The Rio Grande is disappearing

The story of the Rio Grande is similar to that of other desert mountain rivers in the U.S. Southwest, from the Colorado to the Gila. The water was apportioned to farmers and other users at a time when water levels were near historic highs. Now, as a megadrought has descended on the West, the most severe in 1,200 years, the flows are at crisis levels.

And to make things even more uncertain, the drought is accompanied by an aridification of the West — a prolonged drying that scientists say may become a permanent fixture in the region. The number and scope of wildfires are also increasing sharply; New Mexico’s ongoing Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire has now burned 315,000 acres.

The concern of Tricia Snyder and others is that much of the Rio Grande River — already greatly compromised by channelization, dams, and irrigation — is on a trajectory to disappear and take out the bosque forests, fish, and other creatures that live in it and along it. “We’re past the point of easy answers,” she says.

How we got to the edge of disaster – and what is to be done – is central to this article. Please, read on and join in the fight to rescue this historic river.

Dome of our nation’s capitol Is threatened by cracks and crackpots!

To the myriad indignities suffered by Congress, including stagnant legislation, partisan warfare and popularity on a par with petty criminals, add this: the Capitol’s roof is leaking, and there is no money to fix it…

The dome has 1,300 known cracks and breaks. Water that has seeped in over the years has caused rusting on the ornamentation and staining on the interior of the Rotunda, just feet below the fresco “The Apotheosis of Washington,” which is painted on the Rotunda’s canopy.

Like most of what the federal government is on the hook to fix — highways, bridges and airports — the dome is imperiled both by tough economic times and by a politically polarized Congress. While Senate appropriators have voted to repair the dome, which has not undergone major renovations for 50 years, their House counterparts say there is not money right now. In that way, the dome is a metaphor for the nation’s decaying infrastructure.

“The dome needs comprehensive rehabilitation,” said Stephen T. Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, whose office oversees the building’s physical state. “It’s a public safety issue.”

The skirt of the dome — the section around the base of the original sandstone foundation — was fixed up recently at a cost of about $20 million, but an additional $61 million is needed to repair and restore the rest of the structure’s exterior…

“This is not a ‘bridge to nowhere’ we’re talking about here,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the leader of the Senate Rules Committee, which oversees the architect’s office. “This is basic upkeep to the United States Capitol building. There is a time and place to debate spending levels and the proper role of the federal government, but when your house has a leaky roof, you pay to fix the roof.”

It’s easiest for everyone to malign Congress as a whole. But, everyone – including Republicans, including the nuttiest of the Kool Aid Party – knows who is wholly responsible for getting absolutely nothing accomplished since the 2010 elections. The Tea Party pantywaist populists and Republican Party honchos who think they’re being the best beancounters in the world by putting a halt to any task Congress may attempt.

Saying they’re saving money doesn’t make it so. Saying they have a constitutional mandate doesn’t make it so. Saying they’re following the will of the people – on the basis of a not-so-unusual mid-term election – never makes it so. And since most of this crowd haven’t learned to lie as skillfully as the leftover Republican Party bosses – they rely on blaming everyone but the people who say “NO” to everything.

Including fixing the roof.

Dorset Police solve the mystery of the manuscript that never was

I’ve been holding this tale for the weekend. Though I found the article in one of British papers I read every day, it’s nice to see the NY TIMES has picked it up. Some editor has a heart for a good cop.

When she went blind as a result of diabetes, Trish Vickers set out to fill the void in her life by writing poetry. Then she turned to writing a novel, her pen guided by a system of elastic bands stretched across the paper. With 26 pages written, and a plot that turned on a woman whose life implodes, she began to dream of finding a publisher.

Then the dream imploded, too. When her son Simon visited her at her home, near the town of Lyme Regis in the Thomas Hardy country of Dorset, she showed him what she had written, and he gave her the bad news: Every page was blank. Her pen had run out of ink before she began, and what remained was an empty manuscript, void of all her imagination had captured.

Then came a twist in the story of a kind that would serve in one of the detective stories that have entertained mystery buffs for generations: Mrs. Vickers, 59, and her son turned to the forensic service of the Dorset County police.

After five months’ work, done on her lunch breaks, one of the experts there, a woman usually set to helping solve cases of murder, arson and fraud, cracked the case, delivering a typescript of all the missing pages to the bereft author.

I am so happy, pleased and grateful,” Mrs. Vickers said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. “Being blind is very restrictive as far as going anywhere. I have always been interested in writing. I have one of those imaginations that run riot. Everybody who has read it so far seems to like it, and the police also said they enjoyed the bit they read and can’t wait for the rest…”

“It was nice to do something for somebody, and it was nice to read the book as well,” said Kerry Savage, the forensic specialist. “Fortunately, apart from one line, we managed to retrieve the whole lot.”

As interesting as anything else is the fact that Trish Vickers and her son had to turn to the local coppers for technological aid rather than, say, a library or university. I guess most Western societies haven’t a problem coming up with funding for police when they might be giving short shrift to education. One of those cultural phenomena where the UK and US are as alike as two peas in a pod.

Florida megadeal aims to restore Everglades

Jim Wark—Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Florida has reached a tentative 1.75-billion-dollar deal to buy the largest US sugar producer and turn its vast swaths of farmland into reservoirs to protect the fabled Everglades wetlands, US media reported Wednesday.

“The plan, described as the largest conservation purchase in Florida’s history, envisions restoring some of the natural flow of water to the Everglades from Lake Okeechobee,” The amount of land involved is some 187,000 acres…

Spanning 1.5 million acres, the Everglades is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 US states, after Death Valley and Yellowstone.

For decades water from areas north of the massive wetlands has been diverted to fast-growing cities and for farming. Pollution has taken a growing toll.

The deal with US Sugar would help restore more of the pre-development ecosystem; water could move from Lake Okeechobee into marshes that filter it and then on to the “sea of grass” at the southern end of the Florida peninsula. A direct lake-Everglades connection has been a dream of environmental groups.

Overdue.

And a wonder for future generations if the restoration is thoughtfully carried out.