Meanwhile, somewhere outside Washington… by @BloggersRUs

Meanwhile, somewhere outside Washington...

by Tom Sullivan

If you are about Trumped out after this week, here are a few things going on outside the Beltway.

Even as the East Coast groans in a deep freeze, the West is warmer than usual. East Coast temperatures are 20 degrees below normal averages while the West is 20 degrees above normal. They are playing hockey on ponds in St. Louis and ice climbing frozen waterfalls in North Carolina.

But temperatures from Texas to the Dakotas are "right on track," reports the New York Times, "serving as a de facto thermal continental divide."

While it is a deep freeze, back East, Colorado's Western Slope is in drought. The snowpack as monitored in several areas of the state has shrunk to record-low levels. The Denver Post reports the levels have not been this low in three decades. Colorado's snows feed some of the nation's major rivers.

“We need to watch this very closely. If we don’t get the snow we typically do, there could be water shortages," said Brian Domonkos, a snow survey supervisor with the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The 9,000 wildfires that burned an area of California the size of Delaware, destroyed 10,800 structures and killed at least 46 people. The Thomas Fire was large enough to have consumed "much of the Washington metropolitan area," per the Washington Post. On Wednesday, authorities announced it is now 92-percent contained, but will likely not be fully contained before the end of January.

The mudslides should arrive sometime after a judge hears the lawsuits filed against Southern California Edison for allegedly starting the Thomas Fire through negligence by one of its crews. One observer described the fire as "a real life apocalypse."

The Houston Chronicle for some reason decided this week to revisit what a nuclear apocalypse might look like. "There's no better time to be reminded of the threat posed by humanity's most dangerous weapon than 2018," the Fernando Ramirez writes to introduce a slide show on casualty count projections:

To understand why nuclear weapons aren't anything to fool around with, nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein created an online tool that lets users see the devastating impact of the atomic tech.

The tool generates both the estimated casualties from the bomb as well as a point-of-view of the blast radius that brings the power of the terrifying weapons into perspective.

Finally, a December 29 Wall Street Journal report charts the growing gulf in health and well-being between urban and rural America. In the 1,800 counties outside metropolitan areas, the population is shrinking as well as aging. "Deaths by suicide and in maternity are on the rise" faster than in metro areas, the Journal reports. But violent crime in the cities (contrary to claims by a well-known, stable genius) has declined to the point that it has wiped out any "safety premium" from living in rural America.

"Men in rural areas are working less," the report continues, but that trend, while worse for rural America, reflects a decades-long decline across the board in workforce participation. The decline in median household income is reflective of that trend. What is disturbing is that in a graph based on census data, household incomes (adjusted for inflation) peaked around the end of the Clinton administration and continue to decline.

Image via Wall Street Journal.

Half a century after Dustin Hoffman played one on screen, there are reasons new graduates — and plenty of others — are worried about their futures.

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