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Heavy price to stand atop the world

The government of Nepal, focusing solely on the revenue produced from Mount Everest expeditions, oversold permits to the point that, over the past week, deadly gridlock had developed at the summit. Long waiting lines consisting of scores of climbers were photographed perilously bracing themselves atop the narrow ridge that leads to the summit. There, only steps from their goal, they had to wait while climbers ahead of them crowded onto the summit for selfies and a quick view from the highest point on Earth.

The ridge was so crowded that, when the summiteers were ready to climb down, there was precious little room for them to maneuver around the other climbers waiting to go up. All have been reluctant to yield for understandable reasons: The weather window for climbing lasts a perilously short time. The summit typically fulfills a lifetime bucket list, not to mention the investment of $50,000 to $70,000 for equipment, supplies, transportation and logistics required to make the trip.

At least 11 people died in recent days as a result of the overcrowding, often because climbers were unfit, ill-prepared, or had simply run out of oxygen while awaiting their turn at the summit. The government of Nepal could have, and should have, fixed this problem easily by limiting its climbing permits. Instead, it went for the revenues, seemingly impervious to the tragedy that resulted.

Potent Potables for $1,000

Can anyone stop James Holzhauer? The “Jeopardy!” quiz show’s current champion is on a pace to soon overcome the all-time, regular-season winnings record set by Ken Jennings. Jennings chalked up 74 wins in 2004 with total earnings of $2.52 million, not including his earnings in subsequent special tournaments. Holzhauer, from Naperville, Ill., as of Thursday had won $2.32 million in 30 straight games, with a single day’s record-setting take on April 17 of $131,127.

Holzhauer’s style of play has flustered his opponents, who have tended to follow the time-honored strategy of working their way from the easiest, low-dollar answers at the top of the board down to the bigger-dollar, harder answers at the bottom. Instead, Holzhauer typically cleans out the hardest, high-dollar answers before his opponents have time to press their buttons or even open their mouths. By quickly banking the money, he has more to wager on Daily Doubles or Final Jeopardy! His secret? He’s a professional sports gambler who began playing online poker in high school.

Way too much ado

It appears that the King’s Cross-St. Pancras rail station in London has a problem with people who mistakenly believe they are authorized to verbally recite the wit and wisdom of Shakespeare at will (pun not entirely intended). The authorities at Transport for London would like to make it clear that sudden outbursts of Bard-inspired thespian monologuing are about as welcome as people who fail to Mind the Gap.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that authorities felt it necessary recently to post a sign: “No pushchairs (strollers). No running. No performing the works of Shakespeare. No heavy luggage.”

We await the reply from the New York subway system. Something along the lines of: No “Stairway to Heaven” or quotes from “The Big Lebowski.”

Disastrous responses

U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, last week used a parliamentary stunt to hold up a $19 billion disaster aid package to communities around America ravaged by floods, tornadoes and hurricanes. Two other Republican House members subsequently followed his lead and blocked it again, twice, this week. They were in part protesting the fact that the bill would add to the deficit with no offsetting cuts.

Since Roy was just seated in Congress this year, he didn’t have the chance to vote on the Republican tax cuts of 2017 that have exploded the deficit, but almost his entire party backed it. If Roy’s protest made reference to that, we can’t find it.

Roy’s party has also been the major impediment to addressing global climate change, which has contributed to the hurricanes, tornadoes and floods that have ravaged the country lately. And disaster relief had already been held up by President Donald Trump’s decision to deny additional, much-needed aid to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico.

As Americans in the nation’s hardest-hit places wait for help, they should keep in mind that disaster doesn’t only come from the sky. It also comes from the ruling party in Washington.

Help wanted: Texas secretary of state

The appointed Texas secretary of state, Republican David Whitley, lost his bid this week to win confirmation from the Republican-dominated state Senate and was forced to resign. That’s a good thing because Whitley was an embarrassment to his party, his state and the man who appointed him — Gov. Greg Abbott.

Recall Whitley’s attempt this year to purge more than 90,000 people from the state’s voter rolls on the mere suspicion — utterly lacking proof — that they might not be citizens. Whitley compiled the list by matching names on voter rolls with names given by people stopped by the Texas Department of Public Safety who had stated they were not citizens. Critics charged he was going after Hispanic names and was trying to deprive legitimate voters of their rights. A federal court ultimately halted the purge.

Democrats in the state Senate refused to vote for Whitley’s confirmation, depriving the body of the two-thirds votes required for his approval. Not a lot of tears are being shed over his departure, even on the Republican side. On the official website, where “Biography of Secretary of State” had listed Whitley’s background, there now appears the following word on a blank white background: “Vacant.”