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Climate change already rendering ’12 map obsolete

The brand spanking new plant hardiness map released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in January is already out of date.

The revised USDA map was a graphic example of how climate change is going to affect every community in the United States. The map, which helps people decide which crops are best suited to a specific region and often appears on the backs of seed packets, officially moved Fort Wayne from Zone 5b to Zone 6a.

But research by Nir Krakauer, an assistant professor of civil engineering in The City College of New York’s Grove School of Engineering, shows warmer temperatures have already made the USDA’s planting guidelines obsolete. The USDA planting map is based on the average annual minimal temperature from 1976 to 2005.

Krakauer’s calculations take more recent data into consideration. According to his calculations, Fort Wayne should actually be in Zone 6b.That means gardeners can consider plants expected to withstand temperatures of 5 degrees below zero rather than 10 degrees below zero.

To view the 2012 USDA map, visit

City’s a getaway spot

Fort Wayne recently received some positive press from the Windy City.

An article by Tamara O’Shaughnessy, editor of Chicago Parent, touts Fort Wayne as an ideal place for a child-friendly getaway. And, of course, she lists the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo and Science Central at the top of the must-see list.

O’Shaughnessy wrote, “The zoo alone is worth the three-hour drive from downtown Chicago. We didn’t want to leave.”

She described the zoo, one of the top 10 in the nation, as being “super manageable for the littlest of kids and engaging for everyone else, you can get amazingly close to the animals. One of the biggest hits was the sea lions.”

And the one thing not to miss at Science Central: the enclosed tornado simulator.

While she did describe Fort Wayne as a “quaint city,” she also noted that a stop at DeBrand Fine Chocolates is the perfect way to end a visit because it leaves “an especially sweet impression of Fort Wayne.”

Teachers win round over state

At the same time Chicago Public Schools teachers were testing their strength with a walkout, Indiana teachers were winning their own test of authority.

Marion County Superior Court Judge Patrick McCarty ruled last week that a portion of a uniform contract required by the Indiana Department of Education was a violation of state law. The provision would have allowed schools to increase the number of hours and days teachers are required to work outside of bargaining.

The judge described the provision as “unconscionable in that it gives school corporations the authority to unilaterally modify the number of days and hours that a teacher must work, but it does not require the school corporation to pay for the additional labor or any other additional consideration.”

The contract requirement dates to 2011, but a preliminary injunction issued by McCarty a year ago enjoined the state from enforcing it for the 2011-12 school year.

A spokesman for state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett said the department is reviewing the ruling and considering options for an appeal. But the decision represents a sound warning that Bennett overstepped his authority in ignoring general contract principles and laws established by the General Assembly.