CATHOLIC VALUES COLUMNIST
Hurricane Matthew Hits Florida
Hurricane Matthew, a Category 3 storm, hit Florida’s coast Friday morning and left more than one million people without power, according to Fox News. Prior to its arrival in Florida, more than two million people had to evacuate and more than 280 people were killed in the Caribbean. Experts say that the storm could cause 15 inches of rain, along with extremely strong winds as seen in Cape Canaveral where a 107 mph gust occurred. The storm was originally set as a Category 4 storm, but on Friday it weakened to a Category 3. The president declared a state of emergency for Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Almost 4,500 flights have been cancelled, and all of Florida’s major theme parks are closed.
Polio-like illness reported in the US
The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported a spike in an illness called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), which is similar to polio. 50 people in 24 states were diagnosed with the disease between January 1 and August 31, with most of the cases involving children. The illness affects the spinal cord and can cause paralysis, but, unlike polio, there is no vaccine. According to scientists, the most likely cause of the illness is a viral infection although the definite cause is unknown. Some doctors think that AFM may be linked to enteroviruses.
The disease is still rather rare, but researchers are looking for ways to prevent and cure the disease.
Three states decide on the death penalty
California, Nebraska, and Oklahoma will vote on the death penalty in November. In California, voters have the option to vote for its abolition under Proposition 62. Proponents say that this would save the state up to $30 million annually by combining prisoners into less cells and decreasing legal costs. They also argue that it would help those who are wrongly convicted. In order for it to pass, majority vote is needed. California’s other option is Proposition 66, which would speed up the process of the death penalty, making appeals last a shortened period of five years. Nebraska abolished the death penalty last year, and this year voters will decide if it should be reinstated. The state’s last execution was in 1997, and proponents of the ban say that reinstating it would be ineffective. Oklahoma will vote on making the death penalty a part of the state’s constitution, a way to make it harder to abolish. Currently, the state has a hold on the death penalty because of mistakes made in the past two executions.
Russia denies involvement in drugging US diplomats
“We are outraged,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabov in response to a report that Russia may have been involved in the alleged drugging of two US diplomats in St. Petersburg. He says that the diplomats were drunk, and that Russia had no involvement. The Deputy adds that this accusation could be the “revenge” of the US State Department for failed negations between them to address the situation in Syria. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that the diplomats allegedly had their drinks spiked while at a United Nations convention last November. Russia also denies the claim that one of the diplomats was treated at a medical clinic. The State Department has not commented on the report; however, US officials such as State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau are concerned over the safety of US diplomats in the country. Trudeau told reporters “…the harassment and surveillance of our diplomatic personnel in Moscow… has increased significantly.”
Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Colombian president
Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize because of his “resolute efforts” in ending a 52-year conflict in his country. He dedicated his award to “all the victims of the conflict,” 260,000 of whom have been killed. He was commended on a peace deal that was signed by the left-wing Farc rebels, but ultimately rejected by Colombians in a vote on Oct. 2. Critics of the deal said that it was too lenient to the rebels, but Santos wants to continue to talk to the rebels in hopes of forming a deal that will be better accepted by the people.
Haiti hit by Hurricane Matthew
In addition to affecting many states in the US, Hurricane Matthew has hit Haiti and caused major damage and loss of life. The death toll as of Sunday is 800, doubled from the start of the storm. It is expected to rise even more when rescue teams are able to go into more southern parts of the country cut off by the hurricane. Rescue missions will be especially difficult because some of the towns can only be reached by air or water. One major southern town, Jeremie, has 80 percent destruction, and others are reporting high death and missing person counts. The storm went directly through Haiti’s entire southern coast, bringing winds of 145 mph as well as torrential rain. The country still has not recovered from a 2010 earthquake and a cholera epidemic, and the Red cross is seeking to help at least 50,000 of the estimated 350,000 who are in need.