October 2022 – What a pumpkin!

Another month of the odd and unpredictable

By Morf Morford, Tacoma Daily Index

Talkin’ about the weather – Welcome to Fogtober

October began with two consecutive days with temperatures over 80 degrees (F) in Seattle. And several more days hit 80 degrees – including the latest 80 degree day ever recorded in our area on October 16.

The first half of the month gave us little to no moisture – except in the form of fog that, in most cases, cleared by mid-afternoon – unless, of course, it was more smoky than damp.

Temperatures here in the Puget Sound Region approached or surpassed 70 degrees (F) almost every day for most of the first half of the month.

Toward the end of the month, locally temperatures plunged by about 20 degrees, with daily high temperatures lower than what had been the lowest lows just a week or two before.

In other parts of the world, much of Asia and the Middle East (north of the Equator, hence in the early days of fall) and major areas of Africa (south of the Equator, therefore in the spring) experienced record heat – well over 100 degrees (F).

Across the mid-West of North America, a cold front dropped temperature into the 20s and even gave several areas more than 6 inches of snow – as the Seattle area hovered in the 70s and 80s.

When the rain finally did return, it did so with that semi-permanent wet gloom that some of us have become accustomed to.

Worst air in the world

For a few dreadful days in October the Seattle area had the worst air quality in the world.

With forest fires to the north, south and east, smoke filled the Puget Sound Basin, and, hemmed in by the Cascades, with virtually no wind, and with little to no measurable rain from mid-June to beyond mid-October, outdoor activity became a higher and higher risk factor for more and more of us.

Climate is much more than weather

Those of us who live in the Greater Puget Sound Region don’t often think that weather is anything more than what passes overhead any given day,

But those who work in agriculture know better.

Food producers and importers from Africa to Asia to Australia have been experiencing droughts, floods and other natural catastrophes that have disrupted crops and transport – and have impacted supply and prices around the world.

Add in the war in Ukraine, and you have all the ingredients for a food crisis that is all too similar to the one seen in 2007-08, which spurred severe food shortages, many deaths, and led to widespread social and political unrest.

Putin has a birthday

Vladimir Putin celebrated his 70th birthday on October 7.

In case you were wondering, the one thing Vladimir Putin would like for his birthday is the restoration of the entire Soviet Republic – and all of its “bloc” satellites.

He even wrote an essay on the importance of Ukraine; “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians,” which was published on the Kremlin’s website in Russian and English. Mr. Putin has expressed his intent to claim Ukraine at any cost and by any means – including the use of nuclear weapons.

Fun fact: Vladimir Putin’s grandfather, Spiridon Putin, was a personal cook to Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin.

In Great Britain

Recently appointed Prime Minister Liz Truss apologized for threatening Britain’s economic stability after she was forced to scrap her high-income tax-cutting plans and authorized a program of public spending cuts instead.

After weeks of blaming the markets and global headwinds for investors dumping the pound, she reversed course and, in spite of calls to resign, declared that she is “sticking around.” And if you know politics, especially British politics, that is code for “leaving shortly”.

She announced her resignation October 20. She holds the record for the shortest Prime Minister term in British history – about 6 weeks. After about 45 days in office, she earned the pension reserved for Prime Ministers; about $129,000 annually for the rest of her life.

On October 24, Parliament chose a new Prime Minister, the third in less two months.

Former finance minister Rishi Sunak became the fifth British prime minister in six years, the third in less than two months.

He is Britain’s first leader of South Asian descent, its first Hindu prime minister, and the nation’s first leader of color. At the age of 42, he is the youngest British prime minister in more than 200 years.

Florida’s no good, very bad month

In October the state of Florida began with intense media coverage over the shipping of Venezuelan undocumented migrants to northern states. Recovering from Hurricane Ian (in late September), there were multiple cases of flesh-eating bacteria – which thrives in warm and brackish seawater, especially in situations (as in much of Florida after a hurricane) with rotting garbage in the water, and can cause gastrointestinal diseases and severe wound infections.

Drone wars

A new chapter of war has developed in Ukraine – the use of drones. Drones have been used for surveillance for several years, but attack drones – even drones used to attack other drones have become a new feature of war.

So called “kamikaze drones” have been used to bomb civilian sites and energy infrastructure.

Ukraine said that it had shot down more than 200 of the Iranian-made drones in one month. These drones have been supplied by Iran, but their source has been an official state secret. The first rule of talking about Iranian drones is “Do not talk about Iranian drones.”

Who took the crabs?

For the first time in the state’s history, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has canceled the winter snow crab season in the Bering Sea due to their falling numbers.

An estimated one billion crabs have mysteriously disappeared in two years – that’s a 90% drop in their population. At this point, either widespread disease or climate change seems to be the cause.

In a normal year, Alaska’s fisheries produce 60% of the nation’s seafood.

Hackers hit hospitals

The second-largest nonprofit U.S. hospital chain had a cyber security intrusion that affected facilities across the country, forcing ambulance diversions, system shutdowns and patient appointment rescheduling.

More than 140 hospitals and 1,000 care sites in 21 states have been impacted.

Oddly enough, some ransomware gangs swore off attacking hospitals at the height of the pandemic, but perhaps it is open-season on hospitals (and the rest of us) again.

As you might guess, this disruption had serious impacts on every day, essential functions such as charting, lab results reporting, history gathering, obtaining records on allergy information and much more.

One grocery chain to rule them all

Kroger, the second-largest grocer by market share in the United States, announced a bid to buy Albertsons in a deal valued at $24.6 billion.

Combined, Kroger and Albertsons would employ more than 700,000 people across about 5,000 stores.

Kroger and Albertsons have operated under numerous store names and aliases, including names that the chains have acquired over the years.

Across North America, Kroger’s stores include Fred Meyer, Ralphs and King Soopers. Albertsons’ labels include Safeway, Acme and Tom Thumb.

With this acquisition, Kroger will still be the second largest grocer (second to Walmart) with about 16% of the market.

Ye for free speech

Kanye West (also known as Ye) is acquiring Parler, the social media platform used by conservatives and especially supporters of former President Donald Trump as an alternative to Twitter.

This comes after the rapper had his Instagram and Twitter accounts restricted following a series of anti-Semitic posts. He drew widespread criticism after threatening to go “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE” in a tweet, leading Twitter to lock his account.

Launched in 2018, Parler gained attention after Trump was suspended from Twitter and Facebook in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

In 2021, it went offline after Amazon Web Services removed it from its cloud hosting service following a warning that it had to “effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.” Parler was also removed from Apple and Google’s App Stores after Jan. 6, though it has since returned to both.

The platform has less than one million monthly active users.

Parler’s CEO is George Farmer, husband of Candace Owens, the inflammatory conservative commentator who defended West’s anti-Semitic tweet. “This deal will change the world,” Farmer said in a statement, “and change the way the world thinks about free speech.”

A week or so later, Adidas said that it was cutting ties with Ye following a series of inflammatory anti-Semitic comments.

Kanye West is no longer a billionaire now that his partnership with Adidas has come to an end. Ye was estimated to be worth $2 billion, with $1.5 billion of his worth attributed to his deal with Adidas.

Money around the world

The Japanese yen hit a 32-year low and approached the key psychological 150 per dollar level.

In a growing movement, young people in New Zealand are increasingly acting on their lack of faith in the economy by opting out of workplace pensions.

This is an early warning sign that the global cost-of-living crisis could have lasting consequences.

Workers in New Zealand are automatically enrolled in a savings program when they start a job. There was a 6% rise in people opting out of the program in the 12 months through June of 2022.

October ends with disasters

More than 150 people were killed in a weekend crowd crush in Seoul Korea. At least 132 others are believed to have been injured, with 37 in critical condition. Officials expect the death toll to rise further. Among the dead were two US citizens and Lee Jihan, a K-Pop singer and actor.

In India, at least 141 people have been killed after a century-old cable suspension bridge collapsed in the western state of Gujarat on Sunday. The 140-year-old bridge had just re-opened a few days after being repaired.