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AWOL Newswire March 2012

ACTIVITY BEATS ANXIETY

A  recent study in the Psychosomatic Medicine Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, followed participants for 20 years in an attempt to discover if physical activity had an effect on young adults with financial stress’s proclivity towards developing “impaired fasting glucose” (a pre-diabetic stage). They discovered that there was in fact a positive correlation. Young adults with financial stress who are physically active have a reduced risk for pre-diabetic symptoms up to 13 years later. College students are both young adults and financially stressed. In conjunction with our limited—and not always healthy—food choices, this makes us the target audience for the study. So next time you find yourself waiting for the elevator, take the stairs and reduce your future risk of type 2 diabetes. -Meridian Ganz-Ratzat

THE FIRST FIRE

Prometheus stole fire from the gods earlier than we thought, according to an international team of researchers working in South Africa’s Wonderwerk Cave. Scientists uncovered evidence of controlled use of fire that dates back almost a million years. This is the earliest sign of humans harnessing fire we have discovered so far; the second oldest site is located in northern China, which date back almost 400,000 years. But doubts about the findings abound. According to scientists who do this kind of work (it’s unclear what their titles are), determining whether the fire was controlled for practical use or not is nail-bitingly difficult.  The charred remnants of burn sites—where fire is used repeatedly—are by no means ample evidence to substantiate the claim that humans were using the fire to cook. Large piles of bat poop can also become hot enough to ignite. Moreover, researchers found no stone hearths surrounding the sites—a sign that clearly signals human efforts to control the flames. So what are we to conclude? Not much at all. -Alex Burchfield


GRAPPLING WITH THE TRUTH

This American Life retracted one of the show’s most popular episodes, “Mr. Daisey Goes to the Apple Factory,” which aired in January. Turns out Mike Daisey’s story about the horrible things happening at the Apple factory didn’t check out. Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz tracked down Daisey’s translator, who had a much different account of many of the events including some of the most poignant points in the monologue. Daisey admits he wrote his story for theater, interweaving fact and fiction, taking things he heard and read and presenting them as his own experience—in other words, lying. The New York Times and other news outlets did several reports on Foxconn and other Apple factories shortly after the episode aired, but they still stand by their reporting. Despite the controversy, DC’s Wooly Mammoth Theatre will still be bringing Daisey for an encore performance this summer and hosted a public forum on their decision in March. They might still be bringing Daisey, but they’re willing to refund tickets bought before the scandal broke out.  -Ashley Dejean 


HERE THERE BE HUMANS

James Cameron, director of Pandora and perhaps more relevantly, Titanic, has released footage from his 3-hour journey to the deepest point on earth, the Challenger’s Deep in the Mariana Trench. NationalGeographic.com is quick to point out that, though Cameron is not the first to plunge the 35,576 feet (an exploration originally completed in 1960 by Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard). He is the first to complete the dive solo. Besides, compared to the 12 American astronauts alone who have visited the moon’s surface, Cameron’s initiation as the third man to experience unexplored territory is nothing to sneeze at. The 1,240,800,000 feet of atmosphere and space between the Earth and the moon only numerically dwarfs the 35,576 feet of sunless and silent water Cameron braved to reach his destination. Enclosed in The Deepsea Challenger, cut off from humanity, Cameron commented that, “it’s very lunar, very isolated. I felt as if, in the space of one day, I’d gone to another planet and come back.” Humans may have collected decades of samples from space, but the “vast frontier down there …is going to take us a while to understand”. Although the film (unfortunately) does not reveal any massive beasts or ancient monsters, you can watch via the convenience of YouTube as mankind expands its understanding of Earth as never before. The very planet we live on remains a mystery to us in many ways, but Cameron is working on filling in the gaps and redefining the edges of the map. -Claire Dapkiewicz


TAKE ME OUT TO THE NATS GAME

During the spring, summer, and early autumn months, baseball games at Nationals Park offer a fun, cheap excursion for DC residents, especially city-savvy students like those at AU. For a discounted 5-dollar fee, students can enjoy America’s pastime with friends and family in a leisurely environment. This year, however, baseball fans might get more than simply an American aesthetic at the ballpark—the Nationals may be “for real” this season. Sports Illustrated columnist Joe Lemire ranked the Nats as the 12th most “powerful” team in baseball, a bold prediction for a team that finished 80-81 last year. However, Lemire’s confidence might be a solid bet. Prodigious pitcher Stephen Strasburg started opening day, complementing a pitching rotation that includes Jordan Zimmermann and John Lannen, both considered among the division’s best. In addition, Jason Werth and Ian Desmond have impressively compensated the absence of Michael Morse and Adam LaRoche, who usually make up the meat of the Nats’ rotation. Assuming Morse and LaRoche are able to bounce back, the Nats’ combination of pitching talent and offensive power might give them an advantage in a tough division. It seems, then, that DC students attending Nationals games might get more than simply a bargain ballgame. -Zac Deibel


DC’S NUCLEAR FORECAST

As if metro delays weren’t enough, DCist reports FEMA released a study last November detailing the probable effects of a nuclear detonation in DC. Should a detonation take place near the White House, everything within a half-mile radius would be destroyed and rescue operations would be impossible. But past one mile out, it would be little more than broken glass from shattered windows. Not too bad, right? Turns out that even if the city escapes mostly unscathed, DC residents have a tougher fight. The flash from a five-mile tall nuclear explosion could temporarily blind people up to 12 miles away. At least four nearby hospitals would be annihilated immediately, not to mention the four others that would suffer radiation damage. In other news, North Korean leaders plan to test-fire the country’s long-range missiles soon. -Lori McCue


OBAMA'S DRONE CAPABILITIES EXPAND

It has recently been reported that it is completely legal for President Obama to call in drone strikes on US citizens in foreign countries, adding one more controversy to the laundry list of issues being debated in the upcoming presidential election. A recent defense by the Attorney General has raised more arguments than it has settled, as he attempted to make a case for the lack of due process in drone strikes. In its first three years, the Obama administration approved and carried out over 200 drone strikes, mainly in the Middle East. This number is expected to rise dramatically as more troops are pulled out, and the military uses covert operations, often including drone strikes, to carry out missions of national interest. Drone strikes as a presidential power were originally authorized by Congress in 2001, when the president was given the right to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines” were responsible or implicit in the 9/11 attacks. It seems that Americans are just now realizing the implications buried in that line; any and all force against any and all people as long as they are outside of the United States. The main check on the president’s power to authorize drone strikes is judicial review—which, of course, occurs after the target has already been killed. - Shaina Lipsy



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