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What Kind Of Magic Happens When A River Returns To The Sea?

It's hard-working, much-beloved, and much-abused. It hasn't even reached the sea for half a century. Until this year.

What Kind Of Magic Happens When A River Returns To The Sea?

100 years ago, the Colorado River reached the sea at a 3,000-square-mile lush, green delta in the desert, home to hundreds of thousands of birds, animals, fish, and people too. After a visit to the delta in 1922, Aldo Leopold wrote, "... the river was nowhere and everywhere," for he "could not decide which of a hundred green lagoons offered the most pleasant and least speedy path to the Gulf."


But for the last 50 years, that delta has been a salty wasteland, almost devoid of life.

People in the U.S. and Mexico are cooperating on Minute 319, an agreement that is working to restore a regular "base flow." In spring 2014, they created a one-time pulse of water to mimic springtime floods. In this giant moment in water history, you can see the blue arms of the river flowing down across the parched delta to meet the dendritic tidal channels of the sea for the first time in years.

For most young people in towns along the usually dry riverbed, the flow was a thing of wonder.

These kids live in the small community of San Luis Rio, Colorado, a town named for a river most of them have never seen.

People working on river restoration say that sending even just 1% of the river's annual flow downstream can mean restoring 2,300 acres of forest and marsh alonga 70-mile stretch of river.

A flowing river is good for tourism, recreational hunting, sport and commercial fisheries, not to mention families ...

and happy kids.

Scientists are watching reptiles, fish, birds, plants, and other wildlife to see how they respond to the water in the desert.

Over eight weeks, about 34 billion gallons of water flowed from Morelos Dam downstream toward the sea. People had worked for months to clear invasive trees (especially tamarisks) and to plant seedlings of cottonwoods and desert willows, hoping they'd take root in the spring flood.

As you've probably heard, the Colorado region is baking in the worst drought in decades, making it even more amazing that people of two nations agreed to set aside billions of gallons of water to bring a river back to life.

May it happen again next year.

Watch the original video "Renewal," narrated by Robert Redford, about the river's return in the spring of 2014.

And definitely don't miss Will Ferrell's take on the situation. You can read Philip L. Fradkin's "A River No More" for the backstory.

An unsuspecting guy at a shopping mall Zales got the surprise of his life this week while trying to pay off part of his engagement ring.

As the young man talked with the clerk at the jewelry store counter about how much he still owed for his ring and when he'd be able to pay it off, an extraordinarily large hand handed the clerk a credit card. Shaquille O'Neal, the 7' 1'' basketball legend known colloquially as "Shaq," overheard their conversation and decided to take care of the bill himself. No big announcement. No fanfare. He just handed over his credit card, shook the stunned customer's hand and patted him on the back, and that was that.

Someone caught the moment on video and shared it, which prompted Shaq's co-hosts on NBA on TNT to ask him about it the next day.

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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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