A Chanuka Story


On a quiet evening in Billings, Montana, early [in December of 1993], a stranger arrived at the home of Tammie and Brian Schnitzer. He stole across the lawn, a cinder block in hand. He stopped at a window decorated with Star of David decals and a menorah, the nine-branched candelabra that is the symbol of the Jewish festival of Chanukah. Then he hurled the stone, sending ragged shards of glass into the bedroom of Isaac, 5.

By chance, the little boy wasn’t there. He’d been in the family room watching TV with his 2-year-old sister, Rachel, and a babysitter. They heard the crash, but when the sitter searched for a cause, she missed the broken window. That remained for Brian to find when he came home. Shaken, he phoned the police and put the children to bed in the safest spot he could think of-bundled in sleeping bags under the four-poster bed in his bedroom “We’re playing campout,” he told Isaac.

Not long after, Tammie returned from a meeting of the human rights coalition she co-chaired. Seeing the look on her husband’s face, she asked, “What’s wrong?” He led her to Isaac’s room. Shocked, she stared at the broken window. Tammie had felt a little nervous putting up the Chanukah decorations; in recent months a string of hate crimes had occurred around town. Now her worst fears had come home.

Waiting for the police to arrive, Tammie huddled in a rocking chair in her son’s room. “I felt so cold,” she recalls. “But it wasn’t the winter air coming through the broken window. It was my sense of being so helpless. It was my fear of what would come next.”

Some 80,000 people live under the big sky of this valley town sheltered by rocky hills. They drive pickups and family sedans, dress in jeans and business suits, and mingle in an easy, relaxed way. They are overwhelmingly Christian and white; about 50 Jewish families live here, and fewer than 500 blacks. Add Hispanics and Native Americans, all told, minorities in Billings make up a meager 7 percent or so of the population.

For some that’s still too many. In 1986 white supremacists declared Montana to be one of five states comprising their “Aryan homeland.” In the years that followed, racist incidents around the state became increasingly frequent; eventually they cropped up in Billings. . . .

By the end of 1992, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and a band of skin-heads had become visible presences in Billings. Klan newspapers were tossed onto driveways, and flyers surfaced attacking mainly Jews and homosexuals. One day a bumper sticker that read “Nuke Israel” was placed on a stop sign near the temple. Not long after, Tammie saw a flyer that named Brian, who’d recently become president of the Montana Association of Jewish Communities. “I felt sick” she recalls. “It really hit home.”

At a meeting, temple officers chose not to speak out. Says Tammie, “They seemed to feel that to acknowledge a problem or identify ourselves as being different would make us stand apart.” Tammie refused to stay silent. . . .

At the same time, Margaret MacDonald, . . . a mother of two and the part-time director of the Montana Association of Churches, was encountering resistance to another effort to draw attention to the problem: a petition that opposed hatred and bigotry. “There’d been an emphatic hard-line stance in the town, like a brick wall, that the less said about the skinheads and other racists, the better,” she says. She persisted, however, and over the following months, more than 100 organizations and 3,500 people signed the resolution.

In the spring of 1993, after a conversation at a town meeting, Tammie, Margaret, and several others formed the Billings Coalition for Human Rights. “This wasn’t a Jewish issue, it was a human rights issue,” says Tammie. “We wanted to make the community aware of what was going on.”

The hate activity escalated. In September, four days before the start of the Jewish New Year, vandals overturned headstones in the Jewish cemetery. And on the holiday itself, a bomb threat was made to the temple before the start of the children’s service.

Tammie urged synagogue members to speak out. “I wanted to let people know what was happening. But some members felt that we would put ourselves in more danger. We didn’t know what to do.”
In the weeks that followed, several Billings residents-inspired by the Coalition for Human Rights-took action against racism. When skinheads showed up at services of the African Methodist Episcopal Wayman Chapel, small groups of white Christians appeared in response. They sat with the congregation until the skinheads stopped coming. In October an interracial couple awoke one morning to find crude words and a swastika spray-painted on their house. Three days later, volunteers from the local painters union repaired the damage.

But with the arrival of the holiday season, the hate incidents turned violent. In late November a beer bottle was thrown through the window of a Jewish home. And then, on the night of December 2, the Schnitzer home was attacked.

As Tammie spoke with the police officer who’d arrived at her home, she swung between fear and outrage. “This isn’t just mischief,” she said. He agreed and advised her to take down the Chanukah decorations and avoid leaving the children with a babysitter.

Lying in bed that night, sleepless, Tammie thought how ironic it was that the attack on her home had occurred because of Chanukah-a holiday commemorating the Jews’ fight thousands of years ago to worship God in their own way. “I wondered what kind of struggle we were going to be in for, and how we could stop it before it became worse,” she says.

The next day, Friday, Tammie spoke with a reporter from The Billings Gazette. She told him how troubled she was by the officer’s advice. “Maybe it’s not wise to keep these symbols up,” she said. “But how do you explain that to a child?”

On Saturday morning Margaret [MacDonald] read Tammie’s quote in the paper. She tried to imagine telling her daughter, Siri, then 6, that they could not have a Christmas tree, or explaining to Charlie, then 3, that they had to take a wreath off the door because it wasn’t safe.

Margaret phoned her pastor, Keith Torney. “What would you think if we had the children draw menorahs in Sunday school?” she asked. “If we mimeographed as many pictures of the menorah as we could? If we told people to put them up in their windows?”

Reverend Torney had read the paper that morning too. “Yes,” he said. “And yes again.” He spent the rest of the day on the phone, enlisting other churches. That week hundreds of menorahs appeared in the windows of Christian homes in Billings. “It wasn’t an easy decision,” says Margaret. “With two young children, I had to think hard about it myself. We put our menorah in a living room window, and made sure nobody sat in front of it.”

One of the first to put up a menorah was Becky Thomas, a Catholic mother of two who lives near the Schnitzers. “It’s easy to go around saying you support some good cause, but this was different. It was putting ourselves in danger,” she says. “I told my husband, ‘Now we know how the Schnitzers feel.”‘

Some, nervous about jeopardizing their families, checked first with Wayne Inman, the chief of police at the time. “Yes, there’s a risk,” he told callers. “But there’s a greater risk in not doing it.”

On December 7, The Billings Gazette published a full-page picture of a menorah to cut out and tape up. Local businesses also distributed photocopies of menorahs, and one put a message on a billboard, proclaiming. “Not in Our Town! No Hate, No Violence. Peace on Earth.”

As the Jewish symbol sprouted in Christian windows, the haters lashed out. Glass panes on the doors of the Evangelical United Methodist Church, graced with two menorahs, were smashed. Someone fired shots into a Catholic school that had joined the crusade. Six cars parked in front of homes that displayed menorahs had their windows kicked out; the homeowners received phone calls that told them to “Go look at your car, Jew-lover.” 

Yet suddenly, for every menorah that was there before, ten new ones appeared. Hundreds of menorahs grew to be thousands. It’s estimated that as many as 6,000 homes in Billings had menorahs on display. “All along, our coalition had been saying an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” says Margaret MacDonald “And God bless them, the people of this town understood.” . . . .

The people of Billings kept their menorahs up until the New Year. As lnman says, “The haters could attack a couple of Jewish homes. They could make a second wave of attacks on Christian homes and churches But they could not target thousands of menorahs.”

Confronted by a united town, the Ku Klux Klan and skinheads backed off. The acts of vandalism stopped, the hate literature disappeared, and the anonymous calls ended. But with no witnesses and no strong leads, the police were never able to make any arrests, a fact that leaves the community extremely uneasy. . .

The town continues to stand together. In April [of 1994] more than 250 Christians joined the Jewish community for a Seder, the traditional Passover meal. Not long after, hundreds attended a concert of Jewish music that the Schnitzers helped coordinate to show their appreciation to Billings.

Tammie Schnitzer and Margaret MacDonald are busy organizing meetings and speaking at schools about racial sensitivity. With Chanukah just a few weeks away, they’re stepping up their activities and are working on combined holiday events for the temple and local churches.

Soon Tammie’s going to be putting up her Chanukah decorations. “I have to make sure my kids are proud of themselves and never have to hide who they are,” she says. “Yes, I’m afraid. But I know if something happened again, the community would respond.”

Becky Thomas, for one is prepared. “We saved our menorah, and it’s going in our window again,” she says. “We need to show commitment for a lifetime.”

Sarah Anthony, a member of Human Rights Coalition, reflected on the struggle and why it matters to her. She told the reporter:

I mean, what have we done so far? Come up with a plan. Make a few phone calls. Put up menorahs. That’s all we did. Pretty simple stuff, actually. But you have to build the sentiment, to forge the real feeling that goes deep. We did something right here, and we will do it again if we have to. If we don’t, there are people who would break every window in Billings, and we would look in those windows and see ourselves.

Journalist Claire Safran





Field Museum’s New Dinosaur



A new type of dinosaur, the Siats meekerorum, was discovered by paleontologists at North Carolina State University.


Field unveils dinosaur that rivaled T. rex’s dominance–Siats meekerorum, precursor to famous predator, is a major find for fossil record

By Steve Johnson Tribune reporter Chicago Tribune 11.22.13

Field Museum scientists have discovered a new “top predator” dinosaur in North America, a significant precursor to Tyrannosaurus rex and an important part of an emerging fossil record for the continent, the museum planned to announce early Friday.

The 4-ton, 30-foot animal was discovered in a region of 100-million-year-old rock in Utah during a museum expedition led by Peter Makovicky, curator of dinosaurs, and Lindsay Zanno, then a postdoctoral fellow at the Field. Siats meekerorum — named by the scientists after a man-eating monster of legend from the region’s Ute Indian people and the Meekers, a museum donor family from Evanston — helps flesh out what has been a skeletal picture of North American wildlife in the tens of millions of years before T. rex was the dominant predator.

Although Siats is the third-largest carnivore found on the continent, this fossil is no Sue, the largely intact T. rex skeleton that presides over the Field’s central hall.

Indeed, it takes imagination to turn the smattering of bones that rested earlier this week on a striped tablecloth in the museum’s back office into a predatory behemoth. But mostly it takes science, the kind of knowledge that can extrapolate from a hipbone’s telltale notch and distinctive openings in vertebrae to determine that this was a member of the allosauroids’ megaraptor subgroup — and “the top dog in his neighborhood, so to speak,” Makovicky said.

In 2008, Zanno spotted the first of the bones on a hillside in Utah’s Cedar Mountain Formation, days before the group’s relatively unfruitful expedition was to end and as “morale was low,” said Zanno, now director of paleontology at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Friday’s publication in Nature Communications of Zanno’s and Makovicky’s paper, “Neovenatorid theropods are apex predators in the Late Cretaceous of North America,” marks the official unveiling of the new species. “The gist of this paper is about the changing of the guard among the top apex predators,” said University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno, who read an advance copy of the paper. And while the couple of dozen bones do not include the ideal full-skull find, it is “very significant,” he said. “It’s from a really poorly known time period out West. You need these flagpoles,” Sereno said. “They may not be pretty. You’re not going to mount (the Siats bones) on a stick. But it’s enough” to further the developing belief that “pre-tyrannosaur giants” had radiated across the globe. Makovicky elaborated. “It’s more than just a new dinosaur,” he said. “It’s the first evidence we have of a whole new group of dinosaurs in North America.

And it challenges a view that was common maybe a decade or so ago where we thought, ‘OK, you know, North America, rising sea levels, the species seem to be very unique to North America and only remotely related to (those on) other continents.’ That’s slowly being challenged. This is another piece of evidence saying, ‘No, dinosaurs were actually distributing themselves pretty widely across the continents.’ ” The S. meekerorum announcement follows one earlier this month that Lythronax argestes, a smaller T. rex ancestor from 80 million years ago, had been discovered in southern Utah, proving that such predators had been around some 10 million years earlier than previously known.

Because of its size and the history of top predators elsewhere, Zanno and Makovicky theorize, Siats was atop a food chain that included what their paper calls “small-bodied tyrannosauroids,” T. rex’s ancestors, which hadn’t evolved to the size and dominance they would reach before dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago. Siats, though, isn’t related to the tyrannosauroid family but rather to the allosauroids. Its best-known relative might be the Giganotosaurus, found in South America. Makovicky and Zanno chose the discovery site in Utah’s Cedar Mountain Formation, in Emery County in the east-central part of the state, because it gave access to a rarely explored time period. The trade-off is that because the area was a lush, wet environment similar to today’s Mississippi River Delta, Makovicky said, skeletons there tend to be less well-preserved. “The one unfortunate thing is that complete skeletons are very rare in this (area),” Makovicky said. “But the positive side seems to be that when you do find something, there’s a very high probability you’re dealing with a new species.”

Zanno was on a postdoctorate fellowship at the Field for that dig. “We had spent a week prospecting other rocks and had found nothing,” she said. “I was walking across this low badland and stumbled across this sort of black bone. I looked down and saw immediately it was a type of bone from a predatory dinosaur.” The expedition team of about nine people spent the rest of their time digging around the initial hipbone find, and the scientists began to wonder if maybe they had a big herbivore instead. But return visits for more extensive excavation in 2009 and 2010 (that year, with a jackhammer) led to vertebrae and confirmation of Zanno’s original predator diagnosis. From there it was a matter of bringing rock back to the Field to separate and prepare the bones, a painstaking process, Makovicky said, entailing up to 100 hours of lab work for every hour of fieldwork. Doing the science that underlies the paper, from visits to comparable fossil remains in London and Argentina to peer review, also helps explain the specimen’s five-year lag between discovery and unveiling. Most of the bones found are from one animal, but there is also a toe bone and a couple of tailbones from a second Siats at the same site. Among the volunteers who helped prepare the fossil was Lis Meeker. The fellowship that brought Zanno to the Field was named for her late father, Amoco geologist John Caldwell Meeker. Lis Meeker just missed helping uncover the specimen in the field: She was a volunteer on that dig before peeling off days before the discovery. Her mother, Withrow Meeker, a longtime volunteer in the museum’s anthropology department, said learning the dinosaur was being named for the family was special. “Pete Makovicky just casually told daughter Lis and me as we were wandering down the hall to his office,” she recalled. “And she and I both just welled up with tears.”

There’ll be more naming in the future. From the same site, Makovicky said he and Zanno have two more dinosaur species “in the pipeline,” en route, like Siats, to making a return to the known world.

Joy of Language # ???


 The Mystery of the Octothorpe

 The # sign has names almost as varied as its uses, and aside from the prosaicnumberpound, and hash sign, it is or has been variously termed a crunchhex,flashgridtic-tac-toepig-pen, and square. The origins of most of these names can be inferred from the character’s shape, but its most elliptical alias does not give up its secrets so easily. The story of how the # symbol came to be known as the octothorpe is entirely more tortuous.

 Here’s the story:   http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/blog/2013/11/guest-post-the-mystery-of-the-octothorpe/


The Oxford Dictionaries’  word of the Year for 2013 is

                                              >>>>>>>>>>>>>             selfie          <<<<<<<<<<<<<

Here’s the story:  http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2013/11/word-of-the-year-2013-winner


 Wonderful website for anyone  who enjoys words:









Johnny Cash


10 THUINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT APOLOGIESBy Mark Jacob and Stephan Benzkofer Chicago Tribune 11.17.13

What a sorry month. President Barack Obama has apologized for the troubled rollout of the Affordable Care Act. And Toronto Mayor Rob Ford seems to be on an apology tour, saying he’s sorry for drunkenness, for smoking crack, for crude sexual comments and for once saying on video that he wanted to kill someone. To help people follow along, Toronto journalist Matt Elliott created a game called “Rob Ford Apology Bingo,” with boxes listing various Ford responses to criticism, such as “Drunken stupor” and “First to say I’m not perfect.” So far, Elliott is making no apologies for that.

1 The U.S. government has officially apologized for slavery, mistreatment of Native Americans, the overthrow of Hawaii’s native leaders in 1893, the Tuskegee syphilis study, the Japanese internment in World War II, the protection of Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie after the war and other mistakes and misdeeds. But the U.S. has said explicitly it will not apologize for dropping atomic bombs on Japan to end World War II. And after the downing of an Iranian jetliner in 1988, the U.S. said it regretted the loss of innocent life and paid compensation, but it never formally apologized. 

2 One of the most famous apologies of recent decades was preacher Jimmy Swaggart’s tearful, televised “I Have Sinned” sermon in 1988 in Baton Rouge, La. Caught with a prostitute, Swaggart apologized to his wife, his son, his church, his fellow evangelists and his God. Three years later he was found with a hooker again, but this time he told his congregation: “The Lord told me it’s flat none of your business.” 

3 A candidate for the most-belated mea culpa came from the Roman Catholic Church, which admitted in 1992 that it shouldn’t have punished Galileo Galilei 360 years earlier for suggesting the planets revolved around the sun.


4 In 1934, Japanese Emperor Hirohito was visiting the city of Kiryu when his entourage was directed on the wrong route. The mistake meant people along the road weren’t properly dressed, and he arrived at his destination before the reception committee was ready for him. About a week later, all of Kiryu’s 65,000 residents faced southeast to the palace at Tokyo and observed a minute of silent prayer to express their apologies.

   5 The art of public apologies includes the “if” apology (“I’m sorry if you were offended”) and the autopilot apology (“mistakes were made”). There’s also the surgical apology, as shown by George W. Bush after a 2000 campaign gaffe in Naperville. An open mic caught Bush telling running mate Dick Cheney that New York Times reporter Adam Clymer was “a major league (expletive).” Bush later said: “I regret that a private comment I made to the vice presidential candidate made it through the public airways.” But he didn’t express regret for saying it, and he didn’t apologize to Clymer.

 6 After The Associated Press’ Edward Kennedy and other reporters witnessed the Nazis’ formal surrender on May 7, 1945, Allied censors ordered them to keep it secret for 36 hours so the Soviets could stage another ceremony. But Kennedy heard the news on German radio and decided to go with the story right away, in one of the biggest scoops in history. His reward? The AP fired him. Sixty-seven years later, the news agency apologized. “It was a terrible day for the AP,” president Tom Curley said. “It was handled in the worst possible way.” The apology was too late for Kennedy; he died in a traffic accident in 1963.

7 After an amphetamine-pumped Johnny Cash started a wildfire in Los Padres National Forest in California in 1965, the blaze devastated the endangered condor population: 49 of the region’s 53 birds were killed. At a deposition later, he was asked if he started the fire. He responded, “No. My truck did, and it’s dead, so you can’t question it.” (He admitted in his autobiography that he was also high during the questioning.) He was then asked if he felt bad about what happened to the birds. He unapologetically said, “I don’t give a damn about your yellow buzzards. Why should I care?”

   8 Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV, who was excommunicated after calling for Pope Gregory VII’s resignation and appointing his own bishops, stood barefoot in the snow for three days in January 1077 to apologize in the hope that the Holy Father would lift the excommunication. Gregory did so, but Henry was back at it in a few years and was excommunicated again.

9 After Madonna received a bouquet of hydrangeas from a fan in 2011, she sniffed, “I absolutely loathe hydrangeas.” The negative reaction to Madonna’s remark inspired her to produce a short video in which she pretended to apologize to hydrangeas but then stomped on them and said she liked roses better.

10 Apologies are generally seen as gracious gestures, but George Steinbrenner was an exception to the rule. The New York Yankees owner issued a written apology to Yankees fans after his team lost the 1981 World Series. That not only annoyed his own players but seemed to disparage the team that had won, the Los Angeles Dodgers.


Harry Shearer at RT4.jpgHarry Shearer has a feature called “Apologies of the Week” on his radio show called Le Show.  He plays tapes of the apologies by government agencies, corporations, other organizations and individuals  which are funny or pathetic or preposterous, but they all say something about what is going on in our world.

We know Harry from The Simpsons:

Harry Julius Shearer (born December 23, 1943) is an American actor, humorist, writer, voice artist, musician, author, radio host and filmmaker. He is known for his long-running roles on The Simpsons, his work on Saturday Night Live, the comedy band Spinal Tap and his radio program Le Show.  Wikipedia

I always enjoy Le Show when I’m up that late:                                                     10:00 PM Sundays, FM 91.5, WBEZ





Elyssa’s Mission


Elyssa Meyers was 16 years old in 2004 when she killed herself.

       I did not know her in life, but I see her each time I step out of the elevator in the basement of my synagogue’s school to go to work in our library. There is a plaque on the wall with her picture (not the swimsuit one) because friends of her family raised money to finish the basement in Elyssa’s memory with an art room, a youth room, and the resource room/library. Elyssa has said she was happy when she was working in our school as a madracha, a teacher’s helper. Her parents will  never recover from the loss of their daughter, but they’ve done something marvelous with their pain.   Joanne and Alan (who had been in class with me at Niles North), and Alan’s brother Ken with others founded Elyssa’s Mission:

 Mission – Suicide Prevention

Elyssa’s Mission is an organization that provides the resources to support at-risk teens and prevent suicide. We offer hands-on support to area schools, religious and community organizations to help educate students, staff and parents on how to recognize those teens most at risk. Elyssa’s Mission is proactive in funding, distributing, and implementing the SOS Signs of Suicide® program, as well as other prevention programs that are evidence based and backed by mental health professionals.







Wolves to Dogs


Hunting down dog origins
            Genome analysis has researchers on the scent of when and where man and wolf made friends
By Monte Morin Tribune Newspapers  11.15.13

Since the time of Charles Darwin, scientists have argued over the origin of domesticated dogs, speculating wildly about how, when and where a toothy, flesh-eating beast was transformed into man’s best friend.   Some experts believe our ancestors in the Middle East and elsewhere were naturally drawn to small, furry wolf pups and seized them as novelties. Others suggest they were raised as a source of meat in early agrarian societies in Asia. Yet another theory holds that early proto-dogs were enlisted as helpers by roving bands of hunters, long before humankind experimented with agricultural livestock.

Now, thanks to faster and cheaper DNA sequencing technology, this epic argument over what sparked the Big Bark may finally be drawing to a close.

After analyzing the mitochondrial genomes of 18 ancient dogs and wolves and comparing them to an array of modern counterparts, evolutionary biologists concluded that dog domestication most likely occurred in ice age Europe, between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago.

That’s much earlier, and much further north, than previously believed, according to their report published Thursday in the journal Science.

Dogs, the authors argued, evolved from a now extinct species of European wolf that followed bands of nomadic or semi-nomadic humans who were hunting woolly mammoths and other large prey.

Initially, the wolves sought out the carcasses and scraps of meat left behind by man. Over time, these hang-around wolves began to fill a special role in human hunter-gatherer society, the researchers surmised.

“The initial interactions were probably at arm’s length, as these were large, aggressive carnivores,” said UCLA evolutionary biologist Robert Wayne, the study’s senior author. “Eventually, though, wolves entered the human niche. … Maybe they even assisted humans in locating prey or deterred other carnivores from interfering with the hunting activities of humans.”  After being welcomed into human society in Europe, domesticated dogs spread across the Old World and then to the Americas.

Until recently, many archaeologists and biologists believed dogs were first domesticated no more than 13,000 years ago, either in eastern Asia or the Middle East.

But there are those who argue that Wayne and his colleagues are off base.

Peter Savolainen, an associate professor of evolutionary genetics at Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology, said there’s plenty of evidence that dogs were first domesticated in China, probably as a source of food. mmorin@tribune.com

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN/GETTY-AFP PHOTO DNA analysis suggests wolves were domesticated in ice age Europe, thousands of years earlier than previously thought.

Chimps to People in Economics


The “Smallest, Smartest Chimp” piece reminds me of two particular fertile topics in economic research.

The notion of innovation from the smallest, smartest chimp reminds me of endogenous growth theory and even more so developmental economics and the work of many economists in the developmental field, particularly Jeffery Sachs and William Easterly. Though they may often disagree on many points, both agree the strongest, most sustainable growth is rooted in bottom-up innovation from within the economy’s own labor force. 

As for the direct result of this study – that the smallest, smartest chip innovates and the strongest does not – is a rich area of research with very significant, consistent conclusions. That the weakest innovate (take on new technology) and the strongest do not (maintain current technology) is a very common assumption in models in “Leapfrogging” – nations alternating leading economic positions. 

One of the most significant papers published on the topic is titled “Leapfrogging in International Competition: A Theory of Cycles in National Technological Leadership,” by Elise Brezis, Paul Krugman, and Daniel Tsiddon. The basic idea is that those who have “the most to lose” – with low wages – find the new technology attractive, while the stronger economy – with higher wages – would find taking on the new technology costly (in the short run) and so keep the old technology. Eventually, the country with the new technology becomes more productive and surpasses the country old country in strength. 

The behavioral economics experiment to show this happening in real time is fascinating.

Richard Nugent III



Zoo chimps reveal new ideas about innovation
By James Janega Blue Sky Reporter  Chicago Tribune 11.11.13

If you are a student of innovation, here is one lesson you can draw from a troop of chimpanzees at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo: There’s a payoff to trying unexpected things, even when the current state of affairs isn’t too bad.

   The strongest chimps don’t innovate. Creative problem solving has come from the weakest with the least to lose. That’s a takeaway so far from a 10-month study designed to explore the role of innate curiosity in chimps.

   “The little guy’s getting ahead, which is nice,” said research biologist Lydia Hopper.

The research team has been giving chimps in its “behavioral economics” study stout lengths of plastic tubing to use as “money” they can exchange for carrots, or —even better — grapes.

   In a tale of disruptive innovation and organizational hierarchy that is nearly impossible not to compare to office politics, a troop of six chimps at the zoo has produced wily innovator Chuckie; early adopter Optimus Prime, ambivalent early mainstream followers Nana and Cashew, late follower Kathy — and a laggard with a lot of clout named Hank.

Optimus was the first to discover that a strange new pile of PVC plastic tubes could be exchanged with a trainer behind a grate for carrots. Within a month, the whole troop was following suit.

But little Chuckie couldn’t push her way through the crowd. She went to another grate — where a different trainer was waiting with grapes. When others learned that grapes could be had, the crowd spread out and the experiment took on iteration after iteration, with Chuckie always a step ahead of the pack.

She has been finding new grape-dispensing spots, and she was the first chimp to bring seven or eight lengths of tubing with her, to cut down on back-and-forth trips that exposed her discovery to competitors.

Hank, the alpha male, has watched the developments but hasn’t participated. “You could argue he doesn’t need to, because he gets all the food he needs,” Hopper said.


Chuckie, one of the smaller chimps, exchanges a plastic tube for a grape during a study conducted at the Regenstein Center for African Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo.


Climate change and bunnies


Climate Change Leaves Hares Wearing The Wrong Colors

 Weekend Edition Sunday by LAUREN SOMMER

A white snowshoe hare against a brown background makes the animal easy prey.

A white snowshoe hare against a brown background makes the animal easy prey.         L.S. Mills Research Photo

The effects of climate change often happen on a large scale, like drought or a rise in sea level. In the hills outside Missoula, Mont., wildlife biologists are looking at a change to something very small: the snowshoe hare.

Life as snowshoe hare is pretty stressful. For one, almost everything in the forest wants to eat you.  Alex Kumar, a graduate student at the University of Montana, lists the animals that are hungry for hares. “Lynx, foxes, coyotes, raptors, birds of prey. Interestingly enough, young hares, their main predator is actually red squirrels.”

Yes, even squirrels. Kumar and field technician Tucker Seitz spend months searching these woods for hares. Seitz is wearing a T-shirt with their mascot — a pink bunny.

A hare with fur to match the season is almost impossible to see.  L.S. Mills Research Photo

“Yep, we embrace the pink bunny,” Kumar says.  “There’s pink bunnies on all of our trucks,” Seitz adds.

We’d spotted a hare in the brush just as we drove up — light brown with large back feet.  Kumar listens for signals from hares they’ve already put radio collars on.

They catch other hares with wire traps about the size of a breadbox, with some apple as bait. Most of the hares they track live less than a year — a hazard of being what Kumar calls “the cheeseburger of the ecosystem.”

But snowshoe hares have a trick up their sleeve: camouflage. They’re brown during the summer, but turn stark white for the snowy winter months. Kumar says it works.

“There’s times when you’re tracking them and you know they’re really, really close, and you just can’t find them,” he says.

Hares switch color in the spring and fall in response to light, when the days get longer or shorter. But that means they’re at the mercy of the weather. If the snow comes late, you get a white hare on brown ground.

A snowshoe hare in the Montana woods.  L.S. Mills Research Photo

“And they really think that they’re camouflaged,” Kumar says. “They act like we can’t see them. And it’s pretty embarrassing for the hare.”

Kumar calls this “mismatch,” and it’s becoming more of a concern with climate change.

“If the hares are consistently molting at the same time, year after year, and the snowfall comes later and melts earlier, there’s going to be more and more times when hares are mismatched,” he says.

Scott Mills of North Carolina State University leads the research. He says they’re finding that mismatched hares die at higher rates. That’s a concern for the threatened Canada lynx, which mainly eats these hares.

“It’s a picture that paints a thousand words,” Mills says. “It’s a very clear connection to a single climate change stressor.”

Mills says hares might be able to adapt over time. Some snowshoe hares in Washington State don’t turn white at all. Mills is trying to figure out whether hares and other wildlife can adapt as fast as the climate is changing.

“But really what we don’t know very well is how fast is too fast?” he says.

Towering Buildings


City losing title, still stands tall
One World Trade Center grabs U.S. height record, but Chicago’s stature secure
Blair Kamin  Chicago Tribune  11.13.13

Wise men and women know that tallest building titles, like glory and Cubs winning streaks, are fleeting. Someone can always build a taller tower. Mix the foibles of the human ego with ever-advancing building technologies and new experiments in structural gigantism are inevitable. At 2,717 feet, Dubai’s staggeringly high Burj Khalifa is taller than the John Hancock Center and the Willis Tower combined . Saudi Arabia is building a skyscraper that will soar to about 1 kilometer, or 3,281 feet. Drawings show its planned knifelike spire poking through the clouds. Both these skyscrapers, incidentally, were designed in Chicago.


The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is currently the tallest building in the world

 As a result, Chicago shouldn’t suffer any loss of civic pride over Tuesday’s ruling that New York’s One World Trade Center will unseat Willis Tower as the nation’s tallest building . Mayor Rahm Emanuel may be miffed, yet there’s really no reason to be.


The carefully reasoned ruling by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat may be a blow to Chicago’s collective ego, but it will have zero impact on the city’s architectural stature.  It’s been 17 years since the council stripped Willis (then known as Sears Tower) of its world’s tallest building title, handing the crown instead to spire-topped towers in Malaysia. And the tourists are still flocking to our architectural boat cruises, aren’t they?

In essence, the Chicago-based council’s ruling affirmed that One World Trade Center is 1,776 feet tall, or 325 taller than Willis, and that the 104-story office building will become the nation’s tallest skyscraper next year once tenants move in. So much for the hackneyed storyline, peddled by some media outlets, that the notoriously corrupt Second City would steal the tallest building title from the brave Big Apple.  The vote by the council’s height committee, which met last Friday in Chicago and whose members include architects, structural engineers and other design professionals from 13 countries, was “nearly unanimous,” said the council’s executive director, Antony Wood. One of the committee’s 25 members present abstained.

Asked if they felt political pressure to maintain One World Trade Center’s height at an evocative 1,776 feet, council officials said absolutely not.

 The decision resolved the arcane technical issue of whether One World Trade Center’s exposed steel mast should be deemed a spire or an antenna. The council counts spires, like the one atop New York’s Chrysler Building, in height measurements because they are considered integral to a building’s design. Antennas, like those atop Willis, don’t count because the council views them as superfluous add-ons whose height can be changed after a building is complete.

The debate over One World Trade Center’s height arose last year after the building’s developers confirmed they would not cover the skyscraper’s mast in a decorative steel and fiberglass enclosure because the cladding would be impossible to maintain. That decision, which saved an estimated $20 million in construction costs, left the mast’s steel superstructure exposed — and opened the door to critics who claimed that the mast no longer qualified as a spire.

Emanuel, who offered a rebuke of the council’s decision Tuesday, sided with this view. “If it looks like an antenna, acts like an antenna, then guess what? It is an antenna,” the mayor said at a news conference.  The mayor added: “I think (with) the Willis Tower you will have a view that’s unprecedented in its beauty, its landscape and its capacity to capture something. Something you can’t do from an antenna. Not that I’m competitive. So for all those who want to climb on top of an antenna and take a look, go ahead.”  In fact, One World Trade Center will have an observation deck with views of New York Harbor and the city’s skyline.

The height committee took a more nuanced view than the mayor, determining that One World Trade Center’s top is a spire because it is integral to the tower’s symbolic design — and, crucially, its height will remain fixed at 1,776 feet.

In his master plan for ground zero, architect Daniel Libeskind pegged the height of the 16-acre site’s tallest skyscraper (which was originally called the Freedom Tower) at 1,776 feet to symbolize the year of the Declaration of Independence’s adoption and American resilience in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Although One World Trade Center’s architect, David Childs of the New York office of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, abandoned Libeskind’s plan for an asymmetrical, crystalline tower, he hewed to the charged numerology of an unchangeable 1,776.  Childs, who last year criticized the decision not to clad the spire, did “a mea culpa” at Friday’s height committee meeting, the council’s leaders said.

“The key word is permanence,” Wood said during a news conference at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where the council, an obscure private nonprofit group, is headquartered. “We know that (the spire) is a permanent feature because of the sacrosanct nature of the 1,776 height.”  He added: “Even though the cladding was taken off this spire, you can still see that is an architectural element. It is not just a plain steel mast from which to hang antennae or satellite dishes.”


In short, the spire may be an uninspiring eyesore, as some architecture critics already have claimed, but it is still a spire.  As if to hammer this point home, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, one of the skyscraper’s co-developers, conducted a test last Friday in which the mast was lit with hundreds of red, white and blue LED lights. Their glow, which was said to be visible up to 50 miles away, evoked the beloved spire of the Empire State Building.

“We felt it was really a designed element,” not just a functional piece of equipment, said Peter Weismantle, chair of the council’s height committee.

 The council also sided with the New Yorkers on a less-noticed but equally crucial issue: The baseline for measuring One World Trade Center’s height should be considered its main entrance, facing south toward the National Sept. 11 Memorial, not the building’s north entrance. Here was the rare instance when an architect and developer wanted their building to be shorter, not taller.

Due to One World Trade Center’s sloping site, its north entrance is 5 feet, 8 inches lower than the main entrance. That raised the possibility that the tower’s official height would be 1,781 feet because the council’s standards state that height is measured from “the level of the lowest, significant, open-air, pedestrian entrance” to a skyscraper’s “architectural top.”  But the north entrance “is not classified as significant,” Wood said.

Most visitors will enter One World Trade Center from the building’s main entrance and entrances to the east and west, he explained, adding that more than 90 percent of the building’s ground floor is at the same level as the Sept. 11 memorial.

When I asked if the council was treating One World Trade Center differently from Chicago’s Trump International Hotel & Tower, whose floors along the Chicago River are counted in the building’s 1,388-foot height, Wood said no. He cited the council’s standard that a “significant” entrance allows access to “one or more primary uses in the building via elevators.”

“At Trump, I believe you can walk off the river path, right into the building, and gain access to the elevators direct at that level,” he wrote in an email. “At 1 WTC, you have to go up a set of small stairs to reach the elevators.”  On such delicate distinctions does the height of America’s tallest skyscraper depend.

As if to recognize the ephemeral quality of being the tallest, representatives of the Willis Tower, which has been the nation’s tallest building since 1973, issued a statement Tuesday: “People are attracted to the iconic Willis Tower and always will be, regardless of which building the Council nominates as the tallest. When Willis Tower opened, it did not diminish the attractiveness of the Empire State Building as a major tourist attraction and the same will remain true for Willis Tower.”

One World Trade Center will soon have the tallest building title, but someday, it may have to issue a similar statement.

Tribune reporter John Byrne contributed. bkamin@tribune.com   Twitter @BlairKamin

BRIAN CASSELLA/TRIBUNE PHOTO Willis Tower reigns over the Chicago skyline on Tuesday, the day the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat ruled that One World Trade Center will be the tallest building in the U.S.