From Kate Yoder from Mother Jones: "One-third of American kitchens have gas stoves—and evidence is piling up that they’re polluting homes with toxic chemicals. A study this summer found that using a single gas stove burner on high can raise levels of cancer-causing benzene above what’s been observed from secondhand smoke. It turns out gas stoves have much more in common with cigarettes. A new investigation by NPR and the Climate Investigations Center found that the gas industry tried to downplay the health risks of gas stoves for decades, turning to many of the same public-relations tactics the tobacco industry used to cover up the risks of smoking. Gas utilities even hired some of the same PR firms and scientists that Big Tobacco did."
A look at the underlying causes of the Salem witch trials in the 17th century
From Vicki Saxon for JSTOR Daily: "In February 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony town of Salem Village found itself at the center of a notorious case of mass hysteria: eight young women accused their neighbors of witchcraft. Trials ensued and, when the episode concluded in May 1693, fourteen women, five men, and two dogs had been executed for their supposed supernatural crimes. But what caused the mass hysteria, false accusations, and lapses in due process? Emily Oster posits that the “little ice age” caused economic deterioration and food shortages that led to anti-witch fervor. But Linnda Caporael argues that the girls suffered from convulsive ergotism, a condition caused by a type of fungus found in rye and other grains. It produces hallucinatory, LSD-like effects and can cause victims to suffer from vertigo, crawling sensations on the skin, extremity tingling, headaches, hallucinations, and seizure-like muscle contractions."
A farmer who had his arms torn off when he was 18 talks about what life has been like
From Tracy Briggs for Ag Week magazine: "Twnty-nine years ago, John Thompson had both his arms ripped off in a farm accident. The subsequent surgery to reattach his arms garnered international media attention — all a little daunting for the then 18-year-old farm kid from Hurdsfield, North Dakota. The media attention has long since quieted down. So what is Thompson up to now? Have the years been good to him? Can he still use his arms? Were there drawbacks to his instant fame? And what brings him joy today? On Saturday morning, Jan. 11, 1992, Thompson was unloading pig feed with a grain auger and playing with the dog when he somehow got too close to the power takeoff shaft (PTO), which didn’t have a safety shield on it. “My shirt wasn't tucked in, and they figure my shirt got wrapped up in the PTO shaft,” he said. Thompson blacked out and awoke to his dog licking his face and the realization that his arms were gone."
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Japanese baseball team believes it was cursed for throwing Colonel Sanders into the river
From Wikipedia: "The Curse of the Colonel refers to a 1985 Japanese urban legend regarding a reputed curse placed on the Japanese Kansai-based Hanshin Tigers baseball team by the ghost of deceased KFC founder and mascot Colonel Sanders. The curse was said to be placed on the team because of the Colonel's anger over treatment of one of his store-front statues, which was thrown into the Dōtonbori River by celebrating Hanshin fans before their team's victory in the 1985 Japan Championship Series. As is common with sports-related curses, the Curse of the Colonel was used to explain the team's subsequent 18-year losing streak. Some fans believed the team would never win another Japan Series until the statue had been recovered. They have appeared in the Japan Series three times since then, losing in 2003, 2005 and 2014."
When two politicians from opposing parties got lectured by their mom on national television
From Dan Lewis at Now I Know: "On December 16, 2014, C-Span hosted two panelists: Brad, a Democrat, was a former spokesperson for both the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Dallas, a Republican, was a campaign strategist and the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party. But they definitely had something in common. Both were there to promote a documentary about themselves titled “Woodhouse Divided.” Woodhouse, in this case, was their last name; Brad and Dallas were brothers. Their documentary was about how a politically divided family navigates being, well, a family. At about the 16:45 mark, the host took a call from a woman named Joy in North Carolina. The next words out of Dallas’s mouth? “Oh, god. It’s mom.” Both brothers quickly facepalmed, as their mom lectured them over (among other things) their behavior during dinner at family holidays, disagreeing with the notion that “all families are like ours.”
Why being presented with the facts doesn't change our minds
From Elizabeth Kolbert for The New Yorker: "In 1975, researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented with pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones. Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times. As is often the case with psychological studies, the whole setup was a put-on. The students who’d been told they were almost always right were, on average, no more discerning than the others. The students were asked to estimate how many suicide notes they had actually categorized correctly, and the students in the high-score group said that they thought they had, in fact, done better than the average student—even though they’d just been told this wasn't true."