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Imperiled Peace 

A mad dictator is waging war in Europe. The generation that endured WWII hoped we would never see this disaster unfold again, and yet here we are, praying for Ukraine, watching in horror and amazement as events unfold. There are many organizations sending humanitarian aid to help the over one million refugees fleeing the destruction in their homeland, and aid is desperately needed, as Russian troops continue to shell civilian escape routes and casualties and injuries mount. Support is coming from international agencies like the Ukrainian Humanitarian Fund UN Crisis Relief: www.un.org/en/ukrainecrisisresponse/humanitarian-response, and Doctors Without Borders: www.doctorswithoutborders.org, and smaller European organizations, including Polish Humanitarian Action’s SOS Ukraine fund: www.pah.org.pl/en/. Go Fund Me accounts have been set up to raise funds directly for individuals, aid workers of all kinds, and even the Ukrainian military, but make sure to do a little research before contributing, to make sure donations go where they are promised.

All eyes are on Ukraine, but the coronavirus pandemic is still news, too. Los Angeles County has moved into the CDC’s “low Covid-19 community risk” category. On March 4, the the county relaxed its indoor mask mandate and vaccine verification rules.

Indoor masking at most public settings is no longer mandated, but masks are still recommended. Vaccine verification is no longer required at places like bars and nightclubs. Masks are still required on public transportation, at medical facilities, and long term care facilities, and are still recommended in crowded environments. The danger is still present, although the number of new infections, hospitalizations, and deaths continues to decline.

Rising gas prices are threatening to reach new record highs, and are keeping many people off the road, putting a damper on travel plans, but local destinations, including the most popular trails in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are experiencing big crowds on weekends, as Angelenos head for activities closer to home. It’s only March, and the weather has been unusually cold, but summer crowds are already on the roads. We all need to slow down, and watch out for visitors with their minds on lunch and beach or trailhead parking instead of the road. 

The harbor seal we reported on in the last issue of Topanga New Times is receiving treatment at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in San Pedro, and is expected to make a full recovery. The adult female seal was comatose when she arrived. She was pregnant, but her pup did not survive and was stillborn. Her condition has improved steadily. The marine mammal team described her improvement as “leaps and bounds,” and explained that it will be a while before she is strong enough to fend for herself, but that they are confident she can make a full recovery and will have a second chance at life in the ocean. 

Wildland residents and firefighters in the Western US will be getting some help from NASA. The space agency’s GOES-T satellite, which was built in Colorado, is equipped with a powerful array of weather and environmental monitoring tools that will focus on disaster conditions in the Western hemisphere, including fire. It’s the third in a series of weather satellites designed to focus on hazardous conditions, including wildfire hot spots. GOES-T can “detect changes in fire behavior, predict the motion of fires, estimate a fire’s intensity, and monitor smoke output and air quality effects from smoke,” according to NASA. “It can also identify the lightning strikes most likely to ignite fires and characterize pyrocumulonimbus clouds that threaten the safety of firefighters.” 

The satellite was successfully launched last week.

NASA also announced that the James Webb Space Telescope team is successfully calibrating the satellite’s instruments. Soon, this amazing telescope should be able to reveal more about the universe than we could have dreamed of just a generation ago. 

And, finally, a controversial new study proposes that Tyrannosaurus rex may actually be a family of at least three distinct species, based on an extensive analysis of skeletal variations. No matter how terrible the new cycle may be, or how many challenges we face, we live in an age of unprecedented access to knowledge, an age of miracles.

Stay safe, be well. And if you, dear reader, are a person who believes in prayer, please pray for the people of Ukraine.

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