California Heat Threatens Agriculture With Eighth Day Of Triple Digits

California’s continued triple-digit temperatures are causing farmers to struggle to stay afloat, as others deal with a strained power grid.

The West’s extreme heat, now stretching into a second week, is straining American agriculture. It’s now threatening supplies of crops and livestock.

As triple-digit temperatures sear the southwestern desert, locals are trying to stay comfortable — but farmers are trying to stay afloat.

Colorado farmer Sasha Smith was already feeling the pressure before the most recent heatwave. 

“When you’re reliant on the weather, you don’t have a choice,” Smith said. “You have to adapt. You have to change to be successful and to be able to get things out and ready to sell.”

Danny Munch is an economist with the American Farm Bureau. 

“On top of all the other inflationary pressures, operating expenses, high fertilizer prices, high fuel prices — this is just another thing on the docket that our farmers and ranchers are facing,” Munch said. “Forage quality going down means that the market weight of their animals is lower, so they’re making less money off the animals that they are selling.”

He says this heatwave will have a lasting impact down the road.

“A lot of our berries come from California, so drought, removal of those orchards or just continued heat pressures is gonna reduce the supply we have here and increase those localized prices for consumers,” Munch said.

Now it’s an immediate threat to people. A hiker, Dr. Evan Dishion, died Monday after hiking with friends and getting lost in the heat in Arizona.

His wife spoke to Newsy’s sister station in Phoenix.

“He was really thoughtful and self-reflective and intelligent, and he just wanted to help people,” Amy Dishion said. “It’s not worth it. He didn’t want to leave me and Chloe, and I don’t want other people to leave behind people that they love just to go on a hike.”

Leaders and medical workers across the West are trying to save others from the same devastation, as power grids strain to keep the air conditioning running.

On the Nevada-Arizona border, hurricane-force winds brought down 100 power poles, stranding thousands without power in the sweltering heat.

“It was so vicious that we couldn’t even see our neighbor across the street,” said Stephen Durrett, who is without power. “When the electric goes, everything goes.”

It will be days more for the hundreds still in the dark.

In southern California, it’s an eighth straight day of triple digits.

Contractor Shaun Clifton and his team are trying to manage their work outdoors.

“We take a break, and at the end of the day, we make sure the cooler is full of beer,” Clifton said.

It’s a routine many will have to get used to in the West as extreme heatwaves get more common in long-term forecasts and change many everyday things, from outdoor work and play to farming. 

“Taking a proactive approach for a lot of our water management organizations could buffer some of the issues we’re facing just with a mindset change,” Munch said.



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Cases Of West Nile Virus Rising In Some Parts Of The U.S.

Though the chances of getting infected are low, officials are trying to make the public aware of the virus and how to protect against it.

Cases of the West Nile virus are increasing in some parts of the country.

Officials in Los Angeles County have confirmed the first human cases there, while cases have also popped up in Maryland and Massachusetts.

In Arizona, there were a dozen cases of West Nile before heavy rains this summer. Now the state is reporting twice that, as rains coast-to-coast threaten to make outbreaks worse.

“If we keep experiencing more storms, more water, more accumulation of water and that water remains stagnant for around three to five days, that would be conducive to mosquito breeding, especially as we get warm temperatures,” said Johnny Dilone, Maricopa County Arizona Environmental Services community relations manager.

While the chances of a person actually getting the virus are low, it’s not a chance one should take.

Barbara Puls is still watching her brother-in-law recover from a case last year.

“Their prognosis for walking again is not very good because like his feet have sort of atrophied,” Puls said of her brother-in-law.

Mosquitoes get the virus from feeding on infected birds. Then they pass the virus on to people through bites.

Across the U.S., preventing breeding in part relies on keeping the bugs away, and spraying for them is booming.



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Snoop Dogg Launching New Animated Children’s Series

“Doggyland — Kids Songs & Nursery Rhymes” features a colorful cast of singing dog characters and will launch on YouTube and YouTube Kids.

His rap lyrics are decidedly adult, and that’s what makes Snoop Dogg’s latest venture a bit surprising.

The rapper and entertainment industry mogul is now transitioning into children’s cartoons.

He’s working on an animated series called “Doggyland — Kids Songs & Nursery Rhymes.”

The show features a colorful cast of dogs that will use song and dance to teach lessons on social and emotional skills.

According to a press release, the series will include lessons on topics like letters, numbers, animals and building good habits at a young age.

The show is aimed at kids and toddlers from 2 to 8 years old and will air on YouTube and YouTube Kids.



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Monkeypox Can Spread To Pet Dogs, Doctors Report

By Associated Press
August 17, 2022

Pets that come in close contact with a symptomatic person should be kept at home and away from other animals and people for 21 days.

Health officials are warning people who are infected with monkeypox to stay away from household pets, since the animals could be at risk of catching the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for months has had the advice in place as monkeypox spreads in the U.S. But it gained new attention after a report from France, published last week in the medical journal Lancet, about an Italian greyhound that caught the virus.

The dog belongs to a couple who said they sleep alongside the animal. The two men were infected with monkeypox after having sex with other partners and wound up with lesions and other symptoms. The greyhound later developed lesions and was diagnosed with the virus.

Monkeypox infections have been detected in rodents and other wild animals, which can spread the virus to humans. But the authors called it the first report of monkeypox infection in a domesticated animal like a dog or cat.

Pets that come in close contact with a symptomatic person should be kept at home and away from other animals and people for 21 days after the most recent contact, the CDC advises.

 Additional reporting by The Associated Press.



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European Drought Dries Up Rivers, Kills Fish, Shrivels Crops

By Associated Press
August 12, 2022

The European Commission’s Joint Research Center warned that drought conditions will get worse and potentially affect 47% of the continent.

Once, a river ran through it. Now, white dust and thousands of dead fish cover the wide trench that winds amid rows of trees in France’s Burgundy region in what was the Tille River in the village of Lux.

From dry and cracked reservoirs in Spain to falling water levels on major arteries like the Danube, the Rhine and the Po, an unprecedented drought is afflicting nearly half of Europe. It is damaging farm economies, forcing water restrictions, causing wildfires and threatening aquatic species.

There has been no significant rainfall for almost two months in the continent’s western, central and southern regions. In typically rainy Britain, the government officially declared a drought across southern and central England on Friday amid one of the hottest and driest summers on record.

And Europe’s dry period is expected to continue in what experts say could be the worst drought in 500 years.

Climate change is exacerbating conditions as hotter temperatures speed up evaporation, thirsty plants take in more moisture and reduced snowfall in the winter limits supplies of freshwater available for irrigation in the summer. Europe isn’t alone in the crisis, with drought conditions also reported in East Africa, the western United States and northern Mexico.

The European Commission’s Joint Research Center warned this week that drought conditions will get worse and potentially affect 47% of the continent.

The current situation is the result of long periods of dry weather caused by changes in world weather systems, said meteorologist Peter Hoffmann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research near Berlin.

“It’s just that in summer we feel it the most,” he said. “But actually the drought builds up across the year.”

Climate change has lessened the temperature differences between regions, sapping the forces that drive the jet stream, which normally brings wet Atlantic weather to Europe, he said.

A weaker or unstable jet stream can result in unusually hot air coming to Europe from North Africa, leading to prolonged periods of heat. The reverse is also true, when a polar vortex of cold air from the Arctic can cause freezing conditions far south of where it would normally reach.

Hoffmann said observations in recent years have all been at the upper end of what the existing climate models predicted.

The drought has caused some European countries to impose restrictions on water usage, and shipping is endangered on the Rhine and the Danube rivers.

Millions in the U.K. were already barred from watering lawns and gardens under regional “hosepipe bans,” and 15 million more around London will face such a ban shortly.

The Rhine, Germany’s biggest waterway, is forecast to reach critically low levels in the coming days. Authorities say it could become difficult for many large ships to safely navigate the river at the city of Kaub, roughly midway between Koblenz and Mainz.

The drought is also hitting U.K. farmers, who face running out of irrigation water and having to use winter feed for animals because of a lack of grass. The Rivers Trust charity said England’s chalk streams — which allow underground springs to bubble up through the spongy layer of rock — are drying up, endangering aquatic wildlife like kingfishers and trout.

Even countries like Spain and Portugal, which are used to long periods without rain, have seen major consequences. In the Spanish region of Andalucia, some avocado farmers have had to sacrifice hundreds of trees to save others from wilting as the Vinuela reservoir in Malaga province dropped to only 13% of capacity.

Some European farmers are using water from the tap for their livestock when ponds and streams go dry, using up to 26 gallons a day per cow.

EU corn production is expected to be 12.5 million tons below last year and sunflower production is projected to be 1.6 million tons lower, according to S&P Global Commodity Insights.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.



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LEGO Celebrates Its 90th Anniversary At San Diego Comic-Con

The LEGO Group started in 1932 with wooden toys and eventually introduced plastic bricks, which still holds high over the rest of the toy industry.

This year’s San Diego Comic-Con features a 14-foot-tall “Bowser” from the video game franchise “Super Mario Bros.” He’s made up of over 700,000 LEGO bricks — a symbol of the big celebration happening for Lego’s 90th anniversary.

“A lot of people have these long histories with playing with bricks as a kid and then growing up, so I think we just wanted to pay homage to that,” said Cassidy Najarian, The LEGO Group spokesperson.

The LEGO Group started on August 10, 1932 in Denmark with wooden toys, then eventually the colorful, plastic, interlocking bricks inspired by an existing line of toys from Kiddicraft were introduced.

That means LEGO wasn’t the first of its kind, but it quickly became the most popular. In 1998, LEGO became one of the first toys inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame, and in 2000, LEGO beat the teddy bear and Barbie in winning “Toy of the Century” by the British Association of Toy Retailers.

Today, LEGO continues its reign over the toy industry. The company made $8.4 billion in revenue in 2021, making it the highest-earning toy brand in the world, ahead of Bandai Namco, Hasbro, and Mattel — each of which have their own competing brick toys.  

It’s also one of the most expensive toys on the market, costing parents and families almost double what they would pay for other types of toys like action figures and stuffed animals. In some cases, LEGO sets can cost hundreds of dollars.

That’s because of another hallmark of LEGO’s history: licensing.

In 1998, LEGO negotiated with Lucasfilm for the exclusive rights to create a line of toys for “Star Wars.” Since then, the company has partnered with other major franchises like Marvel and Harry Potter, and even sitcoms like “The Office.”

In many of these cases, LEGO sets aren’t just toys made for kids; they’re for collectors. 

“It’s really become a cultural moment in its own right,” Najarian said. “It’s been able to tap into a lot of different interests of people and honor that but bring it back to the central point of different ways to play and different ways to celebrate play.” 

Over nine decades, LEGO has built its brand brick by brick to include more than just toys. The company now commands several video games, films, and 10 different theme parks all over the world.



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Inflation Weighs On Back-To-School Buying For Many Families

This back-to-school season, parents — particularly in the low to middle income bracket — are focusing on the basics while shopping at cheaper stores.

To understand the impact of surging inflation on this year’s back-to-school spending, look no further than children’s rain boots with motifs like frogs and ladybugs made by Washington Shoe Co.

Spending held steady for these evergreen items even after the Kent, Washington-based business was forced to pass along 15% price increases in January to its retail clients because of soaring transportation costs. But by May, as gas and food prices also surged, shoppers abruptly shifted away from the $35 higher-end rain boots to the no-frills versions that run $5 to $10 cheaper, its CEO Karl Moehring said.

“We are seeing consumers shift down,” said Moehring, noting dramatic 20% sales swings in opposite directions for both types of products. “Wages are not keeping up with inflation.”

This back-to-school shopping season, parents — particularly in the low to middle income bracket — are focusing on the basics while also trading down to cheaper stores amid surging inflation, which hit a new 40-year high in June.

Last week, Walmart noted higher prices on gas and food are forcing shoppers to make fewer purchases of discretionary items, particularly clothing. Best Buy, the nation’s largest consumer electronics chain, cited that inflation has dampened consumer spending on gadgets. Both companies cut their profit forecasts as a result.

Such financial struggles amid the industry’s second-most important shopping season behind the winter holidays mark a big difference from a year ago when many low-income shoppers, flush with government stimulus and buoyed by wage increases, spent freely.

Matt Priest, CEO of trade group Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America, noted that last year, the group’s retail members saw a noticeable uptick in online sales mid-month when shoppers received their monthly child tax credit checks that amounted to a couple of hundred dollars. This season, without that bump, he expects shoppers will buy fewer shoes for their children and rely on private label brands.

Inflation has squeezed household finances for Jessica Reyes, 34, who took her daughters Jalysa, 7, and Jenesis, 5, to a “Back to School Bash” event last month in Chicago’s northside that offered free backpacks filled with supplies for students.

“I feel like everything is going up these days,” she said at the event. “We’re a one-income household right now … so I think it’s greatly affected us in all areas, in bills and in house necessities and school necessities.”

Out shopping, her girls were drawn to the school supplies featuring TV characters and animals they love, but she’ll focus on the plain versions.

“They want the cute ones, you know, the kitty ones. And those are always more expensive than the simple ones. And same thing with folders, or notebooks, or pencils,” Reyes said.

Earlier, Manny Colon and his daughters Jubilee, 8, and Audrey, 5, stopped by the back-to-school event to pick out backpacks.

Colon, 38, works at his daughters’ elementary school. He said his spouse has had to pick up extra work because of high prices for school supplies, groceries and gas.

“I think it’s definitely impacted us,” he said.

Multiple forecasts point to a solid back-to-school shopping season.

Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending across all payment forms including cash, forecasts back-to-school spending will be up 7.5% from July 14 through Sept. 5 compared with the year-ago period when sales rose 11%. For the 2020 back-to-school period, sales fell 0.8% as the pandemic wreaked havoc on schools’ reopening plans and back-to-school shopping.

Still, higher prices are propping up much of the numbers.

A basket of roughly a dozen supply items showed a price increase of nearly 15% on average for this back-to-school season compared with a year ago, according to retail analytics firm DataWeave. The price of backpacks are up nearly 12% to an average of $70, for example.

Back 2 School America, an Illinois-based nonprofit that distributes back-to-school kits to kids from low-income families, has seen “a significant increase in costs of supplies,” including a 10% increase from their vendor with another possible markup on the way, said the organization’s CEO Matthew Kurtzman. And shipping costs have also gone up.

Thanks to increased support this year, Back 2 School America will be able to cover the new costs and is on track to distribute more kits than ever before — 12,000 so far, and more than 30,000 by the end of August, Kurtzman said. But the funding isn’t guaranteed in the future as worries about a recession increase.

Retailers face big challenges to get shoppers to spend, particularly on clothing.

Walmart said last week it was taking extra discounts on clothing to clear out inventory. Analysts believe those sales will exert more pressure on other rivals to discount more to stay competitive. However, Walmart said it’s encouraged by the early signs for sales of school supplies.

Meanwhile, Gap’s low-price Old Navy division is guaranteeing a price freeze on its denim from July 29 through the end of September.

As for Washington Shoe, Moehring said he’s shifting production away from higher-priced children’s boots to more value-priced products in the months ahead. The company still sees annual sales ahead of last year, but he’s being cautious.

“I believe it is a muddy outlook, ” he said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.



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Flooding In Central Appalachia Kills At Least 16 People In Kentucky

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
July 29, 2022

Rescue teams backed by the National Guard searched Friday for missing people in floods that engulfed entire communities.

Update: This article has been updated since its original publication to highlight a new death toll.

Heavy rains have caused flash flooding and mudslides as storms pound parts of central Appalachia. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday that at least 16 people have died from flooding in the state. He says property damage has been massive, with hundreds losing their homes.

Timothy D. Easley / AP

Water rescues continue across the region. Floyd County Judge/Executive Robbie Williams said it isn’t possible to reach everyone yet.

“We know we’ve got folks now we can’t get to,” Williams said. “They’ve got water in their homes and they are trapped and we just can’t get to (them) because the water’s so swift.”

Floyd County resident Rachel Patton said the flood filled her home quickly.

“We had to swim out. And it was cold, it was over my head, so, it was scary.”

Patton said evacuating her mother was also difficult.

“We had to put her on a door to get her out of her trailer. Because she was flooded in. She couldn’t get out. She’s on oxygen.”

Floyd County is in eastern Kentucky. So is Perry County, where the emergency management director called the damage “catastrophic.”

Glenn Caudil of the Grapevine-Chavies Fire Department in Perry County said the flooding has affected just about everyone there.

“Probably 95% of the people in this area here’s lost everything. Houses, cars, animals. It’s heartbreaking. It really is.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.



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