Saturday, September 17, 2005

California Nightmare?

Southern California is ill prepared to respond to the type of devastation an earthquake or act of terrorism could cause, Sharon Bernstein of the Los Angeles Times reports. In "Southland Not Ready for Disaster," she examines the region's emergency plans and interviews officials to reveal little has been done to plan for mass displacement and destruction on the scale of Hurricane Katrina. She writes that "most of the region's planning is based on the assumption that damage will be confined to one or two areas, several officials said. Detailed plans to deal with a massive emergency — one that displaces more than 300,000 people — have not been developed since the end of the Cold War, said Stephen Sellers, head of Southern California operations for the state Office of Emergency Services.",0,4293242.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Friday, September 16, 2005

Up in Smoke

What are the benefits and costs -- economic and social -- of the U.S. war against marijuana use? In "The $4 billion war on pot," David S. Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix sifts through federal and state data to examine the impact of marijuana laws.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Disaster Planning

Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball write on that state emergency planning directors are accusing the Bush administration of leaving the nation unprepared to combat natural disasters. In "Wrong Priorities?" they review government documents and interview state officials to show that the White House's focus on planning for terror attacks left less time and money to prepare for hurricanes and other natural disasters.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Loan Sharks

Payday loan companies are using lax banking laws to charge unsuspecting customers interest rates that can add up to more than 700 percent annually, Paul Kix of the weekly Dallas Observer reports in "The Big Squeeze Thinking about taking out a payday loan? Think again, sucker." Kix uses lively anecdotes, hard data and a clear writing style to reveal this modern form of usury.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Hunt for Life

In "For Fossil Hunters, Gobi Is No Desert," John Noble Wilford of The New York Times gives us a wonderfully descriptive tale of fossil hunting in the Gobi Desert where, in his words, "only camels, nomads and hardy paleontologists seem at home." I'm not likely to ever go to Mongolia, but Wilford tells us what it's like to live there and explore the world's richest deposits of dinosaur and early mammal remains. Chang W. Lee's photos are also fantastic.

Stormy Seas

Why are we having so many hurricanes in recent years? Bill Coats of the St. Petersburg Times tells us in "Storm Frenzy is not an Anomaly, but a Phase" that slightly warmer Atlantic currents are creating a stormy cycle that may last another 10 to 20 years. Coats' story delves deeply into the scientific and historic data yet remains highly readable.

Monday, September 12, 2005

School wars

Parochial and private schools around the country are spending millions of dollars on new buildings in order to compete for students, David Hunn of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. In "Schools learn there's a fourth R: Rebuilding," he describes this intense competition in the St. Louis area as schools build or refurbish gyms, two-stage theaters, student centers and dramatic entryways.
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