MAY 16, 2020

I love reading newspapers. Growing up in Flint, I always awaited the arrival of the Flint Journal each day, which was announced by a thump at the front door if the paper boy's toss was accurate. Sometimes, I helped friends deliver the Detroit News and the (now long defunct) Detroit Times, so I was among the first see the headlines on those days. As life has gone along, my routine is incomplete unless I have perused the news. The format for many newspapers is more high tech now, but holding a newspaper in my hands (in print or on a device) is still a highlight of my day. 


Right now, I have a bit more time to scour the news. It's almost like a treasure hunt to seek and find items of interest. For example, with a pandemic virus and murder hornets dominating the storylines, you might think there is nothing more to fear. Not so fast, my friends. 


Would a “megadrought” grab your attention? “Scientists say a 20-year drought across the western US is in fact an emerging megadrought as bad as any in the region over the last 1,200 years.” Megadroughts can last decades. Our Desert Southwest is “on the same trajectory as the worst prehistoric droughts." According to a Columbia University bioclimatologist: “This drought, which has states battling wildfires while reservoirs are depleting, is bigger than what modern society has seen."



So, as the Southwest gasps for water, what do we in the Great Lakes region have to fear? How about zombies from the sky? See, there are more than 2,000 active satellites orbiting Earth. “At the end of their useful lives, many will simply burn up as they reenter the atmosphere. But some will continue circling as zombie satellites — neither alive nor quite dead.” The key word here is “many.” To me that means there are a “few” (pick a number) that will not burn up. 


Amazingly, several of these are still operational. “An amateur radio hobbyist has zeroed in on the signal of a U.S. military satellite abandoned nearly fifty years ago. The LES-5 satellite was launched in 1967. It was decommissioned in 1972. But incredibly it’s still working and is transmitting to anyone able to listen.” And...and: "Most zombie satellites are no longer under human control.” Yikes! Duck and cover! ( and


Speaking of things in the sky, the lack of planes overhead is affecting weather forecasting. “Widespread cancellations of commercial flights are creating problems for meteorologists around the world. Weather forecasting models rely on temperature and wind data gathered by thousands of planes flying overhead. As of the end of March, meteorological data provided by U.S. aircraft had dropped by half.”


Forecasters need this data in order to construct computer generated weather predictions. “The NOAA says data has declined 75 percent in the US and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts has reported an 80 percent drop.” This will reduce forecast accuracy by 15 percent. This is not good news as we head into hurricane and tornado season. ( and


All of this news is concerning, to say the least. It might be enough to drive a person to imbibe an adult beverage or two. At one Michigan home in Bloomfield Township finding a beverage won't be a problem. The $3.25 million home is so big the 600-bottle wine cellar has a wine cellar of its own. How big? The two people living in the home enjoy 5,700-square-feet plus a 3,000-square-foot walkout lower level. Says the owner: “I’d have to make a phone call to find out if my wife was home.” See a video and 24 photos at:


Having a wine cellar in your wine cellar is one way to ensure a constant flow, but a California man may have a more unique system. “A man was arrested after he allegedly forced the driver of a tanker truck carrying red wine to pull over, climbed onboard and began drinking from the tank, as the truck continued down the highway.”


You read that correctly. Here's how he did it. “He allegedly climbed underneath a tanker truck moving down the highway, unscrewed a valve and gulped down the red wine that gushed out. Authorities say the suspect unscrewed a valve that sent the tanker’s wine gushing out, and he gulped as much as he could.”


Back at the truck terminal, the trucking company weighed the tanker and found it had lost about 1,000 gallons of red wine, enough to fill about 5,000 bottles or one really big box-o-wine. (




Finally, sometimes you have to enhance a newspaper article with some online resources. Mental Floss does this at: The article is “15 Old Computer Sounds That Will Take You Back to the '90s.” These are fun to hear and recall those thrilling days of yesteryear when it took about a half-day for a web page to load. The sounds include the 56K modem connection, “You've Got Mail” from AOL, various Windows startups and the chatter of a dot matrix printer. Trust me, you'll laugh.  



Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and