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News and Trends
September 6, 2010


Do Dogs Have to Take the SAT?
Gold With Your Snickers
A Scarlet Decal?
'Mockingbird' Still Sings at 50
Your Tweets Will Go Down in History
Iran's Songs of Protest

Do Dogs Have to Take the SAT?
If you dread leaving your dog or cat behind when you head off to college, take heart: Some schools will now let you bring your pet with you. Stephens College, a women's school in Columbia, Missouri, recently renovated a dorm—known as Pet Central—for students and their animal companions, mostly dogs and cats. Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, even allows snakes, provided they are "less than six feet long and non-venomous." Pet-friendly schools like Stephens and Eckerd have established Pet Councils to make sure pets and their owners follow certain rules.(For example, a dog can't roam free in a dorm room while its owner is in class, but may be left at Doggie Daycare.) College officials say that having a pet may help students anxious about leaving home and adjusting to college life. Elena Christian, a senior at Stephens, says that Annabelle, her chihuahua, helps keep her calm. "Sometimes during finals week I get stressed out," says Christian. "She always does something to make me laugh."

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Gold With Your Snickers
At upscale Canadian nightspots, vending machines with flatirons let women defrizz their hair. Quiksilver board shorts and bikinis are sold in vending machines at hotels. And in Abu Dhabi, capital of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, a luxury hotel has a machine that dispenses gold bars and coins at more than $1,000 an ounce. Souped-up vending machines are popping up everywhere. They are relatively late in coming to the U.S., but Dr Pepper and Baby Ruth are already feeling sidelined by products from Apple and Best Buy. The high-tech machines, outfitted with touchscreens, are designed for consumers used to shopping online. Machines in Tokyo even have electronic eyes that evaluate customers' skin and wrinkles to determine whether they are old enough to buy tobacco.

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A Scarlet Decal?
A New Jersey law now requires teen drivers to identify themselves by sticking a red decal on their license plates. It's the first law of its kind in the nation, designed to help police enforce restrictions on young drivers. (Some 6,000 teens die in car accidents in the U.S. each year, and studies show that drivers are most likely to have accidents in their first two years on the road.) But some teens and parents say the decals make young drivers easy targets for criminals, according to The Wall Street Journal. Teens have set up Facebook pages protesting the decals, and some parents say they're willing to risk a $100 fine if their teens are caught driving without them. The decals are part of Kyleigh's Law, named after a teen killed in a 2006 car crash. Other provisions of the 2009 law include restrictions on teen driving at night and on the number of passengers teens can carry in their cars, and a ban on all teen cellphone use behind the wheel. Bills to repeal the decal requirement have been introduced in the New Jersey legislature.

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'Mockingbird' Still Sings at 50
In honor of the 50th anniversary of its publication this year, To Kill a Mockingbird—Harper Lee's stark tale of injustice—is being re-enacted and celebrated across the U.S. First published in 1960, Mockingbird tells the story of Atticus Finch, a white lawyer in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s. Finch has been appointed to defend a black man, Tom Robinson, falsely accused of a crime against a white woman. Told through the eyes of Finch's young daughter, Scout, the novel explores injustice and prejudice in plain language. The book has sold more than 30 million copies and has been translated into 40 languages; this summer, it made Amazon's list of 100 best-sellers. (To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain, are probably the two most popular novels on high school reading lists in the U.S.) But don't expect Lee to participate in the celebrations: Now 84 and living in her native Alabama, the author shuns interviews and has little interest in the limelight.

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Your Tweets Will Go Down in History
Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears each have more than 5 million followers on Twitter. But are their tweets part of "the universal body of human knowledge"? The Library of Congress thinks so. In fact, it's going to archive all of Twitter, which currently carries 55 million messages a day, including your tweets. The library, which serves as a research facility for Congress, is the world's largest, housing millions of books, recordings, maps, and recently, digital material: 167 terabytes so far—much more than the equivalent text of its 21 million books. But why archive the tweets of everyday people? A library official cites Twitter's "immense impact on culture and history," including its use by anti-government protesters in Iran and by Barack Obama to declare victory in the 2008 presidential election.

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Iran's Songs of Protest
Thousands of Iranians, many of them students, took to the streets in June 2009 to protest what was widely believed to be a fraudulent presidential election. Iran's repressive Islamic government cracked down hard, killing dozens of protesters and injuring hundreds. A year later, with street protests silenced, Iran's young dissidents are generating a flood of "resistance music." Iranian officials have tried everything to silence it, blocking websites used to download songs and shutting down social-networking sites (which were also used to organize protests and distribute videos of government violence). But the music is still being downloaded, sold on the black market, and shared on cellphones. "Music has become a tool for resisting the regime," says Abbas Milani, director of Iranian studies at Stanford University in California. One of most popular protest singers is Shahin Najafi, whose verses have even been scrawled on prison walls. He now lives in exile in Germany and faces 3 years in jail and 100 lashes if he returns to Iran. Najafi's songs, which have become anthems for Iranian dissidents, are available at
sharrmusic.org.

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