The Daily: December 12
Friday, 12 December 2014

The Daily: December 12

We scour the news so you don't have to

Written by Octavia Sheepshanks
US town in real life version of 'The Birds'
A North American town has declared war on crows after an invasion likened to scenes from Hitchcock's 1963 thriller, 'The Birds'. The collective noun for crows is a 'murder', which seems fitting, however residents have said that the birds are not aggressive. It is their sheer number which is overwhelming; there are over 50,000 of the avian pests, and they are posing safety fears and potential health hazards as they perch on trees, buildings and awnings. Noise machines and laser pointers have been deployed in an attempt to drive the flocks away, but are not wholly effective and frequently have to be reprogrammed as the birds are intelligent and learn over time that the noises - which resemble crows in distress or predatory animals - do not pose a real threat. It is not the first time the town has been inundated and cleaning up after the crows costs an estimated $10,000 annually.

Work begins to preserve Chicago Museum's 2,500-year-old mummy
Conservation work has begun in Chicago's Field Museum to preserve the remains of a mummified body that is said to be over 2,500 years old. Scientist J P Brown and his assistants at the museum lifted the lid of the ancient coffin last Friday, revealing the mummified body of a 14-year-old boy who had been stored in the sarcophagus for over two millennia. During the unveiling of the mummy on Friday, Brown and three other scientists wore surgical gloves and used specially designed clamps to carefully open the fragile coffin. After standing on its feet for the majority of time since the boy's death, thousands of years of gravity have caused many of the bones in the mummy's legs to break into pieces, while much of the material surrounding his body has decayed, making it almost impossible to be removed. The body in the sarcophagus is believed to belong to Minirdis, the son of a high-ranking stolist priest, who died from unknown causes in his early teens. It is due to be exhibited at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County next September followed by Denver's Museum of Nature and Science in 2016. Brown and his team now face the daunting challenge of safely renovating it in time.

National Christmas Jumper Day
Almost 4 million people, including staff at The Lady, are currently sporting garish festive knits for Christmas Jumper Day, which falls today. But those willingly wearing clothes adorned with such horrors as pompoms and square-looking reindeer are doing so for a good cause. Save the Children state on their website : 'Make the world better with a sweater. Wear a woolly. Donate. Spread the jumper joy', inviting those wearing Christmassy knits to donate either online or by texting. They have, at the time of writing, raised £198, 753 for the cause today solely through donations by people wearing festive jumpers. This is the third year of the annual fundraising event, which benefits from the trend of people ironically wearing ugly Christmas jumpers. The trend seems to have begun in 2011, when Amazon reported a 600 per cent increase in sales from the year before.

Constable's hidden kingfisher uncovered
The recent restoration of John Constable's famous oil painting 'The Mill Stream' has revealed the image of a tiny kingfisher, never before identified. The bird is seen flitting across the water in the centre of the painting, completed in 1814. Years of discoloured varnish and accumulated grime had concealed the small bird from view, but it has now been uncovered through an operation to smarten up the painting for its 200th birthday. Conservator Rosalind Whitehouse was surprised to notice a flash of red and blue as she examined an enhanced digital photograph of the canvas. She said, "The painting had not been cleaned for probably over 100 years, and the old varnish had become so yellow and dark that the painting's colours were hidden. In the light of all the great Constable paintings that have been cleaned in recent years in public collections, this one was suffering by comparison." But when the month-long restoration project began, art historians were unaware that whole new elements would be unearthed.

Boxes of 'nothing' for people who have everything are selling fast
Those who are struggling to find what to buy for the person who has everything this Christmas may just be in luck. If the answer to the question, 'what can I possibly buy them?' is 'nothing', then look no further than You Need Nothing, a company selling boxes containing just that: 'nothing', designed by a group of philanthropic designers. You can pay between 34 and 199 euros for an unremarkable cinder block in white or black and present it to your loved one as a message that they should appreciate all they already have. All proceeds of the blocks will go to Oxfam, and they have nearly all sold out. The remaining ten white boxes are selling for 199 euros on the You Need Nothing website.


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