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May 29, 2014

This Week In The Civil War: Weeks of May 25 & June 1

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, May 25: Fighting in Georgia.

Union attempts to begin taking aim at Atlanta intensified this week 150 years ago in the Civil War. Fighting erupted on May 24, 1864 around a place called New Hope Church in Georgia as forces under Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman squared off with Confederate rivals under Gen. Joseph E. Johnson. The fighting at New Hope Church was intense and Union attackers were bloodily repulsed. Skirmishing continued through the rest of that day. More fighting erupted on May 27, 1864, in the same general area of Georgia with the Confederates repelling a Union attack, leaving a large number of dead and wounded.

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, June 1: Bloody combat at Cold Harbor, Va.

Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant pressed on with fierce fighting in Virginia, his massive Union force intent on breaking the backbone of the Confederacy on its territory. But Confederate rivals in turn exacted heavy casualties on the Union foe. On June 1, 1864, Union cavalry fighters drove back one attack by Confederate forces, which were being reinforced by more troops arriving from Richmond, Va., seat of the Confederacy. Union attempts to attack the Southern forces met with heavy casualties on the federal side. The fighting raged for days along a front stretching for miles to the Chickahominy River in Virginia. By mid-June of that year, with both sides bloodied and wearied, Grant began moves to relocate his forces in an area threatening Petersburg, Va., below Richmond.

Options For Honoring Beloved Pets When They Cross Over

Sue Manning

Associated Press

Los Angeles (AP) More pets are buried in U.S. backyards than any other place, but that is becoming illegal in more and more places. For those who want something unique, though, the sky’s the limit, literally.

From companies that will send your pet’s remains to the heavens to those who will help scatter them at sea - or turn them into a man-made gemstone for your favorite broach - there’s a vast array of options. Here are some of them:


This method is similar to cremation, but it’s done with water-based technology that leaves pure ash reminiscent of powdery beach sand, said Jerry Shevick, CEO of Peaceful Pets Aquamation Inc. in Newbury Park. The process is called alkaline hydrolysis. It is legal for humans in seven states and legal for pets in every state. But in New York, it can be performed only by a veterinarian. The nearly green, 20-minute process ranges from $75 to $350 depending on size.


LifeGem is a 13-year-old company in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, that turns strands of hair or remains of a pet (or person) into a colorless, blue, red, yellow or green synthetic diamond that costs from $1,999 to $24,999.


The Eternal Ascent Society in Newport Richey, Florida, will send your pet’s remains to the heavens, said Joanie West, who has owned the company for 16 years. She puts remains (pet or person) in a 5-foot round balloon, adds helium and releases it at a tree- and wire-free location the family chooses. The balloons come in red, yellow, green and blue. Families usually choose a service with music, gifts and remembrances. They can let the balloons go. Around 5 miles up at 40 degrees, the balloon fractures and the ashes are caught in high winds and scattered. Balloons start at $399. There are added costs for larger balloons, a videotape or special container.


Ashes on the Sea, which serves California and Hawaii, will scatter a pet’s ashes at sea for $250 to $350, said Capt. Ken Shortridge. Families can watch from boat or shore, and there are several ceremonies to choose from. Ashes can be placed in a wicker basket lined with tea leaves, covered with rose petals and set on the water. When flipped, the ashes form the illusion of an underwater wreath, and you can watch them drift toward the bottom of the sea.


More pets are buried in backyards than anywhere else. It’s free, 100 percent green, you can visit anytime, and goodbyes can be as simple or as fancy as mourners want. But it is illegal in many places. Los Angeles, for example, bans the burial of any animal or fowl except in an established cemetery.


Includes a plot of ground or mausoleum space. You can buy a headstone or plaque. Cemetery burial can cost several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on size, location, grave marker, type of casket or cremation, urn and other costs.


Costs vary depending on location, pet size and extras. The Caring Pet Crematory in Sacramento charges $140 for a pet under 20 pounds and $275 for a pet from 151 to 200 pounds. If the family wants to watch the cremation, it costs $50, but not every crematory allows witnesses, crematory operator Alex Gordon said. Caring Pet normally scatters remains in the forest. For $125, the company also will scatter remains off the coast of San Francisco by plane. Urns also vary in cost.


Bonnie Beaver, a professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and executive director of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, says most pet owners - an estimated 70 percent - will go the routine route, leaving the body with their veterinarian. The vet usually uses communal cremation.

Beaver says taking a pet’s body home for burial is the next most popular method for owners, followed by cremation.
One other pet ends up in a watery grave sometimes - all those goldfish and guppies that are pushed toward their resting place with a flush.

Surprising DNA Test Links Kiwi To Giant Bird, 1000 Years Gone


Associated Press

Wellington, NZ (AP) Research linking New Zealand’s diminutive kiwi with a giant extinct bird from Africa is prompting scientists to rethink how flightless birds evolved.

A report published Friday in the journal Science says DNA testing indicates the chicken-size kiwi’s closest relative is the elephant bird from Madagascar, which grew up to 3 meters (10 feet) high and weighed up to 250 kilograms (550 pounds) before becoming extinct about 1,000 years ago.

The authors say the results contradict earlier theories that the kiwi and other flightless birds, including the ostrich and emu, evolved as the world’s continents drifted apart about 130 million years ago.

Baby Kiwi

Instead, they say, it’s more likely their chicken-size, flight-capable ancestors enjoyed a window of evolutionary ascendancy about 60 million years ago, after dinosaurs died out and before mammals grew big.

Those birds, the authors say, likely flew between the continents, with some staying and becoming the large, flightless species we know today.
Alan Cooper, a professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia and a co-author of the paper, said the DNA results came as a huge surprise given the differences in size and location between the kiwi and elephant bird.

``This has been an evolutionary mystery for 150 years. Most things have been suggested but never this,’’ he said. ``The birds are about as different as you can get in terms of geography, morphology and ecology.’’

Cooper, a New Zealander by birth, is hoping the paper will also bring him a measure of redemption.

That’s because two decades ago, Cooper and other scientists discovered genetic links between the kiwi and two Australian flightless birds, the cassowary and the emu. That led to New Zealanders believing their iconic bird might have come from Australia, a traditional rival.

``There was a huge outpouring of angst,’’ Cooper said. ``New Zealanders weren’t too impressed.’’

Elephant bird compared to human

The nation’s identity is so entwined with the bird that New Zealanders call themselves kiwis and have also given the name to their currency and the kiwifruit.

But it turns out that if the emu was a cousin to the kiwi, the elephant bird was a sibling. Cooper said it has taken until now for DNA techniques to advance enough to get a usable result from the ancient bones of the Madagascan bird.

Cooper said the bird took its name from Arabic legends that suggested it was so fearsome it could grab an elephant with its talons.

There’s little basis for the legend given the bird was a flightless herbivore. In fact, it was likely humans that hunted it into oblivion, Cooper said.

Trevor Worthy, a research fellow at Australia’s Flinders University and a paper co-author, said it’s likely the kiwi stayed small and took to eating insects at night because it didn’t want to compete for habitat and food with another New Zealand flightless bird, the moa, which is also now extinct. He said it’s strange the kiwi and elephant bird are such close relatives.

``One got big, one stayed little,’’ he said.

Massey University professor David Penny, who wasn’t involved in the research but who peer reviewed it for Science, said the results are very interesting and help complete the puzzle of flightless birds.

Music Therapy Opens Windows Of Communication For Many

Rachel Nania


North Bethesda, MD (AP) Three-and-a-half-year-old Emma Quick runs into a room filled with instruments spread out across the floor. Her energy and excitement cause her blonde pig tails to bounce above her blue polka-dot shirt.

``Are you ready to make some music?’’ asks 24-year-old Katie Myers, whose enthusiasm rivals Emma’s.

``Yeah!’’ Emma quickly responds.

Myers grabs her guitar and launches into a ``hello’’ song; Emma picks up a set of red sticks and begins to play along. The two continue their roles until Myers stops the singing and asks a question.

``Emma, who should we sing to?’’

Myers asks another time, then another.

``What’s your name?’’

After flashing several smiles, Emma responds to Myers’ satisfaction, and the two return to making music.

Despite what it looks like, Emma’s not there to learn instruments, songs or notes, that’s just a bonus. Emma has Down syndrome and meets with Myers for weekly music therapy sessions to work on her speech, fine-motor and gross-motor skills.

``Some of (music therapy), yes, is music skills, but it’s mostly using the music activities to develop other skills,’’ says Myers, a therapist with Levine Music.

``Sometimes teaching them short songs on the piano or teaching them musical skills is achieving one of their goals, but the focus is not on the musical skills themselves.’’

Music therapy has been a profession since World War I, when musicians would go to veterans’ hospitals and play for the wounded patients, says Leanne Belasco, director of music therapy at Levine Music.

``The doctors and nurses observed there was a real positive change that came about from the presence of musicians with the patients,’’ Belasco says.

Since then, the profession has grown immensely, and its application has expanded to help people in all stages of life, from premature infants to patients in hospice, from children on the autism spectrum to adults who have suffered a stroke.

Al Bumanis, director of communications for the American Music Therapy Association, estimates that 1 million to 2 million people seek music therapy as a treatment tool to address non-musical goals each year; 73 colleges and universities offer music therapy as a degree program.

How does music help patients with a wide range of diagnoses and needs? Bumanis says music works as a vehicle to deliver treatment exercises patients need to progress.

For Emma, Myers uses a drum, one of Emma’s favorite instruments, to prompt Emma to say words on beat. Speech is a main focus of Emma’s therapy.

When it’s time for Emma to work on fine-motor skills, such as moving her fingers quickly and individually, Myers has Emma ``tickle’’ the drum or play the piano.

``She has a hard time playing and saying words at the same time, so (we’re) working on getting that coordination together on the piano,’’ Myers says.

Asking Emma how she’s feeling during the ``hello’’ song teaches her to recognize and express her emotions. It also teaches Emma to wait her turn and listen to Myers when she tells Emma how she feels during the song.

``That’s what’s helpful about having music as a tool. We can use it in so many different ways to do what we need to do with it,’’ Myers says.

Emma’s mother, Cynthia Smith, says she’s noticed ``drastic differences’’ in Emma since she began music therapy in January.

``She’s more expressive and precise with her words and pronunciation,’’ says Smith, of Bethesda. ``She’s putting together concepts and articulating her ideas clearer.’’

Emma, who a few months ago was not stringing together full sentences, now does so, often through music. Smith says Emma looked out the window recently and when she saw rain drops, she began singing, ``Rain, rain, go away.’’

``Just putting tunes to directions, or putting tunes to phrases really helps (patients) associate a lot of things . I think that helps with the memory aspect of things,’’ Myers says.

American Music Therapy Association’s Bumanis says music therapy is used in neonatal intensive care units throughout the country to help infants who aren’t thriving. Research shows soothing music encourages infants to suck, allowing them to take in more food, he says.

``I think mothers have known this for centuries . infants tend to thrive more, get more nutrition when lullabies are playing,’’ he says.

Veterans suffering from war injuries, emotional and physical, also use music therapy to help them recover.

``Music is a way to reach them and a way to affect different areas of the brain to relearn skills . and emotional issues that come up,’’ says Bumanis, who’s been a music therapist for 30 years.

Levine Music’s Belasco says, ``We’ve seen music provide a tool for them to really get their feelings out or to really talk about something that they might not be comfortable with in another setting ... we might use music to work on emotional expression and management of difficult emotions, like frustration or anxiety or anger.’’

Music therapy helps stroke patients regain their speech. Therapists might start out humming with the patient. When some progress is made, they may begin to sing words until the patient is able to vocalize again.

When the music stops, the vocal ability is still there.

``Eventually, when we take away the music, the patient’s able to transfer those skills,’’ Bumanis says.

For older populations, music is used as a reality-based activity to keep patients present.

``A group playing together or singing together, you have to be in the here and now to participate,’’ Bumanis says.
Those in the later stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia can learn different drum or rhythm patterns in group sessions with family members and caregivers. Bumanis says this gives them a form of communication and expression they can share with others.

In the later stages of life, music therapy is not as rehabilitative as it is for younger populations, but Bumanis says it’s a ``quality-of-life enhancer.’’

``The goals are not to create a dancer or a singer. It’s to help the person, in a sense, rewire the brain.’’

Keeping a 3-year-old’s attention for 30 minutes is a challenge, but after singing and playing guitar, drums, sticks and piano, Emma’s music therapy session comes to a close. It was all fun and games to her, but it was also hard, challenging work.

Myers picks up her guitar once again and starts singing a goodbye song to close the session.

``Well, well, it’s time to say goodbye. It’s been fun but it’s time to say . ``

``Bye,’’ Emma finishes.

Woman Prowls Graveyards In Search Of Mysteries & Fun

Lincoln, NE (AP) Beth Santore shares what she has learned from her lifelong fascination with gravestones to help other people understand what they find in cemeteries. 

Santore, 33, became fascinated with the artwork and carvings on headstones when she and her sister would play in a cemetery as children, the Lincoln Journal Star reported 

``My sister and I were years and years younger than our cousins. The family reunions were torture,’’ Santore said. ``So my sister and I would walk up the hill to the cemetery (behind the park) and play.’’

Since then, Santore has visited more than 1,400 cemeteries to learn more about the symbolism, artwork and lore.

``There are always mysteries in the cemetery,’’ Santore said. ``Solving them is a lot of fun.’’

Recently, she visited Lincoln from her home in Columbus, Ohio, and led a symposium for over 60 people on gravestone symbolism. Santore works as an information technology specialist, but she spends much of her vacation and free time exploring cemeteries. 

She even has her GPS system set to alert her whenever she’s near a cemetery. Santore said she’s always learning more about the symbols carved into gravestones and their meaning. Sometimes the carvings offer the only clues about the life someone lived. One gravestone Santore pointed out in Lincoln featured a three-link chain that signified the man was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and a wreath that symbolizes victory over death. Santore said it’s also interesting to see trends in gravestone styles from different periods of history. For instance in the 1920s, gravestones that looked like a broken tree trunk were popular to symbolize a life cut short.

The laser etching techniques available today are allowing new possibilities. Even photographs can be carved into stone with lasers. Santore said some modern gravestones are even being decorated with QR codes that would allow someone with a smartphone to easily connect to a website. ``Although cemeteries are obviously connected to death, that’s not the main reason I visit them,’’ she said ``I like walking through them to see all the different symbols, art, architecture . not to mention all the history!’’











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