Beck's drinkers told a court they were under the impression that their pilsner of choice was imported from a 130-year-old German brewery, not a domestic made by parent brewer Anheuser-Busch. Anheuser-Busch settled the suit in late September, agreeing to pay $20 million to consumers who got duped into buying a pack as far back as 2011. Consumers with proof they made their purchases in a store qualified for up to $50 per household and Anheuser-Busch was allowed to state this for the settlement website (Becksbeersettlement.com): "Defendant denies Plaintiffs' claims and charges, denies that it has violated any laws, and believes that its labeling, packaging, and marketing of Beck's Beer have always been truthful and not deceptive."

Source: Grubstreet.com

Rural adolescents commit suicide at roughly twice the rate of their urban peers, according to a study published in the May issue of the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Although imbalances between city and country have long persisted, "we weren't expecting that the disparities would be increasing over time," said the study's lead author, Cynthia Fontanella, a psychologist at Ohio State University. "The rates are higher, and the gap is getting wider." Suicide is a threat not just to the young. Rates over all rose 7 percent in metropolitan counties from 2004 to 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In rural counties, the increase was 20 percent. The problem reaches across demographic boundaries, encompassing such groups as older men, Native Americans, and veterans. The sons and daughters of small towns are more likely to serve in the military, and nearly half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans live in rural communities. 

Source: New York Times

Americans love chicken. In the past 50 years, chicken has gone from a seasonal food usually enjoyed in the summer to an ever-present one. Its availability has nearly tripled since 1965, making it the most popular meat in the US. And while many consumers are likely aware that factory farming is unpleasant for the chickens, they may not realize the physical toll it takes on humans. A report from Oxfam America says our cheap birds come at a high price. In "Lives on the Line: The Human Cost of Cheap Chicken" the nonprofit says the $50 billion poultry industry is fueled by low-wage workers—usually earning $10 to $11 an hour—in conditions that Oxfam describes as "cold, humid, and slippery with grease, blood, and water." The report cited statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Occupational Health and Safety Administration showing how dangerous poultry processing jobs are compared to the rest of the American workforce. One telling nugget of info: Poultry workers are more than twice as likely to suffer an amputation as the rest of the workforce.

Source: Oxfam America

In late October, Governor Cuomo announced executive action intended to protect transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, and other areas. Cuomo said he would direct the State Division of Human Rights to issue regulations that extend protections against discrimination found in a 1945 law to cover gender identity, transgender status, and gender dysphoria. The move by Cuomo, a Democrat, follows years of frustration among those who advocate on behalf of transgender people in Albany, where the State Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, has repeatedly passed legislation to address such issues, only to find it stymied in the State Senate, where Republicans are in charge.

Source: New York Times

The Moroccan city of Ouarzazate, known as "Ouallywood" for its film industry connections (many big-budget films from Lawrence of Arabia through The Mummy have been filmed there), is now home to a complex of four linked solar megaplants that, alongside hydro and wind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco's electricity from renewables by 2020. When the complex is complete, it will be the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. The potential for solar power from the desert has been known for decades. In the days after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, the German particle physicist Gerhard Knies calculated that the world's deserts receive enough energy in a few hours to provide for humanity's power needs for a whole year. The challenge, however, has been capturing that energy and transporting it to the population centers where it is required.

Source: The Guardian (UK)

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