Back in late 1949, people throughout Los Angeles County reported a strong odor that smelled like garlic. The smell persisted for weeks, periodically increasing in intensity. Some residents took to wearing gas masks. There were reports of the fumes being so strong that they discolored fences and buildings. There was a widespred fear that it was a poison gas attack.
Despite a lot of speculation, I'm not sure that the source of the mystery odor was ever identified, although leading theories were that it was either coming from the Los Angeles River bed, or from a chemical factory. It became known as the invasion of the Garlic Fog. [Sydney Morning Herald, Aug 7, 1949] (via Buried Words and Bushwa)
A search on Google Scholar reveals that common causes of facial paralysis include Herpes simplex virus, lyme disease, Bell's palsy, and Ramsay Hunt syndrome. But in Shanghai, doctors are reporting numerous cases of facial paralysis caused by the cold autumn wind. Fatigue is also a contributing factor. A Shanghai doctor cautions that, "Elderly people, new mothers, children with weak immunity, and those exposed to cold wind after drinking are the most likely to suffer facial paralysis."
It's also reported that the "majority of the patients are male between 20 and 50 years of age." (I'm guessing they're the ones being exposed to the cold wind after drinking.) They're coming into hospitals complaining of sudden paralysis on one side of the face. A little bit of acupuncture and massage, and they're set right. [hillpost.in]
Time to point our telescopes of weirdness at "the old country", methinks.
Speaking of old, recent research carried out by the University of Michigan has revealed that US seniors are smarter than their UK counterparts. The study, lead in the US by Kenneth Langa, measured the recall abilities of over 8000 elderly Americans and over 5000 elderly Brits, and found that the yanks scored 1.4 more on the memory tests, out of a possible 24. Langa suggests that part of the difference was due to higher average levels of education and income in the US group, and higher levels of depression in the UK sample, but points out that nothing is certain at the moment. "It's like a view from 30,000 feet" said Langa (New Scientist).
And it's not just British brains that are shrinking, the UK's sheep are getting smaller as well. Because of a trend towards milder weather believed to be due to climate change, Sheep on the Outer Hebridean island of Soay are getting smaller at the rate of 100g/year, say researchers from Imperial College, London. Though it might seem that warmer winters and a greater abundance of food might make for bigger sheep, Tim Coulson, the professor leading the study, points out that fewer weaker and smaller lambs will die over winter, bringing down the average size (Telegraph).
Now, in some good news, UK campaigners have won a second victory in a three-year battle... to bring back a chocolate bar. The "Wispa Bar", made by European confectioners Cadbury, was introduced in 1995 along with a caramel laced version called the "Wispa Gold", only for both to be discontinued in 2003. This prompted some die-hard fans of the bubbly chocolate bar to start a petition to have it go into production again, resulting in a "limited edition" run of the original Wispa last year. When the 40 million bars produced sold out in just 18 weeks, Cadbury decided to relaunch the brand. Not satisfied with just one bar, campaigners have kept up the pressure, causing Cadbury to start producing Wispa Golds "for a limited period," as before. However to some commentators, this latest move looks more like slick PR than grassroots victory (Sky News).