Chewing the Facts: NYPD Tracks Muslims, Zebra Stripes Explained and Gas Prices Set Records

Chewing the Facts is a round up of recent news for Moxy readers to chew on and chat about at their after-work cocktails or during mid-day coffee breaks. Published  twice a month, this brain candy is meant to create an open conversation about the things happening in our world today. 

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NYPD Monitored Muslim Students All Over Northeast

Between 2006 and 2007, the New York Police Department set up clandestine operations to observe the activities of Muslim college students and the Muslim Student Associations (MSAs)  on various college campuses, not all of which are within its jurisdiction. The details of these undercover operations have brought outrage from many of the administrators of said colleges, as well as civil rights groups. The NYPD, (who received tactical assistance from the Central Intelligence Agency in some cases) insists that it was standard operating procedure.

“…the NYPD deemed it prudent to get a better handle on what was occurring at MSAs,” Paul Browne, spokesman for the NYPD, said in a recent email in response to the events. Tanweer Haq, who is chaplain of the MSA at Syracuse University, (one of those observed) stated:

“I see a civil rights violation here…Muslim students want to have their own lives, their own privacy, and enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that everyone else has.” Read the full story in USA Today.

How the Zebra Got Its Stripes

“A zebra can’t change its stripes,” goes the old adage. And if the latest research by Gábor Horváth and colleagues is correct, no zebra would want to, as those stripes may in fact protect the animal from vicious horseflies and other insects.

According to the research, horseflies are attracted to what is called “horizontal polarized light,” such as that found when the sun reflects off of water, and the hides of darker colored animals. Could it be, Horváth wondered, that zebras (who in utero remain solid black for a time) developed white stripes over time, to disrupt this horizontal polarized light and therefore discourage horseflies? Read the full store at Science Daily.

US Capital Bomb Plot Arrest Capped Yearlong Probe

On February 17th, federal authorities arrested one Amine El Khalifi on charges of terrorism and other crimes.

At the time, El Khalifi believed he was only minutes away from a suicide bombing attack on the United States Capitol building. He was armed with a machine gun and wearing a vest full of explosives.

Both weapons were fakes, and the two associates who brought him to the DC parking deck where he was arrested moments later were undercover federal officers.

Under observation for nearly a year due to various types of suspicious and illegal behavior, El Khalifi had plans to avenge what he saw as a “war on Islam.” His plans took several forms at different times, according to the information gathered. His targets changed from a synagogue, to a popular DC restaurant and finally, in recent weeks, to the U.S. Capitol. Read the full story at the Associated Press. 

Men Behaving Nicely: Selfless Acts By Men Increase When Attractive Women Are Nearby

According to a new study released in the February 2, 2012 issue of The British Journal of Psychology, men tend to display acts of altruism more often when in the presence of women they find attractive, even if the attractive women are not the recipients of the altruism.

65 males were paired with unseen partners to play a computer which required them to either take money from or donate money to other players. Donating money to other players held no promise of positive returns for the giver. The study, conducted by Dr. Wendy Iredale of Sheffield Hallam University and Mark Van Vugt of Oxford University, revealed that most of the male participants gave more money, more often, when observed by an attractive female proctor than when observed by an attractive male proctor.

65 women also participated in the same experiment, but their levels of giving did not change to any statistically significant degree regardless of who was observing them play the game. Read the full story at Science Daily. 

Gas Prices Are Highest Ever for This Time of Year

The unusually bitter cold sweeping across Europe and political troubles involving Iran are just a few of the factors contributing to the increasing prices of oil in the last few months. Shifts, which directly affect the price of American gasoline, are now the highest in history for this time of the year. The average price for a gallon of gas across the country is $3.53, with plenty of places—especially on the always expensive American coasts—charging much more.

And prices are expected to reach even higher; March and April mark perennial increases in the price of gasoline, as producers temporarily shut down operation to switch to so called “summer gas.”

Experts fear that if prices continue to rise the already tepid economic growth in the United States could further slow or stop altogether. $35 billion dollars stand to be lost from the economy for every 25 cents that the price of a gallon of gas increases this year. Read the full story on Yahoo Finance. 

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