It’s estimated that half the world’s 6,000-plus languages are in danger of disappearing.
Many have become victims of progress and development that has aligned speakers of endangered tongues with a more dominant culture that relies on a handful of principal languages, such as English, Russian or Mandarin.
A vast number of the world’s endangered languages haven’t even been set down in written form, which further hinders efforts to keep them alive as older speakers die off.
Yet, a glimmer of hope for those who see the inherent value in the diversity of spoken languages can be found in the revival of the Cornish language in the United Kingdom.
Cornish, considered extinct for decades, has undergone a rebirth in years, with a small but steady increase in speakers as cultural awareness of the distinctive nature of the Cornwall region has been recognized and celebrated.
Today, London is home to a vibrant group of Cornish speakers and it’s estimated there are today in Britain hundreds of fluent Cornish speakers and thousands with at least some ability, according to The Independent.
In addition, a small number of children in Cornwall have been brought up to be bilingual native speakers, and, in a development unheard even of a century ago, the language is taught in many schools.
Occasionally one comes across a news report that cries out for additional information. Given that journalism has been called the “first draft of history,” it’s not surprising that reporters aren’t able to always get complete answers to every question that arises.
Sometimes, though, one has to wonder if an article’s author is an actual living human being, or simply an automaton devoid of curiosity and an awareness of the surreal.
Take this story from the BBC:
A German student “mooned” a group of Hell’s Angels and hurled a puppy at them before escaping on a stolen bulldozer, police have said.
The man drove up to a Hell’s Angels clubhouse near Munich, wearing only a pair of shorts and carrying a puppy.
He dropped his shorts and threw the dog, escaping on a bulldozer from a nearby building site.
An Australian prospector using a handheld metal detector hit the mother lode Wednesday, unearthing a gold nugget weighing 177 ounces, or more than 11 pounds.
The individual, who did not want to be identified, was searching for gold in the Australian state of Victoria when he found the nugget, valued at more than $300,000.
Using a state-of-the-art metal detector, the prospector located the nugget about two feet below the surface in an area which had been searched many times in the past, according to the BBC.
The Y-shaped nugget, 8.7 inches long and 5.5 inches wide, was found near the country town of Ballarat and in an area known as the “Golden Triangle” due to its rich veins which sparked a gold rush in the 1850s, according to Reuters.
Ballarat Mining Exchange Gold Shop owner and dealer Cordell Kent said the prospector heard a faint noise on his detector and removed a dense pile of leaf mulch before he started digging, according to The Advertiser of Adelaide.
“He thought he had detected the (hood) of a car when he saw a glint of gold,” Kent said. “He cleaned the top of it and the gold kept expanding and expanding … he saw more and more gold … he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.”
William J. “Bill” Cullerton, the leading air ace from Chicago during World War II, died this week at age 89.
Cullerton volunteered for service and arrived for action in Europe on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Part of the 355th Fighter Group based at Steeple Morden Airfield in England, Cullerton was among the first group of US pilots to fly the P-51 Mustang, among the most iconic aircraft of the war.
During less than a year of combat action, he shot down eight enemy aircraft and destroyed another 21 on the ground.
On Nov. 2, 1944, Cullerton destroyed eight Nazi planes. He would go on to finish the war as the top ace from Chicago, according to the book The Last Dragoon from Steeple Morden, which recounts Cullerton’s last dramatic weeks of action.
On April 8, 1945, with the war in Europe just a month from being over, Cullerton was shot down by ground fire behind German lines.
A cannon that sat in New York’s Central Park for nearly 150 years was discovered last week to have been loaded with a cannonball and black powder the entire time, it was announced last week.
Parks workers came upon a live cannonball, loaded in a Revolutionary War-era cannon currently being refurbished, New York television station CBS 2 reported. The artillery piece was one of two British cannon being stored at a Central Park shed near the 79th Street transverse, according to the station.
Preservation workers for the Central Park Conservancy called police last Friday after opening up the capped artillery piece for cleaning and finding the cannonball, cotton wadding and 28 ounces of black powder wrapped in wool, still capable of firing, according to the New York Times.
The loaded cannon was on public display from the 1860s until 1996, when the Central Park Conservancy decided to bring it indoors to protect it from vandalism. It was donated to the park around the time of the War Between the States.
The cannon, believed to be more than 220 years old, was apparently donated after it is believed to have been salvaged from the HMS Hussar, a British frigate that sank in the East River around 1780 during the American Revolution, according to the Associated Press.
Last year proved a solid one for nearly all cotton farmers except those in Texas and Oklahoma.
While states in the South and West registered overall harvest rates of 97 percent or better, Texas farmers lost 40 percent of their crop, more than 2.5 million acres, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
Oklahoma growers planted a smaller amount of cotton than their counterparts in Texas, but lost nearly half their crop, hurt by drought conditions that hit the region.
Overall last year, 12.3 million acres of cotton were planted in the US, and 9.4 million acres were harvested, according to the USDA.
Texas farmers planted more than 6.5 million acres of cotton but were only able to harvest 3.9 million acres. And the yield was just 600 pounds per acre in the Lone Star State, off from the five-year average of 700 pounds.
In Oklahoma growers planted 305,000 acres but only harvested 140,000 acres. Yield per harvested acre was just 480 pounds, down from a five-year state average of 770 pounds.
The parent company of Sears announced last week that Chairman Edward Lampert would shortly take over as chief executive, succeeding Louis D’Ambrosio, who is leaving for health reasons.
Lampert apparently has enjoyed a successful career: the Associated Press describes him as a hedge fund billionaire.
However, turning around Sears, which along with Kmart is under the umbrella of the Sears Holding Corporation, would appear to be a task of herculean proportions. The company has struggled mightily in recent years and, if personal experience is any indication, appears fully committed to foundering on the shoals of incompetence.
Case in point: About 10 days before Christmas, I decided to get my wife a recumbent bicycle as an early Christmas present. Recumbent bikes allow the user to recline while riding in place and are good good for cross-training.
Understanding that these items take time to put together, and that there’s no guarantee one would be in stock at a nearby store, my wife began scouring the Web.
After a bit of research, she found just the recumbent bike she wanted at Sears. Best of all, it was located at the nearest of the three Sears stores in our area, just a couple of miles away. My wife phoned the store and the Sears’ representative assured her that the company computer showed there was indeed one of the desired models in stock.
I set off a short while later to pick it up, and things proceeded to deteriorate quickly. When I got to the store I had to wait for several minutes before I was able to track down a salesperson in the fitness area.