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- 09/01/17--04:44: Authorities on alert for fraud after Hurricane Harvey
- 09/01/17--06:57: White House to ask for $5.9 billion for Harvey recovery aid
- 09/01/17--07:15: After Harvey, telemedicine connects doctors to displaced patients
- 09/01/17--08:47: WATCH LIVE: Jeff Sessions meets with law enforcement in Alabama
- 09/01/17--08:59: Vehicles rush Texas gas stations as supplies dwindle after Harvey
- 09/01/17--09:52: Kenya Supreme Court declares presidential election results invalid
- 09/01/17--10:37: As Trump’s decision on DACA looms, ‘Dreamers’ wonder what’s next
- 09/01/17--10:54: U.S. bans Americans from traveling to North Korea
- 09/01/17--11:48: Mueller team has draft letter on Comey firing
- 09/01/17--11:56: 360 video of a rescue from the floodwaters in Houston
- 09/01/17--12:41: Jobs grade for August: a ‘mild disappointment’
- Go-to disaster funding: The federal government funds most disaster recoveries through its Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), a program that agencies can use for disaster response throughout the year.
- Bigger money: But some disasters are much larger — and require costlier recovery efforts — than the relief fund can handle. In those cases, Congress can consider a special, emergency spending bill called a “supplemental” spending bill.
- Hurricanes have prompted most supplemental spending: Hurricanes have received the largest number of such spending bills. In the past 16 years, 11 hurricanes have triggered emergency funding bills.
- Less frequent disasters: Other types of disasters have also gotten special spending bills from Washington in the past two decades. They include the 9/11 terror attacks, the 2001 Puget Sound earthquake, wildfires in 2004, floods in 2008 and the 2011 drought.
- Fastest response by Congress: Less than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana in 2005, Congress passed two bills with $60 billion in emergency funding. The Congressional Research Service made a rare, relatively saucy comment about the speed, writing that it was “atypical” especially before “the scope of needs had been fully assessed.”
- Largest response by Congress: Katrina recovery efforts ultimately netted an unprecedented eight different emergency funding bills, passed between 2005 and 2010.
- Slowest response by Congress in recent years: Hurricane Sandy crashed its way up the East Coast during the last days of October and first two days of November in 2012. Congress did not pass an emergency funding bill until the end of January, 2013, enraging lawmakers in the northeast.
- 09/01/17--12:54: GOP ability to dismantle health law expires at month’s end
- 09/01/17--13:52: US diplomats union: Attacks in Cuba caused mild brain injury
WASHINGTON — As high water spreads from Houston through Texas and Louisiana, authorities are bracing for an inevitable wave of fraud and other criminal activity set into motion by Harvey’s punishing rains.
In a warning to those who would seek to defraud the government and people wanting to help or seeking assistance, a dozen federal and state agencies were banding together to investigate and prosecute wrongdoers.
Federal and state officials are warning residents, volunteers and officials in flood zones in Texas and Louisiana they could be targeted by storm-related scams, contract corruption, document fraud, identify theft and other crimes. They emphasize that the easy availability of personal information and documents on the internet has widened criminal activities and potential victims to anywhere in the U.S.
“Protect yourself and your wallet from unscrupulous operators,” warned a new flyer by the Texas attorney general, whose office had received nearly 700 complaints by late Wednesday. Most alleged price gouging but a few reported fraud, said Kayleigh Lovvorn, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
A disaster-related task force headed by Justice Department officials and other authorities has operated since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It has arrested and prosecuted defendants for disaster-related crimes, including more than 1,460 in connection with crimes associated with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Those prosecutions, between 2005 and 2011, targeted defendants in 49 federal districts across the country — a clear indication that criminal activities spawned by Harvey could originate anywhere.
“We recognize that much of the fraud may occur in areas far removed from the disaster,” said Corey R. Amundson, the acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana. Amundson is also the executive director of the National Center for Disaster Fraud, the Baton Rouge-based federal task force.
In a sign of the magnitude of fraud anticipated in Harvey’s wake, federal and state law enforcement officials formed a working group to investigate and prosecute illegal activity stemming from the hurricane. Houston-based Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez said storm victims had already suffered devastation and “the last thing that victims of the damage need is to be victimized again.” The relationship, if any, between the new working group and the existing task force wasn’t clear.
After Katrina, many of the task force’s early criminal prosecutions targeted those accused of fraudulently obtaining emergency assistance funds intended to help storm and flood victims. The unit’s scrutiny broadened to people and companies that filed fraudulent home repair and disaster loan applications and also to contract and kickback schemes involving corrupt public officials.
Among officials investigated by the task force were Benjamin L. Edwards Sr., a former New Orleans city sewerage director who pleaded guilty in 2010 to wire fraud and tax evasion for soliciting more than $750,000 in payoffs from hurricane cleanup contractors — and Gregory Brent Warr, the former mayor of Gulfport, Mississippi, who admitted guilt in 2009 for improperly receiving federal disaster funds.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office criticized the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies for loose scrutiny of disaster relief and recovery spending after Katrina. Walt Green, a Baton Rouge lawyer and former U.S. attorney in Baton Rouge, said FEMA and other federal agencies have tightened oversight during recent disasters, but are still overrun after each new disaster with fraudulent addresses, personal information and other spurious documentation.
“Identify fraud is the newest angle,” said Green. “You can find long lists of social security numbers of the dark web and people are purchasing them to use after disasters.”
Green, who led the federal disaster task force between 2013 and last March, said some criminal activity likely spiked even before Harvey’s landfall last week. Green said hurricane-related internet addresses — often with wording stressing storm charity and relief — are quickly purchased in the hours before a hurricane’s landfall. Some web addresses later surface in charity scams that bilk unsuspecting donors or lure viewers to virus-infected sites.
“Without a doubt, charity fraud is going on right now,” Green said.
On Wednesday, the government-funded Multi-State Information Sharing & Analysis Center reported more than 500 domain names associated with Harvey had been registered over the preceding week. The majority of those names, the center reported, used words associated with philanthropy and aid, including “help,” ”relief,” ”donate” and “victims.”
The center warned of “the potential for misinformation” and that “malicious actors are also using social media to post false information or links to malicious websites.”
Four domain names referencing Harvey and the words “relief,” ”fund” and “recovery” were listed for auction on eBay.com earlier this week, starting at $5,000 each. James Streigel, a northern California man who acknowledged offering them for sale, said he had no malicious intent and intended to sell them to the highest bidder. Streigel said his listings also carried notices saying he would donate 20 percent of his earnings to the American Red Cross.
He acknowledged to The Associated Press that he had no way of preventing prospective buyers from using the domain names for criminal activity. “We can’t be sure of anything these days,” Streigel said.
Hours later, an eBay spokesman, Ryan Moore, said the listings had been removed from eBay’s site. “We’ve issued a warning to this seller that these listings violate eBay policy,” Moore said.
The site’s “offensive material policy” prohibits listings that “attempt to profit from human tragedy or suffering, or that are insensitive to victims of such events.”
The post Authorities on alert for fraud after Hurricane Harvey appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — The White House is preparing an initial $5.9 billion package in Harvey aid, a first down payment to ensure recovery efforts over the next few weeks are adequately funded.
The Trump proposal, which is being finalized pending White House consultations with key Republicans, is likely to be just a fraction of an eventual Harvey recovery package that could rival the $100-billion-plus in taxpayer-financed help for victims of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.
A senior administration official said the plan will be sent to Congress on Friday, with House and Senate votes appear likely next week. The official was not authorized to release the information publicly before a final decision is made and spoke on condition of anonymity.
House GOP leaders have signaled they are aiming to act fast on Harvey aid. Larger future installments will be required. But the initial package, to replenish Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster coffers through Sept. 30, shouldn’t be controversial.
FEMA is spending existing disaster aid reserves — just $2.1 billion as of Thursday — at a high rate.
The initial aid money would be a down payment for immediate recovery efforts, to be followed by larger packages later, said White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert. It will take weeks or months to assess the full extent of the damage and need.
“We’ll go up to Congress and give them a sound supplemental request number. We’ll add to it,” Bossert said. “And when we can get a better handle on the damage we can come back with a responsible last, so to speak, supplemental request.”
FEMA pays for immediate shelter costs and can finance home repairs up to $33,000 or so, but other costs such as flood insurance payments, larger housing damage, and state, local, and government buildings promise a major price tag.
Houston Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has already said it could take an aid package of $150 billion to handle the disaster.
Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is the largest disaster the nation has faced, with recovery costs of $110 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 was followed by a $54 billion federal relief effort.
Katrina aid started with a noncontroversial infusion, followed by considerable wrangling between lawmakers from affected states and more budget-conscious lawmakers. Sandy involved a more public battle between lawmakers from Democratic-leaning New York and New Jersey and GOP conservatives, and Northeast lawmakers have taken to social media sites such as Twitter to say “I told you so.”
Another aid installment seems sure to be added to a temporary government funding bill.
Another concern is that the government’s cash reserves are running low since the nation’s debt limit has been reached and the Treasury Department is using accounting measures to cover expenses. Billions of dollars in Harvey aid are an unexpected cost that at least raises the potential that Congress will have to act earlier than expected to increase the government’s borrowing authority.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, said on CNBC Thursday that the debt limit deadline probably won’t change by more than a couple of days, if at all.
Also on tap when the House returns: Fixing a poorly-timed spending bill for next year that actually proposes cutting the very disaster aid reserves that are running low now. A catchall domestic spending bill facing a House vote next week includes, for now, an $876 million cut from FEMA disaster accounts that helps balance the cost of Trump’s $1.6 billion request for the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Republicans say that will change before a vote next week.
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Getting thousands of Houston-area families to shelters has been a massive humanitarian effort. But the aid doesn’t end there: Many of the displaced have chronic medical conditions like asthma or injuries from recent days that need medical attention.
Providers of telemedicine are hoping technology can help step into the breach. At Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, which has begun to take residents displaced by flooding in Houston, emergency-room doctors at Children’s Health, a pediatric hospital based in Dallas, are seeing young patients remotely.
“For every adult that comes in, there will be about three children,” explained Scott Summerall, spokesperson for Children’s Health. “We have doctors for adults available at the shelter 24 hours a day, but we don’t have as many pediatric specialists, especially at night.”
And it’s thanks to a recently passed law that it’s even possible: In May, Texas became the last U.S. state to allow physicians to see patients by telemedicine without an initial in-person visit.
At the Dallas convention center, patients are slowly trickling in, many of them delayed by still-flooded roads. Plans for the “mega-shelter,” however, indicate that could house up to 5,000 people in coming days and weeks.
In preparation for that, Children’s Health has set up a telemedicine station from which ER physicians at the hospital can remotely see children at the shelter, via a computer monitor and specially designed equipment for measuring vital signs. The telemedicine station has been in use since Monday.
“We expect to see a lot of rashes and infections,” said Dr. Stormee Williams, who oversees telemedicine at Children’s Health, and who is working on-site at the shelter.
She added that flood conditions, like mold in flooded homes, can exacerbate conditions such as asthma. In addition, floodwater may carry viruses and bacteria from dead animals, chemicals, and other contaminants that could cause serious health problems in children if they swallowed it.
“There’s also behavioral health issues,” Williams added. “Children are susceptible to anxiety and depression, especially in a time like this. ”
And the Dallas shelter will eventually house a pharmacy, which should enable parents to fill their kids prescriptions on-site.
Dr. Maeve Sheehan, a pediatrician at Children’s Health, is another of the physicians on-site at the convention center. Telemedicine has helped both the medical and nonmedical workers at the site, Sheehan said.
“We have a lot of volunteers here, and people, especially kids, get sick at night. This way they can be in touch with emergency room doctors whenever they need help.”
That, Sheehan said, is a notable improvement over disaster response teams she’s worked on in the past. “We didn’t have telemedicine for Katrina,” she said. “I was on [call] all night. This time, I don’t have to be. Telemedicine makes a big difference.”
Williams said she’s seen an outpouring of support from fellow physicians in the days since the storm hit.
“We have doctors around the country calling in and saying, ‘I use telemedicine. How can I help?’ But because they are laws and rules about who can practice where, unless they have a license in Texas, they can’t do it,” she said.
Still Williams hopes that the Harvey response efforts will be the beginning of telemedicine as a regular part of disaster recovery.
“I’m really excited that we’re doing this,” said Williams. “This is an example of how telemedicine can be used in the most extreme situations, when health care is most needed.”
This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on August 31, 2017. Find the original story here.
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Attorney General Jeff Sessions will speak at the 30th annual Alabama Statewide Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee Conference Friday in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Watch Attorney General Jeff Sessions live starting around noon EST in the player above.
PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.
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Lines of vehicles are winding around fuel stations across Texas amid concern that Harvey’s floodwaters will spawn gasoline shortages in the days and weeks to come.
Hurricane Harvey disrupted refineries and pipeline routes after the storm made landfall Saturday. In the days since, many fuel stations flooded and some remain underwater, while stations that are dry may have run out of gasoline, ABC News reported. Where gas is still available, people are stocking up.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration said on Friday that Hurricane Harvey injected uncertainty into Labor Day gas prices, since the Gulf Coast region is home to roughly half of the nation’s petroleum refineries.
On Thursday, Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry approved the release of 500,000 barrels of crude oil to prevent fuel shortages and a spike in gas prices, the Associated Press reported.
Along the Gulf Coast, 10 refineries in Texas and Louisiana remained closed due to Harvey, the Department of Energy reported, creating a bottleneck to process available stockpiles of crude oil. Many roadways remain impassable for fuel trucks to deliver gasoline to stations, especially in North Texas, CBS News reported.
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WASHINGTON — The FBI’s Hillary Clinton email investigation that ended last year without charges remains a lingering grievance for President Donald Trump, who for months has held it up as an example of a “rigged” criminal justice system that shielded his Democratic opponent from punishment for her private server.
Trump flared up again Friday, tweeting that FBI Director James Comey exonerated Clinton months before the investigation was actually over.
Wow, looks like James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over…and so much more. A rigged system!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 1, 2017
Trump’s tweet was prompted by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s release Thursday of excerpts from interview transcripts involving top FBI officials, including people close to Comey. The interviews were done by investigators from the independent Office of Special Counsel, who were trying to determine if Comey’s actions had violated a federal law that bars government officials from using their positions to influence an election. That investigation was closed following Comey’s firing by Trump in May.
A look at Trump’s claim and the facts:
TRUMP: “Wow, looks like James Comey exonerated Hillary Clinton long before the investigation was over…and so much more. A rigged system!”
THE FACTS: There is some support for Trump’s contention that Comey expected to close out the investigation well before he actually did, but there is more to it. Transcripts released by the Senate Judiciary Committee show that Comey, who had been receiving regular briefings on the investigation, had determined that charges were not warranted months before Clinton and other key witnesses had been interviewed.
The FBI has said it found no evidence that anyone intended to violate laws governing classified materials, which it considered a prerequisite for bringing a case.
But the reality is more complicated, and the Republican committee chairman, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, released only portions of the transcript in support of his assertion that the investigation had been closed prematurely.
In one excerpt, Comey’s chief of staff, Jim Rybicki, told investigators that the FBI director in the spring of 2016 had “emailed a couple folks” with a draft statement he could make about the case. At that point, Rybicki said, Comey knew “the direction the investigation is headed” and proposed a statement he would make at the conclusion of the case.
Drafts of the statement began circulating began well before certain key witnesses were interviewed, including Clinton herself. Clinton was interviewed at FBI headquarters on July 2. The investigation was closed three days later.
Some Republicans seized on the transcripts as proof that the investigation was not sufficiently thorough. Ari Fleischer, press secretary to President George W. Bush, tweeted, “Comey has some explaining to do — otherwise people will conclude his investigation was a sham.”
The FBI confirmed it had received a letter from Grassley asking for records about its internal discussions, but declined to comment further.
But Trump’s tweet overlooks the fact that the FBI never actually closed out the investigation until all of the witnesses were interviewed, which means Comey and his agents could have changed their assessment at any time, if Clinton or anyone else said something incriminating or that invited further scrutiny. The investigation had also been open for about nine months by the time Comey, who had been receiving frequent briefings on it, had begun proposing a statement to wrap it up.
It’s also rather simplistic to say that Comey “exonerated” Clinton. Though he declined to recommend criminal charges, he delivered a public rebuke of her during an unusual news conference in which he chastised her and her aides as “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information.
And Comey did effectively reopen the investigation months later, when the FBI discovered an additional batch of emails tied to the case on a laptop belonging to former Rep. Anthony Weiner, whose wife, top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, has filed for divorce. The public revelation of the emails, coming days before the Nov. 8 election, led to bipartisan criticism that the FBI was inappropriately commenting on an open investigation.
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The Kenyan Supreme Court on Friday declared the country’s presidential elections “null and void” and ordered the election to be reheld within 60 days.
Election results announced last month showed President Uhuru Kenyatta was re-elected with 54 percent of the vote, 1.4 million more votes than opposition candidate Raila Odinga.
The Kenya Supreme Court said those results are no longer valid.
“The election was not conducted within the dictates of the constitution,” Kenya Supreme Court Chief Justice David Maraga said, announcing the court’s decision .
The justices did not explain their decision but promised to issue their reasoning within 21 days.
Odinga, who has called the election process fraudulent, hailed the ruling as a major victory.
“For the first time in the history of African democratization, a ruling has been made by a court, nullifying irregular election of a president,” Odinga said, according to the Washington Post. “It is indeed a very historic day for the people of Kenya, and by extension to the people of the continent of Africa.”
Kenyatta criticized the court’s decision but said he would respect the rule of law.
“Millions of Kenyans queued, made their choice, and six people have decided they will go against the will of the people,” Kenyatta said.
The ruling comes after international observers, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, said the election had been held with few disruptions.
There were “little aberrations here and there,” Kerry said in an interview last month with CNN, but Kenya “put together a process that will allow each and every vote’s integrity to be proven.”
Marietje Schaake, a Dutch Member of the EU Parliament who headed the EU Election Observation Mission, noted there were some problems with insufficient records for voters whose identification could not be verified, but said there were “no signs of centralized or localized manipulation.”
In the wake of the ruling, President Kenyatta called for peace, hoping to avoid a recurrence of the violence that erupted in the days after the election and left eleven people dead.
“We are not at war with our brothers and sisters in the opposition because we are all Kenyans,” Kenyatta said, adding that he is prepared to once again take his message of unity to Kenyan voters.
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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is expected to field questions about a possible decision from President Donald Trump on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as well as ongoing Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts in a Friday news briefing.
Sanders is expected to begin the briefing around 2:30 p.m. ET. Watch live in the player above.
As a candidate, Trump pledged to end the program launched by President Barack Obama in 2012, which allows undocumented immigrants who enter the U.S. as children to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. When asked about the program by NewsHour’s Lisa Desjardins in February, the president said “the DACA situation is a very, very — it’s a very difficult thing for me, because, you know, I love these kids,” adding he would address the issue with “great heart.”
Attorney generals from 10 states have threatened a lawsuit if Mr. Trump doesn’t end DACA — by Sept. 5. Sanders declined to comment Thursday on when Trump would make a decision, or what the decision might be. Trump told reporters Friday that a decision would come “sometime today or over the weekend.” When asked whether “Dreamers” should be worried, he responded: “We love the dreamers, we love everybody.”
Advisers like Attorney General Jeff Sessions have supported canceling the program. But Trump has received some pushback on both sides of the aisle, including from House Speaker Paul Ryan, who told a Wisconsin radio program Friday that “I actually don’t think he should do that,” speaking about speculation the president would end the program. “I believe that this is something that Congress has to fix.”
— Susan Davis (@DaviSusan) September 1, 2017
PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Clare Cameron stood behind a folding table, stacked with zucchinis, peppers, cabbages and cucumbers, and explained the differences between running a farmer’s market and plant conservation genetics, pausing only to bag produce for customers.
Working on a farm and running the weekly market, she has learned to identify food crops and to care for them, she said. A scientist does laboratory research on plants; at the farm, she said she is “on the ground” with them.
Cameron, a senior, is one of about 700 students at Warren Wilson College, a small school tucked into the Appalachian mountains of western North Carolina. Warren Wilson is a federally designated “work college,” one of a handful of schools at which students help pay for their tuition by working — in the case of Warren Wilson, for at least five hours a week.
The work is an integral part of the curriculum at these colleges. Full-time students are required to work to earn degrees, and their work is evaluated by supervisors, making this approach different from optional programs such as work-study or internships.
The few colleges that follow this model, which has been around for a century, are small: None has more than 2,000 students. And they have been laboring, so to speak, in relative obscurity.
Now the idea of a work college is drawing renewed interest, thanks to rising student debt, skepticism about the financial payoff of a liberal arts education and employer complaints that graduates aren’t prepared for jobs. The fact that work colleges get extra funding under a little-known federal program also hasn’t hurt.
Until last year, there were seven work colleges. Then two more joined their ranks, including a historically black institution, the first to be designated a work college. Now another school, Silver Lake College, has announced plans to apply to the federal government for status as a work college.
“Work colleges are a diamond in the rough; they’ve been hidden all this time in plain sight,” said Nicholas Hartlep, a professor of urban education at Metropolitan State University in Minnesota and co-editor of “The Neoliberal Agenda and the Student Debt Crisis in U.S. Higher Education.” The book includes a chapter Hartlep helped write, which shows that work college students, on average, graduate with less debt than those at private and public four-year universities.
The newest work colleges are Paul Quinn College, a historically black college in Dallas, which is also the nation’s first urban work college, and Bethany Global University, a Christian missionary school in Bloomington, Minnesota. If approved next year, Silver Lake, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, would become the first Catholic work college.
Like many historically black colleges, Paul Quinn has struggled to keep up enrollment. In 2009, the school was down to 167 students, according to Nithya Govindasamy, dean of the work program. The number has rebounded to about 500. Govindasamy credits the work college model, at least in part.
“Anecdotally, what students are looking for in colleges like this … is that most want to have a job when it’s done,” Govindasamy said.
Students get a tuition subsidy of $5,000 per year from the work program, a substantial discount off the annual tuition of nearly $14,500. More than three quarters of Paul Quinn students are from low-income families, and receive Pell grants.
But there’s nothing unusual about Paul Quinn students being interested in getting a job after graduating, and in living the rest of their lives without the burden of student debt.
Slightly more than two thirds of work college alumni said in a survey that their alma maters prepared them for their current jobs, compared to 55 percent of private college graduates and 47 percent of public school graduates, according to the Work Colleges Consortium.
Forty-four percent of students who attended four-year work colleges between 2008 and 2013 had to take out loans, compared to 53 percent at public universities, and 64 percent at private, nonprofit colleges. Work college students borrowed an average $4,634 a year, compared to $6,766 for students at public institutions and $7,366 for those at private institutions.
At Wisconsin’s Silver Lake College, Matt Goff, dean of SLC Works, the school’s work college model, sees another potential boost from his school’s year-old program: fewer dropouts.
Half of all students who quit college do so after their first year, leaving a big problem for tuition-dependent liberal arts colleges in particular. Although Silver Lake’s work program is still too new for its impact on so-called retention rates to be measured, Goff thinks the built-in supervisor-student relationship will help keep students at his school.
“Students are getting a lot more attention from work supervisors, people checking in on a regular basis,” he said. “Relations are a lot deeper, and there’s no student sitting in the background.”
But becoming a work college is not easy.
At 163 years old and with about 1,600 students, Berea College is the oldest and largest work college. President Lyle Roelofs said schools often approach him with interest in developing a work program in order to save money, but find out it’s more complicated than that. For example, they’re not allowed to use students to replace full-time employees. Also, Roelofs said, training supervisors is the “hardest part.”
The Department of Education’s recommended allocation for work colleges for the upcoming fiscal year is, on an institution-by-institution basis, effectively a decrease. At $8.39 million, the amount would be the same as last year, according to a Department of Education spokesman — but that must now be spread among nine schools, instead of seven.
Historically, institutions have used those federal funds to help pay for their work programs, said Robin Taffler, executive director of the Work Colleges Consortium. Work colleges also tend to have what she called “leaner” payrolls than typical, more lavishly staffed universities and colleges.
The work college model is likely to work best at small schools, where it is easier for the supervisor-student relationship to flourish, said Hartlep, who is at work on a book focused on work colleges.
Zui Kumar Reddy, a recent Warren Wilson graduate, underlined the importance of the supervisor-student relationship as she recounted her experience during her work assignment at a mechanic’s garage. The assignment included restoring a 40-year-old motor.
“I was having a miserable time in my first year of college, being far from home and having difficulties with my life,” said Reddy, who is from Bangalore, India. Describing her supervisor, she said, “This 6-foot-4 white guy would tell everyone he was my father.” She referred to him as “my best friend.”
Sitting nearby, Cathy Kramer, vice president for applied learning, said a survey showed that 75 percent of Warren Wilson students decided to stay at the school because of the work program.
“Higher education has been pushing outcomes for the last decade — ‘What is the student getting out of this?’” said Lynn Morton, the college’s president. She noted that some schools have attained outcomes such as an entrée into the workforce through “experiential leaning,” more commonly known as co-op programs. “Work colleges have been doing this all along.”
This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up here for our higher-education newsletter.
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Marco Guajardo starts a new job today that, he said, will provide him with health insurance for the first time. Matias Zubko is set to close on a new house on Wednesday. Roberto Angulo is hoping for a promotion at the electrical company that employs him as he nears his first anniversary there.
All three of them, immigrants in their 20s, now fear those prospects could vaporize in a matter of days. Guajardo, Angulo and Zubko were all brought to the U.S. illegally as children, yet since 2012 they’ve been able to work legally, get access to credit, obtain drivers’ licenses, buy houses and travel around the country. In short, they could achieve a semblance of a normal life.
Now, they may lose their jobs and face deportation.
The Trump administration seems poised to eliminate the immigration program on which the three men have depended. Called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the program has allowed almost 800,000 young immigrants to receive renewable work permits. But as an executive order from President Barack Obama — announced after his administration’s failure to pass the DREAM Act, which would’ve enshrined the protections in law — it can be reversed with the swipe of a presidential pen.
Trump has shown some hesitation to undo the order, expressing sympathy for those protected by it. But a group of state attorneys general, who view the program as an example of illegal executive overreach, have given him an ultimatum: End DACA by Tuesday or defend it before a judge who blocked a similar program in 2014 that would have protected undocumented parents.
An announcement could come as soon as today. Trump could cancel all of DACA’s provisions on the spot, though a February draft order that circulated in the administration suggests he may phase out the program in stages. Under that plan, 1,000 immigrants a day would lose their work authorizations and deportation protections until none are left.
ProPublica spoke on Thursday with more than a dozen people helped by DACA whose work permits expire as soon as a month from today and as far out as August 2019. They expressed a combination of dread and uncertainty, describing plans aborted, a terror of deportation they hadn’t felt in years, and anxiety that their lives are about to be upended.
The potential change is forcing them to make decisions they didn’t expect to have to make. “Should we buy this house?” asked Zubko, a 28-year-old Argentinian whose wife is also protected by DACA, of the purchase he was about to make. “We got a loan,” he said. “We both have good paying jobs. And last year we had a baby and she’s an American citizen. But if DACA gets taken away, we’re not sure we’d be able to close on the house and that’s scary.”
Such concerns are widespread. Two immigrants said they’re frightened that losing their jobs means their homes will be taken away in foreclosures. One said she didn’t know whether to renew her lease. Another said she would drop out of school: Why study to be a teacher if no one will be able to employ you?
“I don’t know what would happen to my 401(k) or my taxes or my lease,” said Nathali Bertran, an engineer in Honda’s research and development division. A native of Peru, Bertran helped create DACA Time, a website that allows immigrants to prepare their applications digitally.
As for Angulo, the man nearing his one-year anniversary at the electrical company, his work permit expires on October 6. Angulo renewed his Mexican passport last week — just in case. On Wednesday, he emailed his company’s human resources department wondering if they could sponsor him for an employment visa. He hasn’t heard back yet.
“It feels like I just went from being able to look at the stars and shoot for them to all of a sudden getting dragged down,” he said, “like if someone put cement blocks on your feet.”
For Guajardo’s part, his new job — and his health insurance — may turn out to be temporary. Before DACA was implemented, he lived near the Mexican border and had never left his town, scared of what would happen if he encountered one of the dozens of immigration checkpoints that the Border Patrol operates along the border.
“Now I’ve traveled all around the country,” he said. “DACA changed my life completely, from being stuck in a little town, to going to my favorite university, to getting a great job and exploring new places.”
When DACA was created in 2012, only four states allowed undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses, and that list didn’t include Texas or California, where the majority of DACA recipients live.
“To have a driver’s license is a tremendous thing,” said Ken Schmitt, an immigration lawyer who has helped file hundreds of DACA applications. “In the past, one way ICE got people into removal proceedings was after they were pulled over by police,” he said, referring to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. “They would arrest them for driving without a license and then turn them over to ICE.”
Barclay’s livelihood depends on his commercial driver’s license. A 25-year-old immigrant from Guyana, he drives a truck in New York, where, should he lose his legal status, he would no longer be eligible for a license.
“The only thing that I can do now is honestly to work as much as I can, basically get no sleep until that day,” Barclay said. “Once my work permit expires, I still have to pay rent, eat and live and that money won’t be building anymore, just depleting every single day. I can’t even fathom this right now.”
Applying for DACA costs $485 every two years, excluding attorney fees. At any given moment, there are around 100,000 applications and renewals pending, according to statistics from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the program. Steve Blando, a USCIS spokesman said on Thursday evening the agency was still accepting and processing DACA applications.
Carlos Garcia is worried not only about losing his job but also that the government will try to deport him and his wife, who is not shielded by DACA. His work permit expires on Dec. 3 and his renewal is pending. After obtaining DACA privileges, he had started a job as an IT help desk technician and moved up to become a server administrator.
“No matter what the administration says, it’s open season on immigrants now,” Garcia said. “It’s easy to find us.”
DACA applicants feel particularly nervous because applying for the program meant they voluntarily revealed information to the government, including where they live. They also submit new portrait photographs of themselves every two years and provide details such as their height, weight, and eye and hair colors. A large number have also provided copies of their birth certificates, which identify their parents by name.
Alan Torres, a 31-year-old Mexican immigrant, experienced firsthand what happens when DACA protections lapse. A few years ago, his new work permit did not arrive before his old one expired. His company told him he’d have to take a leave of absence.
Indeed, Torres’s career wouldn’t have been possible without the program. He has a degree in information systems but when he started college he thought he might never be able to work in his field. Said Torres: “If I had graduated without DACA I would still be working in the restaurant industry.”
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WASHINGTON — A U.S. prohibition on Americans traveling to North Korea has taken effect.
The ban makes U.S. passports invalid for travel to North Korea and allows the State Department to revoke the passport of anyone who flouts the ban. It was announced in July and kicked in Friday.
Only those granted “extremely limited” exceptions are exempt. The State Department says applicants must prove their trip is in the U.S. national interest. That could include journalists and aid or humanitarian workers.
The State Department says applicants must submit a statement explaining why the trip serves the national interest, along with documentation. Those granted an exception will be given a letter they can use to obtain a Special Validation Passport. It’s valid for just one trip to North Korea.
WASHINGTON — Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of investigators is in possession of a letter drafted by President Donald Trump and an aide, but never sent, that lays out a rationale for firing FBI Director James Comey, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
The letter was written in the days before the May 9 firing of Comey, but was held after objections from the president’s lawyer and others, according to two other people familiar with the process who were not authorized to discuss it publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
On that day, the White House released a different letter announcing Comey’s firing, one signed by Deputy Attorney General Attorney Rod Rosenstein that cited the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation as a basis for Comey’s dismissal.
The earlier letter could serve as key evidence to Mueller’s team, which is now investigating whether Trump fired Comey to impede the FBI investigation into his campaign associates’ ties to Russia. The White House has said Trump was acting on the Justice Department’s recommendation when he fired Comey, though the president said in a television interview days later that he was thinking of “the Russia thing” when he made the move and planned to fire “regardless of recommendation.” The new letter, which was first reported by The New York Times, could provide additional context on Trump’s thinking and motive as he prepared to oust Comey.
The Justice Department turned the letter over to Mueller’s team, according to a person who was not authorized to publicly discuss the situation and spoke on condition of anonymity. A statement from the Justice Department said the department had been fully cooperative with Mueller’s investigation and would continue to do so.
One week after Comey was fired, Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to oversee an investigation into potential coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia. That investigation, which had been overseen by Comey, is also looking into the financial dealings of several Trump associates.
During a May weekend at the president’s New Jersey golf club, Trump asked White House aide Stephen Miller to draft a letter outlining a case for Comey, according to two people familiar with the situation. But the letter, which contained a rationale for the dismissal, was not sent after White House counsel Don McGahn objected, thinking some of its contents were problematic, according to one of the people familiar with the letter.
The Associated Press has not reviewed the letter.
Trump had been fuming about Comey for weeks, upset that he would not say publicly that the president was not under investigation, which Trump said Comey had assured him privately. The eventual letter released explaining Comey’s dismissal contained those claims.
Rosenstein, in a statement to Congress, has said that he learned on May 8 of Trump’s plans to fire Comey, and that he agreed with the decision. He has said that one of his first conversations with Attorney General Jeff Sessions was about the need for new leadership at the FBI.
He wrote a memo to Sessions summarizing his concerns about the FBI director’s performance and said he finalized it the next day and presented it to Sessions. He said he did not intend for his memo to be a “statement of reasons to justify a for-cause termination,” and said it was “not a survey of FBI morale or performance.”
Miller, the firebrand aide who helped design Trump’s travel ban and hardline immigration policies, had become a trusted adviser to the president during the campaign and remained in his inner circle even after fellow nationalist and chief strategist Steve Bannon began to fall from the president’s favor.
Instead of using the directive Miller penned, a separate letter written by Rosenstein and focused on Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was sent to the FBI director when he was dismissed.
Monsoon rains and heavy flooding in South Asia have killed upwards of 1,400 people in the past month, affecting 40 million people across the region as communities brace for at least another month of storms.
The floods have destroyed homes, schools and health centers. And heavy rains are expected through at least October, the United Nations said Friday. Oxfam’s latest count put the death toll at 1,453, including 1,170 in India, 143 in Nepal and 140 in Bangladesh.
“While some flooding is normal during the monsoon season, for most of the communities hit this level of flooding is unusual and unheard of,” Oxfam said in a statement.
“The rains this year have been heavier than usual. In some districts the rainfall has been the heaviest in 60 years,” said Valerie Julliand, the resident coordinator of the United Nations in Nepal.
Why? Raman Kumar, Oxfam partnership and capacity development adviser for Asia, told the PBS NewsHour by email that the countries are facing changing and increasingly unpredictable precipitation patterns — “another impact of changing climate,” he said. “More precipitation in less time, as well as in changing geographies in some cases, is surpassing the preparations and coping capacity of the communities.”
Oxfam reported that two-thirds of Bangladesh was underwater, and some areas have seen the worst flooding since 1988. In India, monsoon rains caused some buildings to collapse and have breached dams, threatening villages with flooding. Train service was interrupted and flights cancelled in Mumbai.
Those who have survived are in need of health services and food. Longer term, “people’s greatest need — beyond the humanitarian ones — is to have the certainty that whatever livelihoods and life they rebuild are not going to be lost again in tomorrow or next year’s floods,” Julliand said. They’ve been displaced from their homes, and in many cases have completely lost their crops and livestock. They want sturdier embankments to hold back rivers, and access to jobs and income-generating activities, she said. “If employed, people’s resilience multiply a hundredfold.”
Across the monsoon-affected areas in the three countries, at least 18,000 schools were damaged or destroyed, Save the Children estimated. Other schools are being used as shelters, so in all, about 1.8 million children cannot go to classes, the group said.
“School is the absolute best place for children to be, acting as a protection mechanism against things like child labor, early marriage and child trafficking, which can occur in times of emergencies like floods, when poor communities are pushed to the brink,” said Mark Pierce, Save the Children’s country director in Bangladesh. “School also supports children’s emotional recovery, providing a sense of normality and routine and a place to be with their peers,” making it just as urgent of a need as shelter, water and food.
“While the majority of deaths in the floods are men (over 60 percent), the situation of women and girls is especially grim in the affected communities,” Kumar said. “The groups with special needs include women, girls, children, elderly, people with different abilities, single women and women-headed households as such groups have specific needs including hygiene, privacy and protection. There are reports of gender-based violence coming from some communities.
“Recovery will be only possible through a joint effort from international agencies and local population, where the needs of the most vulnerable population are at the very center,” he added.
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Brothers Brad and Adam Morris bought a five-ton truck on Craigslist to help with rescues in Houston.
By Tuesday night, the brothers were in Houston, along with David Couch, their brother-in-law, to help pull people out of the floodwaters and transport them back to their homes to recover emergency items. The truck has helped rescue people from flooded homes, and helped victims retrieve important items like baby gear and identification documents.
The brothers worked with local law enforcement, driving through five-foot-high water to rescue people and pets, including pit bulls, cats, parakeets and hedgehogs.
Asked about their motivation, Brad Morris said he couldn’t sit around just watching people suffer. “It’s that Texas pride, I guess.”
Watch more in the video above, and read the full story here.
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The U.S. economy added 156,000 jobs in August, slightly below what economists had predicted. So says the August jobs report, released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A bit more concerning: job numbers for June and July were revised down by 41,000 jobs. In short, not the kind of rosy report we’ve been getting used to in recent months, and the reason the unemployment rate ticked up from 4.3 percent in July to 4.4 percent.
The other negative: Average hourly wages barely budged last month, rising a minuscule 0.1 percent. It’s just one month, so not to panic, but if wage growth were to remain flat in coming months, workers will actually be losing ground to inflation. As it is, wages have risen just 2.5 percent in the past year, barely keeping pace with the cost of living, part of a long-term trend that has dispirited so much of the labor force.
One of our go-to economists, Justin Wolfers of the University of Michigan, singled out the weak wage growth in a Tweet this morning:
Wage growth remains stubbornly weak: Only 2.5% over the past year. That still suggests the Fed will continue under shooting inflation target
— Justin Wolfers (@JustinWolfers) September 1, 2017
We also like to see what Jared Bernstein has to say. Bernstein, a former chief economic adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, pointed to the wage growth issue as well.
Don’t freak out over slightly weaker-than-expected report, but do worry about why wage growth remains so unresponsive to tighter job market. pic.twitter.com/ILs5pMjBmt
— Jared Bernstein (@econjared) September 1, 2017
In a blog post, Bernstein wrote that the economy still has room to add more jobs, a factor that could be suppressing wage growth.
“Wage growth has been uncharacteristically unresponsive to persistently low unemployment,” Bernstein wrote. He added, “hourly wages can’t catch a buzz.”
While the economy added fewer jobs than expected in August, several sectors showed signs of growth.
Manufacturing jobs increased by 36,000 last month, led by gains in the auto industry, metal fabrication and computer and electronic products. Overall, the sector has added 155,000 jobs since last November, despite the frequent forecasts of manufacturing’s demise. Perhaps, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of manufacturing’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
The construction industry also added 28,000 jobs, a break from the previous five months, when job growth in construction remained relatively flat.
Jobs in mining increased by 7,000, another sign of the industry’s revival under President Donald Trump, who campaigned on a promise to create new jobs in mining and manufacturing, and has focused on the industries since taking office.
Yet despite modest gains in these sectors, the overall labor participation rate in August remained stuck at the historically low level of 62.9 percent.
And though the official unemployment rate is now 4.4 percent — some seven million Americans — it does not reflect the much larger pool of people still struggling to find full-time work: more than five million part-timers who say they want full-time work and nearly six million more Americans who say they want a job but are considered out of the labor force entirely because they haven’t been looking for work.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a more inclusive measure of unemployment and underemployment, “U-6.” It stood at 8.6 percent in August.
The most inclusive measure we know of is the one we have calculated for years here at Making Sen$e. We call it U-7. Based on our NewsHour analysis of employment figures and including everyone who says they want full-time work but can’t find it, the total stands above 18 million, or 10.9 percent of the workforce (adding back in those who haven’t been looking).
That’s up from last month’s 10.6 percent. Let’s not forget that when we inaugurated U-7, not too long after the crash of ‘08, the number stood above 18 percent. But it is a little unsettling to see U-7 rise, if ever so slightly, after its steady progress in the right direction for ever so long.
All disasters — wildfires, earthquakes, pandemics, terror attacks, and of course, hurricanes — cause upheaval and loss. But not all receive special emergency federal funding.
As Hurricane Harvey continues wreaking havoc on the Houston region, here is a quick look at what we know about government spending on natural disasters, an increasingly controversial topic.
What can we expect for Harvey? Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert said at a Thursday news briefing at the White House that the administration was putting together a “responsible supplemental request” for Congress, one that was clean, “separate and distinct from the debt ceiling” debate, though he noted that it hinged on Congress submitting a “responsible budget.” He said they’d likely return later with a second, and possibly a third, supplemental request.
Early requests will focus on replenishing the disaster relief fund and other ancillary needs like road repair, Bossert said. The Associated Press reported Friday that Trump was preparing to file an initial request for $5.9 billion, as a “down payment to ensure recovery efforts over the next few weeks are adequately funded.”
Is there enough funding for that? “I’m not worried at all that we don’t have enough money for the operations underway, and the operations we foresee in the next month,” Bossert said.
The post How the U.S. funds disaster recovery and what it means for Harvey relief appeared first on PBS NewsHour.
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans will soon run out of time to rely on the barest of their majority to dismantle the Obama health law.
The Senate parliamentarian has determined that rules governing the effort will expire when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, according to independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. The rules allow Republicans to dismantle the Obama health care law with just 51 votes, avoiding a filibuster.
“Today’s determination by the Senate parliamentarian is a major victory for the American people and everyone who fought against President Trump’s attempt to take away health care from up to 32 million people,” Sanders said in a statement. Sanders heads up Democrats on the budget panel and took the lead in the arcane arguments before the parliamentarian, who acts as the Senate’s nonpartisan referee.
Republicans control the Senate 52-48 and were using the special filibuster-proof process in the face of unified Democratic opposition. Now, if Republicans can’t revive the repeal measure in the next four weeks, they will be forced to work with Democrats to change it.
Senate Republicans pulled the plug on their Obamacare repeal effort in July, after falling short in a key vote. It has languished since, despite President Donald Trump’s call for senators to keep trying.
The ruling by Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough is likely the final nail in the coffin, since it means Republicans would have to revive the effort and wrap it up in just a few weeks. Congress returns to Washington next week to face a packed agenda including Hurricane aid, a temporary government-wide funding bill, and raising the government’s borrowing cap to prevent a default on U.S. payments and obligations.
The bitter battle, and struggle among Republicans, over health care consumed the early months of Trump’s presidency. Now, the administration and its allies in Congress are eager to turn the focus to overhauling the tax code.
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The British folk song, “The Old Churchyard,” performed here by the Portland band The Decemberists and English singer Olivia Chaney at this year’s Newport Folk Fest, is part of a rich, oral tradition passed along by musicians and spanning decades.
In 2002, it was performed by a group called Waterson: Carthy, which included the influential English folk singer Martin Carthy, who inspired Offa Rex’s title track, “The Queen of Hearts.” That song became well known, thanks to a version sung by the American folk singer Joan Baez. Carthy was apparently enthralled with the song when he heard it in Washington, D.C. for the 1976 bicentennial celebrations by the Ozarks, Arkansas folk singer Almeda “Granny” Riddle, a regular at the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife as well as the Newport Folk Festival. Sarah Gunning from Eastern Kentucky also recorded a version of the song.
It’s unclear just how far back “The Old Churchyard” goes. It could be centuries. Chaney imagines, as inspiration, how “the first settlers traveled from the British Isles over to America.” Traditions shared across oceans and revived again and again keep folk songs like this alive.
Watch the video above of Olivia Chaney and the Decemberists performing “the Old Churchyard.”
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They started on foot, but as the rains let up, they’re bringing in the cavalry — the horse cavalry, that is.
The Texas Animal Health Commission, a state agency dedicated to protecting livestock and pets from natural disasters and disease, is assisting in Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. They are sending in their official cowboys to wrangle livestock and free trapped pets.
The agency’s cowboy rescuers, known as the Horseback Emergency Response Team, ride horses into disaster areas to aid in animal recovery efforts. Volunteers accompany them, wading into flood waters to rescue strays.
The NewsHour spoke with Thomas Swafford, public information officer for the Austin, Texas-based agency, about what his agency is doing to ensure the safety of pets and livestock amid the intense flooding in the region.
Watch the interview in the video viewer above.
Seventy-four shelters in Texas accept evacuees with pets, while even more animal shelters are evacuating pets to shelters in other states to make room for lost or abandoned pets, according to the agency. For livestock that cannot be moved, the agency recommends owners cut a hole in any fencing to allow animals to seek higher ground. As hard as it may be for owners, these animal rescuers asked they not to stay with their pets in flooding situations, as it increases their chances of being trapped.
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WASHINGTON — American diplomats who served in Cuba have been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury following mysterious, unexplained attacks on their health, the union that represents U.S. diplomats said Friday, in the most detailed account to date of the growing list of symptoms.
In addition to mild TBI — commonly called a concussion— permanent hearing loss has been diagnosed among the 10 diplomats who have met with or spoken to the American Foreign Service Association. The union did not say how many of the 10 had been given either diagnosis, but said other symptoms had included brain swelling, severe headaches, loss of balance and “cognitive disruption.”
The union said in a statement that it “strongly encourages the Department of State and the U.S. Government to do everything possible to provide appropriate care for those affected, and to work to ensure that these incidents cease and are not repeated.”
What transpired in Havana in late 2016 and early 2017 has remained an elusive mystery as U.S. investigators continue looking for a device or other possible cause for what the State Department has described as attacks on diplomats’ health. Early indications from U.S. officials had pointed to a possible covert sonic device, although investigators have not said such a device has been found. The State Department has said it still can’t conclude who was responsible for the attacks.
The confirmation that diplomats suffered traumatic brain injury suggested the attacks caused more serious damage than the hearing-related complaints that were initially reported.
Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, typically results from a bump, jolt or other external force that disrupts normal brain functioning, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Short- and long-term effects can include changes to memory and reasoning, sight and balance, language abilities and emotions.
Not all traumatic brain injuries are the same. Doctors evaluate patients using various clinical metrics such as the Glasgow Coma Scale, in which a numerical score is used to classify TBIs as mild, moderate or severe.
The State Department has said at least 16 Americans associated with the U.S. Embassy in Havana suffered symptoms from attacks. But the U.S. has declined to describe their symptoms or current conditions, other than to say the “incidents” that affected them are no longer occurring.
AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.
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