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The Real Truth - A Magazine Restoring Plain Understanding

  • Articles
  • CRIME & PUNISHMENT

It was not long after Matthew Reed shoplifted a $63 set of sheets from a Target in upstate New York that the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a standstill.

Instead of serving a jail sentence, he stayed at home, his case deferred more than a year, as courts closed and jails nationwide dramatically reduced their populations to stop the spread of COVID-19.

But the numbers have begun creeping up again as courts are back in session and the world begins returning to a modified version of normal. It is worrying criminal justice reformers who argue that the past year proved there is no need to keep so many people locked up in the U.S.

  • World News Desk
  • SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

An outage at a little-known firm that speeds up access to websites knocked a lot of top internet destinations offline on Tuesday, disrupting business and leisure for untold millions globally. The problem was quickly resolved. The company, Fastly, blamed a configuration error in its technology.

But the incident—Fastly’s traffic dropped 75 percent for about an hour just as the U.S. East Coast was beginning to stir—raises questions about how vulnerable the global internet is to more serious disruption.

What Is Fastly?

  • World News Desk
  • SOCIETY & LIFESTYLES

Karen Glidden’s loneliness became unbearable during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 72-year-old widow, who suffers from vision loss and diabetes and lives far from any relatives, barely left her house in Champion, Michigan, this past year, for fear of contracting the virus. Finally vaccinated, she was looking forward to venturing out when her beloved service dog died last month.

It does not help that her circle of trusted friends has dwindled to one neighbor she counts on to help her shop, get to the doctor and hang out.

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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  • World News Desk
  • WEATHER & ENVIRONMENT

Reuters – The reservoir created by Hoover Dam, an engineering marvel that symbolized the American ascendance of the 20th century, has sunk to its lowest level ever, underscoring the gravity of the extreme drought across the U.S. West.

Lake Mead, formed in the 1930s from the damming of the Colorado River at the Nevada-Arizona border about 30 miles east of Las Vegas, is the largest reservoir in the United States. It is crucial to the water supply of 25 million people including in the cities of Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson and Las Vegas.

As of Wednesday, the lake surface fell to 1,071.56 feet above sea level, dipping below the previous record low set on July 1, 2016. It has fallen 140 feet since 2000—nearly the height of the Statue of Liberty from torch to base—exposing a bathtub ring of bleached-white embankments.

  • World News Desk
  • EUROPE

Illegal drug production on European soil increased during the coronavirus pandemic last year as lockdowns helped move drug sales from streets to encrypted online platforms, according to an analysis of continental drug trends released Wednesday.

The 2021 European Drug Report says criminal groups also adapted to travel restrictions and border closures by relying less on human couriers and turning instead to shipping containers and commercial supply chains to smuggle illicit substances.

The report is produced annually by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction drawing data from the European Union’s 27 member countries, Turkey and Norway.

  • World News Desk
  • HEALTH ISSUES

The U.S. saw remarkable increases in the death rates for heart disease, diabetes and some other common killers in 2020, and experts believe a big reason may be that many people with dangerous symptoms made the lethal mistake of staying away from the hospital for fear of catching the coronavirus.

The death rates—posted online this week by federal health authorities—add to the growing body of evidence that the number of lives lost directly or indirectly to the coronavirus in the U.S. is far greater than the officially reported COVID-19 death toll of nearly 600,000 in 2020-21.

For months now, researchers have known that 2020 was the deadliest year in U.S. history, primarily because of COVID-19. But the data released this week showed the biggest increases in the death rates for heart disease and diabetes in at least 20 years.

  • World News Desk
  • SOCIETY & LIFESTYLES

U.S. traffic deaths soared after coronavirus lockdowns ended in 2020, hitting the highest yearly total since 2007 as more Americans engaged in unsafe behavior on U.S. roads, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said Thursday.

For all of 2020, 38,680 people died on U.S. roads—up 7.2 percent or nearly 2,600 more than in 2019, even though Americans drove 13 percent fewer miles, preliminary data showed. The fatality rate hit 1.37 deaths per 100 million miles, the highest figure since 2006.

In the second half of 2020, the number of traffic deaths was up more than 13 percent.

  • World News Desk
  • WEATHER & ENVIRONMENT

At least a tenth of the world’s mature giant sequoia trees were destroyed by a single California wildfire that tore through the southern Sierra Nevada last year, according to a draft report prepared by scientists with the National Park Service.

The Visalia Times-Delta newspaper obtained a copy of the report that describes catastrophic destruction from the Castle Fire, which charred 273 square miles of timber in Sequoia National Park.

Researchers used satellite imagery and modeling from previous fires to determine that between 7,500 and 10,000 of the towering species perished in the fire. That equates to 10 to 14 percent of the world’s mature giant sequoia population, the newspaper said.

  • Articles
  • WEATHER & ENVIRONMENT

Wearing soot-smudged, fire-resistant clothing and helmets, several wildland firefighters armed with hoes moved through a stand of ponderosa pines as flames tore through the underbrush.

The firefighters were not there to extinguish the fire. They had started it.

The prescribed burn, ignited this month near the scenic mountain town of Bend, is part of a massive effort in wildlands across the U.S. West to prepare for a fire season that is expected to be even worse than last year’s record-shattering one.

  • World News Desk
  • WEATHER & ENVIRONMENT

A cargo ship carrying tons of chemicals sank off Sri Lanka’s west coast, its navy said on Wednesday, and tons of plastic pellets have fouled the country’s rich fishing waters in one of its worst-ever marine disasters.

The government on Wednesday suspended fishing along an 50-mile stretch of the island’s coastline, affecting 5,600 fishing boats, and hundreds of soldiers have been deployed to clean affected beaches.

The Singapore-registered MV X-Press Pearl, carrying 1,486 containers, including 27.6 tons of nitric acid along with other chemicals and cosmetics, was anchored off Sri Lanka’s west coast when a fire erupted onboard after an explosion on May 20.

  • World News Desk
  • MIDDLE EAST

Lebanon’s president and prime minister-designate traded barbs Wednesday, accusing one another of obstruction, negligence and insolence in a war or words that has for months obstructed the formation of a new government as the country sinks deeper into economic and financial crisis.

The power struggle between the premier-designate, Saad Hariri, on one side and President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil on the other, has worsened despite warnings from world leaders and economic experts of the dire economic conditions tiny Lebanon is facing. The World Bank on Tuesday said Lebanon’s crisis is one of the worst the world has seen in the past 150 years.

In a reflection of the growing turmoil, scores of Lebanese lined up in front of ATM machines late on Wednesday, after a top court suspended a Central Bank decree that allowed them to withdraw from dollar deposits at a rate two and a half times better than the fixed exchange rate.

  • World News Desk
  • POLITICS

Minority Republicans used a Senate filibuster to block a Democratic bill that would have launched a bipartisan probe of the January 6 uprising on the Capitol. It was the first time under President Joe Biden that the GOP used the tactic to derail major legislation.

Yet the Republican victory Friday may prod Democrats closer to curbing or eliminating a legislative maneuver that has been the bane of Senate majorities since the Founding Fathers.

Here is a look at the filibuster and the political storm over it.

  • World News Desk
  • MIDDLE EAST

Egypt and Israel held high-level talks in both countries Sunday to shore up a fragile truce between Israel and the Hamas militant group and rebuild the Gaza Strip after a punishing 11-day war that left parts of the seaside enclave in ruins.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry received his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, in Cairo. The meeting is part of an effort to build on an Israel-Hamas cease-fire reached May 21 and to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which have been dormant for more than a decade, Mr. Shukry’s office said. Egypt has not said how it would be able to restart talks.

The hours-long visit was the first public one by an Israeli foreign minister to Egypt since 2008, according to the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.

  • World News Desk
  • INTERNATIONAL

The maiden voyage of a new British aircraft carrier will seek to show allies that post-Brexit Britain is ready to defend Western interests and eager to see China respect international rules, the vessel’s commander said.

HMS Queen Elizabeth took part in NATO exercises in the Mediterranean this week, ahead of the eight-month voyage that will cross through the South China Sea in a signal to Beijing that sea lanes must remain open.

The carrier is “a hugely powerful statement,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse, the ship’s commanding officer and captain told Reuters on deck off the Portuguese coast as F-35B fighter jets took off around him.

  • World News Desk
  • AMERICAS

Among the hundreds of Central American migrants crossing the Rio Grande river daily on rafts from Mexico to Texas, dozens stood out on a recent day. They were generally taller and some wore skirts, stylish shoes and tracksuits, while many of the other migrants wore T-shirts, pants and jeans.

U.S. border patrol officers who apprehended them near the river tried to speak to them in Spanish. There was a pause as some of the border crossers explained in broken English that they were Romanians, a Reuters photographer said.

Scores of Romanians who are part of the Roma ethnic minority have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas in recent weeks to seek asylum, highlighting the far-flung origins of some of the migrants who have contributed to border arrests in recent months reaching a 20-year high.

  • World News Desk
  • AUSTRALIA & SOUTH PACIFIC

At night, the floors of sheds vanish beneath carpets of scampering mice. Ceilings come alive with the sounds of scratching. One family blamed mice chewing electrical wires for their house burning down.

Vast tracts of land in Australia’s New South Wales state are being threatened by a mouse plague that the state government describes as “absolutely unprecedented.” Just how many millions of rodents have infested the agricultural plains across the state is guesswork.

“We’re at a critical point now where if we don’t significantly reduce the number of mice that are in plague proportions by spring, we are facing an absolute economic and social crisis in rural and regional New South Wales,” Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said this month.

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