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from Photographers' Blog:

Living through a disaster

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Golden, Colorado

By Rick Wilking

In a career as long as mine, spread across several continents, I have covered many, many natural disasters. If you have read my blog posts lately that seems to be all I write about. But this time is different. This time, I am a victim of a disaster.

The first week of September was unusually wet for the Front Range of Colorado, but not shockingly so. In fact, we were enjoying how green it was with wildflowers still in bloom instead of fretting about wildfires as we normally would be this time of year. But on the fateful day of 9/11 the rains picked up. I was away from my mountain property most of the day and when I came home noticed new waterfalls on the rocks I had never seen before. Still, I didn't think much of it and just listened to the rain pound the house all night long.

Early on the 12th, while still dark, my wife got a call from her hospital asking if she would be able to make it in as they were hearing some roads were closed due to flooding. I turned on the TV and it looked like the highway to our driveway might be closed. I decided to wait until first light to take a look. I drove down our mile long driveway a short distance and soon realized it was heavily damaged and impassable by vehicle with a major washout where the road used to be.

So, I made the 30 minute hike through the forest down and was shocked to see the little creek at the bottom was now a 50’ wide river cutting us off from the highway. My shed containing my snowmobile, mountain bike, motorcycle were all gone, swept away.

from Photographers' Blog:

Hiking in to a stranded town

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Jamestown, Colorado

By Rick Wilking

My rule in covering natural disasters has always been: Find the worst damage first. That’s what the reporters will be writing about and it's what people want to see. It also may be the hardest to get to.

Such was the case in the Colorado floods of 2013 that started on September 11.

Word came in early that the Boulder County town of Jamestown was devastated and cut off from all road traffic. Three creeks converged right in the middle of downtown, sweeping away whole houses. A man killed in a house collapsed by the flood waters was the first reported death in the tragedy. But there was also (supposedly) no way to get to the town short of going in on a helicopter. National Guard CH-47 Chinooks were ferrying people out so the logical thing was to try and get on one of those. That ride was denied immediately so I decided I would take another route, coming in the “backdoor” as it were.

from Photographers' Blog:

Revisiting the Waldo Canyon fire

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Colorado Springs, Colorado

By Rick Wilking

Covering natural disasters is a strange thing. You get there all in a huff, as fast as you can after the tragedy, and then try to seek out the major damage. You document all that, often busting hump for very long days, for a week or more depending on how bad it is.

Then inevitably the first weekend after the storm or fire comes and the story falls off the radar. Your editor sends you home to lick your wounds and wait for the next “big one.”

from Reihan Salam:

The sober way to legalize marijuana

As a general rule, Americans don’t give much thought to Uruguay, a small South American republic with a population of 3.3 million. But Uruguay has embarked on a new experiment with marijuana legalization that merits close attention. As Ken Parks of the Wall Street Journal reported late last month, new Uruguayan legislation will allow individuals to grow as much as 480 grams of marijuana for personal consumption, and marijuana cooperatives with no more than 45 members will be permitted to grow just over two plants per member. The government will also allow for limited commercial production, but Uruguayan lawmakers have made it clear that they don’t want a domestic marijuana market dominated by large for-profit firms.

Might the United States follow in Uruguay’s footsteps? Marijuana legalization seems inevitable—but we’d be wise to follow Uruguay’s lead and carefully regulate the kinds of legal marijuana operations that will follow. 

from Full Focus:

Images of July

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A community was left reeling after a gunman went on a shooting rampage at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado. Mitt Romney and President Obama traded barbs as the election campaign heated up and the world watched as London kicked off the summer Olympic Games.

from Photographers' Blog:

Facing tragedy in Colorado

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By Shannon Stapleton

I woke on the morning of July 20th happy and looking forward to a great weekend with my son at his last lacrosse tournament of the season.

That feeling of happiness changed quickly when I looked on the phone and it said "Can you get on a plane to Denver as soon as possible, there has been a mass shooting at the screening of Batman with 12 people dead and numerous injured." My heart started to race and all I could think of was how just five months prior I had responded to the senseless killing of three high school students in Chardon, Ohio. A place close to my heart because it was near where I grew up and had played my last high school football in 1987.

from Alison Frankel:

Why violence, but not sex, is protected by the First Amendment

In the mid-1950s, a small-time New York publisher named Samuel Roth was indicted for distributing books, magazines, photos and advertising circulars that were accused of being "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy and of an indecent character." The precise content of Roth's offensive mailings has been lost to history, although it's probably tame by modern standards. Nevertheless, a federal jury in New York concluded that the publisher violated a law barring distribution of pornography, and the court sentenced Roth to five years in prison. The case eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1957, the justices upheld Roth's conviction, in a landmark ruling that obscenity is not entitled to First Amendment protection. The court said that the law had always assumed sexual material is not covered by the Constitution's free speech provision, so its ruling merely codified that assumption. The Roth decision placed obscenity in the tiny category of exceptions to First Amendment freedom, along with incitement and fighting words.

Fifty-three years later, the Supreme Court was called upon to decide the constitutionality of another federal law, this one making it a criminal offense to create or possess depictions of cruelty to animals. In its 2010 opinion in United States v.  Stevens, the court reminded us that violence – unlike sex – is protected speech, despite Congress's efforts in the animal-cruelty law to equate violence with obscenity. The justices struck down the law and vacated the conviction of Robert Stevens, a man who sold videos of pit bulls attacking and killing other animals. The government had argued that some speech, such as depiction of the brutal death of innocent animals, comes at too high a societal cost to deserve First Amendment protection. The Supreme Court called that argument "startling and dangerous."

from The Great Debate:

Terror born from rage

Thus far, nothing of reliable note has been revealed about the motives of James Holmes, the arrested suspect behind the Dark Night Massacre, where a dozen people were murdered and others injured at an after-midnight premiere of the latest Batman movie. What we do know suggests intricate planning, and the planning suggests a rationale, irrational though it may be.

Holmes carried a shotgun, a high-powered pistol, an assault rifle and a knife.  He was reportedly costumed in body armor and might even have employed smoke or tear gas grenades. Holmes’s apartment was deftly booby trapped, stymieing police search efforts. In custody, the suspect has so far been unrevealing.

from Tales from the Trail:

Romney touts tourism in fire-ravaged Colorado

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a message for what Americans can do to help a section of Colorado hit hard by recent wildfires – come to the state on vacation to help out the local economy.

Romney’s point, made during a visit to a food bank that has been supplying people uprooted by the wildfires, was that most of the region has been unaffected by the devastation and that the forests and lakes remain as beautiful as ever.

from Tales from the Trail:

Santorum seeks “strong showing” in two caucuses and a primary

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Mitt Romney may have secured frontrunner status in the race for the Republican presidential nominee to take on Democrat Barack Obama in the general election --  but don't count Rick Santorum out.

The former Pennsylavania senator has not won a Republican  nominating contest since he edged Romney in the Iowa caucuses. And the  "frontrunner" title briefly held by other  Romney rivals  has eluded Santorum.

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