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California Wildfires: Worst Season Ever Continues

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California Wildfires

California WildfiresWith over 200,000 acres blackened across the state, California’s Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, commonly referred to as Cal Fire, says the state is experiencing the worst start to a forest fire season in history.

Officials say 17 wildfires are currently raging. While that number is not unusual, the size and number of residential areas affected are extraordinary.

Firefighters and apparatus from as far as Florida are responding to assist the thousands of state and local personnel already attacking the blazes.

Higher-than-normal temperatures, consistent winds and gusts, and the state’s recent six-year drought combine to make the California forests especially susceptible to wildfires. One firefighter described the vegetation as “explosively” dry.

Meteorologists report there might be a slight lowering of temperatures and wind, but with no rain in the forecast this week, conditions will remain hazardous.

Fatalities Mounting

Six persons are confirmed dead in the largest fire. The Carr Fire spread rapidly and got so hot, it created its own winds and swirling, tornado-like cycles of fire. The phenomena, dubbed “firenados” by local media, not only devastates what lies in its path but can throw burning embers for quite a distance.

The Carr Fire jumped streets and burned downhill with unusual speed. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated, and several small communities have been destroyed within the almost 100,000 acres of burning forests.

Cal Fire says local police departments use a reverse-911 system, in which calls are sent out from the emergency dispatch centers to all residents, to alert residents of approaching risks.

Some people did not, or could not, heed the warning soon enough. Four residents, including a woman and her two great-grandchildren, are among the Carr Fire victims. Authorities are also searching for seven residents reported missing.

The other victims include a firefighter who died searching for and evacuating residents and a private bulldozer operator digging through vegetation in a vain attempt to slow the fire’s spread.

Late Sunday, firefighters reported they had stopped the blaze from advancing further through the town of Redding and reported the blaze 17% contained.

Heavy smoke is cooling temperaturesslightly but creates problems for the aerial firefighting effort. Several chemical and water-dumping missions were aborted due to no visibility.

Yosemite National Park closed

Yosemite Park remains closed as smoke from another wildfire makes air quality hazardous. That fire, called the Ferguson Fire, is 30% contained and could burn for another few weeks, according to the Mariposa County Fire Department.

Ferguson claimed two lives so far. A bulldozer operator was killed when his machine tumbled off a ridge while cutting through brush. The second fatality occurred Sunday when a tree fell on top of a fire captain from Hawaii.

Another mass evacuation occurred east of Los Angeles in the mountain resort area that includes the iconic Idyllwild area.

Dozens of fire-related injuries have been reported across the state. Over a thousand structures have been destroyed with more than ten thousand others at risk.

California’s governor, Jerry Brown, calls the large fires “the new normal” as higher temperature sand earlier snow melts make for longer and drier fire seasons.

 

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Women Primed to Take Over US Government

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Women protest Trump's agenda in Washington

Record-setting numbers of women are running for political office across the United States. Before you go declaring another “Year of the Woman” mantra, understand that this is very different than past election cycles.

Historically, we have praised women in politics for beating the odds to enter the white male bastion of government. These women often took the men on at their own game, rolling up their sleeves and talking like their counterparts to win enough votes from men, as well as discerning women.

The women running this year are different. This wave of candidates is not running with the belief they can do what has been a man’s job. They are running because they believe women can and will do that job better.

Women running for office offer change

Priorities and the overall tone of these candidates are different. In a time when more citizens than ever are dissatisfied with how government works, newcomers offer a fresh and discernibly different option to voters.

Last year’s Women’s March event around the country is cited as an impetus for women to challenge incumbents. Emily’s List, a Democratic non-profit aimed at helping women run for office says their seminars are packed, prompting them to add webinars to their offerings.

Whereas being a woman or a minority has long been considered a handicap for candidates, there are many who predict it will be an advantage in 2018 and 2020 races.

To that point, a transgender woman will be on the ballot for governor of Vermont this year. A Muslim woman just won a Senate primary in Minnesota. Connecticut could elect its first African-American woman to Congress this fall. Multiple openly gay candidates are on ballots, ready to join others already in office.

Women protest Trump's agenda in Washington

It’s not all about Washington… yet

Approaching elections won’t shift the power to women in Washington just yet. Despite record numbers, there are still more men than women running for the House and Senate.

However, the source for future federal elections generally comes from within state ranks, whose source of candidates largely comes from local government officials.

That is where the future shift of power will come from. Local and state elections boast record numbers of women candidates. If the historical winning percentage of women in those races holds up, the number of women in non-federal government positions could almost double to 40 percent next year.

In Michigan, there will be a woman on the ballot for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. If every other woman running for office in Michigan wins in November, they will also comprise two-thirds of the Senate and House.

How will women candidates affect government?

Since most women running for state offices are Democrats, this could shift power in many states. That would put Democrats in charge of voter redistricting slated to occur after the 2020 census.

Women are not a minority in the country, as many in Washington seem to treat them. If the US Congress was truly representational, slightly more than half the US senators and representatives would be women.

Anecdotal evidence suggests women are more likely to cross party lines and entertain ideas from outside their sphere of interests to solve problems.

They are less likely than male peers to see even the most important issues as win-lose propositions. Women are more hesitant to re-start an argument once the matter is settled.

Those tendencies could prompt a massive change in the US political climate in the not-too-distant future.

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Alt-Right exits Stage Left in Anti-climactic DC Gathering

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Alt-Right exits Stage Left in Anti-climactic DC Gathering

Alt-Right exits Stage Left in Anti-climactic DC GatheringWhoever it was that said, “Any publicity is good publicity,” probably didn’t have the “Unite the Right II” rally in mind.

After weeks of bravado about a planned Alt-Right march in Washington DC, White supremacist Jason Kessler was joined by a small, rag-tag group whose numbers dwindled as the day went on.

When the time came for the scheduled 5:30 pm rally to start, anti-racism protesters continued to enter the city, and the entire “Unite the Right” group had already snuck away.

Washington DC police, who were the superior presence throughout the day’s activities, carried out a well-organized plan to keep the racist group separated from anti-racism protesters, and successfully prevented a repeat of the violence at Unite the Right’s first gathering in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The hate group entered the city via a special train and entered D.C. via a blocked-off metro station. However, they did not escape the wrath of their opponents.

The second they left the station, thousands taunted them with shouts of “Shame”, and “go home”. Many screamed the name of the Heather Heyer, the woman killed during the Charlottesville event by a white supremacist attending Kessler’s march.

There appeared to be about 30 persons in the group as they emerged from the Metro. By the time they entered Lafayette Park to stage their rally, only 20 or so Unite the Right supporters were counted.

That is only half the number of registered organizationswith permits for counter-protests. Groups ranged from small churches and neighborhood groups to Black lives matter and the black-clad Antifa group.

The Press, set up in the center of a large buffer zone between protest groups, numbered in the hundreds, too. Attempts to get statements from the listless Unite the Right protesters were met with unenthusiastic non-answers, directing reporters to official media representatives.

White Supremacists groups have long kept a low profile in the United States. Last year’s rally, allegedly prompted as an effort to protect Confederacy-related statues from being removed in Charlottesville, was by far the largest and most organized gathering in decades.

Kessler and his group have been under attack since then, however, with marchers still being identified using advanced facial-recognition and other science to thwart their use of masks and hoods.

Besides Miss Heyer’s death at the hands of a driver who plowed into a Black Lives Matter group, video emerged of Unite the Right supporters beating a black man. Another marcher was recorded yelling the “N” word and firing a gun at a black man.

There were more than a dozen injuries, many serious, in the car ramming incident. Two police officers also died in a helicopter crash while responding to the crisis.

Lawsuits and criminal charges, and the threat thereof were the main culprits in Unite the Right’s low turnout, according to several white supremacists. Kessler blamed transportation issues and logistics for the embarrassing numbers. He also blames police for the violence in Charlottesville last year.

Meanwhile, Civil Rights marchers and anti-racism groups cheered what many called a victory in Washington. Thousands took part in marches and rallies around the Capital.

Police reported few incidents, although the Antifa group decided to throw bottles at police and shoot firecrackers and bottle rockets over their heads. There were only two arrests by the end of the day, both for simple assault.

Tensions were high back in Charlottesville, where police are largely faulted for not being prepared for last year’s rally. Many anti-racism supporters returned for vigils and a service in memory of Heather Heyer.

In the past year, the mayor and police chief have been replaced, but allegations of a slow response to the violence at the 2017 rally keep relations strained between officials and the public.

Still, the most serious incident reported in Charlottesville was a fist fight between a woman and the man she saw salute a statue of a Confederate general.

 

 

 

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Global Warming and the End of the World

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Global Warming

Fire, Floods, and Foul Weather- Is Global Warming the End of the World?

Scientists have long warned of the effects of a warming planet. The past four years have been the warmest recorded since reliable temperature measurements became available in the late 19th century.

Stronger hurricanes, heavier rainfalls, and record snow accumulations have been attributed to increased evaporation, which makes more moisture available for storms.

Warmer weather literally makes water expand. Glacial melting and falling ice shelves are only part of the reason sea levels are rising.

Mountain snows might be heavier, but they melt sooner and faster in the warmer climate. This allows vegetation on the mountains and in the valleys to dry earlier and more effectively. That, in turn, creates more severe wildfire conditions.

That same evaporation and rapid snow melt contribute to periods of drought and heat waves. It is all part of a predicted global warming cycle.

Global Warming

What does that look like?

In the past few weeks, the Northeast United States saw record rainfalls and flooding. Many victims report they had never seen flooding in their life until this year.

Wildfires rage across much of California, as well as Greece and Scandinavia. All three locations report unusual activity in the fires, such as creating its own weather system or spreading downhill as fast as it spread uphill.

Meanwhile, hundreds of heat-related deaths and illnesses were reported in Japan, England, and the Southwest United States where residents suffered through extended periods of dangerously hot temperatures.

Welcome to the New Normal

Record warm temperatures are expected to continue for the foreseeable future. There is little commitment toward replacing fossil fuel-driven cars and trucks, electric grids, or heating options.

Scientists studying global warming expect strong storms, widespread flooding, longer-lasting heat waves, and more intense wildfires to become the new normal around the world.

Climate change deniers point out that these things are not uncommon in summer months. They are right, but not with regards to the intensity.

Some weather experts predict that cyclonic storms might decrease in number, but the quantity of level 4 and level 5 hurricanes and cyclones will increase.

Events will occur in unusual places, too. In Greenland, one of the coolest and snowiest places on earth, it took weeks to control a massive wildfire in their grasslands.

New York City authorities expect severe flooding storms, with more than five feet of storm surge, to occur every five years by 2030. Historically, these events hit New York once every century.

Could this be the End of the World?

Coupled with recent reports of erupting volcanos and earthquakes, some alarmists and otherwise nervous people wonder if this is the beginning of the end.

There is no known link between volcanic or earthquake activity and global warming. Also, while volcanos have been in the news a lot recently, there is not a discernible increase in volcanic activity.

Scientists expect the world to change radically, with new coastlines taking shape during the climate change period. Despite several catastrophic predictions of imminent disaster in our lifetime, this will probably take many years, maybe centuries, to recognize.

There is, however, a recent event that might point to a more serious result of global warming. Scientists studying the big meteor impact that killed off the dinosaurs have been gathering information of the other results of that disaster.

Were Dinosaurs Victims of Global Warming?

They report that the heat of the meteor touched off widespread wildfires. It also moved or disintegrated large swaths of vegetation and rocks. This released large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

The result was a 5-degree global warming event. It took about 30 years for the increase to happen. The higher temperatures lasted about 100,000 years. Not much survived that time period.

Global warming today is mostly blamed on greenhouse gasses emitted via the burning of fossil fuel and an increasing world population that insists on breathing and knocking down forests to build homes.

Could we emit enough greenhouse gas into our atmosphere to match the dinosaur-killing global warming event? Expert opinions vary, but it might be time to take global warming seriously.

 

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