USDA

Some ecologists are calling for allowing more forest fires to burn because they are "essential to improving the long-term health of the forests," according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: The U.S. Forest Service reports more than 73,000 wildfires burn about 7 million acres of federal, tribal, state, and private land each year. Historically, however, scientists believe that 20 to 30 million acres burned each year in what is now the U.S. prior to colonization. Many kinds of plants and animals thrive in newly-burned forests, and by rushing to put them out, they could be endangered.

However, forest fires threaten nearby communities. Ecologists and forest managers are seeking a balance between fears about public safety and the ecological benefits of wildfires.

The costs: The NYT reports that federal and state firefighting costs have neared two billion dollars. The National Interagency Fire Center reports there were 15 firefighter fatalities in 2016 due to forest fires. Some scientists suggest money should be "redirected from firefighting into projects like fireproofing homes."

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Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

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Pence chief of staff Marc Short tests positive for coronavirus

Marc Short with Katie Miller, Vice President Pence's communications director, in March. Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times via Reuters

Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday and is quarantining, according to a White House statement.

Why it matters: Short is Pence's closest aide, and was one of the most powerful forces on the White House coronavirus task force.

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Opposition leader Leopoldo López flees Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition politician Leopoldo López outside the Spanish embassy in Caracas, in 2019. Photo: Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images

Leopoldo López, a former political prisoner and prominent Venezuelan opposition leader, has left the country, his Popular Will party confirmed in a statement Saturday.

Why it matters: He's been an influential force in the push to oust President Nicolás Maduro's regime and a mentor to opposition leader Juan Guaidó. He'd been in the Spanish ambassador's Caracas residence since escaping house arrest in April 2019 following a failed military uprising.