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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 »

‘Armed to Farm’ Gives Veterans the Tools they Need to Farm

Military veterans-turned-beginning-farmers learn how to build mobile poultry units at an Armed to Farm workshop. Photo credit: University of Arkansas

Military veterans-turned-beginning-farmers learn how to build mobile poultry units at an Armed to Farm workshop. Photo credit: University of Arkansas

For many military veterans and their families, the transition from the military to civilian life is a complex undertaking; however, reports and personal accounts indicate that many military veterans have discovered that farming offers a place for employment, training and healing.  The problem is there are few educational programs tailored to meet the particular needs and abilities of returning veterans.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) makes it possible to fill that gap in training.  At the University of Arkansas, Dr. Dan Donoghue used BFRDP funds to develop internships, workshops and online courses that focus on the needs of veterans interested in pursuing farming after their service to our country. Read more »

How ‘Eco’ is Friendly to Agriculture and Food Systems

Grass and cotton fields in the Texas High Plains study.  Credit:  Vivien Allen (Texas Tech University).

Grass and cotton fields in the Texas High Plains study. Credit: Vivien Allen (Texas Tech University).

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

Words like eco-friendly, green, fair, climate-friendly, community-based and organic are popping up daily – in the news, in ads and labels, and in conversations ranging from kitchen tables to international conferences.  All of these and more come under the umbrella of sustainability, which people often describe as caring for people, planet and proceeds all at the same time. Read more »