The Oregon County That's Not in the U.N.

iStock
iStock

There are currently 193 member states of the United Nations, including everyone from South Sudan to the Solomon Islands. And, of course, the United States is a charter member—but that doesn't mean the entire U.S. is represented.

If you stop by Oregon's Grant County, you'll see signs declaring the region a "U.N.-Free Zone." That's the result of a 2002 vote in the county that banned the U.N. from the region over concerns that the body wanted to infringe on residents' rights to own guns, take back private property, control education and establish a one-world religion. There were also concerns about the fiscal cost of belonging to the U.N. and the body's environmental record.

Herb Brusman, the author of the measure, told the East Oregonian newspaper that the vote was "a statement to be made ... [that] the less we have contact with [the U.N.], the better."

The area has a long history of trying to brush off government control: in the same election, they passed a law granting citizens the right to cut down trees on federal property and they have fought environmental regulations that they say restrict the timber business.

The law still stands, although the U.N. says it ultimately doesn't matter. In a February 2011 interview with The Oregonian, U.N. ambassador Susan Rice said the county's concerns were "not grounded in reality."

"The U.N. can't tax us, the U.N. can't change our laws, the UN has no black helicopter fleet—it's a fantasy," Rice said, adding that the U.N. doesn't have jurisdiction over any country.

Grant County wasn't even the first spot to declare itself free of the U.N. In 2001, the board of the Utah town of La Verkin held a special session on July 4 to pass an ordinance barring any town money to be spent on U.N. activity. If an individual citizen wanted to support the U.N., they would have to display a sign reading "United Nations work conducted here." The ordinance was declared unconstitutional a few weeks later and was ultimately repealed in a 2002 vote.

A similar measure was enacted in Bingham, New Mexico, and a bill was even passed in the Utah House of Representatives that would encourage the U.S. Congress to withdraw from the U.N. That, predictably, did not meet its intended goal, but state Rep. and legislation author Dave Bush said passing the resolution was retribution for a body that had interfered in too many American wars.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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How African Dust Storms Create the Caribbean’s Beautiful Beaches—and Protect Them from Hurricanes

Cam Green/Pexels
Cam Green/Pexels

The fertile red soils of Bermuda and the rich coral reefs of the Bahamas are a geological mystery. Both are made up of a specific combination of alien minerals and nutrients not found anywhere on the islands or in the ocean that surrounds them. Scientifically speaking, they should not exist.

But over the last decade, geologists have come up with an explanation for these ecological anomalies: They originated 5000 miles away in Africa. For more than a million years, dust from the Sahara Desert has hitched a ride on westward-traveling winds to the Caribbean. Bermuda and the Bahamas are, quite literally, an extension of the world’s largest desert.

But African dust storms aren’t just responsible for developing Bermuda’s clay-and-iron-abundant “terra rossa” and the coral reefs of the Bahamas; they also play an important role in protecting them from destructive hurricanes. Like atmospheric superheroes, the dust storms’ combination of dry air, strong winds, and cloud-suppressing particles appears to have the ability to stop hurricanes in their tracks.

From Desert to Tropical Paradise

On June 18, 2020, NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite captured this visible image of the large light brown plume of Saharan dust over the North Atlantic Ocean. NASA Worldview // Public Domain

In the summer months, dust storms, some as large as the continental United States, roll off the African coast every three to five days in a dry atmospheric shelf called the Saharan Air Layer. Sometimes they dissipate before they reach the eastern Atlantic. Other times, like in late June and early July 2020, they set sunsets afire from the Caribbean to the southeastern U.S.

The dust blown to Earth by these long-haul storms is packed with soil-enriching nutrients and iron that have completely altered parts of the natural landscape. Bermuda’s endemic dirt and sand is made up of the calcium carbonate leftovers of ancient coral, mollusks, and crustaceans, and the growth of abundant plant matter would be impossible without nutrient deposits from annual African dust storms.

Researchers hypothesize that the Bahamas’s underlying layer of calcium-rich rock and coral reefs wouldn’t have developed without Saharan dust, either—the dust is thought to help cyanobacteria fix nitrogen in the environment, allowing the carbonate layers to accumulate.

Hurricane-Smothering Sands

Climate scientists believe that Saharan dust storms may have an equally important job high above Earth. The summer dust storm season closely coincides with tropical storm and hurricane season, and most of them—around half of all tropical storms and 85 percent of the Atlantic’s most intense hurricanes—originate in Africa.

As they hurtle westward, hurricanes and dust storms mix it up over the Atlantic. But it’s not a fair fight. Hurricanes need humid air to form; dust storms are extremely dry. Hurricanes suck up moisture from the ocean and then release it as rain, while dust prevents moisture from rising into the atmosphere’s higher layers. Dust storms also have "vertical wind shear,” strong embedded winds that can break down a developing hurricane. Essentially, a Saharan dust storm is like a bone-dry, extremely powerful, hurricane-smothering blanket.

As hurricanes increase in frequency and strength alongside warming oceans and a changing climate, understanding exactly how they interact with dust storms may help researchers to identify which Atlantic storms are the most likely to intensify into life-threatening hurricanes. And if climate scientists can recognize the most destructive storms far in advance, those in their path may have a better chance of emerging unscathed when gray skies return to blue.