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Feb. 6, 2013 at 3:00 PM
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Researcher: Scarlet fever didn't cause Mary Ingalls to go blind

NEW YORK, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- An American girl featured in the "Little House on the Prairie" books and TV series likely didn't go blind because of scarlet fever, researchers say.

Laura Ingalls Wilder penned the stories about her family's life as pioneers in Minnesota and Wisconsin. One of the most poignant tales of her youth was about how her older sister Mary went blind as a teenager. The accepted account of her blindness was she had contracted scarlet fever.

But Dr. Beth Tarini, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan, told CNN she spent about 10 years researching exactly what caused Mary to lose her sight. She said she has determined the culprit was not scarlet fever, but viral meningoencephalitis, which causes inflammation of the brain and the meninges, the membrane that covers the brain.

She said she and her team of researchers studied papers and letters Laura wrote, as well as local newspaper accounts of Mary's illness and epidemiological data on blindness and infectious disease during the time period.

Tarini also said she looked closely at Laura's memoir, "Pioneer Girl," and found Mary suffered scarlet fever as a child, but not the year she went blind.

"She never says scarlet fever. She never says rash," Tarini told CNN about Mary's health in the months before she went blind.

The scientist also said Laura had described in letters Mary's condition as "some sort of spinal sickness," while newspaper accounts said she suffered severe headaches.

Tarini told CNN she believes Laura may have changed Mary's condition in her books because she thought scarlet fever would be more relatable to readers at the time.

Tarini's findings were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Third Bridget Jones novel to be published in November

NEW YORK, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- British author Helen Fielding's first Bridget Jones novel since 1999 will be published in the United States in November, publisher Alfred A. Knopf Inc. said.

Fielding's popular "Bridget Jones's Diary" newspaper column was the basis for her 1996 book "Bridget Jones's Diary" and its 1999 follow-up "Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason."

Both books were adapted as hit films starring Renee Zellweger as the titular heroine and Colin Firth and Hugh Grant as her handsome suitors -- the respectable, but restrained Mark Darcy and devilish Daniel Cleaver.

The New York Times said Fielding's as-yet-untitled book will be set in present day London and "represents a totally new phase in Bridget's life."

"Bridget Jones's Baby," a film based on the last of Fielding's newspaper columns, is in the works with Zellweger, Firth and Grant to reprise their roles.

It is unclear whether the new book will pick up where the last film or book or newspaper column left off, or it is an entirely new story.

A "Bridget Jones" stage musical is being developed.

N.J. Gov. Chris Christie tells David Letterman he loves him on 'Late Show'

NEW YORK, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told David Letterman he loves him despite the jokes the comedian frequently makes about his weight.

Christie made his first appearance on Letterman's "Late Show" in New York Monday.

As he walked out onstage, Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra played "Thunder Road," a song by New Jersey icon Bruce Springsteen.

"How do you feel about me?" Letterman asked Christie.

"I love you, Dave," Christie laughed. "No, no, a love that I have a difficult time really explaining, but a deep and abiding love."

"Well, now, now, we have a real problem," Letterman said. "But I've made jokes about you, not just one or two, not just ongoing, here and there, intermittent..."

Pulling a doughnut from his suit pocket and eating it, Christie quipped, "I didn't know this was going to be this long."

"All kidding aside, is it an issue or is it not an issue? And you tell me how you see things," Letterman said.

"Well, I only care if you're funny. I mean, from my perspective, if the joke is funny, I laugh, even if it's about me. If it's not funny, I don't laugh. But I've never felt like it was, you know, anything that really bugged me all that much, no," Christie assured Letterman, then telling the "Late Show" host he finds about 40 percent of his jokes about him funny.

Meow-zah! Cat to be Monopoly game token

PAWTUCKET, R.I., Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The board game Monopoly could be the cat's meow after fans gave the flatiron game token the boot and replaced it with a cat, the game's U.S. manufacturer said.

The cat clawed its way past a robot, guitar, helicopter and diamond ring in Monopoly's "Save Your Token" campaign on Facebook, receiving 31 percent of the fan vote, Hasbro Inc., based in Pawtucket, R.I., said Wednesday in a release.

In the vote to decide which classic tokens would be saved, the Scottish terrier was top dog, securing 29 percent of the vote. The flatiron fell flat, picking up only 8 percent.

Hasbro officials said the cat token will replace the iron on Monopoly production lines immediately and should be on store shelves in mid-to-late 2013.

"We know that cat lovers around the world will be happy to welcome the new cat token into the Monopoly game," said Eric Nyman, senior vice president and global brand leader for Hasbro's gaming division. "While we're a bit sad to see the iron go, the cat token is a fantastic choice by the fans and we have no doubt it will become just as iconic as the original tokens."

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