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Q&A: Dragonfly population up because of cold, wet winter

Donations to ease national debt

Someone told me that every year, U.S. citizens make payments to the government to put down against the national debt. Is that right? How much do they give?

In May, National Public Radio did a report on donations to pay down the national debt, based on a Freedom of Information request to the Treasury Department.

The government has accepted donations to pay down the debt since 1961. NPR found that between 2004 and 2009, more than 1,500 gave more than $11 million to reduce the national debt. Most gave $100 or less (with many, many donating a penny or two), but 17 gave more than $100,000, and one donation was for $1.5 million.

Interestingly, the trend toward giving is up. In 2004 the total donated was just over $500,000. That rose to about $1.5 million in 2005 and 2006, to $2.5 million in 2007, fell to a little over $2 million in 2008 and went over $3 million in 2009. In 2010, more than $1.6 million has already been given.

Of course, the donations are minuscule compared to the debt, which is $13 trillion and growing.

Newsweek magazine also reported an interesting addendum: The government is now accepting donations made by credit card. It accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. You can go to www.pay.gov/paygov and fill out a form to make a contribution with your credit card.

Dragonfly population booms

As regular visitors to Indian Rocks Beach from the U.K. during May and October of each year, we had never before this May experienced a swarming of dragonflies, both black- and green-bodied, seemingly from the gulf. Where do they come from?

In a word, water.

The Tampa Bay area had an abnormally cold and wet winter, thanks to the El Niño system in the Pacific that also helped defuse our 2009 hurricane season.

That rain kept water in ponds and wetlands that normally dry up, providing excellent breeding grounds for dragonflies, according to insect experts.

Once hatched, the dragonflies also had plenty to feed on — the cold weather killed many trees and plants that provide food for the gnat and fly population, both of which are prime dragonfly prey.

So this was a banner year for dragonflies. And because they like to hang around ponds, freshwater of any size and large, blacktop parking lots (a University of Florida researcher once theorized that parking lots resemble open bodies of water), they were all over the beaches.

And that's a good thing. They eat bugs, especially mosquitoes.

Q&A: Dragonfly population up because of cold, wet winter 06/14/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 12:31pm]

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