Cats are the New Black (Death): The News Week in Review


Most people don’t think about the bubonic plague. But when they do, they usually think about the Black Death. The Black Death was one of the most catastrophic events in human history: a group of plagues that swept through Europe in the 14th century that killed about 25 million people—30-60% of the European population, to put that another way. But the Black Death was a long time ago. And the bubonic plague is now a part of ancient history…Or is it?

Apparently the bubonic plague is making a comeback! And instead of swarms of rats carrying it, the plague has wisely chosen as its carrier less-suspicious creatures: Cats.

That’s right, “Veterinarians in the Willamette are warning people to watch out for fleas, after a Central Oregon man likely contracted bubonic plague from a cat. Veterinarians say the plague mostly lives in parasites. Doctors believe the man in this case, was bitten by a cat that had fleas. Flea populations rise this time of year and since it’s almost summer, more animals are going outside into tall grass where fleas flourish.” [1]

As if that wasn’t enough of a strike against animals, now there are allegations against animals’ friends, rescue shelters.

“A new Facebook group is making waves online with their earnest and outspoken stance against Greenhill Human Society. No Kill Lane County, founded just a week ago by animal advocate Tamara Barnes, is taking Greenhill to task for not signing the No Kill Declaration…’They rarely accept less than perfect animals into their adoption program,’ Barnes says. ‘This skews their live release percentages. They kill medically treatable animals, such as kittens with ringworm. They kill healthy feral cats. They rarely have offsite adoption events.'” [2]

Cats aren’t the only animals under attack this week. Bears had it rough as well. The Eugene Emeralds began their 2012 season with two wins back to back, “defeating the (0-2) Yakima Bears 5-2 at PK Park on Saturday night.” [3]

Baseball is an American tradition, as American as fire fighters and fundraising. The former took to the streets this week to do the latter, filling boots with money for muscular dystrophy instead of posing next to shining vehicles. “Springfield, Eugene, and South Lane County firefighters all combined efforts Friday to battle a big opponent: muscular dystrophy. They’re taking part in the Fill-the-Boot drive, asking drivers to drop cash into fire boots to support local families. The firefighters hope to raise a combined $30,000 Friday.” [4]

Speaking of money: The City of Oakridge is having problems with it. After being chosen as the recipient of a large anonymous donation as part of an ABC TV show, “Secret Millionaire,” the city has been thrown into turmoil over how to distribute the money to its residents. “How do you fairly hand out $100 to every man, woman and child in town? Without fully resolving that complicated question, the city decided to start by including an announcement of the windfall and an application form for the money in this month’s water bill…The next day, the City Hall lobby was packed with people. The questions never stopped, inundating the three city employees, who have been unable to do their jobs.” [5]

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, on the other hand, has been able to do his job. In fact, he did it so well that Rolling Stone took note. “Rolling Stone praises Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley in a blog post by writer Matt Taibbi. Taibbi writes about  J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s Senate testimony before the Senate banking committee…If not for Oregon’s Jeff Merkley, who was the only senator who understood the importance of taking the right tone with Dimon, the hearing would have been a total fiasco.” [6]

A 24-year-old man from Bend caused his own fiasco, when he “tried to board a plane with an explosive device…Police were called to the Redmond Airport on Thursday to assist Transportation Security Administration screeners. Redmond police say the explosive device was secured and the man identified as Joseph Seeley was detained for questioning.” [7]

Seeley wasn’t alone in being questioned. The Eugene School District also faced questioning, when “staff learned that an unknown person had accessed confidential files that contained personal identity information of current students and some former students, including names, addresses and some Social Security numbers.” [8]

Even though it was a week of bubonic cats, terrorist scares, and identity thefts, at least the week ended on a high note. It is Father’s Day. And even if your BBQ didn’t turn out perfectly, at least know that you, unlike Max Young of Sacramento, were not out on a 50-foot boat that was “hit by a whale, lost its steering and started taking on water.” [9] And even if bubonic cats do cause the next Black Death, look on the bright side: “the demographic restructuring caused by the Black Death perhaps fostered the possibility of new economic growth.” [10]

Think about it.

R.L. Stollar writes the Local Nation segment at EDN. He has a B.A. in Western philosophy and literature from Gutenberg College in Oregon and a M.A. in Eastern religions from St. John’s College in New Mexico. Follow him on WordPress (, Twitter, (@RLStollar), or Facebook (

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