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News and Trends
May 7, 2007


Bees Gone AWOL
Slinky, Squirmy Robots
Saying Nein to Speed Limits
For Sale: Used Electronics
As American as Luis & Na
Down on the Farm: A Vet Shortage

Bees Gone AWOL
In recent months, millions of bees have been flying off in search of pollen and nectar, never to return to their colonies—and no one knows why. In 24 states, their disappearance is threatening beekeepers' livelihoods as well as the production of numerous crops. As researchers scramble for answers to what they are calling "colony collapse disorder," growers are concerned that the bee industry will be unable to meet the increasing demand for bees to pollinate crops like avocados, almonds, and kiwis. Zac Browning of the American Beekeeping Federation says: "Every third bite we consume in our diet is dependent on the honeybee to pollinate that food."

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Slinky, Squirmy Robots
Robotics experts often get their ideas from the biological world. For example, a team at Tufts University in Massachusetts is developing a robot that moves like a caterpillar. These creepy-crawly machines could be used to locate land mines, repair hard-to-reach machinery, and diagnose and treat diseases. They are modeled after the tobacco hornworm—a large caterpillar that can twist and turn in any direction. The robots have a skin made of squishy silicone rubber, and their "muscles" consist of springs that constrict when heated by an electric current.

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Saying Nein to Speed Limits
While half of Germany's 7,500-mile highway system has speed limits, the "anything goes" stretches of the autobahn are the world's fastest roads; one driver recently bragged about pushing his Porsche to 187 mph—the speed of a commercial jet taking off. So when an official suggested that the government impose a general speed limit to cut down on carbon dioxide emissions, the response was outrage. Rule-bound and risk-averse in so many ways, Germans regard driving at face-peeling speeds as an inalienable right. It's also an economic issue: The autobahn has long served as a showcase and marketing tool for the superfast cars Germany builds.

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For Sale: Used Electronics
Many teens with growing piles of MP3 players, laptops, and other devices are turning them into cash as they upgrade to the latest models. Listings on eBay, Craigslist, and MySpace show a flourishing market for used electronics. Sales aren't limited to the Web: Some folks are selling their old gadgets in their high schools and colleges. But there are a few things to keep in mind: Selling an iPod or laptop with hundreds of downloaded songs may violate copyright laws. And to protect your privacy, be sure to delete all personal information from computers and other devices before you hand them over to their new owners.

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As American as Luis & Na
Hayedeh or Heidi? Simhe or Sam? Changing one's name to something more "American sounding" is a time-honored immigrant tradition. But in today's multicultural society, there's less pressure to assimilate, while better transportation and communications make it easier to maintain ties with "the old country." Today, name changes are more likely to be the result of careful consideration about the tradeoff between fitting in and giving up part of one's heritage. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, only 16 percent of the 700,000 people who became naturalized citizens in 2006 requested a name change.

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Down on the Farm: A Vet Shortage
Veterinarians who care for the animals that provide the U.S. with food are becoming a rare species themselves. Since 1990, the number of vets focusing on large farm animals has dropped to fewer than 4,500 from nearly 6,000. Though U.S. vet schools produce about 2,500 vets a year, the majority are choosing to practice on small animals, which generally provides a more lucrative and comfortable lifestyle than the longer hours and lower pay rural vets tend to have. Officials are not only concerned about the cows and pigs: They're worried about having vets with experience to deal with terrorist threats to the food supply and animal-borne diseases. In response, Congress and some states have enacted loan-repayment or grant programs for large-animal vets.

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