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News and Trends
September 1, 2008


Measuring 56 Million Middles
Looking for a Few Good Shepherds
From Gulags to Gucci
Is "O.C. Soda" Next?
College Women Go To The Mat
What Killed Napoleon?

Measuring 56 Million Middles
Except for sumo wrestlers, Japan is not known for overweight people. But the country has undertaken one of the most ambitious efforts ever by a nation to slim down. Under a new national law, companies and local governments must measure the waistlines of people between the ages of 40 and 74, as part of their annual checkups. Those exceeding government limits— 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women—will receive dietary guidance if they don't lose weight within three months; companies and localities that don't meet the targets will be penalized financially. The goal is to shrink the overweight population by 25 percent in seven years, help prevent diabetes and strokes, and rein in Japan's mounting health-care costs.

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Looking for a Few Good Shepherds
It was big business in biblical days, but shepherding has fallen on hard times. Tens of thousands of U.S. sheep ranches have disappeared in recent decades. In North Dakota, the shepherding industry is taking action: It's trying to entice a new generation to tend the sheep by awarding high school and elementary school students their own "starter flocks." North Dakotans from 10 to 18 who write winning essays about their interest in the sheep industry will each receive 10 ewes (female sheep). Five to 20 novice shepherds will be chosen and supervised by a mentor. They must also agree to pay back a part of the profits from their lamb or wool sales tokeep the initiative going. Clay Hatlewick, 14, of Jamestown, N.D., thinks the idea of becoming a professional shepherd is cool. His family currently owns two sheep. "They're kind of funny sometimes when you play with them," says Clay. "And they're easier than cows."

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From Gulags to Gucci
Under Soviet dictators, Russians going to Siberia were often headed for the gulags, or forced-labor camps. These days, they're going shopping. This vast region of central Russia is experiencing a shopping-mall boom as sky-high oil prices boost the Siberian economy. Malls are nothing new in Russia: Plenty have been built since the end of Communism—and the Soviet Union—in 1991. What is new is the spread of wealth to regions like Siberia that have traditionally been poor. Ikea recently opened a store as part of the Mega mall in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, and Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, may not be far behind.

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Is "O.C. Soda" Next?
As a TV show, The O.C. is, like, so over. (The show ran on Fox from 2003 to 2007.) But its famous initials live on. The Orange County Board of Supervisors has voted to use the letters O.C. in the name of three county agencies. And the harbor at Dana Point, Calif., has been rechristened O.C. Dana Point Harbor. Rob Richardson, a county official, says the letters have become a brand name for Orange County, "just as L.A. has been well-known as describing Los Angeles."

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College Women Go To The Mat
Women's wrestling teams are sprouting up in the most unlikely places: Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis is starting a team this fall, and so is Oklahoma City University, which has graduated three Miss Americas. The inclusion of women's wrestling in the Olympics beginning in 2004 provided a huge boost to the sport's popularity. Five thousand girls nationwide took part in high school wrestling last year, but only eight colleges offer it as a varsity sport. Big universities have all but ignored women's wrestling, but tuition-hungry smaller colleges are starting programs to attract new students. A wrestling scholarship brought Tani Ader—a three-time state champion from Hawaii—to Jamestown College in North Dakota. "I really want to wrestle," says Ader, "and wrestling in college is like the first step in going to the Olympics."

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What Killed Napoleon?
Was Napoleon poisoned? It has long been thought that the exiled French dictator, who died in 1821 on the remote Atlantic island of St. Helena, was the victim of arsenic poisoning—whether by accident (fumes from the wallpaper in his bedroom) or design (poisoned by his British captors). The evidence for both theories was arsenic found in hairs from Napoleon's head. But scientists at Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics now say that arsenic wasn't the culprit: Their analysis of hair samples from four times in Napoleon's life, including his childhood, showed that his arsenic levels remained about the same throughout his 51 years. The researchers concluded that Napoleon had been regularly exposed to arsenic, either from environmental factors or food and medicines. (Many popular 19th-century medicines contained arsenic.) Some scientists say that Napoleon, who was suffering from violent stomach pains, probably died of stomach cancer.

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