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Songbirds change to cope with deforestation

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Eastern North American songbirds are a very adaptable bunch, says a scientist who discovered some remarkable changes in their wing shapes over the past century.

A close look at museum collections of 851 songbird specimens belonging to 21 species shows that most of the birds evolved wings that are more pointed after their forests were disrupted by logging. Others in re-forested areas evolved less-pointed wings. The drive to procreate forced the changes in wing shape.

More pointed wings can help birds who are long-distance commuters fly more efficiently. Rounded wings however, are better off over short distances.

"I've been studying the effects of (forest) fragmentation," said Andre Desrochers of Quebec's University Laval and the Laboratory of Ornithology at Cornell University. "Roads, rivers, clearcuts and other gaps can break up songbird habitats.

"To me, it becomes apparent that fragmentation is really a big problem" he added. "If you (as a songbird) are in a fragmented habitat, you have more chance of being without a mate."

NCR contributors in the news

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NCR contributors in the news

Sr. Rose Pacatte, a Daughter of St. Paul and director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles, who writes on media for NCR, has been chosen to receive the Board of Directors Award from Los Angeles-based Catholics in Media Associates.

The awards are slated to be distributed as part of a Feb. 28 Mass and awards brunch in Beverly Hills. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles is scheduled to celebrate the Mass.

Columnist Heidi Schlumpf was profiled in the Chicago Daily Herald. The paper notes that Schlumpf "wrote her book, While We Wait" Spiritual & Practical Advice for Those Trying to Adopt, to encourage other parents going through the adoption process."

Ashes to ashes

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No one had seen Robina Dumas at church, but everyone knew why. She had fallen ill, and things did not look good. Craig, her husband of more than 60 years, still came every Sunday, sitting by himself at the edge of a pew. We'd always said hello to him and his wife on Sundays, but really got to know them when their daughter Kathy started teaching our kids piano.

We'd always ask Craig about Robina, and he'd smile some and say she seemed better or stronger or livelier. Until he would just smile and shrug slightly. We'd learned from others how much she had done for parish in decades pass, as she was raising her children and even long after they had grown. She was a fixture, people said, in 1950s, 1960s and on.

We got the call from Kathy one night not long ago -- her mother had passed. The funeral was set for that Saturday.

My wife and I wondered how Craig was taking it -- and how the parish would respond. Robina had been a key figure there years ago, but would anyone remember now? Life, especially in places like Los Angeles, is always in motion -- people move out and move on, taking their memories with them.

Haiti donations

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Type "haiti donations" into Bing, Yahoo, Google and the number of hits is astoudning. (111,0000,000 and 7,310,000 and 11,900,000 hits respectively).

The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that American charities raise $774-Million for Haiti relief.

Among the results:

  • Catholic Medical Mission Board had raised $1.3-million in cash as of February 3. The organization has also received donations of medicines and medical supplies worth $10.6-million.
  • Catholic Relief Services had secured $60.4-million in gifts and pledges as of February 17.

How about this one:

  • Internews Network, a nonprofit group that promotes journalism abroad, received $200,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help the news media in Haiti recover from the disaster and broadcast critical information about the relief efforts.

Notre Dame Leaders Back DC Scholarship Program

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DC’s Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provided tuition money to poor students that seek a shot at a better education by going to Catholic schools, is dying a slow death in Congress. The President of the University of Notre Dame, Father John Jenkins, as well as the President Emeritus, Father Ted Hesburgh, and the priest who runs the program in Education Initiatives at Notre Dame, Father Timothy Scully, have written a joint letter to Senator Richard Durbin and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, calling for the program to be extended, not killed.

Feb. 19, Bl. Alvaro of Zamora, O.P.

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Today is the feast of Bl. Alvaro of Zamora, "a major figure in the reform of the Dominican Order in Spain".


"He also built 'station' chapels, each representing a scene from Our Lord's passion, and has therefore been credited with originating devotion to the Stations of the Cross in the West, but this had become widespread with the popularity of pilgrimages to Jerusalem, encouraged by indulgences being attached to them in the fourteenth century."

Morning Briefing

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Continuing the fight against nukes

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It was apparent, just after the fall of Communism, that the "industrial" portion of the military industrial complex wasn't going to give up on the conflict that easily. War planners might change plans, politicians might alter their rhetoric, the world itself might breathe a bit easier as the nuclear clock eased back away from midnight. But the weapons' producers were another matter.

So it is good to see the church again, this time in Britain, stepping up to make the case against new generations of nuclear weapons. The group in Britain was advancing -- in dramatic fashion at the site of a nuclear weapons manufacturer -- the same point as that made last July by Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, former head of the Archdiocese for Military Services and now archbishop of Baltimore, to an audience of military and diplomatic officials.

Three Articles To Make You Think

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Three articles today speak about American politics at a deeper level than the day-to-day partisan bickering and that warrant a careful reading.

The first two both focus on populism. George Will writes about the electoral limits of populism, noting that the last successful presidential campaign run on purely populist grounds was that of Andrew Jackson. Further, Will recognizes that populism can serve as a check on the ambitions of more mainstream politicians, but it can almost never convert itself to a governing philosophy.

Leon Wieseltier points out that the populism of former Governor Sarah Palin is fake at its core, that it is merely a new entry in the anti-elitism of some elites against that of others. After all, someone who has a best selling book, was elected to the governorship of her state, and mounted a campaign for national office is not exactly a political outsider no matter how often she repeats the word “rogue.”

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July 18-31, 2014

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