March 27, 2008 in Nation/World

Nation in brief: Saturn moon has organic matter

The Spokesman-Review
 

An international spacecraft that dived through geysers erupting from the surface of a Saturn moon found organic matter, one of many ingredients that make an environment hospitable to extraterrestrial life, scientists said Wednesday.

The discovery excited mission team members, who say it’s a marker for further research into whether the icy satellite Enceladus has such an environment.

The chemical analysis by the unmanned Cassini spacecraft revealed that Enceladus’ interior was similar to that of a comet.

While the jet plumes were mostly water vapor, the probe found traces of methane and simple organic compounds, said Hunter Waite of the Southwest Research Institute, who is the principal investigator of one of the spacecraft’s instruments.

“We clearly have the organics and are closing in on the question of liquid water in the interior,” Waite said.

WICHITA, Kan.

Woman ailing after bathroom ordeal

A woman who may have spent nearly two years in a bathroom, sitting on the toilet so long that the seat adhered to sores on her body, remains hospitalized and in pain from medical procedures, family members said Wednesday.

Pam Babcock, 35, was found stuck to the toilet in late February after her boyfriend, Kory McFarren, 37, called authorities to say something was wrong with her. Police believe she sat on the toilet for about a month.

McFarren was charged last week with a misdemeanor count of mistreatment of a dependent adult.

Pat Bollinger, the woman’s aunt, said she calls daily to the hospital to ask how Babcock is doing and asks every day to talk to her. Babcock has agreed to talk to her only once for about 10 minutes, she said.

Babcock has not spoken about her bathroom ordeal, said Bollinger, the family spokeswoman.

ATLANTA

Gender segregation plan to be dropped

A rural Georgia county plans to dump its plan to segregate all its schools by gender after a groundswell of opposition from parents who were outraged that they weren’t consulted ahead of time, a school board member said Wednesday.

Greene County school officials will formally drop the plan at an April 14 meeting in favor of asking parents, teachers and staff members for their input, said the board member, Velicia Cobb.

The county would have become the first school district in the nation to go entirely single-sex, with boys and girls in separate classrooms, in response to years of poor test scores, soaring dropout rates and high numbers of teenage pregnancies.

The plan touched off hundreds of parents who criticized Superintendent Shawn McCollough for pushing the measure through without first consulting them.

PROVIDENCE, R.I.

More firms settle in nightclub fire

A speaker maker and two bus companies have agreed to pay a combined $1.3million in tentative settlements stemming from a 2003 fire at a nightclub that killed 100 people, according to court papers filed Wednesday.

The companies agreed to pay survivors and families of victims of the fire that started when a pyrotechnics display for the band Great White ignited flammable foam that lined the walls of The Station in West Warwick. More than 200 people were injured.

None of the companies admits wrongdoing.

Hundreds of survivors and family members of those killed have sued dozens of companies. A handful, including Clear Channel Broadcasting, Home Depot and a local television station, have agreed to tentative settlements now worth more than $70million.

All the settlements are subject to approval by the plaintiffs and the federal judge overseeing the case.


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