Natural flavoring? I don’t think so.

Watch the following video about the nature behind “natural” flavorings: raspberry, strawberry and vanilla to be precise. If you’re dieting, even better. Examining the particulars of what the words mean behind the labeling might put you off sweets for life!

Yes, indeed, “castoreum” is code word for beaver excretions.

The Huffington Post reports:

Beavers typically use castoreum to mark their territory. It is a yellow-ish liquid found in the beaver’s castor sac located in between the pelvis and base of the tail. Because of its location the gland often contains anal secretions and urine. Gross as it may be, it is nontoxic.

Beaver glands

Due to the beaver’s healthy diet of leaves and bark, the secretion doesn’t stink. In fact, it is said to have a pleasant, musky aroma. It’s because of castoreum’s pleasing scent that it has been used as a flavoring in foods, mainly to enhance vanilla, raspberry or strawberry flavors. (It’s used in perfumes, too.)

Before you ban all vanilla-, strawberry- and raspberry-flavored products from your diet, you should know that castoreum is not a common ingredient in mass-produced foods. On average, only 292 pounds of the stuff is used in a year. But it is out there, and it does not have to be labeled.

All I can say is, “Ewww!” But hey, maybe this is why those who would lead this great nation are always trying to sell flavors as sweets.

Just sayin’.

These boots are made for … elephant therapy?

1960s songbird Nancy Sinatra might have boots made for walking, but Shanthi, the Smithsonian National Zoo’s 6,000-pound harmonist (Shanthi plays harmonica) has boots especially made to combat the residual effects of a 10-year battle with crippling arthritis.

That’s right, Shanthi, the 41-year-old Asian elephant currently residing in Washington D.C.’s premier zoo is a long-time sufferer of arthritis. Ten years now. And when joints decay, posture suffers. When posture suffers, other aspect of the body, especially one that weighs three tons, begin to break down.

Shanthi is no exception. For several months, zoo staff has tended cracks and lesions now afflicting her front feet, a condition exacerbated by life spent in an elephant enclosure (not exactly the stuff of pristine floors). Daily pedicures, medicated foot baths and cold laser therapy were routine. But necessity is, as we know, the mother of invention. And so Shanti is now the new owner of the largest pair of Teva boots, one for each front foot, sized approximately 20 E (x12).

Elephant boots

“A single boot resembled a rubberized birdbath,” the Washington Post reports.

Looks aside, the footwear works by keeping badly needed medication “on the pads of her feet while preventing debris from entering the lesions for several hours at a time,” Tony Barthel, the curator of the elephant exhibit, said in a statement. “They protect her healing feet in much the same way humans wear bandages, and they allow her to move freely throughout the exhibit.”

But did the shoes fit? Did they do the trick?

“As a zoo veterinarian, my patients don’t often tell me whether they’re feeling better or not,” chief veterinarian Don Neiffer states, according to NPR. “But when our elephant team reported that Shanthi, who has not laid down for several months, was in the yard, in the pool, lying on her side, and playing, I knew without a doubt that the efforts of all the teams here at the National Zoo had made a big and positive difference in her life.”

But flashy new boots are only part of the treatment.

“We decided to look for something more innovative, something new, something that had not been tried on an elephant,” Neifer explained. “We pulled a large blood sample from her and submitted that to a laboratory to help create a protein normally made in the elephant’s blood. This protein was then injected back into Shanthi’s joint, where it actually helps block inflammation. Although this has been used on a number of horses with success, this is the first time this technology has ever been applied to an elephant.”

Boots might be made for walking, but with her new Tevas, Shanthi will happily be able to stay put, playing her harmonica!

Meercats are … they’re just darned cute!

Check out the video of a clan of meercats standing strong, standing united, and nodding off just the same.

I’m tempted to bring one of these cuties home!

Trending mashup

What’s a mashup? It’s a rapidly developing movement to combine two often-unrelated yet popular things to obtain an even more popular thing.

Entertainment Weekly reports:

Tony Stark is taking a page from Uncle Jesse in a new “Avengers-Full House” mash-up video.

The fan-made video, posted to YouTube on Thursday by user Zach Ace and shared on Robert Downey Jr.’s Facebook page, reimagines Marvel’s mightiest as stars of the popular late-1980s, early ’90s sitcom, complete with the theme song, “Everywhere You Look.”

The video begins with the song’s familiar “Ahhh, ahhh, ahhh, ahhh,” and instead of the Tanner family in a red convertible, we see an aerial shot of Avengers headquarters. The mash-up cherry-picks lighter moments from a host of Marvel movies, with Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Elizabeth Olsen, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, and even newcomer Tom Holland offering cheesy grins as their names appear in the “Full House” font.

“There’s a mandatory minimum of one Olsen for every ‘Full House’ mashup vid,” Downey Jr. wrote in a Facebook caption accompanying the video.</blockquote.

Check out the video comparison below to understand just what’s capturing America’s bored imagination.

Price and Prejudice and Zombies

But lest you think that mashups are just a waste of confused combinations, you might have missed Pride and Prejudice and … get this … zombies. That’s right. The film aired in theaters nationwide last February.

So what’s trending on YouTube may seem a goofy distraction, a waste of time, but somebody is making money off of it.

Watch the video below to get a taste … or perhaps, as with castoreum, a reason to rethink theater and all things popular!

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