Nineteen firefighters died fighting a forest fire in Arizona earlier this summer. Curiously, almost no one is talking about why it happened, only that it was a tragedy. Arizona Deputy State Forestry Director Jerry Payne has been the only one to speak out about the cause, and he backtracked immediately afterwards, apologizing for what he said. He claimed that the superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots violated wildlife safety protocols while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30th, 2013, 60 miles north of Phoenix.
According to Payne, the superintendent's violations allegedly included not knowing the location of the fire, failing to have a spotter serve as a lookout, and leading his crew through thick, unburned vegetation near a wildfire. There wasn't a proper escape route in case the fire changed direction; the firemen would have to bushwhack through thick brush to retreat. The firefighters lost their lives when the fire suddenly changed direction and came at them, traveling 12 miles an hour. The fire destroyed more than 100 of the roughly 700 homes in Yarnell, burning 13 square miles. Flames shot up to 20 feet in the air.
The account given by Payne is not the whole picture. Firefighting today is not what it was 20 years ago. Fires 20 years ago moved slowly, at 2-3 mph. Today they move at speeds of 10-12 mph. There are three reasons for this. First, people are building more homes near or within forests. In the past, no one dared to build a house in the forest, because there weren't fire departments everywhere. As one retired firefighter told me, "Try to find a photo of a house in the middle of the forest from 100 years ago. You can't." more >>
Summer usually means higher gas prices. Conventional wisdom says that people travel more in the summer that raises the demand for gas, and everyone knows an increase in demand will drive up prices. But what if I told you that demand for gas has actually dropped significantly and that crude oil production in the United States has gone up? Believe it or not, American fuel consumption is down16 percent since 2007, and for the first time since 1995, our domestic production of crude oil will be greater than the amount we import.
So here's the million-dollar question: why are we still paying record prices for gas? Why haven't prices gone down as the law of supply and demand would suggest? There's rarely a simple answer to a complicated question, but the short answer is: corn. Through a bizarre turn of events, corn and the bad energy policies that force us to put corn in our gas tanks are now causing us record levels of pain at the pump.
Ethanol is a grain alcohol, often fermented from corn, which can also be used as fuel. The idea of corn ethanol as a way to stretch limited amounts of crude oil has been around for a long time. Not surprisingly, some of the strongest advocates of its use have been corn farmers and the politicians who represent them. The fact that the Iowa grows a lot of corn and the Iowa Caucuses are an important pit stop for every presidential candidate means that ethanol has always had friends in high places. more >>
This year hundreds of evangelical Christians from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C. to worship, pray, and advocate for immigration reform. This advocacy effort was organized by a diverse coalition of evangelical pastors called the Evangelical Immigration Table, as part of an effort to unite evangelicals around immigration solutions based on Biblical values.
In addition to moving our country closer to fair and humane immigration laws, the effort has also strengthened the bonds between evangelicals and the broader Hispanic community, which represents the fastest growing demographic within today's church.
But while the number of Hispanic evangelicals is growing, the number of young evangelicals continues to shrink. more >>
A conspiracy theorist and libertarian radio personality has claimed that the federal government has the means to use weather phenomenons like tornadoes as weapons.
Alex Jones, author, documentary filmmaker, and overseer of the website inforwars.com, responded to a question from a caller Tuesday regarding the possible existence of "Weather Weapons."
"They spend, the Department of Energy, the last time I checked, $5 billion a year in studying weather modification," said Jones on his Austin, Texas-based radio program, The Alex Jones Show. more >>
Seattle-based megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll took his latest criticism from some within the Christian community about the way he handled the topic of the earth's environment while joking at a recent Christian leadership conference as an opportunity to write about his environmentally conscious family and how humor can be found in parts of the Bible.
One point of contention about his talk at the Catalyst Conference in Dallas was his statement (joke) in which he said, "I know who made the environment. He's coming back, and he's going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV."
Another point of controversy brought up by bloggers and some religion reporters, was his comment: "If you drive a mini-van, you're a mini-man." more >>
I was turned on to Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" in 1995 while reading Reginald Lewis' autobiography "Why Should White Guys Have all the Fun." Of course I'd heard parts of the work throughout my life in movies, commercials, and even cartoons, but it was after reading how Lewis would sit in his private jet and listen to the piece that I was compelled to purchase it for myself. I bought three versions that week and numerous versions since. Lewis was my idol, a blue-collar guy from a rough Baltimore neighborhood, who went to Harvard and became a star on Wall Street.
His drive to achieve unlimited personal goals and attain wealth made the American Dream more accessible to me. Four Seasons is the perfect soundtrack to such a dream - it's real live harking back to a time when climate change wasn't an excuse to confiscate money but to celebrate life and challenges that come with life. Here is the sheet music and sonnets:
Spring has come and joyfully the birds greet it with happy song, and the brooks, while the streams flow along with gentle murmur as the zephyrs blow. more >>