Signs and Wonders
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey
Associated Press/Photo by Chris O'Meara
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey

Signs and Wonders: R.A. Dickey knuckles down on humanitarian efforts

Newsworthy

Dickey delivers. It’s been a while since I’ve written about my favorite pro athlete, Toronto Blue Jays pitcher R.A. Dickey. And it’s not because he hasn’t been doing well on the field. He had a slow start, and he’s pitching this year in a hitter-friendly park in Toronto. His ERA has dropped steadily since June, but even in defeat he often looks good: He threw seven solid innings against the Tampa Bay Rays Friday night in a 5-4 loss. But I mention him today not because of his work in the field, but his work off the field. Dickey is the recipient of the United States Sports Academy’s 2013 Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award for his work with Bombay Teen Challenge in India. The award is presented annually to an individual who has demonstrated a “concern for mankind, exhibits dedication, grace under pressure, personal sacrifice, compassion, hope, and dignity that characterize the promotion of human welfare and social reform.” It so happens that Teen Challenge is a distinctively Christian organization, though the award designation interestingly left that fact out.

Box office doldrums. Lee Daniels’ The Butler took first place at the box office this weekend, with a middling $25 million take. That was enough to snare the top spot in large part because the current movie crop is so dismal. The biopic Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher, brought in just $6.7 million. August is always slow at the theatre, but this weekend was particularly slow. The Top 12 movies earned an estimated $120.5 million, about 5 percent less than last year. And even that number was inflated by the relentless marketing of The Butler, which emphasized the movie’s inspirational “based on a true story” qualities even though many historians say the movie plays fast-and-loose with the truth. Also helping was Oprah Winfrey’s relentless publicity of the movie both on her own network and with others with whom she was able to pull in favors.

Hurricane peak season begins. Technically, hurricane season starts on June 1, but Aug. 15 is the unofficial beginning of the “peak season.” So far, it’s been a cool and damp summer throughout much of the country. As examples: The high in Chicago on July 27 was 65 degrees.  That’s 20 degrees below normal. During one July week, more than 1,200 spots in the U.S. set record lows. Even without asking what these new data might have to say about global warming (one week or one month does not, after all, make a trend), this cool summer is still an interesting phenomenon, and it’s affecting people all over the country. It should also affect hurricane season.  Usually cool weather means a slow season, but the National Weather Service is still predicting an “above normal” season.

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Green goats. Some government entities are learning what our great grandparents knew: Goats can help clear land. The Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., brought in goats earlier this month to help clear an overgrown 1.5 acres there. Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport uses them to keep about 120 acres cleared near one of the runway approaches. According to a USA Today article, goats are now “catching on … as a sustainable method to clear land.” The goats do have one downside: They produce methane gas, which some environmental activists say contributes to global warming. That just goes to show you: It’s always something.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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