Cronkite News Arizona PBS – Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 19 Jan 2021 05:22:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Mall was 1/2 empty for Trump’s Inauguration, but the threat of his armed Militias Completely Emptied it for Biden’s Tue, 19 Jan 2021 05:02:55 +0000 By Ryan Knappenberger | –

( Cronkite News ) – WASHINGTON – Four years ago, President Donald Trump claimed the crowd attending his inauguration was the largest in history, a claim widely ridiculed in the face of photos showing a half-empty National Mall.

But when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in Wednesday, it’s safe to say he will have one of the smallest crowds ever.

That’s because Biden will take the oath in front of a Mall that has been completely sealed off, one of a series of extraordinary security measures that have been put in place to head off threats of armed protests by right-wing and pro-Trump groups.

It’s a threat that has been repeated in state capitals across the country. The state Capitol complex in Phoenix has been fenced off and police presence boosted after an FBI report warned of possible violent inauguration protests in all 50 states.

It’s not a threat to be taken lightly, said Suzanne Spaulding, senior adviser on homeland security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, pointing to the violent mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was certifying Biden’s win.

Members of Congress and Vice President Mike Pence had to be whisked to secure rooms as rioters invaded the House and Senate chambers, destroyed and stole items and clashed with police in a riot that ultimately left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

“After the events of Jan. 6, it is prudent for government officials to not dismiss these threats and take them seriously,” Spaulding said.

What that means is that Biden’s swearing-in will likely be witnessed by more National Guard troops than attendees.

As many as 25,000 National Guard troops from around the country will be deployed to Washington by Wednesday, officials said, along with transit police officers from around the country, local police agencies and federal law enforcement authorities.

The lockdown of Washington began well before Inauguration Day.

Federal officials erected fences around the Capitol and the Supreme Court shortly after the Jan. 6 attack. Tourist sites like the Washington Monument were closed and fencing started going up last week around the National Mall, which closed at 11 a.m. Friday.

District and federal officials restricted parking for blocks in every direction from the Capitol and the White House, and D.C. police began shutting those streets to traffic Friday with fences, jersey barriers and city trucks. Subway stations were also closed in the downtown core and buses rerouted around the blocked streets Friday.

The inauguration was already going to be a largely virtual affair because of the COVID-19 pandemic, before city and federal officials started to urge people to stay home because of the possibility of violence.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser asked Americans in a news conference Friday to “enjoy this 59th inauguration of the president of the United States and the vice president of the United States from home.”

The Mall, roads and subway stations are not scheduled to reopen until Thursday.

National Guard troops on Thursday surrounded the U.S. Capitol, which was the scene of a deadly riot on Jan. 6, just two weeks before the scheduled Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. (Photo by Haleigh Kochanski/Cronkite News)

In a security briefing Thursday for Vice President Mike Pence, intelligence and security agencies outlined the sweeping efforts under way.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Peter Gaynor said his department is coordinating with about 200 agencies on the inauguration, which has been designated a National Security Special Event. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the 7,000 guardsmen in down Thursday would triple by the time of inauguration.

FBI Director Chris Wray said his agency had been monitoring extremist activity online in the days leading up to the inauguration and that it was intercepting “an extensive amount of concerning online chatter.”

Despite the difficulty in distinguishing between “what’s aspirational versus what’s intentional,” Wray said the FBI is treating the threats seriously.

“We’ve got to disrupt any attempt or attack,” Wray said in the briefing with Pence. “Our posture is aggressive. I’m just going to stay that way through the inauguration.”

Matt Miller, head of the Secret Service Washington field office, said D.C. residents living within the security perimeter will need to pass through security checkpoints to move in and out of the area and identify themselves to law enforcement officials. Those traveling in vehicles will have to undergo a search for weapons or explosives.

The head of the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority said his agency’s officers would be backed up by transit police from across the country, including New York, Chicago, Houston and San Francisco.

Miller said that while the city’s attention seems to be focused on the areas surrounding the Capitol, he is still thinking about the areas outside the security perimeter.

“We can’t create a fortress and allow the rest of the city to suffer,” Miller said.

Via Cronkite News

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The other pandemic: Loneliness widespread with the loss of social connections Tue, 12 Jan 2021 05:01:53 +0000 By Chloe Jones | Special for Cronkite News | –

PHOENIX – The pandemic has affected different people in different ways, causing financial stress due to job loss, sliding grades, relationship pressures and worries that vulnerable loved ones could contract COVID-19.

But one factor that has affected Americans across the country is the loss of social connectedness. Even before the pandemic shuttered schools, restaurants and workplaces last spring, an estimated 3 in 5 Americans reported a growing sense of loneliness, according to Cigna’s 2020 Loneliness Index. Roughly 73% of those surveyed said they sometimes or always feel alone, up from 69% in the previous year.

But since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March, clinicians fear that number is increasing.

In his Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected order in March, Gov. Doug Ducey encouraged Arizonans to share awareness and resources in their communities regarding suicide prevention. The initiative acknowledged a leading theory in behavioral science that lays out two assumptions about when people become suicidal: a desire for belongingness that is not met, and a feeling of being a burden on those around them.

Both of these feelings, clinicians say, can be amplified under the stressors that come with COVID-19, especially for young people. In fact, adults ages 22 to 29 “are at high risk for increases in loneliness and mental health,” according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health in October 2020. The study linked those factors to increases in depression and anxiety, and it cautioned of potential latent effects.

“Negative behavioral health impacts from pandemic are expected to peak up to nine months after the initial outbreak,” it found.

School closures

In mid-March, Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman closed schools for two weeks. Most schools were on spring break at the time, and students were crossing their fingers that the shutdowns would be short-lived. But school closures extended through the end of the school year and classes resumed online.

Learn More

More than 25 television stations on Jan. 12 will air a half-hour, commercial-free student-produced documentary about youth suicide in Arizona and what can be done prevent it. The program will air at 5 p.m. on Spanish-language stations and at 6:30 p.m. on English-language stations. Find more information here.

Graduations, proms and other key events in most teens’ social lives were either postponed or canceled. But those aren’t the only things kids missed out on.

“Going to class, for example, isn’t just walking in a room, sitting down, listening to the lecture and leaving,” said Nadine Kaslow, chief psychiatrist with the Grady Health System in Atlanta. “It’s hanging out with people beforehand, hanging out with them afterwards, a lot of the informal kind of social connecting that’s much harder to do right now.”

The loss of these small interactions can exacerbate feelings of loneliness and potentially place someone at increased risk of suicide, Kaslow said. Youth heavily involved in extracurriculars can be particularly vulnerable to this.

The desire to belong

The pressure to “fit in” among youths can be a stressor during normal times, and social distancing guidelines that restrict activities where kids interact and forge bonds can heighten that effect, increasing feelings of despair, Kaslow said.

On the other hand, she noted, kids who are socially anxious or feel like they didn’t belong in a social circle may actually be doing better, because these guidelines take away the pressure of fitting in.

“They don’t feel so alone in this,” Kaslow said, “so it’s more normalized for many people.”

Burdens and routines

Dr. Elizabeth McKenna, a pediatrician at Healing Hearts Pediatrics in Chandler, said she has seen an uptick in children struggling with mental health, particularly anxiety, since the pandemic began.

In a state-funded program, she and other doctors at Healing Hearts, a pediatric primary care facility and network of providers, assess the mental health of patients at the beginning of each visit. She said it has helped staff members connect kids to the support they need, especially those whose mental health symptoms may not be obvious.

People with anxiety typically cope by sticking to a normal routine, McKenna said. When school is closed and kids are in their homes all day, this normal routine is interrupted and existing anxiety and depression can increase.

McKenna said some of her school-age patients worry that COVID-19 will kill the entire world’s population, along with their families.

“Parents bring home all their worry, and then that goes to the kids,” she said.

Many parents don’t realize how their emotions can transfer to their children, who are likely not as equipped to handle them, McKenna said.

Sometimes, when children interpret negative feelings from others, they begin to feel they’re a burden, and that the people around them would be better off if they were gone.

Chris Segrin, a behavioral scientist who teaches at the University of Arizona, said this feeling of being a burden is a huge risk factor when it comes to suicide. But sometimes, he added, all it takes is one comment from one person to momentarily change someone’s thoughts about it suicide.

But mental health during the pandemic is dependent on the support system a person is isolating with, Segrin said. Negative experiences in strained relationships can intensify, but there is also an opportunity for the relationship to heal with the extra time together and positive experiences can intensify in blissful relationships, or the extra time together can add stress.

Keeping connected

Learn More

Arizona’s lack of mental health care providers comes into focus as COVID-19 increases depression, anxiety

Subscriptions to Zoom and other video chat applications are spiking, and such smartphone apps as House Party bring a game night into the online world. And some young people are rediscovering traditional methods of connectedness.

Xavier Valdez, a senior at Hamilton High School in Chandler, said he has been connecting with his friends on the Google Chrome extension Teleplay (formerly Netflix Party) for virtual movie nights.

Jessica Wastchak, a junior at Hamilton, said she and her friends have been writing and mailing each other handwritten letters.

“As human beings, we are essentially social creatures,” Segrin said. “It is literally in our DNA to connect with other people during times of stress.”

Online school isn’t the same as in-person school. FaceTime isn’t the same as face-to-face. And a virtual hug isn’t the same as actually feeling the wrap of an embrace. But clinicians urge solidarity in these universally trying times.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also offers free and confidential support at 1-800-273-8255.

Via Cronkite News

Featured image: J.D. Hancock, Creative Commons.

Is Arizona Turning Blue? The Shape of Democratic Victory Mon, 04 Jan 2021 05:01:10 +0000 By Catherine Fusillo | –

( Cronkite News ) – WASHINGTON – For years, Democrats have argued that Arizona was about to turn blue, and this year they came closer than they had in decades, winning the presidential race and unseating an incumbent Republican senator.

Close, but not the “blue wave” Democrats had been hoping for.

While they grabbed the top two races on the ballot, Democrats made little to no headway in state, local or other congressional races.

“This year’s election does not signify a blue wave because Democrats didn’t win up and down the ballot in Arizona,” said Kim Fridkin, foundation professor of political science at Arizona State University.

Or, as Republican political consultant Jason Rose put it, the blue wave was more of “a wave that you might see at the bay, not the ocean.”

Still, Democrats see progress in the two big wins they did get. Yara Marin, the Arizona state political director for Mi Familia Vota, said even though “the blue wave didn’t trickle down the ballot, I want to really … state that this still is a historic moment.”

That historic moment was highlighted last month when Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., was sworn in to the seat that had been held by Republican Sen. Martha McSally and, before her, by Sen. John McCain, a Republican icon. Kelly joins Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., to give the state two Democratic senators for the first time in almost 70 years.

And, despite desperate attempts by state Republicans to block it, the state cast its 11 Electoral College votes for President-elect Joe Biden, who beat President Donald Trump by 10,457 votes, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate has won in Arizona since 1996.

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Despite those wins, the rest of the ballot stayed mostly red. Democrats still hold five of nine congressional seats, but missed what many thought was their best chance to knock off a Republican this year when Rep. David Schweikert, R-Fountain Hills, beat well-funded Democratic challenger Hiral Tipirneni by more than 18,000 votes.

Statewide, Democrats picked up a seat on the Arizona Corporation Commission and in the Arizona Senate. But Republicans still hold a majority in those two bodies and in the Arizona House of Representatives – even though it’s now only a one-vote edge in all three.

In Maricopa County, the state’s largest jurisdiction, Democrats saw election night leads in county attorney, school superintendent and board of supervisors slip away, while the GOP unseated County Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat.

The kind of split-ticket voting that gives a state two Democratic senators but a GOP-controlled Legislature is new, Rose said.

“It shows you how pronounced some of the frustrations were with the president,” he said. “It also speaks not just negatively but positively about a candidate like Mark Kelly, who is a political rock star in any cycle.”

But Fridkin argues that “prior to the rise of polarization during the last few election cycles, we did see a fair amount of ticket splitting.”

“It could be the case in this election that independents and Republicans – and maybe some Democrats – who voted for Biden wanted Biden to win, but they also wanted Republicans in Congress to be able to control Biden somewhat,” she said.

While the blue wave did not ultimately materialize, the possibility made Arizona highly prized battleground state.

Trump visited the state seven times this year, and the Phoenix television market became one of the most-saturated with campaign ads in the country. The Kelly-McSally race was the most expensive in state history and one of the most expensive in the country, raising a combined $173.9 million.

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Jessica Taylor, Senate and governors editor for the Cook Political Report, argues part of the state’s newly found competitiveness can be attributed to changing demographics.

“It was clearly a shifting state in terms of demographics, and one that started to flip in 2018 after decades of not doing so,” Taylor said. “I think, clearly, Democrats … thought it’s right for both the presidential level and the Senate level, and I think that paid off for them.”

Extending the 2020 gains could be a challenge, said Rose, who noted that Kelly is up for re-election in 2022 and will have to keep fighting for the seat.

“Just because the Democrats did well this year, that doesn’t guarantee them those same votes in a couple of years,” he said. “The political pendulum might come back against him.

“The political marketplace often convulses and it corrects,” Rose said. “In this case, I mean, we had a mixed result, with the Democrats certainly doing well in Arizona at the top of the ticket, but struggling a little bit down.”

Marin agreed that Democrats will have to keep fighting. She said the work of community organizations to reach minority communities within the state “helped bring what blue wave we did see in November.”

“This election is kind of evidence and a result of those years of hard work. It just didn’t go all the way down the ballot,” she said.

Catherine Fusillo is from Houston and expects to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science. She has been a political reporter at the State Press and an intern at KUHF in Houston.

Via Cronkite News

Featured photo: Allie Barton, Cronkite News.

As pandemic surges, health officials call COVID-19 fatigue real and dangerous Fri, 01 Jan 2021 05:00:40 +0000 By Joycelyn Cabrera | –

( Cronkite News ) – WASHINGTON – The numbers can be numbing. And that’s exactly what health officials fear.

More than a half-million Arizonans have contracted COVID-19 and more than 8,700 have died from it so far, according to state data. The disease is surging again, with one week this month seeing an average of 7,770 new cases a day, soaring past the previous high set in July of a seven-day average of 3,482 new cases.

Hospital capacity is being stretched to the breaking point, with COVID-19 patients taking up a record 61% of beds in the state’s intensive care units as of Tuesday, and health care workers struggling under the strain.

But news of the disease, while prominent, does not command the headlines or the attention it did just months ago.

“The phenomenon some call COVID fatigue is real, and it’s dangerous,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, in a late-November video update.

It’s also not surprising, said Stephen Benning, associate professor of psychology at University of Nevada Las Vegas, who said repeated exposure to something, such as an event, can reach a point where it no longer elicits the same response it once did.

“We’ve become kind of numb to the daily horrors of the increasing case counts, death toll, other kinds of things, and have kind of adapted to that,” Benning said

“We’ve become kind of numb to the daily horrors of the increasing case counts, death toll, other kinds of things, and have kind of adapted to that.”

– Psychology professor Stephen Benning.

And the increases are everywhere. A winter surge in cases is being seen around the globe, and the pandemic in the U.S. has shifted from isolated hotspots, like Arizona this summer, to a problem being felt nationwide.

As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a total of 19.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and 334,029 deaths linked to the disease.

“At this point, death becomes baked into our expectation of what will happen with this virus,” Benning said. “Whereas before, many people believed it wasn’t any worse than the flu.”

He said that COVID fatigue can lead to less caution, which in turn could result in “twice, three times as many deaths as we could have had.”

“We risk making this a much deadlier virus, by letting it spread unchecked through the community,” Benning said.

That complacency is troubling to Arizona health experts. A state health department spokesperson said in an email this month that pandemic fatigue “is an area of concern as it may cause individuals to let down their guard.”

But Christ and others warn that now is the time to stay alert.

“To protect everyone, we have to stay committed to our prevention efforts, even as a vaccine becomes a reality,” Christ said. “The numbers tell the story, COVID-19 remains active in our communities.”

COVID-19 in Arizona is still “a real issue and the data is very disturbing,” said Dr. Daniel Derksen, director for the Arizona Center for Rural Health, pointing to the rising demand for hospital beds across the state.

The state reported that 61% of hospital ICU beds were occupied by 1,076 COVID-19 patients Tuesday, with another 29% of beds used by non-COVID patients, leaving just 178 ICU beds available in Arizona hospitals. The stress is particularly strong in rural areas, Derksen said.

“Certain counties are at much higher rates of infection and also death rates per 100,000,” he said. “There are four counties that are particularly concerning because they’re three to four times the death rate per 100,000 as Arizona overall or compared to more urban counties.”

The death rate is also surging again, both nationally and in Arizona, with numbers again approaching the death toll from the summer, when health care workers did not know as much about how to treat the disease.

As COVID-19 deaths continue to rise, Benning says conceptualizing the toll across the nation is harder to do than it was during early, concentrated outbreaks.

“Early on in the pandemic, there was much more horror at particular death tolls when it was concentrated in New York or in Northern Italy, than when it’s diffused and spread across the entire country,” he said.

But the disease does not seem to be drawing as much attention now, even though Benning said that globally, “We are now losing more people, or have lost more people, in one day than even in the worst days of the early pandemic.”

As those numbers have gone up, the number of briefings held by elected officials has gone down, with daily news conferences at the White House and in hard-hit states like New York reduced to occasional meetings now.

That is also true in Arizona, where Gov. Doug Ducey held weekly COVID-related events from April 29 to Aug. 31, when the briefings shifted to once a month. Christ continues to post weekly videos of updates on the health department’s YouTube channel, but typically holds news conferences in partnership with Ducey.

Will Humble, director of the Arizona Public Health Association, and a former director of AZDHS, said he could not understand why the shift in communication occurred – especially in what statistically is becoming the worst months of the pandemic for the state.

While the statistics look grim now, Humble believes there is still time for a wake-up call. He said he expects a stronger reaction from the public once hospitals start to reach capacity around the state.

“It is very similar to where we were in, say, June 15,” Humble said. “People were not freaking out yet – a month later, in July, people were freaking out because hospitals were over capacity. It became a lot more real in July.

“Basically, the hospital crisis hasn’t hit its apex yet. It will in the next few weeks,” he said.

Benning said there are ways to fight COVID fatigue and ways for people to keep pushing for safety. He recommends that people create a pros and cons list when considering socializing, get creative to avoid complete isolation and remind themselves of their moral values.

“It may also be helpful for people to step back and consider what their fundamental values are,” he said. “If they really value prioritizing the safety of other people, it may be helpful for them to remind themselves that it’s something that they really hold dear.”

Joycelyn Cabrera is an Arizona native who expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication and a minor in digital audiences. She is a digital reporter and producer at Cronkite News in Washington, D.C., and has reported for a nonprofit organization and local news outlets in Arizona.

The Southwest once had 4000-year-long Droughts; Could Human-Caused Climate Emergency bring them Back? Tue, 29 Dec 2020 05:02:25 +0000 By Judy Fahys ( InsideClimate News/ Danger Cave lived well. They ate freshwater fish, ducks and other small game, according to detritus they left behind. They had a lush lakeside view with cattails, bulrushes and water-loving willows adorning the marshlands.

But over time, the good life became history. As heat and drought set in, the freshwater dried up, and the ancients were forced to survive by plucking tiny seeds from desert shrubs called pickleweed. Archaeologists know this from a thick layer of dusty chaff buried in the cave’s floor.

It might be ancient history, but science tells us that the past could also become the future. In fact, thanks to global warming, regional climate patterns linked to extended periods of heat and drought that upended prehistoric life across the Southwest thousands of years ago are setting up again now.

“The benefit of any kind of paleoclimate data is that it tells us what nature is capable of,” said Matthew Lachniet, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The climate risk across the Southwest is actually growing, based on Lachniet’s recent study of a different cave about 200 miles across the Great Basin, which covers most of Nevada and the western half of Utah.

His geochemical data from Leviathan Cave in Nevada shows that drought can last 4,000 years – findings that Lachniet’s team cross-checked against paleoclimate data from the Arctic and tropical Pacific. In short, the story in the cave data suggests a worst-case scenario that could – and probably should – guide planning throughout the Southwest, home to 56 million people.

“In this case, we know that nature is capable of extended dry conditions that are even longer than they are today,” Lachniet said. “And the concern is, if we go into the future of a warm Arctic and a warm western tropical Pacific, that it will have the same effect on the climate of the Southwest” that it did during those arid times back at Danger Cave.

Lachniet’s scientific paper, released last summer in the journal Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, sprang from his work analyzing part of a rock pillar from Leviathan Cave, which is in Nevada’s Basin and Range National Monument.

The paleohistory that his team analyzed in the stalagmites that formed in Leviathan cover nearly the same time frame that humans first started using Danger Cave, which is now considered one of the Great Basin’s most important human history sites.

The stalagmites are created by the slow buildup of calcium carbonate layers as water droplets fall from the cave ceiling. They offer a “readable” record, much like the tree ring records that are a staple of climate science.

“We’re able to date those layers using chemistry rather than actually counting them like they do in a tree ring,” Lachniet said. “We measure the concentration of uranium naturally occurring in the calcite, and that tells us how old the stalagmite is.”

Using the top 6 inches of an 18-inch stalagmite that researchers removed from Leviathan Cave and brought back to the lab for analysis, researchers measured the length and depth of dry periods on the land surface going back about 13,400 years.

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And although the study methods could not determine how much temperature changed, they did validate a period of aridification from 9,800 to 5,400 years ago as the western Pacific warmed and Arctic sea ice declined because Earth’s orbit shifted.

Lachniet explained that these same regional conditions that caused aridification in Nevada and the Great Basin before – the warming Pacific and shrinking sea ice – also could be expected to prompt a return to those ancient conditions in the Southwest, this time because of warming from greenhouse gases. Lachniet said his findings, along with other recent research, further imply that not only is Nevada expected to become warmer because of these trends but so are the Colorado Rockies and parts of the headwaters of the Colorado River.

Climate scientist Cody Routson of Northern Arizona University has looked at some of the same trends in his own research and found them “pretty eye-opening.”

The reason? Water managers and climate scientists already are alarmed about the increasingly severe “hot droughts” in the Colorado River Basin, with high temperatures coinciding with less rainfall.

And water policy is generally based on a worst-case scenario, derived from tree ring analysis going back about 1,500 years to the medieval megadrought on the Colorado River. That drought, Routson said, was “way worse than anything we have experienced.”

But this new paleoclimate data suggests that a clearer picture of what the future holds for the Southwest might be found in the climate of the early and middle Holocene, roughly the same time ancient people were adapting to the changes around Danger Cave and the drought that gripped the Southwest from 9,800 to 5,400 years ago in Lachniet’s study.

So as the new studies confirm hot, dry periods lasting thousands of years, rethinking water and development planning time frames becomes urgent for 56 million people, whose lives and economies rely on water from the Colorado River and the Rio Grande basins, Lachniet said in his stalagmite research paper.

Scientists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas used geochemistry to analyze the buildup of drip water on a rock formation from Leviathan Cave in the Basin and Range national monuments. By reconstructing past climate using stalagmites, the researchers helped confirm aridification in the Southwest for 4,000 years. (Photo courtesy Matthew Lachniet/UNLV)

“What we’re seeing is that temperatures are going to increase, and that ends up producing much more evaporation, more loss of water from the reservoirs, a greater demand for water in agricultural systems where people are pulling in that water for use on their crops,” Lachniet said. “So even in the absence of any change in the amount of precipitation, we would expect to have more water scarcity in the future under those warmer conditions.”

Findings like these are prompting climate scientists, like researchers in other fields, to reconsider their reluctance to share their findings outside academia.

Using the words “worst-case scenario” in a scientific paper, as Lachniet does, is pretty bold, said Andrea Brunelle, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Utah. But she added that scientists – especially climate scientists – are increasingly sharing their findings with decision-makers, not just other scientists.

“Then the next really important step,” she said, “is getting this into the hands of water managers or land managers or whoever it is that makes the plans and lays out the policies for the future.”

This idea also seems to underlie new work from a team of international climate scientists that recently made the case that climate modeling centers should include simulations of past climates in their predictions of future climate change. Besides predicting scenarios for future climate, this approach will help scientists assess the impacts of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and propose strategies for mitigation.

“Looking to the past to inform the future could help narrow uncertainties surrounding projections of changes in temperature, ice sheets and the water cycle,” said Jessica Tierney, an associate professor in the geosciences department of the University of Arizona who is lead author of a new research review paper in the journal Science.

The team behind that paper goes a step further, urging climate model developers to consider paleohistory while predicting the future.

“If your model can simulate past climates accurately,” Tierney said, “it likely will do a much better job at getting future scenarios right.”

Ron Rood of Metcalf Archaeological Consultants leads tours of Danger Cave, which is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the Great Basin. Detritus in the cave, which humans have frequented for more than 12,000 years, helps tell the story of how ancient humans confronted climate change. (Photo by Judy Fahys/InsideClimate News)

To the east of Danger Cave lie the glowing white Bonneville Salt Flats. They are what’s left over from the retreat of prehistoric Lake Bonneville 16,000 years ago.

The salt flats, which for decades have hosted land speed record attempts, provided a twist to a Danger Cave tour that took place before the pandemic began in March. As cars zipped across the salt flats during international Speed Week, Ron Rood of Metcalf Archaeology told a small gathering of tourists about the changes that had reshaped the land and human life over thousands of years all across the Great Basin.

The visitors gathered around as he showed a snippet of willow basketry and passed around small plastic tubs filled with such artifacts as animal bones, evidence of dinner rubbish and hand tools. He explained how hard it was to strip the seeds from the desert plants that took over the landscape when freshwater food sources disappeared.

“Maybe,” Rood said, “we can learn some lessons from that.”

This story is part of a project covering the Colorado River Basin and water in the West. It was produced by InsideClimate News in collaboration with public radio station KUNC in Greeley, Colorado.

Via Creative Commons.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

The Enigmatic Montezuma Castle and Well in Arizona, USA | Ancient Architects

Can Biden Reverse Trump’s Unprecedented Assault on Immigration System? Fri, 25 Dec 2020 05:02:54 +0000 By Chase Hunter | –

( Cronkite News) – WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden has promised to roll back many of the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies when he takes office next month.

He’s got his work cut out for him.

While President Donald Trump’s signature – and likely most enduring – immigration policy is the still-in-progress southern border wall, he has touched virtually every part of the immigration issue, beginning with day one of his presidency four years ago.

“What haven’t they done?” asked Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute.

“They have entirely shut down the southern border, they have revitalized interior enforcement, they have sped up the immigration courts and increased the number of deportation orders they issue,” Pierce said.

“They’ve tightened the legal immigration system and generally made life really uncomfortable for both legal and illegal immigrants in the United States,” she said.

But many of Trump’s plans have been blocked by courts, and others are vulnerable to being reversed by executive order or shifts in agency policy – because that’s how many of them were enacted by the current administration.

Biden said during his campaign that he would target many of those policies with his own executive orders, raising the cap on the number of refugees the U.S. will accept in a year, reversing the “Muslim ban” that severely limited immigrants from largely Islamic countries and ending the national emergency declaration that allowed construction of the border wall.

Biden has also said he will push Congress for comprehensive immigration reform legislation that could include a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and would codify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in law.

More than 400 miles of southern border wall may be the most lasting legacy of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. (Photo by Robert DeDeaux/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

DACA, which was enacted through a memo by President Barack Obama, was one of Trump’s first targets. But Trump’s efforts to overturn it have been blocked by courts so far.

For immigration advocates like Jose Patiño, undoing the past four years of a Trump presidency is just the first step toward a return to normal. The ultimate goal is sweeping immigration reform.

Patiño, the policy director at the community group Aliento, acknowledges that the White House can only do so much. Voters must continue to pressure politicians to get the policy outcomes they want.

“There’s a lot of distractions out there,” Patiño said. “If we don’t work year-round educating people about the importance of elections and voting … it’s likely they’ll go back to sleep.”

Patiño welcomes Biden’s pledge to send Congress comprehensive immigration reform legislation on Day 1 of his presidency, but he recognizes that introducing bills and getting them through what could still be a GOP-controlled Senate are two different things.

“I don’t know if we’re going to be able to get any legislation like that,” he said.

And immigration will not be the only challenge the incoming administration will have to grapple with.

Biden said in November that his top priority will be the COVID-19 pandemic and the damage it has done to the economy. That was at the start of the latest surge, which has seen the number of daily confirmed cases top 17.6 million nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and Arizona infections closing in on 500,000, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The pandemic, and its toll on schools and businesses, has hammered the economy. An estimated 280,541 people were unemployed in Arizona in November, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, an unemployment rate of 7.8% – down from the high of 13.4% in April, but still one of the highest rates since 2012.

Even if Biden is able to change immigration policy through executive orders, memos and regulation, “much of Biden’s early political capital may be invested outside the immigration realm,” an MPI report said.

Migrant families are crowded into a Border Patrol detention facility in McAllen, Texas, in this 2019 photo. Facility overcrowding and family separations were among the criticisms of Trump administration handling of immigrants. (Photo by Office of Inspector General/Department of Homeland Security)

“What they are able to get done will depend on how easy each action is,” Pierce said. “So if there’s actions on his list that require minimal procedures and minimal logistical challenges, I think those are the items that are going to be ticked off.”

One thing he can halt, but not likely reverse, is Trump’s signature border wall.

“Obviously, he (Trump) has left his mark,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which supports tougher immigration policy. “He has constructed – by the time he leaves office – there’ll be approximately 450 miles of new border fencing constructed.”

Trump has also limited guest workers as immigrants and brokered deals with neighboring countries to hold migrants seeking asylum in the United States, Mehlman said. If Biden rescinds all those things, it may invite unqualified immigrants to enter the country and create chaos at the border, he said.

Mehlman said the Biden administration’s pro-immigrant stance may cause policy changes to the detriment of American workers struggling to find jobs in a pandemic-riddled economy.

Pierce disagrees.

“I think a lot of people are going to breathe a big sigh of relief, especially immigrants in the United States,” she said.

Pierce is confident that Biden will be able to do much, and quickly, since “A lot of Biden’s policies, many of which are focused on undoing Trump, can be done via executive authority.” The bigger problem, she said “is going to be bandwidth.” She compared the Biden agenda to Thanksgiving dinner: COVID-19 would be the turkey, climate action the potatoes, health care is the stuffing, and immigration might be the green beans.

The Biden administration “might not be able to get a lot done to move the system forward, but at the very least, it’ll stop the cascade of restrictive changes being put in place,” Pierce said.

Chase Hunter is an Arizona native who expects to graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in philosophy. Hunter has worked at an award-winning school newspaper, interned at the Arizona Republic and contributed to a documentary for the Cronkite School.

Via Cronkite News


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

ABC News: “America in Transition: How Biden will tackle Immigration”

‘I am that character’: New Marvel heroes battle underrepresentation of Native Americans in comics Sun, 13 Dec 2020 05:02:09 +0000 By Johnny Messiha and McKenzie Allen-Charmley | ( Cronkite News) | –

FLAGSTAFF – Asgard, Wakanda, Xandar and other intergalactic empires are well-known to comic book fans, but a new comic is hoping to bring readers back to Earth to learn about Indigenous heroes.

Penned by Native American artists and writers, “Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices #1” was released Nov. 18, to the delight of Native Americans who feel underrepresented in the comic book universe.

The new release features several new Indigenous heroes and address their involvement in X-Men stories.

Keith Jim, a Navajo comic book artist who became interested in comics at an early age, is proud to see Native Americans breaking through into the superhero world.

“Sometimes I feel like we’re forgotten. We are still here, so it’s important to stand up,” said Jim, who drew the comic book episode “The Heroes” in 2018.

Jim said Native American comic book characters usually are depicted in stereotypical ways, as they are reduced to complementary or side roles and are shown in feathers and loin cloths.

Anthony Thibodeau, a curator at the Museum of Northern Arizona who specializes in Indian arts and culture, said this misrepresentation of Native Americans is evident in mainstream popular culture.

“Any character that was a non-white character, they were usually represented in a very stereotypical way,” Thibodeau said. “Either through their clothing, a lot of times how they talk or through their accent.”

Keith Jim, who drew the comic book episode “The Heroes” in 2018, says he sometimes feels as if Native Americans are forgotten. “We are still here, so it’s important to stand up.” (Photo courtesy of Keith Jim/KTJ1 Comics & Arts)

To eliminate these stereotypes, he said, it’s important that the Marvel comics are created by Native Americans.

“I think it is a good step,” Thibodeau said. “Especially having these writers and artists interpret these characters to bring a better sense of representation into mainstream pop culture than there has been.”

Thibodeau and Jim hope that the new Marvel comic book heroes, including Echo, Mirage and Silver Fox, will help tear down the misrepresentation of Indigenous people.

“I can’t wait for it to come out just to see how it should’ve been from the start, how Native Americans should have been represented from the start,” Jim said.

Cory Bushnell owns Cab Comics, the closest comic book store to the Navajo Nation, where the new Marvel comic will be sold.

“It’s something that we’re excited to have in the store and excited to help encourage people to know about,” Bushnell said. “It’s encouraging people to learn more.”

Bushnell and Jim both said that these new heroes will help Native Americans feel inspired. Kyle Charles, an Indigenous illustrator for “Marvel’s Voices: Indigenous Voices,” already received support from Indigenous women for his depictions of the Marvel hero “Dani” Moonstar, a member of the Cheyenne Nation who was introduced in 1982.

“I hope they (women) get inspired or they feel empowered. I hope they get whatever they need out of it, even if it’s just to escape,” Charles said in an interview with the Canadian Press. “The most important thing to me is them seeing this and saying, ‘That’s me, I am that character.’”

Johnny Messiha is a Southern California native who expects to graduate in spring 2021 with his master’s degree in sports journalism. He has served as a commentator at the University of San Diego, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in communication studies.

McKenzie Allen-Charmley is originally from Alaska and expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in business. Aside from reporting for Cronkite News, she works in event production for Arizona PBS and at the JET Lab at the Cronkite School.

Via Cronkite News

Blue Arizona: Pandemic, Trump and racism drove Decisive voter turnout in some American-Indian tribal communities Thu, 10 Dec 2020 05:01:59 +0000 By Anthony J. Wallace ( Cronkite News) – PHOENIX – Enthusiasm across Arizona was higher this election than in the 2016 presidential contest, and final results show the contrast was even more stark in Indian Country, where voters said they were especially motivated because of the COVID-19 pandemic and issues of race.

A census analysis of 2018 data found American Indians were at least 4.4% of eligible voters in Arizona, or more than 220,000 people. Considering the neck-and-neck battle in Arizona’s presidential election this year – decided by a mere 10,457 votes – they had the power to swing the outcome.

“Knowing the thin margins in the last couple of elections, this was a year that we knew that a vote really mattered, and we took it seriously,” said Kevin Allis, CEO of the National Congress of American Indians. “(Native voters) likely played a very key role in close races in Arizona.”

Mirroring a trend across the U.S., voter turnout was higher in all 15 Arizona counties compared with the 2016 general election. Statewide, turnout increased 5.7% from 2016, to 79.9%.

The largest jump came in Apache County, which contains swaths of the Navajo Nation and the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and has a 73% Native population. Turnout there rose 10 percentage points, from 59% in 2016 to 69% this year.

President-elect Joe Biden received more than 66% of the votes there, according to county canvassing data. That’s 5 points better than how Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton finished in the county in 2016.

For example this year, 86% of voters in the Canyon de Chelly precinct on the Navajo Nation voted for Biden, compared with 82% for Clinton in 2016. But more significantly, the precinct had a 61% voter turnout this year, compared with 48% in 2016, according to official county results.

This phenomenon was not confined to the Four Corners region. From the Navajo Nation to the Tohono O’odham Nation along the Mexican border, Native voters said they felt more inspired to participate in this year’s election.

Faith Ramon, 37, a Tohono O’odham who lives in Tucson, said she was spurred by Trump’s construction of a wall along Arizona’s southern border, plowing through land considered sacred to the tribe. If completed, the wall would separate Arizona tribal members from cultural sites and Tohono O’odham who live in Mexico.

Before the election, protesters from the tribe clashed with Border Patrol agents north of the Lukeville international crossing, near where the wall is being built. On Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Oct. 12, the demonstrations escalated, and multiple protesters were arrested and sprayed with tear gas.

“They don’t understand how much it means to us,” Ramon said. “So for me, I feel like this wall really brought awareness to our nation, to our people and surrounding tribes in the area.”

Ramon works as a community organizer for the advocacy group Living United for Change in Arizona, known as LUCHA. In previous elections, the Tohono O’odham have had low voter turnout, she said, but enthusiasm was higher this year.

“It feels good to be able to have made a difference in this election,” she said.

Cronkite News analyzed individual voting precincts across the Tohono O’odham Nation and found that in both 2016 and 2020, about 94% of voters supported the Democratic presidential candidate. But this year, Biden received 21% more votes than Clinton did in 2016.

Overall turnout in Pima County, which includes the reservation, was 82% this year versus 78% in 2016.

Ramon said tribal members were also energized by the campaign of Gabriella Cázares-Kelly, a Tohono O’odham member elected Pima County recorder.

“This isn’t just my win,” Cázares-Kelly said in her victory speech. “This is a win for the Tohono O’odham people, for the Pascua Yaqui people, for any of you who are … affiliated with a tribe, to people of color – this is a win for all of us.”

Native voters also made their presence felt in other parts of the country. Thanks to victories in New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Hawaii, six Native Americans were elected to the U.S. House. That’s a record, according to Indian Country Today.

The American Election Eve Poll, conducted in the two weeks leading up to the election, identified the pandemic as the most important issue among Native voters surveyed in the state.

COVID-19 death rates are higher for Indigenous people and other people of color, both in Arizona and the U.S. The Navajo Nation alone has lost more than 660 people to the disease; its death rate has been higher than any U.S. state.

Franklin Sage, director of the Diné Policy Institute in Tsaile, said Trump’s downplaying of the virus didn’t sit well on the reservation. He has voted for both Republicans and Democrats but this year went with Democrats up and down the ticket, and the two biggest issues driving his decision were the pandemic and racism.

“It’s almost like going back to the ’60s when the civil rights movement really started, with the racism being blatantly open,” Sage said, adding that this sentiment is clearly “encouraged by this president.”

Priscilla Coronado Madrid, 47, a member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, was a cashier at a Shell gas station before the pandemic cost her her job. The mother of three said she voted for Biden “because I feel that he will make an effort to figure out something about this COVID – financially, emotionally.”

“We’re still trying to get back on our feet,” she said.

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‘Long time coming’: Latino voters help flip Arizona, tighten key races

Christina Morris, a Navajo living in Farmington, New Mexico, said she considers herself to be center-right when it comes to politics – which isn’t an easy thing these days.

“I feel like it’s not just right or left. Today’s climate is either you’re far right or you’re far left,” she said. “There’s no middle ground.”

She said “leadership and racism” were the reasons she chose Biden.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said he believes Native voters made all the difference this election. In a recent interview with Arizona PBS, he noted that COVID-19 relief drives across the reservation had doubled as voter registration drives and helped increase interest.

“And I think because of the Navajo vote, we actually helped change Arizona from red to a blue state,” he said.

Now, he hopes the new administration makes good on promises to give Native Americans a seat at the table. Already, Biden has added a Navajo to his COVID-19 advisory board: Dr. Jill Jim, executive director of the Navajo Nation Department of Health.

During the campaign, Biden released his ideas for Indian Country, emphasizing education funding for tribal schools, Native American voting rights, and addressing health disparities. But Sage noted it’s easy to say the right things when you’re trying to get votes.

“I think a lot of politicians only come around the reservation during the election,” Sage said. “And the rest of the time, I think some of the Navajos think that they are being forgotten.”

Cronkite News reporter Franco LaTona contributed to this story.

Anthony Wallace is an Arizona native who expects to graduate in December 2020 with a master’s degree in journalism. His work has appeared in Phoenix New Times, Phoenix Magazine and the New Humanitarian.

Franco LaTona is a Wisconsin native who expects to graduate in December 2020 with a master’s degree in mass communication. He is honing his visual storytelling skills and writing for the health desk at Cronkite News. LaTona spent more than three years as a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa.

First Americans on Pandemic Front Line: Navajo Nation warns hospitals at ‘breaking point’ in worsening surge Sun, 06 Dec 2020 05:01:02 +0000 By Calah Schlabach | –

( Cronkite News ) – WASHINGTON – With a shortage of beds, oxygen and staff, the Navajo Nation can no longer depend on regional aid and is sending critical patients farther afield for care, officials reported Thursday.

That news came as area health care workers and Navajo government officials warned that the coming surge in COVID-19 cases would be worse than the first, when the tribe recorded some of the highest infection and death rates in the country.

“It’s gotten to the point where our facilities are deeply challenged and getting to the point of being overwhelmed,” said Dr. Jonathan Iralu, a national and area infectious disease consultant for the Indian Health Service.

“Our hospital beds are full, and when we try to send persons to other hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona … they are essentially 100% full,” said Iralu, who works at the Gallup Indian Medical Center.

His comments came during a wide-ranging two-hour update during which tribal officials said they are extending a reservation-wide lockdown for another three weeks and are seeking a disaster declaration from the federal government.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the tribe has also expanded the number of alternative care centers, where people who test positive can “hunker down” and wait out their quarantine period, rather than go home and risk infecting family members. He said the seven alternative care centers will help keep hospital beds open for more serious cases.

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Dr. Eric Ritchie, chief medical officer at the IHS hospital in Chinle, said Navajo hospitals “are reaching a breaking point and a point of crisis … both for COVID and for non-COVID care.”

He and others said that the main difference between this surge and the spring is that when reservation and border community hospitals ran out of beds then, they could easily transfer patients to hospitals in Albuquerque or the Valley. But those hospitals are now facing their own COVID-19 crises.

That has put a strain on all medical services for Navajo. Ritchie said a patient recently came to the Chinle hospital in a coma for a non-COVID issue, and it took the staff 24 hours to find a hospital that could accept the patient for the specialized care they needed.

While the shortage of personal protective equipment for hospital staff was a problem in the spring, health care workers now find themselves running short of oxygen and high-flow oxygen machines, one of the primary tools for treating COVID-19 patients.

“We are competing for oxygen supplies,” said Dr. Paula Mora, chief medical officer at the Gallup hospital. “Many of our vendors that provide oxygen for our hospitals are challenged with getting replenished supplies into their companies and therefore we are challenged with trying to find new vendors to provide oxygen.”

Fewer patients require ventilation, but many require “extensive and prolonged oxygen support,” said Dr. Quida Vincent, clinical director at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M. When her hospital had too few high-flow oxygen machines for the number of patients who needed them last week, they made adjustments, “but it was traumatic for staff.”

She expected 10 new machines to arrive Thursday – when workers will need to adapt the new machines to the old hospital, which does not have sufficient oxygen hookups to meet the need she anticipates.

Hospitals are also creating ways to expand bed capacity, but the bigger problem is finding health care workers to staff them. Vincent said there is a 50% nurse vacancy rate, made worse by the spring wave and worker fatigue. All the officials noted that the health care workers they do have are reaching a breaking point.

“Many are disheartened to see the rise in cases and are struggling to come to grips with the fact that we are going to face a moment in time where our hospitals are stretched even further than they were before, during May or June when we had the first surge,” Ritchie said.

At his hospital, Iralu said, “You can see their worry lines on their faces above their face masks.”

Nez said the current public health executive order – which was set to end Sunday – will be extended another three weeks, until Dec. 27. The order mandates a stay-at-home lockdown, closing the Navajo Nation and limiting residents to their homes, with the exception of essential workers and services.

“We need to recommit ourselves to staying home and helping bring these numbers down,” he said.

The new order will allow essential businesses to be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., from Monday through Friday, rather than having to close at 3 p.m. Weekend lockdowns will run from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, and people will have to stay home from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. on weeknights.

“This is entirely in our hands,” said Nez, urging residents to abide by the rules. “We’ve got to encourage and we’ve got to hold our people accountable.”

Vice President Myron Lizer told “negative Nellies out there” that it was time to “fall in line.”

Dr. Michael Tutt, chief medical officer at Tsehootsooi Medical Center in Fort Defiance, said he and his children haven’t seen his elderly parents since February, due to the risk of spreading the virus. At the same time he has “seen grandmothers and grandfathers, husbands and wives die from COVID.”

The Navajo Nation had recorded 17,035 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 658 deaths as of Wednesday. But Tutt said hope is around the corner.

“There’s a vaccine coming,” Tutt said. “Don’t be afraid of it because you hear all this nonsense on Facebook, on the news.”

After a vaccine comes, he said, “We’ll gather up at our chei’s (grandpa’s) sheep camp and go camping like the way we did in the past.”

Via Cronkite News

Calah Schlabach is a multimedia storyteller pursuing a master’s degree in mass communication. She has been a graduate assistant for Global Sport Matters and a 2020 News21 fellow. Schlabach was a grant writer for a social services nonprofit and has written and copy editied in Vietnam and Haiti.