A growing epidemic

Photo: Flickr/awrose

Americans are larger than ever before. Two-thirds of U.S. adults and nearly one-third of children and teenagers are currently obese or overweight.

The annual “F as in Fat” report, released this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health, reveals that there were no decreases in obesity rates in any of the 50 U.S. states in 2010.

An obese person is defined as having a body mass index, or BMI of more than 30, which translates to about 30 pounds of excess weight on a 5’4” adult. Overweight adults have a BMI of 25 to 29.9.

The report’s findings continue recent trends. Twenty years ago, not one state had an obesity rate of more than 15 percent. Four years ago, only one state had an obesity rate of more than 30 percent. In 2010, 38 states reported obesity rates above 25 percent, and 12 over 30 percent. Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1980.
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News of the World will shut down

Copies of Britain's News of the World from Thursday Aug. 3, 2006. Photo: AP/Martin Cleaver

Update: The Guardian reports that Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor and former director of communications to Prime Minister David Cameron, will be arrested tomorrow as part of an investigation delving into his role in the cellphone hacking scandal.

In the wake of a cellphone-hacking scandal, in which News of the World reporters hacked voice mails of murder and  July 7, 2005, terror victims — and possibly the families of dead soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan — the beleaguered tabloid will shut down, The Guardian reported Thursday.

“Having consulted senior colleagues, I have decided that we must take further decisive action with respect to the paper. This Sunday will be the last issue of the News of the World,” said James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son and deputy chief operating officer of News Corporation and chairman of News International, in a statement (pdf).

The 168-year-old paper’s last issue will run without advertisements this weekend. Murdoch has indicated that advertising space in this Sunday’s edition will be donated to charity — “charities that wish to expose their good works to our millions of readers,” said Murdoch in the statement.
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Is Detroit the new Brooklyn?

Detroit's crumbling Packard plant. Photo: Flickr/Thomas Hawk

Last weekend, the New York Times featured a story in its Style section about the onslaught of hip, young urban pioneers streaming into downtown Detroit. These “creatives,” as they are being called, are taking advantage of low rents and the opportunity to recycle this abandoned, blank slate of an urban landscape into something new and exciting. There are restaurateurs and entrepreneurs of all stripes living alongside environmentalists and urban farmers.  The city, according to the Times, seems like “a giant candy store for young college graduates wanting to be their own bosses.” One woman said that there’s a cool party just about every evening.  The article pointed out that even though recent census figures show that Detroit’s overall population shrank by 25 percent in the last 10 years, downtown Detroit experienced a 59 percent increase in the number of college-educated residents under the age of 35.

No doubt this is partly a word-of-mouth, grass-roots “movement.”  But behind the scene, millions of public, private and foundation dollars are greasing the wheels. Last April, Blueprint America profiled an effort called Live Midtown, an incentive program created to lure some of the 30,000 employees of midtown’s major anchor institutions (Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Health System) to move from the suburbs back into the city. By the end of June, 178 people were reported to have taken advantage of deep discounts on rent ($2,500 the first year and $1,000 the second) or purchases ($20,000 toward the purchase of their primary residence). We also looked at an effort by the mayor’s office to use federal stimulus money to lure members of Detroit’s police force out of the ’burbs and back into town.

And more incentives are on the way. Dan Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, for instance, is one of the city’s biggest boosters.  He calls his revitalization effort “Detroit 2.0” and seems to be putting his money (more than $100 million by some estimates) where his mouth is. Gilbert recently moved Quicken Loans’ headquarters (and the 2,000 employees who worked there) out of a nearby suburb into downtown Detroit.  And he’s in the process of buying four historic buildings which he plans to fill with tech and web-based companies, some of which will no doubt come from Bizdom U, an “entrepreneurial boot camp” Gilbert started several years ago. Biz U offers graduates financing opportunities of up to $100,000 if they base their start-up in Detroit.

And it’s not just the style writers who are paying attention to Detroit’s new entrepreneurial class. Just three years ago, Forbes placed Detroit on top of its list of America’s Most Miserable Cities. But in a stunning turnaround, this month Forbes put Detroit on the cover as one of the Best Places for Doing Business, calling it “a land of opportunity.”

Photo: Cy Twombly dies at 83

Celebrated American painter Cy Twombly, photographed above at the the Louvre, whose large-scale paintings featuring scribbles, graffiti and unusual materials fetched millions at auction, has died at age 83 in Rome. Photo: AP Photo/Christophe Ena

Photo: Bull dozing

People with their bodies painted red and black form the image of a dead bull to protest bullfights in Cali, Colombia, on Thursday. Photo: AP/Carlos Julio Martinez

Where did ‘cummerbund’ come from?

If you’ve got 10 minutes to kill and a burning desire to learn where the phrase, “a fly in the ointment” comes from, you might want to check out “The History of English in 10 Minutes.”

Produced by The Open University, a British organization dedicated to “modern distance learning,” “The History of English in 10 Minutes” is a series of minute-long animated movies that are fun, fast-paced and very British. After taking a little time out of my day to watch them, I can now tell you the origins of words and phrases such as “give and take” (Viking invaders), “alligator” (Shakespeare), “cummerbund” (India) and “IMHO” (Internet users who, in my humble opinon, were too lazy to type, “in my humble opinion”). From the Norman conquest to the King James Bible to modern-day globalization, “The History of English in 10 Minutes” packs thousands of years into bite-sized doses of history that reveal how wonderfully mixed-up and complex our language is and why it’s currently spoken (in one form or another) by more than a billion people on the planet.

Photo: Seeing smoke from space

Photo: NASA

The 93,000 acre wildfire in northern New Mexico is producing a thick funnel of smoke that can clearly be seen from space.  An astronaut aboard the International Space Station noticed the large cloud and took this picture, which shows the terrain more clearly than NASA’s satellite photos, the day after the fire began. The space station was 235 miles high at the time.

Though the fire is near the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which works with nuclear materials and other defense technology, it has not approached the facility or its storage units.  The fire continues to spread rapidly, consuming dry trees near the Santa Fe National Forest, which add to the broad plume of smoke.

Photo: Fun on the sun

Photo: NASA

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory caught the sun unleashing an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection (CME) on June 7, 2011. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down, looking as if it covered an area almost half the solar surface.

The radiation released from the blast on the surface of the sun released a firestorm of radiation on a level not seen since 2006. The coronal mass ejection moved toward Earth at 1,400 kilometers per second, but because of its angle, had relatively little effect on Earth.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry signs fracking disclosure bill

Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Photo: Ed Schipul/Flickr

Republican Governor Rick Perry, a conservative who is expected to announce his presidential candidacy by the end of the summer, signed a bill last week that will require the full disclosure of the chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process used in natural gas production. The law – the first of its kind – will go into effect next July.

Other states have enacted requirements to disclose chemicals used in the process, which is also called “fracking,” though none have become law. The states include Arkansas, Wyoming, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

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