In today's On the News segment: Currently, flood waters cover more than 2,000 square miles in Colorado as half a year's worth of rain hit that region in a 24-hour period; the Washington State Department of Agriculture discovered genetically modified alfalfa on a non-GMO field; Japan’s nuclear reactors have been shut off; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. More than 1,200 people are unaccounted for in the wake of historic flooding in Colorado, and authorities say that more rain is on the way. Currently, flood waters cover more than 2,000 square miles in Colorado, and spread across 15 counties. The unprecedented flooding is being called a "1,000 year event," as half a year's worth of rain hit that region in a 24-hour period, and more continues to fall. Search and rescue operations are ongoing, but the heavy rains have grounded several of the rescue helicopters, and hindered evacuations. The Incident Management Team Commander, Shane Del Grosso, said, "We need a change in the weather pattern to get a break and to really go after what needs to be done." So far, rescuers have helped more than 11,000 people escape the rising flood waters, but as of Sunday, at least five deaths had been attributed to the flood. President Obama declared a major disaster in the state, and promised federal aid for rescue and repair efforts. Already, damages in Boulder County alone are estimated at $150 million, which is 10 to 15 times that county's entire annual budget. And, more than 19,000 homes in Colorado have been damaged or destroyed. Many roads and bridges have been completely wiped out by the flood waters, and a massive rebuilding project will be required to repair the damage. Over the weekend, The National Weather Service called the rainfall "biblical" - but some argue another cause. According to the Think Progress Blog, it will take months of research to determine whether climate change played a roll in the record flooding, but extreme precipitation is often linked to global warming. The ongoing tragedy is a reminder of what can happen when extreme weather outmatches our ability to adapt. Regardless of why the flooding occurred, most Americans say our nation must respond to those in need in Colorado, and we must become better prepared for events like this in the future.
In screwed news... Another genetically modified crop has popped up in an unexpected location. According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the agency discovered genetically modified alfalfa had somehow made it into a non-GMO field. The farmer stated he never wanted to grow the GMO crop, yet plant samples taken from his farm contain the genetic trait called "Round-Up Ready." The only reason the GMO trait was even discovered was that a buyer rejected the farmer's product after finding evidence of the genetic modification. GMO opponents say that this is the problem with playing with Mother Nature. Test crops grown by companies like Monsanto can be spread easily by wind and animals, and end up contaminating non-GMO crops. Once these genes are spread too far, there is little that we can do to get them out of our food supply. Considering how the GMOs were discovered in this case... who knows how many GMO-tainted crops are out there just waiting to be discovered.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The City of Richmond, California is moving ahead with a unique plan to help struggling homeowners. Last week, after a contentious meeting with some Richmond residents, the City Council voted 4 to 3 to advance their proposal to use eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages. Their vote approved more research into the measure, and renewed the hopes of many struggling homeowners. If the plan is eventually approved, the City of Richmond will purchase underwater mortgages from the banks, whether or not those banks want to sell. That city would then refinance mortgages to keep people in their homes. After last week's vote, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who originally proposed the idea, said, "Leadership depends on taking risks. Richmond and its residents have been badly harmed by the housing crisis. The banks have been unwilling or unable to fix the situation, so the city is stepping in to provide a fix." This plan may be long way from being finalized, but the hard-hit residents of Richmond are happy that relief could still become reality.
Right now, Japan is nuclear free. And, at least 8,000 people would like to keep it that way. The majority of Japan's nuclear reactors were taken off-line after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. One plant in Western Japan remained in operation. On Monday, that one functioning plant will be shut down for maintenance, and thousands don't want it turned back on. On Saturday, eight thousand demonstrators marched through the streets of Tokyo to protest any of that nation's nuclear power plants restarting operations. Ever since a horrific tsunami hit Japan two years ago, the Japanese people have been dealing with rising concerns at the crippled Fukushima power plant. Now that the real risks of nuclear power are visible to the Japanese people, thousands are rejecting nuclear energy all together. The Japanese government has not announced whether they will restart the plant in Western Japan, or any of that nation's other 50 reactors. This could be a great opportunity for Japan, and the rest of the world, to make the switch to real renewable energy.
And finally... In honor of Friday the 13th, NPR reminded us about triskaidekaphobia. In case you didn't know, that's the fear of the number 13. And, just for fun, the staff at NPR came up with a few new fears they think should be added to the dictionary. Of course, someone suggested "Selfiphobia" - the fear of taking a photograph of oneself. Apparently, Pope Francis does not suffer from this one. Someone else suggested "Expiraphobia" - which is the fear of forgetting to renew a domain name. According to NPR, the Dallas Cowboys may be suffering from this after letting their website address expire in 2010. And, their last suggestion - "Threadaphobia" - is NPR's suggested name for the fear of commenting on a story. I'm sure we can all think of a number of so-called news sources we wish suffered from that affliction!
And that's the way it is today – Monday, September 16, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.