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WIR 7/23/2021 
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Credit: KUOW Photo/Alec Cowan

The northern border remains closed (to some), Bezos goes to space, and wildfire season is officially here. All that, this week.

Bill Radke reviews the week’s news with Seattle Times investigative editor Jonathan Martin, political analyst and contributing columnist Joni Balter, and Seattle Met deputy editor Allison Williams.



First: as the country begins to reopen, COVID is making a rebound. Daily case counts across the country have actually increased (albeit in small increments) with the delta variant, strengthened by low vaccination numbers, now accounting for 8 in 10 infections. Also, Canada announced it’s happy to open the border to vaccinated travelers on August 9th, but Biden is recommending August 21st for the United States to begin accepting travelers from the north. Those in border towns aren’t happy, especially as summer is prime travel season for Pacific Northwesterners into British Columbia. That’s even more true for Point Roberts, who desperately need a reopening as soon as possible. With Canada ready to accept vaccinated travelers, what’s keeping the US from opening the border in tandem? The consistency in numbers -- especially as groups begin congregating again -- is a growing concern, as is the idea that we could return to lockdown if numbers don’t improve (parts of Australia, for example, are in an endless cycle of opening and returning to lockdown). Infections at large events like the tokyo Olympics also raise concerns about reopening too soon. What would it take for a lockdown to be put back in place?

In other news this week: CEO, entrepreneur, born in 1964, Jeffrey Bezos went to space this week -- well, at least high enough to see the curvature of the earth. He’s the second billionaire (behind Richard Branson) to achieve private space flight, and the public was…. divided on the achievement. Is this one small step for mankind, as Bezos and Branson supporters say it is? Or, is it just a lavish display of infinite wealth? Optimists might say that Bezos and Branson going to space signal that commercial space travel -- or a cost effective outlet to space, generally -- is possible (and probably good for humanity at large). They point to airplanes and cars as examples of transportation once reserved for the rich, but which are now commonplace. Detractors say that sure, space may be a solution for humanity’s future problems, but the other option is to use the exorbitant wealth of these figures to solve the problems that exist now. Is Bezos going to space as big a moment in history as some say it is? Will the benefits of this kind of space travel trickle its way down to everyday people? Is there something to the argument that space travel needs to be more accessible because, well, climate change?

Also, long-awaited rain made its way to Western and Eastern Washington this week. However, favorable conditions are still a long way off as the state continues battling wildfires. The Red Apple Fire quickly grew to more than 12,000 acres and prompted hundreds to evacuate (and is now contained). The largest fire, the Dry Gulch Fire in Southeastern Washington, has grown to more than 70,000 acres. In response, the Department of Natural Resources is closing off public lands east of the Cascades, and burn bans are in effect across the state. Is closing off DNR lands enough? What does our state firefighting team need to keep up with wildfire growth? What should those not in immediate fire danger be doing to prepare for wildfire smoke?

Lastly, King County voters are making a choice right now: whether to not only renew but more than double a levy that the county calls Best Starts For Kids. A new investigation from the Seattle Times shows that the county doesn't publicly report wither BSK programs achieved their own goals agreed upon in its contracts. Nearly 30 organizations failed to meet at least one contract requirement, and what's more, data on who they helped was deemed too unreliable to count. Is the county promising to fix any of those things if voters say yes this time? And who pays for the levy?