Wednesday, September 10, 2008

News For The Rest

Some tidbits of news to tickle the cerebellum (courtesy of Pronoia Network News):

The world's largest private bank, Citigroup, has agreed to stop financing projects that damage sensitive ecosystems. It has promised to invest more in projects that use renewable energy and to pursue policies that protect indigenous people. How did this impossible dream come to pass? The humble but dogged environmental group, Rainforest Action Network, creatively pestered Citigroup for years until the corporation gave in to its demands.
Researchers at Emory University found that humans are biologically programmed to be nice. Their study used magnetic resonance imaging to scan the brains of women who were playing a game called the Prisoners' Dilemma. While seeking the goal of financial gain, the women could choose between collaborative or self-aggrandizing strategies. Whenever they opted for the former, the parts of their brains correlated with reward-seeking behavior lit up."The longer the women engaged in a cooperative strategy, the more strongly flowed the blood to the pathways of pleasure," wrote Natalie Angier in her account in *The New York Times.*
Current human life expectancy, already at age 78 for Americans, is steadily increasing. Men now live an average of 27 years longer than they did a century ago, and women 31 years. Many scientists believe there is no absolute limit to the human life span. Some expect that by 2070, life expectancy will be 100.
Quoting geneticists, Guy Murchie says we're all family. You have at least a million relatives as close as tenth cousin, and no one on Earth is any farther removed than your 50th cousin. Murchie also describes our kinship through an analysis of how deeply we share the air. With each breath, you take into your body 10 sextillion atoms, and—owing to the wind's ceaseless circulation—over a year's time you have intimate relations with oxygen molecules exhaled by every person alive, as well as by everyone who ever lived. Right now you may be carrying atoms that were once inside the lungs of Malcolm X, Christopher Columbus, Joan of Arc, and Cleopatra. (Source: Guy Murchie, *The Seven Mysteries of Life*)
Canadian moose can now walk in peace and safety all the way to South America, thanks to Harrison Ford. He and other celebrities with wealth and influence quietly worked together for years to purchase land along corridors that connect various wildlife refuges and national parks.Meanwhile, Canadian government officials report that their country, the second largest in the world, plans to create ten giant national parks and five marine conservation areas. The new sanctuaries, when added to the existing 39 national parks, will double the amount of protected land.
Crime committed by teenagers has plummeted to its lowest levels in more than two decades. Drunken teens are still killing themselves while driving cars, but the rate is half what it was 20 years ago. The overall teen death rate from accident, homicide, or suicide dropped 28 percent between 1990 and 2000.In 60 years, there hasn't been a lower birth rate among teenage girls than there is now. The overall dropout rate among American high school students has declined by four percent in the last two decades, with an eight percent improvement among African Americans. Three-fourths of high school students say they get along very well or extremely well with their parents, and only three percent say they don't get along well.
You are a metropolis of 50 trillion citizens, says biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton. Each of the cells in your body can be considered a sentient being in its own right. They all act together as a community, performing an ongoing act of prodigious collaboration.
"The insulted waters of New York City are again sacred passages, as they once were to Native Americans for millennia. Raw sewage no longer pours into vital waterways, and industrial pollution has largely been checked. We are witnessing the ecological resurrection of our rivers and bays, from the return of wood-eating gribbles and shipworms that devour our piers to winter visits by a small seal community. People are coming down to the water again to see rare birds, to kayak and to swim. And responding to an ancient call, they're coming down to the water to pray. Among the worshipers are Hindus, Shintoists, African Americans of the Yoruba-influenced Spiritual Baptist faith, Wiccans, Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews." - Erik Baard, *Village Voice,*
Wal-Mart is famous for the stingy pay and benefits it offers its employees. But another giant chain store, Costco, takes a different approach. Full-time workers there average $15.97 per hour, which is almost 40 percent higher than their Wal-Mart counterparts, who earn $11.52. After four years, a Costco cashier's yearly salary can rise to $44,000. The company also covers 92 percent of most of its workers' health care costs. While the industry-wide turnover rate averages 66 percent, Costco's is just 23 percent.Costco is so unusual in its benevolence that some business gurus disapprove. "From the perspective of investors, Costco's benefits are overly generous," says retail analyst Bill Dreher, quoted in The Wall Street Journal. He thinks that the company's largesse depresses its stock value because investors are afraid its profit margins aren't as high as they could be.But the fact is that Costco is very successful. Its five-year growth rate has been 10.1 percent annually, better than Wal-Mart's 9.8 percent. Its annual earnings were expected to rise from $41.7 billion in 2003 to $47.2 billion in 2004.
Scientists have confirmed what we all knew: You do indeed have a little voice in your head that warns you when you're about to do something dumb. It's called the anterior cingulate cortex, according to white-coated authorities at Carnegie-Mellon University. If you're receptive to it, it's as good as having a guardian angel. "Don't do it," the voice whispers when you're on the verge of locking your keys in your car or leaving the bar with the cute drunk you just met. "Go back," it murmurs as you start to walk away from a huge, though initially inconvenient, opportunity.
Early last century, marauding boll weevils devoured the cotton crop that was the main product of Enterprise, Alabama. Local farmers had no choice but to diversify the plants they grew. As a result, the town's per capita income tripled what it had been when cotton was king. In response, grateful citizens built a huge bronze monument to the insect that had forced them to grow richer.

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