Tuesday, November 25, 2008

ATH: OLH 's great season over . . .

OLH falls to Austin Hill Country in playoffs
By Thomas Phillips, The Daily Times, Published November 24, 2008

Our Lady of the Hills ended its football season Saturday much different from the way it started: This game went four quarters.

The Hawks lost 75-46 to Austin Hill Country in Marble Falls in the second round of the TAPPS playoffs. It was OLH’s fifth game of the season to last four quarters. The Hawks, who end the season 9-3, won seven games this year when referees invoked the mercy rule, enforced when one team is up by at least 45 points at the end of the first half.

“We need to play full games,” said coach Tony Bushong. “That’s the only way we’re going to get better.”

Scheduling changes have been made so the Hawks, playing six-man football, face stiffer competition next year.

“We’re going to try to play some elite teams,” he said.

Austin Hill Country (7-4) ran to victory in the arms of running back Collin Bland, who scored eight touchdowns for the Knights.

“We couldn’t stop him,” Bushong said. “He was a senior, and he gave us a good dose.”

Bland scored on runs of 51, 39, 21, 21, 20, 13, 3 and 1 yards.

For OLH, junior J.D. Salinas ran for 87 yards and two touchdowns, and freshman Marshall Walker ran for 130 yards and one touchdown.

Junior quarterback Brock Bushong scored one touchdown on the ground and ran for 40 yards. He threw 59-yard and 10-yard touchdown passes to junior Will Gregory and went 9-for-18 for 181 yards through the air.

All of Gregory’s receiving yards came on the touchdown catches. Junior Austin Reyes also had 76 yards receiving.

OLH entered to the game ranked No. 8 by sixmanfootball.com and beat Bryan Allen 57-24 the previous week for the Hawks' first-ever playoff win.

“I still like our first year in TAPPS,” Tony Bushong said.

TAPPS, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, is the statewide governing body for private-school athletics.

“We had a pretty good season,” Bushong said.

2008 was also the first year OLH participated in a district. The Kerrville team is in its third year as a program.

Bushong loses four seniors for next year — Michael Hofmann, Kyle Higgins, J.J. Reyna and Zach Domingue.

“I’m very proud of our seniors, and we’re going to miss them,” Bushong said. “There’s no replacing boys like that.”

Moving up for OLH will be players from a JV squad that went undefeated this season.

“Maybe with a little luck we’ll go farther,” Bushong said.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

OBT: Mitch Mitchell !!!

Drummer for Jimi Hendrix found dead
Mitch Mitchell apparently died of natural causes at 61 in a hotel room

PORTLAND, Ore. - Mitch Mitchell, drummer for the legendary Jimi Hendrix Experience of the 1960s and the group’s last surviving member, was found dead in his hotel room early Wednesday. He was 61.

Mitchell was a powerful force on the Hendrix band’s 1967 debut album “Are You Experienced?” as well as the trio’s albums “Electric Ladyland” and “Axis: Bold As Love.” He had an explosive drumming style that can be heard in hard-charging songs such as “Fire” and “Manic Depression.”

The Englishman had been drumming for the Experience Hendrix Tour, which performed Friday in Portland. It was the last stop on the West Coast part of the tour.

Hendrix died in 1970. Bass player Noel Redding died in 2003.

An employee at Portland’s Benson Hotel called police after discovering Mitchell’s body.

Erin Patrick, a deputy medical examiner, said Mitchell apparently died of natural causes. An autopsy was planned.

“He was a wonderful man, a brilliant musician and a true friend,” said Janie Hendrix, chief executive of the Experience Hendrix Tour and Jimi Hendrix’ stepsister. “His role in shaping the sound of the Jimi Hendrix Experience cannot be underestimated.”

Bob Merlis, a spokesman for the tour, said Mitchell had stayed in Portland for a four-day vacation and planned to leave Wednesday.

“It was a devastating surprise,” Merlis said. “Nobody drummed like he did.”

He said he saw Mitchell perform two weeks ago in Los Angeles, and the drummer appeared to be healthy and upbeat.

Merlis said the tour was designed to bring together veteran musicians who had known Hendrix — like Mitchell — and younger artists, such as Grammy-nominated winner Jonny Lang, who have been influenced by him.

Played with the best
Mitchell was a one-of-a-kind drummer whose “jazz-tinged” style was influenced by Max Roach and Elvin Jones, Merlis said. The work was a vital part of both the Jimi Hendrix Experience in the 1960s and the Experience Hendrix Tour that ended last week, he said.

“If Jimi Hendrix were still alive,” Merlis said, “he would have acknowledged that.”

During his career Mitchell played with the best in the business — not just Hendrix, but also Eric Clapton, John Lennon, the Rolling Stones, Jack Bruce, Jeff Beck, Muddy Waters and others.

Mitchell was a member of a later version of the Jimi Hendrix Experience that performed the closing set of the Woodstock Festival in August 1969 — where Hendrix played a psychedelic version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the band launched into “Purple Haze.”

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 1992. According to the Hall of Fame, Mitchell was born July 9, 1947, in Ealing, England.

Hendrix, Redding and Mitchell held their first rehearsal in October 1966, according to the Hall of Fame’s Web site.

In an interview last month with the Boston Herald, Mitchell said he met Hendrix “in this sleazy little club.”

“We did some Chuck Berry and took it from there,” Mitchell told the newspaper. “I suppose it worked.”

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Monday, November 10, 2008

OBT: Miriam Makeba

Activist-singer Makeba dies at 76
South Africa anti-apartheid activist, fondly known as 'Mama Africa', was 76
The Associated Press, updated 2:43 a.m. CT, Mon., Nov. 10, 2008

ROME - Miriam Makeba, the South African folk singer and anti-apartheid activist fondly known as "Mama Africa," died early Monday in southern Italy after performing at a concert against organized crime, hospital officials said. She was 76.

The emergency room of the Pineta Grande Clinic, a private facility in Castel Volturno, near Naples, confirmed Italian news reports that the singer had died after being brought there.

The ANSA news agency reported that Makeba apparently suffered a heart attack just at the end of the concert, where she had sung for about 30 minutes to show solidarity for Italian journalist Roberto Saviano, who received death threats after writing a book about the Camorra, the Naples-area crime syndicate.

Grief and shock
The news of Makeba's death caused shock and grief in South Africa.

Arts and Culture Ministry spokesman Sandile Memela described her as an international icon.

"It's a monumental loss not only to South African society in general but for humanity," he said.

Tributes poured in on morning radio talk shows for the woman who wooed the world with her sultry voice and soft eyes and who was exiled from her homeland for more than 30 years.

Makeba first came to international prominence when she starred in the anti-apartheid documentary "Come Back, Africa" in 1959. In 1960, when she tried to fly home for her mother's funeral, she discovered her passport had been revoked.

In 1963, she appeared before the U.N. Special Committee on Apartheid to call for an international boycott on South Africa. The South African government responded by banning her records, including hits like "Pata Pata," "The Click Song" ("Qongqothwane" in Xhosa), and "Malaika."

In 1966, Makeba received the Grammy Award for Best Folk Recording together with Harry Belafonte for "An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba." The album dealt with the political plight of black South Africans under apartheid.

She only returned to her homeland with the crumbling of apartheid in the early 1990s.

"It was like a revival," she said. "My music having been banned for so long, that people still felt the same way about me was too much for me. I just went home and I cried."

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Friday, November 07, 2008

ENC: Glacier Birds

14-year-old helps dad solve avian mystery
Finch may be only bird other than penguin to incubate eggs on glacial ice
by Amelia Tomas, LiveScience, updated 11:51 a.m. CT, Fri., Nov. 7, 2008

At 14 years old, Spencer Hardy has solved an avian mystery and discovered significant evidence for the only bird other than a penguin to incubate its eggs on glacial ice.

Hardy’s geoscientist father, Douglas, was stationed in southeastern Peru at the Quelccaya Ice Cap in the Andes for long-term research on climate change. He was studying glacier melting rates when his son, in sixth-grade at home in Vermont at the time, identified White-winged Diuca Finches (Diuca speculifera) from his father’s photographs taken from the site. Spencer started to realize that these birds could be responsible for mysterious nesting sites his father had found scattered along the edge of a glacier.

"Since he was seven, Spencer’s always had a fascination with studying birds and their different species," said Douglas Hardy, who works with the University of Massachusetts Amherst Climate Systems Research Center. Spencer’s expertise was sharpened recently when he wrote a report on patterns of change among bird species, based on data in a Vermont bird atlas.

At nearly 19,000 feet on Quelccaya’s ice face, Dad decided to enlist his son’s help, long-distance, taking pictures of birds and nest material frozen into the ice.

“I never would have documented these observations if it wasn’t for Spencer. I didn’t even identify with South American birds,” Hardy told LiveScience.

At home, Spencer identified the birds and drew up a list of species that could be responsible for making the nests, since he never read of such a nesting habit. The father-son team then consulted an expert at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., who studied feathers Douglas Hardy had consistently found falling from the edge of melting ice near an array of 30 nests at his study site in Peru. The feathers were confirmed to belong to the White-winged Diuca Finch.

Finally, Douglas Hardy went back to the ice cap in June 2008 and found intact Diuca Finch nests on the ice. One of the nests contained abandoned eggs.

The White-winged Diuca Finch is a bird species in the Emberizidae family, known for being sparrow-sized. Although the birds are not generally associated with glaciers, they incubate their eggs about 10 inches off the ice, perhaps to reduce their accessibility to predators, the Hardys conclude.

"The Diuca Finches are using the glacier to their advantage," the father said. "If they can get up off the ground and enter inside a crack in a glacier, it might offer them some thermal protection, as well as shelter from snow or rain."

Like penguins, these small birds endure brutal nesting conditions for weeks on end — low oxygen, bitter cold, heavy snow and high winds. Despite these circumstances, they still nest exclusively on the glacier, the father and son report in the September 2008 issue of the Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

In fact, Diuca Finches in the area do not retreat to lower elevations even in winter, and immature birds have been seen in June.

Since the breeding habits of most birds around parts of New England are well established, it’s an amazing find to document the unique nesting strategies of birds in another country that have to endure extreme challenges to live and breed, Spencer said.

The White-winged Diuca Finches have been discovered at an environment where their climatological and physiological limits are tested, the elder Hardy said, adding that this "demonstrates how adaptable life is."

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

ENV: Tasmanian Devils

Tasmanian devils could be gone in 20 years
Project underway to determine impact of devil facial tumor disease
By Robin Lloyd
updated 4:01 p.m. CT, Mon., Nov. 3, 2008
An Australian zoologist is leading a national project to help save the endangered Tasmanian devil from extinction, a situation that could arise within the next 20 years, experts predict.

Jeremy Austin will lead the project, which has received $168,000 Australian (Australian dollars currently are about two-thirds the value of U.S. dollars) from that nation's government. The research will rely on genetic procedures to examine the impact of an infectious cancer, devil facial tumor disease, on Tasmanian devils.

Tasmanian devils became extinct on the Australian mainland about 400 years ago and are now found only on the Australian island state of Tasmania. Unlike Tasmanian tigers, devils survived initial human impacts following European colonization but in the past decade their numbers have fallen drastically.

"We have lost over half our devils in the past 10 years, with an estimated population of 20,000 to 50,000 mature devils left. Extinction within the next 20 years is a real possibility unless we find a vaccine, eradicate the disease and establish captive colonies," Austin said.

Breeding program
There are 500 disease-free devils in zoos and wildlife parks on the Australian mainland, so scientists recently suggested a breeding program as an "insurance policy" in case a vaccine is not found in time, the British Telegraph newspaper reported.

Some forecasts for the extinction of devils are as low as 10 years, Guy Cooper, conservation society director of Taronga Zoo in Sydney, told the newspaper. The disease is spreading faster than expected.

Austin and colleagues will spend the next three years establishing a conservation program and working to suppress the disease, which is ravaging Australia's largest living marsupial carnivore.

Symptoms of the disease, including cancerous lesions around the mouth, face and neck, were first reported in 1996 at one spot on Tasmania. By 2007, the disease had spread over more than half of the devils' home range there. Some populations have lost up to 89 percent of their members as a result of the facial tumors.

Sex sooner
One way devil populations are coping is by having sex at an earlier age, a study found earlier this year. The fatal disease strikes when devils reach the age of 2, which is about when they become sexually mature enough to breed. So earlier breeding is critical for the survival of the species. Devils only breed two or three times in their lifetime.

The Tasmanian devil is not only a key tourism icon for Australia's most southern State, but also ecologically critical to Tasmania’s native ecosystem.

Because Tasmanian devils have extremely low levels of genetic diversity and a chromosomal mutation unique among carnivorous mammals, they are more prone to the infectious cancer. Austin's team will analyze genetic material from devil populations to understand the origin, spread and impact of the disease and try to find a vaccine.

"We need to establish whether the low levels of genetic diversity are due to recent human impacts or a long-term historical pattern," Austin said. "We also need to look at how the cancer is affecting surviving populations and identify individuals that may be resistant to the disease."

Devil facial tumor disease is one of only two known clonally transmissible cancers and appears to have originated from a genetic change of mutation in a single individual. It is spread through biting during fights over food and during mating.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

COM; Election Coverage

ENV: Axolotl dropoff

Mexico's 'water monster' nears extinction
The axolotl, a key part of Aztec legend and diet, faces new threats
The Associated Press, updated 2:05 p.m. CT, Sun., Nov. 2, 2008

MEXICO CITY - Beneath the tourist gondolas in the remains of a great Aztec lake lives a creature that resembles a monster — and a Muppet — with its slimy tail, plumage-like gills and mouth that curls into an odd smile.

The axolotl, also known as the "water monster" and the "Mexican walking fish," was a key part of Aztec legend and diet. Against all odds, it survived until now amid Mexico City's urban sprawl in the polluted canals of Lake Xochimilco, now a Venice-style destination for revelers poled along by Mexican gondoliers, or trajineros, in brightly painted party boats.

But scientists are racing to save the foot-long salamander from extinction, a victim of the draining of its lake habitat and deteriorating water quality. In what may be the final blow, nonnative fish introduced into the canals are eating its lunch — and its babies.

The long-standing International Union for Conservation of Nature includes the axolotl on its annual Red List of threatened species, while researchers say it could disappear in just five years. Some are pushing for a series of axolotl sanctuaries in canals cleared of invasive species, while others are considering repopulating Xochimilco with axolotls bred in captivity.

"If the axolotl disappears, it would not only be a great loss to biodiversity but to Mexican culture, and would reflect the degeneration of a once-great lake system," says Luis Zambrano, a biologist at the Autonomous University of Mexico, or UNAM.

Population is dropping
The number of axolotls (pronounced ACK-suh-LAH-tuhl) in the wild is not known. But the population has dropped from roughly 1,500 per square mile in 1998 to a mere 25 per square mile this year, according to a survey by Zambrano's scientists using casting nets.

It has been a steep fall from grace for the salamander with a feathery mane of gills and a visage reminiscent of a 1970s Smiley Face that inspired American poet Ogden Nash to pen the witticism: "I've never met an axolotl, But Harvard has one in a bottle."

Millions once lived in the giant lakes of Xochimilco and Chalco on which Mexico City was built. Using four stubby legs to drag themselves along lake bottoms or their thick tails to swim like mini-alligators, they hunted plentiful aquatic insects, small fish and crustaceans.

Legend has it that Xolotl — the dog-headed Aztec god of death, lightning and monstrosities — feared he was about to be banished or killed by other gods and changed into an axolotl to flee into Lake Xochimilco.

The axolotl's decline began when Spanish conquerors started draining the lakes, which were further emptied over time to slake the thirst of one of the world's largest and fastest-growing cities. In the 1970s, Lake Chalco was completely drained to prevent flooding. In the 1980s, Mexico City began pumping its wastewater into the few canals and lagoons that remained of Xochimilco.

Threats include tilapia
About 20 years ago, African tilapia were introduced into Xochimilco in a misguided effort to create fisheries. They joined with Asian carp to dominate the ecosystem and eat the axolotl's eggs and compete with it for food. The axolotl is also threatened by agrochemical runoff from nearby farms and treated wastewater from a Mexico City sewage plant, researchers say.

Local fisherman Roberto Altamira, 32, recalls when he was a boy, and the axolotl was still part of the local diet.

"I used to love axolotl tamales," he says, rubbing his stomach and laughing.

But he says people no longer eat axolotls, mainly because fishermen almost never find them.

"The last one I caught was about six months ago," says Altamira, a wiry gondolier with rope-like muscles from years of poling through Xochimilco's narrow waterways.

Scientists study its traits
Meanwhile, the axolotl population is burgeoning in laboratories, where scientists study its amazing traits, including the ability to completely re-grow lost limbs. Axolotls have played key roles in research on regeneration, embryology, fertilization and evolution.

The salamander has the rare trait of retaining its larval features throughout its adult life, a phenomenon called neoteny. It lives all its life in the water but can breathe both under water with gills or by taking gulps of air from the surface.

On a 9-foot-wide canal covered by a green carpet of "lentejilla" — an aquatic plant that resembles green lentils — Zambrano's researchers test water quality and search for axolotls. The air smells of sulfur and sewage.

A team member suddenly points to the trademark water ripple of an axolotl, and the crew hurls its net. But they only come up with two tilapia in a sopping-wet mass of lentejilla.

So far, scientists disagree on how to save the creature. But a pilot sanctuary is expected to open in the next three to six months in the waters around Island of the Dolls, so-called because the owner hangs dolls he finds in the canals to ward off evil spirits.

Zambrano proposes up to 15 axolotl sanctuaries in Xochimilco's canals, where scientists would insert some kind of barrier and clear the area of nonnative species.

Without carp, the water would clear, and plants the axolotl needs to breed could flourish again, said Bob Johnson, the curator of amphibians and reptiles at the Toronto Zoo.

"If you take the insults away, the lake has an amazing latent potential to heal itself," he said.

Introducing axolotls into canals
Veterinarian Erika Servin, who runs the Mexico City government's axolotl program at Chapultepec Zoo, is studying the possibility of introducing axolotls from the lab into the canals. But more study is needed to make sure the process doesn't lead to diseases and genetic problems from inbreeding.

Xochimilco residents could be another source of resistance.

Hundreds of people make a living pulling tilapia from canals or growing flowers, lettuce and vegetables on nearby land. Efforts to remove the fish or shut down polluting farms could face stiff opposition.

But while the debate goes on, time is running out.

Given its role in research alone, Johnson says, "We owe it to the axolotl to help it survive."

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