After 19 rounds in a Missouri county’s annual spelling bee over the weekend, only two of the 25 contestants who started the competition remained.
Several hours and 47 rounds later, an 11-year-old and her 13-year-old adversary had used up all of the available words, forcing organizers of the Jackson County Spelling Bee to temporarily halt the showdown.
“It was legendary,” said Mary Olive Thompson, a library outreach manager and co-coordinator of the Saturday spelling bee.
Sophia Hoffman, a fifth-grader at Highland Park Elementary School in the Kansas City suburb of Lee’s Summit, and Kush Sharma, a seventh-grader at Frontier School of Innovation in Kansas City, buzzed through the list of words provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Then they ran through a list of about 20 additional words bee officials picked out of their Merriam-Webster’s 11th Edition during the lunch break, The Kansas City Star reported.
But bee officials decided not to pull more words from the dictionary because they worried one speller might get a tough word and the other a relatively easy one, which wouldn’t be fair.
Plus, Thompson said, at “about 2 o’clock, I think we were all really tired.”
Saturday’s competition went 66 rounds, she said, while last year’s bee ended after only 21.
“Scherzo,” “fantoccini” and “intaglio” were among the words Kush correctly spelled in the late rounds, while Sophia nailed words such as “schadenfreude, “mahout” and “barukhzy.”
Both of them missed what Kush said was the hardest word: a “French word; I have no idea how to pronounce it. It was a long word.”
With the winner moving on to the national spelling bee in Washington, D.C., in May, both contestants were at the top of their game in the final rounds Saturday, Thompson said
“Sophia and Kush’s eyes were just bright and glowing,” she said. “It was almost magical.”
The contest will resume March 8 at an undetermined library site.
Reported by the Associated Press from KANSAS CITY, Mo. Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com
A tawny owl named “Sherman” sits on a perch in a bird sanctuary in Selah, Wash. The Yakima County Sheriff’s Office says that on Friday, Jan. 31, 2014, someone entered a building on the Raptor House property in central Washington and stole the 14-year-old bird.. (AP Photo/Brian M. Christopher)
The police are facing a real ‘Who’-dunnit at a Washington state bird sanctuary where a rare owl has went missing.
The 14-year-old tawny owl was stolen from a building on the Raptor House property in Selah, Wash., the Yakima County sheriff’s office said.
Shannon Dalan, who helps run the sanctuary with his wife, Marsha, said it was obvious the owl didn’t fly the coop on his own: Someone took off a lock to the building, removed latches and unhooked the leash holding the owl, named Sherman.
The bird is glove-trained and frequently is displayed in classes, the sheriff’s office said. Sherman weighs less than a pound and has reddish-brown feathers and pink eyelids.
The tawny owl is native to Europe and Asia, not North America, and Sherman could be worth $3,000 to $4,000 on the black market, Shannon Dalan said Tuesday.
“This bird is rare,” he said. “They knew what they were looking for. The person who stole it walked past other, native birds.”
The Raptor House is home to about 20 birds, including other owls, hawks, falcons and eagles. Some are being prepared to return to the wild, and others that can’t be released are used for education.
The tawny owl arrived about five years ago from a sanctuary in St. Louis. Shannon Dalan started calling him Sherman after ball-hawking Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.
Sherman the owl has been seen by a lot of people, but Dalan couldn’t speculate on who might have taken him.
Reported by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS from SELAH, Wash.
A new sculpture of Nelson Mandela has a sculpted rabbit tucked inside one of the bronze ears. (AP Photo)
A new, 29.5-foot sculpture of Nelson Mandela is billed as the biggest statue of the South African leader. It also has a tiny, barely visible quirk: a sculpted rabbit tucked inside one of the bronze ears.
South African officials want the miniature bunny removed from the statue, which was unveiled outside the government complex in Pretoria, the capital, on Dec. 16, a day after Mandela’s funeral. The department of arts and culture said it didn’t know the two sculptors, Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren, had added a rabbit, said to be a discreet signature on their work.
The bronze rabbit, sitting on its haunches with one floppy ear, is about half the height of the ear canal.
“It doesn’t belong there,” said Mogomotsi Mogodiri, a department spokesman. “The statue represents what everyone in South Africa is proud of.”
His department said in a statement that there are discussions on “how best to retain the integrity of the sculpture without causing any damage or disfigurement.”
Translation: pull the rabbit out of the ear without botching the statue. The giant work stands with arms outstretched, symbolizing Mandela’s devotion to inclusiveness, outside the Union Buildings, where the body of the prisoner who opposed white rule and became South Africa’s first black president lay in state after his Dec. 5 death at the age of 95.
Telephone calls and emails sent by The Associated Press to the artists were not immediately returned.
Earlier this week, South Africa’s Beeld newspaper quoted the artists as saying they added the rabbit as a “trademark” after officials would not allow them to engrave their signatures on the statue’s trousers. They also said the rabbit represented the pressure of finishing the sculpture on time because “haas”—the word for rabbit in the Dutch-based Afrikaans language—also means “haste.”
Paul Mashatile, arts and culture minister, said the sculptors have apologized for any offense to those who felt the rabbit was disrespectful toward the legacy of Mandela.
The government had appointed Koketso Growth, a heritage development company, to manage the statue project. CEO Dali Tambo, son of anti-apartheid figure Oliver Tambo, said he was furious when he heard about the rabbit, and said it must go.
“That statue isn’t just a statue of a man, it’s the statue of a struggle, and one of the most noble in human history,” Tambo said. “So it’s belittling, in my opinion, if you then take it in a jocular way and start adding rabbits in the ear.”
It would be, he said, like depicting U.S. President Barack Obama with a mouse in his nose.
Tambo said the artists, who belong to South Africa’s white Afrikaner minority, were selected for their talent but also in part because the project was a multi-racial effort in keeping with Mandela’s principle of reconciliation. He said their signatures could be added on the statue in a discreet place, perhaps on Mandela’s heel.
Reported by CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA Associated Press from JOHANNESBURG, South Africa. Photo provided by Jonathan Gill via Flickr.com.
The artists who created the 29.5 foot tall statue of Nelson Mandela added a bunny rabbit to his ear. (Photo by Jonathan Gil via Flickr.com)
Fifteen heat-stressed baby flying foxes (bats) are lined up ready to feed at the Australia Bat Clinic near the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Thousands of bats near Brisbane and the Gold Coast have succumbed to the extreme heat falling out of trees and dying during a heatwave with new heat records are being set in Australia after the hottest year ever.(AP Photo/Australian Bat Clinic/Trish Wimberley)
The U.S. may just be climbing out of the freezer, but Australia has been sweating through a major heat wave to start the year. High temperatures were even breaking records across the Pacific Ocean continent. The warm weather is currently centered over sparsely populated Western Australia, but it could hit major population centers along Australia’s east coast by late next week.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology noted the summer heat has been “highly significant with substantial areas having their hottest day on record.” The heat wave comes on the heels of Australia’s hottest year on record during when a slew of records were shattered, including the country’s hottest summer.
At the Australian Open, an international pro tennis match in Melbourne, one player fainted mid-match as temperatures topped 108°F at the Australian Open on Tuesday. Others said it felt like they were playing tennis in a sauna, or on a frying pan that sizzled their soles.
A ball girl was treated for heat stress during a morning match, and the tournament shortened rotations for the ball kids to 45-minute shifts.
Players used metaphors and anecdotes to describe how hot it was.
“I put the (water) bottle down on the court and it started melting a little bit underneath — the plastic. So you know it was warm,” former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki said. “It felt like I was playing in a sauna.”
Wozniacki was luckier than most. She had a win in the morning when it was a mere 100°F.
During the recent heat wave, dozens of records have been set, including some by leaped over old records. Narrabri, located about 320 miles northwest of Sydney, saw the thermometer hit an eye-popping 118°F on January 3. That surpassed the previous record by 6.5°F, which is the largest margin for an all-time high temperature record at an Australian weather station with 40 or more years of data. In Gunnedah Research Center, located 265 miles northwest of Sydney, temperatures rose to 114.6°F. That topped the previous high by 5°F. The station has records going back 76 years. Overall, 34 locations across the country with 40 years or more of data had their hottest day on record.
Adverse effects of the hot weather have been felt across Australia. Reports indicate that 100,000 bats dropped dead in Queensland. The Australian Department of Agriculture has also warned that with temperatures running 16–20°F above average for Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, wilted crops and increased fire danger are major concerns.
The heat was particularly overwhelming in the state of Queensland. The state had its ninth-hottest day on record on December 29, topping out at 106.3°F. However, it set an all-time record on January 3 when the maximum average temperature across the state was a sweltering 107.3°F.
The hottest temperature recorded was 120.7°F, which occurred in Moomba, South Australia on January 2.
The heat wave has moved to the territory of Western Australia, were forecast say it will be near 122°F on Friday afternoon.
Taiwan’s Chan Hao-ching with ice pack on her head, watches the first round match between Christina McHale of the U.S. and Chan Yung-Jan of Taiwan during their first round match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
Reported by CLIMATE CENTRAL and THE ASSOCIATED PRESS from Australia.
The Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy is trapped in thick Antarctic ice 1500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock)
A ship that has been trapped in thick Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve was nearing rescue on Friday, after a Chinese icebreaker named the Snow Dragon drew close to the icebound vessel.
The Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been on a research expedition to Antarctica, got stuck Tuesday after a blizzard’s whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. The ship wasn’t in danger of sinking, and there were ample supplies for the 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board, but the vessel couldn’t move.
Maritime authorities received the ship’s distress signal on Wednesday and sent three icebreakers to assist. By Friday afternoon, China’s Snow Dragon had made it as far as the edge of the sea ice surrounding the ship, 20 kilometers (12 miles) away, but still faced the tough task of getting through the dense pack ice to the paralyzed vessel.
The Snow Dragon was hoping to reach the ship by Friday evening, but changing weather conditions and the thickness of the ice could slow its progress, said Andrea Hayward-Maher, spokeswoman for the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which is coordinating the rescue.
Expedition leader Chris Turney said it may take the Snow Dragon until Saturday to break through.
“We’re all just on tenterhooks at the moment, waiting to find out” how long it will take, Turney said by satellite phone. “Morale is really good.”
The scientific team on board the vessel — which left New Zealand on Nov. 28 — had been recreating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson’s century-old voyage to Antarctica when it became trapped. They plan to continue their expedition after they are freed, Turney said.
Passengers and crew have had to contend with blizzard conditions, including winds up to 70 kilometers per hour (40 miles per hour), but the weather had calmed considerably by Friday, Turney said.
“The blizzard we had yesterday was quite extraordinary — it’s not nice when you can feel the ship shaking,” he said.
Despite the interruption to the expedition, the scientists have continued their research while stuck, counting birds in the area and drilling through the ice surrounding the ship to photograph sea life.
Reported by KRISTEN GELINEAU of the Associated Press.
Crewmembers gather on the ice next the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy that is trapped in thick Antarctic ice 1500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. The research ship, with 74 scientists, tourists and crew on board, has been on a research expedition to Antarctica, when it got stuck Tuesday after a blizzard’s whipping winds pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. (AP Photo/Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotography, Andrew Peacock)
The Steodata nobilis is commonly called the “False Black Widow.”
Creepy crawlies, in the form of a venomous spider infestation, has forced a school in Britain to close a week before Halloween.
The Dean Academy, a secondary school in southwest England’s Gloucestershire, said it was closing Wednesday to get rid of the false widow spiders. The spiders are commonly mistaken for their relative, the black widow spider, whose bite can be fatal.
The school said no one has been bitten by the spider but local health authorities have advised it to close for the day to deal with the infestation.
Experts say the Steodata nobilis, a species of the false widow, are becoming more common in the U.K. and are the most dangerous of the 12 species of biting spiders known in Britain.
But they stress that spider bites are rare in Britain, and in most cases the symptoms are mild. The spider’s bite may sting, swell up or cause discomfort like a wasp sting, but has not been known to cause deaths.
“They’re not aggressive spiders, they don’t seek out humans,” said David Lalloo, a professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
“Most people won’t get much of a reaction. Some people may feel a bit unwell for a day or two, but that’s very rare,” he said.
Ecology professor Ricardo Freitas catches a broad-snouted caiman to examine, then release back into the water channel in the affluent Recreio dos Bandeirantes suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Oh, the glories of Rio that await spectators and athletes at the 2016 Olympics: Those beaches, that music, the dramatic mountains. And then there are a few thousand alligator-like creatures slithering through sewage-like lagoons.
Some 5,000 to 6,000 broad-snouted caimans live in fetid lagoon systems of western Rio de Janeiro, conservationists say, and there’s a chance that visitors could have an encounter with one, though experts hasten to add that the caimans, smaller and less aggressive than alligators or crocodiles, are not considered a threat to humans.
Some of the animals have already taken refuge in ponds being built inside the Olympic golf course, which abuts a once pristine mangrove-filled lagoon that’s now thick with tons of raw sewage pumped from nearby high-end condominiums.
In fact, with two decades of anarchic growth decimating natural habitats, the hardy caimans have become an increasingly common sight in the urban heart of western Rio, drawn in part by the scraps tossed to them by humans.
Olympics: The district is the main hub for 2016 Games and site of the Olympic village, though most events will take place in indoor facilities. One exception is the golf course, where some caimans have taken up residence in lakes. Wildlife on golf courses isn’t uncommon, with alligators spotted on greens in Florida and kangaroos bounding around courses in Australia.
Conservationists say Olympic organizers are beginning to examine what to do about the reptiles on the still-unfinished golf course.
The caimans congregate in a canal in the affluent Recreio dos Bandeirantes suburb that’s sandwiched between two busy thoroughfares. Beach-bound mothers with toddlers in strollers, neighbors out to walk the dog and pizza delivery boys pause on a narrow wooden footbridge over the canal to observe the caimans, whose brown color camouflages them in the brackish, sulfuric waters.
Survival: With few fish surviving in the polluted waters, caiman increasingly rely on handouts from humans, which can range from raw chicken to crackers, sometimes still in their plastic packages. They also feed on birds and the sewer rats that emerge from the culverts.
“Caimans are like tanks, a very old species with a remarkable capacity for renovation that allows them to survive under extreme conditions where others couldn’t,” said Ricardo Freitas, an ecology professor who runs the Instituto Jacare, or the Caiman Institute, which aims to protect the reptiles. “But the fact of the matter is that their days are numbered if things don’t change drastically.”
With a population that’s 85 percent male, a serious demographic problem is looming for Rio’s caimans, said Freitas, who suspects that the uncontrolled release of raw sewage is behind the gender imbalance. Organic matter raises water warmer and among caimans, high temperatures during a certain stage of incubation result in male offspring.
While a few caimans wander from the canal, sometimes getting hit by cars, Freitas said he is aware of only one other person attacked by a caiman, a fisherman who was superficially bitten after he stepped on one.
Freitas himself has grabbed and tagged 400 of the reptiles over the past decade. He wades into the toxic sludge, slips a metal lasso around their heads and taps expertly on their snapping jaws until he’s able to tape them shut. While local caimans average about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) long and weigh about 10 kilograms (22 pounds), older males can be up to twice as long and much heavier. Still, Freitas has been known to dive into the water to catch some with his bare hands.
“I was only bitten once, on the hand,” he said. “It was fine, although it got super infected because of the state of the water.”
Reported by JENNY BARCHFIELD of the Associated Press from RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil.
Brazilian caimans average about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) long and weigh about 10 kilograms (22 pounds), older males can be up to twice as long and much heavier. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Cornell University faculty leader in the apple breeding program, Dr. Susan Brown, stands in an apple orchard at the Cornell University Fruit and Vegetable Research Farm in Geneva, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)
Trees at Cornell University’s research orchard this fall are heavy with waxy apples, deep-red, round apples, oblong apples and aromatic apples that smell like autumn.
The thousands of trees here are tended for a single goal: to grow apples with just the right mix of sweetness, tart and crunch.
The orchards are a 50-acre lab devoted to developing apples that are tasty for consumers and hardy for farmers. The station has released 66 apple varieties over more than a century including Cortland, Macoun and two new entries at farm markets this fall: SnapDragon and RubyFrost.
“I could never be a medical doctor; I don’t like blood. But I can create,” breeder Susan Brown said. “I can manipulate things and create stuff that no one else has seen or tasted, and sometimes it’s a home run and sometimes it’s a spitter.”
Brown, a Cornell professor of agriculture who has been breeding apples since 1990, walked through the apple-dappled rows on a sunny day this week offering test chomps. One apple was juicy but mushy, another exceptionally firm and crisp.
“You would not want to eat this with dentures,” she said with a laugh.
Brown’s team is looking for crisp apples with a good balance of sugar and acid. It also pays close attention to “volatiles,” or the aromas like a hint of cherry or grassiness that contribute so much to an apple’s flavor. But researchers also want farmer-friendly apples that hold up well against insects, fire blight and apple scab and during shipping.
One promising variety was rejected because its leaves were prone to spotting and falling off the tree. Another type of green apple that might have been able to compete with the Granny Smith was tossed because it kept getting blister spots.
“It’s only skin deep,” Brown said of the blistered apple, “but consumers are still going to find it objectionable.”
The researchers here have access to cutting-edge technology, but the mechanics of their breeding work is similar to what their counterparts have done for generations. Pollen is collected from unopened blossoms and applied to female parts of another tree’s flower. It can take four years before a seedling produces fruit ready for tasting.
Researchers try to combine desirable traits from two different apples — like the snappy sweetness of one and the resistance to insects of another. But just like a mom and dad can have children who are very different from each other, new apples can fall far from the tree, figuratively speaking. Research assistant Kevin Maloney says about 95 percent of the seedlings they plant are discarded. The neat rows of trellised trees have gaps where apple trees that didn’t make the cut had grown.
“It’s a numbers game. We plant out thousands and thousands of seedling trees,” Maloney said. “If they’re not exceptional quality or something we can use in the breeding program, they’re removed.”
Brown has high hopes for their two new apples developed in partnership with the members of New York Apple Growers, which will initially be sold at dozens of farm markets in New York this fall.
SnapDragon is a cross of Honeycrisp with a Jonagold-like hybrid that’s easier for farmers to manage. RubyFrost, which ripens later in the fall, has high vitamin C content and resists browning, which is important now that apple slices are such a large part of the retail market.
As picking season for SnapDragon dawns, Brown is already thinking of the next generation apple. She believes she can breed an apple that is resistant to browning. And she thinks she can up an apple’s vitamin C content to the level of an orange.
“I’ve already made the next generation, crossing SnapDragon and RubyFrost,” she said.
Reported by MICHAEL HILL of the Associated Press from GENEVA, N.Y.
Cornell University Research Support Specialist, Leo Dominguez, right, inspects a new apple variety from a freshly picked bin at the Cornell University Fruit and Vegetable Research Farm in Geneva, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 23, 2013. At left is apple picker, Aaron Green. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)
From right, Trinidad’s Richard Thompson, Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, United States’ Tyson Gay, Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, United States’ Justin Gatlin, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, United State’s Ryan Bailey, and Netherlands’ Churandy Martina start in the men’s 100-meters final during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Who wants to play like a GOAT?
This week I thought we would look for GOATs.
What’s a GOAT? Sometimes people call the player who messes up to lose the game the goat.
But the GOAT that I mean is the Greatest of All Time: G-O-A-T. So let’s find athletes competing these days who are the Greatest of All Time at what they do.
New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera (42) walks off the field after a presentation before the New York Yankees baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Consider New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera. The 43-year-old right-hander has announced he will retire after this season. Most baseball fans would agree that Super Mariano is the greatest relief pitcher of all time. Even Boston Red Sox fans would say that Rivera, with more than 650 saves and an incredible postseason record, is a GOAT.
Soccer star Abby Wambach this year set a record for the most career goals scored in international matches by either a man or a woman. Does that make Wambach the greatest soccer player of all time? Probably not. Other players have better skills. But the always-hustling Wambach is a GOAT when it comes to finding the back of the net and scoring goals.
Anyone who has a world record in the timed events in track and field or swimming can claim to be a GOAT. After all, no one has swum the 800- or 1500-meter freestyle faster than Katie Ledecky from Bethesda, Md.
But I think that to be a real GOAT in those sports, you have to have set a number of records and have won several world championships or Olympic medals. So in swimming, Michael Phelps is a GOAT, with 18 Olympic gold medals and a zillion records.
Phelps is retired from swimming, so let’s look for a GOAT who is still dominating his or her sport.
Usain “Lightning” Bolt is a GOAT. The Jamaican sprinter won the gold medals in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4-x-100-meter relay races at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. He won those races again at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. Bolt also owns the world record in the 100 and 200 meters.
It’s harder to agree on who is a GOAT in other sports. After Serena Williams won the U.S. Open tennis tournament for her 17th major singles title, some people were saying she was the GOAT in women’s tennis. Still, some tennis experts say tennis great Steffi Graf, who won 22 majors between 1987 and 1999, is a GOAT.
I know Michael Jordan has more National Basketball Association titles, but I think LeBron James is the greatest all-around basketball player ever. To me, James is a GOAT.
You see, this time it’s good to be the GOAT. In fact, it’s great.
- – -
Reported by FRED BOWEN of The Washington Post. Bowen is the author of 19 sports books for kids, and will be speaking Sept. 21 at the National Book Festival in Washington.
J.D. Megchelsen poses next to his giant pumpkin in the Halbouty area of Nikiski, Alaska. J.D. Megchelsen holds the record for giant pumpkins in Alaska, and knew he had a candidate this year to beat the record of 1,287 pounds set in 2011 – but when it was removed, the big pumpkin revealed a big disappointment: a thumb-size hole that will make it ineligible for the competition at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. (AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, Greg Skinner)
J.D. Megchelsen holds the record for giant pumpkins in Alaska, and the Nikiski gardener knew he had a candidate this year to beat the record of 1,287 pounds set in 2011.
But when a boom truck gently lifted the behemoth on Monday with rigging and a sling, the big pumpkin revealed a big disappointment: a thumb-size hole that will make it ineligible for the competition at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.
A crane lifts a giant pumpkin grown by J.D. Megchelsen and guided by Ryan K. Hall, left, to a flatbed truck. (AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, Greg Skinner)
“It’s not going to count,” Megchelsen told the Peninsula Clarion (http://bit.ly/1dkIEWX). “It’s a bummer, but it’s the rules.”
Entries must be free of rot, chemical residue and serious soft spots. They can’t have holes or cracks that reach the pumpkin cavity.
A scale on the crane indicated the big pumpkin weighed 1,500 pounds, but Megchelsen estimates the state competition scale would have registered closer to 1,420 pounds.
“It’s just killing him,” said Pam Elkins, Megchelsen’s sister-in-law. “He eats, sleeps and dreams pumpkins. All he does is pumpkins.”
Megchelsen began to pursue the record in 2002. He set the record in 2004 with a 700-pounder. A year later, he grew a 942-pound pumpkin, and in 2006 he grew the first Alaska pumpkin to exceed 1,000 pounds. The current record followed in 2011.
Two years ago, Megchelsen said, he had a disqualifying hole in another of his giants. It might have surpassed the record if it had kept growing, he said.
His 2013 pumpkin probably grew too fast when it opened a hole in a “rib valley,” he said. During the height of a growth spurt in the warmest part of the summer, Megchelsen said, he was feeding the pumpkin up to 300 gallons of water a day.
The hole likely opened the first week of August when the fruit hit its peak growth spurt of 41 pounds in 24 hours. That happened two days in a row, he said.
When the pumpkin was hand-pollinated June 5, it was the size of a cherry tomato.
Megchelsen still plans to take his pumpkin to Palmer for weigh-in day. He’s not likely to leave it there on display, he said.
Garden gnomes are statues people place in their lawns. Usually they wear red hats, but they also seem to like hats with sports logos too. (Photo by Jens-Ulrich Koch/ddp)
They’ve been sneaking into our lawns for decades now, and at last Kid Scoop is finally reporting on it: We’re talking about the invasion of the gnomes! You’ve seen them — you know, the little guys with the pointy red hats.
One of the most famous images from author Wil Huygen’s and illustrator Rien Poortvliet’s “The Secret Book of Gnomes” shows two views of a typical gnome.
After that, they had an animated movie, a cartoon series, and just kept growing more famous.
More recently, gnomes were used in the Harry Potter series, where they were considered to be indestructible pests that were impossible to get rid of — even for wizards.
But before that book, just what were people calling a gnome? The mythological beings are usually described as a very small human-like creature that lives in an underground burrow. Most of the time, gnomes are nice to humans but they can also be troublesome if they’re annoyed by something a human does.
While modern culture suggests that all gnomes wear pointy red hats, traditional gnomes usually wore clothes similar to those worn by humans in the area where they lived.
Want to learn more about gnomes? Try these videos.
This trailer, for a Finland-produced TV series, shows another gnome trait: Their skill at building machines. http://youtu.be/6zhi_jZSolY
What is Kid Scoop? It’s a special page that appears every Monday in The York Dispatch and other local newspapers. Aside from its main feature and the Writing Corner, it includes games, puzzles and jokes.
Get your copy of Kid Scoop in today’s edition of The York Dispatch, and be sure to assemble your own Write On! entry and submit it to NIE@ync.com. We’ll run every entry here!
Of course, you can submit those entries, and anything else you want, for publication here on the Junior Dispatch. Send your JD items to firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn about what you can submit here.
This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, the day an agreement was signed to end the fighting in the peninsula now divided into North and South Korea. On Saturday, men and women who fought in Korea will be honored in Washington. But the day before, another kind of leatherneck will be honored: a little red horse.
Sgt. Reckless, the horse, is led by a U.S. Marine during the Korean War in the 1950s.
Her name was Sgt. Reckless, and the Marines “drafted“ her to pack ammunition to the battlefield and carry the wounded back to safety. But here’s the thing: She did it on her own. She kept climbing those jagged hills even after she was wounded.
The soldiers came to love her so much that they brought her home from Korea after the war to live at Camp Pendleton in California. On Friday, “Operation Reckless“ at the National Museum of the Marine Corps at the Quantico (Va.) military base will feature the unveiling of a life-size statue of Sgt. Reckless, a real war horse.
“She was one of them, and that’s why they’re honoring her,“ said Robin Hutton, of Ventura, Calif., who has written a book on the mare, “Sgt Reckless: America’s Warhorse,“ to be published this year. “She wasn’t a horse; she was a Marine.“
You might think that Sergeant Reckless was the inspiration for last year’s “War Horse“ movie. But that was based on a children’s fiction book about an English farm horse on the front lines of World War I.
The story of Sgt. Reckless is just as epic, and all true. Lt. Col. Andrew Geer, a Marine who served alongside Reckless, became her first biographer. As he wrote in “Reckless: Pride of the Marines“: “Some war stories become dated, but in the case of Reckless, there was no such worry. Her story is as timeless as that of Black Beauty.“
She was stabled at a Seoul racetrack when the Korean War broke out in 1950. Known then as Flame, she helped her owners flee to the countryside. Geer wrote that Flame was sold to the Marines to help the family pay medical bills. She was renamed in honor of the Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines, her new home. (The mobile recoilless rifle was so powerful, and sometimes unpredictable, that it too was nicknamed “reckless.“)
Reckless the horse was a quick study. She learned to step over communication wires, lie down on command and kneel. Her main caretaker, Sgt. Joseph Latham, said, “Tell her what you want and let her look the situation over and she’ll do it, if she’s with someone she trusts.“ At the same time, Sgt. Reckless began to endear herself to her platoon, Geer wrote. She was lavished with attention. On cold nights, she could be found dozing by the stove-heater in Latham’s tent. Her appetite was legendary, too. She devoured carrots and apples, but also loved candy bars, Wheaties and Coca-Cola.
Sgt. Reckless’ story was captured in the book “Reckless.”
But when the going got tough, Sgt. Reckless did, too. After Marines led her a few times up and down to battle stations, she remembered the way and traveled the route by herself. During one battle in March 1953, she made 51 trips from an ammunition supply depot to the front line, carrying more than 9,000 pounds of explosives.
“As long as I live, I will never forget that image of Reckless against the skyline, her silhouette in the flare lights,“ said Harold Wadley, now 79, by phone from his ranch in St. Maries, Idaho. “It was just unbelievable, in all that intense fire, in the middle of this chaos. I said, ’Dadgum, that’s that mare!’ “
Wadley will be among the Korean War veterans who served with Sgt. Reckless attending the dedication. The event will represent a goal achieved for Hutton, who commissioned the statue and hopes to install a replica at Camp Pendleton. “I’d like to see statues of this little horse everywhere,“ she said. “What she did was amazing.“
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The dedication ceremony for the statue will be held Friday from 12:45 to 3 p.m. at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va. For more information, your parents can visit www.koreanwar60.com or www.sgtreckless.com.
Scouts at the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Mount Hope, W.Va., are participating an experiment on how contagions spread — in the form of a zombie-themed “virus” attack. (AP Photo/The Register-Herald, Rick Barbero)
Pssssst. Hey, Scout. Tag! You’re a zombie!
Boy Scouts at the organization’s National Jamboree are turning each other into virtual creepy crawlies by the thousands this week.
It’s part of an educational game Virginia Tech researchers designed to show how disease spreads.
The Virus Tracker combines technology with the age-old game of tag. At the 10-day Jamboree, Scouts can earn points by “infecting” other players through a “virus” on bar-coded labels that are attached to their Scout IDs. Codes can be activated at scanning stations or by smartphones that have downloaded the Virus Tracker app. Individuals and troops that amass the most points each day win.
The goal is to stay human.
Colin Slavin, 15, whose Scout troop is based in Germantown Hills, Ill., called the chance to turn other Scouts into zombies “really cool.”
Players can sign up when they visit the technology area at the Jamboree where Scouts also learn about robotics, engineering, computer science and mobile communications.
One zombie: Slavin heard about the virus program from other Scouts and had to try it for himself Thursday.
After filling out a brief computer survey, he tagged four other people before his brief rampage was stopped by an approaching thunderstorm, which forced officials to shut down the system.
“It was real easy,” Slavin said. “It’s like, ‘Yep, you’re infected. I got you. I win.’ It’s just like a large, incredibly different (game of) tag.”
Learning: Kristy Collins, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute’s education program manager, said about 3,000 of the estimated 30,000 Scouts at the Jamboree have participated so far. The labels are waterproof, enabling Scouts to participate even when they’re doing other activities, such as rafting or learning how to SCUBA dive.
Researchers are using data collected at the Jamboree to create an “infection tree” to show how individual Scouts spread the zombie virus within their population. The data will show how diseases such as the flu can become pandemics.
At times, “vaccines” are sent out through the system to turn the zombies human again if the Scouts answer an epidemiology question correctly. The Virus Tracker keeps count of things such as the number of infected and inoculated participants. Scouts without access to smartphones can still register by computer at the tent and distribute labels to other Scouts, thereby “infecting” them with the “virus.”
“The first thing everybody says is ‘is it real?’” Collins said. “And we say, no it’s not real. We’re not giving you the flu. We kind of laugh about that.”
The Scouts are then invited to help spread the zombie virus.
“And then they’re like, ‘yeah, man, I really do!” Collins said.
Virus tracker: http://virustracker.vbi.vt.edu
Virginia Biometrics Institute: https://www.vbi.vt.edu/
Reported by JOHN RABY of the Associated Press from CHARLESTON, W.Va.
Scientists have unearthed a remnant of an encounter between a Tyrannosaurus rex and a creature that got away, providing strong new evidence that the famous dinosaur hunted for food. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
The fearsome bite of a hungry Tyrannosaurus rex left behind new evidence that the famous beast hunted for food and wasn’t just a scavenger.
Researchers found a part of a T. rex tooth wedged between two tailbones of a duckbill dinosaur unearthed in South Dakota. The tooth was partially enclosed by regrown bone, meaning the smaller duckbill dino had escaped from the T. rex and lived a long time after the wound was inflicted.
Since the duckbill was alive and not just a carcass when it met the T. rex, the fossil provides new evidence that T. rex hunted live animals, researchers say.
The fossil, from around 67 million years ago, indicates the T. rex bit the duckbill from behind and “intended to take it for a meal,” said David Burnham of the University of Kansas.
It’s not clear whether there was a chase involved, he said.
Experts who didn’t participate in the study said there was already ample evidence that T. rex went after live animals as well as scavenging carcasses. It brought a bone-shattering bite and teeth up to a foot long to each task.
The new fossil is the first to include a T. rex tooth embedded in the bones of its prey, giving “extremely strong physical evidence that the attacker was a tyrannosaur,” said Thomas Holtz, Jr., of the University of Maryland.
Researchers Robert A. DePalma II, left, and David A. Burnham show a Tyrannosaurus rex tooth crown embedded between the vertebrae of a hadrosaur and surrounded by bone overgrowth. (AP Photo/David A. Burnham)
You might think a T. rex would take down anything in sight, but Jack Horner of Montana State University said it apparently preyed on the weak, the sick and the young instead.
It makes sense that T. rex also scavenged, said Kenneth Carpenter, curator of paleontology at the Utah State University East Prehistoric Museum.
“If there’s a free meal, why not?” he asked. But decay can make carcasses toxic after a while, he said, and “at that point, T. rex is going to have no choice but to hunt.”
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