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Crime
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Alleged vandal charged with painting ‘male body part’ on 82 cars at high school

STEVENSVILLE — A juvenile has been charged with vandalizing 82 vehicles at Kent Island High School with orange paint and the drawings of a “male body part,” according to the Queen Anne’s County Sheriff’s Office.

QACSO officials said via a social media post that the vandalism occurred Thursday, May 20.

A school resource officer at the high school responded to the student parking lot and located a suspect “who admitted to the vandalism,” according to the post.

The juvenile’s father was called to the school and took custody of the suspect.

The alleged vandal faces discipline from the school system and has been charged with one count of malicious destruction of property scheme and one count of disruption of school activity, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Police did not specifically identify the “male body part.”


Environment
Opposition gathers as state plans to clear-cut old trees

SALISBURY — If a tree falls in the forest, Joan Maloof hears it. Sometimes, she even hears it before it has fallen.

It is with this sense of arboreal fatalism that she writes letters to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources year after year, imploring the agency to withdraw its forestry division’s latest plans to cut down old trees on the Eastern Shore.

She writes. They cut. Nothing ever seems to change.

This year, the retired Salisbury University biology and environmental sciences professor hopes to break that cycle. Maloof opposes the felling of 120 acres of woodland in the Pocomoke State Forest, where some trees are believed to be nearly 100 years old.

“This is the kind of stuff we’re talking about here,” Maloof said as she tromped through one of the shady tracts that’s set to be logged. “[These are] some of the last older patches. There’s the holly and the understory trees.”

Her stance was joined by dozens of conservation organizations, including the Audubon’s Mid-Atlantic office.

Chances appear slim that they’ll get their way, though. Mike Schofield, manager of Chesapeake forests for the DNR’s Maryland Forest Service, says there are no plans to heed commenters’ objections to the cutting.

“There isn’t anything in there of substance that would warrant a change in our minds,” Schofield said. “Although I can sympathize with people’s attraction to the idea [of] older trees, the reality is the forest is full of older, larger trees. The areas [where] we are conducting the harvest are areas that are designated for fiber production.”

The long-running back-and-forth underscores the challenges and tensions involved with operating a public forest.

For some members of the public, forests are recreational and ecological oases, where activities such as hiking and birdwatching mingle with the environmental benefits that trees provide, such as capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For others, the forest is their livelihood, and trees, if managed sustainably, are as much of a commodity as corn or soybeans.

“Those balances need to be struck, and I believe they are in our sustainable forest management plan,” Schofield said.

The 18,000-plus acres of the Pocomoke State Forest lie mostly in Worcester County, but also in small portions of Wicomico and Somerset counties. The Maryland Forest Service manages it along with what is collectively known as the Chesapeake Forest Lands, which consists of more than 75,000 acres spread across dozens of tracts in six counties.

Across those two state forest entities, the Forest Service prohibits cutting on about 10,000 acres of woodland, or about 10% of its Eastern Shore holdings, Schofield said. Much of that is considered old growth, he added.

Dave Wilson, a Worcester resident and longtime environmental advocate, asserts that the state could be doing more to protect older trees in the region. The amount of acreage that critics want spared from the state’s harvest plan represents just 5% of the 2,400 acres being targeted for thinning or clear-cutting in the document, he pointed out.

“It doesn’t make much sense to those of us who are concerned about biodiversity” to keep allowing mature forests to be cut down, Wilson said.

The 120 acres, however, does comprise the entire allotment of clear-cutting in the Pocomoke Forest in the annual work plan. The remaining 143 acres there is reserved for thinning.

In the Chesapeake Forest Land, about 1,900 acres of forest is set for a first or second thinning, and 150 acres is planned to be clear-cut.

Within the clear-cut areas, Schofield said, about 6% of the existing trees will be left standing. Those trees will help seed and regenerate the forest.

Older forests tend to have a greater variety of trees and animal life than their younger counterparts. And studies show that the older a tree is, the better it is at trapping carbon.

After the Forest Service released a draft version of its annual work plan earlier this year, the Pocomoke cutting proposal drew 52 comments, with support from forestry industry members and opposition from environmentalists.

“Trees, like all species, have a biological age limit,” the Dorchester County Forestry Board wrote. “During the comment periods, DNR often receives negative comments mostly aimed at the harvesting of mature timber. …[But] conservation — the wise use of natural resources — trumps preservation any day. A hands-off approach is not the answer.”

After her retirement in 2011, Maloof founded the Old-Growth Forest Network, a national nonprofit that seeks to protect at least one forest in each of the 2,370 U.S. counties where conditions are suitable for forest growth. Since then, the group has added 118 forests in 24 states to its network.

But Maloof, also a Worcester resident, has found less success in her own backyard.

“You’re just shaking your head,” she said. “It’s like, why are they going to do this to this public forestland?”

If finalized, the annual work plan would be in effect from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022.

Jeremy Cox is a Bay Journal staff writer based in Maryland. You can reach him at jcox@bayjournal.com.


3 things

1 Notable birthdays today — Actor Sir Ian McKellen is 82. Actor-singer Leslie Uggams is 78. Rock singer Klaus Meine (The Scorpions) is 73. Actor-comedian Jamie Kennedy is 51. Actor Octavia Spencer is 51. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., is 61. Actor-comedian Mike Myers is 58. Rapper Daz Dillinger is 48. Actor Molly Sims is 48. Actor Erinn Hayes is 45. Olympic gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman (pictured) is 27.

2 On this day in history, on May 25, 2020, George Floyd died when a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for about 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and pleading that he couldn’t breathe; Floyd’s death, captured on video by a bystander, would lead to worldwide protests, some of which turned violent, and a reexamination of racism, justice and policing in the U.S. In 1935, Babe Ruth hit his last three career home runs — Nos. 712, 713 and 714 — for the Boston Braves in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. In 1959, the U.S. Supreme Court, in State Athletic Commission v. Dorsey, struck down a Louisiana law prohibiting interracial boxing matches. (The case had been brought by Joseph Dorsey Jr., a Black professional boxer.) In 1977, the first “Star Wars” film (later retitled “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope”) was released by 20th Century Fox. In 1992, Jay Leno made his debut as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show,” succeeding Johnny Carson. (More history on A4)

3 The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is hosting an American Canoe Association Essentials of Kayak Instructor Certification course June 5–7, with participation limited and advanced registration needed. Participants will be led by Jake Taylor, a team rider for Aztron Sports, instructor for the American Canoe Association (ACA), and the state director of ACA Vermont, in this three-day coastal kayaking instructor certification course. Participants will learn level 1 and level 2 coastal and river disciplines, while gaining confidence in managing and teaching within these environments. (Story on A6)


Business
Big bang theory: Maryland company moves ahead in quantum space race

COLLEGE PARK — Over the past few decades, quantum computing has developed from what many considered a science-fiction fantasy into what could be the next technological revolution. One local company, College Park-based IonQ Inc., could play a key role.

In what some are calling the “quantum space race,” governments around the globe are funding quantum computing research in an effort to become the world’s leading innovator. China spends about $2.5 billion on quantum research annually, more than 10 times what the U.S. spends, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The quantum competition, reminiscent of the U.S.-Soviet era Sputnik space race, is expected to heat up under the Biden Administration, which plans to commit $180 billion to research and development and “industries of the future,” including quantum computing. That spending could provide a boost for IonQ, which was founded just six years ago.

“Both Congress and the president have made clear they plan to invest in the research, technology and talent needed to keep the United States in the global vanguard of innovation,” said Kara Sibbern, a IonQ spokesperson. “At IonQ, we will be working with policymakers to support this effort however we can.”

But whether new companies such as IonQ can compete in the brave new world of quantum computing is unclear. IonQ will be up against many U.S. and international companies, including heavy hitters like Google, Microsoft and IBM Corp.

Investors on Wall Street are closely watching the young company. In March, IonQ filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public on the New York Stock Exchange by merging with dMY Technology Group Inc. III, a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, based in Nevada. The deal is valued at about $2 billion. If the SEC approves the transaction, IonQ would be the first company in the U.S. focused specifically on quantum computing to go public.

Like many other companies that use SPACs to raise capital, IonQ is hoping that merging with an acquisition company will allow it to raise capital faster than by using a traditional initial public offering. Merging with dMY “affords us greater speed to market, flexibility and ability to focus on business execution,” said Sibbern. The deal is expected to be completed this year, but the company couldn’t provide an exact date.

The stock offering marks a huge step for a computing technology that not long ago was widely thought to have little promise beyond the theoretical.

Quantum computers use the power of quantum physics to quickly solve problems and perform tasks faster than a conventional computer. The technology could speed up calculations related to finance, drug development, materials discovery, artificial intelligence and others.

Quantum computers function differently from conventional computers, which accounts for their speed. Conventional computers use a large number of tiny transistors, which represent information as either a “1” or a “0.” Quantum computers differ in that they use qubits, which can represent and work with both numbers simultaneously. This is due to what’s known as superpositioning.

To understand the principle of quantum superpositioning, it is often compared to a coin. Think of a single, stationary coin sitting on a table. It will be in only one of two states: heads or tails. Similarly, a transistor can only be either “0” or “1.” But if you spin the coin, you can say it’s both heads and tails at the same time until the moment you stop it and see what it lands on. This is like a qubit. Until you measure it as a “0” or “1,” it can exist in several different states at the same time.

So far, quantum computing is still in the research phase, far from widespread commercial use. IBM unveiled its first commercial quantum computer in 2019, IBM Q System One, but the device is not for sale. Rather, it’s a cloud-based product that customers can access over the internet to perform calculations.

However, executives at IonQ and other companies believe the industry is close to developing scalable products that can serve business needs.

“We believe quantum computing will power the next technological revolution for humankind and that the dawn of the quantum age is here,” said Chris Monroe, who co-founded IonQ and serves as the company’s chief scientist. “Like the information age, quantum is expected to have far-reaching impacts across every facet of our society.”

According to Monroe, any corporation with an optimization problem can yield results from quantum computing. “We’re seeing exciting advances in artificial intelligence by applying quantum to machine learning,” which can lead to even greater results, he said.

Important hurdles still exist for quantum. Eddy Zervigon, CEO of Quantum Xchange, a quantum-focused cybersecurity company in Bethesda said that while quantum computers can potentially lead to significant advancements, their speed and power could make it easier for hackers to break into the systems because current encryption methods won’t be able to keep up.

This critical point in quantum computing is known as “Q-Day”, or the day in which quantum computers can render current encryption methods useless. “No one is questioning if, but when” this day will come, said Zervigon. Quantum Xchange, recently named one of the 20 most promising startups by Technical.ly DC, is dedicated to preparing companies and organizations for Q-Day by offering quantum-safe data protection.

IonQ was founded in 2015 by Monroe and Jungsang Kim. Both are professors in electrical engineering and computer engineering at Duke University in North Carolina. Both have also taught at the University of Maryland and are currently visiting professors in Maryland’s Physics Department.

The two previously spent more than two decades combined researching quantum physics and engineering. Monroe and Kim would later combine their efforts to publish a scientific paper, “Scaling the Ion Trap Quantum Processor,” which was published in 2013, and detailed how to build and scale a programmable quantum computer. The paper was noticed by Harry Weller, a venture capitalist with the Maryland-based New Enterprise Association, which provided IonQ with $2 million in seed money.

Between 2015 and 2018, IonQ raised an additional $20 million in funding from Google Ventures, Amazon Web Services and NEA. IonQ would later raise more than $55 million from investors such as Samsung Group, Lockheed Martin Corp. and others.

If IonQ succeeds, it could foster growth of other quantum computing and related companies in Maryland and the Washington area and “drive billions of dollars of economic improvement over the next decade” in the region, said Monroe.

He added that the University of Maryland’s support is contributing to the industry’s growth. In 2020, IonQ opened a new Quantum Data Center, a 23,000-square-foot center in Maryland’s Discovery District. The site was made possible in part due to a $5.5 million investment from the university.

Charles Winthrop Clark, a fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Joint Quantum Institute, offered a more measured but still optimistic view of quantum computing’s potential in the region. He notes that while a quantum industry won’t do for the Washington metro region what the digital revolution did for Silicon Valley, “there will be a lively quantum ecosystem in the DMV.”


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