News, Culture, Sights and Sounds

Steve Mencher writes about culture, politics, the news and other subjects for AARP. He's also a jazz musician with the Willis Gidney Quintet. He has worked for Carnegie Hall, NPR and the Library of Congress as an audio, video and multimedia producer.

11 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week

News, discoveries and … fun  1. Doctors and health officials are discouraging a revival of “measles parties,” popular in the 1950s and ’60s. (Learn more at ABC News) 2. The release of water vapor causes the distinctive sound of corn popping.  (Learn more at Los Angeles Times) 3. A 1967 performance on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour left Pete Townsend deaf in one ear. (Learn more at AARP) >> Register for Life@50+ Digital Experience. New AARP RealPad included! Learn More 4. …

5 Things to Know for Feb. 15 Obamacare Sign-Up Deadline

Feb. 15 is the enrollment deadline for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, now in its second year. Here are five developments as the deadline approaches: 1. The number of enrollees for 2015 has exceeded Department of Health and Human Services predictions by more than a million. As of the first week in February, HHS estimates, about 7.5 million people were automatically reenrolled or newly enrolled in federal exchanges in 37 states, with a total of about 10 million covered …

11 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week

News, discoveries and … fun 1. Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, wrote about the same characters in an earlier book, which will be published in 2015. (Learn more at AARP) 2. Some common medications might be connected with a higher risk of dementia. (Learn more at AARP) 3. “Light” jogging helps you live longer, while running strenuously might not be better than no exercise at all. (Learn more at Discovery) 4. People over 65 might need a little less sleep than …

11 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week

News, discoveries and … fun 1. You don’t want to send a Valentine’s Day card to your ex, so the San Francisco Zoo makes it easy to adopt a hissing cockroach or scorpion in your old lover’s name. (Learn more at Cosmo) 2. Treated wastewater makes delicious beer. (Learn more at NPR) 3. Critically endangered giant salamanders are a Chinese delicacy. (Learn more at Yahoo.com) 4. Growing up in Minnesota, Bob Dylan listened to Harry James and Glenn Miller. (Learn more at AARP) 5. …

Jeff Gordon, NASCAR Champ and Hunger Fighter, to Stop Competing

Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR champion and AARP’s ally in fighting hunger among older Americans, announced Jan. 22 that he is stepping away from full-time racing after the 2015 season. In a posting on the Hendrick Motorsports website, Gordon, 43, wrote: “I thought long and hard about my future this past year and during the off-season, and I’ve decided 2015 will be the last time I compete for a championship. I won’t use the ‘R-word’ because I plan to stay extremely …

11 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week

News, discoveries and … fun 1. The world’s richest 1 percent will likely control half of global wealth by next year. (Learn more at NY Times) 2. A cup of blueberries a day can help lower blood pressure. (Learn more at AARP) 3. Four in ten people report at least one incident of “sleep paralysis” — waking up and being unable to move. (Learn more at Discovery) 4. The golden orb-web spider can count. (Learn more at WIRED) Share Your New Year’s Resolution …