Headline Muse, 8/17

Though it’s rare, still they try to prepare ya
Cos it’s real and not simply hysteria
This amoeba—this strain—
Likes to munch on your brain
So it’s best to beware of Naegleria!

Headline: Brain-eating amoebas blamed in three deaths

Three deaths so far this year—in Louisiana, Florida, and Virginia—are blamed on a freshwater amoeba. Given the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of swimmers trying to beat this summer’s deadly heat, this headline isn’t at all sensationalistic. No sir. Not this one. Conservatively, a tenth of the number dead from bee stings (probably less, but bee sting deaths are a hazy statistic, being rare enough we don’t tend to worry about them), brain-eating amoeba have a better public relations agent.

Headline Muse, 8/15

Casting blame has already begun
Not a group will be spared ere we’re done
So we don’t have to think
Of the grim headline ink:
“Man decapitates disabled son”

Headline:Police: La. man decapitated disabled son, 7

The comments after the New York Daily News version of the article are an exercise in cognitive dissonance. The death has been blamed on Obama, on Republicans, on “trailer trash”, on whites, on liberals, on conservatives, and on “black DNA”. No one, yet, is owning up to the notion that the father is a member of their own group.

In the complete absence of any info about his beliefs, we get:

Commenter “New Yorker” writes: Hmm, I’m guessing the man was an atheist. No ‘Fear of God’ . . . . . yet.

Commenter “Theoham” writes: Louisiana is in the bible belt. Total rat dropping!

Even (perhaps especially) when confronted with a horrible story of human behavior, we make a distinction between the actions of that person and anything remotely associated with ourselves.

Headline Muse, 8/12

If pollutants are sending you reeling
In the waters with which you are dealing
And you’re looking to shed
Heavy metals, like lead,
You might find bananas appealing

Headline: Slippery Banana Peels Could Be A Savior For Polluted Water

Ok, so it’s not really a headline, it’s from NPR’s health blog, “Shots”. But it’s cool. Eliza Barclay reports on a study which used minced banana peel as a natural matrix for concentrating heavy metals (copper and lead) for extraction from river water. Metals were 20 times more concentrated in the pulp, and after extraction the pulp could be re-used, up to 11 times without reduced effectiveness.