This story was published by The Penn Stater.
THE NIGHT BEFORE HIS FINAL LECTURE of the semester last spring, Michael Mann drove home from New York City in a blinding downpour. As his car sluiced through a foot of water on the Cross Bronx Expressway, record-setting rainfall totals were being reported up and down the East Coast. (An average April's worth of rain fell on New York in a single day.) No single weather event can be blamed on global warming, but the deluge perfectly fit the sort of extreme storm that climate scientists like Mann predict will become more common in a warming world.
Mann, a distinguished professor of meteorology and director of Penn State's Earth System Science Center, had just given a speech at Fordham University on the underlying physics of climate change. His harrowing trip back to State College gave him an ideal real-world example to work into his final lecture, which focused on how rising levels of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere are driving changes in agriculture, ocean currents, and weather patterns across the globe.
"Suddenly, over the past 24 hours, people have been talking about this again," Mann told his students. The unusually heavy spring flooding was triggered by very warm air from the Gulf of Mexico encountering cold air drawn from the Arctic--a mixture that many climate models predict will become more common, resulting in similar downpours. ''A warmer atmosphere holds more moisture," Mann explained, as several of his students, heads down, typed away on their laptops.
This book review was published by onEarth magazine.
Growing up in northern West Virginia in the 1970s, I remember seeing a lot of big white plastic candy canes sticking out of the ground, marking the natural gas pipelines that ran just below the surface. You’d encounter them along streams and fence lines and the backcountry roads that always made me carsick.
What I didn’t realize as a kid was how much of my family history was intertwined with those hidden gas lines.
My great-great-grandfather, William Dodd, helped lay some of the first pipe across the state, working for a subsidiary of Standard Oil at a time when John D. Rockefeller craved alternatives to oil (not for any environmental reason, but because even back then he was worried we would run out). William’s son was an administrator for Hope Gas, and his grandson (my grandfather) was a supervisor at a company extraction plant on the Ohio River.
Then my dad spent his career as a corporate executive for Hope’s successor, Consolidated Natural Gas, until it was gobbled up by Dominion Resources.
That time line of mergers and name changes—from Hope to Dominion—serves as a rather succinct summary of the role of natural gas in the U.S. economy over the past couple of centuries.
This onEarth magazine story was honored with a Folio Award for investigative reporting.
Susan Rice, the candidate believed to be favored by President Obama to become the next Secretary of State, holds significant investments in more than a dozen Canadian oil companies and banks that would stand to benefit from expansion of the North American tar sands industry and construction of the proposed $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline. If confirmed by the Senate, one of Rice’s first duties likely would be consideration, and potentially approval, of the controversial mega-project.
Rice's financial holdings could raise questions about her status as a neutral decision maker. The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.
Beyond that, according to financial disclosure reports, about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel--including companies with poor environmental and safety records on both U.S. and Canadian soil. Rice and her husband own at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada’s eight leading oil producers, as ranked by Forbes magazine. That includes Enbridge, which spilled more than a million gallons of toxic bitumen into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010--the largest inland oil spill in U.S. history.
This column was published by Slate.
When I started a new job at a newspaper in the late 1990s, I noticed that one of my editors had four seemingly random letters taped above her computer monitor. “That’s my type,” she explained, and said that I’d soon have my own. Sure enough, after a few weeks human resources herded all the new employees into a conference room and made us fill out a Myers-Briggs personality test. My results showed that I was an almost off-the-scale introvert, which shocked a lot of my colleagues.
Because being a reporter required me to interact with people all day long, and because I had taught myself to be outspoken and gregarious in order to do my job, they assumed that I was an extrovert. But the “I” test result didn't surprise me at all. I knew that big crowds could make me uncomfortable, that a day of constant interaction with sources and editors would make me crave time alone, that it was easy for me to crawl into my own head and shut out the rest of the world.
But being an introvert doesn’t mean that I don’t like people.
This personal essay was published by onEarth magazine.
Is there such a thing as onion grass?” I asked my father over the phone. “Because if there is, I think I’ve got an awful lot of it.”
It was mid-March, and a deluge of cold rain had finally cleared my new backyard of the snow, ice, and slush that had covered it since before Christmas. All through this especially harsh North Jersey winter—our first in the little gray house with the green shutters—I had been eyeing a particular spot near the back porch to plant a vegetable garden with my young son. It got plenty of sunlight, and the outdoor spigot was close enough that I wouldn’t have to drag a hose across the yard every day to keep it watered.
This weekend had provided my first chance to sink a shovel into the dark, moist dirt and begin tilling. But I’d quickly found myself at war with a foul-smelling plant with bright green stalks and bulbous roots that had laid claim to the same swath where I intended to sink tomato plants and carrot seeds. The gardening books that I’d curled up with on cold winter nights called this “getting to know your soil.”
I was encouraged by the fact that my chosen plot clearly supported life (the dozing earthworms I’d disturbed also seemed like a good sign), but I was starting to feel a little bad about evicting the current occupants, noxious-smelling as most of them were. After all, my wife and I had bought this house only the previous summer, and I knew that the prior owner had used this same spot to plant flowers and ornamental herbs. As I attacked the onion grass and encountered the thick roots of other plants waiting to spring from the earth, I felt a mild pang of regret.
Who was I, the new guy, to say they had to go, when clearly they had such a hold on the place?
This book review was published by onEarth magazine.
Getting my young son to fall asleep each night is an eternal struggle. But watching his favorite TV show with Dad helps him close his eyes, which is how I came to see an episode of "Curious George" in which the cartoon monkey tries to catch an American eel that has found its way into the local fishing pond.
His goal is to return the eel to its native habitat, a nearby river, so it can swim to the ocean to spawn. But the subject of this noble effort strikes me as an unappealing choice for a children’s show. We’ve seen George encounter penguins, crickets, possums, and squirrels. But an eel? Eeeww.
This story was published by Scientific American.
“Emoclew dna olleh,” Columbia University string theorist Brian Greene said as he opened a conference at the New York Academy of Sciences last October. “If you understood that as ‘Hello and welcome’ in time reverse,” he clarified, “you probably don’t need to be here.”
No one left. Many of the world’s top theoretical physicists and cosmologists gathered at the conference to grapple with the mystery of how time works. New telescope observations and novel thinking about quantum gravity have convinced them that it is time to reexamine time. “We’ve answered classic questions about time by replacing them with other hard questions,” says cosmologist Max Tegmark of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
On the face of it, time seems pretty simple, like a one-way street: eggs don’t unscramble, laugh lines don’t vanish (not without Botox, anyway), and your grandparents will never be younger than you. But the universe’s basic laws appear to be time-symmetrical, meaning they are unaffected by the direction of time. From the point of view of physics, the past, present and future exist simultaneously.
This story was part of the coverage of Hurricane Katrina by the Sun-Herald newspaper awarded the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for public service.
By ANITA LEE, DON HAMMACK and SCOTT DODD
BILOXI - The Gulf Coast woke this morning to devastation not seen since Camille 36 years ago. Hurricane Katrina, a massive Category 4 storm, trashed entire cities and left hundreds missing or dead.
South Mississippi bore the brunt of the powerful lashing, which shattered multimillion dollar casinos, buried Biloxi's beach highway and killed at least 50 people in Harrison County alone.
"This," said Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, "is our tsunami."
Rescuers in boats and helicopters searched for survivors of Katrina and brought victims, wet and bedraggled, to shelters Tuesday as the extent of the damage across the Gulf Coast became ever clearer. Power was out to about 800,000 customers statewide, according to officials of electric companies and rural power associations
Gov. Haley Barbour said on TV this morning that the death toll in Harrison might be as high as 80. Many died on Point Cadet, at the southeastern tip of Biloxi's peninsula, officials said. Bodies were being recovered late into the night, and a portable morgue was being brought in to handle the dead. Authorities feared some may have been washed away, never to be found.
"We'll be trying to determine a total fatality count," weary Assistant Police Chief Rodney McGilvary said early this morning, "if we ever have one."
This Charlotte Observer story was recognized with an Associated Press Sports Editors award for breaking news coverage.
One of racing's royal families lost three top leaders and its heir apparent when a plane carrying 10 people from Concord to a race in Martinsville, Va., slammed into a remote mountainside Sunday near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Everyone aboard the Hendrick Motorsports plane died in the crash, just hours before one of the team's top drivers battled to his sixth win of the season. Race team officials told Jimmie Johnson as he headed to Victory Lane.
"It's probably the worst tragedy that's ever happened in motorsports," said Charlotte-based sports marketing expert Max Muhleman, a business collaborator and friend of the Hendrick family for two decades. "It's an almost unimaginably tragic thing."
This Charlotte Observer story helped uncover a series of campaign finance irregularities that sent one of the state's most powerful politicians to jail.
By SCOTT DODD, JIM MORRILL and RICHARD RUBIN
The embattled video poker industry pumped more than $100,000 into the campaign coffers of N.C. House Co-Speaker Jim Black during the last election cycle, according to a political watchdog group, at a time when opponents, including the N.C. Sheriffs' Association, were fighting to outlaw the gaming machines.
The state Senate passed a ban twice, but both attempts stalled in the House.
Black, who helps control which legislation reaches the House floor, received far more video-poker related donations in 2001-02 than any other N.C. lawmaker, according to Democracy North Carolina, which tracks campaign contributions.
Black said money from video poker interests has not affected legislation. He said a bill that would tighten regulations on the industry will be considered during next year's session.
"I never, never do anything for money," said the Mecklenburg County Democrat. "If that's being implied, that's a bald-faced lie."
Owners of truck stops, strip clubs, bars and convenience stores were among more than 100 Black contributors identified by Democracy North Carolina with connections to video poker. Black received 30 percent of the $393,980 the industry and its lobbyists gave to candidates and committees in 2001-02.
Among the contributors were half a dozen donors contacted by The Observer who said they weren't aware they had given. "Is he Democrat, Republican or what?" said Jean Jarvis of Wilkesboro, whose husband is in the amusement machine business.
Records show she gave Black $500 on Nov. 12, 2002. "Five hundred?" she asked. "And who is this guy?"
This York Daily Record story was honored with a Keystone State Press Award for investigative reporting.
Ray Krone wasn't feeling his best on Dec. 28, 1991. It was a Saturday, and he had been drinking heavily until early in the morning. He and his roommate did basically nothing all day, they sat around the house, ordered a pizza and watched football on television.
Krone, a letter carrier in Phoenix who grew up in Dover, Pa., went to his room about 10 p.m. He told his roommate, Steve Junkin, that he would read for a while and then go to sleep. Junkin called it a day about an hour later.
It wasn't an unusual Saturday for the two buddies who had served together in the Air Force. They often partied hard on Friday nights and wasted away the next day. But Sunday afternoon, Krone's life was interrupted by a knock on his door. He opened it to find Phoenix Police standing outside.
A detective wanted to question him about a murder.