29 Wildfires Blaze Across the West, Fueled by Drought and Wind
Twenty-nine uncontained wildfires are blazing in the Western U.S. right now, raising concerns that 2018's fire season could rival 2017's record-breaking season for devastation, The New York Times reported Monday.
The fast-moving County Fire in Northern California, which started Saturday and has burnt more than 60,000 acres of land as of late Monday, has belched smoke into the skies over San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma and San Mateo counties, National Public Radio (NPR) reported.
It has created dramatic images, as Bay Area residents woke up to smoke and ash over the weekend.
"The sky is very dark, even in the middle of the day. It's a little scary," a Sausalito Shell station employee Sergio Garcia told the Associated Press, according to NPR.
For residents of California's wine country, it is also bringing back memories of the fires that ravaged the area last fall.
"A lot of friends and family were texting today and saying they were having some PTSD," Savannah Kirtlink told the Associated Press, according to NPR.
So far the County Fire has forced 300 people from their homes and threatened 700 buildings, ABC News reported. It is only three percent contained and growing, according to NPR, fueled by dry weather and southwesterly wind.
"We didn't really get a lot of rain this year, so the fields dried out quickly," Captain Mark Bailey told The New York Times. "A big fire like this in early July is the new normal for California."
The County Fire isn't the only one raging in California. The nearby Pawnee Fire, which began a week before, is still burning, though CalFire told NPR it is 75 percent contained.
Dry conditions in other Western states are also fueling flames. In Colorado, there are currently more than a half dozen fires which have forced 2,500 homes to be evacuated, ABC News reported. Most of the evacuations were due to a fire accidentally started by a Danish man named Jesper Joergensen.
"We've never seen any fires like this. Ever," grocery store owner Felix Romero, whose business is a few miles south of the blaze, told The New York Times. "We're just afraid the fire will start heading south. If it does, we're in deep trouble."
Firefighters have also been battling a blaze in Wyoming, near the Colorado border, since June 10, according to ABC News. It is about 80 percent contained.
In Utah, a fire near Strawberry Reservoir, a popular fishing destination, has forced evacuations from seven to 10 summer cabins.
And in New Mexico, a fire forced authorities to order the entire town of Cimarron, home to around 1,000 people, to evacuate in June, The New York Times reported.
The National Interagency Fire Center said the Southwest could see some relief from fire-causing drought conditions in early July, as rain is expected. However, hot, windy weather is projected to maintain fire risk in parts of California, Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington through the end of the month, ABC News reported.
California Wildfire Risk Grows as Cloud Cover Is 'Plummeting' https://t.co/TdMEz69PTb @ClimateCentral @YaleClimateComm— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1528236029.0
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In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of Eastern Oklahoma Is Still a Reservation
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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