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Aug. 15 2005 9:03 AM

The Blogs of War

And other news from science and technology.

(For the latest Human Nature columns on Bill Frist's pro-choice sympathies, artificial wombs, and harvesting organs from embryos, click here.)

The government is investigating why four women died after taking an abortion pill. Pro-lifers want to ban it. Pro-choicers say it's safer than other abortion methods (one death in every 100,000 cases) and far safer than pregnancy, and some blame all four deaths on off-label vaginal rather than oral administration of a follow-up drug.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is comparing abuse of animals to abuse of blacks. The comparisons are central to an education campaign that has been suspended offline but continues online. PETA's view: It's all oppression. NAACP's view: "They're comparing chickens to black people?"

Soldiers' blogs are complicating military censorship in Iraq. The number of blogs has risen from a dozen to 200 or more in two years. The military has demoted one guardsman, whose site has since disappeared. Other troops have stopped blogging under pressure from superiors.

A gene correlates with alcohol tolerance in fruit flies. In humans, higher tolerance correlates with alcoholism. Scientists hope to block alcoholism by interfering with the gene, but there's a catch: Evidence suggests the gene also "helps protect the body from environmental stress."

New York City asked restaurants to eliminate trans fats. The health commissioner likened trans fats (which are used by 30 percent to 60 percent of the city's restaurants) to asbestos. Denmark has banned foods with a trans fat content of more than 2 percent, but New York is the first major U.S. city to act.

Genetic tests are exposing "dads" who unwittingly raise other men's kids. Reported rates range from 1 percent to 30 percent, mostly toward the low end. The poorer your family is and the younger your wife was when she got pregnant, the higher your risk. According to Reuters, "most cases that are inadvertently identified are ignored by whoever uncovers the situation."

For sale: a trip around the moon. Duration: 10 to 21 days. Vehicle: Russian Soyuz. Possible stops: International Space Station. Russian pilot provided; leg room purportedly comparable to that of an SUV. Available seats: two. Price per seat: $100 million.

Terrorists in Iraq are using dogs as suicide bombers. The Muslim Scholars Association says this is wrong because it hurts animals—but the association sympathizes with the insurgents, who target human civilians.

Loss of brain cells may kill old people in their sleep. As you age, the part of your brain that makes you breathe loses cells. Research suggests that at some point, this begins to disrupt your nighttime breathing, prompting you to wake up. When you're too old and weak to wake yourself up, you die.

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