DAILY DIGEST, weekend edition: Why melting Sierra snow won’t save CA from extreme drought; The sun may offer key to predicting El Niño, groundbreaking study finds; Klamath, Modoc, Siskiyou County leaders throw support behind Basin ag; EPA administrator won’t return to Obama-era WOTUS rule; and more …

In California water news this weekend …

Lake Oroville at an elevation of 728 feet, 42 percent of total capacity. Picture taken on May 4, 2021 by Kelly M. Grow / DWR

‘We got unlucky.’ Why melting Sierra snow won’t save California from extreme drought

California’s drought conditions have gone from bad to worse in scarcely a month.  In the weeks following April 1, the traditional end of the rainy season, warm temperatures have burned off most of the Sierra Nevada snowpack and left the state’s water network gasping. Instead of delivering a generous volume of melted snow into California’s rivers and reservoirs, the snowpack has largely evaporated into the air or trickled into the ground.  “We got unlucky. A lot of it didn’t make it into the reservoirs,” said Jeffrey Mount, a geologist and water expert at the Public Policy Institute of California. … ”  Read more from the Sacramento Bee here:  ‘We got unlucky.’ Why melting Sierra snow won’t save California from extreme drought

Eye opening 20 year drought data

Some sort of drought is part of the cycle over the west but it’s the frequency of drought and intensity that has really started to change the past 20 years with our increasing temperatures and changing climate.  It may come as a surprise or even eye opening when you look at the data below. You can see we’ve had more years with drought conditions than without. This includes the years of 2001-2005, 2007-2010, 2012-2017, 2018-2019 and our current drought that started to ramp back up in 2020. ... ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here: Eye opening 20 year drought data

‘Megadrought’ persists in western U.S., as another extremely dry year develops

Water levels usually peak in May at Folsom Lake in California, rising as Sierra Nevada snowpack melts away and courses down to the reservoir, near Sacramento.  But this year, the drought that has gripped much of the U.S. West is already so strong that the lake is only half as full as normal. Instead of water, fields of purple lupines line vast swaths of dry lakebed.  Folsom Lake’s situation is emblematic of the deepening drought across the western United States. … ”  Read more from National Geographic here:  ‘Megadrought’ persists in western U.S., as another extremely dry year develops

Mired again in drought, experts say California is better prepared to survive

Toxic algae blooms. Exposed, barren shorelines. Racing to prevent salmon die-offs. Sinking farmland. Dry wells. Unseasonable wildfires.  Drought has returned to California and the American West.  Following the fourth-driest winter on record and just a few years after declaring victory over the last drought, California is once again prepping for a summer of water insecurity. Conditions already mirror the last drought, but experts and water managers contend the state is better equipped this time around. … ”  Read more from the Courthouse News Service here:  Mired again in drought, experts say California is better prepared to survive

Letters to the Editor: California, stop divvying up water like it’s the Little Ice Age

To the editor: The Times Editorial Board recognizes that water policies developed on the heels of the Little Ice Age are not scientifically sound or sustainable for California. (“There is no drought,” editorial, May 6) … People who believe we can use as much water as we want are basically spending our inheritance with no regard for the kids and grandkids. Farmers are pumping more water from our aquifers than is being replaced, causing permanent subsidence in the land. We cannot dam our way out of our historical aridity because we rarely fill the reservoirs we have. … ”  Read more from the LA Times here:  Letters to the Editor: California, stop divvying up water like it’s the Little Ice Age

The sun may offer key to predicting El Niño, groundbreaking study finds

When it comes to long-term hurricane forecasts, tornado predictions in the Plains or prospects for winter rain in California, you’ll often hear meteorologists refer to El Niño or La Niña. They’re phases in a cycle that starts in the tropics, spreading an influence across the globe and shaping weather both close to home and on different continents.  Now there’s emerging research to suggest that cosmic rays, or positively charged, high-energy particles from space, might be the mechanism that flips the switch between phases. Cosmic rays come from outside our solar system, but the number and intensity that reach Earth hinge on the magnetic field of the sun. … ”  Read more from the Washington Post here:  The sun may offer key to predicting El Niño, groundbreaking study finds

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In people news this weekend …

PASSINGS

Remembering Peter Nils Brostrom

The world lost a giant this spring when Peter Nils Brostrom died of a sudden heart attack on March 30. Peter was working on an environmental mitigation project at the Salton Sea when he had a heart attack and died before he reached the hospital. He leaves behind his wife, MaryClaire Robinson, and two daughters, Teaghan and Piper Brostrom, all residents of Sacramento. … In 2001, Peter began a career as a water resource scientist with the California Department of Water Resources, tackling California’s environmental challenges, particularly in drought resiliency and in urban and agricultural water use efficiency. In 2020, he joined the firm of Formation Environmental, bringing his practical experience working the land and his water resource expertise to bear on a number of important projects throughout California. Peter’s colleagues admired his innovative yet practical approach to many complex issues. It’s no surprise that many of his colleagues were also lifelong friends. … ”  Read more at the Davis Enterprise here:  Remembering Peter Nils Brostrom

Remembering Byron Alan Clark, P.E.

With great sadness and a deep sense of loss, Davids Engineering dedicates this tribute to our coworker and friend, Byron Alan Clark, who passed away on April 3, 2021. Byron was a highly talented and accomplished engineer who never lost sight of the forest for the trees, and always adhered to the principles of kindness and honesty as he conducted his work and imparted calm leadership. He led by example.  Byron dedicated his professional career to the advancement of agricultural water management, working in nearly all of California’s major, irrigated valleys, from the Shasta Valley on the California-Oregon border to the Imperial Valley just north of the California-Mexico border. He was deeply committed to sound science, intellectual honesty, environmental sustainability, and held compassion for the people, organizations, and communities he worked for who rely on California’s agriculture industry and water resources. … ”  Read more at the Northern California Water Association here:  Remembering Byron Alan Clark, P.E.

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Podcasts …

WATER TALK PODCAST: “Decolonization helps us to put into practice this theory which says: There is a better way for this world to function”

Dr. Cutcha Risling Baldy is an Associate Professor and Department Chair of Native American Studies at Humboldt State University. She received her Ph.D. in Native American Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research from the University of California, Davis, M.F.A. in Creative Writing & Literary Research from San Diego State University, and B.A. in Psychology from Stanford University. Dr. Risling Baldy studies Indigenous feminisms, California Indians, and decolonization. Dr. Risling Baldy is the author of We Are Dancing For You: Native feminisms and the revitalization of women’s coming-of-age ceremonies, which considers coming-of-age ceremonies in the context of decolonizing practice, ethnography, water, and gender.”  Listen below and click here for more resources and transcript.


WATER IS A MANY SPLENDOR’ED THING PODCAST: Dundee, Scotland

Steven Baker writes, “Have you asked yourself why certain cities and towns were built where we see them today and to what degree did water enter into that decision? Water is a Many Splendor’ed Thing brings you another water relationship that has a personally significant impact to your life.”  Produced by Steven Baker, Operation Unite® Bringing People Together to Solve Water Problems, Online at www.operationunite.co

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In regional water news this weekend …

Klamath, Modoc, Siskiyou County leaders throw support behind Basin ag

At a rare joint meeting between all three of their leadership boards, Klamath, Siskiyou and Modoc Counties discussed ways to support agricultural communities during the Klamath Basin’s historic drought this year.  Farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Project will receive 33,000 acre-feet of water, less than 10% of their normal allocation, more than a month later than normal. Irrigators on tributaries to the Lower Klamath River, like the Scott River, are also expecting water deliveries to be curtailed during the summer. … ”  Read more from Herald & News here: Klamath, Modoc, Siskiyou County leaders throw support behind Basin ag

Siskiyou, Modoc and Klamath counties work to call attention to water crisis with letter to President Biden

The Siskiyou and Modoc County’s Board of Supervisors and Klamath County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to send a letter to 10 lawmakers that represent their regions and a letter to President Biden to bring attention to the water crisis impacting Southern Oregon and Northern California.  The letter begins stating that the area is at the “beginning of a disastrous water year where the Bureau of Reclamation has announced 33-thousand acre-feet of available irrigation supply from Upper Klamath Lake,” explaining that is less than 10% than what’s needed for farmers.  According to statements in the letters, this lack of water will impact crops, which will impact food and fiber throughout the world, thousands of farm and ranch workers will be without employment, businesses that rely on farming will lose revenue and local national wildlife refuges will also suffer, specifically impacting the Pacific Flyway. … ”  Read more from KDRV here:  Siskiyou, Modoc and Klamath counties work to call attention to water crisis with letter to President Biden

Judge nixes reduced Klamath River flows for sucker fish

A judge has ruled against the Klamath Tribes in a lawsuit that accuses federal regulators of violating the Endangered Species Act by letting water levels fall too low for sucker fish to spawn in a lake that also feeds an elaborate irrigation system along the Oregon-California border.  The ruling, reported Friday by the Herald and News in Klamath Falls, comes as the region confronts one of the driest years in memory. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation last month announced that farmers who irrigate from its Klamath Project water-management area will get so little water that farming may not even be worthwhile this summer. … ”  Read more from the AP here:  Judge nixes reduced Klamath River flows for sucker fish

Judge orders McKinleyville firm in water pollution suit to pay $2M in penalties

A U.S. District Court judge has ordered McKinleyville-based construction firm Kernen Construction Co. to pay over $2,087,750 in civil penalties after it was found to have violated the Clean Water Act by discharging contaminated storm water into a nearby tributary creek of the Mad River.  The order was issued by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers on May 2 after the company was found to have discharged storm water without engaging in pollution control measures mandated by the CWA. … ”  Read more from the Eureka Times-Standard here: Judge orders McKinleyville firm in water pollution suit to pay $2M in penalties

Fort Bragg’s looming water catastrophe

Taking the “sudden” out of the almost-certain water use restrictions to come this summer is part of the purpose of the water emergency ordinance the Fort Bragg City Council will consider at its meeting May 26, Fort Bragg City Manager Tabatha Miller said last week.  Fort Bragg already has an emergency ordinance, with a phased-in set of cutbacks tied to (Noyo) river flows that top out at a 30% reduction. Fort Bragg actually did that in 2015 when low river flows allowed salt water into the town’s water system. City government imposed a heavy set of use restrictions that made statewide headlines for, among other things, requiring restaurants to stop washing dishes and only use paper plates and plastic utensils. … ”  Read more from the Anderson Valley Advertiser here:  Fort Bragg’s looming water catastrophe

City of Ukiah waiting to see how much water it can share with neighbors

While it seems clear that the city of Ukiah will have enough water to meet the needs of it residents, businesses and facilities this drought year, it is not clear yet if it will have enough water to share with neighboring communities that have far less of the resource available.  “The drought situation continues to stay, I would say, severe, in particular for folks that reliant on Lake Mendocino,” Sean White, director of water and sewer resources, told the Ukiah City Council at its May 5 meeting. “I was actually in a meeting today where we got a fresh look at the latest model runs showing reservoir volumes at the end of the season, and I definitely think (Lake Mendocino) is going to be the lowest we’ve ever seen it.” ... ”  Read more from the Ukiah Daily Journal here:  City of Ukiah waiting to see how much water it can share with neighbors

Sheriff Martin declares Lake County drought emergency

Faced with intensifying drought conditions, Sheriff Brian Martin has declared a drought emergency in Lake County.  Martin took the action in his capacity as director of Emergency Services, citing the drought this year and the fact that the state of California is in the second consecutive year of extremely dry conditions due to historically low rainfall totals.  Martin issued the emergency proclamation on Thursday night. It will be considered for ratification by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday at 11 a.m.  In his two terms as sheriff, he’s issued numerous emergency declarations for fires, storms and floods, public safety power shut-offs and the pandemic. This is his first emergency declaration for drought. ... ”  Read more from the Lake County News here:  Sheriff Martin declares Lake County drought emergency

Water rationing begins in Sonoma County as cities plot steps to confront drought

Mandatory water rationing has begun in some areas of Sonoma County, as the region confronts a deepening drought reflected in record-low reservoir levels and looming state restrictions on withdrawals from the Russian River.  The cites of Cloverdale and Healdsburg already are under mandatory orders to reduce water use by at least 20%, compared with last year, with specific prohibitions on certain kinds of activities such as daytime watering and hosing down driveways and sidewalks.  But officials in most Sonoma County cities are opting for voluntary conservation measures at this point … ”  Read more from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat here:  Water rationing begins in Sonoma County as cities plot steps to confront drought

San Jose Mayor opposes Valley Water’s $2.5B reservoir project

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is clashing with the agency that’s responsible for Santa Clara County’s water supply.  California is headed for another severe drought — and because of climate change scientists said it’s only going to get worse. That’s where Valley Water’s $2.5 billion reservoir project comes in, which is what they say is key to protecting our future water supply.  Liccardo said it is an overpriced mistake that could mean rate hikes for users every year for the next decade. … ”  Read more from NBC Bay Area here: San Jose Mayor opposes Valley Water’s $2.5B reservoir project

Santa Cruz County in ‘severe drought,’ water districts asking customers to conserve

In a matter of weeks, Santa Cruz County went from moderate drought to severe drought conditions. National Weather Service meteorologist Brayden Murdock said he was “not surprised” to see the distinction come so quickly.  Murdock said this past winter Santa Cruz County saw between 30-50% less rain than average.  “It’s not the worst we’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely not close to the best,” Murdock said. … ”  Read more from KSBY here: Santa Cruz County in ‘severe drought,’ water districts asking customers to conserve

Wildflowers lead to Folsom Lake’s hidden bridge

Spring has very much sprung at Folsom Lake and the lupine wildflowers are everywhere.  A bloom of this magnitude is a rare sight at Folsom Lake, especially at the beginning of what looks to be drought year. Satellite images from 1985 to 2020 show the fluctuating water levels every time drought hits Folsom Lake. This year, lake levels significantly dropped during wildflower season, allowing the lupine plant to grow and emerge where the water once was. The low lake levels also allowed something else to emerge.  Many know it as the “hidden bridge” or the “flooded bridge” but historian Roberta Long says the original name is the old Salmon Falls Bridge.  … ”  Read more from ABC Channel 10 here: Wildflowers lead to Folsom Lake’s hidden bridge

Drought update: Stanislaus County reaches driest level since 2017

Stanislaus County is experiencing extreme drought for the first time since 2017, and the last time the county was in extreme drought was in April 2016.  The drought conditions persist as Turlock Irrigation District records a water year that is just 53% of average for the date — and the second-straight year of dry conditions in the region. The Tuolumne River Watershed received less than an inch of rainfall in April, while the historical average for the month is normally several inches. ... ”  Read more from the Turlock Journal here:  Drought update: Stanislaus County reaches driest level since 2017

Fresno Irrigation District expanding groundwater recharge projects with $1.2 million DWR grant

Fresno Irrigation District’s (FID) Savory Basin Project (Project) was awarded $1.2 million included in a total award of $4.8 million to the Kings Subbasin by the CA Department of Water Resources (DWR) Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Implementation Grant Program. The Project, located within the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency’s (North Kings GSA) boundaries, will help FID achieve its sustainability goals by recharging the groundwater aquifer with FID surface water as mandated by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). This Project provides a direct benefit to adjacent disadvantaged community, Shady Lakes Mobile Home Park, and several private well owners.  … ”  Read more from ACWA Water News here:  Fresno Irrigation District expanding groundwater recharge projects with $1.2 million DWR grant

Bakersfield brewers send suds with a message to State Water Board

Bakersfield raised a brew, literally, to the State Water Resources Control Board on Friday in honor of the Kern River.  An iced down package of seven locally made craft beers was delivered to board members as part of the latest outreach effort by Bring Back the Kern, a local group advocating for water to flow through Bakersfield in the Kern River.  “Our goal was to raise awareness,” said Miguel Rodriguez, committee member of Bring Back the Kern. “There are so many people that don’t think twice that the Kern River is dry.” … ”  Read more from SJV Water here:  Bakersfield brewers send suds with a message to State Water Board

Kern farmers make do under drought conditions

Kern County ag producers are making changes big and small — from redeveloping entire orchards to fine-tuning their irrigation systems — as they try to adjust to worsening drought conditions across the Central Valley.  Strategies vary depending on access to water and ability to shift irrigation to different fields. Some landowners are trying to hold onto as much water as they can in case prices rise later in the year.  Complicating every equation is California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. It limits how much can be pumped from irrigation wells. Because of local water banking, some growers do expect to tap groundwater for irrigation this year. … ”  Read more from the Bakersfield Californian here: Kern farmers make do under drought conditions

Kern County: How does this year’s drought compare to 2015?

As drought conditions continue to worsen across Kern County, how close are we to seeing any government-implemented restrictions put in place?  Those who lived in California in 2015 will remember when Governor Jerry Brown implemented the first-ever mandatory water restrictions throughout the state asking residents to limit how they water their lawn and wash their car, among other things. 23ABC asked the National Weather Service if this year’s drought is reminiscent of that.  “We’ve seen snowpack amounts similar to what occurred around that time,” said Brian Oaks, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Hanford. … ”  Read more from KERO here: Kern County: How does this year’s drought compare to 2015?

Imperial Valley: Abatti and friends knock on the U.S. Supreme Court door

Columnist Brian McNeece writes, “The dispute between Imperial Valley farmer Mike Abatti and the Imperial Irrigation District over water rights entered a new chapter last month. Mr. Abatti filed a petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court to review last year’s California appellate court’s ruling in the IID’s favor.  Our local Imperial County Farm Bureau and the California Farm Bureau, along with some individual valley farmers, then filed amicus briefs at the U.S. Supreme Court supporting Mr. Abatti’s petition for review.  Mr. Abatti and friends claim that last year’s California appellate court ruling has abrogated — cancelled — farmers’ long-held water rights. ... ”  Read more from the Imperial Valley Press here: Imperial Valley: Abatti and friends knock on the U.S. Supreme Court door

Along the Colorado River …

Don’t expect Miracle May this month on the Colorado River

The Colorado River Basin appears to be out of miracles this spring. Five years after a “Miracle May” of record rainfall staved off what had appeared to be the river’s first imminent shortage in water deliveries, the hope for another in 2021 “is fading quickly,” says the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center’s latest report, released Thursday.  That’s one more piece of bad news for the Central Arizona Project. A first-time shortage is now likely to slash deliveries of river water to Central Arizona farmers starting in 2022 but won’t affect drinking water supplies for Tucson, Phoenix and other cities, or for tribes and industries that get CAP water. ... ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star here: Don’t expect Miracle May this month on the Colorado River

As a megadrought persists, new projections show a key Colorado River reservoir could sink to a record low later this year

Wracked by drought, climate change and overuse, a key reservoir on the Colorado River could sink to historically low levels later this year, new US government projections show, potentially triggering significant water cutbacks in some states as early as next year.  The projections released by the US Bureau of Reclamation show that Lake Mead — the largest reservoir in the country and a vital water supply to millions across the Southwest — could fall later this year to its lowest levels since it was filled in the 1930s.   The USBR will release its next major study in August. If that study projects water levels in the lake will be below the critical threshold of 1,075 feet on January 1, 2022, some users would begin to see their water deliveries cut significantly next year. ... ”  Read more from CNN here: As a megadrought persists, new projections show a key Colorado River reservoir could sink to a record low later this year

Commentary: How the Colorado River Benefits from Conservation

Bill Hasencamp, Colorado River Manager for Metropolitan, writes, “One of Metropolitan’s most important reservoirs isn’t even in our state. It’s along the border of Nevada and Arizona – Lake Mead, behind Hoover Dam. Thanks to ongoing conservation that has continued since the last local drought, Metropolitan has been able to store about 1.3 million acre-feet of water in this distant reservoir. That is roughly enough water to serve a city the size of Los Angeles for about two years.  This year, due to low supplies from the northern Sierra, Metropolitan is planning to withdraw a modest amount of these reserves to deliver water reliability to Southern California. Our ability to build these reserves in wet years, and tap them in critically dry years like this, is an important overall part of our water management strategy. And it is growing increasingly important as the climate changes. … ”  Read more from Metropolitan Water District here:  Commentary: How the Colorado River Benefits from Conservation

Saving groundwater: 3 new pipelines to bring CAP to Tucson’s suburbs

Twenty years after Tucson Water began serving Colorado River water to its customers, the Central Arizona Project is finally making headway in the city’s suburbs.  One pipeline project is in operation, a second is under construction and a third is in final design stages — all for the purposes of bringing CAP water from the river to suburban areas lying north and south of Tucson.  Decades in the planning, these projects are aimed at bringing what has been seen as renewable supplies to areas long suffering from over-pumping of ancient groundwater aquifers. When all are complete, they’ll reduce — although hardly eliminate — these areas’ demands on a stressed aquifer. ... ”  Read more from the Arizona Daily Star here:  Saving groundwater: 3 new pipelines to bring CAP to Tucson’s suburbs

Advocates for Tribal water access are asking Congress to earmark money for projects on native land

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed a clear connection between access to clean water and public health, according to Navajo tribal member Bidtah Becker.  Becker is part of a group called the Water & Tribes Initiative that advocates for water access in Indian Country. She said the pandemic has made it easier to ask Congress for money to solve the problem.  “The conversation has shifted from, ‘Oh no, you could never get that amount of money.’ And there’s always a little subtext of, ‘Are you really deserving of that money?’” she said. “Now it’s like, ‘Yes. Everybody needs clean drinking water. No questions asked.” … ”  Read more from KUER here:  Advocates for Tribal water access are asking Congress to earmark money for projects on native land

In national water news this weekend …

EPA administrator won’t return to Obama-era WOTUS rule

In a hearing in the House of Representatives, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan said he doesn’t intend to go back to the Obama-era waters of the U.S.WOTUS – rule and again made that claim before members of the Senate.  In a subsequent hearing before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, Sen. Joni Ernst asked what farmers, landowners and manufacturers can expect to see from the Biden administration in a potential new WOTUS rule.  Regan responded that he doesn’t intend to pull the Obama-rule off the shelf, “especially after we’ve learned so much over the years,” he adds. He notes this isn’t to be dismissive of what was done in the past, but also acknowledging those lessons learned.  But changes are warranted, Regan says. … ”  Read more from Farm Progress here:  EPA administrator won’t return to Obama-era WOTUS rule

Three questions about Biden’s conservation goals

The Biden administration’s report on its goal of conserving 30 percent of lands and waters leaves several unanswered questions, including how conservation will be defined and how it specifically plans to make sure such conservation is carried out.  Republicans, some of whom have expressed opposition to the goal of conserving 30 percent of the country’s land by the year 2030, are calling for more details. Some suggest Biden’s goal could have bipartisan support if certain conditions are met, but the lack of clarity in the current report prompted criticism of vagueness. … ”  Read more from The Hill here:  Three questions about Biden’s conservation goals

Ag groups encouraged by agriculture’s role in 30×30 plan

The Biden administration outlined ideas May 6 in achieving the nationwide conservation goal to conserve 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. As the report was identified as “big on ideas, short on details,” by the American Farm Bureau Federation, several groups weighed in on how this administration will proceed in accomplishing its lofty conservation goals.  The preliminary report – Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful – is a joint effort from the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior, Department of Commerce and Council on Environmental Quality. It is the Administration’s initial effort toward developing the executive order signed in President Biden’s first days of office. … ”  Read more from Farm Progress here: Ag groups encouraged by agriculture’s role in 30×30 plan

Catch up on last week’s news in the Weekly Digest …

WEEKLY WATER NEWS DIGEST for May 2-7: Conveyance and water rights in the Delta, plus all the top water news of the week

Also on Maven’s Notebook this weekend …

OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT: Preliminary DRAFT Resolution for Managed Wetlands in the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program

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About the Daily Digest: The Daily Digest is a collection of selected news articles, commentaries and editorials appearing in the mainstream press. Items are generally selected to follow the focus of the Notebook blog. The Daily Digest is published every weekday with a weekend edition posting on Sundays.
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