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

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    Find all of our coverage on Hurricane Harvey

    MILES O’BRIEN: It will take years to rebuild from Harvey, of course. It’s too early to know the full extent of the damage, but, as we just heard, a vast majority, about 80 percent, of homeowners in the areas underwater in the Houston area do not have flood insurance.

    How to help them is sure to be a big political fight back here in Washington.

    Lisa Desjardins is here to explain that and a little bit about the flood insurance program, which is, shall we say, troubled, to say the least.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

    Talk about sort of biblical and strange timing here. Let’s look at a few key points about this important National Flood Insurance program. First of all, this program expires soon. It expires September 30. It is right now, Miles, $24 billion in debt.

    This is the largest flood insurer by a lot in this country. Five million Americans get their flood insurance through this federal flood insurance program. And now Congress has to decide how to renew it in just 30 days after this disaster.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So, what is the role for Congress right now? They obviously were under a deadline anyway. It seems more urgent now, doesn’t it?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s right. I think that is exactly right.

    I think that there’s also a tricky issue here, in that some Republicans want to massively reform this program because of the debt and deficit it’s in, while some other Republicans are more concerned about bringing down premiums for those in flood areas, and some Democrats with them.

    Listen to sound bites from a hearing in June of this year.

    REP. JEB HENSARLING, R-Texas: We know this is a program that is 455 billion underwater and runs an actuarial annual deficit of $1.4 billion. It is unsustainable.

    REP. MAXINE WATERS, D-Calif.: I truly believe that this reauthorization can be bipartisan, but I’m concerned that if you do not heed my call to work together on the details of this package, it will cause irreparable harm.

    LISA DESJARDINS: Hensarling, the committee chairman, wants to limit the scope and in fact have more private insurers, but others say that’s going to make it unaffordable.

    MILES O’BRIEN: I think we can all agree this is a broken program.

    And we hear these stories time and again about people having severe damage, building, rebuilding, multiple claims time and again on the same location. It sort of sounds like the definition of insanity.

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think that’s the really important point about this story.

    Right now, we know that flood areas are increasing on our coastlines. Also, cities are becoming more flood-prone because of development.

    Let’s look at this map, Miles, about where the most flood insurance is; 80 percent of the National Flood Insurance Program is in those states you see in gray. Those are also the states with the largest congressional delegations.

    The coastal states and, as you say, Miles, a key point, we now know that repetitive losses from flood damage, that’s only 1 percent of those who have flood insurance, but, Miles, is 25 to 30 percent of the cost.

    We’re seeing homes that are now seeing two, three, times of flood damage within a 10-year period. We just heard from that woman in P.J.’s piece tonight who said she’s been flooded twice in two years. So it’s a real problem.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So, this is really a program that encourages bad practices, building in the wrong place, doesn’t it?

    LISA DESJARDINS: That’s the question.

    And, of course, there’s some people who say communities should be here. How do we support those communities? Someone has to pay for it. But others say, well, the federal government is taking this risk and encouraging them, and that’s a problem long-term. There hasn’t been a serious debate yet about those issues.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It is going to be an awfully busy September here in Washington, when you consider all the things on the plate, including this one.

    LISA DESJARDINS: I think that’s right.

    And here’s the trick, is that there may not be time to have the really difficult debates, as we’re saying. Another issue with this flood insurance program that lawmakers haven’t tackled yet, the maps are out of date. And we also know that the maps are changing because the weather patterns are changing.

    This is something they haven’t tackled. They have to deal with this flood insurance program, along with, oh, government funding, which also runs out September 30. And they have to try and pass a budget, and they’re going to try and deal with tax reform. It’s quite a lot.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It seems that the climate and the weather is changing faster than the bureaucracy. I guess that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, right?

    LISA DESJARDINS: No. Gridlock seems to have more power these days than almost anything in Washington.

    MILES O’BRIEN: All right, Lisa Desjardins, thank you very much for that update. We will be tracking this one very closely.

    And you can track all our coverage of Harvey, including ways you can help. That’s on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

    The post As Harvey floods Texas, Congress due to debate insurance program that’s underwater appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MILES O’BRIEN: President Trump’s visit to Texas put a spotlight on the coordination of federal and local resources. Congress will play a key role in deciding how much help the U.S. government ultimately offers.

    Congressman Ted Poe is a Republican from Texas. His district covers the northern suburbs of Houston, which he has represented since 2005.

    He joined us by phone.

    Congressman Poe, thank you for being with us.

    I know you have been in your district all day. Just tell us little bit about what you have seen and heard.

    REP. TED POE, R-Texas: Thank you, Miles.

    It is still raining. Water is rising. A lot of places are flooded. I would estimate about half of the people in my congressional district, which stretches from downtown Houston to the suburbs, are flooded. And many of them have left their homes.

    Never have had this type of disaster in the Houston area. I grew up here. I even when through Hurricane Carla in ’61. The amount of people and homes and property affected it hard to grasp. It is massive. The Houston is very spread out. And the entire area in parts are affected by the constant rain and the flooding.

    Houston is flat. All the water in Houston has to flow southeast out of the bayous and the river to the Gulf of Mexico. And that is not happening because of the terrain. So, more water is coming in. More flooding is coming from upriver, so to speak.

    So, that’s why we see the floodwaters rising. And the rain, we think, will stop probably tomorrow.

    MILES O’BRIEN: What are your constituents telling you? What are their immediate needs?

    REP. TED POE: Many of them are being rescued. And so they need a place to go.

    And they’re being evacuated to first the George R. Brown Convention Center. But there is over 10,000 there. And so they’re being put in other Red Cross shelters that are still on dry land throughout the area.

    And, of course, the next need is water and food and dry clothing. So, that is what is taking place immediately now. Won’t still in the — I guess FEMA would call it the rescue stage of taking care of people, making sure that they’re safe. That is the goal right now.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The numbers we have indicate as many as 80 percent do not have flood insurance there.

    That’s a little different story than what you just told us. What is to be done — whatever the number is, what would you suggest should be done who don’t have flood coverage?

    REP. TED POE: Well, if people don’t have flood insurance, then of course then they’re not insured. They suffer the loss of the property damage.

    And there are some resources that they can — people can apply for that don’t have flood insurance. But they will not be covered by the flood insurance program, which is about, I think, $250,000 per residence.

    So, they’re — they lose that property. And they will just have to figure out a way to make up the cost.

    MILES O’BRIEN: I know, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, this became a political issue. And a lot of members of Congress were unwilling to provide additional funding for people who suffered losses in the wake of Sandy.

    Were you among those people? And do you have a turnabout now?

    REP. TED POE: The original bill for Sandy was for $17 billion. I supported that. I think most members supported that legislation.

    But by the time it got to the House floor, there had been additions that had been added that had nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy, and it was then over $39 billion. So, about half of it wasn’t dealing with Sandy recovery. I thought the appropriations bill should have dealt specifically with Sandy. And so I didn’t vote for that additional funding to other projects that didn’t involve Hurricane Sandy.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Do you think that makes it difficult for you to come back to Washington and ask for money for your district?

    REP. TED POE: Not at all, because the bill that we want to present to Congress will be specific hurricane recovery monies, and not add items on that legislation that have nothing to do with the hurricane recovery from Harvey. So, I don’t see a problem with that at all.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Congressman Ted Poe, Republican of Texas, thank you for your time.

    REP. TED POE: Thank you, Miles.

    The post Rep. Poe: Extent of storm disaster ‘hard to grasp’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Find all of our coverage on Hurricane Harvey

    MILES O’BRIEN: Some of the most critical pieces of any city’s infrastructure are its hospitals. In a major flood event like Harvey, they are also among the most vulnerable.

    We turn now to Bill McKeon, who is the president and CEO of Texas Medical Center, a sprawling health complex southwest of downtown Houston. I spoke to him by Skype a short time ago.

    Bill McKeon, thank you for being with us.

    Give us an idea how the medical center system was prepared and what it did as Harvey approached.

    BILL MCKEON, President, Texas Medical Center: We anticipated to be enduring four or five days of it. I don’t think anyone planned for the amount of rain, the record-breaking rainfall that has hit Houston.

    We have made huge investment in the Texas Medical Center. It’s the largest medical city in the world. And we have built storm gates around all of our hospitals and clinics, which have protected all of our buildings.

    And even though we had streets filled with water, none of our facilities were affected by the flooding.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Tell us a little bit about these floodgates. As I understand it, that came after a storm in 2001, Allison.

    BILL MCKEON: That’s true.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Give us an idea of what the investment was and whether you feel it was worth it.

    BILL MCKEON: Sure.

    Well, we spent over $50 million creating this very sophisticated network of floodgates that actually protect all the assets. In Allison, we lost over $2 billion in research from the flooding of all of our buildings. These integrated floodgates are essentially submarine doors that actually protect these assets, and that the water really pushes off, maintains in streets, and flows away from the medical city.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So, the floodgates are down?

    BILL MCKEON: The floodgates are down, yes.

    They did they job. And it’s really a marvelous feat of engineering and, today, all of those are open. There are cars in the street. Our helicopters are landing here nonstop from surrounding areas.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So you have 10,000 beds in all. We can presume they were close to being full. Do you have any reports of patients being adversely affected by the storm?

    BILL MCKEON: We brought in physicians and nurses, technicians throughout ahead of time, and that we have all been here on this campus really for last five days, day and night.

    It’s been quite miraculous to see the number of dedicated medical professionals that have really came here ahead of time been away from their families, and dedicated to serving the patients here this environmental catastrophe.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So, just to be clear, the staff, it’s stuck inside, for all intents and purposes?

    BILL MCKEON: That’s correct.

    MILES O’BRIEN: You have in your medical city the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a world-renowned cancer center.

    Many people are outpatient and in need of ongoing chemotherapy regimens. What are people in those situations supposed to do?

    BILL MCKEON: Sure.

    Well, again, the medical staff actually, knowing this was coming, had accelerated some of those chemotherapy sessions. But, also, people are still accessing local hospitals in their communities, can also receive that outpatient care.

    They have rescheduled now. So, when you think about it, from the medical city, really, it’s only been two days, three days that people from far outside have not been able to access the medical center, so those are being rescheduled now as we speak.

    MILES O’BRIEN: There were some early reports that the Ben Taub Hospital in the medical center was evacuated. I understand that’s not true. Would you clarify what happened there?

    BILL MCKEON: Sure.

    So, there was a water pipe that actually burst in the basement of Ben Taub Hospital. Initially, they were thinking they might have to evacuate the building, but found that they contained the leak. The leak did actually contaminate some of their dry goods, some of their food supply.

    So they actually asked police and fire department to really divert new patients on to one of our many hospitals here on our campus. And they continue to provide care for the patients that are there at Ben Taub.

    So, some of the critical patients moved across to other hospitals, less than 60. But they continue to provide care to the patients that are there in the hospital. So they have not evacuated Ben Taub. Just some of the patients have had to move across to some of the sister institutions.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Give us a just little bit of perspective on that. Any time you think about moving patients, particularly those in greatest need of care, that gets a little bit dicey, doesn’t it?

    BILL MCKEON: Sure.

    With 23 hospitals all in one campus, the movement of those patients is essentially across to another building. Many of our buildings are connected through tunnels or for above-ground — above-ground ramps across to other hospitals, so it’s actually done quite easily here on the Texas Medical Center.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Bill McKeon, thanks for being with us.

    BILL MCKEON: Delighted to be here.

    The post How Houston hospitals prepared for Hurricane Harvey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MILES O’BRIEN: Adding to the complexity of the disaster, ExxonMobil acknowledged today Harvey has damaged two of its refineries, causing the release of hazardous pollutants. A full assessment of the damage won’t be possible while conditions on the ground remain so dangerous.

    One thing that is clear, thousands in Houston have been forced from their homes in need of food, water and a roof over their head. The George R. Brown Convention Center has become the city’s largest shelter.

    Rachel Osier Lindley is there. She’s an editor with Dallas PBS station KERA. She’s in Houston, reporting on the storm.

    We spoke a short time ago, and I began asking about how many people are there now.

    RACHEL OSIER LINDLEY, KERA News: Well, yesterday, it was 5,100, and today at 9,100, so it has grown substantially over the past 24 hours.

    And they were already at capacity yesterday, but the Red Cross says that they’re not going to be turning anyone away. So, they have expanded into other parts of the Convention Center. Pretty much every square inch is being used as either a dormitory or a makeshift hospital, large place in the back where people are sorting donations and bringing in donations of everything from clothes and shoes.

    So, it’s packed as it can be here. But they don’t want to turn anybody away. And the Red Cross says they’re currently working to find other places they can bring people, because they don’t really anticipate that the need for places to stay will end any time soon.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Are things working pretty well there? I recall being post-Katrina at the Convention Center in New Orleans and there were — a lot of systems broke down, including the plumbing, et cetera.

    How are things working?

    RACHEL OSIER LINDLEY: Well, it seems like, so far, so good.

    They have had a surge of volunteers who have wanted to help out. And they actually had to turn away people from the day volunteer shifts today.

    The people that are staying here that had to evacuate their homes that I have talked with, they say they feel relatively comfortable. They have credited the city with doing a pretty good job of giving them a place to stay.

    And I think just the ongoing concern would be what to do as more and more people come here. The Red Cross says that they’re working to get people in touch with mental health services, if they need those, and connect with prescriptions because, in many cases, people just fled with the clothes on their back and don’t have access to the medications that they need to be taking.

    So, some other challenges that we’re seeing here.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Give us your impressions of what is going on there. I assume there’s a range of emotions among people who are in such desperate need right now.

    RACHEL OSIER LINDLEY: Yes.

    I actually — my colleague and I were just talking to a woman who had lost everything in Hurricane Katrina. And she relocated to Houston. Of course, you will remember many people who evacuated from New Orleans ended up resettling in Houston.

    And she was just beside herself and a bit stunned that this is happening all over again. We also talked to family members of folks who were trying to locate their loved ones in the Convention Center, where they hadn’t been able to charge their phone for a few days, but they finally got service again and were relieved to find that they — their grandmother or their brother or sitter was actually here.

    And so there have been a lot of reunions in that way. But I have also talked to a man who hasn’t spoken to his parents for four days. And he was trying as best he could to keep it together without knowing what had happened to them and being unable the reach them.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Have you seen many volunteers who have come to help out?

    RACHEL OSIER LINDLEY: Yes, so many volunteers.

    I talked to someone who had come to sign up to be a volunteer, but they turned her away. And now they’re only accepting volunteers for the night shift. And there’s also — you see medical professionals walking by.

    The Red Cross says that they had a huge amount of the medical country in Houston step up and come to help with addressing any of the medical needs that people had here at the convention center.

    So, everyone is really pitching in. And that is just evidenced by what you can see in the back where people have been bringing donations, so many clothes, shoes, a wall of diapers that people have donated. Houston is really stepping up.

    And the Red Cross said today that they do need wheelchairs at the Convention Center. So, that’s one thing that they’re hoping to acquire more in the next few days.

    MILES O’BRIEN: All right, we will help get the word out.

    Reporter Rachel Osier Lindley, thank you for your time.

    RACHEL OSIER LINDLEY: Yes, you’re welcome.

    MILES O’BRIEN: We just got an update from Rachel after we spoke.

    She now tells us that the Convention Center is running out of cots.

    The post Houston convention center shelters surging number of storm victims and volunteers appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MILES O’BRIEN: “Get out now.”

    That was the blunt, urgent message to residents of Brazoria County. Authorities in the suburban Houston community ordered a mandatory evacuation of the area on Sunday for fear of what came true today, a levee breached by floodwaters.

    I spoke with the top elected official of Brazoria County, Judge Matt Sebesta, about the threat they’re facing now.

    Judge Sebesta, thank you for being with us. I know you’re very busy.

    Bring us up to date on that levee breach and the consequences of that.

    JUDGE MATT SEBESTA, Brazoria County, Texas: Thank you, Miles.

    Yes, this morning, we hit a breach of a levee at the Columbia Lakes subdivision near West Columbia on the west side of the Brazos River. And we had water coming into the subdivision, but we had some great volunteers that got out there, got that under control.

    So, at this point in time, that particular position on the levee has been fortified. The water that was coming in was from the local rains that we have gotten over the last three to four years, but it is very close to the Brazos River, which is still rising in that area.

    And the National Weather Service has predicted that the level will be higher than the top of the levee. So, we’re still very concerned about that area as the river continues to rise.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Give us a few more details on how the folks there were able to get this under control.

    JUDGE MATT SEBESTA: Well, my understanding — and I have not been out there personally — they got out there and they used plywood and what have you to get the leaking temporarily stopped. Volunteers came in. We had a local contractor I believe donated some material.

    There was concrete sacks. There was different material brought in, stacked in to take care of that leaking area.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Sounds like a heroic effort.

    JUDGE MATT SEBESTA: Well, great volunteers. That’s what Texas and Brazoria County is known for.

    MILES O’BRIEN: I gather you’re not out of the woods yet though, given what you just said about the river.

    JUDGE MATT SEBESTA: Not at all.

    Actually, our worst flooding is in front of us for the west side of the county. We have two major rivers that flow through the west side, the San Bernard River and the Brazos River.

    Both of those are in major flood stage. They’re still rising. We had a major flood on the Brazos River last year, where the crest was at 52.56. We’re already above that level. And we will be in major flood stage for many days to come.

    It will be pouring a whole lot of water out into its floodplain, going into another body of water, Oyster Creek, which will spread out. Last year, when this happened, Oyster Creek was running at below normal. The ground was dry. In some areas, we have had up to three feet of rain in this county over last three to four years — or three to four days.

    So, every low spot, all the creeks and bayous, are full already. All of this river water that will flow out will just make it even worse. And that water will continue to flow through the county for many days to come.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Judge, do you have any idea how many people are out of their homes now and what you might project as that flooding continues?

    JUDGE MATT SEBESTA: I hope that most people are out of their homes. This has been a mandatory evacuation area for the last 48 hours.

    The people in the Brazos River, they went through this last year, so they have had a firsthand experience fresh on their mind. They should be gone. I hope they’re all gone. The San Bernard River, it’s been awhile since they have been in major flood stage. I hope that they have left.

    We’re a rather large county. We have limited resources this time to get out and assist people, because we have such widespread rain and damage all up and down the Texas coast. So we’re a little bit sparse on having resources come in to assist. We’re mostly local resources at this time.

    Our sheriff’s office rescue squad, Gulf Coast Rescue Squad, local DPS troopers and game wardens, we have had a few come in from the outside. We’re hoping to get additional help because we know, down in the river bottoms, we’re going to have a lot of flooding.

    MILES O’BRIEN: We wish you well as that unfolds.

    Matt Sebesta is a judge in Brazoria County.

    Thank you.

    JUDGE MATT SEBESTA: Thank you, Miles.

    The post In Texas county where levee was breached, ‘worst flooding is in front of us’ appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MILES O’BRIEN: The crisis in Houston deepens by the day, as Tropical Storm Harvey lurks just offshore.

    More than 3,500 people have been rescued, and officials have confirmed four deaths, but expect more. One town east of Houston has already gotten nearly 52 inches of rain, a record for the U.S. mainland.

    As much as 30 percent of Harris County, which covers more than 1,700 square miles and is home to Houston, is now underwater. And more and more is washing into the city itself.

    P.J. Tobia begins our coverage.

    P.J. TOBIA: Images of a region pushed to the brink. Torrents poured through parts of downtown Houston, as a pair of aging dams overflowed. Rescue crews had worked through the night, with flood victims crowding onto dump trucks heading for higher ground.

    Some waited until morning, only to see the water climb higher.

    SAMMY GONZALES, Richmond, Texas resident: It quit raining, and the water had gone down and we thought we were OK, until the fire department come and told us they were going to reopen the dams and they were going to reflood everything. So I said, let’s go.

    TIMEKA SCOTT, Houston resident: I have been here two years. This is my second flood. I have lost my car twice. So I’m a little bit overwhelmed. I’m not sure what the next step is and where I go from here.

    P.J. TOBIA: Water also breached a levee in Brazoria County, southwest of Houston, and the county’s Twitter account urgently put out the word: “Get out now.” The levee was later fortified.

    Everywhere, storm victims faced desperate moments. A traffic camera captured drivers stranded atop a truck on a highway that’s now a river. A rescue boat arriving to carry them to safety. Another man caught in fast-moving water clung to a sign as he waited for help. Thousands poured into Houston’s Convention Center, filling it to nearly double the official capacity of 5,000. And tempers frayed.

    WOMAN: You really trying to understand with the microphone still in my face, with me shivering cold, and my kids wet, and you still putting the microphone in my face?

    P.J. TOBIA: Mayor Sylvester Turner said today the city is working to open more shelters.

    MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, Houston: We have certainly made the official request to FEMA. We need additional assistance, and so we have asked them to provide supplies and cots and food for an additional 10,000 individuals.

    P.J. TOBIA: Ed Emmett is in charge of emergency operations for Harris County. He’s worried about the long-term health consequences of this flood.

    ED EMMETT, Harris County, Texas: Even though the storm, today’s the last day, it’s going to move out, we’re still going to have floodwaters, we’re still going to have downstream effects. But we’re going to have a recovery effort could take certainly months, maybe even years, that I don’t think we have seen a recovery effort like this anywhere in the United States.

    P.J. TOBIA: Some who evacuated earlier in this West Houston neighborhood returned today to see what remains of their homes.

    TONY LATHROP, Houston resident: We left it last night with an inch of water in it. And it’s got at least two foot in it now. It’s sad. Everything can be replaced.

    P.J. TOBIA: Scenes like this are playing out all across Houston tonight, with families returning to storm-damaged homes, finding decades of possessions upended and waterlogged.

    There is also the human toll. A tearful police chief announced Sergeant Steve Perez drowned Sunday, trying to get to work.

    ART ACEVEDO, Chief, Houston Police Department: It was too treacherous to go under and look for him. So, we made a decision to leave officers there waiting until the morning, because as much as we wanted to recover him last night, we could not put more officers at risk.

    P.J. TOBIA: All the while, the rain keeps falling. That’s because Harvey, still a tropical storm is back in the Gulf of Mexico, soaking up new moisture. It’s expected to make a second landfall tomorrow near Houston, dumping even more rain on Southeastern Texas and Southwestern Louisiana.

    In Corpus Christi, where the storm first made landfall Friday night, skies were blue as Air Force One touched down today. President Trump was flanked by Texas officials and members of his Cabinet at the Corpus Christi Firehouse before heading to Austin.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We want to do it better than ever before. We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, this is the way to do it. This was of epic proportion. Nobody’s ever seen anything like this.

    P.J. TOBIA: FEMA Director Brock Long said even with Houston’s shelters overwhelmed, there’s no comparison to 2005’s disastrous Hurricane Katrina.

    WILLIAM BROCK LONG, Administrator, FEMA: We’re very aware of the issues at the Convention Center, but let me be clear: This is not the Superdome.

    P.J. TOBIA: In Louisiana, memories of Katrina are still vivid. Hundreds of boats and trucks carried water and other supplies to Houston, a brigade of the so-called Cajun navy.

    TODD TERRELL, Cajun Navy: We were all affected by the flood and various hurricanes in the past, so we know what it’s like to not have help. And we’re just out there to help our neighbors.

    P.J. TOBIA: But the Cajun navy may soon be needed back at home. Evacuations are already under way in Lake Charles, as Louisiana braces for the storm to head its way.

    MILES O’BRIEN: That report from our P.J. Tobia, who joins us with more from Houston.

    P.J., tell us where you are and what is going on.

    P.J. TOBIA: Miles, we’re in Houston right now, the neighborhood behind me completed flooded out.

    Folks are being rescued from their homes by boat. And then they’re being brought to this area behind me, where they’re then walking a few paces to an Exxon gas station to wait for transport to another location where it’s a more permanent shelter.

    Some are also being met by friends and family who are on higher ground and being taken to other private homes for safekeeping. They tell me as they get off these boats — you can hear a helicopter as well right over there that is checking out the scene — that the water is coming up to — it’s beginning to approach second-floor windows and doors.

    This is not mandatory evacuation, but people are beginning to feel unsafe in this neighborhood and they want to get out.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Do you get the sense, P.J., that there’s still quite a few people in their home trying to stick it out?
    P.J. TOBIA: I think now folks are beginning to evacuate.

    I think that the folks who were the holdouts who wanted to stick it out in their homes are either left or making a move to leave. Actually, this afternoon, we spent some time with folks who did leave. They did evacuate in a timely fashion and wanted to get back to their homes. We showed you some of that in our report earlier.

    Their neighborhood was breached with waist-high water, their home completely destroyed pretty much. They said they’re going to rebuild, however, and there’s lots of stories like that around town today

    MILES O’BRIEN: It’s hard to come up with adjectives to describe this particular event. Can you give us a sense of how people are responding generally? We have the sense that the response has been relatively smooth. Is that what you have seen?

    P.J. TOBIA: Yes, it’s really remarkable.
    Folks are calm. The couple that we were with whose home was completely destroyed said they would rebuild. There were no tears, they didn’t seem anguished. It could be early days. It is early days, but I seen remarkable resilience from the folks here on the ground in Houston and also of course from the first-responders.

    MILES O’BRIEN: P.J. Tobia in Houston, thank you.

    P.J. TOBIA: Thank you, Miles.

    The post Record-breaking Harvey overwhelms dams, washes thousands out of their homes appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A woman is evacuated by airboat from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas, U.S. August 29, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking - RTX3DWOC

    A woman is evacuated by airboat from the Hurricane Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas, on August 29, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Rick Wilking

    As the largest flooding event in modern U.S. history affects millions across Texas, members of Congress face a political crisis over how to handle the nation’s largest insurance plan for floods.

    The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was put in place in 1968 as private flood insurance became more expensive and less available to homeowners in flood-prone areas. But it’s set to expire Sept. 30.

    It offers insurance to homeowners, renters and businesses in high-risk zones, and asks communities to develop plans to reduce flooding risks.

    But flooding risks have changed rapidly in the last 50 years, and the federal government and local communities have struggled to keep up. Flood maps are out of date. Cities are becoming more flood prone; so are coastlines. As a result, the program has several major problems:

    • It is now $24 billion in debt, largely due to benefits paid out in connection with Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
    • The program loses more than $1 billion annually.
    • NFIP faces a particular burden in the form of thousands of “repetitive loss” properties. Properties that have claimed repeated flood damage represent just 1 percent of properties insured under the program, but they get 25 to 30 percent of its funding.

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

    These issues have led some Republicans to push for reforms to the flood program. House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, wants to move away from insuring homes in the highest risk zones. Other Republicans strongly disagree with Hensarling’s reforms and instead want to decrease flood insurance premiums.

    The debate sets up another potential stand-off in September.

    What happens if the program expires? The most immediate effects would be on real estate, as buyers required to obtain flood insurance could have trouble finalizing sales. In the meantime, the program will face more scrutiny as the victims of Hurricane Harvey move forward with the recovery process in the weeks to come.

    The post Can Congress fix the troubled federal flood insurance program? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A view of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas September 15, 2008. Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/REUTERS

    A view of the Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, Texas September 15, 2008. Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/REUTERS

    Following two days of tweets and public reports of chemical odors in Houston, ExxonMobil disclosed Tuesday that two of its refineries accidentally released 12,000 pounds of hazardous vapors into the air after being damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

    But these disclosures from Exxon represent just four of more than a dozen reports of storm-related emissions filed with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality since Monday that involve chemical companies near Houston. And documents filed with the commission indicate ExxonMobil’s emissions events were far from the largest.

    What happened with ExxonMobil: On Sunday, the energy giant shut down operations at its petrochemical facility in Baytown, Texas — the second largest refinery in the U.S. The facility can produce up 560,000 barrels of oil per day, according to the Houston Chronicle.

    New Republic reported Monday that environmental advocates and residents noticed chemical smells over Houston’s East End district, which borders Harris County’s industrial hub. These reports were not altogether surprising. Chemical plants, refineries and natural gas operations are known to release large quantities of chemicals into the atmosphere when they start up or shut down. Though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged these “startup, shutdown and malfunction” emissions since 1982, it did not enforce strict regulations for this pollution until 2015, following a petition by the Sierra Club.

    During its planned scale down early Sunday morning, Exxon’s Baytown campus recorded a pair (first and second) of emission releases involving a variety of chemicals, from carbon monoxide to benzene to sulfur dioxide. Most of these emissions fell within legal limits. But Harvey’s heavy rains also sank a floating roof on an outdoor tank, prompting a third, unplanned emissions event later that afternoon.

    What caused Exxon’s leak? Floating roofs are a common design element of petroleum tanks, a way to control and limit how much crude oil is lost to evaporation. The roofs rise and fall as the company fills the tank, meaning rain buildup plus inadequate drainage can cause the roofs to collapse. A 2007 study found these tanks are also prone to buckling and becoming dislodged during hurricanes, due to their thin walls and unsteady foundations.

    Leaks from other companies are worse. Pasadena Terminal, a 174-acre facility near the Houston Ship Channel, reported the release of 394,000 pounds of hazardous chemical vapors between Sunday and  Monday — none of which is allowed under the terminal’s permits. The facility, which is operated by Kinder Morgan, is a waypoint for oil pipelines owned by companies like Chevron, Shell and Teppco across Texas. It stores nearly 19 million barrels of petrochemicals.

    Over the course of an hour Sunday night, a separate ExxonMobil facility in Beaumont — 88 miles east of Houston — released 1,300 pounds of sulfur dioxide due to damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. That’s approximately 10 times the amount allowed by the company’s permits. A Shell Oil facility near Houston also reported a small release of chemical vapors due to problems with a floating roof.

    All of the filings involve initial reports to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The final estimates of these chemical emissions may change.

    What happens next An ExxonMobil spokesperson told the Washington Post that the company would assess the situation once the storm abates and it is safe to do so.

    In its filing, Pasadena Terminal said it is “taking all necessary steps to prevent or minimize any increased risk to human health and safety and to the environment.”

    A Harris County official on Tuesday also warned that buried pipelines could fall victim to scouring and breakage due to fast-moving floodwaters in the Houston Ship Channel.

    A spokesperson from the Texas General Land Office, which handles liquid pollution from petrochemical facilities in the Houston area, said its officials will not be able to assess pollutants in the water until the flooding in the area calms down. Texas officials have issued boil water notices for multiple parts of Harris County and for elsewhere in the state.

    Hannah Grabenstein contributed to the reporting of this story.

    The post Hurricane Harvey damages petrochemical refineries, releasing thousands of pounds of airborne pollutants appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Man in wheelchair

    Photo by Getty Images

    Editor’s Note: Journalist Philip Moeller is here to provide the answers you need on aging and retirement. His weekly column, “Ask Phil,” aims to help older Americans and their families by answering their health care and financial questions. Phil is the author of the new book, “Get What’s Yours for Medicare,” and co-author of “Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security.” Send your questions to Phil.


    The government’s health care watchdog office has issued an early alert in advance of its upcoming formal report on egregious abuses of patients at skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) says it found 134 cases of potential abuse and neglect in 33 states, including cases of rape and sexual abuse; more than a quarter of the cases had never been reported to law enforcement authorities.

    “Due to the importance and urgency of the preliminary findings,” the office said, “OIG is alerting citizens of potential cases of patient neglect and abuse in these facilities, many of which are temporary residences for our nation’s most vulnerable people.” The alert included a video depicting images of abused patients.

    In an earlier letter to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the OIG said it had concluded that CMS was not providing needed oversight of the homes, and had not even begun to enforce a six-year-old law designed to protect nursing home residents.

    “OIG’s study of adverse events in SNFs found that an estimated 22 percent of Medicare beneficiaries experienced adverse events during their SNF stays,” the letter said. “These adverse events included infections, pressure ulcers, and medication-induced bleeding. Medical record review determined that 69 percent of these patient-harm events could have been prevented had the SNF provided better care. Over half of the residents harmed during their SNF stays required hospital care to treat the adverse event.”

    The office’s alert announcement urged family members of nursing home residents to be vigilant. “Visit your loved ones often who are in these facilities, ask them if they are being treated properly, and report potential cases of abuse or neglect to your local police and your state’s Medicaid fraud control unit,” the alert said.


    Planning for future health care expenses

    Fidelity Investments says a typical 65-year-old couple will need to spend $275,000 on health care during the rest of their lives. The big retirement investment firm says in its annual estimate that this total is 6 percent higher than in 2016, and that it includes the couple’s spending on Medicare and other health items, but excludes the cost of long-term care.

    There’s no question that rising health costs are and will be a serious challenge for most of us. However, if you don’t have an extra $275,000 lying around, all is not lost.

    It is doubtful that more than a few percent of Medicare enrollees have that much money bankrolled for their future health needs, and there’s no question that rising health costs are and will be a serious challenge for most of us. However, if you don’t have an extra $275,000 lying around, all is not lost.

    People don’t spend their health dollars all at once, so totaling up the lifetime tab is not the way such items are handled in the real world. For that view, I’d turn to the consumer spending work done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Its look at consumer spending in 2015 found that the for the year ended in June of last year, households where the survey respondent was 65 or older spent about $5,750 on health care in 2015.

    This is a very rough approximation of what your expenses may be. First, it’s a household figure. Second, it includes all older Americans. Odds are that single seniors will spend less than this, while couples will spend more. There also will be major differences depending on household income and retirement savers. Folks on Medicaid will pay much smaller amounts, while those at the higher end of the income ladder easily can – and mostly will – pay several times the average.

    Approximation or not, rising health costs are the major challenge to financial sufficiency in retirement. I doubt you need an “expert” to tell you how to respond, but here are a few thoughts:

    1. Look at your retirement assets and evaluate how large a chunk may go for health care. How will you live on what’s left?
    2. Develop a clear-eyed understanding of how a healthier you could lower your future health care spending. Build a plan with your doctor. Enlist friends to help you keep it.
    3. Recognize that Medicare and Medicaid spending is already on track to absorb worrisome and growing shares of the federal budget. Expecting Washington to spend more on such programs, by shifting funds from other uses or raising taxes, is unrealistic. Further, it would be unlikely to produce major changes in the trajectory of government health care spending.
    4. Pay a lot more attention to health care costs. New health care cost “transparency” tools are coming online. Use them. Push back on doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers so you and consumers can help bring price competition to health care.
    5. Take full advantage of Medicare’s open enrollment season, which begins Oct. 15 and extends through Dec. 7. It may be possible to save money and improve your health coverage at the same time.

    This week’s reader Q&A

    Jan: I’m looking for advice on when my husband and I should file for Social Security. He is 66 and retired; I am 64, still work, and make about $150,000 a year in commission income. I will qualify for a $48,000 annual pension when I turn 66. We have $1.7 million in savings, a $600,000 home (our mortgage will be paid off in four years), and no other debt.

    Phil Moeller: It doesn’t appear that you need additional current income. If that’s the case, and neither of you have health issues that would shorten your expected life spans, I strongly favor delaying benefits until they reach their maximum amounts at age 70. Given expectations that both of you will live well into your 80s, and that at least one of you likely will live well into their 90s, maximizing Social Security makes sense.

    I am assuming neither of you has worked for public employers, that your wages have been subject to Social Security payroll taxes, and that your pension is from a private employer. Otherwise, Social Security’s Windfall Elimination Provision and/or Government Pension Offset might come into play, and could alter your optimal strategy.

    If you do want to generate some Social Security income prior to age 70, there is another approach. It won’t optimize your lifetime benefits, but it may nonetheless be attractive. When you reach 66, your husband would file for his own Social Security retirement benefit. This would make you eligible to file for a spousal benefit based on his earnings record. Under a grandfathered provision of the 2015 revisions to Social Security laws, you would be able to file a restricted application for just your spousal benefit while deferring filing for your own retirement benefit until you turn 70.

    If you haven’t already done so, open My Social Security accounts online and see your lifetime earnings record and benefit projections. This will permit you to estimate the effects of different filing strategies.

    I also should note that filing for Social Security requires the claimant to begin receiving Part A of Medicare. If you have a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account (HSA), filing for Medicare makes it illegal to continue making pre-tax contributions to an HSA.


    Tom – Ohio: My wife is on Medicare now as secondary coverage. Her employer’s insurance is primary, and it has announced plans to change to a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account. That will be the only plan offered.

    We need to know quickly what she can and cannot do. Her employer thinks this is not an issue. We are concerned about what the effects will be if she does accept this new plan, and what the effects will be if she does not. For example, will Medicare not cover her as her new primary because she “voluntarily” turned down enrollment in the new employer plan?

    Phil Moeller: Under IRS rules, Medicare enrollees may not contribute to a health savings account. This is true even if the person has only the premium-free Part A of Medicare, which everyone receiving Social Security benefits must have.

    I am assuming that your wife has only Part A. If this is the case, and she is not receiving Social Security, she could withdraw from Part A and maintain full eligibility for the new HSA plan. She would lose the secondary protection of Part A, of course, but under the circumstances, I’d think this would be the way to go. Perhaps this is why her employer thinks this is not an issue.

    However, if your wife has Part A because she is receiving Social Security benefits, the only way she could withdraw from Part A is to also withdraw from receiving Social Security benefits. I don’t see how this would make sense.

    In that event, perhaps she could still be in the new health plan, but she would not be able to contribute to the HSA. She would thus be on the hook for all of the plan’s high deductibles. I suppose that’s a “solution” of sorts, but it seems like a bad one to me.

    People eligible for Medicare who have employer insurance are free to leave the employer plan and sign up for Medicare as their primary insurer. If your wife elected to do this, she would have an eight-month special enrollment period once her employer plan ended. However, I’d urge her to arrange for Medicare coverage to take effect on or before the date her employer coverage ended. The cost of being uninsured, even for a day, can be ruinous.

    I’d appreciate knowing how she fares. With more and more employers moving to high deductible health plans, your wife’s quandary will be shared by a growing number of employed seniors.


    John – Fla.: Why is our doctor unwilling to certify my wife for a Medicare home health aide? She called her doctor’s office and asked for one. A secretary called back saying. “Go out and hire one and pay for it yourself.” Are doctor’s afraid to go out on a limb? Is it a black mark against the doctor? We cannot afford to pay for this help ourselves, but my wife’s physical condition certainly warrants physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

    Phil Moeller: Medicare provides limited home health benefits but, as you’ve discovered, only if a physician prescribes them. I don’t know if her doctor is afraid to go out on a limb or simply does not feel her condition is serious enough to qualify for this benefit.

    Here’s a fuller explanation I recently wrote concerning this benefit and the problems people are having in getting access to it. And here is Medicare’s own explanation of the coverage. I hope there is something in here of value to you.


    Carla: I am a widow, and will reach my full retirement age of 66 in October. I am thinking of applying for my late husband’s social security, and understand that if I wait until then my benefits will not be reduced by my employment earnings. Also, I have an ex-husband that I was married to for more than 10 years. One of the Social Security representatives told me I could get either a survivor or ex-spousal benefit, whichever is more. Another one told me if my ex is alive I only get half. I am not sure who is right on this. My ex is alive and makes more than my late husband. If the ex-spousal benefit was half of what my ex made, that benefit would be smaller than my survivor benefit. Lastly, are any of these benefits retroactive?

    Phil Moeller: Carla, you have asked the kind of complicated question that affects lots of people, and for whom we wrote a whole book about Social Security. On the slight chance that you do not want to read an entire book to find these answers, here is a shorter reply!

    Both survivor and ex-spousal benefits reach their maximum level if you wait to file them until you reach full retirement age.

    Social Security is correct in saying that the most you could ever collect from an ex-spousal benefit is half of what your ex-spouse was entitled to receive when he reached his own full retirement age. This is true whether or not he had actually filed for his benefits at that time.

    Because you turned 62 on or before the beginning of 2016, you are grandfathered under a 2015 Social Security law. If you decided to file for the ex-spousal benefit (assuming your ex- had reached retirement age or you’d been divorced for two or more years), you would be allowed to file what’s called a restricted application for only this benefit. This will permit you to wait until 70 to file for your own retirement benefit, at which time you’d receive an additional payment equal to the amount by which your retirement benefit exceeded your ex-spousal benefit.

    Survivor benefits also can be taken by themselves, thus permitting you to delay your own retirement filing. From what you wrote, it appears that your survivor benefit would be larger than your ex-spousal benefit. If so, that is the one you should take.

    Also, if your ex-husband were to pass away, you could file for a survivor benefit based on his earnings record. If it was larger than your current survivor benefit, you should receive an additional benefit equal to the amount by which your new survivor benefit was larger than the old one. Then, at 70, you still could switch to your own benefit if it was larger.

    If you file for a benefit at your full retirement age, there is no retroactive benefit, so this should not be part of your filing strategy. Lastly, you’re correct that filings made on or after full retirement age are not subject to Social Security’s earnings test reductions.

    The post Health care watchdog sends urgent alert on potential nursing home abuse appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that his push to overhaul the nation’s tax system would “bring back Main Street by reducing the crushing tax burden,” offering a populist appeal to a still-forming tax plan that would heavily benefit corporate America.

    Trump said his vision for re-writing the nation’s tax system, one of his key campaign pledges, would unlock stronger economic growth and benefit companies and workers alike. He promised that it would be “pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-worker and pro-American.”

    “If we want to renew our prosperity and to restore opportunity then we must reduce the tax burden on our companies and on our workers,” Trump said in Springfield, Mo.

    “If we want to renew our prosperity and to restore opportunity then we must reduce the tax burden on our companies and on our workers,” Trump said in Springfield, Mo.

    Trump chose a Midwestern manufacturing setting in Springfield to debut his pitch, a community that is known as the birthplace of the Route 66 highway.

    After a year without any major legislative wins, including a significant defeat on health care, the stakes are high for the White House and Republican leaders, who face mounting pressure to get points on the board before next year’s midterm elections.

    But the effort is already facing political headwinds. The White House and Republican lawmakers have not finalized a plan and the push comes amid an intense September workload for Congress.

    While the White House has been designing a tax plan aimed at appealing to Republicans, Trump sought to cast the effort in bipartisan terms, calling upon members of both parties to work with him on the overhaul. “I think Congress is going to make a comeback,” Trump said.

    But he also injected the official White House event with a purely political message aimed at Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, a top Republican target in next year’s mid-term elections.

    Trump said, “We have no choice, we must lower our taxes. And your senator, Claire McCaskill, she must do this for you. And if she doesn’t do it for you, you have got to vote her out of office,” Trump said.

    The post WATCH: President Trump pledges to “bring back Main Street” with is tax plan appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    old Hand women on bed patient

    Photo by srisakorn/via Adobe

    Chronic illness persists during a natural disaster, and health care systems around Houston and across Texas are working to connect cancer and dialysis patients with needed treatment following Hurricane Harvey.

    While cancer patients should first contact their medical teams for advice on how to proceed with treatment, Debra Patt, an oncologist in Austin and vice president of Texas Oncology, said communication lines in and around Houston and Southeast Texas are often down and “many patients may not know what is the right thing to do.”

    In response, Texas Oncology, a network of more than 170 clinics scattered across the state, has established a triage hotline — 1-888-864-4226 — for cancer patients in active treatment to call if they want to find a facility closest to where they are, as well as a website to search for nearby oncology specialists in the network. If patients have left Texas, they can contact the U.S. Oncology group to connect with network partners nearest to them.

    “The medical community in Texas is really trying to do everything we can to support the Harvey victims during this terrible tragedy,” Patt said. “It’s really nice to see anyone working together.”

    The Harris Health System serves 6,000 patients daily as a public health safety net network of clinics and care for a population of more than 320,000 people. Both of the system’s emergency departments are open and admitting patients who can overcome floodwaters, said spokesman Bryan McLeod.

    “We’re doing everything we can to get our facilities back and operable as soon as we can,” he said.

    The system, which normally operates 16 pharmacies, will reopen one location at Smith Clinic on Friday at 8 a.m. to make emergency refills at 2525A Holly Hall Street in Houston.

    Oncology
    Texas Oncology
    1-888-864-4226
    More than 170 locations throughout Texas
    This network is taking Houston-area cancer patients who need treatment, regardless of whether they were in or out of the network before Hurricane Harvey.

    Smith Clinic
    2525A Holly Hall Street, Houston, Texas
    713-566-3600
    Harris Health System will provide radiation oncology at this location at 8 a.m. CT on Thursday, August 31.

    Emergency Room Services
    Ben Taub Hospital
    1504 Taub Loop
    Houston, Texas 77030
    (713) 873-2000

    Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital
    5656 Kelley Street
    Houston, TX 77026
    713-566-5100

    Medication
    Smith Clinic
    2525A Holly Hall Street, Houston, Texas
    713-566-3600
    One of 16 pharmacy locations in Houston’s Harris Health System network, this location will offer emergency medication refills starting at 8 a.m. CT on Friday, Sept. 1.

    Respiratory
    American Lung Association
    1-800-LUNGUSA
    If you are concerned about air quality following Hurricane Harvey, the American Lung Association encourages patients to call this number and ask nurses and respiratory therapists.

    Cardiovascular
    American Heart Association
    This map of recognized hospitals is available to heart patients displaced by the storm.

    MDLive telehealth visit
    www3.mdlive.com/harveyem
    (888) 959-9516
    Promotional code: HARVEY
    Hurricane-affected residents of Texas and Louisiana can receive free telehealth visits with a physician until Sept. 8.

    Out-of-state doctors who want to help
    If you are a hospital physician, email TMBtransition@tmb.state.tx.us with your name, area of speciality, state where you’re license, and identification number.
    If you are a practicing physician, but not in a hospital, learn how to expedite your permit here: http://www.tmb.state.tx.us/page/visiting-physician-temporary-permit

    This list will be updated as more resources become available.

    The post How to find critical medical care if you’re a hurricane survivor appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    A missile is launched during a long and medium-range ballistic rocket launch drill in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on Aug. 30. KCNA photo via Reuters

    A missile is launched during a long and medium-range ballistic rocket launch drill in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on Aug. 30. KCNA photo via Reuters

    North Korea fired a missile that crossed over Japan before landing in the sea on Tuesday. Pyongyang called it the “first step” in its military operations in the Pacific.

    Following the test, President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that “Talking is not the answer.”

    There should be an embedded item here. Please visit the original post to view it.

    However, when asked about the president’s reaction, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”

    We asked several analysts about whether the U.S. should draw a “red line” for North Korea and what its latest missile test means.


    Should the U.S. draw a “red line” for North Korea?

    Ryan Hass, a fellow in the foreign policy program at Brookings:

    Ryan Hass of the Brookings InstitutionDrawing “red lines” for North Korea would be ill advised. For one, “red lines” imply a certain automaticity of response without regard for situational factors that cannot be accounted for in advance. Drawing “red lines” also implies that any North Korean action just short of the line would be viewed as tolerable and unlikely to elicit a sharp U.S. response, thus creating an unintended dynamic of signaling that certain North Korean provocations would be acceptable as long as they didn’t cross the “red line.” In this sense, a certain degree of strategic ambiguity serves the interest of sobering North Korean behavior.

    Rather than publicly articulating a “red line,” the better focus of U.S. government attention would be to forge strong internal clarity on what top national interests it must protect on the Korean Peninsula. In the case of North Korea, the United States should concentrate on protecting the U.S. homeland against attack or blackmail of an attack, preventing proliferation of nuclear or missile technology from North Korea, upholding the credibility of alliance commitments, and preventing war. Protecting these top interests should be the focus of U.S. efforts, not defending an arbitrary line and thereby creating expectations of an automatic and overwhelming response if the arbitrary line is crossed.

    Lisa Collins, a fellow with the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies:

    Lisa Collins of the Center for Strategic and International StudiesI think it’s very dangerous for anyone to draw “red lines” with North Korea, because it’s probably going to cross the “red line.” I don’t think we should draw lines, especially when it comes to military action … that would force the United States to respond in a way that would be disastrous for the region and for all of the allies, South Korea and Japan.


    Has the number of missile tests increased under Kim Jong-un, or does it just seem that way?

    Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at The Heritage Foundation:

    Bruce Klingner of The Heritage FoundationDuring Kim Jong-un’s era, North Korea has exponentially increased the number and rate of its missile launches. In 2017 alone, North Korea has already launched more missiles than previous leader Kim Jong-il did in the entirety of his 17 years in power. Analysts differ on whether the increased rate is due to the culmination of several long-standing missile programs or to Kim Jong-un’s persona of being less willing to engage in negotiations than his father.

    North Korea had previously launched missiles over Japan in 1998 and 2009 but more recently refrained from doing so. While the Hwasong-12 (and other North Korean missiles) had been tested in high parabolic trajectory flights simulating longer-range flights, it would be technologically necessary to fly the missile to its full-range (requiring flying over to Japan) prior to deploying it to North Korean units. Flying over Japan can also serve North Korean political purposes by demonstrating regime resolve and willingness to stand up to U.S. pressure.

    Lisa Collins added:

    Kim Jong-un has done more than twice as many missile tests — about 98 — in his five years of rule than his father Kim Jong-il did — about 47 — in 17 years of rule.

    View data of the missile tests:

    Chart of North Korea missile launches by CSIS

    See more on CSIS’ website.


    What was the purpose of the missile launch?

    Christopher Harmer, senior Naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War:

    Christopher Harmer of the Institute for the Study of WarThe North Korean (DPRK) test firings seem carefully calibrated to cause the maximum amount of media coverage and verbal response from the U.S. and our allies, while falling short of actions that would cross a U.S. “red line” and demand a U.S. economic response in the form of sanctions or military response in the form of targeted strikes. The Kim Jong-un regime has acted recklessly, irresponsibly and provocatively, but with just enough restraint to give U.S. policymakers an option to respond with rhetoric condemning the missile tests, rather than actual policy action.

    The missile that crossed over Japan is a perfect example of this. Firing a ballistic missile over Japan is deeply irresponsible, but the flight path chosen by DPRK was over Hokkaido. Hokkaido is the northernmost major island in Japan, the least densely populated, and far away from the major U.S. bases in Japan. If the DPRK were to launch a missile that traveled directly over Tokyo or major U.S. military bases, policymakers would be forced to respond. By choosing the flight path they did, DPRK gave the U.S. and Japanese policymakers an out.

    North Korea missile map by Reuters


    What message was North Korea sending?

    Lisa Collins:

    I think it probably was a message to the U.S., to China, and to Japan and South Korea all at the same time. I think the message to the U.S. was probably that it wasn’t very happy about the sanctions that were recently imposed both in the United Nations and the unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States through the Treasury Department. There are some experts who believe that North Korea is also trying to coerce the United States into stopping flights of B-1B bombers and other bombers from Guam over the Korean Peninsula.

    In terms of China, I think North Korea probably wasn’t very happy about China’s vote in the U.N. Security Council for the sanctions, so it might have been trying to put China in a very difficult position by launching a missile over Japan, saying “we won’t be pushed around.”

    The post Analysis: Should the U.S. set a ‘red line’ for North Korea? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Thousands of Texans are still in need of rescue in the wake of Harvey’s floods, but one story stood out when it surfaced on Tuesday. A young girl was rescued by police in Beaumont, Texas, after being found holding on to her mother’s floating body.

    The Beaumont Police spokesperson, Officer Haley Morrow, recounted the story of the rescue for PBS NewsHour’s Miles O’Brien, and discussed how the flood tragedy is affecting first responders on a personal level.

    For more on Harvey’s devastation and how you can help people who have been affected by the storm, read our guide.

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    MILES O’BRIEN: It has now been more than a year since that failed coup in Turkey. You will recall, elements of the military tried and failed to overthrow the government.

    Since then, the government has mounted a widespread purge in the name of security. Critics of the regime claim this has led to a fierce campaign to silence criticism across all aspects of society.

    Special correspondent Nick Schifrin reports from Istanbul.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Thirty-nine-year-old Aynur Barkin has long been a proud member of Turkey’s opposition. She’s always known her activism carried risks, but she never anticipated being labeled an enemy of the state.

    AYNUR BARKIN, Fired Teacher (through interpreter): They want us to teach the way they like. They want us to dress the way they like. They want us to obey them wherever we go. And we say no. We have our own identities and values that we believe in. We believe in democracy.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: For the last 15 years, she’s been a third-grade teacher, the kind who takes selfies with her 8-year-olds. But she’s also a self-described leftist who’s opposed the government’s education policies. And one day in February, she looked online and learned she had lost her job.

    AYNUR BARKIN (through interpreter): They do not take your statement or give any notice. There was just one sentence that read, they might be in contact with terrorist groups. Might. They do not have conclusive evidence. It’s all hearsay.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: She and these other fired teachers lost their jobs because the government said they supported terrorists, in other words, supported last July’s failed coup. The government says elements of the military tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the administration, even sending tanks toward downtown Istanbul.

    By the end of the night, 234 died and more than 2,000 were injured. Five days later, the government declared a state of emergency, saying the coup was organized by religious leader Fethullah Gulen, who runs a widespread social movement in Turkey and lives in exile in Pennsylvania.

    In front of millions of supporters, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to crush the coup plotters and what he described as Gulen’s society-wide conspiracy.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): From now on, we will examine very carefully who we have under us. We will see who we have in the military, who we have in the judiciary, and throw the others out of the door.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Under the state of the emergency, the impact has been enormous; 50,000 people have been arrested; 150,000 people have either lost their jobs or been suspended. The purge has targeted every aspect of society.

    The fired teachers often clash with police. Two of them started a hunger strike to protest what they describe as the government’s forcing them to submit or starve.

    AYNUR BARKIN (through interpreter): If we apply for a new job, the possible employer will find a code that says person was dismissed by decree. So nobody is willing to employ you. They are willing me to starve.

    OZDEMIR AKTAN, Former Head, Turkish Medical Association: I’m a physician, and I’m a doctor, and I’m an academic. And I ask questions. And now our system is prohibiting asking questions.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Dr. Ozdemir Aktan is a general surgeon at a private upscale Istanbul hospital. He’s also been a prominent critic of the government’s politics and health policy. He was the head of the Turkish equivalent of the American Medical Association. And in February, he was fired from his government hospital and teaching job for — quote — “links to terrorist groups.”

    OZDEMIR AKTAN: I was one of the academics who have signed the letter asking for peace. And that was considered as a support for PKK.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The PKK is a Kurdish militant organization considered a terrorist group by Turkey and the U.S. It’s declared a desire for independence, and targeted state institutions, like this police station last year.

    On Turkish TV, Erdogan labeled Aktan and other academics who pushed for peace talks with the PKK enemies of the state.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): They have titles before their names, like professor and assistant professor, but that doesn’t make them intellectuals. They’re unenlightened. They’re vile. Those who side with the cruel are cruel. Those who side with massacre commit massacre.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: That was five months before the coup, which means the coup only accelerated the President Erdogan’s crackdown already in progress, says Dr. Aktan.

    OZDEMIR AKTAN: Turkey always looked to the West, and tried to be more to be like a Western country. We want democracy. Well, we want freedom. But now we are getting away and away from the Western population. That means less democracy.

    YENAL KUCUKER, Executive Director, Turkish Heritage Organization: I don’t think this is an identity change. This is about priorities. And the national security of the country is very important.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The government declined our interview request. But Turkish Heritage Organization executive director Yenal Kucuker echoes the government argument when he says government structures had to cleanse themselves of people who support Fethullah Gulen, especially the military.

    YENAL KUCUKER: In specific divisions, there are certain generals, commanders, different ranks getting their instructions from — not from the military, but from those who were outside of the military. There was a cleanup campaign, so to speak, to eliminate those who are affiliated with Gulen movement.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: That campaign has extended into journalism, and it’s a fight that the Cumhuriyet newspaper knows well.

    Turhan Gunay is the newspaper’s books, magazine editor. He shows off mementos and the newspaper’s century-old tradition of opposition.

    What happens to people in Turkey right now if they oppose the government?

    TURHAN GUNAY, Editor, Cumhuriyet Books Magazine (through interpreter): I can only answer this question through my own experience, and that is, you are thrown into jail. The government has no tolerance for the slightest criticism.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, Gunay is free, surrounded by a fraction of the books he’s spent the last 33 years reviewing. But he spent nine months in prison with his colleagues. And they were just released last month. That’s him on the left in the blue. They had been accused of aiding a terrorist organization.

    Did they provide any evidence?

    TURHAN GUNAY (through interpreter): No, they didn’t. There was only the accusation, aiding and abetting the PKK. But we have no connection to them. After all, we are just journalists.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Cumhuriyet journalists have been arrested by previous Turkish governments, and Turkey has suffered three previous successful coups, the last one in 1980.

    But Gunay says today feels different. Since last year’s coup, 150 media outlets have been closed. And like all critics who’ve been jailed or fired, his passport’s been taken away, so he can’t leave a country that he says is becoming an open-air prison.

    TURHAN GUNAY (through interpreter): Turkey is a civilized, secular, and Muslim country. It was founded on that and molded on that. But, today, the people we call secular, modern, or civilized are cornered into certain spaces, and the areas they live in are fast being destroyed.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The government has stood by its characterization of the Cumhuriyet newspaper as pro-coup. And last month, one year to the minute after the coup, Erdogan recommitted himself to what he describes as strengthening the state.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter): The July 15 coup attempt wasn’t the first attack against our country, and it won’t be the last. For that reason, we will first rip the heads off these traitors. We will cut their heads off.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The crowd responded, “We want executions, we want executions,” even though the country banned the death penalty 13 years ago.

    What is the state of the justice system in Turkey?

    OMER KAVILI, Lawyer for Accused Airman (through interpreter): People have become afraid of saying what they have seen or standing as a witness to what they have witnessed.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Omer Kavili is a lawyer for a 33-year-old 1st lieutenant in the Turkish air force. That’s him on the right with his family. He’s accused of being a coup participant.

    In total, thousands of Turkish service members are on trial, part of the largest legal proceedings in Turkey’s modern history. Kavili says his client didn’t help the coup plotters, and the only evidence the government has presented is a video during the coup of his client walking in a hallway.

    Can your client get a fair trial?

    OMER KAVILI (through interpreter): This is no trial. As he gives his testimony, we should be able to ask questions. But our microphones are turned off. I can’t speak to my client because, between us, there is a wall of armed police. We don’t know the evidence against us. We don’t know who testified against us. If you call that a fair trial, to hell with it.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Kavili shows me how, every time he goes into court, authorities cover up his phone’s cameras. He says, in this environment, the defenders feel like the persecuted.

    OMER KAVILI (through interpreter): They are already tailing me and tapping my phone. I’m under constant surveillance. They can detain me anytime they want.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The government’s defenders acknowledge the coup was a turning point, but they argue it was for the better: The people prevailed, and the military learned its lesson.

    YENAL KUCUKER: This was the first attempt coup attempt the Turkish people were able to stop. This is democracy, and this is an elected government. The only way for the elected government to be — to leave this post is basically with elections, with the ballot, not with bullets.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: Today, amidst Istanbul’s high-rises, posters depict failed takeover attempts and men labeled martyrs who died defending the government. Authorities here are keenly watching their own people. And, in the name of preventing another coup, they’re targeting all their perceived enemies.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Nick Schifrin in Istanbul.

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    MILES O’BRIEN: We turn now to the political news of the week, the reaction to the president’s visit to Texas Tuesday, his tax reform goals outlined today, and divisions in the Trump administration playing out in public.

    John Yang has that.

    JOHN YANG: Thanks, Miles.

    To discuss all that, we’re joined again by Karine Jean-Pierre. She’s a senior adviser to MoveOn.org, a contributing editor to Bustle, which is an online women’s magazine, and a veteran of the Obama White House. And also Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and the former White House political director for George W. Bush.

    Matt, let’s begin with you.

    Your old boss learned the pitfalls of dealing with natural disasters.

    MATT SCHLAPP, American Conservative Union: He doesn’t like being called old. I just…

    (LAUGHTER)

    JOHN YANG: Your former boss.

    MATT SCHLAPP: OK.

    JOHN YANG: After you left the White House, I should also add.

    MATT SCHLAPP: Yes.

    JOHN YANG: How is President Trump handling his first major challenge dealing with a natural disaster?

    MATT SCHLAPP: It’s tough for presidents.

    They are damned if they do, they’re damned if they don’t. They’re criticized for going down and getting the attention off those whose lives are in danger. But then when they stay back and try to monitor things from the Situation Room, people say you’re not showing compassion and you should be out there talking to folks.

    So, I think Donald Trump understood that there were going to be critics no matter what he did. And I think he demonstrated to the American people and really to the international community that he has compassion for those whose lives have forever been affected, those who have lost their lives.

    He’s bringing the power of the federal government to everything that can be done possibly to help these folks. And this is going to be an ongoing, long recovery. This is something that we — I think President Bush realized, and his dad before him in Hurricane Andrew, which is, when you have devastating storms like this, it takes years to recover.

    And some people will never get their lives back.

    JOHN YANG: Karine, what is your take?

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, MoveOn.org: Well, I’m going to agree with Matt on one thing here. It is going to be a long-term recovery.

    And that’s my concern with Donald Trump. You know, yesterday, it was like a — it’s almost like it was like a 24-hour TV show. And my concern is, for him, he needs to understand that this is monumental, what we saw in Houston.

    The whole city is underwater, practically. The Gulf Coast is in a devastating situation. And what we have right now with the Donald Trump administration, he hasn’t staffed up in the most crucial departments that are going to be leading this effort. We’re talking about Department of Homeland Security, SBA, Small Business Administration, and also FEMA.

    And there are hundreds and hundreds of positions that are crucial for this, and he hasn’t staffed up. And he can’t blame on the Senate. He hasn’t brought people to be nominated. And, secondly, is, when he created his budget that went to Congress, there was slashes to FEMA, to SBA, to DHS, to programs that were incredibly important.

    (CROSSTALK)

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: So, what is the long-term — so, what is the — is he understanding what the long-term affect truly is, and how is he going to change that, going to fix what is going on?

    MATT SCHLAPP: It’s conservatives who make this argument, like, let’s get good conservative Republicans in charge of these agencies, because we don’t always trust the career folks.

    I’m going to take the defense of the career folks. Even when you don’t have political people in charge, you have hundreds, thousands of competent career people in these agencies.

    I think General Kelly, is the chief of staff, someone who just came from Homeland Security, who has relevant experience in these areas, is really advising the president well.

    I think it’s wrong to say, just because we don’t have political people in place, that the career people in place can’t do the competent job.

    And every step I have seen, from what the federal government can do to help these folks, they are hitting it right on mark, even though this tragedy is terrible, people have lost their lives, a policeman lost his life. It’s terrible. You can’t do anything to change that.

    But we shouldn’t assume that the federal government and the career civil service can’t do their job as well.

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Look, we were both in a presidential administration. I was in the Department of Labor as a political person.

    They are incredibly important in helping kind of guide the policy of the agency.

    MATT SCHLAPP: Sure.

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: So, I disagree with you on that.

    And also, how about the funding? He cut, he slashed important programs for those three agencies that I just mentioned.

    MATT SCHLAPP: Unfortunately, at some point in our history, we decided that every emergency that happens in this country becomes a federal emergency.

    As a conservative, I don’t like that approach. But don’t worry. I guarantee you that we will keep the 100-year trend in all the money that’s needed to try to fix the problems that this natural disaster…

    (CROSSTALK)

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we need to help people. There are people who are suffering, and they need to be helped.

    MATT SCHLAPP: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

    JOHN YANG: But also, Matt, on that point about the road ahead and the federal funding, the Northeastern, not only Democrats, but Republicans, Peter King, Chris Christie, are reminding the Texas delegation now what of they said after Sandy, when a hurricane — when they wanted to find offsets.

    And the Texas — members of the Texas delegation, Republican delegation, voted against the Sandy funding, emergency funding. Is there going to be a similar fight this time, do you think?

    MATT SCHLAPP: Are you assuming there’s some hypocrisy in politics?

    (LAUGHTER)

    MATT SCHLAPP: I’m shocked there’s gambling here.

    The fact is, is this, which is I think it would be good to have all spending, emergency spending, offset. We are $20 trillion in debt. Congress seems to have no appetite to have any fiscal constraints on things.

    I do think that these emergencies do overtake other priorities. I also think it’s smart, because of our kids and grandkids, to be responsible with our fiscal policy. So, I think it’s OK to pay for these things. But it’s OK to change the order of what is important.

    When you have a great disaster like this, I’m OK, I’m comfortable with it being a greater priority than other projects.

    JOHN YANG: Karine?

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I think that Ted Cruz should own up and apologize and say he was wrong, and he shouldn’t make people’s lives and suffering — people are dying and suffering out there. He shouldn’t turn it into a political issue.

    MATT SCHLAPP: Congress never has a problem appropriating money. This is really not an issue. They’re really good at it, as a matter of fact, too good.

    JOHN YANG: Well, the other part that Congress is often good at — or people say Congress is good at — is raising money, is the taxes.

    President Trump gave a speech today outlining his vision, his goals for tax cuts and tax reform. They’re still looking for their first really big major legislative victory of this presidency. Are taxes are going to be it, Matt? Is this going to be it?

    MATT SCHLAPP: Just so you know, the Pew Foundation just came out said this is the most productive Congress we have seen in half-a-century, because don’t gloss over the fact that they have actually had great achievements on these congressional review acts, over a dozen, to pull back on regulations.

    So, I just want to make sure we understand. I think it’s fair to say that they stubbed their toe on health care. And I have been the first one to say on this show over and over again this is a massive problem for those Republicans who promised to repeal and replace Obamacare and voted differently.

    If they don’t get a big tax cut bill done this year, I think it’s a massive political problem. But I do think they’re going to get it done.

    JOHN YANG: Quickly, Karine, the last word.

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I think they’re going to have a very difficult time getting it done.

    We have even heard from the Trump administration saying, hey, because we weren’t able to repeal Obamacare, we’re not going to be able to get this tax reform done. So, I think it’s going to be an uphill…

    MATT SCHLAPP: We’re going to get it done.

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: I don’t think so.

    JOHN YANG: Karine Jean-Pierre, Matt Schlapp.

    (CROSSTALK)

    KARINE JEAN-PIERRE: The people will not allow this. We will fight. We will fight tooth and nail, just like we fought Obamacare.

    (CROSSTALK)

    JOHN YANG: Thanks a lot, Matt, Karine. Thank you very much.

    The post How will the Trump administration handle long Hurricane Harvey recovery? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MILES O’BRIEN: And the Associated Press now confirms that the death toll from Harvey has risen to 12.

    But as we focus on Texas and Louisiana, nature is also taking a devastating toll elsewhere. Heavy monsoons are paralyzing Mumbai, India, right now. More than 1,200 people have died so far.

    Connecting the dots between a global warming and extreme weather is not a simple job for science.

    That is the topic of our Leading Edge segment this week.

    Scientists are loathe to get ahead of their data, but what they see in Houston fits like a key piece in a giant complex puzzle.

    First, the disclaimers:

    KERRY EMANUEL, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: It’s difficult to say anything about individual events.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Kerry Emanuel is a professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    KERRY EMANUEL: We have a lot of extreme weather events. Whether or not the climate changes, to attribute a particular event to climate change is next to impossible.

    RADLEY HORTON, Columbia University: Because, for those really rare events, it’s hard to even know how common they are before you get to climate change.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Radley Horton is a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

    RADLEY HORTON: You probably want to have 500 years of data, 1,000 years of data to estimate those statistics. And, of course, we don’t have data records to go back 500 years or 1,000 years.

    MARSHALL SHEPHERD, University of Georgia: I’m very uncomfortable talking about causation of one particular storm, in the same way that I can’t identify what particular home run was hit by a baseball player because of steroid use.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Marshall Shepherd is a professor of geography and atmospheric sciences at the University of Georgia.

    MARSHALL SHEPHERD: I think that we know that steroid use likely increases the probability or chance that there will be more home runs in baseball. But can I conclusively say that that particular player hit that particular home run because of steroid use? I don’t know that for a fact.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So, let’s begin on the firmer ground, the facts. Over the past hundred years, global temperatures have risen 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit, and global sea level has risen about eight inches. No dispute about that.

    RADLEY HORTON: It doesn’t sound like much, but for a lot of the coastal cities in the U.S., places like Norfolk, Virginia, we’re already seeing much more frequent nuisance flooding events.

    MILES O’BRIEN: And, in fact, while our eyes have been fixed on Texas and Louisiana this week, large parts of Norfolk are underwater because of a run-of-the-mill tropical system. And in India, monsoon rains caused floods that killed 1,000.

    RADLEY HORTON: We’re getting high water along the coast when there’s no storm at all, water levels that used to happen maybe once every decade or so happening every couple of years.

    MILES O’BRIEN: And while the atmospheric temperature has increased, the real heating has occurred in the oceans. And warm water is like high-octane fuel for a hurricane.

    RADLEY HORTON: Once those upper ocean temperatures, especially near the surface, get to about 80 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer, you now have a source of warm, moist air. That is the fundamental fuel of a hurricane.

    MILES O’BRIEN: This is where the science gets a little bit harder. Does this warmer water necessarily mean that there will be more powerful hurricanes?

    KERRY EMANUEL: What all the models and theories seem to agree on, at least globally, at this point is that the frequency of the very high intensity, Category 3 or 4 or 4 events, should go up.

    If you look at the most powerful hurricanes on the planet, they have winds near the surface of about 200 Miles per hour. It’s conceivable that, 100 years from now, the top-ranking hurricanes will have wind speeds of, say, 220 miles per hour, OK, about a 10 percent increase.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Scary and foreboding as that is, the strength of a hurricane is just part of the picture. A warmer climate means more moisture in the air, and that is leading to more rainfall.

    RADLEY HORTON: Even if the hurricane strengths stay the same, we will probably see more rainfall in those hurricanes in the future, because the upper oceans are going to be warmer, because that warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture. That means that, even if the storm strength is the same, you will probably see a little more rainfall occurring during those powerful hurricanes.

    KERRY EMANUEL: We’re very confident that freshwater flooding will become more problematic as the climate warms, freshwater flooding in particular from hurricanes.

    Models show that. It’s a very simple theory. That’s a big worry.

    MARSHALL SHEPHERD: We’re seeing quite a bit of urban flooding around the world, and particularly in this country, many of our storm water management and built environment infrastructure is developed for what I call the 1950s rainstorm.

    MILES O’BRIEN: We have built our civilization right to the edge of safety for a very specific, and until recently, very stable climate.

    MARSHALL SHEPHERD: There’s something called stationarity. And what that essentially means is that storm water management, roads, building design, built infrastructure, assume that the intensity of rainfall would basically stay the same forever.

    And what we’re seeing in the scientific literature is that the most intense rainstorms are now more intense, and this overwhelms that built infrastructure.

    Going forward, I think the built environment infrastructure planning, engineering communities will have to increasingly consider these weather and climatic changes in their design.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This is going to happen quickly. That’s what I’m signing today.

    MILES O’BRIEN: But 10 days before Harvey hit Houston, the Trump administration moved in the opposite direction, overturning an Obama era rule that federal projects be designed to account for the risk posed by climate change.

    And yet the data is clear: There will be more events like this to follow.

    RADLEY HORTON: We see that when those climate models are run in the future, with those higher greenhouse gas concentrations, we see more extreme events of certain types, more heat waves, more heavy rain events and more frequent coastal flooding.

    KERRY EMANUEL: We’re inside the experiment. It’s the largest experiment we have ever done on the Earth system, for sure.

    MILES O’BRIEN: We produced that story in conjunction with PBS NOVA and the online weather app MyRadar, part of an upcoming series on the link between weather and climate.

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    MILES O’BRIEN: President Trump turned his focus to the hurricane victims today. He’d talked a lot about the recovery effort and the federal response during his visit to Texas yesterday.

    Today, he was in Springfield, Missouri. The subject was tax reform, but he made a point of circling back to the ravages of Harvey.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: To those Americans who have lost loved ones, all of America is grieving with you, and our hearts are joined with yours forever.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Mr. Trump plans to return to Texas and possibly Louisiana on Saturday.

    In other news: The president and his secretary of defense gave out mixed signals after North Korea fired a missile over Japan on Tuesday. Mr. Trump appeared to dismiss diplomatic efforts, with a tweet that said, “Talking is not the answer.”

    But Secretary of Defense James Mattis said just the opposite a short time later, as he met with his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon.

    JAMES MATTIS, Secretary of Defense: No, we’re never out of diplomatic solutions. We continue to work together. And the minister and I share a responsibility to provide for the protection of our nations, our populations and our interests, which is what we are here to discuss today.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Meanwhile, the Pentagon released footage of a missile defense test today off Hawaii. It said the U.S. Navy successfully shot down a medium-range ballistic missile.

    The Pentagon is calling in a panel of experts to study the issue of transgender troops. Secretary Mattis says he wants recommendations on whether those already serving should be allowed to remain in the ranks. President Trump has left their fate to Mattis to decide, but he’s ordered a ban on recruiting any new transgender troops.

    The U.N.’s human rights chief warned the president today to stop attacking journalists. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein spoke in Geneva. He said it’s dangerous for Mr. Trump to brand news organizations fake and single out individual reporters.

    ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN, UN Human Rights High Commissioner: Is this not an incitement for others to attack journalists? And let’s assume a journalist is harmed from one of these organizations. Does the president then not bear responsibility for this, for having fanned this?

    MILES O’BRIEN: Al-Hussein also called on Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro to stop violating human rights and crushing dissent. He said the country’s democracy is only barely alive.

    The Russian government confirms that it received an e-mail from President Trump’s personal lawyer during the 2016 campaign about a business deal. Michael Cohen was pushing for plans for a Trump Tower property in Moscow. A Kremlin spokesman said today that Moscow didn’t reply to the e-mail.

    In Myanmar, some 18,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh in the last week. The U.N.’s International Security Organization for Migration reported today they’re fleeing attacks by government troops. It’s the latest conflict between the minority Rohingya and the country’s Buddhist majority.

    RAFIKA BEGUM, Rohingya Refugee (through interpreter): In Myanmar, they are killing us. They burn our houses, killing Muslims. Because of that, we have come here. They rounded us up with helicopters, looted our belongings, chased and killing our men. They killed many people, so we came here.

    MILES O’BRIEN: In response, hundreds of Buddhist nationalists called for a crackdown at a rally in the capital city of Yangon today. They say Rohingya militants started the trouble.

    More than one-and-three-quarter million Muslims began the hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, today. They came from around the world to circle the Kaaba, tracing the footsteps of the Prophet Mohammed. It’s the start of five days of rituals. The Saudi government has a security force of 100,000 in place to guard against violence or a deadly stampede, like the one that killed thousands in 2015.

    The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first gene therapy for use in the U.S. against childhood leukemia. It was developed by Novartis and the University of Pennsylvania, and alters a patient’s own white blood cells to identify, modify and kill cancer cells. Novartis says the treatment will cost $475,000.

    In economic news, the Trump White House has blocked a rule that employers report payroll data by gender and race. It would have taken effect next March. Business groups lobbied for rescinding the mandate. They said it would do little to address wage gaps.

    On Wall Street, stocks moved higher on news that second-quarter growth was the best in two years. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 27 points to close at 21892. The Nasdaq rose 66 points, and the S&P 500 added 11.

    And they painted the town red today in Bunol, Spain, literally. More than 20,000 revelers hurled 160 tons of tomatoes at each other, in one of the world’s epic food fights. The famed Tomatina festival is what it’s called. Afterward, crews hosed down the streets. The event began in 1945, when the first tomato fight broke out among local children.

    And that’s your “ketchup” on the news.

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    MILES O’BRIEN: Harvey has strained the health care system in Houston as well.

    Aside from attending to the injured, there are also lifesaving treatments need by patients with chronic diseases.

    One of those is dialysis.

    Tomeka Weatherspoon from Houston Public Media visited the DaVita Medical Center Dialysis facility and filled me in a little while ago.

    Tomeka, thank you for being with us.

    First off, just give us an idea of how many people we’re talking about here.

    TOMEKA WEATHERSPOON, Houston Public Media: Well, when we arrived, there were upwards of at least 100 people in the clinic.

    When I was talking to some of the volunteers and the staff there, they were saying they had seen hundreds, hundreds who had come in during the storm. They were only closed for one day, and that’s just because Sunday was horrific for anybody trying to travel.

    But other than that, they have been open and they have been seeing patients and getting quite a bit of overflow.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Try to give us an idea of how serious this problem is, Tomeka.

    If someone misses a dialysis appointment, that’s a big deal, isn’t it?

    TOMEKA WEATHERSPOON: It’s a huge deal.

    Honestly, if you miss an appointment, these treatments are regularly and scheduled for a reason. It’s deadly. It’s potentially deadly, potentially fatal if you don’t receive these treatments.

    Dialysis itself is to clean out the blood. So, certain types of liver and kidney diseases, they’re unable to do that. So it’s really critical that they’re able to get these treatments.

    I talked to a doctor, Dr. Olivero, at the clinic. And he was just telling me how his staff is working nonstop pretty much to administer these treatments to all of these people.

    DR. JUAN OLIVERO, Medical Director, Medical Center Dialysis: What is an inconvenience for many people, having these types of storms, it can be a matter of life and death to these dialysis patients.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Tomeka, I know you have had chance to talk to some patients. How are they coping?

    TOMEKA WEATHERSPOON: It was really difficult, actually, to be in the clinic.

    There were a lot of people waiting for this lifesaving treatment. And just the distance people had to come to get there, it’s really — it’s really, really tough to kind of witness that.

    But the patients I was able to speak with were really optimistic and really grateful to have a clinic that was actually open when their local clinic had been closed due to all of the flooding and just difficulty with traveling.

    I talked to a patient while she was receiving treatment. Her name was Debrah Payne, and she was just really happy to still be alive.

    DEBRAH PAYNE, Dialysis Patient: I was afraid. I just — I didn’t know what I was going to do.

    And I’m sure all the other people who couldn’t make it who know that they have to do this to survive were concerned about whether they were going to make it here or not.

    MILES O’BRIEN: This has to be a huge strain on the hospital staffs. Give us sense of how they’re coping.

    TOMEKA WEATHERSPOON: Well, they’re being really optimistic, much like some of the people, the patients that I spoke with.

    They were really passionate, and really, really cared about helping everyone that was there. But they were still working incredibly long hours. And, honestly, you can see them a little bit tired. You can kind of see it in their eyes.

    But they really cared about what they were doing. They were understaffed, and, you know, had not as much resources as they probably need. But they were just really, really passionate about helping everyone that was there.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Tomeka Weatherspoon with Houston Public Media, thank you.

    TOMEKA WEATHERSPOON: Thank you.

    MILES O’BRIEN: A reminder that, if you’re looking to give to Harvey relief efforts, you can donate to a number of groups working on the ground.

    Organizations, including the Red Cross, are accepting donations online or by phone.

    The post For Houston dialysis patients, getting treatment during the disaster means life or death appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MILES O’BRIEN: The record-setting flood has, of course, forced tens of thousands from their homes and into shelters.

    Our P.J. Tobia has been talking to some of those displaced in Houston today.

    P.J., this is a new shelter. Just describe the scene there for us.

    P.J. TOBIA: Yes, sure, Miles.

    This is the NRG Center. It’s a massive convention center and meeting hall in Southwest Houston. It has the capacity for 10,000 people. It has 900 evacuees in there right now. They are expecting 1,500 more evacuees sometimes later tonight.

    When the doors opened last night and again this morning, some 3,000 Houstonians turned out to volunteer, to pitch in some way. Obviously, that was far more than they needed. But one man was kept around. His services were definitely required.

    JOHNNY MANDOLA: We try and volunteer, give away food whenever we can. And I don’t own a boat. There’s nothing I can do watching on TV. But what we can do is help feed all these people inside.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Obviously performing a very important task.

    But give us a sense about all the other things those folks behind you need. Are they getting what they need?

    P.J. TOBIA: Oh, absolutely.

    As you walk in right behind me, there’s tables and tables and tables of food, toiletries, bedding, pretty much everything you could need. And there is a lot of need here. We spoke with one woman who is here with her seven children at the shelter tonight.

    NARCEDALIA OSORIO: You know, they know that we have no house, lost everything. It is, for me — because I say, OK, baby, we’re OK. We’re together. And everything — we’re going to get back everything, but not even with — sad. They are sad.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Do you have a sense, P.J., of where most of these people are coming from?

    P.J. TOBIA: Sure.

    First of all, of course, they’re coming from all around Houston and the broader region. The George R. Brown Center was another large venue in town that was filled to capacity some time yesterday.

    So, they opened up this one. Some of these people are coming from primary evacuation centers, so they’re plucked from their house by boat or by car and taken to a local school or mosque or church. And then they’re brought to a place like this.

    One woman we spoke with was actually evacuated twice, once when her home was inundated with six feet of water. She then escaped and was evacuated to her sister’s home, which then was put under mandatory evacuation when a chemical plant in her neighborhood had flooded.

    SANDEISHYA LADAY: Basically, I just took all four of my children. I couldn’t take no clothes or anything. My mom was able to grab like her breathing machine and like all her medicines that she needed. We took maybe like one pair of clothes, which is what we had on.

    P.J. TOBIA: Folks who are getting ready to bed down here for the night are looking forward to moving on from here, although they’re not sure exactly when that is going to be able to happen.

    And there are still many more people coming here. As I said, earlier, we were driving around town today and just saw whole neighborhoods completely flooded, still very much inundated with water — Miles.

    MILES O’BRIEN: It’s a very long road ahead.

    P.J. Tobia in Houston, thank you very much.

    P.J. TOBIA: Thank you.

    The post How Harvey evacuees are coping in shelters appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Bad information shared on social media is causing unnecessary panic among the public and costing first responders valuable time, Officer Haley Morrow of the Beaumont Police told PBS NewsHour’s Miles O’Brien.

    When asked what the public could do to help with recovery efforts, Morrow said that making sure you only share information from official accounts or from local media could help combat this proliferation of fake news. Haley said that citizens “flood our 911 operations center when they hear something or see something on social media, like that the city was going to shut off water or electricity.” Those false reports tie up 911 lines and can hinder active rescue efforts, Morrow explained.

    For more on Harvey’s devastation and how you can help people who have been affected by the storm, read our guide.

    The post Fake news reports are hindering the emergency response to Harvey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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