Monthly Archives: March 2016

Repeal of school audits by MD Legislature

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Good news.  The Maryland House left in the 6 year state audit of local public school systems. However, there are issues tied to the politics of “No bid contracts” in Prince George’s County  and elsewhere to cover their tracks to the detriment of many kids.

Bad News: They stripped the State Auditor of his powers.  So yes, there will still be 6 year audits of local public schools, but the pages of the local public school audits will be blank. This follows the state auditors detailed allegations involving wastage within the counties and specific areas of concern.  The state Auditor appears to have been demoted as fiscal agent of the state. 

The vote to strip the State Auditor of his powers was UNANIMOUS in the full House!

With proper checks and balances, the benefits of having a fiscal agent is significant for residents because it improves the schools and keeps the administration in check.  There is more to this because many local school District are managed by elected officials who have ties to the delegates and others in Annapolis. The Maryland citizens should wake up and demand accountability measures.

We believe that improved accountability systems at the local, state, and federal levels are central to advancing and broadening equal educational opportunity for each and every child in America. The current educational accountability system has become overly focused on narrow measures of success and, in some cases, has discouraged schools from providing a rich curriculum for all students focused on the 21st century skills they need to acquire. This particularly impacts under-resourced schools that disproportionately serve low-income students and students of color.

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FieldTurf: “Yes, there is lead in our products.”

TurfReform Sasscer Movement for Prince George’s country has previously reported on the Disadvantages of Synthetic Grass fact that there is lead in the artificial turf that the Board of Education for Prince George’s county uses them on football and soccer fields after the legislature passed a bill under a suspicious scheme involving pressure from external interest groups with financial ties to powerful politicians including Mr. Rushern Baker III.

Lead levels are of no interest to our elected officials, PTAs or parent community and so there has never been any local action to address this fact.  Remember that artificial turf purchases made by the Board of Education are never put out for competitive bids, and there is never any discussion about the content of comparable products.  FieldTurf is the one and only plastic grass that the Board of Education buys.

There is currently legislation being proposed in Annapolis  (House Bill 883) that would require signs at artificial turf fields based on warnings issued by the CDC.  On March 11, 2016, the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee held a public hearing on this proposed legislation.  A representative from FieldTurf spoke at the public hearing and answered a question about the existence of lead in FieldTurf products.  His answer is shown in the video below. The county leadership needs to show leadership in regards to the well-being of the youth and not put monetary gains ahead of poor students.

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Two progressive candidates for Maryland’s Senate seat being vacated

192e1082-496b-4064-a60d-3068777ed94dPlease join the Prince George’s County Young Democrats, the Eleanor & Franklin Roosevelt Democratic Club and other area Democratic clubs for a Maryland U.S. Senate Candidates Forum featuring:

U.S. Representative Donna F. Edwards
&
U.S. Representative Chris Van Hollen

Friday, March 18, 2016
Doors Open at 6:30 p.m.
Forum Begins at 7:00 p.m

Greenbelt Firehouse
125 Crescent Road
Greenbelt, Maryland 20770

Event is FREE, however seats are limited. Each Democratic club has been allocated a limited number of tickets. Club members must RSVP with their respective president for entry.

For PGCYD members, RSVP here!  For press credentials, please email Maurice Simpson at maurice@pgcyd.com.

Space is limited, so plan to arrive at the Firehouse no later than 7:15 p.m. to secure a seat. You will be notified via email within 24 hours of the forum if you will be issued a ticket. 

Refreshments will be provided by the Fire Department Auxiliary before and after the event for a donation of $5.

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Suspicious Forestville closure takes center stage at county council budget town hall

Kevin_Maxwell_-_commisioner_123LARGO – The fight over the planned closure of Forestville High School has expanded to include the county council.

Nine of the evening’s 17 citizen speakers at the council’s March 8 budget listening session addressed the state of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) in their remarks, with six of those specifically advocating for Forestville High to remain open. The school had been slated for closure by PCGPS Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell, a decision he re-affirmed, in spite of strong community outcry, in a letter to parents sent March 7.

Advocates for the school pressed council members to save the school.

“We as adults have to look out for our kids,” said Kenneth Smith. “I’m asking that y’all take a stand. Hear us. Hear us as parents, hear the children.”

“Why is the renovation of Suitland (High School) so imperative that Forestville has to close?” asked Kimberly Harley.

Tamara Brown-Davis, a parent teacher association member, related the school’s closure to another of the meeting’s main purposes: to provide the public with an overview of the county’s financial situation (including the structural deficit) and the preliminary report by the Blue Ribbon Commission studying the deficit and ways to reduce it.

In his report, Blue Ribbon Commission Chairman Earl Adams, Jr. mentioned Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders (TRIM) and the homestead tax credit as two factors holding county revenues down. Brown-Davis suggested the school system, which receives over 60 percent of the county’s budget, would need to be improved before citizens would agree to change those programs.

“Citizens are still not ready to get rid of TRIM or, as I heard tonight, homestead tax credit, on the November ballot or any other ballot,” Brown-Davis said. “And here’s why: the majority of our tax dollars goes to education. The Prince George’s County public school system actually has, under Dr. Maxwell’s leadership, increased in middle management.”

Several council members said they empathized with the parents, but pointed out that Maxwell has the sole authority to make decisions regarding school closures and boundary changes.

“I got to tell you, we have zero authority over school boundaries or anything related to closing schools,” Councilman Mel Franklin said. “That is state law. We have literally zero authority to deal with that.”

Councilwoman Karen Toles said County Executive Rushern Baker III may be the one to contact.

“There is a county executive in this that does have some authority and some relationship with our superintendent,” Toles said. “I would encourage you to call and email his office. I stand with those at Forestville High School.”

Others on the council tried to explain Maxwell’s reasoning as they understood it.

“It’s not an easy thing, it’s an emotional thing, but I think it’s fair to say most people would agree that you can’t, over a long period of time, defend a chronically under-enrolled school if at the same time that under-enrolled school is a dilapidated one,” said Councilwoman Mary Lehman. “Nobody wants our kids going to school in buildings that are falling apart and under-enrolled.”

Councilwoman Deni Taveras, who represents District 2, pointed to the need to construct several more schools in the northern part of the county at an estimated total cost of $8 billion.

“Where is the money coming from? We have 28 schools that are underutilized and have populations at 38 percent capacity or less. That’s the reason why,” she said.

In spite of the controversy over Forestville, not everyone who testified was dissatisfied with the school system.

“I am very glad to know the school’s (proposed) budget takes into account the parents’ involvement in student success as well as the teachers’ needs,” said parent Candida Hernandez, speaking with the aid of a translator. “I want to make sure our students have the tools and resources they need in order to be successful, and I think the schools’ budget takes this into account.”

Other topics brought up at the town hall included property tax rates, renters’ rights, the importance of art and music, the need for better transportation options for senior citizens, the Purple Line project, and the situation with the condominium market in the county.

Jonathan Hernandez, a senior at High Point High School, said he wanted to make sure the county’s renters were being treated fairly and equally.

“Landlords can be very unresponsive, meaning they are very inconsistent with the residents,” he said. “I believe the county should have a landlord-tenant office where a landlord can be accountable.”

Gerron Levi spoke about the condominium market in the county, which she said is depressed because the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will not issue mortgages in condo communities with high delinquency rates.

“If FHA does not insure a mortgage, than it really closes off a whole class of buyers. What that means is people seeking to sell their condominium will have to lower the price. Condo prices are suppressed to such a low level in the county when compared to surrounding jurisdictions,” she said. “If you can find a way to solve this problem you can increase your tax revenues.”

via Prince George’s county Sentinel

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County Executive Rushern Baker III is being refered to as  the man behind the scenes influencing Dr. Maxwell to close schools to the detriment of many citizens in the county after he failed to secure a 3rd term in office. 

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Forestville Military Academy

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PROTECTING FREEDOM EXHIBIT: ROSA PARKS LIVING LEGACY & LIFE’S WORK

imageThurgood Marshall Center Trust, Inc. Presents

Protecting Freedom Exhibit: An Exhibit of Civic Literacy

Rosa Parks Living Legacy &Life’s Work

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

9am – 6pm View Exhibit

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

9am – 6pm View Exhibit

6pm – 6:30 pm Short Lecture

Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage

1816 12th Street, NW Washington, DC

9:00am – 5:00pm (each day)

This exhibit captures the historical research on Mrs. Parks’ life and role in advancing peace, justice, and human rights in the United States and throughout the world. This is an exhibit for ALL ages.

The Rosa Parks Exhibit is a product of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self-Development. In order to bring communities together to educate all cultures, in particular youth on Community Advocacy and Voting Rights. We are excited about presenting this exhibit to all ages in particular as a model to empower youth.

For more information on the

Rosa Parks Living Legacy & Life’s Work Exhibit

Call: 202-462-8314

TMCT Social Media Icons/Website

Facebook – The Thurgood Marshall Center

Twitter – @TMCTInc

Website – thurgoodmarshallcentertrust.org

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Officer Accidentally Shot Fellow Officer During Videotaped Maryland Shootout

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Officer Jacai Colson. Photo courtesy

CHEVERLY, Md. — An autopsy on the Maryland officer who died after a suspect opened fire on a police station Sunday showed that he was “inadvertently shot by a fellow responding officer during the gun battle,” police said in a statement.

Authorities identified the three brothers in custody in connection with the shooting as Michael Ford, Elijah Ford and Malik Ford.

Chief Hank Stawinski said Michael Ford is the suspected shooter who opened fire on a police station.

A tweet from the police department said the evidence shows the suspected gunman had intended to die during the gun battle with police.

Stawinski told reporters Sunday that the suspect launched an unprovoked attack. Officers returned fire.

During the exchange, the suspect was also wounded, Stawinski said. He is expected to survive.

The chief identified the fallen officer as Jacai Colson, a four-year veteran of the department. Colson would have celebrated his 29th birthday this week.

According to Stawinski, the suspect opened fire on the first officer he saw. Other officers then became aware of what was happening and returned fire.

“It wasn’t about anything. This man launched an attack on a police station,” the chief said about the suspect. “Officers weren’t in the process of apprehending him or engaging him in any way. They were going about their business on a Sunday afternoon, at their ‘home,’ when they were attacked.”

The Associated Press reported the gunman’s brothers recorded firefight “as if it was a game.”

Colson was assigned to the department’s narcotic enforcement division and had worked as an undercover officer — though that had nothing to do with his killing, Stawinski said.

Fraternal Order of Police President John Teletchea described the attack as unprovoked and unprecedented.

He remembered Colson as someone with an infectious smile and tremendous personality.

“He was a police officer who was a real cop’s cop. He didn’t shy away from any calls. He never shirked his responsibility. He was always working and he was always there for his fellow brothers and sisters,” Teletchea said.

He added: “Personally, he was a very close friend of mine. I’m going to miss him dearly.”

In a statement, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he was “shocked and saddened” by Colson’s killing. He ordered that flags fly at half-staff in his memory.

 

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Officer 1st Class Jacai Colson, 28, died after Michael DeAndre Ford, 22, opened fire about 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Police Chief Hank Stawinski said at a news conference Monday evening. 

Ford’s brothers, Elijah Ford, 18, and Malik Ford, 21, were with Michael Ford, of Fort Washington, at the time of the shooting, police said. At least one of the brothers recorded the attack.

“That individual videotaped it as if it’s a game, as if it’s something we’re going to put on YouTube and glorify,” John Teletchea of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police said.

“This was callously recorded and could have been prevented,” Stawinski said.

An image provided by police shows a man’s hand in the rear-view mirror of a red car, apparently recording.

Police believe Michael Ford, who Stawinski said had a history of mental illness, intended to die at the hand of an officer. Two minutes before his brother drove him to the District III station, he recorded his will on a cellphone, police said.

Colson, who would have turned 29 this week, was killed as he tried to take down the gunman, Stawinski said.

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The Ford brothers. From left to right: Michael, Elijah and Malik Ford. Prince George’s County Police say the three are in custody in connection with the fatal shooting of a Prince George’s County police officer.

“Seeing a shooter, he took action and demonstrated extreme heroism,” he said. “Detective Colson drew fire to himself and in doing so was mortally wounded.”

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Colson encountered Michael Ford as he exited an unmarked car and started shooting at cars and an ambulance near police headquarters, on Barlowe Road in Palmer Park, Maryland, Stawinski said. The narcotics officer returned fire, trying to stop the shooter. Three other officers also fired, the police chief said.

All three Ford brothers will be charged with second-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, use of a handgun in the commission of a felony and other charges, police said. Additional charges may be added. Michael Ford is expected to recover.

Information on whether they’d retained attorneys was not available immediately.

Teletchea, of the police union, called Sunday “a dark day in Prince George’s County.”

The county state’s attorney, Angela Alsobrooks, called the shooting an act of “evil” and “cowardice.”

“This is a crime against this entire community and we will treat it as such,” Alsobrooks said. “His life was precious.”

 Colson, a four-year veteran of the police department, grew up in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania, and is survived by his parents and younger brother, police said. He graduated from Chichester High School in 2005.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all U.S. and state flags at the state capitol and state facilities in Delaware County to fly at half-staff in honor of Colson.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch similarly mourned the officer’s death, calling the shooting a “heinous act of violence and a cowardly crime.”

“His tragic loss is a reminder of the threats that public safety officers face every day, and the dangers that they bravely confront, in every jurisdiction across the country. The Department of Justice will offer any possible aid to the Prince George’s County community as they investigate this terrible crime, and we will continue to do all that we can to protect and support our officers and hold wrongdoers accountable,” she said.

Colson is the second local police officer to die in the line of duty recently. Two weeks ago in Prince William County, Virginia, 28-year-old Officer Ashley Guindon was shot and killed on her first day on the job. Two other officers were also shotand are recovering. They were responding to a domestic dispute at a home in Woodbridge.

Anyone who witnessed the shooting is asked to call police. The police chief asked anyone driving near the police station about 4:30 p.m. Sunday to check their car for bullet holes. An inspection of that evidence could help police.

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Rushern Baker, P.G. County executive, didn’t get the memo

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Mr.Rushern Baker III

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

By Deborah Simmons

The late Huey Long, a progressive and Democrat, knew well that “all politics is local” before the phrase became popular in the 1930s.

Long, who made a name for himself during the heyday of newspapers and radio, was good at it, too.

There’s no Kingfish grabbing voters’ attention this election season, although there are two Democrats, Bernard Sanders and Hillary Clinton, who use close impersonations of the progressive who crisscrossed Louisiana to rub the noses of the privileged class into the rural and muddied homesteads of the poor and disenfranchised. Long pushed his agenda all to way to Washington and a U.S. Senate seat.

Quality of life and other domestic issues were Long’s specialty, and he hammered them all year long — not just when he was vote-seeking. To the chagrin of many, such issues aren’t even on the Democratic Party’s front burner. So, here’s a head’s-up.

Locally, voters and taxpayers in Prince George’s County gave Rushern Baker a crimson-red X for failing the blizzard test, which left homeowners snowed in for days on end. Teachers and schoolchildren were severely affected.

The county executive, a black Democrat, got another red mark after school and police officials learned a former public school employee and volunteer named Deonte Carraway had been sexually abusing and videotaping children in Glenarden, a majority black town in majority black Prince George’s. At least 17 children were victimized, and some of the crimes happened on school and county government property. To date, three lawsuits draw the bull’s-eye on Prince George’s County Public Schools.

Mr. Baker and the school system get another red X, this time because a school bus was nabbed managing a pimp who was pimping a teenage girl.

The bust happened in Montgomery County, where school bus driver Raleigh McClam, 36, and Saivon Sharpe, 22, were charged with abusing and trafficking a 16-year-old. Mr. Sharpe also faces a firearm charge. Mr. McClam was released on $100,000 bond.

That he’s out and about puts considerable weight on Mr. Baker’s already heavy shoulders.

Here’s the gist of the sex-trafficking scheme: Mr. Sharpe asked the girl if she wanted to make money. He had sex with her. Mr. McClam put ads in the escort section of a classified ads website. The two men rented two hotel rooms in Montgomery County. The girl collected money for sex.

That Mr. Baker has three substantial marks for mishandling affairs that directly impact children and their well being does not bode well for his political future.

Prince George’s is term-limited, which means a third consecutive term isn’t in the cards for him. Mr. Baker could ponder a congressional run, a gubernatorial bid or another seat in the state legislature from whence he came — which seems unlikely.

No, Mr. Baker is a marked man. He’s a marked man not because he’s black. He’s a marked man not because he is a Democrat. He’s not even a marked man because he sucked up to the Hillary crowd. In fact, Mr. Baker endorsed former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, whose campaign for president petered out.

Mr. Baker is a marked man because he forgot that “all politics is local.”

He now needs to scramble to figure out the dollar and cents regarding all three X’s, and how he plans to take care of his family after he leaves office.

Perhaps Mr. Baker will emerge victorious by proxy in the Maryland Senate race since he turned his back on Rep. Donna Edwards and endorsed Rep. Chris Van Hollen to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski. We’ll find out when voters hit the polls on April 26.

In the meantime, Mr. Baker needs to crisscross the county and get stakeholders’ take on his Democratic way of doing business. Bringing big business to P.G. is great, but taking care of local politics means far more to families than a casino at National Harbor.

Their children deserve more — especially stringent background checks of adults hired to engage with them.

Pimps as school bus drivers? Pedophiles and sex abusers as volunteers?

Really?

Via  Deborah Simmons – Washington Times

Deborah can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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Concussions Affect Women More Adversely Than Men

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In this May 13, 2004, file photo, San Jose CyberRays soccer star Brandi Chastain is shown during a news conference in Carson, Calif. Chastain, who scored the game-winning penalty kick that gave the United States the 1999 Women’s World Cup title, has pledged to donate her brain for concussion research when she dies. AP Photo/Nick Ut, File

Retired American soccer star Brandi Chastain recently agreed to donate her brain to concussion research after her death. Females are often an unseen part of the concussion story even though they suffer more concussions than males, have more severe symptoms and are slower to recover. Just why is not completely clear, but the deficit in knowledge is slowly beginning to change thanks to women’s advocates behind Pink Concussions. The group gathered last weekend at Georgetown University to review the science behind concussions, and also to develop recommendations on gender-specific prevention protocols and clinical practices on how best to treat females with concussions.

In comparable sports “female rates of concussions are much higher than those of their male counterparts,” says Zachary Kerr, director of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Injury Surveillance Program. Over a five-year period the rates per 1000 athlete-exposures were 6.3 in females versus 3.4 in males in soccer, 6.0 in females versus 3.9 in males in basketball and 3.3 in females versus 0.9 in males in baseball and softball. Only in swimming and diving did male rates (0.3) exceed those of females (0.5). Headache, dizziness and difficulty concentrating were roughly similar among both sexes, Kerr says. But among injured high school athletes, “larger portions of females are reporting sensitivity to light, sensitivity to noise, nausea and drowsiness,” he says. They were also slower to return to normal activity.

The difference between the incidence and severity of concussions between the sexes does not start at birth, because infants and young children of both sexes have similar rates and symptoms with concussions. Puberty, however, which marks a significant developmental fork in the road for males and females, also marks a divergence for concussions. With its onset, females increasingly experience higher incidence of concussions, different and more severe symptoms, and are often slower to recover from the injury. The symptoms of both sexes begin to converge again after females go through menopause, though use of hormone replacement therapy can have an effect.

It is difficult to study the direct effect of hormones on concussions because they change throughout a woman’s estrous cycle. Testosterone levels in both sexes also fluctuate throughout the day; they are best measured by drawing blood. So most of what we know comes from studies in animals, says Michigan State University kinesiologist Tracey Covassin, and the picture is mixed. Estrogen appears to be a protective factor in male rats, but in female rats, it actually exacerbated the injury, while progesterone appears to be a neuroprotective factor in animals. The menstrual cycle can be a predictor of outcomes after mild traumatic brain injury, argues Jeffrey Bazarian, an emergency medicine neurologist at the University of Rochester. “It looks like women injured during the luteal phase, the last two weeks of the cycle, do worse than women injured during the follicular phase. This may help get us thinking about why there might be a difference between the sexes,” he says. His hypothesis is that the ratio of progesterone to testosterone in a woman and abrupt changes in the levels of those hormones may be key.

“Headache is by far the most common symptom of concussion, more than 90 percent” experience it, says Tad Seifert, a Kentucky neurologist who leads the NCAA Headache Task Force. Among the overall population, migraine is about three times more common in women than men, and at midlife about a quarter of women experience migraine. Estrogen is the primary neuromodulator of headache.

“We know that when there is a drop in estrogen that occurs with ovulation and menstruation, that is a precipitant for migraine . . . It is associated with dysfunctional pain modulation,” Seifert says. “Their brains are wired just a little bit differently to respond to the insult.” Women generally have a longer recovery. Given that, Seifert suggests screening for these higher risk characteristics and maybe treating earlier and more aggressively.

Although hormones are a factor in some of these differences, they do not encompass the entire picture, which also involves the structure of the neck, blood flow in the brain, vulnerability to migraines, and social and educational factors of awareness that affect who gets diagnosed. For example, females have 50 percent less isometric neck strength, 23 percent less neck girth, and 43 percent less head-neck segment stiffness during acceleration than males, Covassin says. This less average bone and muscle support makes the head and brain more vulnerable to sudden movement and predicts risk for concussion.

It’s important to pinpoint the underlying biological causes of concussions and devise proper treatments. Concussions, especially in developing adults, may play a role in social development, according to Mayumi Prins, a neurobiologist at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Work in a rat model of concussion has found evidence. “There are not only sex differences but age related sex differences, even within the adolescent time period,” Prins says. “Social interactions were different.” Concussed female animals avoided play and interaction with others. “If a normal animal can pick up that another animal has an injury and it affects their willingness to interact with them . . . this can have serious consequences during a development time period when social interaction is really key to their growth and development,” she says. Repeated concussions, without adequate time for full recovery between them, can have a compounded effect.

But it isn’t all biology—social roles, expectations, and education and training also shape our recognition of and reaction to concussions. Male athletes are more likely to recognize that they have a concussion, but are less likely to disclose the condition because of loyalty to the team, and perhaps because of the lure of a professional career in sports, Covassin says. That has changed over time with education, however, and they are becoming more willing to disclose. “Females did not know it was a concussion,” she says. Part of it is that women receive less education on the matter, there are fewer and less knowledgeable coaches and trainers, and symptoms vary and are less well understood.

The Concussion Research Initiative promises to revolutionize our understanding of concussions, according to Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s first medical officer. It is a joint program with the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health that has completed complex baseline assessments – more than 25 million data points – on 15,300 people, and so far includes 472 concussions to date, 157 of which have been females. The longitudinal cohort study will follow participants for decades, much like the still ongoing Framingham study on cardiovascular disease which began in 1948. The first reports will become public in the spring. “It is definitely going to change our perception of concussions,” Hainline says.

Via Scientificamerican.com

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There comes a time when even the King is destroyed.

imageLion is known to be the King of Beasts (“king of the jungle” would be a misnomer) across most cultures of the world. This is mostly because of a lion’s appearance and partly because of the social structure of a pride and the lion’s role in the pride.

A lion does possess a royal look and attitude. Add to that a tremendous roar that can be heard over miles across the Savannah. Also, living in a pride, a lion doesn’t need to hide itself or avoid any other animals including human beings. A lion lives in the open and controls its territory like a true king, sporting a ‘kingly’ mane and heading a pride that feeds him.

Even the mighty including the lion do not monopolize mighty. There comes a time when even the King of jungle like in this case is cornered and destroyed.

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