Fewer than 30,000 cases of the tick-borne illness are reported each year. But the CDC says surveys of labs that test for the disease, six years of insurance claims and other surveillance methods suggest that the number of infections is actually 10 times higher.
Wildfires in the western U.S. have grown in size for decades. Mega-fires burn more than 100,000 acres -- 15 square miles. And there are more fires near housing developments. In California alone, two million houses sit in high-risk fire zones.
A wildfire denudes hills of vegetation. Often all that’s left is ashes and blackness. When Richard Minnich looks at a charred landscape after a wildfire, he doesn’t mourn the loss of the plants killed in the blaze. ”I’m not crying at al," he says. "I’m saying, wow, you solved your fire problem for a while. The energy is gone.”
Minnich is a fire scientist at the University of California, Riverside, in Southern California's inland desert. As a native of the state, he grew up appreciating the natural beauty of its mountain forests and chaparral. But he also recognizes its danger, and he doesn’t think houses should be built in what's called the Wildland-Urban Interface, places where houses bump up against high-risk fire zones.
"Straight ahead of me, I’m looking at solitary houses on the tops of hills," Minnich says. "It just ticks me off to see that."
We're driving through a neighborhood in Riverside where houses are surrounded by scrub oak, chamise and other chaparral vegetation, which to Minnich’s eyes is one big field of stored energy in a region where it doesn’t rain for six months at a time every year.
"So it is a carpet of gasoline, and it should be viewed as such, and people should think if it in those terms," Minnich says. "And if they did, they would think twice before they would want to live in a landscape that produces this kind of disturbance frequently."
As we drove back to Minnich’s office, we came up over a ridge and saw a column of smoke rising in the distance.
"You can see where that fire is taking off there, on the other side of those hills," Minnich says.
After my interview with Minnich, I headed for the smoke. By the time I got to the fire, near the Southern California town of Lake Elsinore, huge flames lit up the night. The local high school had been turned into a central command station for firefighting crews, and a church was handing out hamburgers to residents like Gary Sykes, one of about 100 people ordered to leave their homes.
"Actually, I’m kind of pissed off for the simple fact that 10 o'clock, I get up I see a fire, and all I see is two puny-ass helicopters with hoses," Sykes says. "Get this fire out. Let us go home to our houses that we paid hard money for."
This sentiment is not uncommon among people who live in fire zones. When they see flames coming toward their homes, they want them out, immediately.
And that’s exactly what happened in Lake Elsinore. More than 250 fire crews were called to the scene. They brought with them nearly 100 fire engines along with six helicopters and six air-tankers. No structures were lost in the blaze.
"In Southern California, we have a total suppression strategy," says Lorine Buckweld, a suppression battalion chief with the U.S. Forest Service. "In other words, that means every fire will be suppressed with as many resources as we can throw at them to keep them small. Because of the threat to the Wildland-Urban Interface."
The Forest Service now spends more than half of its budget fighting wildfires. Most of which they are spending fighting in and around structures, housing developments and the like, not in and around wilderness areas.
Environmental history professor Char Miller is one of many critics who doesn’t think the public should be footing the bill to protect homes in high-risk fire zones. And he says we’re not factoring in the human cost when we build in these areas.
"As we saw in the Yarnell Hill fire, in which 19 firefighters died struggling to fight a fire that was coming close to a brand new subdivision," he says, referring to a fire in Arizona last month. "It’s a tragedy to be sure, but it’s a tragedy of our own making.
Two days after the Lake Elsinore fire, lightning caused another fire 40 miles away. It burned 16 square miles in less than 24 hours. Two dozen homes were destroyed. Five firefighters were injured.
Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency. That means people who lost their homes could be eligible for federal disaster aid. They are free to use that money to rebuild on the same plot of land where their home once stood, and where seeds of chaparral plants will soon sprout from the blackened soil. Plants that, Minnich points out, have evolved to be drought-resistant and as result are highly flammable -- in fact, they need fire to regenerate.
"That combination guarantees burning," Minnich says, "and we’ve had that combination of factors in geologic time scales for 300 million years, and it’s not as if we’re going to stop this."
Parents in some rural Alabama counties are asking a federal court to block a new state law that gives tax breaks to families who transfer out of failing schools. They argue that their children aren't getting a fair shot at a quality education.
The World Humanitarian Day campaign is designed to let people support the ideas they feel the world needs most. It began five years ago, when the United Nations set aside Aug. 19 to remember the world's aid workers.
We're counting the days 'til summertime's behind us, which means a lot of people are wrapping up their very first jobs.
We've been asking around after those stories: what people learned, and what's stayed with them even today. "The Simpsons" writer and co-executive producer Michael Price kicked us off with his tale of working in a women's clothing store as a teenager.
Trucker Don Holzschuh's first job was at the Excelsior Amusement Park in Minnesota. At 16, he worked the games booths, and made 75 cents an hour.
"It was a good experience because it was the first time really that you got to experience different types of people, working the games and the rides," he says. "So you had this cross-section of the poor kids who came in from the school field trips and the weekend, middle-class. Everybody was kind of gathered together in this pit."
Book publishing isn't a phrase we hear all that often without "dying" or "is dead" somewhere in the same paragraph. But once upon a time, running a publishing house was a prestige thing -- even if it was one with a challenging business model.
Perhaps the most prestigious publisher in its day was Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Roger Straus, the founder of the company, began the business after World War II.
"He was flailing a little bit," says Boris Kachka, author of "Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America's Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux."
Straus came from a prestigious family, and that came with a lot of expectations, says Kachka, "You know, he figured he'd run something. But he didn't know quite what to run."
The prestige of running a book company lost some of its status over the years.
"It's a low margin business," argues Kachka. "And it's the business that a certain wealthy, intellectual class would find themselves going into. It just became less glamorous, and I think a lot of that had to do with consolidation."
While other publishing giants like Simon & Schuster moved on to printing textbooks -- the most profitable part of the industry today -- and growing, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux stayed mid-sized and independent.
"The only shareholders they had to answer to were Roger's rich friends," adds Kachka.
Read an excerpt from "Hothouse" here.
Millions of Brits are packing themselves off to the beach this month, but all too few of them are headed for British beaches. Continental European destinations like Spain, Italy and Greece have more allure.
Many British seaside resorts have been losing custom to the continent for decades, and some of them have deteriorated so much, they are now seen not so much as desirable places for a vacation, as cheap dumping grounds for the unemployed and welfare-dependent -- a phenomenon they’re calling “Poverty-on-Sea."
Take Jaywick on the densely populated southeast coast of England. With its fine sandy beach, it should be an area of affluence. But it isn’t. Part of this seafront suburb is officially described as the most economically deprived and socially troubled district in Britain.
“We have people burning down buildings and breaking into bungalows. The place has a bad name for drugs and alcohol,” says Theresa Cooper, who has lived on the Brooklands estate in Jaywick for four years. She lives here because accommodation is inexpensive.
“It’s cheap because the houses are beach huts, just like garden sheds, wooden garden sheds,” admits local landlord Barry Shimwell.
Jaywick was once a thriving settlement of seaside holiday chalets but as the holidaymakers abandoned the resort, some of the chalets became increasingly dilapidated and today they serve as permanent, but very basic, homes for the poor.
Unlike other parts of Britain where homelessness is the problem, here it’s a surfeit of cheap accommodation. It sucks too many unemployed and needy people into an area where jobs have become scarcer as the tourist trade declined.
The nearby resort of Clacton-on-Sea has the same quandary. Hotels and guest houses closed and many were converted into cheap appartments which have acted as a magnet for a further influx of the disadvantaged.
“When people are discharged from institutions like a mental health institution or a prison or a residential unit in London, they are guided to come to Clacton for its very cheap accommodation,” says community worker Sharon Alexander.
What’s needed are jobs and investment to break the downward spiral. The process has begun. Work is underway to repair and spruce up some of the more derelict properties in Jaywick and a local politician, Dan Casey, who works tirelessy to promote the district, says there have been major improvements in the past year.
“The future of Jaywick is bright," he says. And he’s not the only optimistic one. Roy Stevens -- a grizzled old resident -- says with its prime beachfront location Jaywick is well worth backing: “Any of you guys out there in America who are thinking about investing some good money, just invest it in Jaywick. Because you’re going to make yourselves rich!”
Lots of kids get bullied, but they get over it, right? Many don't, a study says. Children who are involved in bullying are more likely to have serious health problems as adults. They also have trouble managing money, holding jobs and maintaining relationships.
California's crop of Hass avocados — those green fruit essential for guacamole — usually weigh a half-pound or more. But this year's avocados are the smallest in memory — some barely bigger than an egg.