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Planet Earth will ring in the new year with ‘quirky’ traditions

As the clock strikes 12 on Monday, millions will pop champagne corks and light fireworks while others indulge in quirkier New Year’s rituals like melting lead, leaping off chairs or gobbling grapes. One of the world’s oldest shared traditions, New Year’s celebrations take many forms, but most cultures have one…

Small South Carolina town cannot find a mayor

Little Mountain, S.C., which has 292 people and one stoplight, also has a job opening: mayor. “There is currently no mayor in Little Mountain,” said Ezra Klein, filling in for Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show Friday night, “which is odd. The mayor manages about a $90,000 budget — not…

Mich. governor approves new regulations for abortion clinics

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed into law new regulations for abortion clinics, reported Reuters, which Planned Parenthood claims threatens access to the procedure in the state. Clinics that provide more than 120 abortions annually will now have to be licensed freestanding surgical outpatient facilities. Synder argued, “This bill respects…

Defectors say Syrian state journalists ‘kill with words’

Lama al-Khadra summed up her work for Radio Damascus with a grim phrase: “Our mission was to kill with words.” Along with two other journalists for the state-run radio station, Khadra met with journalists in Paris on Friday after the three fled to France to join with opponents of President…

Obama signs law against Iran Latin America influence

President Barack Obama enacted a law to counter Iran’s alleged influence in Latin America, through a new diplomatic and political strategy to be designed by the State Department. The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, passed by lawmakers earlier this year, calls for the State Department to develop a…

Does Facebook make everyone a cyborg?

The Huffington Post starts the weekend by asking on Friday whether or not we are all cyborgs, a reference to a TED talk that claims we indeed are. A cyborg is an organism “to which exogenous components have been added for the purpose of adapting to new environments,” says the…

Calif. sperm donor rules loosened for single women and same-sex couples

A new California law makes it easier for single woman and those in same-sex relationships to conceive via artificial insemination, reported the AP. The new law loosens regulations around sperm donation, which currently require women seeking artificial insemination who do not have a “sexually intimate [male] partner” to use sperm…

Scientists pinpoint elusive itch nerves: study

A debate over the nature of itchiness has come closer to an answer, reported LiveScience. A study published in Nature Neuroscience found specific nerve cells that detect itchy sensations but do not also detect pain, helping to answer the question of whether itchiness is just a kind of pain. Some…

Apple to drop patent claims against Samsung phone

Apple has agreed to drop its patent claims against Samsung’s Galaxy S III Mini after the South Korean rival said it would not sell the gadget in the United States, a court filing showed Friday. The announcement is the latest twist in a patent battle between the two tech titans.…

US-Russia spat puts adoption couple in limbo

Heather and Aaron Whaley just wanted to start a family with a four-year-old Russian girl nicknamed Addie who they found on the Internet but have yet to see in person. Never did they expect to find themselves caught up in a souring of relations between Moscow and Washington over human…

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