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Decade after rescue, doc dies

In its annual report on world drug use, the United Nations concludes that global markets for cocaine, opiates and marijuana are holding steady or in decline.

19 percent

decline of opium cultivated in Afghanistan last year.

28 percent

decline of cocaine production in Colombia, deemed "staggering" in the report.

167 million

people who used marijuana at least occasionally.

Dr. Jerri Nielsen FitzGerald, who diagnosed and treated her own breast cancer before a dramatic rescue from the South Pole, has died. She was 57. Her husband, Thomas FitzGerald, said she died Tuesday at their home in Southwick, Mass. Her cancer had been in remission until it returned in August 2005. She was the only doctor among 41 staff at the South Pole Station in winter 1999 when she discovered a lump in her breast. At first, she didn't tell anyone, but the burden became too much to bear. "I got really sick," she said in 2003. "I thought I would die." Because of the extreme weather conditions, the station is closed to the outside world for the winter. So she treated herself, including performing a biopsy, with help from colleagues she trained to care for her. A machinist helped her with her IV and test slides, and a welder helped with chemotherapy. She treated herself with anticancer drugs delivered during a gripping mid-July airdrop by a U.S. Air Force plane in blackout, freezing conditions. She was airlifted in October, and after multiple surgeries, including a mastectomy, the cancer went into remission until 2005. "As I am here and see what life really is, I understand that it is not when or how you die but how and if you truly were ever alive," she wrote in an e-mail to her parents in June, 1999 from the South Pole.

A tower of verdant virtue

The Sears Tower in Chicago — soon to be renamed the Willis Tower — will be getting a makeover that officials suspect will result in it being the world's tallest green building. Here are some of the changes and additions the 110-story building will undergo:

• Wind turbines

• Green roofs with grass and possibly trees

• Solar panels

• Electricity use is expected to be reduced by 80 percent

• Expected to save 24 million gallons of water per year

• Adding a 500-room luxury hotel that is privately financed and expected to draw "net zero energy from the power grid."

Water found on Saturn moon. Maybe.

Scientists have found new evidence that one of Saturn's moons has an ocean beneath its surface. That's important because liquid water is a key ingredient for life as we know it. The moon is an icy body called Enceladus. It gives off huge plumes of water vapor and ice grains. One group of scientists found particles containing sodium salts, which indicates that the plumes arise from liquid water. But another team found no sign of sodium with a different sampling method. They concluded there could still be a deep ocean on Enceladus, but that there are also other possible explanations for the moon's jets.

35,000-year-old flute unearthed

A bird-bone flute unearthed in a German cave was carved some 35,000 years ago and is the oldest handcrafted musical instrument yet discovered, archaeologists say, offering the latest evidence that early modern humans in Europe had established a complex and creative culture. A team led by University of Tuebingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard assembled the flute from 12 pieces of griffon vulture bone scattered in a small plot in southern Germany. Together, the pieces comprise an 8.6-inch instrument with five holes and a notched end. "It's unambiguously the oldest instrument in the world," Conard said. Reassembled, the instrument is too fragile to be played.

Decade after rescue, doc dies 06/24/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 24, 2009 10:53pm]
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