FLU OFF THE HANDLE: Are you panicking enough? Here's a roundup of what's new with swine flu:
Joe Biden might want to cover his mouth when he talks as well as when he coughs. The famously loose-lipped VP went on the Today Show and babbled that he wouldn't take subways, airplanes or get into any confined space. His aides and other White House officials quickly tried to unsay what Biden said, emphasizing that you should only cloister yourself if you're feeling sick. Or maybe if you're prone to inciting panic on national TV. (Sources: Boston Globe, New York Daily News)
The flu of the moment, now officially known as 2009 H1N1, is slowly still going viral around the globe, with confirmed cases rising to 331 in 12 countries. All deaths but one are still confined to Mexico, which may have something to do with how quickly people there have sought medical treatment. The United States now has 114 confirmed cases in 12 states, although cases are expected in many other states, too. (Source: New York Times)
Mexico is shutting down parts of its economy for five days in an attempt to quell the virus, even as government officials there say infection and death rates already seem to be flattening out. The CDC feels a little differently, though, privately informing health care officials that the H1N1 virus is "changing a bit," and possibly becoming more serious. (BBC News, CBS News)
But the real question is: Do you have swine flu?
UNNATURAL GAS: Long-simmering worries about the effects of natural-gas drilling in the West's San Juan Basin have come to a head, as three environmental groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management over air pollution in the region. At issue are more than 30,000 acres of land leased for new oil and natural-gas development, which the groups say will result in hundreds of new wells and rampant air pollution. (Source: AP)
EFFICIENCY SHMEFFICIENCY: After originally announcing she would reject 30 percent of Alaska's federal stimulus money, Gov. Sarah Palin has now softened her stance a bit. Now she'll take all the money — all, that is, except $29 million for her state's energy department. She's turning that down because of stipulations that would require Alaska to update its building codes and adopt other energy-efficiency measures. (Source: NY Times)
AS THE WORLD BURNS: When pine trees burn, they release potentially dangerous chemicals called alkaloids into the air, scientists have discovered. Alkaloids are common in nature, and some — caffeine and morphine, for example — are popular with humans. But they can be toxic at high enough doses, capable of altering human DNA. The most alkaloids seem to be produced by cooler, smoldering fires, which forestry officials often set for controlled burns to prevent hotter, more ferocious wildfires. (Sources: Discovery News, Science Daily)
TOODLE-OO, TUVALU: When shopping for domain names on GoDaddy, you're given little nuggets of info about each extension, like ".com" or ".info," explaining what types of websites they're normally used for. BoingBoing recently pointed out that the explanation for ".tv" — which was originally the country domain for the Pacific island of Tuvalu — tells users that "The island of Tuvalu is sinking." While BoingBoing interpreted this as a warning to avoid the domain, Huffington Post's Dave Burdick investigated further and discovered that it's just the opposite; GoDaddy is trying to raise awareness about the plight of the island, which is succumbing to rising sea levels, along with many other low-lying islands around the world. (Source: Huffington Post)
GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH: If you've ever been unclear on what this is, how it forms or why it's a bad thing, this highly Dugg infographic posted on Flickr offers one of the best explanations available. (Source: Flickr via Digg)
DANCING ANIMALS: Some animals are born to dance, scientists have discovered, and their research may shed light on not only humans' moneymaker-shaking ways, but also our ability to speak. By studying two parrots in labs and 1,000 YouTube videos of animals, the researchers found that birds and possibly elephants actually bob and sway along with the tempo of a beat, rather than simply shuffling around like nervous kids at a middle school dance. Not even dogs, cats or chimps can do that, despite all their exposure and/or similarity to humans. What we have in common with birds and elephants, though, is our ability to imitate sounds we hear — integral to our ability to talk. Dolphins, with their big brains and acute hearing tuned for sonar, may be the next species to put on the dance floor, one scientist says, and it's also still too early to rule out great apes. No word yet on polar bears. (Source: AP)
(Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
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