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Analysis, background reports and updates from the PBS NewsHour putting today's news in context.

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    Students work in groups of four during a 7th grade langauge arts class at Santiago Elementray Schoo

    In one Pennsylvania high school, more than 15 languages are spoken in a student body of nearly 4,000. Photo by Getty Images.

    WASHINGTON — In middle school, Junior Alvarado often struggled with multiplication and earned poor grades in math, so when he started his freshman year at Washington Leadership Academy, a charter high school in the nation’s capital, he fretted that he would lag behind.

    But his teachers used technology to identify his weak spots, customize a learning plan just for him and coach him through it. This past week, as Alvarado started sophomore geometry, he was more confident in his skills.

    “For me personalized learning is having classes set at your level,” Alvarado, 15, said in between lessons. “They explain the problem step by step, it wouldn’t be as fast, it will be at your pace.”

    As schools struggle to raise high school graduation rates and close the persistent achievement gap for minority and low-income students, many educators tout digital technology in the classroom as a way forward. But experts caution that this approach still needs more scrutiny and warn schools and parents against being overly reliant on computers.

    The use of technology in schools is part of a broader concept of personalized learning that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It’s a pedagogical philosophy centered around the interests and needs of each individual child as opposed to universal standards. Other features include flexible learning environments, customized education paths and letting students have a say in what and how they want to learn.

    Under the Obama administration, the Education Department poured $500 million into personalized learning programs in 68 school districts serving close to a half million students in 13 states plus the District of Columbia. Large organizations such as the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation have also invested heavily in digital tools and other student-centered practices.

    [Watch Video]

    The International Association for K-12 Online Learning estimates that up to 10 percent of all America’s public schools have adopted some form of personalized learning. Rhode Island plans to spend $2 million to become the first state to make instruction in every one of its schools individualized. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also embraces personalized learning as part of her broader push for school choice.

    Supporters say the traditional education model, in which a teacher lectures at the blackboard and then tests all students at the same time, is obsolete and doesn’t reflect the modern world.

    “The economy needs kids who are creative problem solvers, who synthesize information, formulate and express a point of view,” said Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner. “That’s the model we are trying to move toward.”

    At Washington Leadership Academy, educators rely on software and data to track student progress and adapt teaching to enable students to master topics at their own speed.

    This past week, sophomores used special computer programs to take diagnostic tests in math and reading, and teachers then used that data to develop individual learning plans. In English class, for example, students reading below grade level would be assigned the same books or articles as their peers, but complicated vocabulary in the text would be annotated on their screen.

    “The digital tool tells us: We have a problem to fix with these kids right here and we can do it right then and there; we don’t have to wait for the problem to come to us,” said Joseph Webb, founding principal at the school, which opened last year.

    Webb, dressed in a green T-shirt reading “super school builder,” greeted students Wednesday with high-fives, hugs and humor. “Red boxers are not part of our uniform!” he shouted to one student, who responded by pulling up his pants.

    The school serves some 200 predominantly African-American students from high-poverty and high-risk neighborhoods. Flags of prestigious universities hang from the ceiling and a “You are a leader” poster is taped to a classroom door. Based on a national assessment last year, the school ranked in the 96th percentile for improvement in math and in the 99th percentile in reading compared with schools whose students scored similarly at the beginning of the year.

    READ NEXT: These students just received a scholarship from Beyoncé

    It was one of 10 schools to win a $10 million grant in a national competition aimed at reinventing American high schools that is funded by Lauren Powell Jobs, widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

    Naia McNett, a lively 15-year-old who hopes to become “the African-American and female Bill Gates,” remembers feeling so bored and unchallenged in fourth grade that she stopped doing homework and her grades slipped.

    At the academy, “I don’t get bored ’cause I guess I am pushed so much,” said McNett, a sophomore. “It makes you like you need to do more, you need to know more.”

    In math class, McNett quickly worked through quadratic equations on her laptop. When she finished, the system spitted out additional, more challenging problems.

    Her math teacher, Britney Wray, says that in her previous school she was torn between advanced learners and those who lagged significantly. She says often she wouldn’t know if a student was failing a specific unit until she started a new one.

    In comparison, the academy’s technology now gives Wray instant feedback on which students need help and where. “We like to see the problem and fix the problem immediately,” she said.

    Still, most researchers say it is too early to tell if personalized learning works better than traditional teaching.

    A recent study by the Rand Corporation found that personalized learning produced modest improvements: a 3 percentile increase in math and a smaller, statistically insignificant increase for reading compared with schools that used more traditional approaches. Some students also complained that collaboration with classmates suffered because everybody was working on a different task.

    “I would not advise for everybody to drop what they are doing and adopt personalized learning,” said John Pane, a co-author of the report. “A more cautious approach is necessary.”

    The new opportunities also pose new challenges. Pediatricians warn that too much screen time can come at the expense of face-to-face social interaction, hands-on exploration and physical activity. Some studies also have shown that students may learn better from books than from computer screens, while another found that keeping children away from computers for five days in a row improved their emotional intelligence.

    Some teachers are skeptical. Marla Kilfoyle, executive director of the Badass Teachers Association, an education advocacy group, agrees that technology has its merits, but insists that no computer or software should ever replace the personal touch, motivation and inspiration teachers give their students.

    “That interaction and that human element is very important when children learn,” Kilfoyle said.

    The post Can computers enhance the work of teachers? The debate is on appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    At least five people have been killed in Texas from Hurricane Harvey as rising waters caused by heavy rains continued to grip parts of the state on Sunday, trapping hundreds of residents in their homes and prompting at least one municipality to order a mandatory evacuation.

    The tropical storm was expected to bring as much as 50 inches of rain to portions of Texas in the coming days as overwhelmed emergency workers fanned out across the state, using boats, rescue vehicles and helicopters to pick up residents who were trapped.

    More than 3,000 state and national service members have been activated to attend to the spate of torrential rains and flooding that have shut down much of Houston and cities across Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said during a news conference on Sunday afternoon.

    More than 250 roadways were closed Sunday in the state, and Abbott said the residents should expect to see tornadoes lasting through at least Monday.

    Power outages remain for 316,000 locations in Texas, plus another 75,000 in Houston, even as state and local crews begin the process of cleaning up sections of Corpus Christi and Rockport, which bore much of the brunt of Hurricane Harvey’s Category 4 winds as it touched down on land late Friday night.

    “We are still moving hundreds of evacuees to safe locations,” Abbott said, adding that residents should know “the cavalry is coming.”

    President Donald Trump plans to travel to Texas on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the White House.

    “We continue to keep all of those affected in our thoughts and prayers,” the statement read.

    In Houston, more than 1,000 people who were stranded amid heavy flooding were rescued overnight. Flash flood warnings remained in place Sunday morning for the country’s fourth-most populated city.

    More than 20 inches of rain had fallen since Saturday morning in the Houston area, with 12 more inches possible by nightfall on Sunday, forecasters said.

    The U.S. Coast Guard dispatched seven helicopters and several response boats to aid in rescue efforts, according to a statement. More than 300 search and rescue calls had been received and the Coast Guard requested that those who are trapped climb to their rooftops or seek higher ground and “mark” that they need help. Rescue teams from the National Guard were also dispatched to help with the rescue efforts.

    The city of Houston received more than 2,500 calls for assistance from the flooding overnight, officials said. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said he encouraged those who were stranded to remain in their homes and avoid making 911 calls to keep lines open for only the most serious situations.

    “First responders need to attend to them first,” he said during a news conference on Sunday. “The best way to keep from being stranded is to stay off the streets.”

    Officials called for residents with boats or vehicles that can navigate high waters to assist with rescues and Houston’s Ben Taub Hospital began evacuating patients due to flooding.

    As some residents hunkered down waiting for help, Turner said the city would open up Houston’s convention center to offer shelter.

    Police in Richmond, Texas, about 30 miles southwest of Houston, announced a mandatory evacuation for flood-prone sections of the city starting at noon local time on Sunday. Images from Harris County, which includes the greater Houston area, showed people using makeshift rafts and walking waist-high in rushing waters to reach safety.

    A spokesperson for the Harris County Sheriff’s Department told the Associated Press it was “difficult to pinpoint” which sections of the city were hardest hit by the flooding.

    “I don’t need to tell anyone this is a very, very serious and unprecedented storm,” Turner said. “We have several hundred structural flooding reports. We expect that number to rise pretty dramatically.”

    The post Catastrophic flooding grips Texas, large-scale rescue efforts underway appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Former Vice President Joe Biden at Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills

    Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, on May 3, 2017. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden has leveled harsh words at President Donald Trump for placing blame on “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

    In a commentary published Sunday in The Atlantic, Biden wrote: “Today we have an American president who has publicly proclaimed a moral equivalency between neo-Nazis and Klansmen and those who would oppose their venom and hate.”

    He said Trump has “emboldened white supremacists with messages of comfort and support.”

    Biden and former President Barack Obama have kept a low profile since leaving office, carefully choosing the moments to weigh in.

    [Watch Video]

    In his commentary, Biden said: “This is a moment for this nation to declare what the president can’t with any clarity, consistency, or conviction: There is no place for these hate groups in America.”

    The post Biden says Trump ’emboldened white supremacists’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    We all know it’s not nice to pull the legs off bugs.

    Luckily for entomology researcher Ignacio Escalante, he doesn’t have to. In the Elias Lab at UC Berkeley, he studies daddy longlegs, the harmless eight-legged critters you might have met in the shower.

    Daddy longlegs

    Daddy longlegs’ rope-like limbs make the creatures excellent climbers. Photo by Josh Cassidy/KQED

    Daddy longlegs’ appendages don’t need to be pulled off because these arachnids, related to spiders, drop them deliberately. A gentle pinch is enough to trigger an internal system that discharges the leg. It’s a way to stay alive in the wild if something is trying to devour the bug’s limb.

    Whether it hurts is up for debate, but most scientists think not, given the automatic nature of the defense mechanism. The only blood lost comes from the detached leg.

    It’s called autotomy, the voluntary release of a body part. And it’s just one of the topics Escalante will be broaching in his presentation at East Bay Nerd Nite next month.

    A “nerd night,” if you hadn’t heard, is an evening of talks, usually in a bar, generally unrelated to each other, that are part lecture, part rant. More than 100 cities worldwide host nerd nights on a regular basis. The motto of East Bay Nerd Nite, which takes place on the last Monday of the month at Club 21 in Oakland, is “Be there and be square.”

    Escalante’s research focuses on autonomy in daddy longlegs and how it affects their long term survival. But at Nerd Nite he’ll spend a good deal of time myth-busting on his favorite topic. Daddy longlegs, a.k.a harvestmen, have generated a lot of misinformation.

    Daddy longlegs

    The deliberate release of a body part, seen here in a daddy longlegs, is known as autotomy. Photo by Josh Cassidy/KQED

    For example, have you heard that daddy longlegs is the most venomous spider in the world, and that one bite could kill you, but its fangs are too small to penetrate human skin?

    Nothing in that statement is true.

    Daddy longlegs are not spiders at all. The two groups split 350 million years ago. Like scorpions and mites, daddy longlegs are their own order of arachnids. They lack silk glands, so if you see one in a web, you’re probably looking at a cellar spider, which is also long-legged. (To make sure, count the body segments. A spider has two, like a peanut, while a daddy longlegs has only one, like a pea.)

    Daddy longlegs also lack venom and true fangs. But their front claws, called chelicerae, are big enough to bite humans, though they prefer to munch on fruit.

    daddy longlegs

    A daddy longlegs grooms one of its appendages. Photo by Josh Cassidy/KQED

    Two of their appendages have evolved into feelers, which leaves the other six legs for locomotion. Daddy longlegs share this trait with insects, and have what scientists call the “alternate tripod gait,” where three legs touch the ground at any given point.

    That elegant stride is initially hard-hit by the loss of a leg. In the daddy longlegs’ case, the lost leg doesn’t grow back.

    But they persevere. A daddy longlegs that’s missing one, two, or even three legs can recover a surprising degree of mobility by learning to walk differently.

    “They have a 60 percent probability of losing a leg during their lifetime,” Escalante explained. “It’s a very common phenomenon, so you would expect to find compensatory mechanisms.”

    Those mechanisms include developing different types of strides more suited to the new leg count.

    After losing one leg, a daddy longlegs begins to favor “stotting,” where it dribbles its body on the ground like a basketball with every stride. After losing two legs, it turns to “bobbing,” where the vertical plane of movement becomes pronounced.

    daddy longlegs

    Even after losing three legs, a daddy longlegs can recover its speed. Photo by Ignacio Escalante

    “For certain variables, like speed, there’s a recovery after a few days,” said Escalante.

    Because they are more chaotic, these forms of movement may even help the daddy longlegs stay alive longer because it becomes difficult for predators to track. The proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding.

    “If you have four legs, it probably means that you have successfully escaped four encounters with predators,” said Escalante.

    Once these adaptations are better understood, they may have applications in the fields of robotics and prosthetic design.

    daddy-longlegs

    The tip of the harvestman’s leg is segmented and hooked. Photo by Josh Cassidy/KQED

    Predators like small birds and lizards aren’t the only way a daddy longlegs can lose a limb. Mating among these arachnids can get rough too. In some species, males actually wrap their legs around the female’s to keep her in place, and even shake her, during copulation. But as with many other species, the females are often bigger and stronger.

    “I’ve seen females pop the leg off a male because they don’t want to mate with him,” said Kasey Fowler-Finn, who researches daddy longlegs at St. Louis University.

    In nature, reproductive success is the goal of any survival strategy. Ultimately, for the daddy longlegs, it doesn’t matter how pretty you walk if you can get the job done. That’s the next question for Escalante.

    “I’m going to be investigating whether mating success is different in animals that have lost legs,” he said.

    This report was produced by KQED Science. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post Daddy longlegs risk life, and especially limb, to survive appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looks on during a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looks on during a meeting with Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland at the State Department in Washington, D.C. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated Sunday that President Donald Trump’s values should be considered separate from America’s values when it comes to race, appearing to repudiate the president’s response to violence at a white supremacist march in Virginia.

    Trump’s statement condemning the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides” in Charlottesville drew criticism that he was morally equating neo-Nazis with the individuals protesting against them.

    Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson said the nation’s commitment to fighting racial injustice was unquestioned.

    “We express America’s values from the State Department. We represent the American people, we represent America’s values, our commitment to freedom, our commitment to equal treatment of people the world over and that message has never changed,” he said.

    When asked about Trump’s values, Tillerson said “the president speaks for himself.”

    READ NEXT: These tech companies are purging white supremacist groups from their platforms

    Tillerson was the second White House official in recent days to appear to more explicitly criticize Trump.

    Last week, Trump’s top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, sharply denounced the president’s response, telling the Financial Times that he wrote a letter of resignation but never submitted it. Some other White House officials, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, have defended Trump.

    Trump’s response to the Charlottesville violence earlier this month also prompted a rebuke from a top United Nations body on racial discrimination, which urged the United States to “unequivocally and unconditionally” reject racist hate speech and crimes after the rally in Virginia and called on Trump to take the lead.

    Tillerson previously condemned hate speech and bigotry more broadly as un-American and antithetical to the values on which the U.S. was founded and promotes abroad.

    The post Tillerson says Trump ‘speaks for himself’ on racial violence appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    victoria texas

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: A two-hour drive southwest of Houston, about 30 miles inland from the Gulf Coast, lies the city of Victoria.

    67,000 people live there, and they were hit hard by Harvey when it was at hurricane strength yesterday morning.

    NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker reports on how residents and emergency responders are dealing with the heavy damage.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: 24 hours after the winds subsided, Thomas Cano is still shaken.

    THOMAS CANO: The house shook. It shook like crazy. It shook like somebody was doing a whip on it, you know? I was scared. You know I’ve been scared before, but when you can’t see it, that makes it even worse, when you can’t see the danger, you know?

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Born and raised in Victoria, Cano and his family boarded up their windows before Harvey’s arrival and opted to ride out the storm in the home his mother bought 40 years ago. Now a tree — uprooted from the yard — lies fallen on the side of his house.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Did you hear that tree fall?

    THOMAS CANO: Yes, sure did. I was on that window upstairs. I was looking when it fell. I said, “Oh, my god!” I was like — it’s just — it was scary. It was scary — you know…

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: In another Victoria neighborhood, Scott Koonce and Jake Lutz clean up debris strewn across their neighbors’ yards. They wanted to help restore their community to normal before evacuees begin to come back.

    SCOTT KOONCE: if we get a head start on it, the faster we get it cleaned up, the faster they can come in here and fix the electricity, get the water back on, things like that.

    JAKE LUTZ: I had a friend down the street, came back down and asked us if we could help him because a tree fell through his roof. So we’re just out here doing what we can to help everybody and trying to clean up.”

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: The city says it’ll take months to clear away all the debris and trees that Harvey left behind, but what they’re most worried about is what happens here at the Guadalupe River and Victoria’s other waterways, which aren’t expected to crest until at least midweek.

    O.C. GARZA: We’re expecting every creek and river in Victoria County to go to record flood levels over the next few days.”

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: O.C. Garza is the Victoria Emergency Operations Center’s public information officer. He says while the rainfall rate has slowed, the city’s residents need to brace themselves for the flooding to come.

    O.C. GARZA: These are not life-threatening, high — rapidly high-speed flood water. These are waters that back up into people’s homes and such. And so, we’ve got floods to contend with for at least a week.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: The difficulties facing residents are not limited to housing damage. Greg Heavener of the national weather service says that the flood waters may get high enough to cut off Victoria from the rest of the state.

    GREG HEAVENER: We’ve been forecasting major flooding for the past three to four days, so people are well aware of it, but, again, if it does happen, li–likely a lot of these roads here will be impassable and people will not be able to get out of the city.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Wow. And so where will people go?

    GREG HEAVENER: Exactly. So, you know, if you’re gonna come in, be prepared to be here for several days with flood waters around the area. Otherwise, you know, stay out of the city.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Victoria police officers are going door to door, encouraging residents to leave this area. They told people in this neighborhood, the last time the Guadalupe River flooded here, it crested at around 30 feet above flood stage. This time, police say, they expect it to be far greater.

    Residents we met said they’ve lived through bad flooding in the past. But what is projected from Harvey is unlike anything they’ve seen before.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: NewsHour weekend’s Christopher Booker joins us now from Victoria, Texas. Christopher, you’ve been out and about all day. How are people dealing with their basic needs? I see that there’s probably a lot of power lines down, with trees that big behind you that are also down.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Yeah, it’s a bit like moving through a maze of trees here. Across the city there are hundreds and hundreds of really substantial trees across the streets, power lines down. We only saw one open store and that store had a line out the door, people lining up to get food and water and they were going into a store that didn’t have any electricity. We went to the police station as well. The toilets weren’t working, the pumps weren’t working, they had set up a number of Porta Potties outside. The city really is crawling along.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: When do officials think people can return, or when it would be safe for them to return?

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: It’s really unclear. Some folks are coming back. We visited a home right next to the Guadalupe River, a family of four pulled up to their house which was right next to the Guadalupe River, and a huge tree branch had fallen right on top of the roof, puncturing the roof, flooding their kitchen. They were there just for a really brief moment just to pick up as much as they could, because their house is most certainly going to flood. And the city now is facing this bigger question of, the winds have died down, the recovery has started, but the water is rising, so the folks that might return actually might end up getting stuck here.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: How are the officials preparing for all that rain?

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Well, the police department tells us that they’ve assembled their water rescue team. The team is in place but actually a portion of that team was dispatched to Houston to help out with the recovery there. There was only one reported injury here in victoria, a power line that fell. The injury was non-fatal, but the police really is waiting to see if and when they’ll be needed to help people out of the water.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: All right. NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker, joining us from Victoria, Texas tonight. Thanks so much.

    CHRISTOPHER BOOKER: Thank you.

    The post In Gulf Coast cities, officials warn of coming floods appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A stranded motorist escapes floodwaters on Interstate 225 after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing mass flooding

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR:  Nine years ago, when Hurricane Ike caused $30 billion of property damage in the Houston and Galveston area, it was a wakeup call.  But according to the report “Hell or High Water,” published last year by “ProPublica” and the “Texas Tribune,” Houston did not adequately heed the warning.

    “Texas Tribune” reporter Kiah Collier is one of the co-authors of that story.  She’s also covering Harvey today.  She joins me now via Skype to discuss Houston’s preparedness for storms like this.

    You worked on this for more than a year.  What did you find?  I mean, we know that there’s hurricane preparations and then there’s flood preparations and you have a story just on that.

    KIAH COLLIER, REPORTER, TEXAS TRIBUNE:  So, the projects were to focus on Houston’s vulnerability to hurricanes and then flooding and how flooding has been exacerbated by unchecked development in Houston.  Building rules are not too strict, and developers are just paving, you know, over prairie land and wetlands, and not thinking too much about it.  And when rains like this hit, it just makes it so much worse because those flood waters don’t have anywhere to go.

    And, of course, you know, with hurricanes comes rain.  And, you know, there’s a big question whether Harvey would hit Houston as a hurricane.  It was never projected to do that.  But we wrote about a specific hurricane that if it hits at a particular point on the coast, it would send an enormous storm surge into a highly populated area and the U.S.’s largest refining and petrochemical complex, which is here in the bayou city.  That’s what they call it.

    SREENIVASAN:  One part of your story mentioned that Houston had, what, the most urban flooding in the last 40 years?

    COLLIER:  Yes, that’s right.  Flooding kills more people here than anywhere else in the U.S. and in general.  I mean, flooding kills a lot of people, more than have been hurricanes actually.  So, it’s the number one killer, in terms of natural disasters.

    SREENIVASAN:  So, when you look at these beautiful sets of maps that you have and you look at sort of 100 year storms and 500 year storms, you can kind of layer this over into where these flood zones are and you see the dots just kind of line up and they go right over areas that are expected to flood.

    COLLIER:  Right, exactly.  And these recent floods — so, this is the third major flood Houston has seen in the last three years I guess.  So, there’s been historic floods, you know, basically once a year for the past three years, and a lot of that flooding has occurred outside the zones that FEMA considers most likely to flood.

    And today, we’re seeing flooding that exceeds 500-year flood levels, which is really rare.

    SREENIVASAN:  You know, Houston has a flood control board.  I mean, is there tension there between what scientists predict and what they say is necessary to prevent these things and how Houston develops?

    COLLIER:  Right.  So, our project was based on, you know, a lot of interviews with scientists who said, you know, Houston is not doing enough to mitigate flooding.  It’s not leaving open green space in these developments.  And it’s only going to get worse because of climate change.

    And so, we talked to the head of the flood control district for our story.  And he basically didn’t agree with any of that and told us that they can kind of fight concrete with concrete.  You know, he’s an engineer and said, you know, we can engineer our way out of this problem with this big flood retention, you know, kind of basically massive concrete, you know, public works projects that funnel the floodwaters out to the Gulf of Mexico.

    And, you know, we don’t have — Houston doesn’t have enough of those and he admitted that this was behind on creating those projects or building those projects.  But scientists that we talked to say you’re not going to be able to engineer out of the problem.  What Houston really needs is smarter development rules.

    SREENIVASAN:  All right.  Kiah Collier of “The Texas Tribune”, joining us via Skype form Houston today, she’s one of the authors of “Boom Town, Flood Town” and “Hell or High Water”.  You can find like to that from our Website.  Thanks so much for joining us.

    COLLIER:  Thank you.

    The post Why Houston is a ‘sitting duck’ for hurricanes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Flooded downtown is seen from JP Morgan Chase Tower after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing widespread flooding, in Houston

    Flooded downtown is seen from JP Morgan Chase Tower after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing widespread flooding, in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 27, 2017, in this picture obtained from social media. Photo by Christian Tycksen via Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott loaded heavy praise Sunday on President Donald Trump and the federal government for its response to Hurricane Harvey, describing an “A-plus” effort with the storm only just beginning to take its catastrophic toll.

    Trump agreed his administration was handling its responsibilities well, approving of the effort in a series of weekend tweets that showcased his personal involvement. He marveled over the size of the storm like a TV host and, in a tangential aside, hawked a book on race and crime in America written by a supporter.

    Trump, who spent most of the weekend at the presidential retreat at Camp David, promised to travel to Texas “as soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption” and convened a Cabinet meeting by telephone Sunday with Vice President Mike Pence.

    The devastating storm has dumped more than 2 feet of rain, sending thousands of people in Houston to rooftops for rescue and prompting a warning from Federal Emergency Management Agency director Brock Long of a “landmark event” that could require years to get damaged areas back on track.

    “I’ve got to tell you, I give FEMA a grade of A+, all the way from the president down,” Abbott said. “I’ve spoken to the president several times, to his Cabinet members, such as secretary of homeland security, such as the administrator of FEMA, such as Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services.”

    “All across the board, from the White House to the federal administration to FEMA, they’ve been very helpful,” Abbott said.

    Harvey made landfall along the Gulf Coast on Friday night as a Category 4 storm near Corpus Christi, and moved northeast along the Texas coast over Houston. Abbott said he expected heavy rain “for days to come.”

    [Watch Video]

    The governor commended Trump for being “extremely professional, very helpful” in moving quickly to grant his request Friday for an immediate disaster declaration, which triggers additional federal assistance to aggrieved areas.

    Abbott said the focus was on rescue in the Houston area, citing multiple high-level vehicles sent in late Saturday night that were being manned by the National Guard, but that boats and helicopters will be available all across east Texas for swift water rescue. Still, in many areas, Houston officials were reporting flooding so widespread that rescuers were getting too many calls to respond to each one and had to prioritize life-and-death situations.

    “We’re measuring rain these days not in inches but in feet,” Abbott said.

    In his tweets, Trump praised Long for “doing a great job” and touted the “great coordination between agencies at all levels of government.” He also tweeted Sunday morning about his Cabinet meeting to address Harvey. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA, is currently without a secretary.

    “Major rescue operations underway!” he wrote.

    Trump’s tweets also had their oddities and non-sequiturs. “Wow – Now experts are calling #Harvey a once in 500 year flood! We have an all out effort going, and going well!” he tweeted.

    He also tweeted about the North America Free Trade agreement, the need for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and tax cuts. He also found time to promote a book by Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, Sheriff David Clarke, a Trump supporter often on television discussing his conservative views of race, crime and law enforcement.

    The White House released a summary of the Cabinet conference call, saying Trump “continued to stress his expectation that all departments and agencies stay fully committed to supporting the Governors of Texas and Louisiana and his number one priority of saving lives.”

    [Watch Video]

    The Trump administration efforts seek to offer a contrast to President George W. Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in August 2005 and left more than 1,500 dead. The mismanaged response of Bush’s FEMA administrator, Michael Brown, to that hurricane, as well as Bush’s praise of Brown for doing a “heck of a job” in the immediate days after, dogged Bush for the rest of his presidency.

    On Sunday, Long said FEMA is now “vastly different” than in 2005 and that he has the power he needs to mobilize forces and coordinate staffing. He said the agency was already preparing to handle the aftermath in Texas for the next couple of years.

    “This disaster’s going to be a landmark event,” Long said. “While we’re focused on the response right now and helping Texas respond, we’re already pushing forward recovery housing teams, we’re already pushing forward forces to be on the ground to implement national flood insurance program polices as well and doing the inspections that we need.”

    White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert defended the early compliments between Trump and Abbott for the response to Harvey, citing the quick action to declare a disaster before landfall to get additional resources in place. But Bossert acknowledged the worst was yet to come, estimating “continued rain, upwards of 30 inches.”

    “I’ve been around dozens and dozens of major disasters and hurricanes, hundreds of disasters. I’ve never seen 30 inches of rain,” he said. “We’re going to posture ourselves for the long-term care of the medical needy, of the elderly, of the weak and then we’ll put ourselves in the position to provide the resources to rebuild and recover,” he said.

    READ NEXT: Catastrophic flooding grips Texas, large-scale rescue efforts underway

    Abbott spoke on ABC’s “This Week” and “Fox News Sunday,” Long appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and NBC’s “Meet the Press,” and Bossert was on ABC and CBS’ ”Face the Nation.”

    Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.

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    hurricane harvey

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: For more on the severe flooding situation in Houston, I’m joined via Skype from “The Houston Chronicle” newsroom by the newspapers metro editor Dianna Hunt.

    Ms. Hunt, what a difference 24 hours makes. You were talking about some of these preparations yesterday, but the video that we are seeing from Houston is dramatic. Tell us a little bit about what your reporters are seeing out there.

    DIANNA HUNT, METRO EDITOR, THE HOUSTON CHRONICLE: this is an extraordinary amount of flooding and torrential rains. It’s actually stopped at the moment, there’s been a bit of a break.

    But the bayous are flooded. The streets are flooded. Homes are flooding. People are being plucked off of roofs by helicopters even as we speak right now.

    They set up shelters — instead of a shelter in the convention center downtown, everybody is trying to shelter in place if at all possible. And we have reporters embedded all over the region trying to capture what’s going on, and we still can’t get it all. We’ve had thousands of rescues.

    We’ve had six people believed to have died already in the storm in this area, not including the one person who died in Rockport. It’s very disastrous. If we continue to get more rain as we’re predicted to get, it will just get worse.

    SREENIVASAN: You know, and that’s the thing that’s hard to comprehend here is that there are breaks in the rain and people think, perhaps this is over. But, really, this weather system it goes back out and comes back in or even just stays, this is what you’re going to have for the next couple of days. And so, if this is the kind of damage that can happen in just 24 hours, how does the city drain this kind of water that fast?

    HUNT: Well, it just — it tries to — its bayous and their waterways can carry it, we have retention ponds. Those can all carry a load. They just can’t carry it as fast as it’s been coming down.

    If we can get a little bit of a break and let it catch up a little bit, that helps the system. But we were at one point getting three to four inches in an hour. And it just can’t handle that. The roads can’t handle it. The drain systems can’t.

    Now, the bayous are starting to fill. We have some rivers that are about to go over their banks and then outlying counties that are threatening homes there, too. But as — it also as it drains downstream, it creates flooding problems there. So, it’s going to be with us for a while.

    SREENIVASAN: You know, I remember covering Hurricane Rita when there was a mass evacuation of Houston. And the mayor today said, you know, you just can’t move 2.3 million people and put them on the road at the same time, that’s dangerous. But at this point, there are going to be people who are stuck in their homes without power who are going to try to figure out how to leave.

    But when you look at the map of all of the road closures that are happening, it’s not going to be very easy for them to get out.

    HUNT: No, at this point, if your house is not flooded, you should not leave. Stay where you are, stay off the roadways, that just causes more problems. I just talked with a woman this morning who has about three feet of water in her house. She’s at White Oak Bayou.

    She went to a neighbor’s house and they’re just staying there right now. There’s no emergency necessarily. There’s no one sick or injured. They’re just — they have three families in one home, waiting until this goes away and they can get out.

    SREENIVASAN: What’s the status of all of the other kind kinds of functions of a city? I mean, are the school districts planning on closing for the next couple of days? Are the hospitals still up and running?

    HUNT: The hospitals are still up and running. There have been reports of some problems at one of our hospitals with the basement. But they’re still functioning.

    We had a lot of problem in the hospital, in the medical district during Tropical Storm Allison, which is very similar to this, and that it stayed over the city and just dumped rain over a period of days. They had generators that went out, generators that flooded. They had to evacuate. They have made changes in the hospital district, in the medical district to prevent that from happening again.

    So, the problems have been minimized I think as a result of what happened with Tropical Storm Allison that was in 2001. But the rest of things are trying to catch up. We get a break, there’s a little bit of almost sun shining right now and people try to catch up. But they are still plucking people off the roofs of houses at the moment too.

    SREENIVASAN: You know, are there areas of specific concern heading into the next 48 hours or 72 hours for greater rainfall?

    HUNT: Well, the whole area is threatened by the potential for additional rain. If the storm system just stops over us, it can just rain endlessly. At the moment, we’ve had some raves of rain. At the moment, we’re not in one of those now. If the whole system settles over us and just stalls, as it can do, then we just get days of rain and it builds up, and there’s really nothing you can do about it.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Dianna Hunt of “The Houston Chronicle”, thanks so much.

    HUNT: Thank you.

    The post Torrential rains drain emergency resources in Texas appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Flooded downtown is seen from a high rise along Buffalo Bayou after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf coast with rain causing widespread flooding, in Houston

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening and thanks for joining us.

    The mayor of Houston had a message for his constituents in the nation’s fourth largest city today — please, stay off the roads. The warning came as Hurricane Harvey — still classified as a tropical storm — dumped torrential rainfall on the Texas coast along the Gulf of Mexico.

    Two days after making landfall as a “category 4” hurricane Friday night, Harvey has weakened, but with little relief for millions of Texans. At least 5 deaths are blamed on the storm. An estimated 300,000 Texans are without power today.

    Parts of southeast Texas expect a cumulative 50 inches of rain… The most ever recorded in the state from one storm. The worst flooding is in Houston, where there have been more than 2,500 rescue calls.

    Officials predicted “catastrophic flooding,” and today it came, turning some streets and highways in Houston into rivers and stranding all kinds of vehicles… And people.

    Wading through deep water in search of higher ground, people used inflatable rafts and even air mattresses to get through the floods. In the town of Dickinson, southeast of Houston, this resident described the deluge.

    CALVIN HUFFMAN: It was real rapid. It just came up. It was like a tsunami, almost.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Emergency responders in a boat rescued Roxanne Rasmussen, along with two disabled residents.

    ROXANE RASMUSSEN: It was up to here. I was out showing everything trying to get the national guard to see me, because our subdivision. This is a disaster.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Rainfall varied across the state’s gulf coast, but by dawn, Houston had been swamped with more than 11 inches. The total rainfall could double by the time the storm clears in the next few days.

    Houston’s fire department performed hundreds of water rescues. The U.S. Coast Guard deployed five helicopters and rescued more than 100 people in the Houston area. City officials urged residents trapped in their homes by rising flood waters to go to their roofs, not their attics.

    The storm system is also creating tornadoes. This home video shows one twister touching down northwest of Houston.

    Houstonians are not under any mandatory evacuation orders. Houston mayor Sylvester Turner defended that decision today.

    HOUSTON MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER: Every neighborhood, every communities received water in the flooding. Every bayou went over its banks. You cannot put, in the city of Houston, 2.3 million people on the road. That is dangerous.

    Texas governor Greg Abbott says he’s activated 3,000 National and State Guard troops and deployed 600 boats to protect human life. He also warned Houston is not the only city at risk.

    TEXAS GOV. GREG ABBOTT: I realize there’s a lot of focus on Houston right now. It’s important not to forget the challenges that people in the counties outside and around Houston because of the immense rainfall.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The federal emergency management agency — FEMA — coordinated relief efforts from its regional center in Denton, near Dallas.

    In an interview today, FEMA administrator Brock Long said nearly 5,000 federal government workers are involved in the response.

    BROCK LONG: We are already pushing forward recovery housing teams, we are already pushing forward forces to be on the ground to implement national flood insurance program policies as well. And doing the inspections that we need. So. We are setting up and gearing up for the next couple years.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: The White House said President Trump, again today, was monitoring the response from Camp David by video conference with Vice President Pence and cabinet officials. He returned to the White House this afternoon.

    On Twitter, the president called the storm a once-in-a-500-year flood and said the he would visit Texas, quote, “As soon as that trip can be made without causing disruption. The focus must be life and safety.”

    The post Historic flooding inundates Texas, hampering rescue efforts appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Prison in America

    Pros and Cons, a grassroots music-making initiative that gives inmates the tools, instruments and confidence to showcase their talent, has taken old in Ontario, Canada, where restorative programs have taken a hit in recent years. Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

    The chapel at Joyceville Institution in Kingston, Ontario, is dominated by three rose-colored stained glass windows, salvaged from a nearby prison during a 1970s riot. The small room, with seating for 40 to 50 people, has long been a site of spiritual peace, but in the past few years became a haven for a group of men trying to prove to themselves that they could be more than what they’d done.

    Llyod Ingraham was among them when he was placed in the minimum security facility at Joyceville in 2011. After being convicted of second-degree murder in 2004, he had been to maximum and medium security prisons that punished using solitary confinement; in comparison, Joyceville offered more freedoms. It also gave him access to the chapel and its most momentous offering: music.

    He enrolled in Pros and Cons, a grassroots music-making initiative that gives inmates the tools, instruments and confidence to showcase their talent. With it, Ingraham says he began the process of undoing the damage wrought by the isolation of other facilities and developing skills that would eventually help him reintegrate into life on the outside.

    “After you’re in for a long time, you lose a sense of who you are and your place in society, or whether you have a place in society at all,” he said. “And that’s where Pros and Cons brings us out, and tells us yes, we have something we can contribute, we still have worth. That’s something we can lose sight of inside real quick.”

    “Pros and Cons brings us out, and tells us yes, we have something we can contribute, we still have worth. That’s something we can lose sight of inside real quick.” — Lloyd Ingraham, former participant in Pros and Cons music program

    At a time when Canada grapples with prisons becoming more violent, with increased rates of assault, sexual assault, attempted suicide and the use of solitary confinement, the David Rockefeller Fund has singled out Pros and Cons for funding.

    The fund, an arm of the massive Rockefeller family philanthropy operation, has vowed to continue to fund Pros and Cons with $50,000 for the next two years.

    David Rockefeller Fund Board Chair Michael Quattrone said he saw potential in the program’s capacity to “promote conversation … within prisons but also among the communities touched by the criminal justice system, including those on the outside.”

    The first album offered a “postcard as a traveling missive from behind a wall,” symbolic outreach from a historically isolated community, Quattrone said.

    The idea for Pros and Cons came to founder Hugh Christopher Brown, a local musician, while he was protesting the government’s decision to shutter the countrywide prison farm program, which had been a staple for Canadian correctional facilities for 200 years. Inmates had fed cattle that grazed the land surrounding prisons, farmed the crops, and milked the cows for their own stock. But in 2008, the federal Correctional Service of Canada, responsible for rehabilitation, had made the decision to cut it, citing high costs.

    Despite an organized Save Our Prison Farms fight in response to the government decision, farms at Joyceville and around the country were shut down in 2011. Brown was one of the protesters blocking the trucks that were carting the cattle off the prison grounds.

    “It was that day, watching my neighbors getting arrested for protesting an initiative that was being rescinded by the government that had overwhelming public support, that I knew we had to do something,” he said.

    Brown lives across the water from Kingston, called the “prison capital of Canada” by locals for its unusually high density of correctional facilities, on Wolfe Island, a small strip of land between the U.S. and mainland Canada.

    He decided to volunteer to teach music to inmates at Joyceville, then called Pittsburgh Institution, where his friend, Kate Johnson, served as the chaplain.

    “The first time I went in there I was terrified. I’d never been in a prison before,” he said, but when he met Ingraham, “The bond was immediate.”

    Brown kept coming back — first to record music with the choir, and later, to help a group of about 10 inmates write and produce their own music.

    What would become Pros and Cons grew organically from there.

    “Every week I’d come back and it was more and more and more. We kept refining the music as we went,” he said.

    The visits became more frequent and involved. As Johnson remembers it, there were several moments when, after Brown returned with a new mix, “You’d see them listening to something that they knew they had nailed. Add to that feeling the weight of, ‘We’re society’s cast offs.’ To have those moments of success…was always so amazing.”

    During the same period, the Pros and Cons group at Joyceville produced and recorded a full-fledged album, a warm blend of folk and country called Postcards from the County.

    I Wonder Lincoln's Feet Silent Eyes Love In Time Christian Highway Tangled Entwined Road To Demascus Oblivion Northern Truth In War How Deep In the Valley Love In Time (reprise)

    Brown started to realize that the program could work in other prisons in Ontario and potentially across the country. With the help of other volunteer musicians, the program spread to a regional women’s prison earlier this year, and is currently getting started at two more area prisons, one of which is a maximum security facility.

    Adam Harris, who was one of the project’s most active members while he was incarcerated, said that when he thinks of Pros and Cons he thinks of the chapel. It’s where Brown first met the inmates and where Ingraham found his inspiration.

    When Brown would meet him there, always with a laptop, microphones, speakers, and whatever additional instruments were needed that day, they would convert the chapel to a makeshift recording studio. But the real creative work happened outside the biweekly space, when the men would collaborate on lyrics and music.

    “You’ve got all these guys inside, and a lot of the time they are by themselves. It’s really hard to make friends with people inside. You become very solitary,” Ingraham said. “To see all these guys work together, and cooperate, and have a vision we could share, which is really unusual in a prison atmosphere, is a marvelous thing.”

    The album is available online, where the inmates also listed a trio of charities for listeners interested in contributing — none of the money is recirculated back into the program.

    “The concept was, musicians volunteer their time. It’s nice that some funding did come out of our charity album, but it was never one of our goals,” Harris said. “Our goal was just to put out our music and show that some positive can come out of prison.”

    Among the charity recipients is the local food bank, which for years received produce from the farm program.

    I wish I could take back things that I said.
    All the pain I’ve caused
    I know my words don’t carry much weight
    Cause all the lies I’ve told
    I don’t want to let you down again
    So I won’t make any promises
    Say a prayer for me, and I’ll say one for you
    Hopefully we’ll meet again

    From “Christian Highway,” written by Adam Harris, performed by Lloyd Ingraham

    In early 2016, Ingraham, who speaks in measured breaths, was released from Joyceville on parole. Since then, he has started reintegrating into a world he left 11 years earlier.

    He found a job as a cook. He rents his own apartment. He even reconnected with his kids after they read about Postcards from the County online.

    “It makes reintegration so much easier if you have that community interaction prior,” Ingraham said of his transition to parole. “I have seen both sides of it. I have seen many people who have had that interaction through different programs. They’ve been able to succeed, because they have that support and they have that self confidence. I have also seen people who have not had it, and have returned to institutions and have not been so successful.”

    Harris, 42, said Pros and Cons helped with his transition out of prison, too.

    Harris, who was 15 and an avid guitar player when he was convicted, said the program helped him maintain the skill.

    “It’s a different world out here, but I’m still actively involved and recording music,” he said. “I’ve lost contact with some of the other guys, but [Pros and Cons] gave me the confidence and drive to continue writing, to continue putting out music, to use it as an emotional tool as I encounter daily life.”

    Harris recently became involved with his local church, where he accompanies the choir. He also writes music of his own.

    In the U.S. and Canada alike, prison arts programs can run into a dead end: what difference can a single program make for a person who might be incarcerated for years or for life?

    Dr. Mary Cohen, an associate Professor of Music Education at the University of Iowa, has studied prison choirs for 15 years. Since 2009, she has conducted her own choir, “The Inside Singers,” at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center, a medium security facility. At its inception, the choir had 22 outside singers — members not in prison — and 22 inside singers. The group has since nearly doubled in size.

    Music, compared to other forms of expression, is particularly therapeutic, she said. “When we sing, it’s our voice, our body, that’s the instrument. When we’re in a group of people, we have a communal body.”

    Much of the music her choir performs is original. Some of the songs mock the grim realities of life in prison, including “Don’t Go To The Hole This Christmas,” about staying out of solitary confinement.

    “[Pros and Cons] gave me the confidence and drive to continue writing, to continue putting out music, to use it as an emotional tool as I encounter daily life.” — Adam Harris, former participant in Pros and Cons music program

    Cohen initially envisioned the choir as a restorative outlet for inmates, including those serving life sentences. What’s surprised her most, she said, is the positive response from community members who attend their concerts.

    “I think one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is people who come into the prison, either to sing or watch a rehearsal. Their stereotype of what it means to be a prisoner is transformed,” she said.

    Early concerts were allowed a maximum of 80 people. At the last concert, in May, 229 community members came to watch.

    “The prison actually has to rent chairs for the audience to sit on,” she said.

    Experts who study incarceration say that prison arts programs can be helpful for inmates, but only represent half-steps toward prison reform. At worst, Baz Dreisinger, author of Incarceration Nations, writes, they are “crumbs tossed at a system starved for radical overhaul.”

    A bigger move toward prison reform, Dreisinger wrote, would involve envisioning an alternative to current systems of punishment.

    “Art can be an obstacle to such imaginings because of the very thing it does so well: dazzle us, and then distract us, with beauty,” she wrote.

    Aware of the limitations of prison arts programs, Brown said Pros and Cons is his attempt at “dealing in the present tense,” how he addresses some of the problems affecting his local prisons now in the hopes of empowering people to lead movements for reform in the future.

    “By humanizing the incarcerated, and giving them actual tools to heal themselves, we can sow the seeds for the ultimate evolution of incarceration,” he said.

    Or as Quattrone, of the Rockefeller Fund, put it: “Those closest to the problem are also closest to the solution.”

    The post In the ‘prison capital of Canada,’ a group of musicians recorded an album from behind bars appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A photographer is attacked by a masked demonstrator in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park during a cancelled No Marxism in America rally and counter-protest in Berkeley, California, on Aug. 27. Photo by Stephen Lam/Reuters

    A photographer is attacked by a masked demonstrator in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park during a cancelled No Marxism in America rally and counter-protest in Berkeley, California, on Aug. 27. Photo by Stephen Lam/Reuters

    BERKELEY, Calif. — An anti-hate rally was disrupted when scores of anarchists wearing black clothing and masks stormed the demonstration in Berkeley and attacked several supporters of President Donald Trump. But police were able to head off any wider violence.

    Thousands gathered Sunday in response to a planned anti-Marxism protest that was canceled amid concerns demonstrators might be attacked. The counter-demonstration was largely peaceful for several hours until the antifa, or anti-fascists, overran police barricades around the protest area. The violence was swift but brief, and among those targeted was Joey Gibson, leader of the right-wing organization Patriot Prayer that had called off a demonstration a day earlier in San Francisco.

    Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood said officers were told not to actively confront the anarchists. He applauded officers’ restraint, saying it forestalled greater violence. Six people suffered injuries, including two who were hospitalized, and one officer was injured while making an arrest and several others were hit with paint.

    There were 13 arrests on various charges including, assault with a deadly weapon.

    “The potential use of force became very problematic” given the thousands of peaceful protesters in the park, Greenwood said. Once anarchists arrived, it was clear there would not be dueling protests between left and right so he ordered his officers out of the park and allowed the anarchists to march in.

    There was “no need for a confrontation over a grass patch,” Greenwood said.

    Several hours later, the demonstration broke up without any further incidents.

    Officials in Berkeley and San Francisco had been girding for the possibility of violent clashes at right-wing demonstrations. But Saturday’s in San Francisco by Patriot Prayer was called off, and police blocked access to a public square where Gibson had planned to hold a news conference. He instead held it outside the city and criticized police for not doing enough to ensure supporters’ safety at the originally scheduled location of Crissy Field.

    Still hundreds of counter-protesters marched through the city. San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said Saturday that police made a single arrest for public intoxication during demonstrations organized by left-wing groups.

    The anti-Marxist rally in Berkeley was organized by Amber Cummings, a transsexual supporter of Trump. Citing the potential for violence, she canceled the event but said she would show up on her own. She was not seen there, though Gibson vowed to come and when he did anarchists set upon him.

    They pepper-sprayed him and chased him as he backed away with his hands held in the air. Gibson rushed behind a line of police wearing riot gear, who set off a smoke bomb to drive away the attackers.

    Separately, groups of hooded, black-clad protesters attacked at least four other men in or near the park, kicking and punching them until the assaults were stopped by police. The assaults were witnessed by an Associated Press reporter.

    At one point, an anti-rally protester denounced a Latino man holding a “God Bless Donald Trump” sign.

    “You are an immigrant,” Karla Fonseca said. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

    Several other people also yelled at the man, who said he was born in Mexico but supports Trump’s proposal to build a wall along the border.

    Groups that planned the counter-demonstrations were concerned that white nationalists might show up and there would violence like the kind two weeks in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a woman was killed. No white nationalists showed up, and only a handful of pro-Trump demonstrators were visible in the crowd.

    Police pulled one supporter of Trump out of the park over a wall by his shirt as a crowd of about two dozen counter-demonstrators surrounded him and chanted “Nazi go home!” and pushed him toward the edge of the park. At least two people were detained by officers for wearing bandannas covering their faces.

    Anti-rally protesters chanted slogans “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA” and carried signs that said: “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate.”

    In the days leading up to the planned events Cummings and Gibson, who is Japanese-American, consistently denounced racism. In a video he posted on Patriot Prayer’s Facebook page, Gibson said he is a person of color and so if he was in favor of white nationalism “I’d have to punch myself in the face.”

    Gibson said Saturday that he was planning to organize a rally Sept. 10 in Portland, Oregon.

    Meantime, newly appointed University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ said the campus was “working very hard on the security arrangements” for the Sept. 14 appearance of conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.

    Campus officials will add more police to the event than were present for the scheduled appearance of another conservative, Milo Yiannopoulos, Christ said. That planned talk was canceled when demonstrations turned violent in February.

    Student activism was born during the 1960s free-speech movement at Berkeley, when thousands of students at the university mobilized to demand that the school drop its ban on political activism.

    ___

    Associated Press writers Terry Chea and Marcio Sanchez in Berkeley contributed to this report.

    The post Black-clad anarchists swarm anti-hate rally in California appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will revive a program that provides local police departments with surplus military equipment such as high-caliber weapons and grenade launchers, despite past concerns that armored vehicles and other gear were inflaming confrontations with protesters.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the program to roaring applause Monday at a national convention of the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the groups that had long urged Trump to restore the military program.

    The plan will “ensure that you can get the lifesaving gear that you need to do your job and send a strong message that we will not allow criminal activity, violence, and lawlessness to become a new normal,” Sessions told the cheering crowd.

    Trump plans to sign an order undoing Obama-era limitations on police agencies’ access to camouflage uniforms, bullet-proof vests, riot shields, firearms, ammunition and other items. The changes are another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that federal support of local police as key to driving down violent crime.

    The changes are another way in which Trump and Sessions are enacting a law-and-order agenda that federal support of local police as key to driving down violent crime.

    Groups across the political spectrum have expressed concern about the militarization of police, arguing that the equipment encourages and escalates confrontations with officers. But many law enforcement agencies and policing organizations see it as needed to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. An armored vehicle played a key role in the police response to the December 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California.

    Congress authorized the Pentagon program in 1990, allowing police to receive surplus equipment to help fight drugs, which then gave way to the fight against terrorism.

    MORE: Will banning military-style gear for police reduce tensions?

    President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2015 that severely limited the program, partly triggered by public outrage over the use of military gear during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Police responded in riot gear and deployed tear gas, dogs and armored vehicles. At times they also pointed assault rifles at protesters.

    Obama’s order prohibited the federal government from providing grenade launchers, bayonets, tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft and vehicles, and firearms and ammunition of .50-caliber or greater to police.

    “Those restrictions went too far,” Sessions said. “We will not put superficial concerns above public safety.”

    As of December, the agency overseeing the program had recalled at least 100 grenade launchers, more than 1,600 bayonets and 126 tracked vehicles — those that run on continuous, tank-like tracks instead of wheels — that were provided through the program.

    Trump vowed to rescind the executive order in a written response to a Fraternal Order of Police questionnaire that helped him win an endorsement from the organization of rank-and-file officers. He reiterated his promise during a gathering of police officers in July, saying the equipment still on the streets is being put to good use.

    “In fact, that stuff is disappearing so fast we have none left,” Trump said.

    MORE: Under attack from the president, Attorney General Sessions still advancing conservative agenda

    The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement Sunday night that it is “exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible” for the administration to lift the ban.

    “Just a few summers ago, our nation watched as Ferguson raised the specter of increased police militarization. The law enforcement response there and in too many places across the country demonstrated how perilous, especially for Black and Brown communities, a militarized police force can be,” the LDF said.

    “The President’s decision to make this change in the wake of the tragedy in Charlottesville and against a backdrop of frayed relations between police and communities of color further reflects this administration’s now open effort to escalate racial tensions in our country,” the organization said.

    The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said in a statement Sunday night that it is “exceptionally dangerous and irresponsible” for the administration to lift the ban.

    Justice Department documents summarizing the order describe much of the gear as “defensive in nature,” intended to protect officers from danger.

    Most police agencies rarely require military equipment for daily use but see a need to have it available, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum.

    “It is hard to imagine any situation where a grenade launcher or bayonet would be something that a major police department would need, but defensive shields and armored vehicles kept on reserve will be welcome,” he said.

    Sessions has said he believes boosting morale among police can help curb spikes in violence in some cities. The plan to restore access to military equipment comes after Sessions has said he intends to pull back on court-enforceable improvement plans with troubled police departments, which he says can malign entire agencies and make officers less aggressive on the street.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH: Sessions announces rollback of limits on military gear for police appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner offered early assessments of how much damage Hurricane Harvey left behind as well as what the Texas city, along with state and federal officials, need to do to hasten recovery efforts after the historic natural disaster.

    The storm, which made landfall on Friday night as a Category 4 hurricane near Corpus Christi and moved northeast along the Texas coast over Houston, has left five reported dead. The storm has dumped more than 20 inches of rain, sent thousands in Houston to rooftops for helicopter rescue and turned roads and highways into rivers. The National Weather Service predicts an additional 15 to 25 inches of rainfall through Friday along the upper Texas coast and southwest Louisiana and storm totals in some locations approaching 50 inches.

    Watch official updates in the player above.

    The post WATCH: Houston officials update public on Hurricane Harvey aftermath appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Houston's Interstate highway 45 is flooded on Aug. 27. Photo by Richard Carson/Reuters

    Houston’s Interstate highway 45 is flooded on Aug. 27. Photo by Richard Carson/Reuters

    Hurricane Harvey swept across southeastern Texas over the weekend, submerging neighborhoods and roadways as more rain and cresting rivers continued to threaten the area.

    So far, the storm has affected about 6.8 million people — about a quarter of the population of Texas — in 18 counties, the Associated Press reported; it’s caused at least two deaths.

    The National Weather Service predicted Houston and surrounding areas could get as much as 50 inches of rain in all.

    In its latest advisory on Monday morning, the National Hurricane Center said “life-threatening” flooding continues and warned people against trying to travel to the area.

    Evacuees Rickey Manuel (left) and Marjory Manuel (center) exit a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter that rescued them after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf Coast with rain and flooded their home in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 27. Photo by Nick Oxford/Reuters

    Evacuees Rickey Manuel (left) and Marjory Manuel (center) exit a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter that rescued them after Hurricane Harvey inundated the Texas Gulf Coast with rain and flooded their home in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 27. Photo by Nick Oxford/Reuters

    How is the state responding?

    The U.S. Coast Guard and citizen rescuers in boats and kayaks were working to transport stranded residents to safer ground.

    Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he has sent Houston 150 more rescue boats and 300 additional high-water vehicles to help move residents.

    Meanwhile, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has come under fire for not issuing an order to evacuate the city. He defended his decision on ABC News, saying the city was not in the hurricane’s direct path and it would have been “dangerous” to put 6.5 million people on the road all at once.

    MORE: Hurricane Harvey evacuees describe ‘chaos’

    On Monday, Turner and other officials discussed the emergency response.

    Pets are evacuated from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in Dickinson, Texas, on Aug. 27. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    Pets are evacuated from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in Dickinson, Texas, on Aug. 27. Photo by Rick Wilking/Reuters

    What is the federal response?

    On Friday, President Donald Trump signed an immediate disaster declaration, which freed up funding and resources for the areas that have been most devastated by the storm. President Trump will visit Texas to survey damage on Tuesday.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, estimates 450,000 victims of the hurricane will file for relief, including 30,000 Texans seeking temporary shelter.

    A representative from the Insurance Council of Texas told the Houston Chronicle that damage is “going to be in the billions of dollars. … It could be much worse than Ike and that was a $12 billion storm.”

    Evacuees are airlifted in a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter after Hurricane Harvey flooded their neighborhood on Aug. 27. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland/Handout via Reuters

    Evacuees are airlifted in a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter after Hurricane Harvey flooded their neighborhood on Aug. 27. Photo by U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Johanna Strickland/Handout via Reuters

    How you can help

    Area residents use a kayak to rescue motorists stranded on Interstate highway 45 which is submerged from the effects of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 27. Photo by Richard Carson/Reuters

    Area residents use a kayak to rescue motorists stranded on Interstate highway 45 which is submerged from the effects of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, on Aug. 27. Photo by Richard Carson/Reuters

    What’s next?

    More rain is coming this week as the hurricane works its way to the Gulf Coast. The first priority is getting people to safe ground, and addressing their immediate needs of food, water, shelter and health care, Abbott said.

    Some evacuees will be moved to Dallas, Austin and San Antonio until the water recedes, and then, they will work with FEMA for housing, he said.

    Abbott told CNN that President Trump has been “very gracious and very helpful, he and his team.” The governor said he hopes when the president visits on Tuesday that he will understand the magnitude of the devastation. “This is going to be a very long-term project, helping Texas dig out,” Abbott said.

    The post The latest on Hurricane Harvey and how you can help appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Vehicles sits half submerged in flood waters under a bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 27, 2017. Picture taken August 27, 2017. Photo by Ernest Scheyder/REUTERS

    Vehicles sits half submerged in flood waters under a bridge in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S., August 27, 2017. Picture taken August 27, 2017. Photo by Ernest Scheyder/REUTERS

    Hurricane Harvey is drowning southeastern Texas for the fourth day, putting a vast area under feet of water. Experts say Harvey has been stuck longer in one place than any tropical storm in memory. That is just one of the hurricane’s extremes; the storm is off the charts by many measures. Scientific American wanted to learn why, and we asked meteorologist Jeff Masters for help. Masters is the co-founder of Weather Underground, a web site that meteorologists nationwide go to for their own inside information about severe weather. Masters also wrote a fascinating article on why the jet stream is getting weird.

    Harvey has dropped so much water over such a large area of southeastern Texas that the storm is pulling that water back up into itself and dumping it again as more rain.

    Why did Hurricane Harvey so quickly explode from a Category 1 hurricane to Category 4?
    Last Wednesday night, August 23, Harvey was a tropical depression, but after just eight overnight hours it was forming a hurricane eye wall. “That’s remarkably fast,” Masters said. On Friday it rapidly ballooned from a Category 1 hurricane to Category 4. That is because it happened to pass over a region of extremely warm ocean water called an eddy. This spot of hot water was 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the Gulf of Mexico around it, which itself was already 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit higher than average, reaching 85 or 86 degrees Fahrenheit in places. The hotter the water, the more energy it drives into a storm. Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed New Orleans in 2005, also mushroomed to Category 4 in a similar fashion because it, too, passed over a hot eddy in the Gulf.

    Why is Harvey so stuck in place over Texas?
    Hurricanes are circular structures with winds that spiral counterclockwise, but they are steered by larger wind patterns in the greater atmosphere that push them in one direction. In Harvey’s case, a big high-pressure system over the southeastern U.S. is trying to push the storm in one direction, but a big high pressure system over the southwestern U.S. is trying to push the storm in the opposite direction. “The systems have equal strength and are cancelling each other out,” leaving Harvey stranded, Masters said. “It’s highly unusual to have two highs on either side of a hurricane of equal strength.” The only other time Masters recalls that happening to a huge storm system was Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which struck Central America and killed an estimated 7,000 people in Honduras.

    WATCH: Why Houston is a ‘sitting duck’ for hurricanes

    How can Harvey reverse direction, now, heading back out over the Gulf of Mexico from where it came?
    The high pressure system in the southeastern U.S. is also trying to push Harvey west, but now the storm has bumped into the high pressure system in the southwestern U.S., which is pushing it back to the east. On any given day one of the systems might temporarily be winning this atmospheric ping-pong match. Masters said a low-pressure trough system has been setting up north of Harvey and might strengthen enough to start to pull the hurricane northward. National weather forecasts released Monday morning indicate that might happen later this week.

    People are rescued by airboat as they evacuate from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017. Photo by Rick Wilking/REUTERS

    People are rescued by airboat as they evacuate from flood waters from Hurricane Harvey in Dickinson, Texas August 27, 2017. Photo by Rick Wilking/REUTERS

    How can Harvey produce such extreme rainfall even though it is no longer over the ocean?
    The answer to this is fascinating. Normally a hurricane pulls moisture up from the ocean and releases it as rain all around the storm’s area, particularly in the northeastern quadrant. But Harvey has dropped so much water over such a large area of southeastern Texas that the storm is pulling that water back up into itself and dumping it again as more rain. The flood area is so far and wide that it is acting like part of an ocean, feeding warm moisture up into Harvey. “You only need about 50 percent of the land to be covered with water for that to happen,” Masters said. “Obviously we have more than that in Texas.”

    Could Harvey exist as a self-perpetuating rain machine over land?
    Masters said meteorologists cannot answer this question yet. “If it were to stay perfectly still, could it maintain itself for a long period of time?” he asks. “That’s an interesting theoretical question. We just don’t know.”

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    Why did Harvey’s rain bands intensify at night rather than during the day?
    This phenomenon is actually typical of large hurricanes: they weaken during the day and strengthen at night. “At night the upper atmosphere cools,” Masters explained. “That creates instability, which increases the updrafts in thunderstorms throughout the hurricane system. Those air currents pull more moisture up from the surface” of the ocean—or the flooded land.

    Why has Harvey caused such deep coastal flooding even though the ocean storm surge was not so high?
    This answer is also intriguing. Storm surge is often the deadliest aspect of tropical systems. Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge drowned New Orleans. Hurricane Sandy’s surge inundated New York City and New Jersey. Harvey’s storm surge was not nearly as high, yet water piled up along certain portions of the Texas coast. Masters said this is called “compound flooding.” With feet of rain, the rivers are so swollen that they are rushing toward the Gulf coast, but the storm surge is coming inland as those rivers try to flow seaward. The two surges meet at the coast “and the water piles up from both sides,” Masters said. The land’s shape and elevation at any location can make the compound flooding worse. In Galveston, for example, the sea surge was about three feet but the actual water surge was about nine feet.

    For more on hurricane dynamics, click here.

    This article is reproduced with permission from Scientific American. It was first published on Aug. 28, 2017. Find the original story here.

    The post Why Hurricane Harvey became so extreme appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    It will take years for Texas to fully recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, says Brock Long, a Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator overseeing the response to the category 4 storm that hit the state Friday night.

    “We are striving for a new normal here,” Long said at a news conference Monday, warning that day-to-day routines would be disrupted for weeks.

    Some 6.8 million people have been affected by the storm — about a quarter of the population of Texas, according to the Associated Press. So far, Hurricane Harvey has dumped 20 inches of rain across Houston, with more expected in the coming days, city officials said Monday morning.

    READ MORE: The latest on Hurricane Harvey and how you can help

    Texas officials and first responders are focused on “rescuing every person we can find” as the storm continues, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said. On Monday, Abbott authorized the deployment of all 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard and added several counties to state’s emergency declaration, saying he’s likely to add more before the day is through.

    Abbott said the federal response to the disaster was “A+” so far, but “we’ll need to maintain this.”

    Long said FEMA has dispatched 8,500 federal staff members to assist in the state’s recovery. About 1,100 of those employees are conducting search and rescue efforts, some of them in Louisiana, where the storm is headed next.

    Trump will travel to Texas on Tuesday to survey some of the damage. The Mexican government has also offered assistance in the form of boats or food for those who were displaced, Abbott said.

    Once search and rescue has been completed, FEMA will help direct “one of the largest recovery housing missions that the state has ever seen.” Long said. The agency has already deployed housing assessment teams in some parts of the state.

    Abbott deflected some questions about whether Houston should have been evacuated more quickly, a decision for which the city’s mayor has drawn criticism.

    While all eyes are on Houston, Long said, rescue efforts are heavily concentrated just north of Corpus Christi in Rockport and other areas that took the brunt of Friday’s hit.

    He urged residents to contact FEMA online or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA as soon as possible. It’s the first step toward rebuilding what they’ve lost, he said.

    The post WATCH: FEMA administrator says Hurricane Harvey recovery in Texas could take several years appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Agustín Fernández III, a former Hollywood filmmaker, co-founded Rational Vaccines, which tested a controversial herpes vaccine offshore. The vaccine is not approved in the U.S., but Fernández has vowed to continue trials and manufacturing the vaccine offshore. Photo courtesy of Alejandro Renteria/via KHN News

    Agustín Fernández III, a former Hollywood filmmaker, co-founded Rational Vaccines, which tested a controversial herpes vaccine offshore. The vaccine is not approved in the U.S., but Fernández has vowed to continue trials and manufacturing the vaccine offshore. Photo courtesy of Alejandro Renteria/via KHN News

    WASHINGTON — Defying U.S. safety protections for human trials, an American university and a group of wealthy libertarians, including a prominent Donald Trump supporter, are backing the offshore testing of an experimental herpes vaccine.

    The American businessmen, including Trump adviser Peter Thiel, invested $7 million in the ongoing vaccine research, according to the U.S. company behind it. Southern Illinois University also trumpeted the research and the study’s lead researcher, even though he did not rely on traditional U.S. safety oversight in the first trial, held on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.

    The risks are real. Experimental trials with live viruses could lead to infection if not handled properly or produce side effects in those already infected.

    Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor a safety panel known as an institutional review board, or an “IRB,” monitored the testing of a vaccine its creators say prevents herpes outbreaks. Most of the 20 participants were Americans with herpes who were flown to the island several times to be vaccinated, according to Rational Vaccines, the company that oversaw the trial.

    “What they’re doing is patently unethical,” said Jonathan Zenilman, chief of Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center’s Infectious Diseases Division. “There’s a reason why researchers rely on these protections. People can die.”

    The risks are real. Experimental trials with live viruses could lead to infection if not handled properly or produce side effects in those already infected. Genital herpes is caused by two viruses that can trigger outbreaks of painful sores. Many patients have no symptoms, though a small number suffer greatly. The virus is primarily spread through sexual contact, but also can be released through skin.

    The push behind the vaccine is as much political as medical. President Trump has vowed to speed up the FDA’s approval of some medicines. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who had deep financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, slammed the FDA before his confirmation for over-prioritizing consumer protection to the detriment of medical innovations.

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks as PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel (center) and Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook look on during a meeting with technology leaders at Trump Tower in New York U.S., December 14, 2016. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS

    U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks as PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member Peter Thiel (center) and Apple Inc CEO Tim Cook look on during a meeting with technology leaders at Trump Tower in New York U.S., December 14, 2016. Photo by Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS

    “This is a test case,” said Bartley Madden, a retired Credit Suisse banker and policy adviser to the conservative Heartland Institute, who is another investor in the vaccine. “The FDA is standing in the way, and Americans are going to hear about this and demand action.”

    American researchers are increasingly going offshore to developing countries to conduct clinical trials, citing rising domestic costs. But in order to approve the drug for the U.S. market, the FDA requires that clinical trials involving human participants be reviewed and approved by an IRB or an international equivalent. The IRB can reject research based on safety concerns.

    Robert Califf, who served as FDA commissioner in the Obama administration until January, said he couldn’t think of a prior instance in which American researchers did not set up an IRB abroad.

    Rational Vaccines downplayed safety concerns, asserting there was little risk the participants would be harmed because they had herpes already.

    “There’s a tradition of having oversight of human experimentation, and it exists for good reasons,” he said. “It may be legal to be doing it without oversight, but it’s wrong.”

    However, Rational Vaccines downplayed safety concerns, asserting there was little risk the participants would be harmed because they had herpes already. Agustín Fernández III co-founded­ Rational Vaccines with tenured SIU professor William Halford. He said Halford, the lead investigator, took the necessary precautions during the trial conducted from April to August in 2016. Halford died of cancer in June.

    The university backed its professor’s work by posting a glowing article on its website about the vaccine. SIU is one of the patent holders of the vaccine and set up a business account to collect donations for the work.

    Nonetheless, Southern Illinois University officials said they had no legal responsibility to ensure safety measures were in place because the university has an arms-length relationship with Rational Vaccines. Fernández said the company licensed two patents related to the vaccine from the university.

    “SIU School of Medicine did not have any involvement in Rational Vaccines’ clinical trial,” said Karen Carlson, the university’s spokeswoman. “But we are confident that as the chief scientific officer of Rational Vaccines, Dr. Halford followed safety protocols appropriate to the clinical trial.”

    But other researchers said they were appalled by what they described as the university’s complicity in ignoring more than 70 years of safety protocols. Scientists called for more rigorous clinical trial oversight in the wake of Nazi atrocities involving human experiments in the 1940s.

    “You can’t just ignore human-subject protections that have evolved since the end of the Second World War,” said Zenilman, who served as a technical consultant to the presidential commission on bioethical issues during the Obama administration.

    Dr. Scott Gottlieb testifies before a Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. April 5, 2017. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/REUTERS

    “Despite FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb’s stance on the need for FDA streamlining, many researchers are skeptical that he would approve a vaccine based on trials that did not follow American regulations or traditional safety rules for its experiments.” Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/REUTERS

    Zenilman, an expert on sexually transmitted diseases, cited U.S. government research in the late 1940s that deliberately infected study participants in Guatemala with sexually transmitted diseases without their consent.

    In 1974, Congress passed sweeping regulations aimed at protecting human subjects, requiring IRBs in government-funded research. Later, an advisory committee to the U.S. government wrote of the need for safety review committees to ensure that “basic ethical principles” were in place to protect human subjects from harm. The 1979 Belmont Report also urged researchers to balance the risk to the human subject against the benefit of any breakthrough in medicine.

    While the FDA declined to comment on the herpes vaccine trial, spokeswoman Lauren Smith Dyer said “the FDA believes that the oversight of clinical investigations, including review by an IRB, is critically important and is a regulatory requirement for clinical investigations subject to FDA regulations.”

    Despite Gottlieb’s stance on the need for FDA streamlining, many researchers are skeptical that he would approve a vaccine based on trials that did not follow American regulations or traditional safety rules for its experiments.

    Even so, Fernández, a former Hollywood filmmaker, said he and his investors plan to submit the trial data to the FDA in hopes of getting the vaccine approved for treatment. If the FDA does not respond favorably, he said, the company will continue its trials in Mexico and Australia. Fernández said he hopes to set up an IRB for these next trials. No matter what, he plans to manufacture the vaccine offshore. However, without U.S. approval, the challenges to market such a vaccine in the United States remain significant.

    A Thiel representative said the billionaire was not available to answer questions by email or in an interview. Thiel, who rose to prominence as co-founder of PayPal, reportedly advised Trump on possible FDA nominees after donating $1.25 million to his presidential campaign. Thiel has been a vocal critic of the FDA, claiming in an interview that its approval process was so unwieldy “you would not be able to invent the polio vaccine today.”

    Fernández said he hoped the trials would put political pressure on the FDA to give the vaccine a closer look. He said his vaccine would be initially aimed at helping patients who experience the “worst of the worst” symptoms. He believed the vaccine eventually would be shown to be effective in preventing the spread of the disease. According to the CDC, about 1 in 6 people ages 14 to 49 have genital herpes.

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    “I will not stop,” said Fernández, who described the trials as his personal mission. “Too many people are suffering.” Before the trial, Halford tested the vaccine on himself and Fernández. After he failed to secure federal funding and an IRB, Halford moved ahead with the trial offshore.

    Other researchers said they feared that desperate herpes patients would seek to be test participants or get the vaccine without being informed properly of the risk.

    Researchers at several universities and private clinical research centers are working on two different herpes vaccines under FDA and IRB oversight. One is expected to undergo final trials by 2018 before being submitted to the FDA for final approval. In addition, the National Institutes of Health has conducted a first trial of a third potential vaccine.

    Califf said drugs and vaccines are often costly to bring to market simply because they initially don’t work or are shown to be unsafe.

    “The FDA is not the problem,” Califf said. “The issue is that there are so many failures.”

    The vaccine’s researchers told KHN the St. Kitts trial showed the vaccine is safe and highly effective in preventing outbreaks in herpes patients.

    The results have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal and Halford’s previous attempt to publish was rejected. Reviewers of the paper said they were concerned by the lack of safety and said they were skeptical about his scientific approach.

    Yet some herpes patients, who are part of a tight-knit online community, have followed the project with hope and enthusiasm.

    One American participant said he decided to go public with his experience despite the condition’s stigma. Richard Mancuso said he was recruited for the trial on Facebook and grew to be friends with Halford, whom he described as a “hero.”

    Richard Mancuso participated in an offshore experiment for a controversial herpes vaccine, which he says has prevented his severe outbreaks. Photo courtesy of Richard Mancuso/via KHN News

    Richard Mancuso participated in an offshore experiment for a controversial herpes vaccine, which he says has prevented his severe outbreaks. Photo courtesy of Richard Mancuso/via KHN News

    Mancuso said the vaccine has stopped his severe outbreaks. “This has saved my life,” he said.

    Fernández of Rational Vaccines said another SIU professor, Edward Gershburg, an associate professor in the university’s Department of Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Cell Biology, has agreed to become the company’s chief technical officer.

    But Kayte Spector-Bagdady, who leads the University of Michigan Medical School’s Research Ethics Service, said the St. Kitts trial could be seen as a violation of SIU’s commitment to the Department of Health and Human Services.

    SIU voluntarily agreed to follow U.S. safety requirements and set up an IRB for all research involving human subjects, according to records. Many universities make such a commitment to HHS, even if the experiments are abroad and don’t rely on federal grants.

    Rational Vaccines was established in February 2015 and the company entered into its patent agreement with the university later that year, Fernández said.

    But when asked about its commitment to HHS, Carlson, the university spokeswoman, said the university first learned about the trial in October 2016 — after it had ended. Carlson said Halford didn’t need to bring the trial to SIU’s IRB because the trial wasn’t overseen by the university.

    However, after a reporter raised questions about the lack of an IRB, Carlson added that the university would “take this opportunity to review our internal processes to assure we are following best practices.”

    Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. You can view the original report on its website.

    The post Peter Thiel sponsors offshore testing of herpes vaccine, sidestepping U.S. safety rules appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    President Donald Trump and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto will speak at a joint news conference Monday, part of the Finnish leader’s visit to Washington this week.

    Trump and Niinisto will begin speaking at 4:30 p.m. Watch live in the player above.

    The two leaders are speaking after an expanded bilateral meeting at the White House. Niinisto last visited during Barack Obama’s term in 2016.

    Trump will likely face questions about his administration’s response to Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm that has devastated much of Texas over the past several days, along with his Friday pardon of Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

    PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

    The post WATCH LIVE: Trump speaks at joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to pardon Joe Arpaio, calling the former Arizona sheriff a “patriot” who loves his country.

    Asked about his controversial pardon during a joint press conference with the president of Finland on Monday, Trump insisted that “a lot of people” believe he made the right call. He said Arpaio had done a “great job for the people of Arizona” and argued that he’d been treated “unbelievable unfairly” by the Obama administration.

    “He’s done a great job for the people of Arizona. He is very strong on borders, very strong on illegal immigration. He is loved in Arizona,” Trump said.

    Trump’s decision drew criticism from both sides of the aisle, and renewed allegations that he has little respect for an independent judiciary.

    Arpaio shot to national fame by aggressively targeting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally using tactics that Latino and immigrants’ rights advocates likened to racial profiling. He faced a possible jail sentence on a federal conviction stemming from his refusal to halt certain immigration patrols.

    READ MORE: A look at the president’s pardon power and how it works

    “Sheriff Joe is a patriot. Sheriff Joe loves our country. Sheriff Joe protected our borders and Sheriff Joe was very unfairly treated by the Obama administration, especially right before an election, an election that he would have won,” Trump said during the event on Monday. “So I stand by my pardon of Sheriff Joe and I think the people of Arizona who really know him best would agree with me.”

    The White House’s Friday announcement came as Hurricane Harvey threatened to batter Texas with heavy winds and severe flooding and shortly after the administration outlined long-awaited details of Trump’s plan to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military. But Trump pushed back on the assumption the timing was intended to bury the news, claiming instead that he’d announced the pardon then because he knew people would be watching.

    “In the middle of a hurricane, even though it was Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally,” he said.

    Trump on Monday also continued to insist that Mexico will pay for his long-promised Southern border wall.

    “One way or the other Mexico will pay for the wall,” Trump said, arguing that, while the project may initially be funded by United States taxpayers, “ultimately” Mexico will pay.

    Trump recently threatened to force a federal government shutdown unless Congress provides funding for his wall, but said Monday that he hopes such had drastic measure is “not necessary.”

    Still, he added: “if it’s necessary, we’ll have to see.”

    The post WATCH: Trump defends decision to pardon Sheriff Joe Arpaio appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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