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Humans
1:04 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Put Away The Bell Curve: Most Of Us Aren't 'Average'

Hank Aaron breaks Babe Ruth's record for career home runs as he hits No. 715 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on April 8, 1974, on his way to a career 755 home runs. Research suggests that in a wide variety of professions, including collegiate and professional sports, a small but significant number of individuals perform exceedingly well and the rest of individuals' performance trails off.
AP

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 9:06 pm

For decades, teachers, managers and parents have assumed that the performance of students and employees fits what's known as the bell curve — in most activities, we expect a few people to be very good, a few people to be very bad and most people to be average.

The bell curve powerfully shapes how we think of human performance: If lots of students or employees happen to show up as extreme outliers — they're either very good or very bad — we assume they must represent a skewed sample, because only a few people in a truly random sample are supposed to be outliers.

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Commentary
1:02 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Watching 'The Avengers' In India, With A Twist

In The Avengers, the Hulk lives in Calcutta — and doesn't lose his temper over the city's traffic and other problems. That might not ring true to anyone who's been there, says Sandip Roy.
Marvel

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 8:31 am

When I went to see The Avengers the very day it was released, I texted a friend in San Francisco. It seems kind of unfair, I said, that because of the 12-hour time difference, I get to see The Avengers before you do.

Turns out I was a week off. The Avengers actually released in 39 countries around the world, including India, a week before it opens in America.

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Arts & Life
12:18 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Colorful Visions At African-American Art Exhibit

Gene Young American Art Museum

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 8:50 am

The African-American experience is reflected, right now, on the walls of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. Exuberant dancing in Chicago. Laundry on a line in the nation's capital. A girl smiling out from her father's warm jacket — all captured in photographs, paintings and sculptures from the 1920s through the 1990s.

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The Two-Way
5:27 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

'Zombie' Ants And The Fungus That Saves Them

A zombie ant with the brain-manipulating fungus (Ophiocordyceps unilateralis s.l.) having been castrated by an hyperparasite fungus (white with yellow material).
David Hughes Penn State University

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 5:59 pm

As you can probably tell, at least one person on this blog's masthead likes ants.

So we've always been bummed that we haven't had the opportunity to tell you about zombie ants, but today we are glad to report there is a new development in the field. Luckily, it's a good-news report about a fungus that limits the fungus that turns ants into zombies.

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Europe
4:43 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Investors Flee Spain As Economy Spirals Downward

People attend a demonstration in Madrid organized by unions against financial cuts in health and education on April 29.
Dominique Faget AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 8:44 am

The news keeps getting worse for Spain. This week came word that the country has fallen back into recession. Meanwhile, Spain's unemployment rate is the highest in Europe. Investors are once again fleeing the country and interest rates on government debt are climbing.

The numbers coming out of Spain these days are stark. The economy contracted at a 0.3 percent rate during the first part of this year. Housing prices are down 21 percent from their peak, and unemployment is nearly 25 percent.

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It's All Politics
4:34 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Romney's Praise Of Gingrich Leads Fox Anchor To Call Politics 'Weird, Creepy'

Fox News anchor Shepard Smith provided the sure-to-go-viral moment of the day with some commentary he made after he read aloud a statement issued by the Mitt Romney campaign after Newt Gingrich officially ended his campaign Wednesday for the GOP nomination.

Smith said:

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Law
4:26 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Key Clemens Witness Leaves Prosecutors Scrambling

Andy Pettitte leaves the courthouse after testifying Wednesday in the perjury and obstruction trial of former teammate Roger Clemens in Washington, D.C.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 8:44 am

The prosecution at the perjury trial of baseball great Roger Clemens suffered another major setback Wednesday. One of its key witnesses, pitcher Andy Pettitte, conceded that he may have misunderstood his former teammate as saying he used human growth hormone (HGH).

Clemens is charged with lying to Congress when he testified before a House committee that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.

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The Two-Way
4:12 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

News Corp Board Gives Murdoch Its Vote Of Confidence

Rupert Murdoch, shown above with his son James (left) last July.
Sang Tan AP

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 4:16 pm

A little more than a day after a committee of British parliamentarians said Rupert Murdoch was "not a fit person" to lead a major international company, the board of News Corp. said they still backed Murdoch's leadership.

NPR's David Folkenflik reports that the board issued the statement of suport unanimously.

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Business
3:44 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Home Sweet Mobile Home: Co-Ops Deliver Ownership

Gary Thulin, 70, says he used to dream of financial stability. Now, the New Hampshire co-op resident and mobile home owner says he and his wife could sell their home, pay off the loan they took out on it, and still walk away with $10,000.
Dan Gorenstein for NPR

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 8:44 am

Judy Stoddard, 71, lives in Carver, Mass., but every weekday morning, she picks herself up out of bed and drives to Boston.

"I do the back roads, which gets me there in an hour and 40 minutes," Stoddard says. "I'm exhausted when I get there. I'm exhausted when I come home."

Stoddard drives those back roads for a reason — she can't see out of one eye. But as long as her rent keeps creeping up, she keeps going back to work.

"I can't retire. I want to keep my house. I put a lot of work in this house. I don't want to lose it," she says.

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Education
3:41 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Cal State Faculty On Strike Amid A 'Scary Future'

California Faculty Association Vice President Douglas Domingo-Foraste (right) helps Cal State, Long Beach, professor Mark Sugars vote last month on whether to authorize a strike. The strike was authorized Wednesday.
Damian Dovarganes AP

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 8:44 am

California State University, the nation's largest four-year, public university system, is in trouble. Wednesday, professors authorized a strike over working conditions and pay, and students began a hunger strike demanding a tuition freeze.

The faculty authorization allows for two-day strikes at each of the schools in system, one after the other. A strike date is pending, though, and will only take place if negotiations fail.

This unfolding crisis is the result of massive state cuts in funding that have pushed higher education in California to the breaking point.

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All Tech Considered
3:15 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Explosion In Free Online Classes May Change Course Of Higher Education

It's become much cheaper and easier to offer classes online.
Matjaz Boncina iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 8:44 am

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are teaming up in a $60 million venture to provide classes online for free. The move is the latest by top universities to expand their intellectual reach through the Internet — a trend that is changing higher education.

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Election 2012
3:12 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Before Recall, Wis. Dems Must Choose Walker's Rival

A new poll shows Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett leading among Democrats vying to challenge Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a recall election in June. The Democratic primary is Tuesday.
Dinesh Ramde AP

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 3:33 pm

The political civil war that has gripped Wisconsin since Republican Gov. Scott Walker's 2010 election will intensify next week when Democrats pick a candidate to post up against the governor in a historic recall election in June.

Tuesday's Democratic gubernatorial primary has developed into a two-person race between Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in the GOP landslide of 2010, and former County Executive Kathleen Falk, the favorite of the state's public employee unions.

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Latin America
2:45 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Cuba's New Mantra: Viva Private Business

Two self-employed florists prepare bunches of flowers in Havana last year. The Cuban government is stepping up economic reforms and estimates that in four or five years, nearly half the workforce will be employed in the private sector.
STR AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 4:26 pm

Socialism has been Cuba's official economic policy for more than a half-century, and some 85 percent of the Cuban workforce is employed by the state.

But that is changing fast. Communist authorities say that nearly half of Cuba's economic activity will shift to the private or "non-state" sector in the next four or five years.

Those plans signal a new urgency to Cuban President Raul Castro's economic reforms, and one reason is that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the island's biggest benefactor, is battling cancer and facing re-election in October.

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Europe
2:45 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

In Greek Election Campaign, Anger Trumps Civility

Communist Party of Greece lawmaker Liana Kanelli enters her car after protesters threw yogurt at her as she tried to reach the Greek Parliament on June 29, during a 48-hour general strike in Athens. Such attacks are not uncommon in Greece, where ordinary Greeks' anger over the debt crisis and austerity measures is boiliing over.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 4:26 pm

Greeks will vote Sunday in what is expected to be the most fractious parliamentary election in decades.

People are so divided that no party is expected to get enough votes to form a government. Voters blame politicians for bankrupting the country and then selling it out to international lenders, who forced the government to impose painful austerity measures in exchange for billions of euros in bailout loans.

This election is an early one; the economic crisis forced out the previous elected government led by George Papandreou.

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Middle East
2:40 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

A Syrian Graffiti Artist, Defiant Until Death

Zahra was an anti-government activist and graffiti artist in Syria. He and his friends spray-painted slogans against President Bashar Assad around the suburbs of Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Courtesy of friends of Nour Hatem Zahra

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 8:44 am

They called him "the spray man" for his graffiti that appeared all over the Syrian capital of Damascus. But in truth, 23-year-old Nour Hatem Zahra was an activist like any other activist.

He started protesting in Syria last spring. Back then, the opposition thought it would only take a few months to get rid of President Bashar Assad, as it had in Tunisia and Egypt.

Then Syrian forces started killing protesters, detaining them, torturing them. And the people started fighting back.

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The Salt
2:15 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Lard Is Back In The Larder, But Hold The Health Claims

Could you taste the lard in a freshly-baked crust?
Steven Depolo Flickr.com

What secret ingredient makes the pie crust so crisp and flaky? If you're from the Midwest, you may have guessed: Lard. The pig fat reviled for decades as supremely unhealthy is undergoing a lipid rehabilitation by American chefs and home bakers.

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Law
2:15 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

13 People Charged In Florida A&M Hazing Death

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 4:26 pm

Prosecutors have filed charges against 13 people allegedly involved in the hazing death of Florida A&M University student Robert Champion, authorities said on Wednesday.

Afghanistan
2:14 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

What The Afghanistan Deal Means For U.S. Troops

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 4:26 pm

President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a long-term partnership agreement on Tuesday in Kabul. The deal calls for the U.S. to remain engaged in Afghanistan for another decade, even as U.S. combat troops are withdrawn. Still, there are few details in the agreement. Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and talks to Audie Cornish about the practical implications of the new deal.

Monkey See
2:03 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Studios To Movie Fans: Take Our Clips, Please

Robert Duvall and Al Pacino in a scene from The Godfather Part II.
AP

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 8:44 am

Maybe you needed a good cry, but you were at work and didn't have easy access to your DVD of "The Notebook." So, you searched for that heart wrenching break-up scene on YouTube and let the tears flow freely.

Could be, nostalgic for times past when "real" men wore suits and drank bourbon, you were itching to watch Humphrey Bogart tell Ingrid Bergman, "Here's lookin' at you kid."

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The Two-Way
1:46 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Former NFL Player Junior Seau Is Dead; Possible Suicide

Junior Seau in 2009, when he played with the New England Patriots.
Elsa Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 2:36 pm

San Diego's Union Tribune reports that former NFL linebacker Junior Seau "has died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at his beachfront home."

It adds that:

"Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell said he was notified of the death and is on his way to be with family members."

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The Two-Way
1:42 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

It's Official: Newt Gingrich Bows Out

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 2:31 pm

Saying "I never could have predicted either the low points or the high points," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich just officially suspended his bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

He's been leading up to this for more than a week. Tuesday, he posted a video to say goodbye to his supporters.

Update at 4:30 p.m. ET. Romney On Gingrich:

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Newt Gingrich
1:40 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Gingrich Formally Ends Campaign, 'A Truly Wild Ride'

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich announces he is suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination on May 2 in Arlington, Va.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:06 am

What to say about Newt Gingrich that Newt Gingrich hasn't already said about Newt Gingrich?

Employing his admittedly "grandiose" ideas, Gingrich said all that he could to will his candidacy for president past low expectations. He arguably did, managing to resurrect his political career (at least temporarily), help focus the zeitgeist of conservative voters and even briefly wear the mantle of front-runner.

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Shots - Health Blog
1:14 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

A Step Forward For Gene Therapy To Treat HIV

HIV particles assemble at the surface of a white blood cell called a macrophage.
PLoS Biology

Millions of people around the world are living with HIV, thanks to drug regimens that suppress the virus. Now there's a new push to eliminate HIV from patients' bodies altogether. That would be a true cure.

We're not there yet. But a report in Science Translational Medicine is an encouraging signpost that scientists may be headed in the right direction.

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The Two-Way
12:44 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Student Left And Forgotten In Holding Cell For Five Days Gets Apology

Daniel Chong, a California college senior who "was left alone in a federal holding cell for five days with no food or water," now at least has an apology from the Drug Enforcement Adminstration.

That likely won't make up for having to drink his urine to survive, as Chong spoke of to reporters on Tuesday.

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The Two-Way
12:20 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

13 Face Criminal Charges In Florida A&M Hazing Death

Originally published on Wed May 2, 2012 2:28 pm

Criminal charges have been filed against 13 individuals in the November 2011 death of Florida A&M University drum major Robert Champion, Florida State Attorney Lawson Lamor just announced.

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The Two-Way
11:59 am
Wed May 2, 2012

After Bar Brawl, British Parliament Moves To Limit Members' Drinks

When Parliament is in session, some may be overdoing it.
Dan Kitwood Getty Images
  • Larry Miller reporting from London

Getting into a fight at one of the four bars within the borders of the British Parliament's grounds not only brought House of Commons member Eric Joyce (a Labour MP) unwanted notoriety, it has also led to orders that bartenders and event staff start cutting off obviously intoxicated lawmakers.

Which, of course, would seem like something they already should have known they should do.

As the BBC says:

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The Two-Way
11:57 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Andy Pettitte Says He May Have Misunderstood HGH Conversation With Clemens

Former Major League baseball pitcher Andy Pettitte leaves a Federal Court in Washington on Wednesday.
Haraz N. Ghanbari AP

During a second day of testimony in the perjury trial against All-Star pitcher Roger Clemens, his old teammate Andy Pettitte walked back some of his previous testimony.

Yesterday, Pettitte said that he remembered having a conversation with Clemens in 1999 or 2000 in which Clemens admitted to using human growth hormone.

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Shots - Health Blog
11:33 am
Wed May 2, 2012

In Global Rankings, US Fares Poorly On Premature Births

Premature births are lowest in countries that are green. Red signals those with the worst problems.
March of Dimes

The United States has a higher rate of babies born early — and therefore at greater risk of death or health problems – than more than 125 other countries, including Rwanda, Uzbekistan, China and Latvia, according to a report out today.

About 12 percent of U.S. babies are born at 37 weeks or less, according to the report, which found a worldwide range of as few as 4.1 percent of babies in Belarus to as many as 18 percent in Malawi. Full term is considered 39 weeks.

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The Two-Way
11:05 am
Wed May 2, 2012

There May Never Be An Explanation In Death Of MI6 Agent Found In Locked Bag

Gareth Williams, 31, worked for Britain's secret eavesdropping service GCHQ but was attached to the country's MI6 overseas spy agency.
AP

Gareth Williams was a talented agent for Britain's secretive and renowned foreign intelligence agency. Williams was a codebreaker for MI6, until he was found dead in his apartment.

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The Two-Way
10:37 am
Wed May 2, 2012

NFL Suspends Four Players, One For Full Season, Over Saints' Bounties

Oct. 31, 2010: Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (then of the New Orleans Saints) talks to linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Williams has been suspended from the league indefinitely. Vilma will miss the 2012 season.
Matthew Sharpe Getty Images

Four NFL players tied to the so-called bountygate have now been hit with suspensions by the league. They were part of a scheme in which a New Orleans Saints coach created a bounty system for hits that knocked opponents out of games.

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