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News and Trends
November 3, 2008


Athletes Leave Brains to Science
A Party for Your DNA
Admissions: Think Before Posting
Hunks Looking for Junk
First, Crack Them Open...
The 'Greatest Russians'?

Athletes Leave Brains to Science
Pro athletes routinely give their bodies to their sports. Now, some are planning to give their brains to science. A dozen retired athletes, including six N.F.L. players, will donate their brains after their deaths to Boston University's School of Medicine, where they'll be studied for the long-term effects of concussions. Examinations of the brains of six deceased N.F.L. players have already shown a link between concussions and permanent brain damage, but the N.F.L. maintains that the long-term effects are uncertain. Ted Johnson, 35, a former New England Patriots linebacker, has agreed to donate his brain. "I'm not being vindictive," says Johnson. "I'm not trying to reach up from the grave and get the N.F.L. But any doctor who doesn't connect concussions with long-term effects should be ashamed of themselves."

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A Party for Your DNA
While the sound system blasted upbeat music, the well-dressed couple sat in a room full of celebrities and spat into test tubes. It was all part of a "spit party" being held in New York in September to promote a DNA-testing company. The saliva samples were then sent off to a lab for analysis. The point was to make DNA fun. But sometimes the results can be disturbing—like finding out that you carry the gene for a hereditary illness. And some fear a world in which DNA testing might strip them of privacy. 23andMe, the company that hosted the party, offers personal DNA test kits online for $399. "It's fun to learn about your own genome," says the company's Web site. Some researchers find this approach unsettling. "It can be neat and fun," says Alan Guttmacher of the National Human Genome Research Institute, "but it can also have deep psychological implications, both for how you view yourself and how others view you."

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Admissions: Think Before Posting
Your friends aren't the only ones checking out your Facebook and MySpace pages: Colleges are also looking. In a survey of 320 admissions officers from top schools, test-prep company Kaplan found that 10 percent had visited applicants' social-networking sites as part of the admissions process. A quarter said that what they found generally had a positive impact on their evaluation. But 38 percent said that applicants' posts usually had a negative impact. Potential deal breakers include foul language and photos or videos of illegal activities or inappropriate behavior. And of course if you badmouth the college you're applying to, it's not likely to go over very well.

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Hunks Looking for Junk
You gotta have a gimmick, goes the old saying, and Omar Soliman and Nick Friedman, both 26, sure have one. Five years ago, in Washington, D.C., they started hauling junk to make money while they were home from college. Now their company, College Hunks Hauling Junk, has a staff of 25 in Washington and franchises in 15 other cities, and brought in almost $3 million in revenue last year. The haulers, all college students in golf shirts and khakis, don't actually have to be hunky—just well groomed and free of nasty tattoos. And there's now a female hauler, or Hunkette, as they call her. More than half their business comes from homeowners who discard items that College Hunks recycles or donates to Goodwill Industries. The rest goes to the dump.

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First, Crack Them Open...
In China, fortune cookies come with specific instructions: (1) Open the wrapper. (2) Use both hands to break open the cookie. (3) Find and read the fortune. (4) Eat the cookie. "Chinese people don't know what to do with a fortune cookie," says Nana Shi, a Beijing resident who last year started what is apparently the only company selling fortune cookies in China. While they're given away free by the billions in Chinese restaurants in the U.S., fortune cookies are all but unknown in China. Research has shown that fortune cookies almost certainly originated in Japan and were brought to the U.S. by immigrant bakers. Shi became intrigued by the cookies while eating at a Chinese restaurant in California in 2001. "Why don't we have these in China?" she wondered. Shi's cookies, which she sells online, are marketed as high-end holiday gifts and wedding favors; some are covered with chocolate sprinkles. The fortunes are printed in Chinese on one side, and English on the other. But fortune cookies haven't yet caught on in Chinese restaurants in China: Restaurant owners, says Shi, are skeptical about giving away cookies for free.

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The 'Greatest Russians'?
Even though their country is doing well economically, many Russians seem to be nostalgic for the past. When the government started an online contest in June to name "The Greatest Russian," officials were shocked when Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and Czar Nicholas II surged to the top of the list. Many Russians see Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1953, as the man who made their country a world power, even though he also murdered millions of Russians. Nicholas II, the last czar, was long seen as an incompetent whose attempts to hold onto power led to the Russian Revolution. But the czar's image has been on the rebound, and Russia's highest court recently "rehabilitated" him and his family, all of whom were executed in 1918. Stalin's star has fallen lately: Contest officials stripped him of nearly a million votes deemed "illegal" and possibly the work of hackers. Stalin has dropped to 12th place, but is still among the finalists.

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