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The Spill: Michigan’s Nightmare

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Michigan Devastated by Floods

On March 19, residents in Michigan, who have been under lockdown measures due to the Coronavirus pandemic, suffered another shocking devastation when the Edenville Dam and the Sanford Dam collapsed about 140 miles north of Detroit. Heavy rainfall was partially to blame as it ravaged the area with record-setting flooding in the communities. However, weak infrastructure was also to blame. The Edenville Dam was built in 1924 and the state, in 2018, rated it as unsatisfactory. The Sanford Dam, built in 1925, was rated to be in fair condition.

The Tittabawassee River reached more than 35 feet in height by the morning of May 20, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an emergency declaration, warning residents that downtown Midland could find itself under nine feet of water. “To go through this in the midst of a global pandemic is almost unthinkable,” the governor said.

“This is one of those nightmare scenarios that meteorologists hope never happen,” Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist, wrote in a tweet. “We are in a climate emergency.”

More than 10,000 people were evacuated, and teams screened people at shelters to help prevent the spread of disease. To make matters even worse, Dow Chemical’s main plant is positioned along Midland’s riverbank. There is a presence of the cancer-causing chemical dioxin in the riverbed, and even though the chemical plant instituted its flood emergency plans, there’s still concern because deadly carcinogens have been released into neighborhoods in the past in the U.S. due to extreme flooding.

In a time of crisis, humanity shows how generous it can be. Dwayne Richard and his family demonstrated this as they drove 19 hours from Lafayette, Louisiana, on Memorial Day to cook for the victims of the flood.

Richard suffered a fall that required 17 surgeries and he promised himself that if he could ever recover enough to get out of his wheelchair, he would help others. And he has kept his oath. So, the family packed up a U-Haul truck with clothing, cleaning supplies, and all the fixings for traditional homemade gumbo, drove to Michigan, and prepared a nice meal for the victims.

Mayor Maureen Donker of Midland was impressed with how people came together during a time of crisis. “The mayor of Baton Rouge called. And the Cajun Navy came here,” she said. “If you would see our streets, it’s so sad. You’re seeing families and their whole house out on the curb. And then you have to manage your emotions, your kids’ emotions … It’s a lot of grieving and anger. But it’s also beautiful – in that you can really see how people care and work to take care of one another.”

Finding Food for Elephants

The Coronavirus pandemic has shut down everything from hair salons to restaurants, and restrictions on travel have made it difficult for places that depend on tourists for their income. This has had a huge impact on the animal kingdom as well, as many are dependent on restaurant scraps to subsidize their meals. In Nepal, elephants work hard providing rides for travelers. These majestic creatures need an enormous amount of food, but without tourists helping the economy, elephant owners say they are having trouble finding food for the animals.

One solution was to allow these creatures into Chitwan National Park, where they are normally forbidden. The national park is a famous and popular tourist attraction because of its wildlife that includes rhinos, tigers, and wild elephants. Privately owned elephants are now temporarily allowed inside the park during the day to graze, but these giant creatures eat for about 20 hours a day, so there was still the problem of how to get them food at night, when the park is closed to them.

Luckily, Carol Buckley’s organization, Elephant Aid International (EAI), came up with an idea that not only provided the elephants with enough food, but it helped local farmers as well. The closure of restaurants has hurt the agriculture business, and many farmers have had to let their crops rot without enough customers to purchase the products. EAI found a way to assist the farmers in getting workers harvesting the fields and then selling the produce to elephant owners.

“I have provided assistance to the elephants of Sauraha for 10 years,” Buckley said. “Seeing them enjoy the delicious produce is heartwarming. Working together with the farmers, locals, and mahouts [elephant rider and keepers] has improved the lives of these hard working elephants,” she added. “It is a joy to know that our efforts are pleasing to the elephants and their mahouts.”

Returning a Piece of History

History is an important part of our present and future. Through historical relics and accounts, we learn about our ancestors, their way of life, government, battles and wars, herbal remedies, nature, and so much more. History not only teaches us about the past, it can also help us to prevent repeating the same mistakes. Unfortunately, ancient artifacts are worth a lot of money on the black market, and a lot of cultures’ precious records have been sold to private collectors and corporations. Fortunately, one such heirloom has been found and will be returned to Iraq, where it had been stolen from an archaeological dig site many years ago.

The Gilgamesh Dream Tablet is made of hard clay and dates back to around 1600 B.C. The writing on it is what’s known as cuneiform, an ancient writing system of wedge-shaped characters that were used in Persia, Mesopotamia, and Ugarit. This particular piece is one of only 12 and is part of the Gilgamesh epic or poem where the hero describes his dreams to his mother. The tablet is thought to have the oldest literature in recorded history. It was discovered in 1853 in the Assyrian ruins in Iraq.

Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts chain, got in trouble for purchasing the Gilgamesh Tablet and had to return it to Iraq. In 2014, it purchased the artifact for $1.6 million at an auction and then displayed it at the Museum of the Bible, which is owned by Hobby Lobby. The auction house that sold the piece said it had been purchased in San Francisco “well before” 1981, but in reality it had been acquired through an antiquities dealer in London in 2003. The unidentified dealer supposedly gained the relic from Ghassan Rihani, a family member of the former head of the Jordanian Antiquities Association. Apparently, Rihani had sold numerous items that had been looted by Iraqi soldiers during the occupation of Kuwait in 1991.

In 2007, the rare tablet was sold for $50,000, and the buyer received a forged letter stating it had been legally purchased at an auction house in 1981. After Hobby Lobby acquired it, authorities discovered it in the museum and sued to have it returned to Iraq.

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