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How the US Forest Service’s Forest Products Lab Helped Solve the “Crime of the Century”

The ladder used to convict Bruno Hauptmann of kidnapping is seen here in a contemporary crime-scene photograph. Scientists at the Forest Products Laboratory were able to prove that one of the steps used in the ladder was from a plank of wood in Hauptmann’s attic. Forest Service photo.

The ladder used to convict Bruno Hauptmann of kidnapping is seen here in a contemporary crime-scene photograph. Scientists at the Forest Products Laboratory were able to prove that one of the steps used in the ladder was from a plank of wood in Hauptmann’s attic. Forest Service photo.

In the early 1930’s, before the age of DNA and forensics, piecing together the evidence of a crime scene was a difficult task involving fingerprints (if you could get them), eyewitness accounts (if there were any), or a confession (not likely). Law enforcement had none of these as they tried to convict Bruno Hauptmann, the man they believed was guilty of what was then being called the “crime of the century”– the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby.

It was amid this national media frenzy that the U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Lab would in many ways introduce the concept of forensics into crime solving. Read more »

Agricultural Weather and Drought Update – 9/19/12

U.S. Pasture and Range Conditions as of September 16, 2012.

U.S. Pasture and Range Conditions as of September 16, 2012. Click to enlarge image.

The 2012 summer crop season is quickly winding down.  By mid-September, more than three-quarters (76%) of the U.S. corn was fully mature and well over half (57%) of the soybeans were dropping leaves, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.  More than one-quarter (26%) of the corn had already been harvested by September 16, a record-setting pace.  As the growing season comes to an end, corn and soybean conditions (currently 50% and 36% very poor to poor, respectively) remain comparable to those observed during the 1988 drought. Read more »

Trail Towns Flourish in Economically Challenged Southwestern Pennsylvania

 USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien (left) and Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams (right) review the Great Allegheny Passage trail map with David Kahley (center) of The Progress Fund. USDA photo by Dawn Bonsell

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien (left) and Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams (right) review the Great Allegheny Passage trail map with David Kahley (center) of The Progress Fund. USDA photo by Dawn Bonsell

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien recently spent a few days in Pennsylvania talking with flourishing businesses in charming trail towns along the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), a rail trail that runs from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. Many businesses along the trail have received funding through The Progress Fund, a non-profit community development lender.  The Progress Fund is the recipient of several Rural Development Business Program loans and grants which were passed on to the trail town businesses to help spur economic development in distressed rural areas. Read more »

Meet Michelle Cox, Face of Food Safety

Growing up, all Michelle Cox could think about was being a teacher. She envisioned herself in a classroom making a lasting impact on young lives, becoming one of those teachers students would remember forever.

Today, Cox is making a significant contribution as a teacher, but her students are not in the classroom. They are her colleagues within the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Office of Field Operations. Cox is a Supervisory Consumer Safety Inspector (SCSI), and her job involves supervising and training new meat, poultry and egg products inspectors. A SCSI also performs a variety of food inspection activities, but it is the instruction aspect that has most captured Cox’s heart.

“This is one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had,” Cox said. Read more »