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Fossil site

Robert DePalma, a paleontologist at the Palm Beach Museum of Natural History and a graduate student at the University of Kansas, works at a fossil site in North Dakota. 

This is Up and Down, where we give a brief thumbs up and thumbs down on the issues from the past week.

Up

Robert DePalma, a doctoral student in paleontology, has made a discovery that put North Dakota in the limelight. At a fossil site near Bowman he found a fossilized snapshot of mass death that recorded the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. The work by his team was published online last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in a paper titled "A seismically induced onshore surge deposit at the K-Pg boundary, North Dakota." The paper basically describes the day the dinosaurs died.

Down

Legislators get a lot of feedback and it often can be negative. While that may be frustrating, legislators need to respond in a polite manner. Angie Schmidt Benz sent an email to Sen. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, asking him to vote against a resolution to withdraw the state’s support for the Equal Rights Amendment. In his response, Erbele went too far. In his email he wrote "plumbing should not be the criteria or preference for any given job." He also wrote: "Do what you want to within the abilities and graces that God has given you, but don't demand it because you're mad you're not a man." Benz was offended and rightfully so. Erbele apologized, but the damage was done. Everyone, including legislators, needs to think twice when they write emails involving controversial topics.

Up

Reform of the state’s forfeiture laws is getting closer to passage in the Legislature. The Senate has passed an amended bill and it has gone back to the House for concurrence. The bill requires a conviction for forfeiture proceedings, requires annual reporting of seizures and forfeitures to the attorney general and raises forfeiture proceedings' standard of proof from preponderance of the evidence to clear and convincing evidence. These changes are needed.

Down

A chemical spill at the Fryburg Rail Terminal last week created a smell that was noticed as far away as Dickinson. Ethyl mercaptan, a liquid that is added to propane to allow the public to detect gas leaks, was described by Ron Day, spokesman for Marathon Petroleum, as "a noxious, nasty odor." The company apologized to the community for the accident, but it’s situations like this that make the public cautious.

Up

State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler has started the process of creating a "Family Engagement Cabinet." The goal of the cabinet is to gather advice and opinions on education policy, such as school safety and coursework. Baesler will take applications and hopes to find 20 to 25 members from across the state. Parents, guardians and family members of North Dakota students are eligible for the cabinet. If successful this could be a useful tool for the state.

Down

We know the bad news: North Dakota has had chronic wasting disease in deer. CWD is a fatal disease that strikes the nervous system in deer, elk and moose. No infections have been reported in people, but hunters are urged to have animals tested if they are from areas where the disease is present and not eat meat from infected animals. The good news is that testing indicates that CWD isn't widespread in an area of northwestern North Dakota where an emaciated dead deer was found in February -- the first in the state known to have died of the disease. The state Game and Fish Department follow-up tests in the area were negative. While the department knows CWD exists in the area, the infection rates appear low. State officials and hunters must remain alert for signs of the disease.

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