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


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


Chocolate good for you? It used to be medicine

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


Meet Spider, the CIA’s new spy chief


The new head of the National Clandestine Service is a former Marine who gained fame for being former Afghanistan President’s Hamid Karzai’s “security blanket,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

His name and age? Unknown. After all, he’s a spy who has spent his career undercover, most notably as station chief in Kabul.

Here’s what we do know about him, thanks to a 2010 Journal profile … Continue reading


Michelle Obama disrespectful? It wasn’t a big deal, BBC says


When the president and first lady visited Saudi Arabia this week to pay respects to the kingdom’s late monarch, Michelle Obama did not cover her head.

“Michelle Obama forgoes a headscarf and sparks a backlash,” sniffed the Washington Post’s WorldViews blog.

“Michelle Obama causes outrage,” screamed the headline in Britain’s Telegraph.

Trouble is, the BBC reports, it was a tempest only in the Western media’s teacup. Continue reading