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President Obama declares major disaster in California

California wildfiresPresident Barack Obama made federal funding available for wildfire relief after declaring a major disaster in California's Lake County.

The so-called Valley Fire -- one of the largest wildfires in the state -- has burned more than 76,000 acres. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, said the blaze was 69 percent contained.

It has killed at least three people, injured four firefighters and destroyed 1,050 structures.


The pope at White House: Climate change action can't wait

Pope Francis at White HouseJumping into the issues of the day, Pope Francis opened his visit to the United States with a strong call Wednesday for action to combat climate change, calling it a problem that "can no longer be left to a future generation." President Barack Obama, in turn, hailed the pontiff as a moral force who is "shaking us out of our complacency" with reminders to care for the poor and the planet.

The White House mustered all the pageantry it had to offer as the pope arrived at the White House before an adoring crowd of thousands and a nation that seemingly cannot get enough of the humble pontiff who is rejuvenating American Catholicism while giving heartburn to some of its conservatives.


In clash with pope's climate call, U.S. Church leases drilling rights

Catholic church sells drilling rightsCasting the fight against climate change as an urgent moral duty, Pope Francis in June urged the world to phase out highly-polluting fossil fuels.

Yet in the heart of U.S. oil country several dioceses and other Catholic institutions are leasing out drilling rights to oil and gas companies to bolster their finances, Reuters has found.

And in one archdiocese -- Oklahoma City -- Church officials have signed three new oil and gas leases since Francis's missive on the environment, leasing documents show.


California drought and impending El Niño raise fears of levee breaks

Levees at risk in CaliforniaCalifornia’s historic drought is in its fourth year and gloom-and-doom scenarios of its impact on everything from killing the state’s vegetation and triggering bug infestation to destroying farming jobs have been trickling in daily.

Now, there is another fear: The prolonged drought may have weakened California’s more than 13,000 miles of levees, which could result in floods and affect the quality of water for millions of Californians.


US may be drastically underestimating landfill emissions – study

Landfill dangersLandfills may be emitting more methane than previously reported because the Environmental Protection Agency may be drastically underestimating how much garbage is being deposited in landfills across the US, according to a new Yale University study.

Banana peels, coffee grounds, plastic bottles and other detritus tossed in the garbage usually ends up in a landfill and emits methane as it decomposes.


Notre Dame Stops Burning Coal for Pope

Notre DameThe University of Notre Dame plans to stop burning coal within five years and to cut its carbon footprint by more than half in the next 15 years in response to Pope Francis’ plea for bold action to curb climate change.

Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, will announce today in a statement obtained by The Associated Press that the university is planning to spend $113 million on renewable energy sources, including a hydroelectric project, solar power and geothermal fields, which would collectively reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 47,500 tons.


Destruction from California wildfires now tops 1,000 homes

California fires destroys more than one thousand homesIt has been several days since two huge wildfires in Northern California peaked in their ferocity, yet the damage they did is still being revealed daily.

The tally of homes destroyed topped 1,000 on Saturday after authorities assessing damage in the Sierra Nevada foothills counted another 250 houses destroyed by flames still threatening thousands of more structures.


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