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Countdown to the ‘Feathered Four’

March Madness may be drawing to its close, but elsewhere, over in a specialized corner of the Internet, another tournament is quietly heating up. Pssst. Over here.

It’s March Migration Madness. That’s right: birds. And if you’re just tuning in, the first round — “the Tweet 16” — is history, and we’re one game into the second — “the Airborne 8.” There is already a lot of buzz about the cedar waxwing, that flashy wild card that upset the top-seeded red-tailed hawk in round one. It was quite a blow to raptor fans.

“A lot of people are saying the cedar waxwing could go all the way,” said Hugh Powell, science editor for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which is hosting the tourney. He is a little pleased. As a co-creator of the game, Powell selected the cedar waxwing as a wild card entry, and he seemed gratified by its success. “I do have a soft spot for the cedar waxwing.”

To millions of Americans, March means only basketball. Sweaty bodies in peak form showcasing some of the finest feats of our species. But for millions of others, it means migration. The birds are back! They’ve spent the winter getting fat in Florida or Mexico or Argentina. They’re sporting their full colors. And they’re hungry.

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A Texas lawyer seeks to ban the pit bull

A Texas lawyer is seeking new legislation to ban pit bulls — not just from a single town or county, as is common across America, but from the entire state of Texas.

The would-be bill was written by Cynthia Kent, an attorney for a Texas family whose 10-year-old son Justin was mauled and killed by two pit bulls in June 2009. Kent won a $7 million judgment against the dogs’ owners this past September.

“Basically, why we’re doing this was to get justice for Justin and to make the message come out that these dogs are very vicious dogs,” Justin’s mother, Serenia Clinton, told a Texas CBS affiliate TV station.

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Does our ability to love also explain our prejudices?

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that brotherly love and xenophobia may be two sides of the same coin. Oxytocin, a hormone often sweetly referred to as a “love drug” or a “cuddle chemical,” may also be responsible for prejudice against outsiders.

Carsten K. W. De Dreu, the Dutch social psychologist behind the study, hypothesized that the inclination to take care of those who are familiar was associated with the inclination not to take care of those who were unfamiliar. He suspected that the same hormone that enables us to love our neighbor also makes us kind of suspicious of that guy who lives down the block.

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Schumer opens golden door for wounded Afghan eagle

Scott Hickman with Mitch in Afghanistan. Photo: Courtesy Berkshire Bird Paradise

A steppe eagle named Mitch was a long way off its normal migration route when it landed in Norfolk, Va., last Friday.

A denizen of the Middle East and Africa, the eagle got a lift on a military aircraft after being wounded in Afghanistan and cared for by Navy SEALS. It also received some valuable assistance from New York Sen. Chuck Schumer.

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Women’s group rallies ‘mama grizzlies’ to oppose Sarah Palin

Are you a Mama Grizzly?

That’s what EMILY’s List, the organization that helps female candidates build campaigns and run for public office, wants to know. The group is launching an initiative and companion website called “Sarah Doesn’t Speak for Me,” designed to galvanize opposition among women voters to conservative candidates backed by Palin and her political action committee, SarahPAC.

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