Holocaust survivor dies
Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest known Holocaust survivor and the subject of an Oscar-nominated documentary, has died in London aged 110, her family announced on Sunday. Herz-Sommer, originally from Prague, spent two years of World War II in Czechoslovakia’s Terezin concentration camp, where she entertained inmates by playing the piano. According to an update on the Facebook page for her Oscar-nominated film The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life, she died after a short illness. The 38-minute film, in which she shares her life story and describes the importance of music and laughter for a happy life, is up for best short documentary at Sunday’s Academy Awards.
Paralyzing illness puzzles
A polio-like illness has afflicted a small number of children in California since 2012, causing severe weakness or rapid paralysis in one or more limbs. The Los Angeles Times reported that state public health officials have been investigating the illness since a doctor requested polio testing for a child with severe paralysis in 2012. Since then, similar cases have sporadically been reported throughout the state. Carol Glaser, who heads the California Department of Public Health team investigating the illnesses, called the doctor’s request “concerning” because polio has been eradicated in the US and the child had not traveled overseas. The symptoms sometimes occur after a mild respiratory illness. Doctors said the children had all been vaccinated against polio.
Axolotls spotted in the wild
Researchers say they have sighted, but not caught, two of the salamander-like axolotl known as the “water monster” and the “Mexican walking fish.” The axolotl, admittedly ugly with a slimy tail, plumage-like gills and mouth that curls into an odd smile, has only one natural habitat in the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals, but are now suffering from pollution, urban sprawl and invasive species. The creature is important in scientific research because of its ability to regenerate severed limbs. A weeks-long effort last year by researchers in skiffs trying to net axolotls in Lake Xochimilco found none, raising fears that they might only now survive in captivity. However, biologist Armando Tovar Garza of Mexico’s National Autonomous University said on Friday that members of the team carrying out the search had seen two axolotls during the first three weeks of a second survey expected to conclude in April.
Few have seen Oscar bets
It may be one of the best years in recent memory for high-quality Hollywood film, but two-thirds of Americans have yet to see any of the movies nominated for the best picture Oscar, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sunday. Among other questions, the poll asked 1,433 Americans whether they had seen any of the nine best-picture nominees, plus two other films competing in other categories. Among those who responded to the online survey, Somali piracy thriller Captain Phillips was the most-watched film, at 15 percent. However, 67 percent said they had yet to see any of the 11 films in the poll. The outer-space drama Gravity was second with 14 percent, while crime caper American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, each had been seen by 12 percent of those surveyed. The survey was conducted from Feb. 17 to Friday last week.