Blog Posts by Vera H-C Chan

  • Y! Big Story: Shark!

    Twenty-five years may be a drop in the water for the ancient shark breed, but a quarter-century's a milestone for Discovery Channel's "Shark Week." The anniversary, marking the longest-running event in cable TV history, and the restored "Jaws" cinematic masterpiece have unleashed a frenzy of affection for — and news about — the serrated-toothed predators.

    Here's a roundup of shark tributes, ancient finds, and conservation efforts for the threatening, but threatened, species.

    Jawing about 'Jaws.' No. 37 isn't normally a stand-out anniversary, but the Blu-ray Aug. 14 release is reason enough to celebrate. Stephen Spielberg waxed nostalgic with "Ain't It Cool News" last year about the ultimate summer movie. The director revealed tidbits about how, in those pre-CGI days, a pivotal protagonist-munching scene involved "a lot of raw chicken." The infamous mechanical problems with the shark and weather conditions on the set snuffed Spielberg's urge for another go: "I would have done the

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  • Y! Big Story: How the media should cover mass shootings, and why it can't

    The ghastly theatricality of the July 20 shooting in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater guaranteed nonstop media attention, amplified by social media.

    What wasn't guaranteed, yet inevitable, would be the dizzy scramble to name the offender, count the bodies, release unconfirmed details, speculate on madness -- and then criticize the reactionary reporting.

    Analysts from the Atlantic to Fox News have questioned the journalistic impartiality. The embarrassing gaffes over identifying the correct James Holmes alone proved how the swarm of reporting in a 24-7 environment trumped accuracy.

    [Related: Yahoo's complete coverage of the Colorado shooting]

    The July 30 hearing, in which Holmes was charged with 142 counts of murder, was closed to the press. As news organizations prepare to argue at an August 9 hearing to have the judge unseal the case docket, a deeper concern persists: Does sensationalist coverage encourage copycats? In the sworn duty to provide the who, what, where, and when,

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  • Y! Big Story: Readers explain Higgs boson

    Higgs BosonVerifying at Level 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV just might not be close enough.

    Untitled Document

    The announcement of a possible Higgs boson discovery spread joy and bemusement. Just when some of us had given up on figuring this out, skeptics are now warning about a God Particle impostor. No matter. Most of us couldn't understand this alleged subatomic particle.

    OK, fine, I'm speaking for myself. Here now, explanations from people who always know better: Yahoo! commenters, who weighed in on "In search of a simple explanation of Higgs boson, aka the God Particle." (Not all replies in a conversation chain have been included. Comments have not been edited, except for addition of quotation marks.)

    Short & sweet

    Zak • Arvada, Colo: "Shortest explanation: it's what gives everything mass."

    Anthony • Washington, District of Columbia: "Very simply, its a field of particles which, by collision with other particles, give them the effect of mass."

    Actuality: "The Higgs-Boson doesn't

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  • Y! Big Story: In search of a simple explanation of Higgs boson, aka the God Particle

    Click image to see more photos.

    Higgs boson verified at Level 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV????? Yowza.

    OK, let's try this again: Scientists are now within reach of finding the so-called God particle. About 5,000 researchers divided into two teams--ATLAS and CMS--found a subatomic particle, and it could be the elusive Higgs, the polka-dotted unicorn of the physics world. Here's a "simple" explanation of what has physicists agog the world over:

    As of July 4, 2012, the Higgs boson is the last fundamental piece of the standard model of particle physics to be discovered experimentally. But you might ask, why was the Higgs boson included in the standard model alongside well-known particles like electrons and protons and quarks, if they hadn't been discovered back then in the 1970s? (The Higgs Boson, Part I, Minute Physics)

    Wait, is this the simple explanation? Let's try this again, because our decoder rings are telling us that scientists are on the verge of discovering the

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  • Y! Big Story: Lesser known truths about Fourth of July

    Indianapolis fireworks (Livescience)

    A divided nation? How very American of us.

    As we commemorate the 236th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence, revisiting our history helps remind us how far we've come — and just what still makes up the American character. For one thing, not all the 18th-century colonialists were keen on this whole independence thing: A good half-million were Loyalists to the British crown, and hung on to their royal connections in places like New York City, Long Island, and northern Georgia through the 1780s.

    The Fourth of July is also a good time to give credit where credit's due, stamp out a few myths, and find out lesser-known truths that are even juicier than the folklore.

    Neglected forefather? No argument -- founding fathers Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams have name recognition (it helps that two became president). Lost in historical footnotes are the remaining members of the so-called Committee of Five in charge of drafting the Declaration: Roger

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  • Y! Big Story: “Fast and Furious” meets “The Wire”

    "Fast & Furious" (Jamie Trueblood_Universal Pictures)

    The federal investigation into Mexican gun-trafficking was dubbed Operation Fast and Furious, because the suspects involved liked a little auto-sideshow action. The better analogy might be "The Wire"—to cover a roiling case of vindictive office politics, cowboy agents, sensationalized reporting, the clash of Second Amendment rights and gun crimes, and election-year bickering that has resulted in the first-ever contempt charge against a sitting Cabinet officer.

    Gun seizuresWhat is Operation Fast and Furious?: The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives wanted to put a stop to the purchase of guns in the United States, that were later used across the border in cartel crimes. The case has been hampered by office politics, prosecutorial reluctance, and weak enforcement. For instance, straw purchases—the act of buying guns for others—is not illegal in Arizona.

    What Republicans are loath to admit is that the ATF tried Fast and Furious in lieu of other means of combating illegal

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  • Decisions, Wildfires, Health Care Act (June 2012 Buzz)

    Colorado wildfires

    Decisions, decisions. About halfway through the year's a good time to make them, and many were laid out judicially (although to some thinking, not judiciously), politically, competitively, and romantically. Some decisions though are beyond that of man and instead are up entirely to Mother Nature: Disastrous floods, roiling heat, vicious winds, and heart-stopping wildfires afflicted many parts of the United States. Below, the judgment calls and seeming Judgment Days that preoccupied the online world in June.

    Tom Cruise Katie Holmes (AFP Photo/Stephen Lovekin)A month of decisions
    Politics: Democracy in action is always a good thing, in principle, but pessimism shadowed the elections of Egypt (what, these choices?) and Greece (don't drag us down). In the United States, a far smaller but notable recall election left Wisconsin governor Scott Wilson still holding onto his seat. Other election wins included Ron Barber for Gabrielle Giffords' Arizona seat, Orrin Hatch keeping his Utah one. Another political move: Eric Holder became the first

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  • Y! Big Story: Operation Fast and Furious timeline

    Funeral for fallen Border Patrol agent Brian Terry

    Fortune magazine released a six-month investigative report in Operation Fast and Furious. Here's a timeline based on that report and other sources.

    —1993-2005: ATF reputation suffers in high-profile cases.
    October 31, 2009: Operation Fast and Furious is launched.
    December 2009: David Voth heads Phoenix Group VII, which lacked funding, to stop guns from going to going to Mexico criminals.
    January 5, 2010: In Phoenix, assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley tells agents they lack probable cause for arrests as multiple long gun purchases are legal in Arizona. He suggests a wiretap. Voth later writes a briefing paper stating strategy "to allow the transfer of firearms"—because that is legal.
    January 18, 2010: James Avila, a drug user and transient, purchases three WASR-10 rifles. ATF is notified over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, so agents lose the chance to seize them, but input the serial numbers in the gun database. These are the guns that are found at the Brian Terry shootout.

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  • Y! Big Story: Bumper-sticker politics

    Retiring a slogan (Justin Sullivan:Getty Images)
    Stand Your Ground. Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Show Your Papers (Please).

    Reducing a complex concept into a slogan is an uncertain art, but one that people have tinkered with for centuries. The word "slogan" itself hails from the Gaelic sluagh-ghairm—a battle cry, one that the Scottish Highlanders whooped as they stormed into the fray, how a liege would declare his allegiance to his lord, and, in the United States, most memorialized in that call to arms "Remember the Alamo."

    These days, instead of military chiefs, the consultants and companies do their "Mad Men" mojo on complex laws and political concepts, with the media perpetuating slogan shorthand to explain legal defense in the Trayvon Martin case, a military policy's postmortem at the Pentagon's first gay pride celebration, and the Supreme Court's ruling on Arizona. And in case you couldn't keep up before, our meme-obsessed flightiness has sped up the slogan life cycle, which in turn increases the demand for more.

    Are we sheep for

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  • Y! Big Story: Gut reactions on why food allergies are on the rise

    Drink up?

    Trading lunch boxes isn't what it used to be.

    Overall, about 15 million Americans lay claim to food allergies (as opposed to food intolerances, but more on that later). One out of 13 children may be susceptible. Some allergies can trigger anaphylaxis, when your body goes into immune overload shock. Whether allergens are a peanut, a glass of eggnog, a pat of butter, or a dish of honey walnut prawns, these days more people seem to be rejecting them.

    Food allergies (or at least, our ability to diagnose them) are on the rise. But why?

    Short answer: Scientists aren't sure, and they're just beginning to dig into the complex world of the human gut, the bacteria within, and the importance of understanding not only what goes down our gullet, but also how much and when.

    Food allergies vs. food reactions/intolerances: There's a big difference between food allergies and food intolerances, Dr. Stephanie Leonard of the U.C. San Diego School of Medicine said to Yahoo!. Reactions can be immunologic

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