Monday, December 21, 2009

Female Reindeer Pull Santa's Sleigh

Jeanna Bryner at Live Science today points out some interesting facts about reindeer.

Mixing fact with fiction, she argues that all of the reindeer mentioned in stories about Santa Claus had to have been female. Here's why:

  • Females keep their antlers throughout the winter, but males shed theirs in early December. Illustrations of Santa's sleigh pullers uniformly show reindeer with antlers.
  • The mating season depletes males of body fat, leaving them with just 5 percent on their scrawny frames around Christmas time. Females, on the other hand, retain 50 percent of their body fat. They'd be in shape to haul Santa.
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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Major volcanic eruption feared in Philippines
"within days"

LEGAZPI, Philippines – The Philippines' most active volcano could have a huge eruption within days, officials warned Sunday after detecting a drastic surge in earthquakes and eerie rumbling sounds in surrounding foothills. Tens of thousands of villagers have been evacuated as a precaution.

Scientists raised the alert level for the Mayon volcano after 453 volcanic earthquakes were detected in a five-hour span Sunday, compared to just over 200 Saturday, said Renato Solidum, chief of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

The five-step warning system was raised to level four, meaning a hazardous eruption "is possible within days." Level five is when a major eruption has begun.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Report: White House Security Breached 91 Times

Secret Service report reveals dozens of security breaches since 1980 surrounding U.S. presidents.

Tareq and Michaele Salahi may be the most famous party crashers after sneaking into President Obama's first state dinner last month, but they're by no means the first to elude the Secret Service and breach White House security.

A report compiled by the Secret Service reveals security surrounding the president has been breached at least 91 times since 1980, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

A summary of the secret 2003 report, along with descriptions of more recent breaches by federal homeland security officials, details scores of breaches, including a family who was mistakenly allowed onto White House grounds in a minivan, a woman allowed in despite already having falsely claimed a "special relationship" with former president Bill Clinton and a celebrity hunter who joined Harrison Ford's entourage to get near Clinton.

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Why Has Taiwan's Birthrate Dropped So Low?

In a society where the cost of living is high, the notion that kids are an unwelcome burden — taboo in many cultures — has become an accepted idea.

In a research poll administered by Kun Shan University in 2007, students interviewed 100 residents of Taiwan between the ages of 20 and 40 about their family plans. One-third didn't plan to have any children for fear of losing two precious things: money and freedom.

Balancing work and family life has proven to be a challenge for both men and women in Taiwan. According to the Swiss-based International Institute of Management Development, Taiwanese work some of the longest hours in the world, averaging nearly 44 hours a week, and Taiwan's women are very career-oriented. "Most women are afraid of losing their jobs" by taking time out to have a child, says Liu. He says Taiwan should follow the lead of European countries like Germany, where women are entitled to up to three years of maternity leave by law. Taiwan has been making progress in this area; in 2002, the government passed a law requiring companies to allow their employees two-year parental leaves without pay. This year, a policy came out that enables parents to take six months of parental leave while receiving 60% of their salary. But many say these changes only look good on paper, as most bosses discourage people from taking the time off.

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