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Nation in brief: Parrot, friend of science, dies

Alex, an African grey parrot, was studied at Brandeis University for 30 years. He died Friday. Associated Press
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Alex, an African grey parrot, was studied at Brandeis University for 30 years. He died Friday. Associated Press (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)

Alex, a parrot who could count to six, identify colors and even express frustration with repetitive scientific trials, has died after 30 years of helping researchers better understand the avian brain.

The cause of Alex’s death was unknown. The African grey parrot’s average life span is 50 years, Brandeis University scientist Irene Pepperberg said. She said Alex was discovered dead in his cage Friday, but she waited to release the news until this week so grieving researchers could get over the shock and talk about it.

“It’s devastating to lose an individual you’ve worked with pretty much every day for 30 years,” Pepperberg told the Boston Globe. “Someone was working with him eight to 12 hours every day of his life.”

New York

Will’s column cited as most-published

George Will’s column runs in more newspapers than any writer in the nation, according to a new study by a liberal media watchdog group that concludes conservative voices such as his dominate editorial pages.

Will’s syndicated column runs at least once a month in 368 newspapers with more than 26 million in total circulation, said the Media Matters for America. The organization surveyed 96 percent of the nation’s 1,430 English-language daily newspapers.

Media Matters found that 60 percent of the daily newspapers print more conservative syndicated columnists each week than liberals. Twenty percent of the papers are dominated by liberals, and 20 percent are balanced. Media Matters had no information on local columnists.

The five most popular columnists include another conservative, Kathleen Parker, and two liberals, Ellen Goodman and Leonard Pitts Jr. David Broder of the Washington Post, who is third, isn’t assigned an ideology by Media Matters. The top 10 is rounded out by Cal Thomas, Charles Krauthammer and three from the New York Times: Thomas L. Friedman, Maureen Dowd and David Brooks.

New Orleans

City maintaining black majority

New Orleans is narrowly retaining a black majority after Hurricane Katrina, according to a study released today by the Brookings Institution.

The study determined that while blacks left the city at a much faster rate than whites, New Orleans was still 58 percent black during 2006. Before Katrina, which hit Aug. 29, 2005, the city was 67 percent black, according to the U.S. census.

“It’s certainly still a predominantly African-American city,” said William Frey, a demographer and senior fellow at Washington, D.C.-based Brookings. “Speculation that there was not going to be a black majority in the city is not true, according to these estimates.”

While several studies have examined utility hookups and postal deliveries to estimate the population that has returned to New Orleans since Katrina, the Brookings Institution study is the first comprehensive look at the shifting demographics since the storm.


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