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Should I Fear Storms With Names?

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They said it, not me.

For the past three years, The Weather Channel has adopted a widely criticized advertising strategy of giving names to winter storms.  They’re not doing it to make you safer, or even to make it simpler to take about storms. What they want to do is get you talking about these storms and, more importantly, clicking on links to their web pages. Why? Because no respectable meteorological organization uses, or even acknowledges, those names.  So, when you hear that a winter storm called Lovemuffin is “bearing down on the east coast,” for example, then google “Lovemuffin” you’re going to end up at a Weather Channel site–or a cooperating site that is financially connected to the Weather Channel. Heck, they register these names as proprietary. In essence, they’ve found a way to “own” the news.

Even worse, in order to drive interest in their sites, the Weather Channel adopts a hyperbolic reporting posture. Every storm becomes the potential storm to end all storms, every squall threatens to become a blizzard, every blizzard the fresh dawn of a new ice age. Accompanying stories urge us to take measures that may increase our chances of survival–make sure your shovel is solid, buy flashlight batteries and candles, extra toilet paper, rent some movies, load up the shopping cart with Diet Coke and Oreo cookies.

Fortunately, they have not gone unopposed. A Facebook page, called STOP The Weather Channel From Naming Winter Storms–It’s Stupid emerged to challenge this scourge, and plenty of news articles, commentary, and essays have likewise pointed out the ridiculous and cynical nature of the Weather Channel’s ploy. Accuweather has spoken against the naming  storms, and the National Weather Service has refused to acknowledge the storm names.

In the mean time, it is difficult to know, without carefully inspecting every weather report for its sourcing, just how we should react. Is there really a horrifying, dangerous storm on the way, or is a media outlet just trying to keep their ratings up? And then, when that turns out to be the case, when do we pay the price after so much crying wolf, when will we become so immune to the hysteria that we fail to heed the warning–and how many will pay the price?

I put a million links up there–a million, count ’em–as references, but this essay is particularly interesting and enlightening.

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Jesus Took The Wheel? Should Have Tried Brakes.

A number of websites and media outlets are busily covering the story of fortunate lovers and now viral stars of the hour Arika Stovall and Hunter Hanks, whose unlikely survival of a brutal, high speed one vehicle accident has been described in outlets like CNN, Fox News, and others as “heartwarming,” “touching,” and “miraculous.”

It seems to me that that the true miracle is that Mr. Hanks who, according to Ms. Stovall, was careening down the highway at 85 miles an hour in a pickup truck, didn’t maim or kill any other innocent folks who were driving around them.

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“Three seconds. That’s how long we had from the moment we drifted off the road until the truck hit the pilar (sic) at 85mph. In three seconds Hunter had to handle a situation that would either kill us immediately or save our lives. He keeps beating himself up for my pain but he saved my life.”

Yep, heroic. But according to Ms. Stovall, her beau had help. Supernatural help.

“I’m overwhelmed at how little damage was done to Hunter and I in a wreck that should have chopped our bodies in half. I’m in awe of the presence of God in this entire situation. Every part of this experience we went through points directly to Him. The way God helped Hunter to respond exactly the way he did behind the wheel, spinning the truck exactly where it should have to be able to smash into the pilar directly in the middle of me and Hunter so we were both untouched…that doesn’t just happen. God doesn’t throw protection around like that for no reason”

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It seems to me that a truly wise god would have tapped the brakes once or twice before the apparently reckless Mr. Hunter lost control of his vehicle and plowed into an bridge abutment, or maybe spoken to him, in a thundering voice, “Yo, asshat–slow the hell down. What’s the hurry?  You’re going to hurt someone.”

And for Ms. Stovall I offer continued good luck: this douchebag nearly killed you once, let’s hope he doesn’t do better at it the next time.