The Keystone oil spill is history repeating itself. And it'll happen again. And again.

On Thursday, Nov. 16, around 210,000 gallons of oil escaped from the Keystone pipeline in South Dakota.

The spill happened near the town of Amherst. TransCanada, the company that operates the pipeline, says they were able to shut down the system as soon as they saw a drop in the oil pressure, but by the time the spill was stopped, more than 5,000 barrels of oil had spilled onto the ground.

Locals are worried that contamination could find its way into the local water supply.


This spill is especially notable because it's part of the same Keystone Pipeline System whose planned expansion, the Keystone XL, drew protests from environmentalists and local communities.

A meeting with the Nebraska Public Service Commission to discuss final approval of the project was scheduled for Monday, Nov. 20.

Oil spills can be devastating, and the new leak along the Keystone pipeline should be taken seriously.

But the fact is, this is not the first spill in 2017 nor is it the worst.

On Jan. 30, for instance, a road crew dug into an oil pipeline near Blue Ridge, Texas, spilling about 210,000 gallons. On April 25, a pipeline spilled about 1,050 gallons of oil and saltwater into a tributary of the Little Missouri River. And in October, a cracked pipeline southeast of Venice, Louisiana, spilled about 672,000 gallons into the Gulf of Mexico. These are just a handful of the spills this year.

The funny thing is, pipelines are actually relatively safe compared to transporting oil by train or tanker truck (although critics have pointed out that many pipelines are old, lack modern safety equipment, and are inconsistently inspected), but there are 2.5 million miles of these pipelines in the United States.

And though we are slowly increasing our production of renewable energy, America still runs very much on petroleum. The Keystone spill was not the first pipeline failure. It will probably not be the last.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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