REI, the purveyor of outdoor gear, made a commendable decision to keep its stores and even its website closed on Black Friday. It gave its 12,000 employees a paid day off, and encouraged both employees and customers to go do something outdoors with friends and family. Many state and national parks followed up with free day passes for those taking REI’s advice.REI deserved the great publicity it got for doing this, but the truth is that Black Friday may be fading from its former glory as more people shop online, and more retailers start offering deals even before Thanksgiving.
French take high road on refugees
The French are braver than we often give them credit for. French President Francois Hollande announced recently that France will keep its pledge to take in 30,000 refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries of the Middle East. That’s a courageous commitment following the Paris attacks, and a stark contrast to the anti-immigrant hysteria of governors and Republican presidential candidates here in the U. S. Our president has committed to taking in 10,000 refugees; Germany is accepting 800,000. About 12 million Syrians have fled their homes, and half are children. Four million Syrians are in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. Inadequate international aid has caused cuts in food rations for those in United Nations refugee camps, and that has swollen the ranks of migrants to Europe.
Public supports end-of-life information
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You can talk to your doctor now about how you want to be cared for at the end of your life, and your doctor can bill Medicare for taking the time for the conversation. This is an idea that sparked the myth of “death panels” when it was first proposed in 2009. The New York Times reports that the idea has now been quietly adopted by Medicare. “The apprehension and concern has slowly ebbed as public support got stronger,” says Earl Blumenauer, a former Democratic Congressman from Oregon who first proposed the idea. “And some of the people making the most outrageous charges have gone on to make outrageous charges about other things.” Yes, like Syrian refugees.
Oil train math is scary
Here’s a question that will remind you of middle school math class: If four trains of 100 cars each filled with oil travel along the Columbia River to the Port of Vancouver, how many years will it be until there is a catastrophe? That problem was assigned to the state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council, which concluded there would likely be a derailment every 20 months of an empty train headed back for more, and every two years for a loaded train. They forecast spills from a derailed, loaded train once every 12 years. They also found that most fire departments are unprepared for dealing with such a spill. We hope this analysis will lead to some very cautious deliberation, and some fresh thinking about the many reasons renewable energy sources are a better idea than extracting, transporting and burning fossil fuels.