Blue Marble - July 2012

Cruises, Pheasant-Hunting Trips, and Political Donations: The 5 Skeeziest GlaxoSmithKline Perks Revealed

| Thu Jul. 12, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

Four pharmaceutical executives stand with their backs to a darkened Las Vegas auditorium. Smoke machine fog billows at their heels while a platform slowly rotates them to face thousands in the audience. A song from the Space Jam soundtrack plays, stage lights brighten, and suddenly a giant model pill dispenser is revealed on stage. Cue sparklers.

Y’all ready for this?

This is not a parody of corporate conduct. It’s Exhibit 28A, a video (above) uploaded by the Department of Justice last week from court documents pertaining to the "largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history." The scene itself is from the real and not-so-distant past, at GlaxoSmithKline's 2001 sales launch for its asthma medication Advair, which the company promoted as first-line therapy for mild asthma patients. The study that conclusion came from, however, had been flatly rejected by the FDA, and later received a black box warning as the result of deaths in halted clinical trials. The US complaint alleged that GSK continued to market the product as such anyway—as recently as 2010—while providing kickbacks for high-prescribing physicians to boot.

Last week, GlaxoSmithKline agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay a total of $3 billion to resolve allegations pertaining to several other drugs, the illegal marketing of them, and the obscuring of clinical data from the FDA. "Today’s multibillion dollar settlement is unprecedented in both size and scope," Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole said in a press conference.

The investigation unearthed at least a decade's worth of physician kickbacks, fraudulent marketing, and various other kinds of legal (and ethical) boundaries breached, though this kind of behavior seems par for the course across the industry: Last year, Johnson & Johnson, pleading guilty to bribing foreign doctors, agreed to fork up $70 million in fines. As of April, Bristol-Myers Squibb has been subpoenaed by the SEC (likely for something similar), and Merck, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and AstraZeneca have said they are also cooperating with investigations, according to the New York Times.

Meanwhile, as Forbes highlighted, the market hasn't blinked—GSK's stock prices are dandy. Still, the evidence is up and available on the web for anyone to peruse: emails detailing how physicians are to be plied with basketball tickets, a flier for a GSK-sponsored yacht trip, payments made to Dr. Drew Pinsky (yes, the Dr. Drew) as he marketed off-label uses of anti-depressant Wellbutrin, and a physician assistant's request for a deep tissue massage. Deep-sea fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, horseback riding, and balloon rides were just a few of the recreational activities offered to physicians at "Paxil Forum" events held at resorts in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and California in 2000 and 2001.

So, see for yourself: A compilation of some of the most gagworthy snippets from one of Big Pharma's biggest frauds.

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Odds of Record-Breaking Summer Heat Happening Without Climate Change? Try 1 in 1.6 Million.

| Wed Jul. 11, 2012 2:54 PM EDT

You don't need science to tell you it's been really crazy hot lately in much of the United States. But seriously, it's been really stinking hot. How hot? Well, the last 12 months have been the hottest since recorded-keeping started in 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Average temperatures in the continental US for the month of June were a full 2 degrees above the average for the 20th century. It was even worse in Colorado, where temperatures for June were 6.4°F above average. In the latter half of June, 170 record temperatures were broken or tied, hitting 113 in South Carolina and 112 in Georgia, for just two examples.

Sure it's summer, and summer is supposed to be hot. But not this hot—not without global warming at least. NOAA's National Climatic Data Center says that the odds of this heat wave occurring randomly would be 1 in 1,594,323. Pretty low odds. Even critics of that figure say the chances of this summer happening without global warming would be extremely low at 1 in 100,000.

It's not just this year. A new paper published by the American Meteorological Society this month, highlighted in the New York Times on Wednesday, looked at the data on 2011. That paper found that the drought due to high temperatures in Texas last year were “distinctly more probable” than they would have been 40-50 years ago, thanks to global warming. And the high temperatures in the United Kingdom in November 2011 were made 62 times more likely to occur by global warming.

Of course, saying any specific weather event happened "because of" climate change is difficult. But the AMS paper does a good job of explaining what these attribution studies really show:

One analogy of the effects of climate change on extreme weather is with a baseball player (or to choose another sport, a cricketer) who starts taking steroids and afterwards hits on average 20% more home runs (or sixes) in a season than he did before. For any one of his home runs (sixes) during the years the player was taking steroids, you would not know for sure whether it was caused by steroids or not. But you might be able to attribute his increased number to the steroids. And given that steroids have resulted in a 20% increased chance that any particular swing of the player’s bat results in a home run (or a six), you would be able to make an attribution statement that, all other things being equal, steroid use had increased the probability of that particular occurrence by 20%.

Speaking of steroids, the scientists at the University Corporation for Atmospheric research (UCAR) recently made this excellent video explaining this as well:

Climate Change Driving Salmon Evolution

| Wed Jul. 11, 2012 2:50 PM EDT

Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha): NOAA | Fisheries ServicePink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha): NOAA | Fisheries ServiceTwo of our hottest-button topics—climate change and evolution—are now linked by genetic research on migrating salmon.

The results, published in a new paper in the science journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, report on groundbreaking evidence that climate change is driving the evolution of pink salmon in Alaska.

DNA data clearly show a genetic selection for earlier migrating fish during the last three decades.

This is particularly interesting because although there are many observations of earlier migrations among a variety of species in response to a warming climate, it's not clear whether this is a result of behavioral adaptation or genetic change or both.

Genetic change for earlier migration timing in a pink salmon population: Ryan P. Kovach, et al. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2012.1158Genetic change for earlier migration timing in a pink salmon population. Frequency of late migration marker allele (black diamond) and a control allele (white circle): Ryan P. Kovach, et al. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2012.1158

The authors drew on an archive of genetic data for pink salmon dating back to the 1970s, when Auke Creek, Alaska, hosted two genetically distinct populations that migrated at different times: early and late. The archive included the work of a close collaborator, who selectively bred late-migrating fish in Auke Creek with a genetic marker.

Through the 1980s, between 27 and 39 percent of Auke Creek migrators bore the genetic marker of late migrators. But in 1989 the marker began to rapidly disappear. By 2011 it was effectively gone—present in only about 5 percent of the fish.

Today it's no longer possible to distinguish the early migrators from the late migrators by the frequency of the genetic marker in the population.

Why? From the paper:

Although we do not know the specific selective pressures that led to earlier migration timing in this population, stream temperatures during peak migration timing in 1989 were the second highest on record, and we observed substantial genetic changes... in the progeny from this spawning generation. Migrating pink salmon appear to avoid high stream temperatures; given the trend in migration timing, changes in the genetic marker and increasing stream temperatures in Auke Creek, it appears that earlier-migrating fish may have higher fitness in warmer years... and there is evidence that early-migrating adult fish are adapted to warmer conditions at multiple life stages and life-history events (e.g. juvenile developmental rates and migration timing, and adult migration timing, lifespan and breeding date).


Auke Bay, Alaska: endora57 | Kathy Neufeld via FlickrAuke Bay, Alaska: endora57 | Kathy Neufeld via Flickr

The selection for a different trait—in this case earlier migration—has implications for overall genetic diversity:

Although microevolution may have allowed this population to successfully track environmental change, it may have come at the cost of a decrease of within-population biocomplexity—the loss of the late run. This is not a surprising result; by definition, directional selection will decrease genetic variation. However, it does highlight the importance of maintaining sufficient genetic and phenotypic variation within populations in order for them to have the ability to respond to environmental change.

And that ties in with research I reported on recently here that extinctions are just as nasty as global warming in driving global change. So the new salmon work implies, at least to me, that there may also be positive feedback loops developing between warming temperatures, dwindling biocomplexity, dwindling biodiversity, and human wellbeing.

The ♥ open-access paper:

  • Ryan P. Kovach, Anthony J. Gharrett, and David A. Tallmon. Genetic change for earlier migration timing in a pink salmon population. Proceedings f the Royal Society B. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2012.1158.

BP Spill Workers Say Dispersant Made Them Sick

| Wed Jul. 11, 2012 12:50 PM EDT

The 1.8 million gallons of dispersant that BP and federal responders spread on the massive Gulf oil spill in 2010 are already coming back to haunt them. FuelFix.com, a Houston Chronicle spinoff devoted to covering energy, reports today that the company that manufactures Corexit, the chemical sprayed on the surface of the Gulf and at the wellhead to disperse the oil in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, is trying to get out of a proposed settlement with plaintiffs who say they have health problems resulting from the spill and cleanup.

Corexit manufacturer Nalco wants the US district judge handling the case in New Orleans to exempt it from any liability in the settlement of a class action lawsuit brought against BP and other companies involved in the disaster on behalf of more than 10,000 plaintiffs. In March, the plaintiffs and BP reached a settlement agreement that is expected to cost $7.8 billion and would cover both economic loss and medical claims, and would also establish a program to monitor the health of affected individuals. The judge is now deciding whether to approve the agreement, but Nalco says that not only should it not be included the companies that are asked to pay up in this case, but it should be excluded from any future cases:

The spill responders contend that the federal Clean Water Act provides them immunity from liability for actions taken at the government’s direction.
"Nalco provided Corexit at the express request of the federal on-site coordinators," Nalco attorneys wrote in the dismissal motion filed in May. "Nalco supplied a product that was and had been listed on the federal government's list of approved dispersants for decades and that the government repeatedly approved for use during the response."

This is a compelling argument, because it is true: Corexit was listed as an approved dispersant, and it was what BP decided to use on the Gulf. The problem, though, is something we've covered here before: The federal government doesn't consider the human or environmental effects of the chemicals when approving them for the list. Companies like Nalco don't even have to disclose what kinds of chemicals are in their product in order to get them approved, thanks to the extremely outdated and industry-friendly chemical regulation laws in this country. Current chemical regulation laws actually makes it really difficult for the Environmental Protection Agency to do more than give these chemicals a rubber stamp.

Meanwhile, chemicals used in the dispersant can cause liver and kidney damage, as well as other health problems. Studies since the spill have found that the dispersants are sticking around longer than people expected and can be absorbed through the skin. In the weeks and months after the spill, many cleanup workers and nearby residents complained of ill health effects like nausea and rashes they believed were caused by the chemicals. So is Nalco liable for supplying the chemicals, or BP for buying them, or the federal government, which was supposed to be overseeing the clean up work?

If Nalco is granted an exclusion in the lawsuit, it would leave the plaintiffs who believe they are sick because of exposure to the chemicals in a tough spot: they can sign onto the settlement now, or try again to sue Nalco later. Neither option is great, according to the lawyers representing the plaintiffs:

"We are recommending the medical settlement program for most of our clients, even though it leaves Nalco off the hook," [Beaumont-based lawyer Brent] Coon said. "The reality is, most people exposed to these kinds of toxins don’t develop a disease for many years. For most plaintiffs that were exposed, it is premature to sue, and the medical monitoring program at least develops a mechanism to measure how they were impacted."
But Louisiana-based lawyer Daniel Becnel says he is encouraging the 3,500 cleanup workers he represents to fight their cases in court.
"I have hundreds of people that are horribly sick," Becnel said.

Cat-Lady Parasite May Be Linked to Suicide

| Wed Jul. 11, 2012 12:45 PM EDT

A new study suggests a link between infection with a cat-borne parasite and the risk of a suicide attempt—a creepy-sounding finding that actually fits with previous research on the pathogen, toxoplasma gondii. When rodents infected with t. gondii smell cat urine, they’re aroused rather than frightened, so they don’t run away—and then they get eaten.

That’s the parasite's brilliantly evolved strategy to gain entry to the gut of a cat or other feline—the only place where it can complete its reproductive cycle, although it can survive inside many other species. In fact, eating contaminated and undercooked meat, not cleaning cat litter, is the main route through which Americans get infected, according to studies.

"You Look Out the Window and You See Climate Change in Action"

| Tue Jul. 10, 2012 2:15 PM EDT

Peter Sinclair, who blogs at Climate Denial Crock of the Week, released a must-see new video on Tuesday recapping news coverage of the recent heat wave, the drought in the Midwest, the extreme storms in the Mid-Atlantic, and the Colorado wildfires.

"You look out the window and you see climate change in action," Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says in a clip from PBS NewsHour. "This is the way it gets manifested." Here's the video, "Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives":

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4 Summer Heat Charts That Will Blow Your Mind

| Mon Jul. 9, 2012 2:53 PM EDT

 

Credit: diametrik via FlickrCredit: diametrik via Flickr

NOAA's latest National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) State of the Climate report is out, and it's pretty impressive in the trends and records department.

More on the report below. But, first, I can't help but think of it in light of an interesting new paper in Nature Climate Change today. Researchers studying tree-ring data from living trees and dead trunks preserved in lakes in Finnish Lapland found a much longer-term cooling trend over the past 2,000 years than previously understood. This trend involves a cooling of -0.3°C per millennium due to a gradual increase in the distance between Earth and the sun.

"This figure we calculated may not seem particularly significant," says lead author Jan Esper, "however, it is also not negligible when compared to global warming, which up to now has been less than 1°C. Our results suggest that the large-scale climate reconstruction shown by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change likely underestimate this long-term cooling trend over the past few millennia."

Which implies that human-induced global warming might actually be higher than we've been calculating. Perhaps this is contributing to a disturbing trend researchers are beginning to notice—that extreme weather events are proving more extreme than we've predicted.


Contiguous US temperature average for January to June 2012: NOAA | National Climate Data CenterContiguous US temperature average for January to June 2012 NOAA | National Climatic Data Center

Back to the NCDC report. The past six months, January to June 2012, just ranked as the warmest first half of any year on record for the contiguous United States.

As you can see in the graph above, the past six months of extremes contributed to a warming trend of 1.7°F per century.

Highlights from the January-June 2012 period:

  • The national temperature of 52.9°F was 4.5°F above the 20th-century average.
  • Most of the contiguous United States was record and near-record warm for the six-month period, except the Pacific Northwest.
  • 28 states east of the Rockies were record warm.
  • 15 additional states were top-10 warm.
  • The first six months of 2012 were also drier than average with a nationally averaged precipitation total 1.62 inches below average.

According to the report, the extremes in the first half of 2012 were the most extreme of the extremes:

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI), an index that tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S., was a record-large 44 percent during the January-June period, over twice the average value.


Warmest 12-month periods 1895-2012: NOAA | National Climate Data CenterWarmest 12-month periods 1895-2012 NOAA | National Climatic Data Center At an even larger scale, note that all the 12 warmest 12-month periods since 1895 have occurred since 2000. And that the past 12 months busted a record broken only last month.

Even more interesting, the past 12 months (July 2011-June 2012) saw each month measuring among the warmest ever on record. From the NCDC report:

During the June 2011-June 2012 period, each of the 13 months ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. The odds of this occurring randomly is 1 in 1,594,323.

Year-to-date average temperatures for select locations: NOAA | National Climate Data CenterYear-to-date average temperatures for select locations (click for full list) NOAA | National Climatic Data CenterThe list above shows only the beginning of 150 stations recording crazy temperatures in the first half of this year. You can see the full list of 150 locations with long-standing weather data and their records here.

The temperature anomalies for the first half of 2012 are impressive enough to be game changing. NOAA's National Climatic Data Center report describes them:

In some locations, 2012 temperatures have been so dramatically different that they establish a new "neighborhood" apart from the historical year-to-date temperatures.

 

Scott's Bluff, Nebraska, year-to-date average temperatures, June to January 1893-2012: NOAA | National Climate Data CenterScottsbluff, Nebraska, year-to-date average temperatures, January to June 1893-2012 NOAA | National Climatic Data CenterAmong many notable records, these stand out:

  • Scottsbluff, Nebraska, broke the longest-running record of 116 years with temperatures running 5.3°F above average this year (see graph, above, and note the 116-year temperature trend ticking relentlessly upward).
  • Green Bay, Wisconsin, wracked up the highest departure from average for the first half of this year with temperatures 7.6°F above normal.
  • As a region the upper Midwest saw the biggest departures from average with Des Moines, Iowa, at 7.3°F above average; Fargo, North Dakota, at 7.0°F above average; and Rochester, Minnesota, at 7.1°F above average.

Every state across the contiguous US had warmer than average temperatures between July 2011 and June 2012, except Washington, which was near normal.

America's Dirtiest Beaches

| Mon Jul. 9, 2012 5:00 AM EDT

With temperatures in the triple digits in many parts of the United States and not far from it in the rest of the country, lots of people are seeking relief on the sandy shores. But before you head to the beach, you might want to make sure that cool ocean air isn't carrying a whiff of sewage first.

Each year, the Natural Resources Defense Council puts out a handy guide on water quality at ocean and Great Lake beaches around the US. The latest report finds that 8 percent of beach water samples collected by local officials in 2011 violated public health standards, leading public health agencies to issue advisories or shut beaches down entirely. That might not seem like a lot, but it adds up. Last year had the third-highest number of closures or advisories in the 22 years NRDC has published the report. Water quality was just as bad as it was in 2010, NRDC found.

"We're not seeing improvements the way that one would hope we would see," said Jon Devine, a senior attorney in NRDC's water program and the author of the report. "That indicates a need for national policies that target the biggest sources of beach pollution."

NRDC pulled reports on 200 of the most popular beaches in the country; we mapped them below.

Each point on this map represents a beach; click one to see the percentage of water samples tested that exceeded national pollution standards.


Often when we talk about beach closures, we use nice euphemisms like "pollution" or "bacteria." But what that really means is poop. Yes, when your beach is closed it's most often because waste—human and animal—has caused the levels of bacteria and other unhealthy pathogens to spike in that body of water. Much of that comes from storm-water runoff, when the rain carries sewage from overflowing septic systems, yards laced with Fido's droppings, and a variety of other sources to nearby waterways. Contamination can also come from wildlife or accidents at sewage treatment plants, but in the vast majority of cases the folks doing the water monitoring don't really know exactly where all the, well, shit came from.

Beach bacteria can cause gastrointestinal distress, skin rashes, and eye infections, or much worse diseases like meningitis and hepatitis.

The bacteria can cause gastrointestinal distress like nausea and diarrhea, skin rashes, and eye infections, or much worse diseases like meningitis and hepatitis. Dirty beaches are much more hazardous for the people with compromised immune systems or children, who are more likely to swallow the water while swimming. But even having a "clean" beach might not be enough. In fact, as NRDC points out, even beaches that meet the federal standards would still sicken as many as 1 in 28 swimmers.

The EPA is currently considering new standards for recreational water quality, but NRDC says the new rules aren't expected to be much better than the current 20-year-old rules. The group would also like to see new guidelines to help reduce the amount of storm-water runoff, through promotion of green roofs and other smart urban-planning techniques that will help stop urban and suburban pollution from making its way into our waterways.

But back to the report, since you probably want to know what beaches to avoid. Here are the worst offenders, the beaches where a quarter of the samples taken last year found levels of contamination above national standards:

  • Avalon Beach and Doheny State Beach in California
  • Winnetka Elder Park Beach and North Point Marina North Beach in Illinois
  • Constance Beach, Gulf Breeze, Little Florida, Long Beach, and Rutherford Beach in Louisiana
  • Beachwood Beach West in New Jersey
  • Woodlawn Beach and Ontario Beach in New York

And here are the best beaches—the ones that earned five stars:

  • Newport Beach, Bolsa Chica Beach, and Huntington State Beach in California
  • Gulf Shores Public Beach and Gulf State Park Pavilion in Alabama
  • Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach in Delaware
  • Ocean City, Maryland
  • Park Point Franklin Park, 13th Street South Beach Park Point, and Lafayette Community Club Beach in Minnesota
  • Hampton Beach State Park and Wallis Sands Beach in New Hampshire
  • South Padre Island in Texas

New Record Low Snow and Ice in Arctic

| Fri Jul. 6, 2012 1:29 PM EDT

Hudson Bay melting ice and snow. Left: 06 April 2012. Right: 05 June 2012:eft NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen using data obtained from the Land Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE). Hudson Bay melting ice and snow: (left) 06 April 2012; (right) 05 June 2012: NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen using data obtained from the Land Atmosphere Near real-time Capability for EOS (LANCE). The latest Arctic report from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) is out and it's a sobering read. Records were broken in the month of June on two fronts:

  1. The largest ice loss in the satellite record for the month of June: of 1.10 million square miles (2.86 million square kilometers)
  2. The lowest June snow cover on the ground in the Northern Hemisphere: falling 386,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) below the previous record low set in 2010

 Monthly June ice extent for 1979 to 2012 shows a decline of 3.7 percent per decade: National Snow and Ice Data CenterMonthly June ice extent for 1979 to 2012 shows a decline of 3.7 percent per decade: National Snow and Ice Data Center

On the sea ice front, the June loss was especially rapid (I wrote more about that here).

It was facilitated in part by remarkably high atmospheric temperatures—up to 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) above the 1981-2000 average over northern Eurasia and southern Baffin Bay. These temperatures were measured ~3,000 (914 meters) feet above the ocean's surface.

That made the June 2012 ice extent the second lowest in the satellite record; 2010 is still the record holder.

This year's rapid ice loss contributed to a linear rate of decline for June Arctic ice at 3.7 percent per decade since the satellite record began (graph above).

June 2012 set a record low for Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent. Map shows snow cover anomalies in the Northern Hemisphere. National Snow and Ice Data Center courtesy Rutgers University Snow Lab.Record low snow-cover extent in the Northern Hemisphere June 2012 compared to 1971-2000 average. National Snow and Ice Data Center courtesy Rutgers University Snow Lab.

Snow cover over the landmasses of the Northern Hemisphere also retreated rapidly to the lowest levels ever recorded for the date by the end of June.

By then the shores of the entire Arctic Ocean coastline were basically snow free (map above). From the NSIDC report:

This rapid and early retreat of snow cover exposes large, darker underlying surfaces to the sun early in the season, fostering higher air temperatures and warmer soils.

 

Annual global temperature anomalies, combined for land and ocea, from 1901 to 2000: NASA | National Climatic Data CenterAnnual global temperature anomalies combined for land and ocean from 1901 to 2000: NOAA | National Climatic Data CenterThat positive feedback loop between warming/melting landmasses and warming/melting sea ice will contribute to the trend in the graph above (shown in degrees C).

You can see how the global mean combined temperature over land and ocean has risen a whopping ~1 degree Fahrenheit in a century. And that only includes up to the year 2000. The biggest records continue to be serially broken after 2000.

After the Storm: The Haves and the Have-Nots

| Fri Jul. 6, 2012 11:13 AM EDT

The wild storm that hit the mid-Atlantic last weekend is still creating hardship for many, as nearly half a million people remain without power and temperatures are still hovering around 100 degrees. There's nothing like a disaster to bring class disparity into stark relief, as an email I received on Thursday morning shows. 

Rhonda Bush, 31, lives in Rainelle, West Virginia, about 30 miles northwest of where the Greenbrier Classic tournament is currently underway at a luxury golf resort despite the storm. She noted that while the resort was up and running in time for the event, which featured golf luminaries like Tiger Woods, average residents on the other side of the county were feeling "ignored and neglected." (Greenbrier owner Jim Justice responded to criticism for continuing the tournament earlier this week, offering to donate resources to people in need.)

Here's part of the 1,009-word missive that Bush tapped out on her cell phone:

Over the last 4 and a half days, I've seen families struggle over what to eat when most of the food has spoiled. I've personally had to wait in line for gas, praying they wouldn't run out before I got my fill. I've taken cold showers because there is no hot water. I've gone hunting for elusive ice that has become worth more than gold, and not found any. I've seen fights break out over basic necessaries, because nerves are becoming frayed from the stress of the heat and lack of water.
While my family has been lucky enough to even HAVE water, most people don't because they live in rural areas that use well pumps that don't work without electricity. Yet those first few days, even we worried our water would be cut off. I've seen grown men cry when they've received water, because they'd gone without and their families needed it desperately.
We pray for rain to come relieve the heat, then when it finally comes, we pray it won't leave us worse off than we already are. We pick at our food during the day because it's too hot to eat, then gorge at night and suffer for it because our bodies aren't used to food, or worse: because the food has turned and we ate it anyway because that's all we have and we're hungry.
We've learned to make do with little because no one cares about us. All anyone cares about is a golf game that ultimately is meaningless and rich people who never suffered a day in their life. Senator Joe Manchin visited us yesterday and we talked his ears off because he was the FIRST and ONLY person in power to come check on us. I don't agree with his politics, but he won my respect for that.
When AEP trucks finally arrived in town yesterday, we cheered because while we knew power wouldn't be restored that night, we knew it would be soon.

Bush did write back again later in the day to report that her power came back at 4:30 Thursday afternoon.

Her email got me thinking about climate change and extreme weather. A number of press accounts have noted that while it's difficult to say whether and to what extent climate change played a role in creating this high-power storm, what's clear is that we can expect more of this type of extreme event as the world gets hotter. The same is true for the wildfires raging in Colorado. To me what's most interesting is not the question of whether there will be more of these events—since there surely will be—but whether we'll be ready when they come. It raises serious questions about societal preparedness, how we decide to allocate our limited resources, and how we treat each other.