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Rick Santorum took his re-energized Republican presidential campaign to Puerto Rico Wednesday after key primary victories in the South that raised questions about conservative rival Newt Gingrich's viability as a candidate and portended a long battle with front-runner Mitt Romney. Romney, rejected again by Southern conservatives in the Tuesday primaries in Mississippi and Alabama, won caucuses in Hawaii and American Samoa to claim about a third of the total delegates available and maintain his lead. However, Santorum's twin primary triumphs — while narrow — reframed the GOP race as a one-on-one battle between the socially conservative former Pennsylvania senator and the more moderate Romney, with Gingrich's chances fading fast/CNN Politics. More here. (AP photo: Rick Santorum gives a thumbs up at his election night party in Lafayette, Ala.)
Question: Time for Paul & Gingrich to step to the sidelines?
Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, seen being greeted by campaign workers through the front doors of the diner while arriving to speak as she campaigns for her husband on his birthday at Edith Ann's Diner Monday in Huntsville, Ala. (AP Photo/The Huntsville Times,Eric Schultz)
Gail Denny places a candle and stuffed animal outside the home of 9-year-old Savannah Hardin near Attalla, Ala., Wednesday. Authorities say Hardin was forced to run for three hours as punishment for having lied to her grandmother about eating candy bars. The severely dehydrated girl had a seizure and her death days later was ruled a homicide. Story here. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
April in the South is peak tornado season. Yesterday, killer storms swept through Alabama killing dozens, destroying lives and wiping out entire communities.
It’s mid-April. The big forsythia I planted in my back yard is finally blooming. Jonquils have pushed up through the chilly soil.
Spring comes quietly to the Northwest. In other parts of the country it is the prettiest time of the year, but there is a darker side to the season.
If you’ve ever spent a spring or summer in the central and southern states, the region known as the Tornado Belt, you’ve probably experienced the dramatic clash of cold air sweeping down from the north and warm, moist air rising up from the Gulf of Mexico.
You’ve been in tornado country.
I grew up in the South and the first thing one learns about tornadoes is that they aren’t a single sensory experience. They overwhelm, assaulting from every direction.
First, you can see bad weather coming. The sky lowers. Dark clouds build overhead and everything takes on a greenish cast. The breeze disappears and the tallest trees are still. Even the birds fall silent.
Flickering television screens show anxious forecasters pointing to ominous radar images and tracing the path of the storm.
You can feel the storm before it arrives. The air hangs over you, heavy and oppressive. The humidity is smothering.
Tornados have a strange perfume. They are scented with ozone, a trace of flowering shrubs and other odors trapped in the wind. Tornadoes smell like the basement, the bathroom or the closet. Wherever you’ve run for shelter.
A tornado has a voice. The sound begins with the sudden, piercing wail of sirens that send a warning across town. It’s a terrifying, nerve-shattering sound, loud enough to wake you; to get your attention and make you look up from your desk at work; to be heard over the car radio or the television in the den. Loud enough to make you move. Fast.
Twisters bring the sound of rain lashing against the roof; wind whipping through the leaves, stripping them from the branches. They bring the sharp stinging sound of pine needles striking like javelins. The thudding of your pulse as you gather up the children, snatching blankets and teddy bears and sippy cups of juice to see you through the wait.
They are a whirlwind of crashing, banging and shattering sounds.
Survivors always say that the tornado, when it arrives, sounds like a freight train passing overheard.
Tornados taste like fear.
The thing about tornadoes is that, like so many of the things that scare us the most, they are random. They strike, skip, strike and skip again. There’s no way to predict where they will land or who will be in harm’s way.
And when they swarm, you can’t fight them. You can only hide and hope for the best.
It’s easy to find fault with the place where you live. And Spokane is no exception. Everyone has his or her own list of what would make this a better place to be.
But we should be grateful for at least one thing. Springtime in this part of the country may be slow to arrive, but it is relatively meek when it gets here. We don’t have to search the sky with anxious eyes, or listen for the sound of danger. We can go to sleep at night without worrying that the roof will blow away and trees will be uprooted.
Sure, storms come. And then they pass. At best, the grass is a little greener. At worst the creek is a little higher.
But our homes, the places that shelter us, are still standing.
And when the sun comes up, we’re still here.
This essay was adapted from an earlier column. Cheryl-Anne Millsap's essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at email@example.com
Mississippi is the most conservative state in the nation, a new Gallup poll finds. According to the study, 50.5 percent of the state's residents identify themselves as holding conservative political beliefs, the first time that a state has gone over 50 percent and the highest overall number that Gallup has found in similar polls. Idaho clocked in at second with 48.5 percent identification, and Alabama third with 48.3. The top ten most conservative states all had conservative identification numbers of 45 percent or higher/Huffington Post. More here. (AP file photo of renovated Idaho capitol building)
Question: Are you surprised that Mississippi is ranked as more conservative than Idaho?
CEDAR BLUFF, Ala. (AP) — Authorities in Alabama say all they had to do to catch six bank robbery suspects was follow the money flying out the window of a speeding car.
The Gadsden Times reports that a deputy spotted the red Nissan Maxima cruising down a state highway, the cash left in its wake.
Cherokee County Sheriff Jeff Shaver says four gunmen took an undisclosed amount of money during the robbery Tuesday at Union State Bank.
He says the six suspects ditched their first getaway car and got into the Maxima to try and throw off authorities.
Shaver says all the suspects ran away after the car wrecked. But all six men were eventually arrested. One was found hiding in a garbage can by tracking dogs.
Tim James, a candidate for governor in Alabama, has a new ad that’s generating interest far beyond the borders of the Sweet Home state.
If he’s elected, the commercial says, he’ll end the current practice of giving drivers license tests in 12 languages, and just offer them in English.
“This is Alabama. We speak English. If you want to live here, learn it,” he says. It just makes good business sense, he adds.
Some people accuse him of being racist. But others say he’s got a point: If you can’t understand English well enough to read signs and follow directions, should you be driving?
Washington state offers drivers license manuals, and the written test in six languages besides English: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese. They can also get an interpreter from a list supplied by the Department of Social and Health Services to administer the test in other languages, Brad Benford of the Department of Licensing said.
But applicant must be prepared to take the driving test with a tester who speaks English, and interpreters are not allowed to go on the test drive.
Some license offices have bilingual testers for some of the more prevalent languages in the state — Cantonese, Chinese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish or Vietnamese — Benfield said. The applicant can request a bilingual tester, and the office will try to accomodate them if one is available. But if the applicant needs someone who speaks Pashtu or Swahili or Romanian, they’re going to be out of luck.
But back to Tim James and his commercial. Alabama only offers its manual in English, but does allow applicants to take the written test in American Sign and 12 foreign languages: Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese.
The people who administer the road test only speak English, and like in Washington, no interpreters are allowed in the vehicle. Also like Washington, the written test is administered by a computerized machine, which is programmed to give the test in English or any of the other 12 languages.
Dorris Teague, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, said there’s a bit of history behind all this: Alabama offered a written form of the test in 14 languages until 1990. In 1991, a constitutional amendment passed making English the official language of the state, and they went to English-only drivers tests. In 1998, a federal court ruling said the state had to start offering the tests in seven other languages, and the number grew to 12 when the state went to computerized testing machines in 2003.
But the state didn’t pay for those automated testing machines, Teague said, the feds did.
So if, as James suggests, the state were to offer its drivers tests in English only, it wouldn’t cost money for new programs, they’d just turn off the other languages. But it wouldn’t necessarily save money, either.
So what do you think? Should Washington and other states only offer its written drivers’ tests in English? Or should they keep whatever multi-lingual programs they’ve got?
And what about James’ other point: If you live in America, you should learn to speak English? Is it xenophobia, or just common business sense?