The Loop

The rift
The late comedian Sam Kinison appears to have been proved wrong.

In a well-known routine, the screaming funnyman suggested that the way to solve world hunger was to stop sending food to people in places such as Ethiopia.

"Send them U-Hauls, send them boxes, some luggage. … You live in a desert! Nothing grows there! Nothing’s ever gonna grow there. … This is sand. Know what it’s gonna be a hundred years from now? It’s gonna be sand!"

Not so fast, Sammy.

This week came news that a giant crack-a 35-mile rift in the scorching desert of Ethiopia-likely will become a new ocean. At first glance, the story read like a bit of excellent science fiction. The study behind the news was co-authored by a UR researcher-Cindy Ebinger, professor of earth and environmental sciences-and published in the latest issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

The rift occurred in 2005. Some geologists believed then that it was the genesis of a new ocean as two parts of the African continent pulled apart, but the claim was controversial, officials explain. Scientists from several countries have confirmed that the volcanic processes at work beneath the Ethiopian rift are nearly identical to those at the bottom of the world’s oceans, and the rift is indeed likely to create a new sea.

"The whole point of this study is to learn whether what is happening in Ethiopia is like what is happening at the bottom of the ocean where it’s almost impossible for us to go," Cindy says.

The research efforts showed that the rift tore open along its entire 35-mile length in just days. Cindy and her colleagues are continuing to monitor the area.

A royal to-do
Nixon Peabody partner Michael Cooney attended a special event in New York City last month. He was there Oct. 21, helping to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the World Childhood Foundation at the 2009 Childhood USA Anniversary Gala Dinner with special attendees Queen Silvia of Sweden, Princess Madeleine of Sweden and Queen Noor of Jordan.

Michael serves as chairman of the U.S. board of the World Childhood Foundation. When Queen Silvia in 1999 wanted to ensure the foundation’s work was being carried out wherever there was need, she sought to expand the reach and create Childhood USA.

Through a mutual acquaintance, she turned to the Rochester attorney. The firm’s and Michael’s knowledge and experience in navigating the legal waters made Childhood USA a reality.

The foundation aims to help the most marginalized children. It focuses especially on girls; the main target groups are street children, children living in institutions, young mothers and sexually abused children.

Send tips, rumors, inside information or strange tales for the Loop to Managing Editor Mike Dickinson at

11/6/09 (c) 2009 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail


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