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Who knocked off poor defenseless little Pluto?

You know, the ninth planet in the solar system. Well, make that the rock formerly known as the ninth planet. In 2006, the muckety-mucks in the astronomy world downgraded Pluto to a “dwarf planet,” a decision that dismayed kids around the world.

They had an accomplice: a Caltech astronomer who, with the help of North County’s Palomar Observatory, made a discovery in 2005 that contributed to the demise of Pluto’s place in the universe. It’s all in the title of his new book, How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.

In an interview, the killjoy — er, astronomer — explains how his discovery turned Pluto’s world upside down and left him flooded with hateful emails and nasty 3 a.m. phone messages. He also ponders what would have happened if Pluto hadn’t shared its name with a cartoon dog and answers the obvious question: “What did Pluto ever do to you?”

Plotting the Pot Proponents:

A San Diego County map shows more liberal areas like those along the coast favored legalizing marijuana via Prop. 19 (which failed), while the more conservative inland areas opposed it. But there were pockets of both support and opposition in unexpected areas, including big chunks of the backcountry.

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Meanwhile, a new survey says more high school seniors are reporting that they’ve smoked marijuana within the last month than cigarettes. That hasn’t happened since 1981.

Poor vs. Poor:

The San Diego school board has voted to concentrate more of its federal money for disadvantaged students on the highest poverty schools at the expense of less poor ones — but not right away. The school board also decided to make a magnet school in the Chollas View neighborhood more like a local school, rejecting pleas from some teachers and parents.

Yesterday’s Morning Report incorrectly said five parents would be on a proposed committee that would appoint members to the San Diego school board. In fact, four parents would be on the committee.

How unusual is it for a school board to be appointed? It’s quite rare in California and the proposed setup here is unusual, too.

Woe Is Walmart:

Walmart, at least for the moment, has lost its fight to prevent the city from making it difficult (if not impossible) to build certain kinds of superstores here. A similar battle is erupting in New York City, although the proposed stores would be much smaller. As was the case here, there’s a divide between those who want a new employer to come to town and provide low prices and those who dislike Walmart’s unfriendliness to unions and its potential to hurt Main Street rivals.

Bigger and Bigger:

It got lots of flak the last time around, but the county pension board hasn’t given up on plans to increase its staff and pay them more. Now, it’s considering a plan to more than double the staff size and boost the salary limit to $360,000.

I asked reporter Rob Davis to put the news into perspective. “This wouldn’t require board of supervisors approval to waive salary limits and would be doable without changing those rules limiting how much public employees can be paid,” he said. “The earlier plan would’ve created higher paid jobs than this one.”

Port Procrastination?

Former Councilman Scott Peters, the incoming chair of the port commission, is in get-off-the-pot mode: he’s tired of the fighting over a proposed beautification project, and he’s ready to leave activists and their critiques behind. “I think what we’re doing is killing the excitement,” Peters told CityBeat. “We’re giving people the sense that this will never happen.” But this is a complex issue, to say the least, and moving forward isn’t going to be as easy as simply saying it’s time to get a move on.

Boost for Underwater Parks:

Underwater preserves in the Pacific Ocean got a boost from state fish and game officials, who approved new “marine protected areas” that provide sea life with some protection against fishing. “Our major protections will be at Swamis in Encinitas and South La Jolla,” a conservation manager says. Ocean areas off Point Loma and Imperial Beach will get protection too.

Curbside Confusion:

• A city recycling official says about one-third of businesses and apartment-type complexes aren’t bothering to curbside recycle, even though they’re supposed to. It’s not clear if lots of people are violating city law, but the city has only issued three fines.

• So can you recycle that yogurt container? What about the one for cottage cheese? And what about plastic bags? They’re plastic and they live just about forever, supposedly: they should be recyclable too, right? Such are the questions that face San Diegans as they figure out what goes in the blue and black bins. The latest edition of San Diego Explained breaks down the ins and the outs of recycling.

That Was No (Comics) Con:

At the Comic Con, the director of Tron Legacy asked an audience of thousands to shout out phrases as a crew recorded them. Now, the audio has become part of the film.

I think that’s called reaching nerd-vana.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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