Rats got a bad rap for the Black Death, scientists say

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Researchers have thrown out the verdict against the rat, for centuries blamed as the primary carrier of the bubonic plague that struck Medieval Europe again and again with such ferocity.

The rat was wrongly accused, scientists report this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  Continue reading

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Chocolate good for you? It used to be medicine

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In 1662, a book was published in London on chocolate. Photo courtesy of Wellcome Library.

In 1662, a medical book was published in London on chocolate. Photo courtesy of Wellcome Library.

We’ve heard the probable benefits of dark chocolate — the kind with 60 percent or more cocoa solids — extolled in recent years.

Dark chocolate may improve your heart, mood and lessen your stress.

You may have noticed that Mars is trying to cash in on the “healthy snacking” trend by pouring Dove chocolate over blueberries and cranberries. University of Michigan researchers even added dark chocolate to their healing foods pyramid.

But Christine A. Jones, an associated professor of French and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of Utah, tells us that this is nothing new. Continue reading

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Amelia Earhart’s plane part found in 1991

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earhartPatchTIGHARIt looks like Amelia Earhart did go down on or near Nikumaroro, an atoll in Kiribati, according to  TIGHAR, an Oxford, Pa., research group.

A small piece of aluminum (above) was found on the uninhabited Pacific island in 1991. Now the researchers say they have identified it as  a patch made to her Lockheed Electra while the doomed plane was making a stopover in Miami. Continue reading

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Unpretentious Eleanor Roosevelt gave flashy JFK debating tips

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ERtoJFKside1Fifty-four years ago, the Kennedy-Nixon debate ushered in a new era of American politics on television. Among those watching was former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who the next day wrote a letter to then-Sen. John Kennedy of Massachusetts calling it “a milestone for TV and a really good way to campaign.” Continue reading

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There were 5,000 WMD left by Saddam, and they wounded U.S. troops in Iraq war

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It turns out that Colin Powell might have been right after all, sort of.

His speech in 2003 at the U.N. declared that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and was concealing efforts to produce more. After all, Saddam had used mustard gas on Iranians during the 1980s war with the Islamic Republic, and dropped poison gas on Kurds, part of a brutal effort to decimate 50,000 to 100,000 in 1988.

But it was thought the United States never found WMD in Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Until now. Continue reading

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Goodbye, Columbus? Marco Polo got here first, maps may prove

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A rough sketch on vellum of what looks like the Alaskan coastline, an expert says. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

A rough sketch on vellum of what looks like the Alaskan coastline, an expert says. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Just in time for Columbus Day comes the news that Christopher might not be the Italian who first set foot in America.

The 15th century Genoan explorer may have been beaten by his hero. Continue reading

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