Lawyerball: The First Thing We Do

Two years ago, a woman named Elizabeth Lloyd sat down at a picnic table next to a Little League field in Manchester Township, N.J. Not long after, an 11-year-old catcher named Matthew Migliaco began warming up a pitcher in the bullpen next to Lloyd. And then, tragedy struck. Well, perhaps not tragedy. Tragedy implies human suffering on a grand scale. Had young Master Migliaco suddenly fired a rocket-propelled grenade at Lloyd, that would have been tragic. If the young backstopper had lept the fence with a bat and set to Lloyd the way Trayvon Martin — ahem, allegedly — set to George Zimmerman, that would have been tragic. No, what happened was purely an accident. An errant toss by Matthew hit Lloyd. Oops! A bad throw by an 11-year old. Bummer. The normal response would likely entail wincing, spitting out a stream of verbiage one would normally want to keep from using next to a Little League baseball field, an angry return throw and then a trip home to put a bag of frozen peas on the affected area.

But Lloyd is one of an increasingly large number of Americans who thumb their rhetorical noses at “normal” on their way to the courtroom. Two years after Matthew accidentally hit her, Lloyd and her husband are demanding $150,000 for medical costs and punitive remuneration for pain, suffering and something her husband, a party to the suit, calls a loss of “services, society and consortium.” I’m no lawyer, but I’m going to guess that means Lloyd, once viewed by her husband as the Gisele Bundchen to his Tom Brady, is now less appealing to him than a week at a nudist colony with Roseanne Barr.

Lloyd took a baseball in the kisser while sitting next to a baseball field in use by a group of 10- and 11-year-old baseball players. As anyone who’s watched The Bad News Bears is already aware, 10- and 11-year-old baseball players tend not to possess the talent — much less the aim — of Derek Jeter. Therefore, sitting next to a field on which a game between two teams loaded with the best talent the local plumbing-supply house can sponsor would carry with it what one lawyer friend of mine described as “an assumption of risk.”

Yet Lloyd believes Matthew targeted her with the malice of Randy Johnson staring down a rookie who’s crowding the plate, and she and her husband managed to find a lawyer willing to charge the proverbial mound. Their attorney is the kind of roach-with-a-briefcase who illuminates the reasoning behind Shakespeare’s famous line from Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, scene ii: “The first thing we do is kill all the lawyers.” The Lloyds’ lawyer is merely the latest in a long line of ambulance chasers who tear this country apart bit by bit — another galling example of the parasites who ply the emergency rooms and emblazon bus stop benches and phone book covers with their grinning mugs, looking for their next slip-and-fall payday.

These are the foot soldiers in the liberal campaign to turn us into a Nation of squabbling twerps who can turn even the most innocent mishap into a battle royale of mistrust, resentment and recrimination. While the Lloyds’ decision to abduct Matthew’s innocence and dump it in a ditch is appalling, it’s hardly isolated. Of course, the granddaddy of all idiotic lawsuits would be the infamous case in which a woman sued McDonald’s after she spilled hot coffee in her lap and burned herself. That she won close to $3 million is testament only to the perverse courtroom skills of her attorney and the frighteningly high number of exceptionally stupid people in the jury pool. Perhaps the most famous of the practitioners of this sort of law would be former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards, who made an estimated $50 million pile while convincing juries to reward his clients for all manner of questionable ills.

And the Lloyds’ lawyer, much like Edwards and the rest of their legal-beagling siblings, are sucking the life out of us all. When someone takes the case of Lloyd vs. Migliaco, America’s Pastime, et al., a little of the joy in all of us dies. Baseball fields get shrouded in protective rubber matting to protect picknickers. Then the players themselves get wrapped in the stuff as well. Baseball begins to (as an 11-year-old might put it): “like, totally suck big time.” They go home and play Xbox all day. They get fat, and then their parents sue Microsoft for making the Xbox. Little League folds, and the commissioner gets so upset that he spills his coffee in his lap and burns himself. He sues McDonald’s, and the cycle continues.

Someone sits down next to a Little League field, gets hit by a baseball and sues the ballplayer. Someone else spills hot coffee in his lap and sues McDonald’s. Someone else slips in your driveway and sues you, the driveway contractor and anyone else their attorney can hit with a tsunami of paper.

Don’t mistake my intent. I would part with The Bard and acknowledge that not all lawyers need killin’. Beyond the defenders of decency in the civil courtrooms, our justice system needs someone to stand up for society in the criminal docket as well. If we abandon the legal profession to the Johnny Cochrans of the world, who will guide the jury to recognizing that the only real choice should have been about into which of O.J. Simpson’s arms to stick the needle? In fact, the Simpson murder trial is a perfect example: Simpson had the master showmen Cochran and Robert Shapiro. And justice retorted with Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden.

We need decent people to stand in a courtroom when one of Edwards’ colleagues demands $3 million for pain and suffering caused by spilled hot coffee to respond with a legally appropriate version of: “The plaintiff is a doofus.” For every Edwards, we need an Antonin Scalia to talk the jury off the roof. For every ambulance chaser whose chosen profession has pushed malpractice insurance — hence, healthcare costs — into the stratosphere, we need a dignified jurist to remind people that “yes, the patient has a reduced quality of life following his heart surgery, but he is alive, and it’s a good thing the surgeon didn’t go to law school instead.” And for every Elizabeth Lloyd and her attorney, there must be someone with an understanding of both basic decency and the law who can stand up and remind the jury that she was sitting next to a baseball field on which 11-year-olds were playing — of all things — baseball, a sport in which baseballs are routinely used and often leave the field of play.

It would be a dereliction of duty if I didn’t note the political bent of the sort of people who sue Little League baseball players when their clients are hit by flying baseballs. They’re the same attorneys who filed the lawsuits against McDonald’s for hot coffee and the same who filed suit against McDonald’s on behalf of parents with fat kids. They’re Edwards, Cochran (were he still alive) and Shapiro. They’re also Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama. They bend, twist and deform the law to assuage their greed for money and/or power. And they crush the dreams of Little League players, force doctors into the poorhouse, deny justice to murder victims and diminish the quality of the lives of virtually everyone with whom they cross professional paths.

Even if Matthew successfully fends off the Lloyds’ abominably frivolous lawsuit, they and the lawyer who took their case have stolen a big chunk of Matthew’s childhood. We all lost a little bit when Matthew was served with the papers for this suit. We all lose a little bit every time some lawyer plays the lawsuit lottery like this. All of us, that is, except the lawyers.

Maybe Shakespeare was right all along.

–Ben Crystal

Why We’re Fat And Sick

There is a reason Americans are fat and sick. It’s called high fructose corn syrup.

High fructose corn syrup is a cheap non-food filler. It contains no nutrition — only calories. It is, as a report in The Guardian describes, a highly sweet, gloppy syrup produced from surplus corn that is incredibly sweet.

HFCS was discovered in the 1950s; by the 1970s, a means had been devised to mass produce it. It quickly began to be included in every processed food made: pizza, coleslaw, meat, bread, cakes, candies, soft drinks, etc. It was cheap to make and could be included in everything, making the production of all food cheaper.

HFCS does four things:

  • It blocks the assimilation of calcium. Have you ever heard of the osteoporosis epidemic in America? Most Americans chase their calcium supplement with a drink containing HFCS. Almost everyone over age 50 suffers from a dangerous loss of calcium.
  • HFCS causes cancer in test animals. It predisposes humans to cancer.
  • As a synthetic sugar, it bypasses the pancreas. This eventually causes the pancreas to shut down, leading to diabetes. Harvey Wiley, the first head of the Bureau of Chemistry (the forerunner of the Food and Drug Administration), warned of the deceptive marketing of glucose (which preceded HFCS) and other adulterated corn products and their introduction into food. He predicted a diabetes epidemic.
  • It causes obesity and is highly addictive.

The FDA approves its use, yet claims to look out for our health. It is a world-class scam and attack on people’s health.

TSA Fails To Keep Airports Safe

The Transportation Security Administration caused quite a ruckus in the Big Apple over the weekend.

TSA failed to screen countless travelers at John F. Kennedy International Airport. A metal detector was unplugged.

Screener Alija Abdul Majed failed to realize that the metal detector was never set off throughout the morning. At 9:44 a.m., it was discovered that the metal detector had not been plugged in.

When agents realized that tons of people had passed through unscreened, the airport was in a state of pandemonium. Flights were delayed, and two planes that had already taken off were called back to the airport. Passengers were forced to go back through security screening.

“How many hours will it take to send a terminal full of people BACK through security?” tweeted one passenger.

The day before, about 10 miles away at LaGuardia Airport, TSA’s efforts to keep travelers safe went up in flames as an X-ray machine caught on fire. Six hundred people were evacuated from the terminal.

“It’s an adventure. They’re doing a good job. They’re doing the best they can. Things happen,” said one passenger.

Despite TSA’s recent boondoggles, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is considering a bill that would give TSA oversight over other forms of mass transit.

“We have put in place through TSA a very elaborate system [in airports]. We all go through those metal detectors and those secondary searches. And we’ve put a lot of focus on the airlines for good reason. But we have neglected the mass transit components, generally speaking,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). The House passed the bill on May 30.

Obama Refuses To Pay, Individual Picks Up Tab

A local resident will pay part of the bill for President Barack Obama’s trip to Durham, N.H. The town of Durham could not afford the security costs of the President’s visit. City officials refused to cover the costs. The Obama campaign also refused.

It cost the town $20,000 to supply police, fire and EMS services — money that Durham does not have at its disposal. Although the Obama campaign clearly has the funds, it expected Durham to cover the bill.

The campaign says that decisions regarding expenses “are exclusively within the control of the appropriate government officials.”

Because the Obama campaign would not cover the security expenses, a local resident came forward and offered to pay what Durham couldn’t afford.

“An anonymous donor, a Durham resident, contacted the town administrator and council chair, and offered to pay for town public safety costs up to $20,000. The donor wanted us to make public his or her sentiment that the town had done the right thing in asking the campaign to do its part,” said Town Council Chair Jay Gooze.

Sunscreen Banned In Schools, Students Burned

An elementary school in Tacoma, Wash., is feeling the heat after it banned students from wearing sunscreen. Two sisters were severely burned at an all-day school function. One of the sisters suffers from a form of albinism.

“It feels like your eyeballs are just going to pop out,” said Zoe Michener, a fair-skinned 9-year-old.

The mother of the two girls, Jesse Michener, blogged about the ordeal.

“My children indicated that several adults commented on their burns at school, including staff and other parents. One of my children remarked that their teacher used sunscreen in her presence and that it was ‘just for her,’” wrote Michener.

Parents need to be aware that in 49 States, sunscreen is treated as an over-the-counter drug. Therefore, students must have a doctor’s note to use it. California is the only State that does not regulate sunscreen use on school campuses.

“We have learned that it’s important to stand up for what you believe in,” Michener said. “This has always been about making sense of a policy that doesn’t make sense and trying to change it.”

Boomers Buying Cars They Wanted As Teens

NASHVILLE (UPI) — Baby Boomers are buying the cars they wish they had as teenagers, custom car restorers say.

Jim Brandea of Spring Hill, Tenn., who has an online collector car magazine called the Gear head Gazette, said baby boomers have more cash as their children get out of college and they want to recapture part of their youth, The (Nashville) Tennessean reported Sunday.

Brandea, who also co-owns custom car restoration shop called Hot Rods & Threads in College Grove, Tenn., said muscle cars such as the Dodge Challenger and Charger, Chevrolet Camry, Ford Mustang and Pontiac GOT are among the most popular cars with boomers.

“People are really wanting those cars, trying to relive the days when horsepower was king. But trucks play a role, too. It really depends on what your flavor is,” he told the newspaper.

New Home Sales Rose In May

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Sales of new single-family homes rose 7.6 percent in April to May, the U.S. Commerce Department said Monday.

Sales climbed to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 369,000, which topped the revised April rate of 343,000 and came in 19.8 percent higher than 12 months prior when an estimated 308,000 new single-family homes were sold.

The Commerce Department said the average sale price for a new home sold in May was $273,900.

Going into June, there were 145,000 new homes on the market, enough to last 4.7 months at the current rate of sales, the Commerce Department said.

 

Blueberries Overtake Peaches In Georgia

ATLANTA (UPI) — Georgia’s blueberry industry is steadily outpacing “The Peach State’s” famous peach industry, data from the University of Georgia indicates.

The data show the blueberry industry produced $133 million in 2010 — making Georgia the third biggest blueberry-producing state behind Michigan and Oregon — while the peach industry produced $47 million, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Blueberry sales have increased by 500 percent since 2003 while peach sales have remained flat.

More than 19,000 acres of land in Georgia are devoted to blueberry farming compared to 8,000 acres 10 years ago. Only 12,000 acres of land in Georgia are devoted to peach farming, compared to 16,000 acres a decade ago.

The rise of the blueberry industry and the fall of the peach industry has split Georgia residents over their true agricultural identity.

“Georgia law says the peach is what we’re known for, but it’s good to have some diversity when it comes to agricultural economy,” Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said. “They are providing a good income and land utilization for a lot of our growers.”

“There’s nothing as sweet as a Georgia peach, not even a little old blueberry,” said Perry Swanson, president of the Peach County Chamber of Commerce. “Besides, would people say, ‘That girl’s as pretty as a Georgia blueberry?'”

Long-Haul Drivers In Short Supply

ARLINGTON, Va. (UPI) — Mike Card the chairman of the American Trucking Associations, said long-haul drivers are in short supply despite a U.S. unemployment rate of 8.2 percent.

“It’s getting harder to get drivers. I could hire 50 guys right now,” said Card, who is also the president of Combined Transport of Central Point, Ore.

USA Today reported Monday that an annual salary of approximately $50,000 is not enticing many laid off factory or construction workers in part because of the six-week training costs, which run as high as $6,000.

With a shortage of drivers, some companies are reporting delayed delivery times and the turnover of drivers has jumped from 75 percent in 2011 to 90 percent among larger trucking firms, a four-year high, the association said.

In a another repercussion, despite the delays, high customer demand and a driver shortage has pushed freight rates 2 percent to 5 percent higher, said Benjamin Hartford, an industry analyst at R.W. Baird.

The government has also made finding drivers more difficult and contributed to higher prices.

The government began publicizing safety records among trucking firms, which forced some firms to seek out drivers with unblemished driving records, which contributed to the shortage. Meanwhile, anti-pollution standards have made trucks more expensive, USA Today reported.

Older Workers Lead The Comeback

CHICAGO (UPI) — U.S. workers aged 55 and older have enjoyed the largest comeback of any age group in the slowly recovering economy, a private research group found.

Over the past 28 months, employment among three age categories – teenagers, workers aged 35- to 44-year-olds, and 45- to 54-year-olds – declined, Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported Monday.

Workers aged 20- to 24-years-old added 980,000 jobs in the same time frame. Workers aged 25- to 34-years-old have gained 882,000 jobs since Jan. 1, 2010, the firm said.

Those age 55 and older, however, gained 2,998,000 jobs or 69 percent of the total in employment growth, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said.

Part of the reason behind the trend is thrift. Older workers have experience in various job and can often wear more hats at a company than a younger worker, the firm said.

“A seasoned candidate who brings a wide variety of skills and experience to the table is going to have an advantage over younger candidates. For employers, one experienced candidate is worth two or three younger, greener candidates, in terms of the ability to make immediate and meaningful contributions to output and the bottom line,” said Chief Executive Officer John Challenger.

Banana Flour Touted For Gluten-Free Pasta

RIO DE JANEIRO (UPI) — University of Brazil researchers say their gluten-free pasta from green banana flour tastes better than regular whole-wheat pasta.

Lead investigator Renata Puppin Zandonadi of the University of Brazil compared a standard whole-wheat pasta preparation made from whole-wheat flour and whole eggs with one made from green banana flour, egg whites, water and gums.

The alterations reduced the fat content and increased the protein value of the modified pasta. The egg whites and gum resulted in pasta that was less sticky than typical gluten-free pastas, and promote firmness, elasticity, moisture and uniformity.

The modified pasta decreased fat content by more than 98 percent — particularly important to patients with celiac disease, because many gluten-free products compensate for the removal of gluten with high levels of fats.

Fifty testers who did not have celiac disease and 25 celiac disease patients tasted the pastas.

The study, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found both groups said the modified pasta was better accepted than the standard in aroma, flavor, texture and overall quality.

The findings indicated the product could possibly be commercialized to a wider market than just those with celiac disease, Zandonadi said.

“There was no significant difference between the modified pasta and standard samples in terms of appearance, aroma, flavor, and overall quality,” Zandonadi said in a statement. “For banana growers and pasta product makers, there is the possibility of diversifying and expanding their market.”

 

Thyroid Problems Cause Pregnancy Issues

HOUSTON (UPI) — Researchers in India suggest pregnant women should be screened for thyroid dysfunction within the first three months of getting pregnant.

Dr. Jubbin Jagan Jacob of Christian Medical College and Hospital, Ludhiana, India, and colleagues found even moderate thyroid dysfunction during early pregnancy significantly increases the risk of serious complications.

Thyroid hormone, produced by the thyroid gland, helps regulate the process of turning food into energy, but excessively low hormone production, or hypothyroidism, may cause symptoms such as fatigue, sensitivity to cold temperatures, constipation and depression.

However, during pregnancy untreated, hypothyroidism is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, low birth weight and other serious complications. Although previous research has suggested that women with moderate thyroid dysfunction, or subclinical hypothyroidism, also are more likely to suffer complications, the level of risk was uncertain.

The study found even mild thyroid dysfunction that did not meet the criteria for hypothyroidism greatly increased the risk of serious problems — compared to pregnant women with normal thyroid function, the risk was doubled for miscarriage, premature labor, low birth weight and seven times greater for still birth.

The finding were presented at The Endocrine Society’s 94th annual meeting in Houston.

Hormone Therapy Results In Weight Loss

HOUSTON (UPI) — Men using testosterone replacement therapy experienced significant weight loss, researchers in Germany found.

Lead author of Bayer Pharma in Berlin said previous research showed testosterone-deficient men consistently show changes in body composition, but the net effect on weight seemed unchanged. However, in the current study had a longer follow-up by at least two years and used long-acting injections of testosterone.

The investigators restored testosterone to normal levels in 255 testosterone-deficient men, whose average age was nearly 61. Treatment lasted for up to five years, with injections given at day one, after six weeks and then every 12 weeks after that. Patients did not follow a controlled diet or standard exercise program but received advice to improve their lifestyle habits.

The study found, on average, the men weighed 236 pounds before beginning testosterone treatment and 200 pounds after treatment. Weight loss was reportedly continuous, with an average reduction in body weight ranging from about 4 percent after one year of treatment to more than 13 percent after five years. In addition, the men lost an average of nearly 3.5 inches from their waist.

“The substantial weight loss found in our study — an average of 36 pounds — was a surprise,” Saad said in a statement.

The results were presented at The Endocrine Society’s 94th annual meeting in Houston.

Low Testosterone Not Normal Part Of Aging

HOUSTON (UPI) — A drop in testosterone levels in men as they age is more likely to result from smoking, obesity and depression — not aging, researchers in Australia say.

Dr. Gary Wittert, professor of medicine at the University of Adelaide in Adelaide in Australia, and colleagues analyzed testosterone levels in more than 1,500 men who had measurements taken at two clinic visits five years apart. Men who had abnormal values, were taking medications or had medical conditions known to affect hormones, were excluded.

The men included in the analysis involved 1,382 men — ages 35 to 80 years, with an average age of 54.

The study found, on average, testosterone levels did not decline significantly over five years; rather, they decreased less than 1 percent each year. However, when the investigators analyzed the data by subgroups, they found that certain factors were linked to lower testosterone levels at five years than at the beginning of the study.

“Men who had declines in testosterone were more likely to be those who became obese, had stopped smoking or were depressed at either clinic visit,” Wittert said in a statement. “While stopping smoking may be a cause of a slight decrease in testosterone, the benefit of quitting smoking is huge.”

Declining testosterone levels are not an inevitable part of the aging process, as many people think, Wittert added.

The findings are scheduled to be presented at the Endocrine Society’s 94th annual meeting in Houston.

Dads Pass On How To Make Money To Sons

PROVO, Utah (UPI) — Human capital — intelligence, advice, work ethic — may be why high-income fathers have richer sons, U.S. researchers say.

Study author David Sims, an economics professor at Brigham Young University said there’s a correlation between a father’s income and son’s — sons of fathers with high incomes tended to end up with higher than average incomes themselves.

“We wanted to see if the intergenerational income correlation is due to money — what we can buy for our kids — or if human capital attributes passed from father to son play a role as well,” Sims said in a statement.

The researchers used data from Sweden from 1950 to 1965 that included salary information for fathers and sons as well as clues about fathers’ human capital: education levels and the nature of their occupations.

Sims and his colleagues used a statistical methodology to isolate differences in fathers’ income due to something other than human capital, like in the example of similar fathers who worked in differing labor market conditions.

The study, published in the Journal of Political Economy, found income differences not related to a father’s human capital were weaker predictors of a son’s income, or in other words, human capital matters.

“Differing human capital endowments passed from father to son account for about two-thirds of the overall intergenerational income relationship,” Sims said.

Stonehenge A Symbol Of A United Britain?

SHEFFIELD, England (UPI) — Stonehenge was the center of ancient Britain and the monument was meant to symbolize the unification of eastern and western communities, researchers say.

Speculation as to the monument’s purpose — ancient astronomical observatory, temple for ritual sacrifice, spiritual center — has swirled around Stonehenge for centuries. Now researchers from five British universities said their study suggests it may have been built as a sign of peace between people from the east and west of the country after resolution of a period of warfare and regional differences.

Researchers say the stones, which were from locations as distant from each other as southern England and west Wales, may have been intended to represent the ancestors of some of Britain’s earliest farming communities.

“When Stonehenge was built there was a growing island-wide culture — the same styles of houses, pottery and other material forms were used from Orkney to the south coast,” University of Sheffield researcher Mike Parker Pearson said.

“This was very different to the regionalism of previous centuries. Stonehenge itself was a massive undertaking, requiring the labor of thousands to move stones from as far away as west Wales, shaping them and erecting them,” he said in a Sheffield release.

“Just the work itself, requiring everyone literally to pull together, would have been an act of unification.”

Researches from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton, Bournemouth and University College London took part in the study.

 

'Brain-Hacking' Technology Sought

LONDON (UPI) — Stanford University researchers say they are working on a device that would allow them to “pretty much hack” into the brain of British genius Stephen Hawking.

Professor Philip Low and his colleagues at Stanford in California have been working with the disabled British theoretical physicist to develop technology that would enable them to communicate with Hawking through brain waves, The Daily Telegraph reported Sunday.

“We’d like to find a way to bypass his body, pretty much hack his brain,” said Low, who invented the iBrain, which detects brain waves and communicates with them via computer.

Hawking, 70, has motor neurone disease that robbed him of his ability to speak nearly 30 years ago. He uses a computer to communicate but his condition is deteriorating.

The British newspaper said the researchers will provide an update on their work at a conference in Cambridge next month, and may demonstrate the technology on Hawking.

Low describes the research into biomarkers as an attempt to provide “a window into the brain.”

“We’re building technology that will allow humanity to have access to the human brain for the first time,” he said.

“The emergence of such biomarkers opens the possibility to link intended movements to a library of words and convert them into speech, thus providing motor neurone sufferers with communication tools more dependent on the brain than on the body.”

Galapagos Tortoise 'Lonesome George' Dies

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, Ecuador (UPI) — A tortoise dubbed Lonesome George, the sole survivor of his species and a Galapagos Islands conservation icon, has died, officials say.

The animal was found dead in his corral early Sunday at the Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, the Galapagos National Park Service reported.

Park ranger Fausto Llerena, his longtime keeper, found George stretched out toward his watering hole but showing no signs of life.

The body of the animal, which had been the sole living example of the Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis abingdoni), was being held in a refrigerated chamber to avoid decomposition prior to a necropsy, officials said.

Pinta tortoises were thought to be extinct when George was discovered in 1972.

Efforts to get George to reproduce were unsuccessful, as females of a related species put with George produced infertile eggs.

The animal’s exact age was unknown but was estimated to be about 100 years, officials said.

 

Conservationists Hail Birth Of Rare Rhino

LAMPUNG, Indonesia (UPI) — A rare Sumatran rhino has given birth at an Indonesian sanctuary, encouraging researchers concerned for the species’ survival, officials said.

A baby male rhino was born to Ratu, a 12-year-old Sumatran rhino living at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia’s Way Kambas National Park, the International Rhino Foundation reported Monday.

With fewer than 200 Sumatran rhinos living in Indonesia and Malaysia, it is one of the world’s most endangered species. Their survival is threatened by loss of its tropical forest habitat and hunting pressure from poachers, who kill rhinos for their valuable horns, conservationists said.

“We are overjoyed that Ratu delivered a healthy calf and are cautiously optimistic that the calf will continue to thrive,” Susie Ellis, the foundation’s executive director, said.

Two previous pregnancies for Ratu ended in miscarriages.

“We have been waiting for this moment since the sanctuary was built in 1998,” Ellis said.

The rhino calf weights between 60 and 70 pounds, she said.

“The little guy is absolutely adorable, and none of us has been able to stop smiling since the moment we were sure he was alive and healthy.”

Researchers Say Napping Can Help Learning

EVANSTON, Ill. (UPI) — A musical tune someone has been practicing can become better fixed in their memory if it is played to them while they sleep, U.S. researchers say.

The study builds on existing evidence suggesting memories can be reactivated during sleep and storage of them can be strengthened in the process, Northwestern University reported Sunday.

In the study, research learned how to play two artificially generated musical tunes requiring well-timed key presses. Then while the participants took a 90-minute nap, the researchers played one of the tunes that had been practiced, but not the other.

Afterward, participants made fewer errors when pressing the keys to produce the melody that had been presented while they slept, compared with the melody not presented, researchers said.

“Our results extend prior research by showing that external stimulation during sleep can influence a complex skill,” Northwestern psychology Professor Ken A. Paller said.

That doesn’t mean you can learn something like a foreign language while you sleep, researchers cautioned.

“The critical difference is that our research shows that memory is strengthened for something you’ve already learned,” study co-author Paul J. Reber said. “Rather than learning something new in your sleep, we’re talking about enhancing an existing memory by re-activating information recently acquired.”

However, Reber said, “If you were learning how to speak in a foreign language during the day, for example, and then tried to reactivate those memories during sleep, perhaps you might enhance your learning.”

Scottish Marchers Told No Swords Allowed

STIRLING, Scotland, (UPI) — Participants in a march to commemorate the Battle of Bannockburn, the great Scottish victory of 1314, have been told to leave swords and axes at home.

The Stirling Council, which has jurisdiction in the nearby village of Bannockburn, said weapons were banned during the short march to the battle site, The Daily Telegraph reported.

But the National Trust for Scotland, which owns the battlefield, said weapons would be allowed on the field. Participants would have to leave them in their cars while marching through the village and then retrieve them.

The Scottish Republican Socialist Movement, which organized this year’s march, expected several hundred participants. Many were expected to be costumed as soldiers in Robert the Bruce’s army.

The Bruce defeated King Edward II of England on June 24, 1314, one of many battles fought to preserve Scotland’s independence.

The Stirling Council said the weapons ban was standard operating procedure. But some organizers said officials might have been worried by events last year, when one car was hit with a shield and a British flag was burned.

“These weapons are part of our traditional dress and people were not going to be waving them about,” said Tom Chalmers on a Facebook page against the weapons ban. “It’s a peaceful march with banners.”