Week of 3/3/14
Cities hope for state guidance on sea rise
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 3, 2014)
There's no shortage of studies on sea level rise in Hampton Roads. The binders would overwhelm a filing cabinet.
They all agree the water is coming. After that, it gets a little murky.
How high will it rise? How fast? Are historic trends accelerating? Is that in meters or feet? Does that include sinking land, subsidence? What if the Greenland ice sheet melts? What if the Gulf Stream slows down?
While scientists embrace uncertainty, it's enough to make city planners and engineers a little crazy, or at least clamor for guidance. ...
The slow evolution of action in Virginia has created a kind of study fatigue among people itching to do something about sea level rise.
"Virginia needs to do more than study the problem with another committee," Old Dominion University professor of civil and environmental engineering David Basco said at a recent speech. "I'm getting old. I'm getting tired of studies, studies, studies. Let's get out and do something."
Basco said some of his students, as part of a class, will be looking at the feasibility of a sea wall across the Elizabeth River between the Norfolk Naval Station and Craney Island. (More)
In Va. politics, renewable energy dwarfed by big utility
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 1, 2014)
While Virginia's largest electricity utility enjoys smooth sailing in the halls of the General Assembly, renewable-energy advocates are struggling to get a foothold.
Dominion Virginia Power - which relies overwhelmingly on fossil-fuel and nuclear power generation - easily achieved its top priority in the 2014 session: legislative permission to write off some $400 million it has spent planning a nuclear plant that may never be built.
In contrast, advocates of renewable energy failed to achieve their top legislative objective: an incentive program aimed at encouraging installation of solar, wind and other such systems. ...
David Botkins, a Dominion spokesman, countered that the utility is undertaking several renewable-energy initiatives of its own. He cited a planned series of large-scale rooftop solar installations, the first one on the campus of Old Dominion University; a proposal to build two test wind turbines off the Virginia Beach Oceanfront; and the conversion of three coal-consuming generating plants to use biomass material.
"We are in the mix in renewables in a big way," Botkins said. (More)
(The Scientist, March 1, 2014)
N. Noffke et al., "Microbially induced sedimentary structures recording an ancient ecosystem in the ca. 3.48 billion-year-old Dresser Formation, Pilbara, Western Australia," Astrobiology, 13:1103-24, 2013.
Modern microorganisms leave traces on substrates called microbially induced sedimentary structures (MISS)-textures that arise from a biofilm or microbial mat interacting with the dynamics of the sediments upon which it forms. Until recently, the oldest fossilized MISS, located in South Africa, dated back to 3.2 billion years ago. However, evidence from microfossils and stromatolites, another rock structure shaped by bacteria, suggests that microbes existed at least 200 million years earlier.
In the Dresser Formation in Western Australia-one of the only places in the world with well-preserved 3.48-billion-year-old rocks-Nora Noffke of Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, and colleagues recorded microtextures characteristic of biofilms and microbial mats and uncovered geochemical signals consistent with a biological origin. The morphology and distribution of the fossils in this ancient coastal salt flat strongly resembled modern MISS. (More)
Future of space travel from Wallops Island looks bright
(WTKR-TV, Feb. 28, 2014)
Launching rockets from Wallops Island is a big deal in Virginia now. But the possibilities that exist for space travel in the near future could be an even bigger deal.
"We have developed a space port that proves we can launch into space. We launch critical missions to the International Space Station and we're looking forward to building on that," says Dale Nash, the Executive Director of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority at ODU makes some of the big decisions when it comes to space travel from our shores.
And one thing that has been a big topic recently is the possibility of human spaceflight from Wallops Island.
"Any time you have astronauts on, your cargo is extremely precious, and you pay a lot of attention to that. So it`s a different game in many ways. But don`t discount what we`ve done so far because that`s very significant, too. It is the supplies and the lifeline to the astronauts on the International Space Station being launched from here. But that would be a very big deal," Nash says. (More)
Police beef up patrols at concert following violent crimes near ODU
(WVEC-TV, Feb. 28, 2014)
The recent violent crimes near Old Dominion University's campus didn't stop the crowds from attending Friday night's concert featuring by Imagine Dragons.
A few weeks ago, one student was injured from a gunshot not far from the campus. Last weekend, another student was killed after he was jumped near the university.
Some concertgoers didn't even know about the two incidents, but others were well aware of the crimes.
"Yeah I thought of it a little bit but I feel everyone's around and it's safe to be here," said concertgoer Farrah Henley.
The future college student did admit that although she feels safe going to concerts at ODU, she won't be attending college there.
"I was planning on going here but I went ahead and decided to go to Christopher Newport [University] instead probably because of the safety," said Henley. (More)
ODU bookstore holds annual Dr. Seuss birthday celebration
(WTKR-TV, March 1, 2014)
The Old Dominion University Village Bookstore celebrated the birthday of Dr. Seuss Saturday with many young readers.
The University Village Bookstore hosted its 7th annual Dr. Seuss Birthday Celebration, Read Across The Village, from 10 a.m to noon. The event took place at the bookstore, Gordon Art Galleries, and Goode Theatre, which are all along Monarch Way at Old Dominion's University Village.
Children were treated to story-time readings, face painting, arts and crafts and a Cat in the Hat movie. There were also free hats, balloons and birthday cake and a visit from The Cat in the Hat himself!
Each year the ODU bookstore holds this event in celebration of the actual birthday of the creator of Dr. Seuss, Theodore Seuss Geisel, who would be 110 on March 2nd. (More)
At Work With | Lawrence Arthur Forman, rabbi and chaplain
(The Virginian-Pilot, March 2, 2014)
I've been a rabbi for 50 years. After I was senior rabbi at Ohef Sholom for 30 years, I worked with Roseann Runte, who was the president of Old Dominion University, and we started the Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding at ODU (and he became director).
That was for about seven years. I continued teaching courses at Old Dominion like world religions, scholarly perspective on the Bible ... and on Judaism and Christianity. I've dealt in interfaith issues all my life. In order to get more money from the state, the university had to get rid of some of us who were adjuncts. That was good; that was a phase of my life.
The next thing I did was I became a cruise ship rabbi. I led Jewish religious services mainly three times during the year: High Holy Days in September; Passover in March; and Hanukkah in December. You know how they say the door shuts and you look around and there's something else open? My wife loves to go on the cruise ship. I do the work and she has fun. And I have fun, too. (More)
Parents: Paul Johnson didn't know his attackers
(Richmond Times-Dispatch, Feb. 28, 2014)
The parents of Paul M. Johnson, a slain 20-year-old Old Dominion University sophomore from Henrico County, said Thursday that they hope to find a suitable way to honor his memory in the long term.
"I've been trying to think of some way to do that. ... He was a great person, and I don't want people to forget about him," his mother, Therese Johnson, said at a news conference Thursday. "His book's just starting."
The Varina High School graduate died after being struck in the head about 1 a.m. Sunday in Norfolk, authorities said.
His father, Christopher Johnson, said unequivocally Thursday that his son did not know his attackers.
Norfolk police arrested two men Monday in the fatal attack.
David William Grimm Jr., 21, of Triangle was arrested by Prince William County police and charged with second-degree murder.
The other suspect, Christopher Chase Johnson, 20, of Woodbridge turned himself in. He faces an arrest warrant for misdemeanor assault. (More)
ODU, NORFOLK MUST PUT SAFETY FIRST
(Letter, The Virginian-Pilot, Feb. 28, 2014)
I NOTE WITH SORROW the death of my grand-nephew, Paul Johnson, just outside the Old Dominion University campus.
As an alumnus of ODU, I wonder how much Norfolk really wants a university to be able to proudly call Norfolk home. This is not the first violence done to ODU students in the area around the campus.
I hope that Norfolk officials, from the mayor and police chief on down, will work with university administrators to ensure that, as far as humanly possible, violent injury and death will not again be brought to the men and women studying at ODU.
It would be tragic if ODU were seen as an unsafe place to pursue education. I am afraid it would cripple a fine university and cast strong doubt on the city as a desirable place for businesses, the military and residents.
I urge ODU to take the necessary steps to make the campus a safe place and the city of Norfolk to do the policing necessary. They need to look seriously at working to eliminate unsafe businesses that attract violent outsiders near the school.
Richard B. Sisson, Fort Monroe (More)
Indecision is the wrong decision on light rail
(Editorial, The Virginian-Pilot, Feb. 28, 2014)
Virginia Beach officials are weighing three proposals to bring light rail to the city. Their recommendations will help the City Council determine whether to extend Norfolk's electric train line, embrace new solar-powered technology or gamble that waiting a few years will result in technological advances and reduced costs.
More than 15 months ago, the city's voters overwhelmingly said they wanted the council to use "all reasonable efforts" to find financing and develop plans to bring light rail to the city. The Beach's plans for growth and redevelopment, put together over years with help from the neighborhoods, depend on a mass transit system. The state says some money may be available shortly to help.
If Virginia Beach delays its decision or determines it doesn't like any of the proposals, that pot of money likely goes elsewhere. Redevelopment around rail stations, and the sales and property taxes it would bring, is postponed, along with the improvements to infrastructure outlined in the strategic growth area plans. ...
But the Beach takes a huge risk if it puts its faith in a technology that isn't yet safety-certified for the system the company would build here. The company tried and failed to build a maglev line at Old Dominion University a decade ago, and it has no completed transit systems in the country. Choosing it means the city also risks giving up access to state and federal money. If Beach officials are interested in a maglev system, they're better off using traditional technology to get to Town Center or Rosemont Road, and then, for a later phase, pursuing maglev. (More)
Projected big thaw of Antarctica's sea ice may harm area's unspoiled marine ecosystems
(Sify News, Feb. 28, 2014)
Researchers using a modeling study have suggested that the Antarctica's Ross Sea's recent observed increase in summer sea-ice cover is likely to be short-lived, with the area projected to lose more than half its summer sea ice by 2050 and more than three quarters by 2100.
These changes, says Professor Walker Smith of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, will significantly impact marine life in what is one of the world's most productive and unspoiled marine ecosystems, where rich blooms of phytoplankton feed krill, fish, and higher predators such as whales, penguins, and seals.
Smith, who has been conducting ship-based fieldwork in the Ross Sea since the 1980s, collaborated on the study with colleagues at Old Dominion University.
Smith said that their study predicts that it will soon reverse its present trend and experience major drops in ice cover in summer, which, along with decreased mixing of the vertical column, will extend the season of phytoplankton growth, asserting that these changes will substantially alter the area's pristine food web. (More)
Heed this warning
(Editorial, The Daily Press, Feb. 22, 2014)
Once more, the economic conversation on the Peninsula is about Washington closing its checkbook. We have previously pointed out the folly of our over-reliance on federal spending, and this week's proposal to downsize defense is yet another example.
We see several problems with the plan outlined by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to soldiers at Fort Eustis on Tuesday. But the most pressing is the likely harm the loss of military spending would inflict on an area with insufficient economic diversity.
This is a conversation we've had frequently, but it has yet to generate the type of urgency needed for change. We cannot afford further delays. This is the nation's economic reality and it's time Hampton Roads adapts to it. ...
This country has a new economic reality. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending is projected to increase by $85 billion, or 4 percent, to $2.1 trillion this year. Interest on the national debt will cost an additional $233 billion in 2014.
These mandatory expenditures inevitably determine other spending priorities. A dollar spent on Medicare or Medicaid cannot be spent on education, highways or national defense. Absent comprehensive structural reform of entitlement programs, lawmakers have no choice but to target these areas for cuts.
We worry this defense proposal, addressing a symptom rather than the cause, has profound implications for this region. According to an Old Dominion University analysis, sequestration and the government shutdown syphoned $330 million in federal spending away from this region last year.
Unless this community diversifies its economy, shrinking federal spending will throttle growth. We need to redouble efforts to attract new industry and cultivate homegrown businesses as a means of insulating ourselves from future uncertainty. (More)
ODU student's death raises parent concern of campus crime
(Opinion, The Virginian-Pilot, Feb. 26, 2014)
No one sends a son or daughter away to college expecting the child will become a victim of violence.
Early Sunday morning, the parents of ODU sophomore Paul Johnson of Richmond received a horrifying call. Their son was in the trauma unit of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital with massive head injuries. There was even more grim news later: The 20-year-old math major died.
Johnson was the victim of a savage beating near campus.
David William Grimm Jr., 21, has been arrested on a charge of second-degree murder. A second man, 20-year-old Christopher Chase Johnson, was charged with misdemeanor assault and released on bond.
Both were from Prince William County. Neither was ever a student at Old Dominion University.
Pause for a moment and ponder what has happened to the family of Paul Johnson. A week ago, their son was just another happy college student. Today they're planning his funeral.
Johnson's death is the latest and most tragic of a series of violent incidents near ODU. A week earlier another Old Dominion student was shot near campus. Fortunately, that student survived. His shooter is still at large.
According to a story in Tuesday's Pilot, there has been "at least" one rape, two stabbings and four shootings in the ODU neighborhood in the past year and a half.
So, is ODU an especially dangerous campus? Not when its annual crime report is compared with other urban institutions. (More)
Hits and misses
(The Virginian-Pilot, Feb. 22, 2014)
HIT 27 and counting
Old Dominion University's Carolyn Rutledge was tapped this week by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for excellence in teaching, the 27th professor at the school to earn the state's Outstanding Faculty Award. Rutledge, the director of ODU's nursing doctorate program, has taught at ODU for 25 years. She's been an advocate for better care in rural and underserved areas and for a larger role for nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and clinical nurse specialists, the kind of thing that will actually help reform care and costs in America. (More)
Let the talks begin . . . Virginia Beach public arena funding has pros, cons
(Inside Business, Feb. 21, 2014)
When it comes to selecting an arena proposal, some might say Virginia Beach City Council members have two options before them: a plan that involves public funding and a plan that doesn't.
But others, including those involved in the upcoming arena discussions and outside observers, say the choice is not so cut-and-dried. Other factors need to be considered, some said, including the companies involved, the extent of city control and the ability to lure a professional sports team to the resort city.
A group led by The ESG Cos. of Virginia Beach said it is looking to build an arena with no public financing.
Newport News-based W.M. Jordan Co. is leading another group that's looking to do the same with about $12.5 million from the city, CEO John Lawson said last week. Both proposals call for arenas costing in the neighborhood of $200 million.
Council members, like John Moss, have already dug their heels in, saying they wouldn't support public financing even if the city had unlimited funds. Mayor Will Sessoms, on the other hand, said while a proposal requiring no public contribution would be the "obvious choice," he plans to consider other factors.
"Which product is better? Which management team is better?" Sessoms said.
City council could discuss the arena as early as Tuesday.
The ability to attract a professional sports team could be an important factor, some said. Stephen Shapiro, an assistant professor of sports management at Old Dominion University, said arenas don't necessarily need an anchor team but because they're open nearly year-round, having one can have a considerable impact on profitability.
"I think for an arena to be financially successful, it's in their best interest to have a primary tenant that's a major sports franchise," Shapiro said. (More)
Egypt: An Interlude
(Veer, Feb. 25, 2014)
Words & Images by Michael Pearson
"Alexandria. At last." - Naguib Mahfouz, Miramar
I met Youssef in early November of 2006, shortly after the month of Ramadan ended. Both he and his horse, Tiger, looked as if they had had enough of fasting for a while. My wife, Jo-Ellen, and I were in Alexandria, Egypt, a city of faded memories and shadows cast by an invisible past. The city was choked with cars, people, and horse carriages - and plenty of ghosts, crowded with legends about wonders of the ancient world, long gone, and cafes and writers, crumbling and forgotten. The U-shaped Corniche curved along the eastern harbor like a wry smile addressing the Mediterranean Sea, a sun-dazzled avenue of honking cabs and mini-buses. On the Corniche, what amounts to the road where modern Alexandria collides with its past, we bumped into Youssef, a man we had tried to avoid for twenty-four hours. We had met Youssef on our first day in the city. He stood by his bedraggled horse and patted the cracked leather seat of his carriage.
"My friends, I will take you for a ride," he announced, smiling broadly and opening his arms to embrace the congested streets. "I will show you my city." We had been in Alexandria for less than an hour, but we had heard the same pitch more than a dozen times already. I hadn't realized we had so many friends with horses. ...
Michael Pearson is the author of six books - a novel and five works of nonfiction. He teaches courses in creative nonfiction and American literature at Old Dominion University. (More)
ODU, Norfolk police to increase enforcement after death
(The Virginian-Pilot, Feb. 25, 2014)
Norfolk and Old Dominion University police say they are ramping up law enforcement near the school after a student was assaulted and killed just off campus over the weekend.
Paul Johnson, a 20-year-old math major from Richmond, was in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven near the 1000 block of 48th St. when he was assaulted early Sunday.
Johnson's death is the latest in a series of violent crimes against ODU students and follows previous police pledges to beef up security in the area.
Kody Kaufelt, who grew up two doors down from Johnson in Richmond and was one of his best friends, said he had been planning a trip to Norfolk to visit Johnson at the end of the month.
"Then this happened," he said.
Kaufelt said Johnson's mother texted him about 5 a.m. Sunday and told him Johnson was hit over the head by someone over something he wasn't even involved with and was in a trauma unit. He died a few hours later.
"He was the best friend anyone could have," Kaufelt said. "We spent a whole lot of time together. We used to sleep over at each other's house."
Police found Johnson in the lot with severe head injuries. He was taken to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he later died.
Christopher Chase Johnson, 20, turned himself in to Norfolk police and was charged with misdemeanor assault, according to a police news release. He was released on a $1,500 secured bond.
David William Grimm Jr., 21, was arrested by Prince William County police on a charge of second-degree murder. (More)
Senate likely will change its stance on ODU stadium
(The Virginian-Pilot, Feb. 24, 2014)
As we reported last week, some members of the Virginia Senate want to prohibit Old Dominion University from using student fees or stadium revenues to build a proposed new 30,000-seat football stadium.
A provision of the Senate budget that allows ODU to move forward with a $1.5 million, year-long stadium study would force the university to use private money to construct the stadium. The House budget makes no such restriction.
But when all is said and done, it seems from everyone I've spoken to that the Senate will adopt the House language and that ODU's stadium study will proceed.
Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who lives in Norfolk, said that once the partisan fight over expanding Medicaid is over, he's certain the Senate adopt the House language.
The budget battle could linger for weeks or months, he said. That means ODU's stadium study likely will be in limbo for a while.
Members of Norfolk's delegation to the General Assembly say that no such condition has ever been placed on a state university seeking permission to build an athletic facility. An email I received on Monday from the University of Virginia would seem to bolster ODU's case.
U.Va. has used student fees and ticket surcharges to help expand Scott Stadium, its 61,500-seat football stadium, and build an indoor football practice facility, according to a response to a Freedom of Information Act request I received from U.Va.'s Matthew Moynihan. (More)