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AAUW Northshore Sponsors Civic Education Program to Discuss US Foreign Policy

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From the American Association of University Women Northshore: AAUW Sponsoring ‘Great Decisions’ for the 48th Year

The Northshore branch (formerly Covington-Mandeville) of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) is again sponsoring the Great Decisions program, an offering of the Foreign Policy Association, as a community outreach. Great Decisions, the centerpiece of the longest-running civic education program in the United States devoted to foreign affairs, empowers readers to discuss global issues shaping U.S. foreign policy and the world. Our AAUW branch offers two sessions: afternoon and evening.

Published annually by the Foreign Policy Association, the Great Decisions briefing book features impartial, thought-provoking analyses on eight issues of concern to U.S. policymakers today; these articles form a starting point for all group discussions. The purchase of the briefing book is required for participation. The 2021 edition features eight topics: Global Supply Chains, Persian Gulf Security, Brexit and the EU, The Arctic, China in Africa, The Two Koreas, Role of the WHO, and End of Globalization?

The briefing book provides historical background, current U.S. policy and alternative policy options, informative maps and detailed graphs, as well as suggested readings and resources for each topic. Included in this briefing book is an opinion poll, the results of which will be tabulated and presented in the National Opinion Ballot Report, a representative survey of readers’ views on the eight Great Decisions topics. This report is made available to members of Congress, the White House, the media, and concerned citizens.

The Northshore branch has the longest running association, as a branch of AAUW, with the Great Decisions program in the nation, having offered this program as a community outreach since 1973.

We offer two sessions of the discussions; both are open to the public, with the purchase of the briefing book. The afternoon group will meet in the Fellowship Hall of the Madisonville Presbyterian Church (701 Pine St., Madisonville) beginning at 1:00 PM starting Monday, March 8th in person with social distancing and masks. The evening session will be held virtually beginning Thursday, March 18th at 6:30pm.

The cost to participate is $28 which covers the cost of the briefing book with our bulk purchase discount. There are limited additional books available at the discounted price; additional books can be ordered from the Foreign Policy Association for $32 + shipping costs. An e-version for Kindle, Nook, etc. is also available for private purchase. Anyone who is interested in participating should contact Eileen deHaro at 985-624-9553; please specify whether you are interested in attending the afternoon or the evening session. If using an e-book you MUST still register as participating, especially for the evening session where access is by Google Meet invite only!

The American Association of University Women, with its nationwide network of more than 100,000 members, 1,300 branches, and 550 college and university partners, has been a leading advocate for equity and education for women and girls since 1881. For more information about the Northshore branch of AAUW, contact Eileen deHaro at 624-9553 or visit our website at

Wildlife Lookout

Wildlife Lookout: Louisiana Bats

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by Chelsea Cochrane

Northern yellow bat

A common sight at dusk, bats are the only mammal capable of true flight. Their order, Chiroptera, is the second largest order of mammals after rodents, comprising about 20% of all classified mammal species worldwide. There are over 1,400 species of bats in the world – 45 are native to the United States, 11 can be spotted in Louisiana. These were originally divided into two suborders, the megabats and the microbats. Recently further knowledge of these unique mammals gave way to new classifications, dividing the order into the Yinpterochiroptera and Yangochiroptera suborders. The creation of these new subdivisions is largely based on molecular genetics data, unlike the old classifications which were more related to the bat’s eating or behavioral habits.

some species of bats hibernate for the winter

Despite what is presented in popular vampire culture most bats eat insects or fruit. In fact the largest bat species affectionately called “flying foxes” are harmless fruit bats (if you’re not a fruit farmer) including the impressive giant golden-crowned flying fox, Acerodon jubatus, which can have a wingspan of over 5 feet. We won’t see any of those here though – they prefer the tropics and subtropics of Asia. All bats found in the southeast United States are insectivorous, nocturnal, and locate food primarily by echolocation. Of over 1,400 species of bats, only three species feed solely on blood. These ‘vampire bats’ are found in Central and South America and rarely make their way into the US. Really.

Many tourist visit Carlsbad Caverns to see the massive colonies of Mexican free-tail bats

Insectivorous bats are generally deemed a good thing, as long as they are not nesting in your attic. These heavy feeders eat many pest insects, like crop-eating beetles, moths, and mosquitoes, reducing the need for pesticides. Their waste, called guano, is mined and used as a popular fertilizer. Some species nest in huge colonies whose nightly flight can be a popular tourist attraction. Unfortunately some bats make great hosts for many pathogens like rabies, and it is advised to never interact with bats, and to take special precautions if an interaction occurs.

Bats have long been admired for their precise and maneuverable flight. Their wings have hand-like digits that connect to a pivotal “wrist”, covered with a tight thin membrane of skin called patagium. The order name Chiroptera means “hand-wing”. This gives them an advantage in agility over birds. Many also use echolocation – emitting an ultrasonic frequency to determine the exact location of an object by its reverberations. The bat’s highly developed ears can pick up the fluttering of a moth’s wings, and even the movement of underground insects!

Bats in Louisiana

There are 11 documented species of bats that can be found in Louisiana. Here is a list with short descriptions.

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In the vesper bat family Vespertilionidae, the big brown bat occurs widely throughout the US, Canada, Central America and the Caribbean into South America. It’s large for a microbat, with a wingspan of up to 15 inches. Commonly seen just at dusk, the big brown bat can adapt to many environments, including urban settings.

Mexican free-tailed batTadarida brasiliensis
The Mexican free-tailed bat or Brazilian free-tailed bat of the family Molossidae is widely regarded as one of the most abundant mammals in North America. Nevertheless their natural habit of roosting in enormous numbers can cause massive fluctuations in populations due to habitat destruction and disease. The free-tailed bat holds the record for fastest documented flight speed of any animal, with a top ground speed of over 100 MPH.

Tricolored batPerimyotis subflavus
The tricolored bat is a member of the vesper family native to eastern North America. It was formerly called an eastern pipistrelle based on its resemblance to the European Pipistrellus species, however further genetic studies revealed it is more closely related to the canyon bat and those of the vesper family. The name is derived from three distinctive bands of color on its back. Once common in this area, the tricolored bat has suffered significant decline since 2006 due to a fungal disease. The tricolored bat along with the silver-haired bat are the two bats most associated with carrying rabies.

Eastern red batLasiurus borealis
Another member of the vesper family, the eastern red bat is considered among the most common in Louisiana, and is widespread throughout most of eastern North America. Its entire body is very furry, males are a rusty brick red, females have more gray dusting. Both have distinctive white patches on their shoulders.

Evening batNycticeius humeralis
Another quite common in our area, the evening bat is also in the vesper family, native to North America with a relatively small range over the southeast region. These small bats hunt strictly at night. They have short lifespans for bats but are heavy breeders – females will form “maternity colonies” consisting of 15 to 300 bats. 90 percent of births are twins, some singles and some triplets. They are known to be good pest-eaters.

Hoary bat Lasiurus cinereus
Also in the vesper family, the hoary bat can be found throughout most of North & South America, with some disjunct populations in the Galápagos Islands and Hawaii. It has a 15 inch wingspan and a thick coat of dark fur with white tips, giving it a gray-ish white frosted or ‘hoary’ appearance. The hoary bat is mainly solitary, though it will occasionally nest with other bats in a cave.

Northern Yellow BatLasiurus intermedius
The northern yellow bat has a very specific region bordering the Gulf of Mexico through the US and into Central America. It tends to inhabit wooded areas near a permanent water source with Spanish moss or palm trees. This species of vesper bat uses Spanish moss exclusively for nesting. Its coat can vary from yellow-orange to gray-brown.

Rafinesque’s big-eared batCorynorhinus rafinesquii
Sometimes called the southeastern big-eared bat, this species has big ears. Over an inch long, which is quite big for a bat averaging 3 – 3.9 inches long. They are vesper bats in the genus Corynorhinus, meaning “club-nosed”. These are not the most attractive bats, and they are fairly uncommon throughout their range. Similar to the Townsend’s big-eared bat.

Seminole batLasiurus seminolus
The seminole bat is another vesper with a relatively small distribution, found exclusively in the southeastern US. It is often confused for the red bat because of its similar coat. This bat feeds on a relatively large amount of ants, bees and wasps, as well as beetles, moths, flies and some cicadas. They also use Spanish moss for their nesting.

(c) adamdv18, some rights reserved

Silver-haired batLasionycteris noctivagans
A solitary, migratory species of the vesper family, the silver-haired bat is the only member of its genus. Its range consists of much of North America, wintering in the south just into Mexico and summering all the way up to Alaska. We are actually on the very edge of its range here in St. Tammany. This bat has dense black fur with white tips, giving it the frosted appearance for which its named. The scientific name translates to “night-wandering”, an ode to these creatures’ nocturnal habits.

Southeastern myotis batMyotis austroriparius
Another bat with a very specific range, centered closely around the Gulf. These small bats vary from gray to bright orange-brown, weighing 5 – 8 grams. This species nests and hunts around open water and can be found in thick hardwood forests. It sometimes roosts with the Rafinesque’s big-eared bat. This myotis stands out among its genus as a heavy breeder, often producing twins. During nesting season the southeastern myotis is an important food source for barred owls.

Wildlife Lookout

Wildlife Lookout: Catbirds & Mockingbirds

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by Chelsea Cochrane

The northern mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos

Two common birds that often get mistaken for one another are the northern mockingbird and the gray catbird. Both are in the Mimidae, or mimid, family. They are remarkable song birds, and many species are especially skilled in mimicry of a wide variety of sounds. The name “Mimidae” is Latin for “mimic”.

Gray catbird, Dumetella carolinensis

The gray catbird is pretty much slate gray all over, with a dark cap on its head and dark gray streaks in its wings and tail. It is similar in shape and size to the northern mockingbird, and one of their original classifications translated to “capped mockingbird”. Actually, the gray catbird is probably more closely related to the Caribbean thrashers than mockingbirds. They do however share the ability to mimic other birds, as well as tree frogs and some machinery. The most recognizable call of the catbird is its namesake call, which can sound like the mews or cries of a cat.

Northern mockingbird

The northern mockingbird is the only common mockingbird in North America, and common it is. Its appearance is very similar to that of the catbird except that it lacks the dark cap and has a lighter belly and white tail feathers. The mockingbird also has white patches on its wings that are only visible in flight. Here in the South it is a permanent resident, but we may get an influx of migratory birds if weather conditions are harsh up North.

Listen to an example of a northern mockingbird’s song here.

A studio portrait of a Northern mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos.

The northern mockingbird is noted for its intelligence. A 2009 study explored the bird’s ability to adapt to urban environments and even identify individual humans. They can learn up to 200 songs and can mimic an incredible range of sounds, from other birds to cats, dogs, creaky gates or even car alarms with striking similarity. The northern mockingbird’s scientific name, Mimus polyglottos, loosely translates to “mimic of many tongues”.

How Do They Sing Their Songs, and Why?

Magpie singing

Birds don’t actually have vocal chords but sing through a special organ called the syrinx that only they have. Located at the top of the windpipe, the syrinx has thin membranes that vibrate to produce sound when air is pushed through it. Song birds can control each side of the syrinx independently, which allows for complex and unique songs, including doubling up or “duetting” notes. Some birds can even sing rising and falling notes simultaneously.

Listen to an example of a Wood Thrush “duetting” notes here.

A Gray Catbird in Madison, Wisconsin, USA
(photo from wikimedia commons)

There is a lot of speculation as to why birds sing songs, and specifically why birds that mimic do so. A popular opinion seems to be that birds build song repertoire to impress potential mates. The idea being that the more songs a male bird knows the longer he’s been around, which equals healthy genetics and good survival skills – both perks in the bird world. Many birds sing to proclaim territories, and in most species only males sing. Some speculation is made that mockingbirds may copy competing birds’ songs as a warning to keep away. This seems unlikely however, as it has been observed that other birds like robins or jays do not respond to the mockingbirds’ imitations.

The mockingbird has certainly made its way into the heart of Americans. Symbolized in literature, in music and on screen, it is also the state bird of Arkansas, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. It was previously the state bird of South Carolina as well, but was replaced by the Carolina Wren.

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee 1960

Flora of Covington

Flora of Covington: Mexican Primrose-Willow

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Mexican Primrose-willow growing wild along the Trace behind Lola’s Restaurant, Covington, LA

You may have spotted this plant growing wild along ditches and woodlines, its bright yellow flowers standing out against dark green narrow leaves, with crimson highlights along its branches and stems. Blooming this time of year, its flowers resemble those of the buttercup, or the closely related evening primrose.

Bob Peterson; Jupiter Ridge Natural Area, Jupiter, FL

The Mexican primrose-willow (Ludwigia octovalvis) is an adaptable wildflower found in Central America, Australia, South-East Asia, the Middle East, and the Central-West African regions. It is considered invasive in some Pacific Islands. Here in the US it is prolific in the southeastern region. It is a perennial deciduous shrub in the evening primrose family (Onagraceae), growing 3 – 6 feet tall.

A water-lover, the Mexican primrose-willow can be found along muddy embankments or floating in adjacent or shallow waters. For this reason it is cultivated as an aquatic plant. It is also called a narrow-leaf water primrose.

Mexican Primrose-willow or Water Primrose growing in a shallow pond by John Robert McPherson, 7th Brigade Park, Australia

Ludwigia octovalvis – a Drink to Longevity?

Mexican Primrose-willow has long been toted for its medicinal uses in indigenous cultures, specifically for its purported anti-aging effects. A study done on fruit flies and lab mice showed significant promise to this effect, noting the plants’ “high levels of polyphenols and flavonoids, which possess strong DPPH radical scavenging activity”.

Other studies indicate that the digestive enzyme inhibitors from Ludwigia octovalvis can be beneficial in treatments for obesity and diabetes. The Mexican primrose-willow is also known for its antioxidant and antibacterial properties, as well as its use as a gastrointestinal aid and as a diuretic, of which many studies have been done.

General Opinion

Human Trafficking in the United States

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According to the U.S. Justice Department, 14,500 to 17,500 people are trafficked into the country every year. The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates that 57,700 U.S. Citizens and immigrants are victims of human trafficking, including young children, teenagers, men and women.
At the same time, recent analysis by the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed a gap between the claimed number of victims and confirmed cases of victimization. How is this discrepancy characterized? Are people sensationalizing their experiences, or is the system hindered in some way? In many cases, sex workers refuse to report crimes because they themselves will be arrested as active participants in criminal behavior.
This brings to mind statements made by New Orleans D.A. Leon Cannizarro in April of this year regarding victims of rape and domestic violence. In effect, victims would be forced to testify with material witness warrants or face jail time. Not only is jailing a victim of that nature of crime abusive, it is counterproductive to the goal of removing violent criminals from the street.
It is a crime to make people work by use of force, coercion or fear under federal law; by extension, no one should be forced to testify under duress. Our very own Declaration of Independence was influenced in part by the philosophy of natural law, which was instrumental in challenging the divine right of kings, and is distinct from common law.
Simply, it is the idea that all human beings on the planet ultimately have the same rights, which are not to be violated by the state or by one another.

That seems pretty idealistic, but the ancient Greeks, who influenced some of the better aspects of our current social knowledge, thought it was fairly legitimate. The responsibility evident in the concept of natural law is that taking care of oneself is essential to having the ability to help others. This self determination also implies the right to be free of negative influence, in whatever fashion.
The basis of natural law is such that a person or entity does not have the right to impose their will on another individual. Although it seems that we have moved far away from that ideal, it is always obtainable. It begins simply with how we treat one another, exhibiting a basic respect for life, and placing people over profits.
Fear should never be a factor in disclosing abuse, and neither should ignorance. The real problem with the discrepancy of the numbers is that it implies one of two things: 1) people are making up stories or 2) the nature of the issue is more institutional than recognized. Send comments or responses to

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The English Tea Room Features Live Music Five Days A Week For Lunch

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The English Tea Room & Eatery now features live music five days a week (M-F) during lunch, 12 – 2 p.m.  Monday and Fridays, enjoy the classical harp music of Judy B. Seghers.  On Tuesdays, Robin Rorie and Phil Jordan are the jazzy Radiophonic Players.

On Wednesday, Timothy Gates plays mellow acoustic guitar, and on Thursdays relax with a cup of tea while Simona Gronic plays violin.  Simona Gronic has been playing the violin since she was 5 years old.  A native of Romania, Simona has traveled in Europe, Russia, Middle East, and the U.S., performing solo and in orchestras.

Violinist Simona Gronic

Violinist Simona Gronic

Simona has a Bachelor’s in Music from the Academy of Music in Moldova, and a Master’s in Violin Performance from Southeastern Louisiana University.  She currently performs with the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra, freelancing in the south Louisiana area while maintaining a private studio.