A little more civil rights comes to Arkansas

Kristin Seaton (L) and Jennifer Rambo first out with a marriage license

Gay marriage arrived in the Bible Belt on Saturday, beginning with two women who had traveled overnight to ensure they’d be first in line.

“Thank God,” Jennifer Rambo said after Carroll County Deputy Clerk Jane Osborn issued a marriage license to her and Kristin Seaton, a former volleyball player at the University of Arkansas. The Fort Smith couple wed moments later on a sidewalk near the courthouse; the officiant wore a rainbow-colored dress…

Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza paved the way Friday with a ruling that removed a 10-year-old barrier, saying a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2004 banning gay marriage was “an unconstitutional attempt to narrow the definition of equality.” Piazza’s ruling also overturned a 1997 state law banning gay marriage.

But because Piazza didn’t issue a stay, Arkansas’ 75 county clerks were left to decide for themselves whether to grant marriage licenses.

Rambo, 26, and Seaton, 27, were the first gay couple to be legally married. They arrived about 2 a.m., slept in a Ford Focus and awoke every half-hour to make sure no one else would take a spot at the head of the line.

As dawn came, no one was certain any clerk would issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Initially, deputy clerk Lana Gordon said she wasn’t sure she had the authority and shooed people from her office.

“We just walked out of here crying,” Rambo said.

When Osborn intervened, other same-sex couples let Rambo and Seaton return to their place in line.

Piazza’s lack of a stay caused confusion among county clerks, Association of Arkansas Counties executive director Chris Villines said.

“Confusion” is journalistic politeness for behaving like the bigots who have ruled grassroots Bible Belt politics for decades. When we dealt with the first similar ruling in New Mexico county clerks rushed to be among the first to issue marriage licenses. There wasn’t even a need to poll clerks statewide till the wave of freedom hit the Texas side of the state. And after the state body of county clerks voted resoundingly to go ahead there were only a couple of backwards clerks who said their god wouldn’t let them participate – and resigned.

Never did hear who paid for the phone call from their “personal god” – but, the earth did not rend asunder nor did any firstborn children end up struck dead except by the usual means in New Mexico.

RTFA for more anecdotal tales of happiness in spite of intransigent homophobia.

Highway patrol copper rescues tiny dog on California freeway

The California Highway Patrol is being lauded for its efforts in rescuing a Chihuahua off the I-680 freeway Friday.

The Contra Costa CHP posted a photo of the rescue on Twitter saying…”This little dog needed some help off I-680 freeway today. We’re glad he’s safe.”

On Saturday, the CHP said in a tweet that the Contra Costa Animal Control in Martinez, California, had taken the puppy into their care.

The rescue picture showed the Chihuahua perched on a roadway median on Interstate Highway 680 during rush hour.

CHP officer John Fransen said Saturday that a CHP officer spotted the small dog on the highway’s concrete center divider around 6 p.m. while driving south on Highway 680 near the North Main Street overpass.

The officer came out of his car and used a protein bar to coax the Chihuahua toward him and was able to pick up the dog.

Although Fransen said he didn’t know how the dog ended up on the freeway, he said, it’s likely that someone left the animal there.

“As sad as it sounds, it actually happens pretty often,” he said.

Good for you, dude. Worth applauding a cop who understands his responsibilities extend to more than traffic and murders. Especially when none of the civilians roaring by on the freeway stopped to help the little dog.

Scientists preparing for major El Niño — just politicians and pundits unready

The weather is preparing to go wild, and will wreak havoc and death around the globe later this year. An El Niño, a splurge of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, is coming. It will unleash floods in the Americas, while South-East Asia and Australia face drought. Yet little is being done to address these consequences.

An El Niño begins when warm water near Indonesia spreads eastwards and rises to the surface of the Pacific. The warm water carries rain with it, so El Niño takes rain from Asia and Australia and dumps it on the Americas…

The effects can be deadly. A big El Niño in 1997-98 killed 20,000 people and caused almost $97 billion of damage.

Meteorologists contacted by New Scientist all expect an El Niño at the end of this year. And it looks like a big one, says Wenju Cai of CSIRO, Australia’s national research agency, in Melbourne. The more heat in the Pacific, the bigger the El Niño, and right now, 150 metres below the surface, a ball of warm water is crossing that ocean. “It’s huge,” says Cai.

Yet official forecasts remain cautious. As recently as 5 May, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration only said the odds of an El Niño would exceed 50 per cent this year.

The reason I’m getting round to posting this is that NOAA’s El Niño/Southern Oscillation diagnostic discussion has climbed to 65% likelihood.

Most El Niño researchers say forecasters are being too conservative. “One thing I hear over and over again is ‘we do not want to create a panic’,” says Axel Timmermann. There is a reason: forecasting a big El Niño would cause a spike in food prices. “But it may be better to have this reaction at an early stage, when farmers can still adapt, rather than later.”

The good news is that El Niño is a known quantity. “We already know what happens when a big El Niño hits,” says Zafar Adeel of the United Nations University in Hamilton, Canada. That means vulnerable populations can be identified and emergency plans put in place. But not everywhere has a plan

Wild weather is coming in 2014/15 with storms and floods, droughts and wildfires expected from region to region; but little is being done to protect people on the front line. Australian meteorologists are among the best in the world. Their government will want to prepare by cutting taxes for corporate miners, their answer for everything. India, Pakistan face the potential of a weak monsoon season which harms domestic farming. The United States faces a range of weather from drought to floods – states like California have appropriate disaster plans while the Confederacy treats weather projections almost as much of a liberal plot as they do climate change.

Frankly, the last El Niño here in New Mexico in 1997/98 brought us a lot of useful precipitation. That was before recent years’ wildfires destroyed lots of forest and natural cover which would limit flooding. And we, too, have a governor who thinks the answer to every question is tax cuts for corporations.

The coming year could be longer than expected.

Thanks, Mike