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July 9, 2014

Blame it on the buses.

Emissions scientists from King's College London released a report this week showing that London's Oxford Street has the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide — a toxic pollutant — in the world, reports The Independent.

(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The street's average pollutant levels — produced by fumes from diesel-fueled buses and London's classic black cabs — have hovered at nearly three times the EU's safety limit since scientists installed a monitor at the beginning of 2014. Businesses in the bustling shopping district blame the excessive levels on a constant "wall of buses."

So maybe cross Oxford Street off your "tourist spots to see" list if you have a trip coming up (NO2 is linked to asthma and even heart attacks) — at least until the city figures out some greener public transit options. Sarah Eberspacher

Weights and Measures
3:22 a.m. ET

Body mass index (BMI) doesn't tell the whole story about your weight and health, says Albert Sun at The New York Times. The formula commonly used to determine obesity (or underweight) is so popular because it's easy to measure height and weight. But in 18 percent of cases, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, BMI gets it wrong.

In 11 percent of cases, people labeled overweight have healthy amounts of fat, and 31 percent of those underweight or normal weight have excess fat. More men are "healthy obese" than "skinny fat," while the reverse is true for women. Here's what the women's weight/fat data look like mapped out:

The CDC measured body fat percentage with a type of X-ray called a DXA scan, Sun explains, and the discrepancy between that more expensive measurement and BMI matters: "The consequence is that some perfectly healthy high-BMI people might be unnecessarily worried about their weight or penalized by higher insurance premiums. And some normal-BMI people may be fatter than they realize and facing the same health risks as the obese." You can learn more, and see the men's weight/fat spread graphed out, at The New York Times. Peter Weber

the circle of life
3:02 a.m. ET

Some people might look at a newly discovered crustacean and think "it looks like a shrimp," but Dr. James Thomas saw Elton John.

The species Leucothoe eltoni lives in the reefs of Indonesia and Hawaii, where it is likely an invasive species. Thomas, a professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, said he's listened to John's music in his lab throughout his scientific career, and that's how he came up with the name. "When this unusual crustacean with a greatly enlarged appendage appeared under my microscope after a day of collecting, an image of the shoes Elton John wore as the Pinball Wizard [in the movie Tommy] came to mind," he said.

Scientists who discover new species are given the honor of coming up with a name, which is why there was once a reptile named after Jim Morrison, and there are coral reefs in the Caribbean with parasites recognizing Bob Marley, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Researchers are still studying the L. eltoni, and Thomas says that finding the new species shows "the important of regular environmental monitoring, especially in tropical environments." Catherine Garcia

explainers
2:31 a.m. ET

Europe is facing a lot of tough, complicated choices — and some very visible tragedies — as it deals with a huge influx of migrants from Africa, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. But as The Economist explains in the video below, the would-be refugees from the various areas have more or less settled on specific routes to Europe. If you want a better understanding of Europe's biggest current problem, this video will give you a good, helpful overview of what's going on in the European Union and the decisions it faces in the next months and years. Peter Weber

Health
2:30 a.m. ET
iStock

The American Academy of Pediatrics is advising parents and pediatricians to talk to kids about drinking alcohol when they are 9 years old.

"Surveys indicate that children start to think positively about alcohol between ages 9 and 13 years," Dr. Lorena Siqueira, a pediatrician, and colleagues wrote in the journal Pediatrics. "The more young people are exposed to alcohol advertising and marketing, the more likely they are to drink, and if they are already drinking, this exposure leads them to drink more."

The authors write that 21 percent of young people say they have had more than a sip of alcohol before the age of 13, and 79 percent have done so by 12th grade. Oftentimes, they are also drinking in excess because they are inexperienced when it comes to consuming alcohol. "Among youth who drink, the proportion who drink heavily is higher than among adult drinkers, rising from approximately 50 percent in those 12 to 14 years of age to 72 percent among those 18 to 20 years of age," the authors wrote.

The new guidance, published on Monday, advises pediatricians to screen every adolescent patient for alcohol use, and remind parents of some good news: 80 percent of teenagers say their parents have an influence on their decision whether to drink. Catherine Garcia

bangkok bombing
1:40 a.m. ET
Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, Thai police said they found bomb-making materials at an apartment in the Min Buri district of Bangkok, the second such discovery since Saturday, when they arrested an unidentified foreigner and seized detonators, ball bearings, a metal pipe, and other equipment they said was intended to build a bomb.

The second raid uncovered fertilizer, digital clocks, remote control cars, and gunpowder. "These are bomb-making materials," said national police spokesman Prawuth Thavornsiri. "Nobody would keep urea fertilizer and gunpowder unless they wanted to make a bomb."

Police say they believe the foreigner arrested Saturday was part of a network that set off the deadly Aug. 17 bomb blast at Bangkok's Erawan Shrine. Reports online have suggested that the suspect entered Thailand on a Turkish passport, but Prawuth said they are working with "a number of embassies" to figure out the man's nationality. And the interrogation isn't proceeding very fast. "He is not cooperating much," Prawuth said. "From our preliminary investigation, we think he isn't telling us the truth." Peter Weber

history destroyed
1:36 a.m. ET

On Sunday, Islamic State militants used more than 30 tons of explosives to blow up part of the Temple of Bel in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, sources said.

The largest structure in the city, the Temple of Bel was constructed in 32 AD and was well preserved. Activists in the area and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights say the temple was damaged, just a week after ISIS blew up the Baal Shamin temple. ISIS captured Palmyra from Syrian government forces in May, and UNESCO chief Irina Bokova said the militants in both Syria and Iraq are behind "the most brutal, systematic" destruction of ancient artifacts since World War II, Al Jazeera reports. Catherine Garcia

He has the kardashian vote
12:43 a.m. ET

Start making your "Yeezus 2020" shirts now: Kanye West is running for president.

During Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards, West made the announcement after accepting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award from possible future running mate Taylor Swift. West spoke about how he is different now that he's a father and shared his love for other artists. "I will die for the art, for what I believe in," he said. "The art ain't always gonna be polite." Then, boom! West dropped this bombshell: "It's about ideas, bro, new ideas, bro. People with ideas. People who believe in truth. And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president."

The crowd went wild, but imagining First Lady Kim Kardashian might all be for naught, as West admitted right before his proclamation that he did "smoke something before he came here." This could go two ways: Either it was a joke made under the influence, or legalization will be his major campaign issue in 2020. Catherine Garcia

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