Century Marks

Century Marks

Close to home

After a lengthy discussion with a sportscaster about the NBA playoffs, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr asked if he could address another issue. Kerr, whose father was killed by a gunman in 1984 at the American University of Beirut, launched into a scathing critique of the federal government’s inability to regulate firearms. “It’s easier to get a gun than it is to get a driver’s license,” Kerr said. “As somebody who’s had a family member shot and killed, it devastates me every time I read about this stuff . . . and then it’s even more devastating to see the government just cowing to the NRA and going to this totally outdated Bill of Rights, right to bear arms” argument. The Orlando nightclub shooting happened the night before game five of the NBA playoffs (USA Today, June 24).

SNAP benefit

A recent study by two economists indicates that a $30 per person monthly increase in Supple­mental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits would not only increase grocery spending in poor households but improve nutrition. The increased benefit would also reduce the amount of fast food consumed and lessen the chance of food insecurity—the inability of a family to afford adequate amounts of food. SNAP benefits can be spent only on groceries, but the additional benefit would free up resources to pay for things like utilities (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, June 14).

Old times

Rick Tyler, an independent candidate in the race for Tennessee’s third congressional district, put up a billboard which read, “Make America White Again.” Another sign quoted Martin Luther King Jr., “I have a dream,” with Confederate flags imposed over the White House. Tyler says he has no ill will toward people of color and claims that he merely wants to take America back to the “1960s, Ozzie and Harriet, Leave it to Beaver time when there were no break-ins; no violent crime; no mass immigration.” The campaign signs drew a lot of attention and were taken down within 12 hours, but not by Tyler (WRCBtv.com, June 23).

Acting local

Some young black activists say they see no need to vote for a presidential candidate. Koya Graham, 36, recognizes that this position is controversial, especially given the struggle of her forebears to get the right to vote. “I don’t see voting as a means to an end,” she says. “We vote these people into office, but once they get into office—then what?” She says life hasn’t improved for black communities during Obama’s administration, though she doesn’t blame him for that. Graham is committing her energy to local activism. She’s created an organization in Cleveland, Coalition of the Willing, to work on local problems (NPR, June 22).

Dead wood

An estimated 26 million trees have died in the Sierra Nevada in the past eight months, bringing the total lost since 2010 to 66 million. Drought, heat, and voracious bark beetles are the suspected causes. Two years of normal or above normal precipitation are needed to save the trees that are still living. The Forest Service spent over half its budget last year in fighting forest fires. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Department of Agriculture doesn’t have the resources it needs to work at reforestation and that fighting forest fires should come from an emergency budget rather than the department’s normal budget. Different kinds of trees may need to be planted to accommodate warmer temperatures (Los Angeles Times, June 22).