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Smart Talk, July 1 

WAR MEMORIAL POOL: Will help keep folks cool through the end of July, at least.
  • WAR MEMORIAL POOL: Will help keep folks cool through the end of July, at least.

Pool reprieve

In what's turning out to be an extraordinarily hot summer, Little Rock is planning to close its swimming pools early as a cost-saving measure. But last week, after a couple of city directors raised the issue at their Tuesday meeting, money was found to keep the Jim Dailey (War Memorial) and Southwest Community Center pools, scheduled to close in mid-July, open an extra two weeks, through July 31.

That still leaves kids high, dry and hot for August, and City Director Stacy Hurst said she's hearing from constituents about it. She said she's going to try and tack on two more weeks, to keep the pools open until mid-August, though she acknowledged she didn't know how the city, which got an unexpected blow in lowered utility franchise fees this summer, would pay for it.

City Director Brad Cazort wants a dedicated tax for parks upkeep; Mayor Stodola says not now. Hurst said it's time for a "serious discussion with the community" about finding funds to operate and maintain the city's parks and recreation facilities.

Understudy Toto

Arkansas isn't exactly known for its celebrity output, so we take what we can get. In this case, Nigel the Cairn terrier. You might remember, from an item we did in the Times last year, how the pup made an improbable leap last year from the Northeast Arkansas Humane Society Shelter in Jonesboro to a national touring production of "The Wizard of Oz."

Last spring, Bill Berloni, an animal trainer who's prepped dogs for the stage and screen for 30 years, adopted Nigel (originally called Toto, if you can believe it) after finding him on the Jonesboro shelter's website. To make sure he was up to the job, Nigel's first performance as Toto was for a high school production in Pittsburgh. He shined, and such was his rise to stardom.

Unfortunately, Nigel wasn't on stage last week at the Robinson Center Music Hall for the off-Broadway tour of "The Wizard of Oz." In his place was Dusty, not one of Arkansas's own.

Don't fret, though — Berloni reports that Nigel was replaced not for lack of charm or skill, but because he's so good at being Toto that he stayed on Broadway to perform in "The Wiz," which ran last summer, and is scheduled to be back on stage next spring. At the moment he lives at Berloni's Connecticut home with 21 other show dogs and 90 acres to run around in.

You're not in Arkansas anymore, Toto.

Ape wars

According to a study co-authored by an anthropologist from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, humans aren't the only animals who band together to wage war on their neighbors over land. Chimps apparently do it too.

As detailed in a new paper co-authored by UALR's Sylvia Amsler and appearing this month in the journal Current Biology, Amsler and other scientists tracked a large colony of chimpanzees in Uganda's Kibale National Park for 10 years. They found that males in the group routinely patrolled the borders of their 28-square-kilometer territory, moving with soldier-like deliberateness in a silent, single file line. These patrols would attack any strange male they found by biting, jumping on and ripping off the testicles of their rival. If a female from a neighboring group with an infant was discovered, they would kill the baby. In addition to the patrols, the colony's warrior class would sometimes attack their less-fruitful neighbors, killing enemies and allowing the group to occupy large sections of territory.

While the study Amsler co-authored suggests that the findings may provide no true insight into the origin of warfare given how complicated the causes of human conflict usually are, it goes on to say that the bigger question of why "humans are an unusually cooperative species" may well be rooted in primates' predisposition to get their war on. And you pinkos thought it was all about language and agriculture.

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