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Seeing more stars — on the coast

Three years ago, we wrote about a mysterious virus that was laying waste to millions of starfish — known as sea stars to scientists — along the Pacific Coast. Known as the “wasting disease,” the virus causes star-shaped echinoderms to lose their limbs and eventually fade into little more than slime.

Some attributed the disease to rising water temperatures off the coast, but it’s cause has remained a mystery. What’s not a mystery, however, is that starfish are making a comeback.

According to the Orange County Register, sea stars have been spotted in Southern California tide pools and many other locations. Darryl Deleske, an aquarist for the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in Los Angeles, told the newspaper that a couple of years ago he had driven all along the coast to Canada looking for sea stars and couldn’t find a single one. But now, Delesk said, “they are coming back, big time.” Thumbs up to that.

Sufficient batteries not included

Those with older iPhones may have noticed their phones responding much more slowly in recent weeks. If you suspect that’s because Apple is hoping you will buy a new phone, you’re not too far off the mark. The tech giant was forced to apologize to customers last week after admitting that it was intentionally slowing down some iPhones to preserve their batteries, which are aging.

To make amends, Apple is going to allow customers to get iPhone battery replacements — for a mere $29. But it’s not clear how many people will receive the discount batteries, which normally sell for $79. The company has been slow to say how the cut-rate batteries will be awarded. They may just go to those whose phones don’t pass a diagnostic test. For others, well, they can always buy a new iPhone, which start at a mere $999, not including tax. Thumbs down.

A birthday celebration for SRJC

Thumbs up to Santa Rosa Junior College, a homegrown institution that turns 100 years old this year. Founded in 1918, with an initial freshmen class of 19 students, the junior college has grown to encompass two campuses as well as a teaching farm in Forestville and a public safety training center in Windsor, with a student body of more than 28,000. More than a million people have studied at SRJC, which plans to mark its centennial with 12 months of special events, beginning with a community reception at 4 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Lawrence A. Bertolini Student Center on the Santa Rosa campus. The school is asking current and former students and employees to submit their stories at srjc100.santarosa.edu/blog.

A discouraging milestone

A year-end report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included a new U.S. record for drug overdose deaths — more than 63,600 in 2016, up from 52,400 in 2015, which also was a record. It may be close to a year before final figures are available for 2017, but there’s every reason to expect yet another record or near-record number. The grim report, which also noted that life expectancy declined for a second straight year in the United States, is the latest evidence of the nation’s epidemic of opioid abuse. Opioid painkillers accounted for about two-thirds of the overdose deaths, according to the CDC report. This epidemic is fast rising to the level of a national disaster. Will we finally tackle it in 2018?

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