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Bloodsuckers in California

THE SOUTHWEST & CALIFORNIA

It's been hot lately. Damned hot. Phoenix, Ariz., Palm Springs, Calif., and other Western torrid zones posted temperatures of more than 100 degrees every day during the first two weeks of August. Death Valley's high exceeded 115 degrees on 14 out of those 14 days, and on one occasion reached 126 degrees. And Phoenix's low never dropped below 90 for seven days straight. It's enough to make you want to go jump in a river or a lake. If you can find one, of course, and it isn't teeming with leeches. 'Bloodsuckers prey on foothill swimmers,' was the recent headline in the Calaveras (Calif.) Enterprise, disappointing Twilight fans, once they realized no actual hot vampires were involved. Apparently, folks cooling off in a local reservoir discovered leeches attached to various parts of their bodies. Despite health officials' assurances that the slimy things are harmless, the horrified swimmers vowed never to jump in that lake again.

THE WEST

With all this talk about anthrax, cows, leeches, algorithmic shooters and prairie dogs, one could be forgiven for thinking conspiracy is afoot. Throw in the extraordinary number of recent wildfires, and it's pretty clear what's going on: Russian terrorists, aided by elements within the U.S. military, have invaded the West and are burning it down, for motives way too complex to explain. That's the thrust of a recent piece at beforeitsnews.com and an email sent to Heard Around the West from someone called 'patriotnews.' The evidence includes alleged sightings of Russians loitering at isolated shooting ranges and popular tourist sites, plus the existence of 'an advanced accelerant' that is 'almost nuclear in its ability to spread fire.' Given this summer's conflagrations, we're not surprised: All this record-breaking heat, near-record drought and a century of fire suppression can lead to almost nuclear-impact fires. Strangely enough, no one has mentioned the Eagle Mountain fire in Utah, which charred part of a mock Afghan town on a military range while sparing real 'American' houses. Suspicious, indeed!

From our friends

HCN in the outhouses of the West

From my Alaska trip: I flew into a small town that is not reachable by road, then hopped on a motorboat and drove across lakes and rivers for 2.5 hours to reach the scientists' camp way out in the boondocks -- out there they have a few rough cabins and a generator that makes electricity only in the evening and two outhouses -- and lo and behold, for reading material in the outhouses they have issues of the Economist magazines and HCN -- amazing to discover HCN readers way out there!

Ray Ring, HCN Senior Editor

Serious business

 "Keep up the good work. HCN is my daily read every morning at the outhouse!!! Sometimes I stay out there too long, just to finish an article." — Marc Valens, Ashland, OR