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Shutdown May Hinder California’s Rim Fire Cleanup

Posted in News with tags on October 5, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Shutdown May Hinder California’s Rim Fire Cleanup

By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer   |   September 30, 2013 02:17pm ET
The Rim Fire approaches the Groveland Ranger Station in August 2013.
Credit: U.S. Forest Service   

One of the worst wildfires in California’s history continues to burn in Yosemite National Park, where employees will be furloughed if the government can’t pass a budget tomorrow (Oct. 1).

The Rim Fire has burned more than 257,000 acres (1,040 square kilometers) and is 92 percent contained. (Containment means the fire can still burn, but the flames are trapped within a perimeter, with little chance of escape.)

Very little is left of the extreme blaze, which consumed entire canyons. Now, a few hot spots char the ground in Yosemite National Park, where Park Service policy allows nonthreatening fires to burn themselves out, renewing the forest. “It’s burning at very, very low intensity,” said Michelle Carbonaro, fire information officer for the Rim Fire. “We suspect they’re not calling it [as] out because there are some unsettled weather patterns coming that could stir up fire activity,” Carbonaro told LiveScience.

But the shutdown could hamper efforts to mop up hot spots and stabilize scorched soils because it will mean firefighters and emergency response teams will be low on cash.

“It will be difficult for teams to purchase supplies and equipment,” said Jerry Snyder, public affairs officer for the Stanislaus National Forest. “Permission can be granted, but there isn’t a budget to purchase necessary materials beyond what they already have on hand.”

The possible shutdown would also be a financial blow for Yosemite National Park and private businesses nearby, which suffered severe economic losses this summer because of the fire. With the Rim Fire nearly out and major roads reopened, visitors were finally returning to Yosemite for camping and the park’s fall foliage display. [Yosemite Aflame: Rim Fire in Photos]

The National Park Service must shutter hundreds of parks and historic sites and furlough thousands of nonessential employees if a new spending law fails to pass tomorrow, the start of fiscal year 2014, according to the Department of the Interior. Day trippers will be kicked out immediately and overnight visitors will be given 48 hours to leave.

For Yosemite National Park, the good news is the shutdown won’t stop firefighters from battling the blaze. And in the Stanislaus National Forest, an emergency soil restoration team will continue its efforts to stabilize steep slopes before the winter rains arrive, Snyder said. Both the soil restoration team and firefighters are considered essential employees, he said.

An estimate of soil burn severity after the Rim Fire from the Forest Service.
Credit: U.S. Forest Service BAER 

The Forest Service’s Burned Area Emergency Response Team — the soil emergency restoration team — has found moderate to severe soil damage in 37 percent of the entire burned area, which includes river watersheds that supply drinking water to San Francisco and many other California cities.

Only 287 firefighters (down from more than 4,500 in late August) continue to mop up hot spots and work on containing the Rim Fire. Started in Stanislaus National Forest on Aug. 17 by a hunter’s illegal campfire, the Rim Fire is California’s third-largest wildfire since the 1930s and the biggest ever in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The fire destroyed 11 homes and more than 2 million board-feet of timber in the national forest. (A board-foot is a measure of the volume of lumber, referring to a board that is 1 foot in length and width and 1 inch thick.)

“The fire is fully contained in the Stanislaus National Forest, but there are plenty of internal smokes that we are chasing down and trying to put out,” Snyder told LiveScience.

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @livescience,Facebook & Google+. Original article on


How Would a Government Shutdown Impact Science?

Posted in News with tags on October 2, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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How Would a Government Shutdown Impact Science?

Life’s Little Mysteries Staff   |   September 30, 2013 05:23pm ET
The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
Credit: gary718 | 

Once again, congressional Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on a budget bill, and the result could be a shutdown of the U.S. federal government. Similar situations occurred in 2011 and earlier this year, when budget cuts related to sequestration took hold.

Since 1977, there have been 17 shutdowns, according to USA Today, most of which lasted no more than a day or two. “Unfortunately, we’re getting familiar with dealing with this,” Ted Davies, president of government contractor Unisys Federal Systems, told the Washington Post. “You do all the preparing you can.”

The snag this time is the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare“), which was passed by Congress in 2010. Congressional Republicans — particularly in the House of Representatives — are attempting to defund or delay its implementation. If the two sides can’t come to an agreement by Monday (Sept. 30) at midnight, a government shutdown will begin to take effect. [7 Great Congressional Dramas]

A complete government shutdown doesn’t mean that all government employees will stop working. “Essential operations” — such as national security, law enforcement, criminal investigations, care of prisoners,air-traffic control and other transportation safety functions — will keep working during a shutdown.

So what might result from a shutdown this time? If history teaches any lessons, the shutdowns of the past may provide some guidance.


During a November 1995 shutdown, an estimated 800,000 federalemployees were furloughed. During the 21-day 1995-1996 shutdown, the estimate of furloughed federal employees was 284,000, with another 475,000 essential federal employees continuing to work without pay.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget estimated that the first of those two shutdowns cost taxpayers an estimated $100 million per day. The final cost of the three-week shutdown, including back pay to employees who did not go to work during that time, was more than $1.25 billion. According to the Government Accountability Office, a funding gap of just three days in 1991 ran up a $607 million bill, including $363 million in lost revenue and fees.

And according to some estimates, there would be 800,000 to 1 million federal employees furloughed in the case of a shutdown this time. Those estimates do not include government contractors.


New patients were not accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical center during past shutdowns, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ceased disease surveillance, hotline calls to NIH concerning diseases were not answered, and toxic-waste cleanup work at 609 sites reportedly stopped, resulting in 2,400 Superfund workers being sent home.

This year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that a government shutdown could mean furloughing more than 40,000 staff, while retaining about 37,000, according to the Post. And while some agencies, including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, would have to furlough the majority of their staff, the CDC would continue “minimal support” to protect the health of U.S. citizens, though it would have a “significantly reduced capacity” to respond to disease outbreaks and would be unable to continue its annual flu program.

Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration would be forced to furlough about 45 percent of its workforce, according to the Post, and the agency would cease routine inspections, monitoring of imports and most laboratory research.

Ironically, Obamacare — the sticking point in the current budget debacle — will continue its rollout, despite Republican efforts to kill the program. The Affordable Care Act is a permanent entitlement that isn’t subject to annual funding by Congress, according to USA Today, and all state-run health insurance exchanges will open as scheduled on Tuesday (Oct. 1).

Energy, environment and public lands

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy told the Post that the agency would all but close in the event of a government shutdown, leaving just a handful of staff members available to “keep the lights on and respond in the event of a significant emergency.”

Most of the Department of Energy’s offices would close during a shutdown, except for those groups overseeing nuclear weapons and naval-reactor programs, and officials in charge of dams and electrical transmission lines around the country.

The Department of Interior — which oversees the National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Land Management — would furlough about two-thirds of its staff, according to the Post. Closure of 368 National Park Service sites, including national monuments andnational museums, would begin immediately. These closures would cause a significant loss of tourism revenue for local communities.

Science and technology

The National Science Foundation — which funds 2,000 research institutions, including astronomy observatories, and science and technology centers, as well as millions of dollars in research grants each year — was gravely affected during the last shutdown. Approximately $120 million in research grants went unmade during that time, delaying the support of approximately 2,000 people to carry out research and education activities.

Additionally, 240 grant proposals for science and engineering research and education went unprocessed each day of the shutdown, resulting in a backlog of 3,000 grant proposals, 1,000 of which would normally have been accepted. Dozens of panels, meetings and workshops were canceled.

This year, all Smithsonian Institution museums and zoos will be closed immediately if a shutdown takes place. Only personnel involved in “security, maintenance, and the [National] Zoo employees that are responsible for the care of the animals,” will continue working, according to a spokeswoman for the Smithsonian, as quoted in the Post.

About 5,700 employees of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would remain on the job because their analysis and dissemination of weather data are considered necessary “to protect life and property,” the Post reports.

Finally, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has about four weeks’ worth of funds (partly from user fees) to continue operating, but once those funds run dry, the agency will be forced to close.

Visas and passports

In prior shutdowns, about 20,000 to 30,000 applications by foreigners for visas reportedly went unprocessed each day by the U.S. Department of State, some 200,000 U.S. applications for passports reportedly went unprocessed, and U.S. tourist industries and airlines reportedly sustained millions of dollars in losses.

Last Friday (Sept. 27), the State Department reported that it still has some funds outside the annual congressional appropriation to continue functioning in the event of a government shutdown. “Consular operations domestically and overseas will remain 100 percent operational as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations,” the State Department said in a statement.

Veterans’ services

In previous shutdowns, multiple services for veterans were curtailed, ranging from health and welfare to finance and travel.

Medical services offered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would not be affected by a shutdown, according to the Post, but benefits programs would probably be curtailed. VA offices handling disability claims would have limited services, the Veterans Benefits Administration would stop processing benefits and the Board of Veterans’ Appeals would cease all hearings.

Law enforcement and public safety

In previous shutdowns, delays occurred in the processing of applications by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; work on more than 3,500 bankruptcy cases reportedly was suspended; cancellation of the recruitment and testing of federal law enforcement officials reportedly occurred, including a halt to hiring 400 border-patrol agents; and delinquent child-support cases were delayed.

Many law-enforcement personnel are exempt from a shutdown, including employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; federal prison staff; members of the U.S. Parole Commission; and U.S. attorneys across the country.

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Infographic: Visualizing the US National Debt

Posted in News with tags on October 2, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Infographic: Visualizing the US National Debt

Life’s Little Mysteries Staff 
The U.S. National Debt topped $14 trillion yesterday. That works out to more than $45,000 of debt for every every man, woman and child in the U.S.

How the government shutdown is tearing the GOP apart

Posted in News with tags on October 2, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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How the government shutdown is tearing the GOP apart

Entering day two of the shutdown, Republicans have turned this into a fight among themselves
By Jon Terbush | 6:02am EST
Boehner is caught between warring factions of his party.
Boehner is caught between warring factions of his party. (Getty Images/Win McNamee)
In the past few weeks, as Congress has lumbered inexorably toward a government shutdown, we’ve seen the emergence of a new faction in the Republican Party: The Ted Cruz wing.So named after the polarizing senator from Texas, the Ted Cruz wing, which is essentially the Tea Party in concentrated form, has been accused of all manner of nefariousness by members of the GOP, from backstabbing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to acting like “lemmings with suicide vests.”The very public acrimony on display is a significant moment in the ongoing evolution of the GOP, and the latest evidence that its quixotic strategy to “defund” ObamaCare has exposed — and perhaps exacerbated — a huge divide in the party. Indeed, even though the focus has largely been on the grinding stalemate between Democrats and Republicans, the most vicious fighting has pitted Republicans against one another.

The internecine warfare began weeks ago, when it became clear Republicans had no chance of convincing the Democratic-led Senate or President Obama to join them in defunding ObamaCare. With Cruz publicly and privately exhorting Tea Partiers in the House to go through with it anyway, GOP aides called the freshman Texan a “joke” and griped that he was torpedoing the party for his own political gain.

The Republican backlash grew stronger as Congress approached, and then passed, the deadline to fund the government, in large part because the defund position is deeply unpopular with the general public.

Voters, by a resounding 3-1 margin, oppose shutting down the government to block the health-care law, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday. And by a 74-17 percent margin, they disapprove of how congressional Republicans have been doing their jobs — the GOP’s worst marks ever.

Recognizing the strength of their position, Democrats have refused to budge one inch.

“As long as I am president, I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hardworking Americans,” Obama reaffirmedTuesday.

While Democrats have been able to remain united throughout the process, Republicans have devolved into intraparty name-calling that could hurt them in the long run.

Here’s Slate’s John Dickerson on that point:

If Republicans want to stand fast against overwhelming public opinion, unity during the shutdown is critical. They should be singing from the same song sheet, something that goes a little like this: “We acted to keep government open while trying to protect Americans from being forced into a system they don’t trust and which has had such problems the president has exempted big business but not regular people.” But there is no unity in the Republican chorus. That was clear even before the shutdown began, as Republican senators spoke openly about the folly of the GOP’s approach. That’s why John McCain, who was one such senator, was tweeting out polling figures that undermine the House Republican cause. So many Republican members have spoken out against the strategy that the Tea Party Express sent out a fundraising appeal asking, “With Republicans Like These, Who Needs Democrats?” [Slate]

Faced with a unified wall of opposition, and mindful of the overwhelming poll numbers, some Republicans have split with the party and said they are ready to throw in the towel.

“We’ve called their bluff, and they didn’t blink,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) told The New York Times. “At this point it would kind of strain logic to assume that going deeper into this when Republicans are likely to get the blame will benefit us more.”

Moderates threatened to revolt Monday night and strike an embarrassing blow to House leadership. Though that plan flamed out, more centrist members have since denounced Cruz and his cohorts and insisted the GOP strike a new course.

By some accounts, there are now enough Republican votes for Boehner to successfully bring a clean government-funding resolution to a vote and send it on to the Senate, ending the shutdown. But Boehner has been so “crippled” since Tea Party–aligned newbies in January threatened to oust him from his post, according to National Review’s well-sourced Robert Costa, that he hasn’t dared to stand up to them since.

“What we’re seeing is the collapse of institutional Republican power,” Costa told The Washington Post.

Adding to the chaos, powerful outside groups have targeted Republicans who have broken with Cruz. When some Republican senators supported cloture on the first House budget bill — meaning, they merely refused to stall a vote on the bill itself — the Senate Conservatives Fund called it the “ultimate betrayal.” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the SCF said, was a “turncoat” who had “surrendered to Barack Obama.”

Combined, this has created a no-win situation for Boehner, leaving him, and the party, hopelessly hamstrung. Under fire from both sides in his own caucus, he will eventually have to cut one wing loose and suffer the backlash.

Whatever Boehner decides, it could determine who is in control of the Republican Party: The Ted Cruz wing or what is left of the establishment.

Colorado floods

Posted in News with tags on September 23, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Colorado floods

The effort continued today to locate more than 500 people still missing from last week’s damaging floods in Colorado. The death toll stood at 6, which state officials said is expected to rise from the heavy rains that washed out roads, collapsed bridges, destroyed homes, and left a massive clean-up in their wake. – Lloyd Young ( 37 photos )


Homeowner Chris Ringdahl, left, is comforted by family friend Katherine MacIntosh, right, in front of her possessions as they cleanup from the floodwaters in Longmont, Colo., on Sept. 16. Floodwaters have affected a 4,500 square-mile section of the state inundating entire neighborhoods and destroying bridges and roads. (Chris Schneider/Associated Press) 


An abandoned car lies off a road devastated by flood waters along the South Platte River east of Greeley, Colo, on Sept. 17. Northern Colorado’s broad agricultural expanses are especially affected, with more than 400 lane-miles of state highway and more than 30 bridges destroyed or impassable. (John Wark/Associated Press) #


A woman, who asked not to be identified, carries two children while being evacuated by the Juniper Valley Fire Crew on Sept. 14, on Olde Stage Road in Boulder, Colo,. Rescuers rushed by land and by air to evacuate Coloradans stranded by epic mountain flooding as debris-filled rivers became muddy seas that extended into towns and farms miles from the Rockies. Four people have been confirmed dead since the harrowing floods began. And hundreds of others have not been heard from in the flood zone, which has grown to cover an area covering nearly 4,500 square miles (11,655 square kilometers), nearly the size of the US state of Connecticut. (Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera via Associated Press) #


Farm buildings stand in fields submerged by flooding along the South Platte River in Weld County, Colo., near Greeley, on Sept. 14. The days-long rush of water from higher ground turned parts of Colorado’s expansive eastern plains into muddy swamps. (John Wark/Associated Press) #


A woman looks at Boulder Creek, which flooded early today after three days of heavy rainfall Sept. 12 in Boulder, Colo. An estimated 6-10 inches of rain fell in 12-18 hours and more is expected throughout the day. Flash flood sirens warned people to stay away from Boulder Creek and seek higher ground. (Dana Romanoff/Getty Images) #


The Summit County Rescue team works to save Suzanne Sophocles, center, from her severely flooded home on Sept. 13 in Boulder, Colo. By truck and helicopter, thousands of people stranded by floodwaters came down from the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 13. This is two days after seemingly endless rain turned normally scenic rivers and creeks into coffee-colored rapids that wrecked scores of roads and wiped out neighborhoods. (Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera via Associated Press) #


Officials investigate the scene of a road collapse at Highway 287 and Dillon at the Broomfield/Lafayette border that sent three vehicles into the water after flash flooding on Sept. 12. The National Weather Service has warned of an “extremely dangerous and life-threatening situation” throughout the region. (Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera via Associated Press) #


An aerial photo shows Highway 34 being destroyed toward Estes Park , Colo. as flooding continues to devastate the Colorado Front Range and thousands are forced to evacuate with an unconfirmed number of structures destroyed Sept. 13. (Dennis Pierce/Colorado Heli-Ops via Associated Press) #


Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment out of Fort Carson, Colo. along with civilian rescue personnel, rescue members of the Jamestown, Colo. community and children from Cal-Wood Education Center after severe flooding shut down major roads leading out of town on Sept. 14. Colorado is experiencing record flooding not seen in decades. (European Pressphoto Agency) #


Volunteer, Ella Kuhlman, 5, helps sort donations at the evacuation shelter staged at Timberline Church in Fort Collins, Colo., on Sept. 15. Four people have been confirmed dead since the harrowing floods began Wednesday. And hundreds of others have not been heard from in the flood zone, which has grown to cover an area covering nearly 4,500 square miles (11,655 square kilometers), nearly the size of the US state of Connecticut. (Dawn Madura/The Coloradoan via Associated Press) #


Floodwaters inundate a street in Loveland, Colo., on Sept. 16. Floodwaters have affected a 4,500 square-mile section of the state inundating entire neighborhoods and destroying bridges and roads. (Chris Schneider/Associated Press) #


Suzanne Sophocles hugs her dogs after they were all rescued from her flooded home on Sept. 13 in Boulder, Colo. (Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera via Associated Press) #


Nancy Cousins cleans off furniture that was in her flooded basement in Longmont, Colo., on Sept. 17. The rains finally stopped, allowing many Colorado flood evacuees to return home to toppled houses and upended vehicles with the realization that rebuilding their lives will take months. Search crews, meanwhile, rescued hundreds more people stranded by floodwaters. (Chris Schneider/Associated Press) #


Nicky Toor, 15, tubes on the lawn of North Boulder Park September 12 in Boulder, Colo. An estimated 6-10 inches of rain fell in 12-18 hours and more is expected throughout the day. Flash flood sirens warned people to stay away from Boulder Creek and seek higher ground. (Dana Romanoff/Getty Images) #


Cortney Perez of Lyons, Colo., pets her dog, while one of her birds rests on her shoulder at the LifeBridge Church in Longmont, Colo., on Sept. 15. The church provides food and shelter for families and pets. The National Weather Service says up to 2 inches of rain could fall Sunday, creating a risk of more flooding and mudslides. (Cliff Grassmick/The Daily Camera via Associated Press) #


People rush into LifeBridge Church to escape the rain in Longmont, Colo., on Sept. 15. The National Weather Service says up to 2 inches of rain could fall on Sept. 15, creating a risk of more flooding and mudslides. (Cliff Grassmick/The Daily Camera via Associated Press) #


Flood water shoots out of a sewer on Canon Avenue next to the Cliff House in Manitou Springs, Colo. Sept. 12, as storms continue to dump rain over the Waldo Canyon burn scar. (Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette via Associated Press) #


Mike McDaniels shovels out mud from the basement of a friend’s house in Longmont Colo., Sept. 14. By air and by land, the rescue of hundreds of Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding was accelerating as food and water supplies ran low, while thousands more were driven from their homes on the plains as debris-filled rivers became muddy seas inundating towns and farms miles from the Rockies. (Cliff Grassmick /The Daily Camera via Associated Press) #


A National Guard truck that was damaged by floodwaters and was carried into a drainage ditch by the current lies next to twisted railroad tracks in Longmont, Colo., on Sept. 16. Floodwaters have affected a 4,500 square-mile section of the state inundating entire neighborhoods and destroying bridges and roads. (Chris Schneider/Associated Press) #


A home is pulled into the fast currents of the flooded South Platte River off of US 34 between Greeley and Kersey, Colo., on Sept. 16. Weary evacuees have begun returning home after days of rain and flooding, but the clearing skies and receding waters revealed only more heartbreak: toppled houses, upended vehicles and a stinking layer of muck covering everything. (Joshua Polson/The Greeley Tribune via Associated Press) #


Suffering from dehydration, local resident Fred Rob gets help from emergency responders after floods left homes and infrastructure in a shambles, in Lyons, Colo., on Sept. 13. Days of heavy rains and flash floods which washed out the town’s bridges and destroyed the electrical and sanitation infrastructure have left many Lyons residents stranded with minimal access to help, and sectioned off the town into several pieces not reachable one to the other. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press) #


Dave Jackson closes a mailbox with his foot after delivering the mail to a home surrounded on three sides by a flooded Cheyenne Creek Sept. 13, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Coffee-colored floodwaters cascaded downstream from the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 13, transforming normally scenic rivers and creeks into fast, unforgiving torrents and forcing thousands more evacuations from water-logged communities beset by days of steady rain. (Michael Ciaglo/The Gazette via Associated Press) #


Local residents look over a road washed out by a torrent of water following overnight flash flooding near Left Hand Canyon, south of Lyons, Colo., on Sept 12. The widespread high waters are keeping search and rescue teams from reaching stranded residents in Lyons and nearby mountain communities as heavy rains hammered northern Colorado. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press) #


Topaz Street resident Jake Koplen of Boulder, Colo. stands at the edge of his driveway after the street in front of his home was washed away Sept. 13, in Boulder, Colo. Heavy rains for the better part of week has fueled widespread flooding and evacuations in numerous Colorado towns, with the area reportedly already having received 15 inches of rain. (Marc Piscotty/Getty Images) #


Krsitin McDonald, right, dries out family photos while her husband Stanley McDonald, left, wipes his brow after their basement flooded in Longmont, Colo., on Sept. 14. Floodwaters have affected a 4,500 square-mile section of the state. National Guard helicopters have been evacuating residents from the hardest hit communities. (Chris Schneider/Associated Press) #


Dan Feldheim, left, Scott Hoffenberg, center, and John Smart, pass sandbags as residents reinforce the dam on University Hill in Boulder, Colo., on Sept. 15. (Paul Aiken/The Daily Camera via Associated Press) #


Noe Sura, 7, right, and her brother Eli, 7, play in the mud clogged ground around their home after days of flooding, on the southern edge of Boulder, Colo., on Sept. 14. By air and by land, the rescue of hundreds of Coloradans, stranded by epic mountain flooding was accelerating as food and water supplies ran low, while thousands more were driven from their homes on the plains as debris-filled rivers became muddy seas inundating towns and farms miles from the Rockies. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press) #


Local resident Fred Rob sits in the doorway of his home, destroyed by floods which left his town in a shambles, in Lyons, Colo., on Sept. 13. Days of heavy rains and flash floods which washed out the town’s bridges and destroyed the electrical and sanitation infrastructure have left many Lyons residents stranded with minimal access to help, and sectioned off the town into several pieces not reachable one to the other. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press) #


Erez Shani packs down soil at the top of a berm that is redirecting water as heavy rains cause flooding to rise in Boulder, Colo. on Sept. 15. Colorado officials warned on Sunday the death toll from the week’s severe flooding could rise as it was confirmed that a second person was missing and presumed dead, in addition to four deaths previously verified. (Mark Leffingwell/Reuters) #


SFC Keith Bart, with 2-4 GSAB 4th Infantry Division based in Ft. Carson, helps a woman who was winched up to a helicopter outside Jamestown, Colo. which was cut off due to flooding, Sept. 17. The emergency airlifts of flood victims waned Sept. 17, leaving rescue crews to systematically search the nooks and crannies of the northern Colorado foothills and transportation officials to gauge what it will take to rebuild the wasted landscape. (Mark Leffingwell/Pool) #


An aerial view of suburban streets flooded in Longmont, Colo. on Sept. 13. National Guard troops plucked stranded residents out of danger by helicopter and hauled them out of an inundated community in military trucks, as the death toll from the worst floods to hit Colorado in decades rose to four. (John Wark/Reuters) #


Members of the a FEMA Urban Search & Rescue team check homes off of Lee Hill Drive to make sure people are accounted for in Boulder, Colo., on Sept. 16. Officials hope the number of missing will drop rapidly as communications are restored and people are evacuated throughout the region, as it did in Larimer County, where almost 250 people were lopped off a missing-persons list over the weekend, and Boulder County, where the list shrunk by 187 people. (Mark Leffingwell/The Daily Camera, via Associated Press) #


John Wagner, front right, cleans-off storage containers that were drenched by mud and water, as friends and family help with clean-up from historic floods in Longmont, Colo., on, Sept. 16. Floodwaters have affected a 4,500 square-mile section of the state inundating entire neighborhoods and destroying bridges and roads. (Chris Schneider/Associated Press) #


Colleen Keane, at right, works with Burggraf Disaster Restoration worker Robert Frawley to sift through muddy water that flooded her basement on Sept. 15, on Iris Avenue in Boulder, Colo. (Jeremy Papasso/Daily Camera via Associated Press) #


Robert Pandolfi of Longmont, Colo. pauses for a moment while using a shovel to direct water in the basement of his boss’ home as residents clean up in the wake of a week of heavy flooding on Sept. 16, in Longmont, Colo. More than 600 people are unaccounted for and thousands were forced to evacuate after historic flooding devastated communities in Colorado. (Marc Piscotty/Getty Images) #


Local residents Holly Rob, right, and her neighbor and friend Pam Bowers hug after a day salvaging Rob’s belongings after floods destroyed Rob’s home, in Lyons, Colo., Sept. 13. Days of heavy rains and flash floods which washed out the town’s bridges and destroyed the electrical and sanitation infrastructure have left many Lyons residents cut off with minimal access to help, and sectioned off the town into several pieces not reachable one to the other. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press) #


A tractors sits partially submerged in a farm field after flooding along the South Platte River in Weld County, Colo. near Greeley, on Sept. 14. The days-long rush of water from higher ground turned parts of Colorado’s expansive eastern plains into muddy swamps. (John Wark/Associated Press)


How Did This California Girl Become a Real Warrior Princess?

Posted in News with tags on September 22, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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How Did This California Girl Become a Real Warrior Princess?

By  | Secrets to Your Success – 11 hours ago–183524755.html

California entrepreneurMindy Budgor was just 27 when she sold off a successful business she had created, netting enough to drive a BMW and shop at Gucci and Prada. Still, she felt hollow and like a failure, and was desperate to find more meaning in life.

More on Shine: Father and Daughter’s Amazing Appalachian Trek to Save Lives

Budgor found it in the unlikeliest of places: the Kenyan wilderness, where she slept on the ground with members of the Maasai tribe, shedding enough of her formerly privileged existence to become the tribe’s first female warrior.

“If you’d told me a year earlier that I’d be deep in the bush, hair knotted from days in the forest, running in the direction of a 1,300-pound [buffalo] that could make short work of me, I’d have told you to get your head examined,” she told Glamour in an October-issue story about her new memoir, “Warrior Princess.” “Yet there I was. And I’d never been more sure I was in the right place.”


So how did a nice Jewish girl from Santa Barbara—one who loved manis and pedis and warm croissants, and whose biggest travel adventure up to that point had been a cruise to Alaska, according to the Guardian—wind up in such a place?

It all started with Budgor’s decision to take a friend’s advice: She would shake up her comfortable life and embark upon a tough humanitarian mission to Kenya, where she’d assist in building a health clinic in a Kenyan game reserve.

During her two weeks there, she learned much about the seminomadic Maasai tribe through conversations with Winston, a local chief who spoke fluent English. He told her about the tribe’s brave warriors—how they ate raw meat, fended off lions and buffaloes, protected their community with spears and swords, and were basically fearless.

Budgor asked if women could be warriors and was told, unequivocally, no, because “women aren’t strong enough or brave enough to do it.”

That answer, as Budgor explained in her Guardian essay, made her furious. “I can take no for an answer if there’s a good reason, but the idea that women couldn’t be warriors just because they weren’t men wasn’t sitting well with me,” she wrote. “Winston and I made a deal that if I left my stilettos behind, he would take me through the traditional rites of passage to become a warrior.”

Budgor’s book, out now.

She flew back to California to prepare for her incredible opportunity — one that a Maasai woman implored upon her not to squander. It was then, Budgor explains, that she realized the challenge went beyond the personal.

“Maasai women are extraordinarily strong: they build homes, chop trees for firewood, walk seven hours a day to fetch water,” she explained in the Guardian. “But they are not treated as equals. I knew that the warriors had the utmost respect in the tribe and that they were given greater access to education and not married off when they were 12. I believed that providing women with the right to become warriors would broaden the tribe’s perspective of their personal power, which could only help them fight to maintain their customs.”

After working with a personal trainer for six weeks in California to get in shape for her upcoming challenge, Budgor, along with a similarly adventurous friend, returned to Winston. He reneged on his offer, but the determined women found their way to a more open-minded warrior named Lanet, in Nairobi, who agreed to take them on.

They headed into the African bush with essentials: tartan sheets for clothing, metal tips for spears and, for Budgor, a bottle of Chanel Dragon red nail polish (“It just made me feel fierce,” she explained) and a pair of pearl earrings to remind her of home.

Lanet and six other warriors then led them through a month of surreal tasks that were both physically and mentally challenging: sleeping on the ground in a communal bed of leaves and branches, going days without food, getting bloody blisters on her hands as she practiced spear-hunting skills, and, incredibly, suffocating a goat to death and drinking its warm blood (which Budgor vomited up immediately).

“The entire time I never put a brush through my hair. I’d wash myself with the same water cows and buffalo used, yet I felt beautiful,” she told Glamour. “I felt strong. I felt proud.”

In a final test of bravery, Budgor speared a massive buffalo, inspiring cheers from her warrior trainers. She had passed, and was deemed a warrior, and succeeded in changing the Maasai gender policy; this year, 12 girls in the village she had been in will go through the warrior training.

Back in the U.S., Budgor went back to her life of luxury, but was forever changed. “I wasn’t the same girl who’d gone into the bush,” she said.

She went on to graduate from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, currently lives in New York, and has not stopped pushing herself. In August, Budgor ran a half marathon in Canada, posting these words of wisdom on her Facebook page in the days leading up to the race: “Warrior tip: Keep going.”

There Is a Man Wandering Around California With 3 Mules

Posted in News with tags on September 22, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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There Is a Man Wandering Around California With 3 Mules

The AtlanticBy Mark Lukach | The Atlantic – 18 hours ago


There is a man wandering around California with three mules.

He has a name, but he prefers to go by Mule. Police departments throughout the state know his name. They inevitably get calls from residents who wonder why a man with three mules is sleeping on the side of the road, and from time to time they have to go and investigate and decide whether or not to ticket him. He has had so many run-ins with the police that he has a lawyer. (The lawyer knows Mule’s name.) The filmmaker John McDonald, who has spent hundreds of hours filming Mule on his journeys, and who helped Mule set up a Facebook page, knows Mule’s name as well.

But Mule introduced himself to me as Mule, and so that’s what I’m going to call him.

Mule is 65 years old and has slept outside with his three mules for the last 10 years, though he’s lived his nomadic lifestyle for much longer than that – 29 years on and off. Early on, he split his time between summer wandering, and then enduring what he calls “shit jobs” during the winter to earn enough to live off for the next summer.

He got his first mule in Spokane, Washington, so that he could carry more supplies with him into the bush than his meager, rail-thin frame can handle; McDonald says of Mule, ”He has the build of Ghandi, but he sure doesn’t have the personality of Ghandi.” With his first mule, and then a second, and a third, he could load up on supplies to last him for much longer in the undeveloped parts of the American West, so he’d only have to resurface in towns to resupply once every month or so before once again disappearing.

But the world he inhabited was changing. While he sought solitude, he kept bumping into development. Land he had passed through was no longer public, and was vanishing behind fences. Everywhere he looked, he saw ever more roads and cars.

Two years ago, he walked the 295 mile stretch of land between Las Vegas and Ely, Nevada, land that was supposed to stay undeveloped by the Bureau of Land Management, land that had been used by Shoshone Indians for hundreds of years. In that BLM land, he encountered powerlines, the earliest stages of development. He knew then that he wanted to speak up about what he was seeing. Most immediately, suburban sprawl was threatening his way of life, but as Mule sees it, it threatens the way we all are meant to live. On the road to Ely, he gave up on wandering in the wild by himself. He got to Ely, and turned west, so that he could talk to people about the disappearance of public space.

Which is why there is a man wandering through California with three mules.

He has walked the boardwalk in Venice Beach with his mules. They once slept under a BART station in Oakland. They walk at day, and stop at night to rest in public spaces, which are mostly parks and neglected patches of grass along the sides of roads. His mules graze and drink the water they come across along the way. “We claim our right to use public space in a way that is applicable to us,” Mule told me.

But this does not always go well for Mule. As he walked through Sacramento, a police officer told him, “This is not okay. Maybe in the gold rush days. But now we have cars.” Police stop him constantly, which is a nuisance for Mule. He’s not doing anything wrong, at least as he sees it. “We don’t attempt to stay anywhere for more than a few days to rest. We don’t set up camp structures or anything permanent. We don’t collect garbage. We’re not homeless. Our home is the Earth.”

The police mostly let him stay for the night, since he’s only passing through. It’s rare to find places where mules are explicitly prohibited by law, so they often don’t have much to go on besides complaints from the community. Sometimes the police scare him off from where he intended to sleep for the night. Sometimes they ticket him, but they almost always drop the charges. But not always. He is currently facing a $485 charge for sleeping outside the entrance to the Torrey Pines State Reserve. He’s fighting the ticket, which is why he has a lawyer, Sharon Sherman, who has taken on the case pro bono. The first thing she had to do was push the date of the trial back from August 2013 to January 2014, because Mule follows the sun and the seasons, and escapes the summer heat in the north, and was far from San Diego at the time of the original trial date.

Recently, he had a rather nasty, run-in with the police in Gilroy, south of San Jose. He was arrested on August 30 while walking along the side of 101. The police wanted Mule to leave the road, but he insisted that there were no signs prohibiting him from being there. They arrested him for failing to follow the orders of a police officer, and Mule was taken to jail, and then transferred to a psychiatric facility, where he stayed locked up for six days. The animals were sent to a nearby animal shelter. Mule was released through the aid of a patients-rights advocate, who told a friend of Mule that it was the most bogus case she had ever seen. Mule will be going to court on September 12 to defend his plea of not guilty so that he can get back to wandering.

The filmmaker John McDonald met Mule the same way that I did — a happenstance bumping into him, and McDonald couldn’t contain his curiosity. After a few interactions, Mule agreed to let McDonald make a documentary about him, and to follow him around and collect footage.

While McDonald was at first interested in Mule as a documentary subject, after a few months of filming, he confessed to Mule, “I really believe a lot in what you’re doing. In spite of the documentary, I would probably want to support you and what you’re doing, and I respect you.”

Everyone has their own attraction to Mule. While I was interviewing him, roughly a dozen people stopped to say hi, wish him luck, or even give him gifts, like a man who gave Mule a length of high-quality nylon rope. “A cowboy can always use some rope,” the stranger said with a smile, and walked off. Mule is very popular amongst equestrians — while researching this article, I found out that a writer with Mules and More Magazine is also writing about Mule. He has support from advocates of multi-use trails that connect communities, trails like the Iron Horse Trail in Contra Costa County in San Francisco’s East Bay, a trail that allows people to safely get from town to town without using cars.

Mule’s lawyer, Sharon Sherman, took on his case because she is fascinated by the legal questions that Mule’s way of life raise. “There is always a balance between people’s freedoms, and the needs of a community,” she explained to me. “To me, this is another example of that. I’ve been in practice for 35 years, but Mule really made me stop and think about issues that I’ve never considered before. We have a countervailing balance between public space, private space, and what access do we really have to public space. Sure, I can walk down a street, but which street? What’s the difference in using a road in a car, than with mules? Why do you have more rights in a car, than if you are walking, and walking with animals?”

But what struck me most when I came across Mule along the Canal Trail, an offshoot of the Iron Horse Trail, wasn’t just the mules, or his simple, nomadic way of life. It was the large white lettering that was stenciled to the side of his packs, lettering that wrote out 3MULES.COM.

There is a man wandering through California with three mules, and a website.

When Mule first turned west from Ely, Nevada, he had his heart set on starting a website. “I needed a website so that when I got to California, I would have a voice,” Mule explained to me. “I don’t have the brain to deal with this technological stuff, but I knew that the website would be a voice. I’m nothing. I’m uneducated, I’m a weak little man, I’m the low man on the totem pole and I’ve been there my whole life. But a website would be my voice.”

When John McDonald first met Mule over a year ago, Mule was carrying with him three cell phones, two voice recorders, a digital camera, and a Samsung tablet. He already had his website,, up and running — set up as an act of kindness by a person he met on his way to California. But the website had very little information, and Mule didn’t know how to update it. When Mule agreed to let McDonald film him, he asked for a favor in return: McDonald had to teach Mule how to use the tools that he carried with him.

Every time they meet, Mule takes scrupulous notes in a notebook on topics like how to post photos to Facebook, or edit captions, or leave comments. It’s a slow process. As McDonald put it, “it takes a tremendous amount of patience to work with Mule, and he is slow to build trust. He has given me his passwords, but then he gets paranoid and changes his passwords, and then he’ll call me and give me the new ones.” The first time they met, McDonald taught Mule how to send text messages, so Mule didn’t have to pay roaming charges for the extremely limited plan he had for his cell phone.

As of this writing, Mule has 2,802 likes on his Facebook page. McDonald encouraged him to set up the Facebook page as a tool to better reach an audience with his message, and it took a lot of convincing. Mule didn’t like the ads on the site, because he doesn’t want his message to be tainted by commercial interests. But Mule is now hooked on it. He told me about his Facebook page three separate times over the course of our interview, and McDonald says that when they meet, the first thing Mule wants to do is talk about how the Facebook page is doing, and study the analytics.

There is something deeply beautiful about how Mule is living. Just read through his Facebook page to see how much people admire his deliberate wanderings and his simple, poetic insights. Many of the things he says about development, the “Megatropolis,” and balance sound almost prophetic. It’s especially captivating to hear him talk about his way of life as a place in and of itself. “These mules and the way that we are living is a place. It’s got its own magic, there’s no doubt about it. We are protected and guided. I’m out there on the side of the road, with cars coming at us, and there is something protecting and guiding us. This place has got its rules. You only take what you need, and you give your hope and your faith to this place. It’s a great place to be.”

But there is also something deeply ironic about Mule’s use of technology. He travels in a way that feels biblical, except that he’s carrying a GPS tracker, cell phones, and a tablet. He goes to Starbucks to charge his devices and use their free WiFi, and it’s hard to think of a more obvious symbol of suburban sprawl than Starbucks. In fact, the first time Mule and McDonald entered a Starbucks together to work on the website, Mule insisted that McDonald didn’t film him inside, fearing it would look bad.

There are those who will say that you can’t preach against the excesses of development while at the same time using the products of development. They will say that he’s just freeloading off the work of others, and that his message is hollowed out by posting it on Facebook.

But I see it differently. Not everyone will be so lucky as to stumble into Mule like I did, to share a brief but powerful encounter with a man who is living his life in a way that makes you ask yourself big questions about public and private space, freedom, and balance. But they can easily stumble onto his website and his Facebook page through the power of Shares and Likes to sample his message.

While he was detained in the psychiatric facility, he handwrote a description of his arrest. When McDonald visited him, Mule gave the note to McDonald to photograph and post on Facebook, so that he could share what he had happened. The note, which is full of grammar mistakes, concludes: “We had the right to be on US101 therefore the order was unlawful we had the duty of a citizen in a free country to disobey an unlawful order and suffer the consequences JAIL.” Without making too grandiose of a comparison, it kind of makes you wonder if Thoreau would have posted portions of “Civil Disobedience” on Facebook, too.

Mule grew up in suburbia, just south of San Francisco, and spent his childhood exploring the orchard fields of Los Altos, orchard fields that were long ago replaced with homes and offices for technology giants. He’s 65 years old. He’s been wandering with his mules for 29 years, and doesn’t like what he has seen change in that time. He will eventually make his way down to San Diego in January for his court date, but he’s in no rush. He’ll make new friends along the way, and will probably butt heads with police along the way, too. As Mule likes to put it, “We live everywhere and aren’t going anywhere.”

There’s a man wandering California with three mules, and a website, collecting Likes along the way.


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