Hot topics now top the news

Okay, readers, step up and vote for the hottest topic of the week–confession, coronavirus, corruption, or conflagration. 

If you read the news, chances are you are up-to-date on all those topics. The chief problem is deciding which category events like a taped confession of lying about coronavirus counts in. I offer this guide based for your use.  

  Confession is totally dominated by revelations promoting Bob Woodward’s new book Rage that’s being released today. It could be dismissed as just another hit on the President if Woodward didn’t have tapes of 18 interviews with Trump. Anyone with the Internet can listen to the President himself saying how deadly coronavirus is shortly before he assured people that everything is going well and ridiculed precautions by hosting six massive, indoor campaign rallies within a month.  

Also on tape, Trump dismissed Saudi Arabia’s assassination of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi as no big deal–”Iran is killing 36 people a day”–and bragged about stopping Congress from cutting financial support and arms sales to the country.  

Coronavirus is dominated by the United States continuing to see about 33,000 new cases and 700 new deaths every day.  The U.S., with less than 5% of the world’s population, has 22% of the known cases and deaths. 

We also have a nation of parents distressed because their children are either not learning much while facing a computer screen or are being exposed to a deadly virus daily. About 35% of American households report having used all or nearly all of their savings already. And nearly 14 million are out of work while both Trump’s emergency stipends and many state unemployment accounts are running out of funds.    

Corruption’s poster girl for this week is Seema Verma, administration of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  A 17-month investigation revealed that Verma used nearly $6 million dollars of taxpayer money to polish her image, e.g. arrange for interviews, feature articles, and a ‘girls’ night out.” 

And authorities in Georgia are threatening criminal action against 1,000 voters they claim voted both in person and by mail during the state’s June primary or August runoff elections. Someone’s corrupt.  But it wasn’t until August that a judge ruled that ballots postmarked, but not received, by election day should be counted. That means 1,000 voters could have mailed absentee ballots on or right before June 9, heard that the state would not count them, and hurried out to vote in person. 

Why didn’t Georgia check names on late-arriving absentee ballots and just not open duplicates? Hey, this is a state that provided so few scanners in some urban neighborhoods that voters at one polling place were still waiting in line after midnight.

 Conflagrations, i.e. wildfires, dominated the news this weekend. Thursday National Fire News reported that “102 fires have burned 4.4 million acres in 12 states.” Idaho accounted for about a dozen of those fires with the largest surpassing 40,000 acres Saturday.    

In California 25 wildfires have set a record for acres burned–2.2 million–and the fire season could stretch for another month or more. Oregon has lost 230,00 acres; eight fires are considered unstoppable until winter rains hit. Washington has lost over 300,000 acres. Eighty percent of the buildings in one small town are now ashes.    

Tens of thousands have been evacuated from their homes; and 33 have died since mid-August. 

People are blaming underbrush, trees killed by insects, and heat. Areas of California endured 110 degree temperatures before the fires started.  

Which is the hottest topic?  I guess it depends on your definition of  ‘heat.’

Environment: Tough month for the Earth

by Judy Ferro

This has been a tough month for our planet.

Forest and range fires are plaguing Idaho. Canyon, Ada, and Owyhee counties sit under a blanket of smoke as ash rains on sidewalks, cars, and pools. As I write, the blaze has devoured a 10-mile-wide swath of BLM land over 30 miles in length.   Several families are relying on limited power from an Idaho Power generator because the fire has destroyed power polls.

South of Lewiston, the Lawyer Complex, the result of 21 separate fires, has burned over 6 square miles, forcing the evacuations near Kamiah, the seat of Lewis County.

In central Idaho, a 500-acre fire in heavy timber threatens vacation homes north of Crouch.

Nationwide, fires have ravaged 35% more land than the 10-year-average.

Yet, fires are just one consequence of extreme heat this summer.

Areas with no—or less reliable—air conditioning have seen thousands die from the heat. This month has seen new record high temperatures in cities from India to Egypt, in Japan, and in much of Europe. Karachi, Pakistan, had highs over 100 F for six weeks with the temperature reaching 124 F at one point. Iraq’s major cities have also have suffered from temperatures over 120 F.

In Tokyo, 47,000 have been hospitalized from heat stroke.

One study indicates that between 1951 and 1980, extremely hot summers covered just 1% of the Earth’s surface; the average for the last 30 years is 10% and rising.

Pollution, not heat, however, was responsible for a major disaster in Colorado. Employees of a company contracted by the Environmental Protection Agency, working at a mine closed since 1923, breached a berm holding back 3 million gallons of waste water and tailings. An orange sludge containing cadmium, lead, iron, and arsenic, continues to flow from Cement Creek into the Animas River, a tourist destination for fishing and white-water rafting.

Gradually, the polluted mass is moving into waterways serving cities in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and the Navajo Nation. Loss of drinking water, tourism, and farm crops now threatens the entire region.

It’s hard to imagine a worse water disaster, but one has been building in the North Pacific since May.

High sea surface temperatures are nourishing a record-breaking algal bloom stretching from Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to southern California. Predictably, the bloom is laced with toxic species that can devastate sea life and, with it, regional economies.

The deaths of nine Fin whales near Kodiak Island in June are believed related to the bloom. July brought reports of deaths among whales, gulls, and forage fish. The Aleutian Pribiloff Island Association is soliciting samples for testing for algal toxins.

Oregon and Washington have closed their recreational razor clam harvests. Washington has also closed much of its Dungeness crab fishing. California has closed some of the sardine and anchovy harvests.

An algal bloom in Lake Erie is threatening to devastate that region’s economy as it did in 2014.

And the California drought continues to threaten crops and wildlife.

Amazingly, many Americans continue to deny the existence of global warming and to fight attempts to ameliorate it. A recent poll, however, indicates that California’s record-breaking drought has made believers of most residents there. Eighty percent of those polled said they saw global warming as a serious threat. The number was highest—90%–among Blacks and Latinos.

Let’s hope matters don’t have to get worse before U.S. voters realize they can’t continue to elect politicians who refuse to acknowledge, much less fight, what is developing into the greatest problem of this—and perhaps any—century.


Global warming hits hard

by Judy Ferro

This weekend gave a lot of people a chance to be thankful that global warming is a hoax and nothing to take seriously.   A heatwave now and then is one thing, but no one wants 100+ degree weather becoming the norm, particularly when water is in short supply.

On the other hand, people like me who believe that humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at a damaging rate, found more to fuel their worries.

Thursday’s Idaho Press-Tribune had five items about warming and drought.

An inch-high front-page headline “Heat Wave Danger” introduced an article warning that car interiors could reach temperatures fatal to kids and pets in less than 15 minutes.

Inside we learned that governors of ten western states were meeting to discuss how to deal with drought, including “ways to more efficiently use wastewater, better track soil moisture levels, work with other states and invest in water infrastructure.”

That was followed by an article about the water level in Lake Mead reaching new lows and hundreds of wildfires currently burning in Alaska.

And, in International news, a court in the Netherlands responded to citizens’ appeals to order the government to cut greenhouse emissions by 25%, rather than the 17% in current plans.

Friday’s paper followed up with a front-page assuring us that Idaho Power was prepared for a searing summer, but advised doing laundry after sunset and grilling outside if you must cook.

Inside, three articles on wildfires informed us that larger of two fires near Emmett was controlled after 10,000 acres burned, that Southern California is still battling a week-long 36-square-mile blaze, and that 300 fires in Alaska have burned 945 square miles.

International news informed us that 113 degree temperatures in southern Pakistan, coupled with power outages, had left 980 dead. (India’s recent heat wave had killed 2,200 people.)

On a lighter note, a New Republic article quoted various California conservative leaders who blame the drought on abortion, gay marriage, and immigrants. So warming IS caused by humans, but not by their carbon dioxide by-products?

And many may appreciate the black humor in Shell Oil Company now suffering because it wants global warming, that it claims doesn’t exist, to proceed faster. Ice in the Arctic seas continues to keep two dozen Shell oil-drilling ships anchored.

While American leaders maintaining a head-in-the-sand stance chastised Pope Francis, the Vatican released his 65-page encyclical entitled “Care for Our Common Home.”

Much of the Pope’s thesis focuses on the broader problem with our values. Too many of us are caught up in a culture of consumption for consumption’s sake. We fail to honor others, especially the poor, as children of God.  We have little concern for the common good.

When the Pope does address climate change, he is blunt: humans are destroying our earth rather than acting as good stewards of God’s gift.

He calls for a worldwide plan to replace the use of fossil fuels immediately. He dismisses “carbon credits,” supported by many in the U.S., as a way to give the richest companies the right to pollute.

The encyclical says that rich nations can help poorer ones develop solar power for less cost than they could deal with the effects of further global warming. It also asserts that progress must go hand-in-hand with programs to alleviate poverty.

The Pope actually talks of the “common good” like the old-time conservatives who embraced responsibility and civic duty. Today too many call it “socialism.”  It may be the key to humanity’s survival.