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News and Trends
January 14, 2008


A Flying Palace
Marauding Monkeys
Breaking the Neanderthal Stereotype
School Menus Go on a Diet
Lather, Rinse, Donate
Boys vs. Bulls

A Flying Palace
He may be only the world's 13th-richest man, but Prince Walid bin Talal of Saudi Arabia will soon be able to claim bragging rights to the world's largest private jet. The Saudi billionaire has ordered an A380 superjumbo jet that sells for more than $300 million. The double-decker plane is manufactured by Airbus, a European company based in France. It weighs 560 tons, dwarfing the rides of the world's most powerful leaders. Air Force One, the U.S. presidential jet, is a relatively modest American-made Boeing 747-200, weighing just 333 tons. Customizing the interior of the A380 may far exceed the cost of the plane itself. Preliminary floor plans for Walid's flying palace include a bedroom, an office, a bathroom, two guest rooms, and a "wellness area" on the upper deck. The lower deck is reserved for meeting rooms, a dining room, a lounge, and seating for the prince's entourage. The A380 is scheduled for delivery in 2010. Until then, Walid will have to make do with his customized Boeing 747.

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Marauding Monkeys
Thousands of aggressive monkeys are running wild in New Delhi, India's capital. The invasion is a side effect of India's rapid urbanization: As cities expand, monkey habitats are shrinking. In New Delhi, uprooted monkeys have settled in the city's center, where they can be seen swinging from the parapets of the presidential palace, splashing in the fountains, and romping on the manicured lawns. But they also attack humans, and in October, a man fell to his death while chasing monkeys from his balcony. People are now hiring private monkey catchers. Their most effective method: Using a large monkey called a langur to scare away the smaller ones.

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Breaking the Neanderthal Stereotype
By analyzing DNA from ancient bones, scientists have found evidence that some Neanderthals may have been fair-skinned and redheaded. These human ancestors lived in Europe and Asia about 200,000 years ago. Although their bones indicate that they had large noses and heavy brows, they probably bore little resemblance to the swarthy, dark-haired cavemen in the GEICO commercials. In fact, they probably had the same range of hair color as today's Northern Europeans. Fair skin would have been an advantage to those living at northern latitudes because it lets more sunlight into the skin to manufacture vitamin D.

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School Menus Go on a Diet
Have greasy french fries and sugary drinks disappeared from your school cafeteria this year? If so, you're not alone. New federal guidelines have prompted school districts across the country to cut fat and sugar from their menus. In California, deep fryers have been removed from school kitchens, and sweet tea is banned in one Alabama school. New Jersey has pulled high-fat salad dressings from the menu, along with soda, fried foods, and any item listing sugar as a main ingredient. Many schools are serving more fresh fruits and vegetables along with healthier versions of the old favorites—pizza with low-fat cheese and whole-wheat crust, baked fries and chicken nuggets, and chocolate-chip cookies made with whole-wheat flour.

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Lather, Rinse, Donate
A popular way for young people to help others is to donate their hair for wigs for people with cancer. But before you start cutting yours off for Locks of Love, Wigs for Kids, or Pantene Beautiful Lengths—some of the organizations involved in such efforts—make sure your hair meets their guidelines. Locks of Love receives mountains of hair, but says 80 percent winds up in the trash: It's too short or too processed to be used in wigs, or it arrives wet and moldy. And check where the hair goes: Most charities sell some of it to offset their operating costs, and some of their free or reduced-price wigs go to people with medical conditions other than cancer. For example, some organizations also provide wigs for children with alopecia, a disorder that causes hair loss.

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Boys vs. Bulls
Some of Mexico's most popular bullfighters are not much taller than the bulls they confront. But boy matadors, some as young as 9, are all the rage. Although they fight smaller bulls, they are exposed to real danger in the ring. And like their adult counterparts, the boys end the fight with a ritual killing of the bull. Jairo Miguel, 14, came to Mexico from Spain, where matadors under 16 are not allowed to fight professionally. His father, a retired bullfighter, is his coach. This past April, Jairo had an encounter with a 900-pound bull that nearly cost him his life. The bull's horns pierced his left lung, coming within an inch of his heart. Jairo returned to the ring in September, only to be gored again. But he shows no interest in hanging up his sequined suit and is philosophical about the danger. "Motorcycles and cars have even more deaths," says Jairo. "But the car you can control. A bull thinks for himself."

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