The Breakdown: Jan. 11, 2012
Answered by Katherine Neer
  • Katherine Neer

    Katherine Neer

  1. Katherine Neer Manager of Editorial Special Projects, HowStuffWorks

    1. Struggle for Coveted University Spot Becomes Fatal

    Imagine making your way through a mile-long line surrounded by a throng of anxious, desperate people all waiting to learn the fate of their future only to have your dreams -- and your body -- crushed. That's what happened to several would-be university students vying for a coveted spot on the University of Johannesburg roster. Devastatingly, one college hopefuls' mother was fatally wounded in the frenetic early-morning stampede and at least 22 others were injured. For many of us, this just seems unthinkable. Why would thousands queue up and clamor for a chance at a four-year degree? Start with a reported 70 percent unemployment rate …

    2. Harold and Kumar Healthier than the Marlboro Man?

    Marijuana is one of the most frequently used illicit drugs in the U.S. Its use -- both illicit and legal (several U.S. states have legalized marijuana for medicinal use to treat AIDS, cancer, epilepsy and glaucoma) -- is one of the most long-standing controversial topics out there. Some stand strongly behind the plant, supporting its "recreational" qualities as well as its more practical ones (certain parts of the plant can be used to create a variety of products from cereal to clothing). Meanwhile, others vehemently oppose its use. If you're keeping score on who's winning the debate, strike up another point for the proponents. A new study indicates that pot smokers might be better off than tobacco smokers are where lung health is concerned.

    3. A Twinkie Apocalypse?

    Hostess Brands, Inc., the 82-year-old company that's readily known for its tasty little cakes and Wonder bread, has found itself in financial dire straits again. The company, which just emerged from bankruptcy court in 2009, is headed back there; this time, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. For now, the company expects to keep churning out the packaged foodstuffs it's famous for -- Twinkie fans, rejoice -- but how long that will last, is yet to be determined. For those of you hoping to stave off a potential loss by stockpiling snack cakes, think again. The rumors of a 30-year shelf life are just that. Most agree that you've likely only got a month or so after the sell-by date for optimal dining. Bon appétit!

    4. 14-ton Space Craft Hurtling Toward Earth This Weekend

    The 14.5-ton, $160+ million Russian probe Phobos-Grunt is Earth-bound this weekend -- but not in an it's-scheduled-to-land-because-its-mission-is-over way. This return trip definitely wasn't planned. When it was launched in November, the probe was set to complete a two-and-a-half-year exploratory mission. However, the craft never made it out of low-Earth orbit and has been drifting 129 miles above us ever since. At first, signs were pointing to a faulty navigational computer but now some think an antisatellite weapon could be the culprit for the probe's malfunction.

    More answers from Katherine Neer »

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