March 8, 2013 4:13 pm
An employee at the Cat Haven Wildlife Sanctuary in Northern California was mauled to death by an animal she had described to friends as “her favorite lion,” CNN reports:
The victim’s grieving father said the lion, Cous Cous (who once appeared on Ellen DeGeneres’ television show when he was about three months old), was one of her favorites.
The sanctuary did not release details of why Hanson was in the lion’s cage, but said it would investigate whether safety protocols were followed.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said that when the lion attacked, another employee at the sanctuary tried to distract him away from Hanson into another enclosure. “But all attempts failed,” it said.
Can lions and humans ever truly be pals? They’ve certainly tried–a 1956 LIFE Magazine story about Blondie, the 225-pound female lion kept as a pet by a family in Graham, Texas, paints a picture of a big cat who thinks she’s a small one:
Blondie is the most lovable lion in Graham, Texas-maybe the most lovable lion there is. She gets tidbits at the dinner table. She takes her baths in the family tub and lets the kids climb on her and maul her about.
Understandably nervous about her presence in the suburban community, Graham families came to trust Blondie–and to rely on her for very special forecasts:
Nowadays mothers pay no attention when their children play with the lion in the Hipps’s yard. But when Blondie roars they rush out and call the children in. Not that they worry about her getting angry, but they have learned that when Blondie roars it is going to rain.
And there are stories like this one, of lion trainers who’ve bonded with their trainees:
Or lions who’ve recognized the humans who raised them:
But there are always risks to relationships with animals so strong and equipped with such sharp teeth.
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March 8, 2013 12:55 pm
The creation of DST is usually credited to George Vernon Hudson, a New Zealand artist and amateur bug collector who first proposed the idea in an 1895 paper, but 100 years earlier, Benjamin Franklin, inventor of all things useful, pondered a similar question in a letter to the editor of the Journal of Paris:
I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was but six o’clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, I looked into the almanac, where I found it to be the hour given for his rising on that day. I looked forward, too, and found he was to rise still earlier every day till towards the end of June; and that at no time in the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o’clock. Your readers, who with me have never seen any signs of sunshine before noon, and seldom regard the astronomical part of the almanac, will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his rising so early; and especially when I assure them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this. I am certain of my fact. One cannot be more certain of any fact. I saw it with my own eyes. And, having repeated this observation the three following mornings, I found always precisely the same result.
Adjusting to a new system of sleeping and waking, based not on clocks but on the sun itself, Franklin, argued, would be simple:
All the difficulty will be in the first two or three days; after which the reformation will be as natural and easy as the present irregularity; for, ce n’est que le premier pas qui coûte. Oblige a man to rise at four in the morning, and it is more than probable he will go willingly to bed at eight in the evening; and, having had eight hours sleep, he will rise more willingly at four in the morning following.
What’s more, he claimed, the people of France would save hundreds of francs a year on candlesif they slept when it was dark and woke when it was light, artificial illumination would no longer be a necessity.
Franklin was prepared to give his idea to the world for a low, low fee:
I demand neither place, pension, exclusive privilege, nor any other reward whatever. I expect only to have the honour of it.
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March 8, 2013 8:57 am
It might be time for the Metropolitan Museum of Art to invest in new signage: they’re being sued by two Czech tourists who claim the existing information tricks visitors into believing there is an entrance fee to see stone engravings from Ancient Egypy, the works of Vincent Van Gogh and Jackson Pollock, and the best places to hide from overbearing parents. (The Met’s policy has always been one of suggested donation.) Reuters reports:
“MMA has misled, and regularly misleads, members of the general public to believe, on all days of the week during times when the MMA is open, that they are required to pay the Admission Fees in order to enter Museum Exhibition Halls,” the lawsuit claimed.
Museum spokesman Harold Holzer said in an email that the museum is “confident that our longstanding pay-what-you-wish admissions policy meets the spirit and letter of our agreement with the city … and ensures that the Met is fully accessible to and affordable by all.”
But wait! Weiss & Hiller, the law firm representing the tourists and several unidentified museum members, has toured this exhibit before—they filed a similar lawsuit in the fall of 2012:
The museum members, Theodore Grunewald and Patricia Nicholson, who filed suit in state court in Manhattan, argue in court papers that the museum makes it difficult to understand the fee policy, a practice intended to “deceive and defraud” the public. The suit, reported by The New York Post, cites asurvey commissioned by Mr. Grunewald and Ms. Nicholson in which more than 360 visitors to the museum were asked if they knew the fee was optional; 85 percent of visitors responded that they believed they were required to pay. Their suit asks the court to prevent the museum from charging any fees.
When the Met first started recommending admission fees in the mid-1970s, signs hung around the entryway read “Pay what you wish, but you must pay something.”
March 7, 2013 12:22 pm
Some founding fathers were no strangers to the sort of fiscal woes that Congress, under increasing pressure to solve the ever-worsening financial crisis, faces today. Thomas Jefferson, elected in 1800, inherited $83 million dollars worth of federal debt. His plan to get the fledgling United States out of the hole? Government spending cuts! The History News Network lays out his plan:
Jefferson understood that debt was necessary to pay for war and to invest in the public good, but he believed that “neither the representatives of a nation, nor the whole nation itself, assembled can validly engage debts beyond what they may pay in their own time….” That was a generation, according to Jefferson, and his debt reduction plan, devised by his Secretary of Treasury Albert Gallatin, was to eliminate the debt he inherited in sixteen years.
“We are hunting out and abolishing multitudes of useless offices,” Jefferson proudly wrote his son-in-law, “striking off jobs, lopping them down silently.”
The problem was that the civilian government was more muscle than lard, including only 130 employees. Gallatin explained to Jefferson that while cutting civilian jobs saved thousands of dollars, they could save hundreds of thousands more if they followed federal expenditures, which mostly went to the military.
Jefferson took his anti-military spending platform even further in his 1801 State of the Nation address:
War, indeed, and untoward events may change this prospect of things and call for expenses which imposts could not meet; but sound principles will not justify our taxing the industry of our fellow citizens to accumulate treasure for wars to happen we know not when, and which might not, perhaps, happen but from the temptations offered by that treasure.
Through a series of strategic moves that would puzzle even the most savvy political strategist of 2013, Jefferson managed to cut military spending by nearly half (for comparison, the cuts facing the military as a result of the sequester hover in the 10 percent range), end the whiskey tax and buy a third of North America.
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March 6, 2013 2:25 pm
Is cursive handwriting, bane of impatient schoolchildren across the globe, soon to be a thing of the past? A recent editorial in Prospect Magazine suggest educators are coming around to the idea that perfectly scripted ABCs might not be so important after all:
We tend to forget, unless we have small children, that learning to write isn’t easy. It would make sense, then, to keep it as simple as possible. If we are going to teach our children two different ways of writing in their early years, you’d think we’d have a very good reason for doing so. I suspect that most primary school teachers could not adduce one.
It’s not just about writing, but reading too. “As a reading specialist, it seems odd to me that early readers, just getting used to decoding manuscript, would be asked to learn another writing style,” says Randall Wallace, a specialist in reading and writing skills at Missouri State University.
Has cursive writing ever been truly necessary?
A survey in the US in 1960 found that the decision to teach cursive in elementary schools was “based mainly on tradition and wide usage, not on research findings.” One school director said that public expectancy and teachers’ training were the main reasons, and that “we doubt that there is any significant advantage in cursive writing.” According to Wallace, nothing has changed: “The reasons to reject cursive handwriting as a formal part of the curriculum far outweigh the reasons to keep it.”
Hawaii, Indiana, and Illinois have all replaced cursive instruction with “keyboard proficiency” and 44 other states are currently weighing similar measures.
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