May 20, 2018
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Groundhogs disagree on winter forecast

From wire reports

PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil told people to prepare for six more weeks of winter on Thursday, making him the minority opinion among his groundhog brethren who seem to think that spring is coming early.

But with such a mild and relatively snowless winter so far, who can tell the difference?

Phil’s “prediction” came as he emerged from his lair to “see” his shadow on Gobbler’s Knob, a tiny hill in the town for which he’s named about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh.

Yet groundhogs in at least five other states — West Virginia’s French Creek Freddie, Georgia’s Gen. Beauregard Lee, Michigan’s Woody the Woodchuck, Ohio’s Buckeye Chuck and New York’s Staten Island Chuck (full name: Charles G. Hogg) — did not see their shadows. Nor did Ontario’s Wiarton Willie or Nova Scotia’s Shubenacadie Sam.

The Groundhog Day celebration is rooted in a German superstition that says if a hibernating animal casts a shadow on Feb. 2, the Christian holiday of Candlemas, winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says, spring will come early.

Temperatures were near freezing when Phil emerged at dawn — unseasonably warm for Punxsutawney — and were forecast to climb into the mid-40s in a winter that’s brought little snow and only a few notably cold days to much of the East.

Inmate adds pig image to Vt. police cruiser decals

MONTPELIER, Vt. — A Vermont prison inmate who makes stationery and license plates has gotten the best of the state police by adding the image of a pig to the state decal on their cruisers.

One of the spots on the cow in the state crest has been changed to the shape of a pig, a derogatory term for police. The 16-inch car door decals are made by prisoners in Windsor.

State police discovered the pig images Wednesday. They say they believe the decals have been added to about 30 cruisers in the past year.

Who made the modification and when is being reviewed by the Department of Corrections. Corrections Commissioner Andy Pallito said Thursday new decals will be made by Monday for about $800.

New study doubles estimate of global malaria deaths

The number of people who die annually from malaria is roughly double the current estimate, with a huge overlooked death toll in adults who, according to conventional teaching, rarely die from the tropical disease. That’s the conclusion of a new study that, if widely accepted, could affect billions of dollars of charitable spending and foreign aid in the developing world. The new estimate is likely to spur increased competition for global health spending, which has stalled in the economic downturn.

The report, published in the Lancet, describes malaria as a problem not only far bigger than believed but also declining rapidly because of better prevention and treatment.

According to the new calculations, global malaria deaths peaked in 2004 at 1.81 million but by 2010 had fallen to 1.24 million. That year, 524,000 people ages 5 or older died of the disease, about 42 percent of the global toll.

In contrast, the World Health Organization estimates that 655,000 died of malaria in 2010, with 91,000, 14 percent, being people ages 5 and older. The WHO agrees that deaths from the disease peaked in 2004.

More Space Station delays as Russian vehicle fails ground test

WASHINGTON — Crew rotation on the international space station will be delayed for the second time in six months after a Russian space capsule ruptured during ground tests last week, Michael Suffredini, NASA’s program manager for the space station, said Thursday.

Russian technicians overpressurized the Soyuz vehicle and split welds on the descent module, which brings space fliers back to Earth, Suffredini said.

Veteran NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba and two Russian cosmonauts were scheduled to launch to the station on March 29 but will now fly on another Soyuz on May 15.

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