February 10, 2014

Team USA sits third in the overall medal count with five.     Photo: Carmen Rodriguez Nsp/Flickr

U.S. Dominates in Slopestyle Debut

Plus: Mancuso wins bronze and Miller falters

Sage Kostenburg and Jamie Anderson snatched gold in the men’s and women’s slopestyle this weekend, placing an American stamp on the event’s Olympic premiere.

Kostenburg, the 20-year-old style king from Park City, Utah, surprised the judges and captured gold with some unexpected tricks, including his patented manuever, the Holy Crail. A day later, Anderson was atop the podium for the women after surpassing the field with her own smooth, laid-back style. “I can’t believe these shenanigans!” the 23-year-old said.

The mood was a little less celebratory for skier Bode Miller after a disappointing eighth-place finish in the downhill. Miller stormed through every training run and looked poised for at least a spot on the medal stand in the twilight of his career. “I’ve said a million times I’m not always so affected by the results,” Miller explained. “I would have loved to get a gold medal today, or any medal today.”

Skier Julia Mancuso laid down yet another clutch big-race performance and added a super combined bronze medal to her resume. "It was kind of like crossing the finish line and saying, 'See, it works! Believing in yourself really works. I got a medal today,'" Mancuso exclaimed with her disarming confidence.

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Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere during their Antarctic journey.     Photo: Twitter

Explorers Complete Scott's Antarctic Journey

Become first to trek 1,800 miles across Antarctica

More than 100 years ago, Sir Robert Falcon Scott and his team sought to stake their flagpole into Antarctica’s icy sheath. The five men reached the South Pole on January 17, 1912, but died of hunger and exhaustion during their return trip.

Early Monday morning, two modern explorers became the first people in history to complete the nearly 1,800-mile trek in Scott's stead. Ben Saunders, 36, and former Wasps rugby player Tarka L’Herpiniere, 32, walked 1,795 miles across Antarctica in 105 days, pulling sleds with more than 440 pounds of gear. Temperatures were frigid, with the wind chill as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The two men were outfitted in modern gear from Intel (Scott was not so lucky) and maintained a blog throughout the journey across the virtually unlivable tundra.

Saunders wrote in his latest post, "Emotionally, Tarka and I are still numb and exhausted…. That he and I are here at all, at the end of this journey, with an unbroken 1,795-mile looping ski track behind us is something I owe to an awful lot of wonderful people and companies that have carried on believing in me and in this dream."

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A new Sherpa gene study explains high-altitude adaptation.     Photo: steve estvanik/Shutterstock

Why Sherpas Excel at Altitude

New gene study has the answer

There’s a reason why Sherpas have excelled at carrying western explorers up the forbidding peaks of Everest for more than a century, and it has to do with genetics.     

A new study found that Tibetans—known for their strength at high altitude—inherited genes from two ancestral pools. One group of ancestors migrated early to high altitudes and started adapting to the thin air about 30,000 years ago.

These genetically adapted super humans then started having babies with another group of (relative) newcomers to the high country. Their love child? Tibetans, who tend to thrive at elevations above 13,000 feet.

"This is a new tool we can use to identify advantageous alleles [alternative form of a gene] in Tibetans and other populations in the world that experienced this type of admixture and selection," says Anna Di Rienzo, professor of human genetics at the University of Chicago and corresponding author of the study.

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Marius, a male giraffe, lies dead before being dissected after he was put down at Copenhagen Zoo on Sunday. Copenhagen Zoo turned down offers from other zoos and 500,000 euros ($680,000) from a private individual to save the life of a healthy giraffe before killing and slaughtering it Sunday to follow inbreeding recommendations made by a European association.     Photo: Peter Hove Olesen/AP

Zoo Giraffe Killed, Dismembered, Fed to Lions

Crowds of children watch

A healthy 18-month-old giraffe named Marius was killed point-blank and then chopped up for the lions on Sunday at Copenhagen Zoo in Denmark. Despite several online petitions—garnering nearly 27,000 signatures from around the globe—to save him, Marius was put down to prevent inbreeding, according to zoo officials.

Copenhagen Zoo does not promote castration to manage populations within zoo enclosures, selecting instead to kill "surplus offspring." Representatives say this mimics the animals' natural life.

Although a Swedish zoo begged to save Marius and one billionaire offered to buy him for several million dollars, the giraffe was killed, cut apart, and fed to lions in front of a crowd of onlookers that included small children.

While Americans supplied the most signatures on the petitions to save Marius, in Denmark the event was not seen as unusual. In a society with few animal-rights activists, the keeping and killing of animals is widely accepted, reports Peter Sandoee, a professor of bioethics at the University of Copenhagen. Public animal dissections are also popular in Denmark and regularly see upwards of 7,000 paying attendees.

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Amber Bellows, 28, died in a BASE jumping accident in Zion National Park.     Photo: Facebook

Newlywed BASE Jumper Dies in Zion National Park

Parachute failed to open properly

A 28-year-old newlywed woman fell 2,000 feet to her death in Zion National Park Saturday after her parachute failed to open during a BASE jumping attempt.

Though BASE jumping is illegal inside Zion National Park, Amber Bellows and Clayton Butler, her husband of two weeks, climbed 7,276 feet to the peak of Mount Kinesava with the intention of leaping off. According to Butler, Bellows jumped first, and her parachute failed to open properly. He leaped after her but was unable to reach her. Butler then hiked out to find help. 

Rescue teams found Bellows's body the next morning and airlifted her out. Her death is the first BASE jumping fatality in Zion.

"BASE jumping is so dangerous," acting park superintendent Jim Milestone said in a statement, "even for those that are experienced, like Amber Bellows. That is one of the reasons it is not allowed in the park."

Mount Kinesava in Zion National Park.   Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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A sticker commemorating the death of Sarah Burke. Any such commemorations are prohibited by the International Olympic Committee during Olympic competition.     Photo: Courtesy NPFilm

IOC Bans Sarah Burke Memorial Stickers

Olympic Charter considers tribute propaganda

Athletes competing in Sochi who honor the late Sarah Burke with stickers on their equipment will have to remove such memorials during competition, the International Olympic Committee told reporters on Monday.

Australian snowboarder Torah Bright posted on social media that the IOC denied her request to wear her sticker during the Games. "I ride with a Sarah sticker on my snowboard and helmet always," Torah Bright posted on Instagram. "The IOC, however, consider Sarah stickers 'a political statement' and have banned them."

The International Olympic Committee argues that such displays conflict with Olympic Charter bylaws prohibiting any "form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise," excluding manufacturers.

"On Sarah Burke, we have, as with a lot of the athletes here, huge sympathy,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters. “We would say the competitions themselves, which are a place of celebration, are probably not the right place to really do that."

Before passing away after a training accident in January 2012, Burke had lobbied the IOC to include all freeskiing disciplines for women in the Winter Olympics. "She is a big reason why skier pipe/slope are now Olympic events," Bright wrote on Instagram.

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What effects do common supplements have on cancer?     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Can Orange Juice Cure Cancer?

Maybe not, but along with aspirin, it might help

Drugstore chain CVS dominated cancer-related news last week with its decision to stop selling cigarettes at its stores by October 1. That might be too late, however, for many female smokers.

New findings from Seattle's Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center suggest that women who smoke as few as 100 cigarettes in their lifetime increase their chances of developing breast cancer by 30 percent, according to the Daily Mail. That figure doubles among female smokers who go through a pack a day for at least a decade.

Smoking increases cancer risk—we knew that already. But one study has thrown belief in the cancer-combating benefits of another substance into question. The research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, observed mixed effects of antioxidants in mice with cancer.

First, the good news: High doses of vitamin C administered via injection seemed to kill cancer cells without harming normal ones while also reducing the side-effects of chemotherapy. The injection medium proved pivotal, however, because the human body quickly excretes vitamin C when consumed orally.

This leads to the bad news: Orally ingested antioxidant supplements might actually protect cancer cells. As Forbes reports, taking extra antioxidants, including vitamin E, could accelerate tumor growth in cancer patients by decreasing the activity of a gene designed to kill defective cells. The bottom line? The jury's still out on the cancer-fighting effects of antioxidants; the study, which analyzed mice, calls for a large-scale investigation of human patients.

Instead of reaching for that antioxidant supplement, you might want to grab a bottle of good old aspirin from your medicine cabinet—if you're a woman, that is. That's because the National Cancer Institute just released a study concluding daily aspirin use could reduce the risk of ovarian cancer by as much as 20 percent. Previous studies confirmed the cancer-fighting benefits of aspirin—the drug's anti-inflammatory properties diminish cancer risk—but often came up inconclusive when it came to ovarian cancer.

Both genders might have a new cancer-fighting tool if a new invention comes to fruition. University of Washington scientists and engineers are developing a device to streamline the biopsy process for pancreatic cancer diagnoses. Other cancers, like those of the breast, colon, and lung, have simple and quick detection methods that have improved patient prognoses. Pancreatic cancer could soon join that list. The new, silicon-based device generates 3-D images of cellular masses in a matter of minutes. Scientists report that this marks the first time material larger than a single-celled organism has moved through a microfluidic device, a development that could have broad ramifications in multiple fields.

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