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

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    Images from NASA’s Terra satellite show the extent of increased water on the ground along the Texas coast between August 20 and August 31. Photo by NASA Earth Observatory/Jesse Allen/LANCE

    As Harvey’s rains push northwards into Kentucky and the nation’s northeast corridor, new photos reveal the extent of flooding the record-breaking storm left behind in the Houston region.

    Satellite images released by NASA and San Francisco-based startup Planet show once-green neighborhoods, farm areas and golf courses inundated by brown flood waters as Harvey’s clouds finally dissipated Thursday.

    NASA rain accumulation data reveal Harvey dumped more than 30 inches of rain on Houston and other areas of east Texas between August 25th and 29th. Mary's Creek at Winding Road -- southeast of Houston -- reported a total of 49.32 inches by Tuesday morning. Photo courtesy NASA JAXA/ Hal Pierce

    NASA rain accumulation data reveal Harvey dumped more than 30 inches of rain on Houston and other areas of east Texas between August 25th and 29th. Mary’s Creek at Winding Road — southeast of Houston — reported a total of 49.32 inches by Tuesday morning. Photo courtesy NASA JAXA/ Hal Pierce

    Harvey — which made landfall in southern Texas as a category 4 storm on August 25 — dumped more than 30 inches of rain on portions of Houston and eastern Texas over a four-day period. Between the increased urban development and already saturated soils, the unprecedented waters had nowhere to go.

    Texas authorities now say the 1-in-1000-year flood event damaged or destroyed more than 156,000 homes, drove thousands to local shelters, and left at least 39 people dead.

    Neighborhoods, parks and a golf course were transformed into a lake as waters overflowed from the Bear and Langham creeks. Before photo, left, taken August 1. After photo, right, taken August 31. Images via www.Planet.com

    Neighborhoods along Buffalo Bayou, on the southwest side of Houston, saw massive flooding. Before photo, left, taken August 1. After photo, right, taken August 31. Images via www.Planet.com

    Floodwaters can be seen on the surface of the West Sam Houston Tollway. Before photo, left, taken August 1. After photo, right, taken August 31. Images via www.Planet.com

    On the north side of Houston, Cypress Creek spilled it’s banks into dozens of neighborhoods. Before photo, left, taken July 31. After photo, right, taken August 31.Images via www.Planet.com

    The post New satellite photos reveal extent of Harvey flooding in Houston appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) attends the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats in Washington, D.C. Photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) will speak at a forum in Italy, capping a busy summer. File photo by Yuri Gripas/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. John McCain, who has spent the congressional recess undergoing treatment for brain cancer, is capping a busy summer of interviews, an Arizona Diamondbacks baseball game and family hikes with a trip to an international forum in Italy.

    McCain, who turned 81 this past week, will speak Saturday at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio in northern Italy, joining Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., at a panel focused on the United States.

    The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee will thank the Italian government and its people for their contribution to global security, including in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as Italy’s role in fight against Islamic State militants, especially in Libya, according to his office.

    The six-term senator has been receiving radiation and chemotherapy for cancer at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. His office said the forum would be his first trip overseas during the current recess.

    McCain underwent surgery in mid-July to remove a 2-inch blood clot in his brain. He announced shortly thereafter that he had been diagnosed with an aggressive tumor called a glioblastoma.

    In a dramatic turn at the end of July, McCain returned to the Senate, where he cast a deciding vote against the Republican health care bill, drawing the wrath of President Donald Trump and conservatives. McCain’s vote scuttled the seven-year effort by the GOP to dismantle much of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

    In an op-ed posted Thursday night by The Washington Post, McCain called for Republicans to work with Democrats. A frequent critic of Trump on some national security issues, McCain criticized the president and offered his view of Republicans’ role.

    “Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct,” McCain wrote.

    “We must respect his authority and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power. And we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation,” he wrote.

    McCain’s office has said the senator will be back in Washington next week when lawmakers return from their break. The senator will be shepherding the annual defense policy bill.

    The post McCain, undergoing cancer treatment, to attend Italy forum appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    The roof of the Russian Consulate building, where smoke was seen coming from earlier, is seen in San Francisco, California, September 1, 2017.  REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach - RC1207623760

    The roof of the Russian Consulate building, where smoke was seen coming from earlier, is seen in San Francisco, California, on September 1, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

    MOSCOW — Russia accused the United States on Friday of a “gross violation of international law” after the Trump administration gave Moscow two days to shutter diplomatic outposts in San Francisco and other American cities.

    As Russian diplomats rushed to meet the Saturday deadline, black smoke was seen billowing out of the chimney at the San Francisco consulate, one of three Russian facilities being forcibly closed. Firefighters, who were turned away by Russian officials when they responded to the scene, said the Russians were burning something in their fireplace.

    In Moscow, the Russian government claimed that U.S. officials were planning to search both the consulate and apartments used by their diplomats on Saturday, though there were no indications from the U.S. suggesting that was the case. The State Department said merely that it planned to “secure and maintain” the properties and that Russia wouldn’t be allowed to use them for “diplomatic, consular, or residential purposes” any longer.

    Still, the Kremlin appeared to be wrestling with how forcefully to react to the U.S. order, the latest in a series of escalating retaliatory measures between the former Cold War foes. President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Russia needs to “think carefully about how we could respond” to one of the thorniest diplomatic confrontations between Washington and Moscow in decades.

    “One does not want to go into a frenzy, because someone has to be reasonable and stop,” Ushakov said.

    The diplomatic machinations came the day after the Trump administration ordered three Russian facilities to close: the San Francisco consulate and trade missions in New York and Washington. The Russian Embassy in Washington is not affected, nor are three other Russian consulates in the U.S., including in New York.

    The Trump administration said the order was retaliation for the Kremlin’s “unwarranted and detrimental” demand last month that the U.S. substantially reduce the size of its diplomatic staff in Russia. But Russia, for its part, justified its call for cuts to U.S. embassy and consular personnel as a reaction to new sanctions the U.S. Congress approved in July.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Moscow would reply with firmness to the forced closure of the diplomatic posts, but needed time to study Washington’s directive and to decide on a response.

    “We will have a tough response to the things that come totally out of the blue to hurt us and are driven solely by the desire to spoil our relations with the United States,” Lavrov said in a televised meeting with students at Russia’s top diplomacy school.

    Despite Russia’s claim the U.S. is violating international law, the Trump administration has defended the closures by citing the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The U.S. has said the 1960s-era pact gives host countries the right to consent to foreign countries establishing consular posts — or not.

    The closures on both U.S. coasts marked perhaps the most drastic diplomatic measure by the United States against Russia since 1986, near the end of the Cold War, when the nuclear-armed powers expelled dozens of each other’s diplomats.

    American officials argued that Russia had no cause for retribution now, noting that Moscow’s ordering of U.S. diplomatic cuts last month was premised on bringing the two countries’ diplomatic presences into “parity.”

    Both countries now maintain three consulates in each other’s territory and ostensibly similar numbers of diplomats. Exact numbers are difficult to independently verify.

    American counterintelligence officials have long kept a watchful eye on Russia’s outpost in San Francisco, concerned that people posted to the consulate as diplomats were engaged in espionage. The U.S. late last year kicked out several Russians posted there, calling it a response to election interference.

    The forced closures are the latest in an intensifying exchange of diplomatic broadsides.

    In December, President Barack Obama kicked out dozens of Russian officials and closed two Russian recreational compounds. Russian President Vladimir Putin withheld from retaliating. The next month, Trump took office after campaigning on promises to improve U.S.-Russia ties.

    But earlier this month, Trump begrudgingly signed into law stepped-up sanctions on Russia that Congress pushed to prevent him from easing up on Moscow. The Kremlin retaliated by telling the U.S. to cut its embassy and consulate staff down to 455 personnel, from a level hundreds higher.

    The U.S. never confirmed how many diplomatic staff it had in the country at the time. As of Thursday, the U.S. has complied with the order to reduce staff to 455, officials said.

    The reductions are having consequences for Russia. The U.S. last month temporarily suspended non-immigrant visa processing for Russians seeking to visit the United States and resumed it Friday at a “much-reduced rate.”

    The U.S. had also said it would stop conducting visa interviews at its Russian consulates, leaving the Embassy in Moscow as the only option. But a State Department cable sent to overseas U.S. diplomatic posts and obtained by The Associated Press on Friday said the U.S. was considering whether, with its reduced footprint, it might be able to resume limited interviews at the three consulates, in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok.

    Even before the cuts at the U.S. mission were announced, typical waiting time for visa applicants in Russia to be interviewed was longer than a month.

    Nadezhda Sianule planned to attend her daughter’s wedding in the United States in mid-September and got an appointment in July to be interviewed Thursday. Now these plans are in disarray.

    “I came yesterday and they said that I’m not on the list. They said that the old lists have been canceled,” Sianule said Friday morning outside the U.S. Embassy.

    Despite the exchange of reprisals, there have been narrow signs of U.S.-Russian cooperation that have transcended the worsening ties. In July, Trump and Putin signed off on a deal with Jordan for a cease-fire in southwest Syria. The U.S. says the truce has largely held.
    ___

    Lederman reported from Washington. AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee contributed to this report, along with Vladimir Isachenkov, Jim Heintz and Ahmad El-Katib in Moscow and Garance Burke in San Francisco.

    The post Russia lashes out after Trump orders diplomatic posts closed appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    MILES O’BRIEN: In the day’s other news, Tropical Storm Lidia in the Pacific battered Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula with heavy wind and rain. Officials reported four deaths. The storm caused flooding as far away as Mexico City, and it could bring rain to the American Southwest.

    Meanwhile, Hurricane Irma is still far out in the Atlantic, with sustained winds of 110 miles an hour.

    More than 50 wildfires are burning across the Western U.S. in one of the worst fire seasons in recent years. One blaze near Oroville in Northern California has destroyed 20 homes and threatens 500 more. Crews have contained about 30 percent of the fire, but they face triple-digit heat. Forecasters warned today that September will remain hot and dry there.

    In Kenya, the Supreme Court today nullified the reelection of President Uhuru Kenyatta. The justices ruled the process was rife with illegal activity, and they ordered a new election within 60 days. Supporters of challenger Raila Odinga celebrated in the streets, and he hailed the decision, while Kenyatta deplored it.

    RAILA ODINGA, Presidential Candidate: This indeed is a very historic day for the people of Kenya, and , by extension, for the people of the continent of Africa.

    PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA, Kenya: I personally disagree with the ruling that has been made today, but I respect it as much as I disagree with it.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Later, Kenyatta charged that crooks on the high court had stolen his victory.

    New evidence tonight that Rohingya Muslims are under assault in mostly Buddhist Myanmar, the former Burma. Thousands have taken refuge in Bangladesh, fleeing new attacks by government troops. Myanmar’s army claims it’s responding to violence by Muslim insurgents.

    Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News reports from the scene.

    JONATHAN MILLER, Independent Television News: The Myanmar military calls these clearance operations, in their hunt for what they say are extremist Muslim terrorists.

    In reality, it’s a scorched-earth policy that’s driving tens of thousands of Rohingya from their homes. They have lived separated from their Buddhist neighbors for decades and denied basic rights, apartheid in all but name.

    Now they’re on the run, stateless, friendless and scared. As the Muslim world celebrates Eid al Adha, the Rohingya are sacrificing their sons, their daughters, their mothers and fathers.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): Vigilantes, soldiers and police surrounded our village. They started shooting at the villagers, men, women, children, even infants. They didn’t spare anyone.

    JONATHAN MILLER: These are the survivors. We have to protect their identities.

    Sittwe is the Rakhine State capital, the Burmese Buddhists’ front line. Here, mosques lie in ruin, boarded up, overgrown, no Friday prayers.

    Eventually, we got in to see a top state official. Muslim terrorists were trying to set up a Islamic State in his country, he said.

    TIN MAUNG SWE, State Executive Secretary: There’s no Rohingya in our country. In our history, there’s no Rohingya, no Rohingya, no Rohingya.

    JONATHAN MILLER: Who are they?

    TIN MAUNG SWE: So, maybe they found some people who came from a foreign country, foreigners. They haven’t any identity.

    JONATHAN MILLER: One-point-one million Rohingya don’t have any identity because the government of Aung San Suu Kyi them all citizenship.

    Under armed guard, some journalists were allowed into the conflict area on a government tour. They witnessed burned villages and some of the 12,000 Myanmar citizens evacuated by the military to protect them from Rohingya insurgents. But this new conflict a very lop-sided war and, as ever, the victims are mostly civilians.

    MILES O’BRIEN: That report from Jonathan Miller of Independent Television News.

    The president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, today condemned U.S. indictments of his security guards. The charges stem from Erdogan’s visit to Washington last May. Cell phone video showed guards and supporters of the Turkish leader attacking demonstrators.

    Today, in Istanbul, Erdogan said they were just protecting him.

    PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter): This, in and of itself, is a scandal. It’s a clear and scandalous expression of how justice works in America. If the security units of the United States of America are not able to fulfill their duties to protect, are my security officials not supposed to fulfill theirs?

    MILES O’BRIEN: There’s no indication that Erdogan’s government will send the suspects back to the U.S. to stand trial.

    President Trump today praised his new chief of staff, John Kelly, despite reports of rising tensions. A Washington Post account said Mr. Trump chafes at Kelly’s efforts to control the flow of information and visitors to the Oval Office. But the president tweeted: “Kelly is doing a great job as chief of staff. I could not be happier or more impressed.”

    The retired Marine general became chief of staff just over a month ago.

    Job growth slowed last month. The Labor Department reports employers added a net of 156,000 jobs for August. The unemployment rate ticked up one-10th of a point to 4.4 percent. Job growth for June and July was revised down by a combined 41,000.

    And on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 39 points to close at 21987. The Nasdaq rose six points, and the S&P 500 added nearly five.

    The post News Wrap: Tropical Storm Lidia batters Mexico appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Find all of our coverage on Hurricane Harvey

    MILES O’BRIEN: We have spent a lot of time covering people who have gone to shelters for aid and relief, but there are a number of immigrants in the Houston community who are nervous about getting that help.

    Today, a controversial law in Texas was set to take effect. It would crack down on so-called sanctuary cities like Houston that don’t always cooperate with federal authorities.

    A federal judge blocked much of the law, but Governor Greg Abbott and the state’s attorney general have vowed to appeal.

    Some immigrants feel targeted.

    The NewsHour’s P.J. Tobia has our report.

    P.J. TOBIA: Holy Ghost Parish, Southwest Houston, six days since Harvey’s landfall, donations are pouring in.

    Damaris Figueroa and a small army of volunteers work round the clock to get the generous bounty of food, clothes and other necessities to a waterlogged and desperate community.

    DAMARIS FIGUEROA, Holy Ghost Church: We have been delivering every few hours, like 150 meals.

    P.J. TOBIA: A big part of her efforts are directed at a group of Houstonians who remain in the shadows, even in this time of great need.

    DAMARIS FIGUEROA: They be sending messages: Please, we’re in this place. We’re under this freeway. We are under this place. Please, can you come help us?

    P.J. TOBIA: They’d rather live under a freeway overpass than go to a shelter run by the city, because they’re so scared?

    DAMARIS FIGUEROA: Yes.

    P.J. TOBIA: One-point-five million undocumented immigrants live in Texas. Nearly 600,000 of them call the Houston area their home. But there’s a real sense of anxiety among Houston’s undocumented immigrant population around immigration raids and deportations. Hurricane Harvey turned that feeling of anxiety into a visceral fear.

    Marta — we agreed not to use her full name or reveal her identity — is also an undocumented immigrant. When her neighborhood flooded, she refused to take her three children to a shelter, for fear she’d be deported.

    MARTA, Undocumented Immigrant (through interpreter): I hear in the news that, in some shelters, people and the police are asking for some fingerprints. That is why I have a lot of fear of going to the shelter and why I decided we don’t need to go.

    P.J. TOBIA: She’d also heard that Border Patrol boats were cruising Houston’s flooded streets, looking for the undocumented.

    MARTA (through interpreter): My biggest fear is being separated from my family.

    CESAR ESPINOSA, Executive Director, FIEL: Number one is the fear factor.

    P.J. TOBIA: Cesar Espinosa runs FIEL, an organization which supports undocumented immigrant families. He said neither of the rumors were true. He spent the past week trying to convince those at risk from the high water to seek shelter.

    CESAR ESPINOSA: During the storm, we were running out of a mobile office out of my mom’s house through cell phones. And half of the calls we were getting were people saying, you know, I might need a shelter. Is it going to be safe for me and my family to go?

    P.J. TOBIA: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner has been unequivocal that shelters are safe for the undocumented.

    SYLVESTER TURNER: There is absolutely no reason why anyone shouldn’t call, OK? And I and others will be the first ones to stand up with you. If you need help and someone comes and they require help and then for some reason that somebody tries to deport them, I will represent them myself.

    P.J. TOBIA: But even as the floodwaters recede, Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the judge’s ruling on the sanctuary cities law makes Texas less safe.

    Mark Krikorian, who heads the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, agrees.

    MARK KRIKORIAN, Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies: Immigration law is an important tool for public safety in a place like Texas. It’s right next to Mexico. You know, most illegal aliens are just ordinary people, but there’s a significant cartel presence there. Cartels use immigrant communities as cover to operate in.

    So, immigration law is not just an important tool. It is an essential tool to promote public safety, especially in a place like Texas.

    P.J. TOBIA: Undocumented immigrants like Manuel Rosario, who have long lived in Houston, now have another worry: how to pay for the long process of recovery.

    Rosario returned to his house in Northeast Houston for the first time to survey the damage.

    MANUEL ROSARIO, Undocumented Immigrant: Oh, my — smell bad.

    P.J. TOBIA: Rosario, along with his son, Darrel, wife and five daughters, barely escaped the storm with their lives.

    DARREL ROSARIO, Houston Resident: So, he had to put on a rope, a yellow rope. The other end, he tied it to a small pool, a purple pool.

    P.J. TOBIA: Like a plastic baby pool?

    DARREL ROSARIO: Yes, a plastic baby pool. And then he put some blankets on the bottom, and then the babies on the top.

    P.J. TOBIA: Wow.

    DARREL ROSARIO: And then the rest of us were behind, and we got out.

    P.J. TOBIA: He and his family are now staying in a shelter at the massive Toyota Center downtown.

    He hasn’t been able to sleep, thinking about all that he’s lost and how he will rebuild.

    MANUEL ROSARIO: Last night, I feeling bad, I think — and my son and my daughter, I think how we can come back to living in this house.

    P.J. TOBIA: Because his son is a U.S. citizen, Rosario will likely qualify for FEMA rebuilding assistance. Many are not so lucky.

    CESAR ESPINOSA: The sad reality, though, is that some of these families are not mixed-status family, meaning that they may all be undocumented. So, in that sense, unfortunately, through the federal funds, there’s not much that can be done.

    P.J. TOBIA: Mark Krikorian thinks that people in the country illegally shouldn’t get recovery money.

    MARK KRIKORIAN: There’s a basic difference between immediate emergency assistance, in other words, pulling people off the roof of a house, giving them water in an emergency, shelter, that kind of thing. That’s appropriate for everybody.

    I mean, that’s, I would say, imperative to apply that to anybody regardless of who they are or anything else. It’s the next stage, the post-emergency assistance that’s funded by my tax money and yours which shouldn’t be going to people who have broken our laws, who shouldn’t even be in the United States.

    P.J. TOBIA: In a statement to NewsHour, FEMA confirmed that undocumented families need one family member who is a citizen and has a Social Security number to apply for disaster assistance.

    No matter who qualifies for government aid, immigrant activists say most flood victims will have to continue to rely on the outpouring of charity from private sources for months to come.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m P.J. Tobia in Houston.

    The post In the wake of Harvey, Houston’s undocumented community faces uncertainty appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Find all of our coverage on Hurricane Harvey

    MILES O’BRIEN: What’s left of Hurricane Harvey is now hundreds of miles away, but the damage in Texas is still piling up. Officials say more than 150,000 homes around Houston were flooded, and some 20,000 could stay that way for days to come. Still, the beginnings of recovery are under way.

    In parts of Southeast Texas, cleanup is now in high gear. People are dumping everything, from furniture to carpeting to clothes, and garbage bags line the streets. Search teams have been going block-by-block, checking thousands of homes, and they hope to be finished by tomorrow.

    But even as the flooding recedes in parts of the city, Mayor Sylvester Turner says it’s not over for others, especially in the western districts. That’s where reservoirs are still releasing water.

    MAYOR SYLVESTER TURNER, Houston: If you have water in your home today, the odds are you’re going to continue to have water in your home over the next 10 to 15 days. And with that being the case, and the stress and the strain that’s been posed on first-responders, as well as your own public safety, I am asking you, I am asking you to leave your homes.

    READ MORE: New satellite photos reveal extent of Harvey flooding in Houston

    MILES O’BRIEN: Out on the Texas coast, the city of Port Arthur also faces more days underwater. Some say it’s still hard to believe.

    MAN: We underestimated it. We didn’t — thought it was going to be this devastating. I mean, I never thought my area would actually be really flooded, like flooded to the point where you actually had to swim out.

    MILES O’BRIEN: The U.S. Coast Guard reports it rescued another 3,000 people across Southeast Texas in the last 48 hours. In the city of Beaumont, with 120,000 people, officials managed today to set up a distribution point for bottled water. That’s after its water pumping station was drowned by a swollen river.

    ANTHONY MCDANIEL, Displaced Resident: We have things that have been neglected, like our flood wall, our pumps. We have no spirit of proactivity.

    MILES O’BRIEN: There were also more reports of gasoline shortages.

    MAN: I’m surprised this is working, which, as you can see, it’s barely dribbling out. But there’s been no gas since the start of the storm. Very difficult, but, again, a little concern compared to what most people are going through.

    MILES O’BRIEN: In Galena Park, Texas, east of Houston, tankers lined up at a fueling depot, hoping to get supplies to gas stations around the state.

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott spoke in Austin this afternoon.

    GOV. GREG ABBOTT, R-Texas: The bottom line is that the state of Texas will have plenty of gasoline showing up at gasoline stations across the state of Texas, so don’t worry. We will not run out. And we will be back into our normal pattern before you know it.

    MILES O’BRIEN: On top of all that, health experts warn that sewage in floodwaters could make people sick, and that mosquito populations will spike in coming weeks.

    In Washington, President Trump received an update on Harvey recovery efforts from disaster relief organizations.

    PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The federal government is on the ground, bringing in significant resources to bear. And I want to assure these organizations, and the others involved, that we will continue to coordinate with them and bring all of the relief and the comfort and everything else that we absolutely can to the Gulf Coast.

    MILES O’BRIEN: And the president is set to visit Texas again tomorrow. He will also go to Louisiana to survey storm damage.

    Meanwhile, what’s left of Harvey continues to wreak havoc in other states. Flooded waterways have driven people from their homes in Tennessee and Kentucky, and tornadoes have spun through Mississippi and Alabama. The storm, now a post-tropical cyclone, is bringing rain bands toward the Ohio Valley.

    Earlier this week, Officer Haley Morrow with the Beaumont Police Department told us a harrowing story of what her community was facing, including how a mother gave her life to save her toddler daughter.

    It’s hard to imagine, but, since we spoke, the situation in Beaumont has only gotten worse.

    Our William Brangham was out with the National Guard and tells us about what he saw.

    William, thank you for being with us.

    Behind you, I see some of the National Guard troops that you were with earlier. Tell us about the mission, what you saw.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Well, we came out today with a group who are principally doing water rescue.

    And they brought in these Mark II boats that are meant to normally build floating bridges, but they have been deploying them all in this area trying to rescue people out of their homes. We went out on the boat, and what they ever trying to do was to rescue one of their colleagues who had been on a prior rescue mission.

    That boat then got pushed by the current. I don’t know if you can see in the background here, but there is a torrent of floodwater receding south trying to get back out to the Gulf. And one of those boats got trapped in a forest. And so we went out to try to get them out.

    We went through. And, basically, we are riding one of these boats where boats are not meant to be. It’s a forest. We are just on the side of the highway. And just to the left of us, you could see all the time highway signs. You could even make out the highway markings.

    But the current of this is so strong that we eventually were able to get this boat out by just ramming it. It was almost like bumper cars. These are very sturdy boats. They bumped this other vehicle out. It got freed. And then, as we tried to get out, we ourselves got trapped. And another vehicle had to come and try to get us out.

    It was a bit of a chaotic scene.

    But I think what it gives you is just a bit of a sense of how chaotic and unpredictable and difficult rescue recovery can be.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Ultimately, William, how did your boat get free?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Well, we’re stick in the forest, and then another boat comes up alongside us. And after banging basically back and forth against trees and branches, we were able — it took about 20, 25 minutes to get ourselves slowly extricated out.

    I mean, you have to imagine putting a boat in the middle of a forest with thousands of gallons of fast-rushing floodwater pressing you against the trees, and you’re trying to navigate in a place that is not a navigable waterway.

    I mean, it was just very, very difficult. Every time we would bang into a tree, sort of a rain of ants would fall down into the boat, and people are getting bitten. It was a fairly hairy scene.

    But, eventually, another boat was able to tie on to us and slowly bang in and drag us out. And we got out.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Yes, multiply that over many hundreds of square miles covered by water, and you get an idea of the challenge that is faced by all these first-responders, and, in this case, National Guard troops.

    Who were you with? Tell us about the crew.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Exactly.

    Well, the National Guard are what we know colloquially as weekend warriors. The guys on our boat were a kid in college, a guy who manages a restaurant, a guy who works in an oil rig. Actually, a journalist at a local news station was also one of the Guardsmen.

    And these guys, when they get the order from the governor, they just drop everything that they’re doing, give up their lives, and come out to serve and try to help their fellow Texans.

    As one of them said to me today, “This is Texans helping Texans.”

    And I said, is it difficult just letting go of your lives? And some of these guys had damage to their own homes, and yet they are here miles away trying to help other people. And I said, do you wish you were back home?

    And he said: “No. My wife knows that, if I were back home, I mentally would still be out on the rescue mission, so it’s better that I’m out here trying to help my colleagues.”

    MILES O’BRIEN: That attitude impresses me so much.

    Do you get the sense, though, that they’re getting weary as time goes on here?

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Not yet.

    I think that the rescue effort is still in its early days. They have not been getting out into these areas for really about a day, a day-and-a-half.

    So, I think until they feel that they have exhausted all the things that they do, because in the end what they’re really trying to do get to places where people might still be trapped that we just don’t know about, people who have lost power, people who have no phones.

    And that is what really driving this whole sense of mission out here.

    MILES O’BRIEN: As you stand there on Interstate 10, I’m reminded of the challenges of just getting around an area that is affected by the flooding after a hurricane.

    Give us a sense of what you experienced just today doing what you needed to do to get to this particular assignment.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Well, we left Houston this morning, and Houston is largely drained. There are still some spots that are wet, but the bulk of downtown Houston is dry. And the city is starting to come back.

    As you come further east here towards the border of Louisiana, you really start to see where the flood has not receded yet. We drove through water constantly. There were roads — we were rerouted three or four different times.

    You would see houses out in the middle of a field completely surrounded by water like a small island sitting out there. We saw longhorn steer drowned on the side of the road. Just a very surreal experience. We saw an armadillo racing away from floodwaters, stray dogs walking around.

    So, just a very eerie scene out there, as this area being a day or two from where Houston is a few days ago.

    MILES O’BRIEN: William Brangham is in Beaumont, Texas. Thank you.

    WILLIAM BRANGHAM: You’re welcome, Miles.

    MILES O’BRIEN: We move now from Beaumont to the neighboring city of Port Arthur, where the conditions remain dire and dangerous.

    I spoke by phone with the city’s police chief, Patrick Melvin, a short time ago.

    Chief Melvin, thank you for being with us. I know you’re extremely busy.

    First of all, just paint the picture of where you are and what you’re doing right now.

    PATRICK MELVIN, Chief, Port Arthur Police Department: Actually, right now, Mr. O’Brien, I’m in one of the neighborhoods that is still immersed in water. I am in about three to five feet of water right now.

    There are still recovery operations, rescue operations going on this particular neighborhood. So, I’m going around through the different command centers that we have within the city of Port Arthur and checking welfare on all the command posts.

    MILES O’BRIEN: So, give us the big picture. How many rescues so far and do you have any idea who else is potentially in need of help right now?

    PATRICK MELVIN: We have had several hundred rescues. We have had a lot of volunteers. We have had the military, the National Guard and different volunteer organizations are helping with the boat rescues, the water rescues.

    We have also had the Coast Guard and the National Guard, specifically Coast Guard, helping with house-type rescues in totally immersed neighborhoods. Most of those are being done, are pretty much complete right now.

    We’re going back now just to second — just to make sure that we have nod missed anyone. Some of our community members are hunkering down. They don’t feel they need to leave at the time from the different neighborhoods. But this particular neighborhood is totally immersed in water and we just want to make sure that we’re leaving no one behind at this time.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Chief, I imagine that is a particular challenge for you when you run into somebody who just wants to hunker down and stay put. What do you tell them?

    PATRICK MELVIN: We express the danger, or the possible danger, and we make sure they have telephone, in case something does change. They can give us a call. This is not the first time they have been involved in some kind of catastrophe like this, but never have we been involved, from what I understand, in this kind of flooding here in Southeast Texas.

    MILES O’BRIEN: What can you tell us about casualties?

    PATRICK MELVIN: We have had some air evacuations to different medical facilities due to the extent of some of the medical challenges that we have had.

    As far as fatalities, the number is relatively low at this time, from what I have been briefed on. I know of one particular we had, gentleman who actually had had a heart attack. However, this situation is nowhere close to being over.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Tell us a little bit about shelters. How many people are in shelters there?

    PATRICK MELVIN: Yes, we have evacuated most of the shelters. We have one shelter that is going on right now. Most people have been evacuated out of the area. And they’re still about 500 to 800 people in the shelters.

    I will let you know also there was a lots of social media news about a levee being broken. That is not true. The levee is in great condition. Our community is not releasing water, but I’m told that there’s other communities around us. However, we will not be affected by those releases.

    MILES O’BRIEN: A final point. As I understand it, you are probably the only place in the region that had a bowling alley as a shelter. Tell us a little bit about that.

    PATRICK MELVIN: We actually took emergency actions. We made entry into this building and took it over, so that we could provide shelter for our residents.

    MILES O’BRIEN: You commandeered a bowling alley, but it was all for a good cause, huh?

    PATRICK MELVIN: Yes, absolutely.

    And we’re really appreciative of the owners and management of that facility, because it if it weren’t for them and their facility, we would have had a lot of displaced residents out there.

    MILES O’BRIEN: Patrick Melvin is the chief of police in Port Arthur, Texas.

    We wish you will. I know you’re still in the middle of it.

    PATRICK MELVIN: Thank you very much, sir. We appreciate it. Keep us in your prayers.

    The post As Harvey clean-up begins, some communities still submerged appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Trump speaks about tax reform during a visit to Loren Cook Company in Springfield

    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about tax reform during a visit to Loren Cook Company in Springfield, Missouri, on Aug. 30, 2017. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has sent lawmakers an initial request for a $7.9 billion down payment toward Harvey relief and recovery efforts.

    The request, expected to be swiftly approved by Congress, would add $7.4 billion to rapidly dwindling Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster aid coffers and $450 million to finance disaster loans for small businesses.

    Republican leaders are already making plans to use the aid package, certain to be overwhelmingly popular, to win speedy approval of a contentious increase in the federal borrowing limit.

    A senior House Republican, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deliberations were private, disclosed the approach. It ignores objections from House conservatives who are insisting that disaster money for Harvey should not be paired with the debt limit increase. Other senior GOP aides cautioned that no final decision had been made, and Democrats, whose votes would be needed in the Senate, have not signed off on the approach.

    For GOP lawmakers who support a straightforward increase in the debt limit, pairing it with Harvey money makes the unpopular vote easier to cast. Congress must act by Sept. 29 to increase the United States’ $19.9 trillion debt limit, in order to permit the government to continue borrowing money to pay bills like Social Security and interest. Failing to raise the debt limit would risk a market-shattering first-ever U.S. default.

    “Look, some members are going to vote against the debt ceiling under any circumstances and they want their ‘no’ vote to be as easy as possible,” said Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa. “The issue is not making the debt ceiling vote easier for the ‘no’ votes. The issue is making it easier for the ‘yes’ votes.”

    [Watch Video]

    The government’s cash reserves are running low since the nation’s debt limit has actually already been reached, and the Treasury Department is using various accounting measures to cover expenses. Billions of dollars in Harvey aid are an unexpected cost that at least raises the potential that Congress would have to act earlier than expected to increase the government’s borrowing authority.

    The House is likely to pass the Harvey aid as a stand-alone bill, but GOP leaders are signaling that the Senate may add the debt increase to it. Then the House would swiftly vote again to send it to Trump. The plan is still tentative, but the White House signaled it’s on board with the idea. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney urged lawmakers in a letter outlining the aid request to “act expeditiously to ensure that the debt ceiling does not affect these critical response and recovery efforts.”

    Meanwhile, despite threats from Trump that he would shut down the government if his U.S.-Mexico border wall is not paid for, lawmakers and aides say the White House has eased off that threat and any fight over the border wall will be delayed until later in the year.

    “I just don’t think a shutdown is in anyone’s interest or needed for anyone’s interests,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in an interview Friday with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

    The initial package of Harvey aid would replenish Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster funds through Sept. 30.

    READ NEXT: Hurricane Harvey leaves Houston with Texas-sized problems

    The initial Harvey package is just the first installment for immediate disaster response like housing assistance, cleanup and FEMA-financed home repairs. The White House says more than 436,000 households have registered for FEMA aid. Estimates for longer-term rebuilding costs will take weeks or month to prepare, but the magnitude of the disaster could rival or exceed the damage from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which cost taxpayers $110 billion.

    An additional $5 billion to $8 billion for Harvey could be tucked into a catch-all spending bill Congress must pass in the coming weeks to fund the government past Sept. 30, according to the senior House Republican. The final rebuilding package would be far larger and is likely by year’s end.

    Ryan said nothing will stop a Harvey aid bill from getting through Congress and he didn’t foresee any problems with it passing, despite opposition to federal aid from some Republicans following Superstorm Sandy.

    “It’s going to take us time until we know the full scope of it,” Ryan said of Harvey’s toll. He said a storm the size of Harvey is unprecedented, and because of that it “deserves and requires federal response.”

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., concurred, issuing a statement Friday night promising that the “Senate stands ready to act quickly” on the measure.

    Associated Press writer Scott Bauer in Madison, Wis., contributed.

    The post AP report: Trump seeks an initial $7.9 billion in Harvey aid appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Protesters gather to show support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, on September 1, 2017. Photo by Kyle Grillot/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — Midday protests. Urgent pleas. Furious campaigning. A president torn.

    President Donald Trump stood at the center of a frantic lobbying campaign Friday as he neared a decision on the fate of hundreds of thousands of young people brought into the country illegally as children.

    After months of dragging his feet, the president on Tuesday will announce his plans for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has given nearly 800,000 young immigrants the ability to work legally in the country and a reprieve from deportation.

    Despite his fiery pledges during the presidential campaign to end the program, Trump has spent the last week mulling his choices, going over his options again and again, according to several people with knowledge of the deliberations. The people spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss private conversations.

    “I think that this isn’t a decision that the president takes lightly and he’s taking time and diligent effort to make sure that he goes through every bit of the process,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday. “I think the decision itself is weighing on him, certainly.”

    At the same time, House Speaker Paul Ryan and a number of other legislators are urging the president to hold off on scrapping the program to give them time to come up with a legislative solution to protect those now covered by the program.

    “These are kids who know no other country, who are brought here by their parents and don’t know another home. And so I really do believe that there needs to be a legislative solution,” Ryan told Wisconsin radio station WCLO.

    Protesters gather to show support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program recipient during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles, California, on September 1, 2017. Photo by Kyle Grillot/Reuters

    Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah also urged Trump not to revoke former President Barack Obama’s efforts to protect “individuals who entered our country unlawfully as children through no fault of their own and who have built their lives here.”

    Pushing the debate over to Congress would add immigration, long a third-rail issue in Washington, to an already packed fall congressional agenda that includes must-pass measures to raise the debt ceiling, shape the federal budget and provide hurricane relief funding.

    Republican leaders have worried that Trump would rescind legal status for the so-called dreamers since his first day in office. Some congressional GOP lawmakers spent Inauguration Day urgently trying to reach senior White House officials about the matter after hearing rumors that Trump could roll back the deportation protections as one of his first moves.

    Trump had railed against the Obama program during the presidential campaign, slamming it as an illegal “amnesty” that he would immediately end.

    Instead, the new president left the protections in place, overruling top advisers including former chief strategist Steve Bannon and policy aide Stephen Miller. The advisers continued to press the matter occasionally in recent months, but Trump always put off the decision for another time.

    Then came a letter forcing Trump’s hand.

    A group of Republican state officials sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions in June announcing a Sept. 5 deadline: If the president didn’t halt the program by then, the lawmakers would challenge DACA in court.

    READ NEXT: As Trump’s decision on DACA looms, ‘Dreamers’ wonder what’s next

    As the deadline neared, anxious Republicans began urging the White House to try to persuade the group, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, to further postpone any lawsuit. It was an approach the administration had also seriously considered earlier in the week. But Paxton made clear the date was non-negotiable.

    “No, we are not going to push back the deadline,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Speller.

    The president also encountered countervailing pressure from those working to keep the program — including CEOs, Roman Catholic bishops and celebrities — and staging daily protests, phone banks, demonstrations and letters.

    There appeared to be some signs the pressure was having an impact. Late Friday, the attorney general of Tennessee, one of those who had signed the letter, announced his office was no longer interested in the lawsuit and would encourage legislation to protect the dreamers instead.

    “There is a human element to this, however, that is not lost on me and should not be ignored,” wrote Herbert Slatery III. “At this time, our Office has decided not to challenge DACA in the litigation, because we believe there is a better approach.”

    Many DACA advocates still expect the president to announce, in the end, that he will stop the issuance of new work permits under the program, effectively phasing it out over the coming months. One person familiar with the White House discussions said the president was expected to take that route. But the person said the president was looking for ways to soften the blow, such as ending the program at a future date to give Congress time to come up with alternative protection.

    The White House also could announce that it will allow the lawsuit to go forward and decline to have the Justice Department defend DACA in court, taking the matter out of its hands.

    Trump seemed reluctant Friday to spark the anger that is sure to erupt no matter what he decides.

    “We love the dreamers, we love everybody,” he told reporters.

    Asked what he would say to young immigrants who are awaiting his move, scared about their fate, Trump replied, “I think the dreamers are terrific.”

    Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Erica Werner, Julie Pace and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.

    The post Trump mulls decision on young immigrants in U.S. illegally appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump brought plenty of optimism and swagger to Texas on his first visit to survey Harvey’s devastation. He’s getting a chance to return with empathy.

    At stops in Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana, on Saturday, the president planned to survey storm damage, talk with residents and meet with volunteers. Those elements were missing from Tuesday’s trip to Texas, which was criticized as being off-key for a presidential visit to discuss communities in crisis.

    In Corpus Christi and Austin, Trump sat with emergency responders and officials who were coordinating recovery efforts with his administration. The event was marked by Trump’s impromptu speech to supporters outside a Corpus Christi firehouse — “What a crowd, what a turnout,” he said — instead of images of the president consoling victims or walking among the damage caused by of the storm.

    Trump kept his distance from the epicenter of the damage, in Houston, to avoid disrupting recovery operations. Still, critics said he failed to adequately express compassion for the families of those killed in the storm’s path or those whose homes were flooded. He raised eyebrows when he predicted his approach would be a model for future presidents to emulate.

    “We want to do it better than ever before,” he said. “We want to be looked at in five years, in 10 years from now as, ‘This is the way to do it.'”

    “There was a lot of high-fiving about how well this disaster was being handled even as people were on their rooftops hoping to be rescued,” said David Axelrod, a top adviser to President Barack Obama. “People need to know that their president is emotionally engaged in their struggle and part of the obligation or the responsibility of a president, particularly in a media age, is to make that human connection.”

    Trump later voiced more direct concern for those caught up in the storm. At the start of a speech in Missouri on Wednesday, he said the nation was praying for those in Harvey’s path and “we are here with you every single step of the way.”

    White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized that Trump planned one-on-one time with victims on Saturday.

    Trump may take cues from Vice President Mike Pence, who went to a damaged church, cleared away tree limbs and debris, and hugged storm victims this past week.

    “All American hearts are with the people of Texas and Louisiana,” Trump said in his weekly radio address aired Saturday. He described “a spirit of love, determination and resolve” that he said he sensed during the Tuesday visit.”

    On Friday, Trump met with evangelical leaders to promote his proclamation of Sunday as a national day of prayer for those affected by the storm, along with relief organizations heavily involved in the recovery.

    “I’m confident that this will be an opportunity for the president, on behalf of the entire nation, to show compassion and empathy for those who have lost homes and have had their lives interrupted and in some cases have lost loved ones,” said Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. He was among the evangelical leaders who met with the president.

    Trump has sent lawmakers an initial request for a $7.9 billion down payment toward Harvey relief and recovery efforts — a request expected to be swiftly approved by Congress, which returns to work Tuesday after its summer break.

    The post For Trump, chance to return to Texas with empathy for Harvey victims appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Biff Flanagan-Immunotherapy

    Biff Flanagan, an esophogeal cancer patient, stands with his wife Patricia at their home in San Diego, California, on Wednesday, August 30, 2017. Mr. Flanagan received an experimental immuotherapy cancer treatment for his cancer. Photo by Sandy Huffaker/STAT

    A new generation of immune-boosting therapies has been hailed as nothing short of revolutionary, shrinking tumors and extending lives. When late-stage cancer patients run out of other options, some doctors are increasingly nudging them to give immunotherapy a try.

    But that advice is now coming with unintended consequences. Doctors who counsel immunotherapy, experts say, are postponing conversations about palliative care and end-of-life wishes with their patients — sometimes, until it’s too late.

    “In the oncology community, there’s this concept of ‘no one should die without a dose of immunotherapy,’” said Dr. Eric Roeland, an oncologist and palliative care specialist at University of California, San Diego. “And it’s almost in lieu of having discussions about advance-care planning, so they’re kicking the can down the street.”

    Palliative care and oncology teams have long been wary of each another. For many oncologists, palliative care teams are the specialists to call in only when curative treatments have been exhausted. For many palliative care specialists, oncologists are the doctors who prescribe treatments without regard to quality-of-life considerations.

    But the new collision between immunotherapy and palliative care experts comes at an inopportune moment for health care providers, who have in recent years promoted palliative care as a way to increase patient satisfaction while reducing costs associated with hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

    Dr. Cardinale Smith, an oncologist and palliative care specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said she has seen a handful of patients who tried immunotherapy treatments after failing chemotherapy, and who were later admitted to the hospital in poor condition. Almost all of them died there, without having been asked about where, and under what conditions, they might prefer to die.

    “These conversations are not occurring because of the hope that this will be the miracle treatment,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, on the part of the oncologist, treatments like immunotherapy have become our new Hail Mary.”

    Immunotherapies work for only around 15 to 20 percent of cancer patients who receive them.

    They have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for Hodgkin lymphoma and certain cancers of the lung, skin, blood, kidney, bladder, and head and neck — but not for common cancers like prostates and most cancers of the colon and breast. A new type of immunotherapy, CAR-T, was approved earlier this week for leukemia.

    But even for those cancers, oncologists and patients sometimes refuse to acknowledge clear signs that immunotherapies are failing, said Dr. Sandip Patel, a cancer specialist and immunotherapy researcher at the University of California, San Diego.

    Patel said he now engages home-based palliative care specialists, who can provide supportive care while a patient’s health is relatively stable. “Then, at least when they transition to hospice, it’s not as much of a free fall out of the traditional health system, and if they’re one of the patients who respond to the therapy, great.”

    He lamented the fact that patients who fail immunotherapy treatments spend more time in hospitals than with their families at home. “The flip side is, if I had a cancer with a 15 percent response rate, and if the benefit might be longer-term, I’d try it,” he said. “Who wouldn’t buy a ticket to a lottery of that importance?”

    But not all patients have a clear idea of what that lottery ticket might cost them. Carrie Clemons’s father, Billy Clemons, who is 68 and is a former Texas state representative, last year stopped responding to chemotherapy for renal cell cancer that first struck him in 2002. His doctors recommended the immunotherapy Opdivo, which had recently been approved for his cancer.

    At the time, he was symptom-free from his cancer, though scans showed it had spread to his lungs and some lymph nodes.

    Two infusions of the drug, Clemons said, were followed by “eight months of hell,” during which her father became incontinent and had to use a wheelchair, lost his eyesight and most of his hearing and speech, and endured multiple weeks of intubation and care in the ICU. When his heart stopped beating, he needed to be resuscitated.

    While immunotherapies trigger debilitating side effects much less frequently than chemotherapy, they can spur potentially life-threatening conditions, depending on the cancer type and the treatment approach. Fewer than 5 percent of patients overall face serious side effects, for instance, but more than one-third of melanoma patients who receive a combination of immunotherapy drugs can experience such conditions. The upside: Half of those melanoma patients will see their cancer shrink for at least two years.

    Clemons’s doctors at Houston’s MD Anderson attributed the reaction to a runaway immune system that essentially attacked his central nervous system. To reverse it, he needed weeks of therapy to replace his plasma with that of donors, to clear away his blood’s overly active antibodies.

    He slowly improved, though, to the point where only some slight vision impairment remains, and doctors recently declared his cancer in remission.

    Although the family is thrilled at the outcome, Clemons said, they had little idea when they began that such side effects were possible, and doctors never engaged the palliative care team to either discuss side effects or help manage them.

    She wouldn’t have known to ask about such care. “I always just equated palliative care with hospice,” she said.

    Hospitals overall have made some headway in integrating oncology and palliative care specialists, with more oncologists referring patients to palliative specialists to help them ease side effects of treatments and achieve quality-of-life goals.

    But Roeland, the doctor at the University of California, and others say the integration is less smooth when it comes to cutting-edge cancer treatments.

    Palliative care teams have not been able to keep abreast of the breakneck pace of cancer treatments, so they may not be offering up-to-date counsel to patients who ask about possibly life-changing therapies.

    Meanwhile, most of the growth in palliative care medicine has happened among clinicians who work in hospitals, where they generally see only those who have done poorly on immunotherapies, for instance.

    “They’re not seeing the super-responders,” Roeland said. “So their first reaction usually is, ‘Why would you do that?’”

    Biff Flanagan-Immunotherapy

    Biff Flanagan, an esophogeal cancer patient, on a walk with his wife Patricia at their home in San Diego, CA on Wednesday, August 30, 2017. Mr.Flanagan received an experimental immuotherapy cancer treatment for his cancer. Photo by Sandy Huffaker/STAT

    Roeland understands more than most the seductive qualities of an eleventh-hour immunotherapy gambit. He had given up hope of curing Bernard “Biff” Flanagan, 78, of his esophageal cancer in late 2015, and referred Flanagan to hospice care to help him manage his extreme weight loss, fatigue, and the emotional distress he felt from not being able to swallow.

    But Flanagan, who speaks with the gruff, seen-it-all humor one might expect from a career FBI agent in LA, wanted to keep seeking a cure.

    Roeland said he knew that many hundreds of clinical trials were testing the therapies on other cancers, so he did some digging. A paper from a recent cancer conference showed that some people with squamous cell esophageal cancer responded to immunotherapy. He could arrange to get the drug through the Bristol Myers Squibb, for free.

    He presented the idea to Flanagan and his wife, Patricia, with the caveats that it might not work, and could come with possibly significant side effects.

    Flanagan jumped at the chance. Patricia, a former professional photographer, was less enthused.

    “I ran into her later in the coffee shop,” Roeland said. “She looked at me like. ‘What the hell are we doing here? He doesn’t have a good quality of life.’ I’m feeling guilty now.”

    READ NEXT: For cancer patients, newest treatments force the ultimate decision, with no room for error

    Roughly six weeks into the treatment, Flanagan’s energy was returning, and he found himself at the fridge. “I grabbed a glass of OJ, knocked it down, swallowed it no problem,” he said. “And it was like a miracle. I had another one.”

    Now Flanagan has no symptoms, and he experienced only the briefest side effect: a skin rash that abated with ointment. Patricia recently helped him dispose of the morphine and other medications the hospice team had given them.

    “If he’d died in the hospital, I would’ve felt terrible,” she said. “If I were in his place at that point, I’d have tried to arrange to die at home at my own choosing, but Biff just didn’t have as strong feelings about that as I had.

    “I had little hope that he was going to recover, but it’s just been amazing. He really is living the life he’s always lived.”

    Roeland said that for the experience “is so immensely rewarding that it drives an oncology practice. It can be 1 in 100 that happens like that, and you say, well, is it worth it?”

    The post Doctors want to give their cancer patients every chance. But are they pushing off hard talks too long? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Muslim pilgrims gather on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat during the annual haj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca Saudi Arabia

    Muslim pilgrims gather on Mount Mercy on the plains of Arafat during the annual hajj pilgrimage, outside the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 31, 2017. Photo by Suhaib Salem/Reuters

    Thousands of Iranian pilgrims are participating in an annual hajj in Saudi Arabia this week, signaling small amends between the two countries after a deadly stampede during the religious journey frayed diplomatic ties in 2015.

    Every year, millions of Muslims from around the world retrace the steps of the Prophet Muhammad’s first pilgrimage to the city of Mecca, which he is believed to have traveled in the year 628 A.D. And entry and exit into Mecca, the holiest Muslim city, is governed by Saudi Arabia.

    Iran, which was already a rival of Saudi Arabia, challenged the country’s authority over holy sites in 2015 after more than 2,000 people, many of them Iranian, died on the third day of the ritual – the deadliest disaster the hajj has ever seen, according to a count by the Associated Press.

    On Sept. 24, 2015, thousands of people became trapped among about 1,000 feet of a narrow road outside the city and were crushed to death by pressures that were “strong enough to bend steel fences,” according to The New York Times. The cause of the stampede is still disputed.

    Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blamed the Saudi leadership for “murder.” Then Saudi leadership barred Iranians from attending the hajj last year after protesters upset about the execution of a Shiite dissident cleric attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, according to the Washington Post.

    Flames rise from Saudi Arabia's embassy after it was stormed by Iranian protesters during a demonstration in Tehran

    Flames rise from Saudi Arabia’s embassy after it was stormed by Iranian protesters during a demonstration in Tehran, Iran, January 2, 2016. Photo by Reuters

    Tensions were already high between the two countries, which accuse each other of supporting opposing sides in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Iran has also blamed Saudi Arabia for deadly attacks claimed by the Islamic State.

    But in July, the director of the hajj at Iran’s Haj and Pilgrimage Organization, Nasrollah Farahmand, told state media that approximately 86,500 Iranians are expected to participate in the hajj.

    “The serious and constant issue for the Islamic Republic is the preservation of the security, dignity, welfare and comfort of all pilgrims, particularly Iranian pilgrims,” Khamenei said, according to Reuters. “The security of the hajj is the responsibility of the country where the two noble shrines exist.”

    Muslims pray at the Grand mosque ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

    Muslims pray at the Grand mosque ahead of the annual Haj pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia August 29, 2017. Photo by Suhaib Salem/Reuters

    This year’s five-day ritual began on Wednesday, as millions of Muslims in white garments circled counter-clockwise around Islam’s most sacred mosque, the Kaaba, in Mecca. The return of the Iranians, “helped ease some initial tension,” Reza H. Akbari, who researches Iranian politics at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, told the Washington Post.

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    WASHINGTON — The White House is still trying to decide who will get President Donald Trump’s pledged $1 million donation for Harvey storm relief efforts, one of the largest gifts ever given by a president but one that has evoked his checkered charitable past.

    The president plans to make the donation, which is expected to come from his personal fortune, early next week, and it may be split among several groups doing relief work in storm-ravaged areas of Texas and Louisiana. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Friday that the president hasn’t finalized where the money will go, raising some concern that charitable groups may end up competing for the money.

    For the second straight day, Sanders invited reporters to make recommendations for which groups should get the money.

    “If you have suggestions, he is very open to hearing those,” Sanders said.

    The president met with three relief groups — the Red Cross, Southern Baptist Relief and Salvation Army — in the Oval Office on Friday and pledged the nation’s support to those affected by Harvey.

    “Families have given food and shelter to those in need. Houses of worship have organized efforts to clean up communities and repair damaged homes,” Trump said during an earlier meeting with religious leaders. “People have never seen anything quite like this. Individuals of every background are striving for the same goal: to aid and comfort people facing devastating losses.”

    There has been some concern that, if Trump opted to donate to only one group or just a few, there could be intense competition among relief agencies for the money and the publicity that comes with it.

    But Rick Cohen, communications director for the National Council of Nonprofits, said there’s already intense competition among organizations for Harvey donations.

    “He should be looking to make an informed contribution, and it seems that he’s doing so,” said Cohen, noting that the president has stayed abreast of conditions on the ground and is planning to see it first-hand.

    White House officials said the donation would come from the president’s personal fortune and not his business, the Trump Organization, or his charitable foundation.

    “You have to take him at his word,” said Leslie Lenkowsky, a professor at Indiana University who focuses on philanthropy and who formerly headed the Corporation for National and Community Service. “If he wants to lead the way, that’s one of the things that a president’s supposed to do. … He does like the image of himself as a compassionate person.”

    Trump’s history of charitable donations features bursts of generosity frequently overshadowed by failed promises and questions about the source of the gifts.

    The president has claimed to be worth $10 billion while experts have pegged his fortunate at far less. But Trump reportedly donates a far smaller percentage of his dollars than many of his fellow billionaires. The exact extent of Trump’s charitable giving is not known since the president has broken with decades of tradition and not released his tax returns.

    The Trump Foundation came under heavy scrutiny during the 2016 presidential campaign. It was revealed that Trump frequently did not follow through on his charitable promises. Records show that in the 15 years before his campaign, Trump made $8.5 million in pledges but paid out about $2.8 million, according to The Washington Post.

    In January 2016, Trump held a high-profile fundraiser for veterans’ causes, but it took him four months — and pressure from the media — to follow through on his pledge to donate $1 million of his own money to the cause.

    Trump, one of the nation’s wealthiest presidents, has also pledged to donate his annual $400,000 salary to charity. His first two gifts from his presidential earnings were to the National Park Service and the Education Department.

    Other presidents, including Barack Obama, would customarily donate a percentage of their income — including money from outside sources like book sales — to charity every year.

    Lemire reported from New York.

    The post No decision yet on who gets Trump’s pledge of disaster aid appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    syringe black and white

    St. Kitts and Nevis has launched an investigation into the clinical trial for a herpes vaccine by an American company. Photo by Flickr user Kreg Steppe

    The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has launched an investigation into the clinical trial for a herpes vaccine by an American company because it said its officials were not notified about the experiments.

    The vaccine research has sparked controversy because the lead investigator, a professor with Southern Illinois University, and the U.S. company he co-founded did not rely on traditional U.S. safety oversight while testing the vaccine last year on mostly American participants on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.

    The trial received financial backing from a former Hollywood filmmaker who has asserted the vaccine was highly successful in stopping herpes outbreaks. Since then, a group of investors, including Donald Trump supporter Peter Thiel, have backed the ongoing vaccine research with a $7 million investment that could include additional clinical trials in Mexico and Australia.

    Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor a safety panel known as an institutional review board, or an “IRB,” monitored the testing on the 20 human subjects. Now, the government of St. Kitts and Nevis says that the researchers also did not officially seek permission to test the vaccine, which took place from April to August 2016.

    “The Ministry of Health states categorically that neither the Cabinet, the Ministry of Health, the office of Chief Medical Officer (CMO) nor the St. Kitts and Nevis Medical Board has ever been approached on this project,” said the government press release sent out Wednesday night. “By extension, none of these agencies has approved such a venture.”

    Agustín Fernández III, the co-founder of Rational Vaccines, the company that oversaw the vaccine testing, said his partner, William Halford, told him that he notified the St. Kitts government. Halford, who was the lead investigator on the research, died of cancer in June and Fernández said he did not have any other details about whom Halford might have talked to.

    “I don’t know exactly,” Fernández wrote in an email Thursday. “[Halford] said he spoke to local authorities.”

    Southern Illinois University did not immediately respond Thursday to questions about the research but told a reporter previously that Halford was not doing the research as part of his job at the university.

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

    In the St. Kitts press release, the Ministry of Health and Social Services said it “will always ensure that all research involving human participants follow international standards which protect the safety and security of persons involved.”

    To ensure this happens, an ethics review committee is supposed to vet medical research protocols “in keeping with international best practices.”

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

    However, Rational Vaccines downplayed safety concerns, asserting there was little risk the participants would be harmed because they had herpes already. Fernández has said Halford took the necessary precautions during the trial. Halford also told him he manufactured the vaccine outside the United States, Fernández said Thursday.

    “I don’t know how he [got] it there,” Fernández said in the email. He added that the doses were already in St. Kitts when he agreed to fund the trial.

    SIU did not immediately respond to questions about whether it knew if Halford sought permission from St. Kitts officials.

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

    A university spokeswoman earlier said the university first learned about the trial in October 2016 — after it had ended. The spokeswoman added that Halford didn’t need to bring the trial to SIU’s IRB because the trial wasn’t overseen by the university.

    However, after a reporter raised questions about the lack of an IRB, the university launched a review of “internal processes to assure we are following best practices.”

    Depending on how Halford transported the vaccine, he might have been required to seek approval from St. Kitts customs officials, said Dr. Patrick Martin, St. Kitts and Nevis’ chief medical officer until June 2016. Martin, who had been in that position since 2004, said he never heard from Halford or any other member of the company, although he should have been notified. “Where did the testing of the herpes vaccine take place?” Martin asked.

    Such questions reverberated after news broke of the vaccine trial. The former St. Kitts and Nevis prime minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas, in a press release said: “Where [were] the materials, the drugs, the storage equipment for these vaccines housed? Were there appropriate customs declarations?”

    Martin said he had to shut down another unauthorized research site, which was testing a stem cell product around the same time.

    “We are a country of rules and regulations,” he said. ”Researchers can’t just do whatever they like without notifying the government or going to an IRB.”

    The St. Kitts official now in charge of such matters, Dr. Hazel Laws, did not return repeated phone calls. An employee who answered the phone said it was unlikely she or any other official would call back because “the press release spoke for itself.”

    WATCH NEXT: Dogs can get a Lyme disease vaccine. Why can’t humans?

    American scientists called for more rigorous clinical trial oversight in the wake of Nazi atrocities involving human experiments but the U.S. did not require IRBs until the 1970s.

    Steven Joffe, chief of the division of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, said for research to be considered ethical “the study must be conducted in accordance with international standards for human subjects research.”

    That includes approval by an institutional review board, research ethics committee or the equivalent.

    “Legally, it must comply with the laws and regulations of the country,” he added.

    The post St. Kitts launches probe of herpes vaccine tests on U.S. patients appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    HARI SREENIVASAN: I’m walking on Wall Street with author Don Tapscott. He’s written a dozen books on technology and sees one that could change everything around us. He’s not the only believer. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up about 20 percent in the past year, Bitcoin, a digital currency, is up more than 700 percent, with a total value of near $80 billion. That’s more than American Express. The surge has people wondering whether Bitcoin is in a bubble.

    For Tapscott, that question is missing the real story.

    DON TAPSCOTT, AUTHOR “BLOCKCHAIN REVOLUTION”: The real pony here is the underlying technology called the “blockchain.”

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tapscott and his son co-wrote a book called Blockchain Revolution, named after the technology that supports bitcoin and other so-called cryptocurrencies. They’re called that because of the cryptography, or computer code, that makes them secure.

    Tapscott says the technology is the key to creating trust in peer-to-peer transactions, like sending or receiving money without a bank or a credit card company in between.

    DON TAPSCOTT: Trust is achieved not by a big intermediary; it’s achieved by cryptography, by collaboration and by some clever code.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Here’s how the blockchain works: when you send or receive an asset, the transaction is recorded in a global, public ledger. A network of millions of computers store copies of that ledger and work to validate new transactions in “blocks.” When each “block” is verified, it’s sealed and connected to the preceding block, which in turn is connected to every block that has ever been validated, creating a secure “blockchain.”

    DON TAPSCOTT: There is now an immutable record of that transaction. And if I wanted to go and hack that transaction, say to use that money to pay somebody else, I’d have to hack that block, plus the previous block, in the entire history of commerce on that block chain, not just on one computer, but across millions of computers simultaneously all using the highest level of cryptography while the most powerful computing resource in the world is watching me. The way I like to think of it is that is a blockchain is a highly processed thing sort of like a chicken nugget, and if you wanted to hack it, it’d be like turning a chicken nugget back into a chicken. Now someday someone will be able to do that. But for now, it’s going to be tough.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tapscott predicts these global ledgers, or blockchains, could affect several parts of the economy during the next decade, in particular, the financial industry.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: In a blockchain future, what happens to the New York Stock Exchange?

    DON TAPSCOTT: Well, a likely scenario is it becomes a fabulous museum, and it is a beautiful building when you think about it. But buying and selling a stock can be done peer-to-peer now using new blockchain platforms.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: He says routine transactions, like using a credit card or making online payments with PayPal or Venmo, could be replaced with instant, peer-to-peer blockchain transactions, speeding up how long it takes and shrinking the costs.

    DON TAPSCOTT: Think about something like you tap your card in a Starbucks and a bunch of messages go through different companies. Some of them using, you know, 30-year-old technology, and three days later, a settlement occurs. Well, if all of that were on a blockchain there would be no three-day delay. The payment and the settlement is the same activity. So it would happen instantly and in a secure way. So that’s either going to disintermediate those players, or if those players are smart, they’ll embrace this technology to speed up the whole metabolism of the financial industry.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Beyond upending financial transactions, Tapscott imagines a future where a blockchain could be used to transfer any kind of asset, from a user’s personal data to intellectual property.

    Some of that has already begun. This is Consensys, a technology start-up in Brooklyn, New York. Joseph Lubin founded Consensys and helped develop the Ethereum blockchain, the second biggest blockchain in the world after Bitcoin. Ethereum launched in 2015.

    JOSEPH LUBIN, CONSENSYS: Ethereum is by far the most powerful blockchain platform out there. It has the most expressive programming language.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Meaning Ethereum can do something pretty radical: it allows for what are known as “smart contracts” to be built into the code. So it can also transfer a set of instructions or conditions.

    DON TAPSCOTT: It’s kind of like what it sounds like — it’s a contract that self-executes, and it has a payment system built into it. Sort of like a contract that has built in lawyers and governments and a bank account.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: At Consensys, one project applies this idea to music.

    JESSE GRUSHAK: Click buy album…

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Jesse Grushack is the founder of ujo, a music platform for artists to distribute their music through the blockchain. Artists decide what price to sell their music and pocket more from their intellectual property.

    JESSE GRUSHAK, UJO MUSIC: We’re looking at how to make the music industry more efficient, but at the end of the day, our top level goal is getting artists paid more for their work and all their creative content.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: But ujo is not yet easy to use. There is only one album on the platform, and it requires users to buy music with ether, the cryptocurrency used on the Ethereum blockchain.

    JESSE GRUSHAK: The blockchain is still in its infancy right now. It’s still kind of in the Netscape phase, really, of the internet. You don’t have that AOL, you don’t have that landing page that opens the world up to you. It’s still a little nerdy, it’s still a little technical but we’re working really hard to kind of make it usable, make the user experience seamless because really this technology we want to be in the hands of everyone.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: When he said, “a little nerdy,” he wasn’t kidding. In order to get an idea, I went out and bought some crypto-currencies online and the process was not easy. Certainly not as easy as going to the bank to get cash or calling a stockbroker to buy a stock. But then, using my first email account in the early ‘90s, that wasn’t easy either.

    DON TAPSCOTT: I think we’re in 1994. And in ‘94, we had the internet and most people were using it for a single application, email. And that’s kind of like Bitcoin is today. The application is called a currency, but we’re starting to see the rise of the web as we did in ‘94. A general purpose platform for building applications that changed many, many industries.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: You’ve literally written the book on the blockchain. How do you know that this is actually working, that people are believing in this, investing in this, understanding the potential in this?

    DON TAPSCOTT: In every single industry now, companies are starting to implement pilots to explore how this technology can change their operations.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: Tapscott points to retailer Walmart, which has done a pilot using a blockchain to track food safety, and manufacturer Foxconn, which is experimenting with using a blockchain to track its supply chain.

    Still, this blockchain believer acknowledges it has a lot left to prove.

    HARI SREENIVASAN: There’s several critics out there that kind of look at this and say, ‘This is like tulip mania.’ This cryptocurrency stuff, this is a bubble, bigger than I’ve ever seen before. There’s a bunch of people that don’t know a thing about what’s going on that just want to see something go up.

    DON TAPSCOTT: Well, for sure there’s a hype cycle that we’re into now. But the biggest impact will be that blockchain itself is going to change the fundamental operations of banks, of retail companies of supply chains, of manufacturing companies, of governments, and of every institution in society.

    The post Searching for the future of currency, major companies try Bitcoin technology appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    Senator John McCain (R-AZ), recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, departs after returning to the Senate to vote on health care legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RTX3CVUC

    Senator John McCain (R-AZ), recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, departs after returning to the Senate to vote on health care legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 25, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein – RTX3CVUC

    CERNOBBIO, Italy — U.S. Senator John McCain, who has spent the summer undergoing treatment for brain cancer, has attended an international forum in an Italian resort town.

    McCain’s participation at the Ambrosetti Forum in northern Italy on Saturday was his first overseas trip during the congressional recess.

    The forum is an annual gathering of high-profile figures and experts from the fields of politics, finance and other interests. The Arizona Republican participated in a panel focused on the United States.

    McCain’s wife, Cindy, accompanied him on the trip.

    WATCH NEXT: Senate has ‘become more partisan, more tribal than at any time I can remember,’ McCain says

    The Italian news agency ANSA said the six-term senator and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee was spotted taking a boat ride on Lake Como with U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

    McCain declined to speak to reporters who called out questions to him.

    The post McCain attends Italy forum before Congress returns to work appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    People sort through belongings found in Hurricane Harvey flood damage in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. Photo By Rick Wilking/Reuters

    Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

    MARCIA BIGGS: It’s an army of volunteers, ordinary Houstonians wanting to help.

    It’s all part of a citywide effort led by the mega-church, Second Baptist, which has mobilized more than 3,000 people.

    And supplies arrive by the truckload as Houston settles in to the painstaking task of cleaning up after Harvey’s record floods.

    John card is the church’s media relations director.

    JOHN CARD/DIRECTOR OF MEDIA RELATIONS, SECOND BAPTIST CHURCH: We’ve got trucks coming in from all over the nation.

    BIGGS: Beyond the donations, the volunteers arrived here ready to work.

    CARD: When you go to second.org, there’s only three things you can work, “Need assistance,” “volunteer,” and “give.”

    BIGGS: They’re divided into small groups, assigned a leader, and deployed to different neighborhoods and families in need.

    JOSH PATTERSON/LOCAL VOLUNTEER: Regardless if it’s a week or two weeks or a year, we’ll be here with this effort, supporting our church.

    BIGGS: Houston Strong.

    PATTERSON: Houston Strong.

    BIGGS: Josh Patterson and several others are spending the day in this house ripping out drywall and clearing out anything with water damage. The local banker and Houstonian heeded the call for help from this woman. Maria Teresa has lived in this house for the last 16 years, ever since she emigrated from Mexico.

    She’s a substitute teacher at a local elementary school and opens her home as a daycare on the side. She fled with her mother and son to Dallas just before Harvey hit and came home Wednesday to two feet of water.

    How did it feel to have this army of volunteers come in from the church today?

    THERESA: Oh, it’s amazing! Amazing. That’s what I prayed, I say, “Oh god, send me the love angels surrounding me.” Oh my God. Thank you so much.

    BIGGS: But many parts of Houston are still flooded.

    The Arkema Company blamed floodwaters for a second chemical plant fire last night in nearby Crosby. The company said the water knocked out refrigeration needed to keep chemicals from degrading and catching fire.

    One hundred miles east of Houston, residents in Beaumont, Texas waited for their water treatment plant to be fixed. They continued to line up at grocery stores and distribution centers to get bottled water.

    Back here in North Houston, Maria says she has no flood insurance. Yet she remains grateful.

    THERESA: What’s important for me is my son has life. My mother she is 78 years old okay, but the most important for me is we are keep it together. We are safe.

    BIGGS: And for now, she’s just taking life one day at a time.

    NICK SCHIFRIN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: And Marcia Biggs joins me now from Houston.

    Marcia, that is your hometown. Give us some perspective as you were going out last night, today, are all parts of the city under water or actually different parts being affected differently?

    BIGGS: Indeed, it is my home town. I usually cover the refugee crises in places like Syria and Iraq. And so, to see some of the similar themes of displacement and loss here in my own home town is truly incredible.

    There are parts of the city that were not dramatically affected. I arrived last night and went to dinner at a restaurant near where I grew, and it was as if nothing had ever happened. People were sitting outside in the cafe, enjoying a nice meal.

    Then today, I went to an area called Meyerland where a lot of my childhood friends grew up, I spent a lot of time on those lawns as a child, and the prevailing image is like the one you see here behind me — lawn after lawn after lawn just covered in drywall, in damaged appliances, damaged furniture, clothes, all just rubbish just waiting to be carted off.

    So, it is quite surreal. It’s definitely two different versions of a city. And then there are also areas of the city which are still under water, pockets of northwest of Houston.

    SCHIFRIN: And, Marcia, what you were saying at the beginning is fascinating. You know, you’ve covered war. You have seen this transition. People survived. That’s what they had to do at first. Are they now moving into a level of trauma and are they overwhelmed?

    BIGGS: People are definitely traumatized. You know, I mentioned being in the restaurant and it seemed as if nothing had ever happened, but yet when you ask someone, where is your home or how is your family, they immediately — it’s all that anyone can think about.

    So, you know, and there are so many questions and concerns for those areas that were affected. I mean, mold is a huge issue. You walk into some of those houses, it’s — the smell of mold is everywhere. Of course, the water, people are concerned about the health effects of the water, and there aren’t a lot of answers to those questions.

    And then, of course, insurance. People are starting the tedious task of trying to file insurance claims and go through the forms and list every single thing that was damaged.

    So, it — there is a lot going on right now for these people. And, of course, they were in survival mode for so many days. Now, they are sort of setting about the task of rebuilding and taking a breath.

    And I think, you know, so many people didn’t know what to do for so many days, that now, this is why you’re seeing a lot of people coming together and trying to help. The community spirit here is so impressive and incredible. Of course, that’s the prevailing theme. But at the same time, I think people just need something to do, Nick.

    SCHIFRIN: That’s interesting. Marcia Biggs, thank you very much. Reporting from her home town of Houston.

    BIGGS: Thank you.

    The post As flooding lingers, Houston begins clean-up appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    U.S. President Donald Trump helps volunteers hand out meals during a visit with flood survivors of Hurricane Harvey at a relief center in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. Photo By Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    HOUSTON — President Donald Trump cupped a boy’s face in his hands and then gave him a high-five. He snapped on latex gloves to hand out boxed lunches of hot dogs and potato chips. And he loaded relief supplies into vehicles, patted storm victims on the shoulder and declared the work “good exercise.”

    An upbeat and optimistic president visited with victims of Harvey on Saturday, touring a Houston mega-shelter housing hundreds of displaced people and briefly walking streets lined with soggy, discarded possessions. Trump met the scene with positivity, congratulating officials on an emergency response still in progress and telling reporters that he’d seen “a lot of love” and “a lot of happiness” in the devastation the storm left behind.

    “As tough as this was, it’s been a wonderful thing,” Trump said of the Harvey response after spending time with displaced children inside NRG Center, an emergency refuge housing about 1,800 evacuees.

    The trip, to Houston and Lake Charles, Louisiana, was Trump’s second to survey the damage since Harvey hit and a chance for a president to strike a more sympathetic tone. He’d rushed to Texas on Tuesday, heading to Corpus Christi and Austin to talk to first responders. The trip, which included scant interaction with residents or extended expressions of concern, was criticized as being off-key for a presidential visit to discuss communities in crisis. “What a crowd, what a turnout,” he’d said as he stood outside a Corpus Christi firehouse.

    Trump’s trip Saturday was something of a do-over. Joined by first lady Melania Trump, the president went directly to the NRG Center and was greeted warmly by volunteers and children. The Trumps brought coloring books and crayons and sat with families that had been displaced. Trump lifted one little girl into his arms and gave her a kiss. Before he left, he signed his name on the wall by the children’s artwork.

    They served food in the lunch line and then moved on to First Church in the Houston suburb of Pearland, where they loaded boxes and bottles of water into vehicles.

    “I like doing this,” Trump told one of the volunteer coordinators. “I like it.”

    [Watch Video]

    Trump’s enthusiasm and rosy views contrasted with some of the scenes from the water-logged coast.

    As Trump visited, the Houston area was still burying its dead and trying to contain the mess. Nearby Beaumont, Texas, population 120,000, was struggling to restore its drinking water. Firefighters in Crosby, outside of Houston, were warily eyeing the Arkema chemical plant, twice the scene of explosions. Floodwaters had inundated at least seven highly contaminated toxic waste sites in the Houston area, raising concerns about creeping pollution.

    Harvey is blamed for at least 43 deaths and believed to have damaged at least 156,000 dwellings in Harris County. The American Red Cross said more than 17,000 people have sought refuge in Texas shelters such as the one Trump visited.

    The White House has asked Congress to approve a $7.9 billion Harvey relief down payment when lawmakers return to Washington on Tuesday.

    In his brief stop at Lake Charles, Trump was due to meet with first responders and a group of volunteers known as the Cajun Navy.

    The Trumps were joined by an entourage that included four Cabinet officials, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Before leaving for Louisiana he stopped by a street that had only recently again become passable.

    “These are people that have done a fantastic job of getting things together,” he said as people stood near ripped-out drywall and trash bags piled high at their curbs.

    He spotted a man wearing a red “Trump is my president” T-shirt and pulled him in front of news cameras. “Look at this guy,” he said. “You just became famous.”

    Bykowicz reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Ken Thomas in Washington contributed to this report.

    The post Upbeat Trump pitches in at shelter for Harvey victims appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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    donald trump

    U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he visits with flood survivors of Hurrican Harvey at the NRG Center, in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. Photo Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says in a legal filing that it has no information about wiretaps President Donald Trump once claimed had been made of Trump Tower in New York.

    The department’s National Security Division and the FBI “confirm that they have no records related to wiretaps as described by” Trump’s March tweets.

    In those tweets, Trump alleged President Barack Obama “had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower” prior to Election Day. He made similar assertions in several other tweets.

    The FBI’s director at the time, James Comey, had said there was no evidence of a wiretap at Trump Tower.

    DOJ reiterated that point in its motion for summary judgment in a case brought by open government advocacy group American Oversight. The group is seeking proof for Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.

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    FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un speaks during the first congress of the country's ruling Workers' Party in 36 years in Pyongyang

    North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un speaks during the first congress of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party in 36 years in Pyongyang, in this handout photo provided by KCNA on May 6, 2016. Photo by KCNA/via Reuters

    TOKYO — WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump raised the stakes Sunday in an escalating crisis over North Korea’s nuclear threats, suggesting drastic economic measures against China and criticizing ally South Korea as he convened his national security team to consider the North’s latest provocation: its most powerful nuclear test.

    North Korea claimed “perfect success” in an underground test of what it called a hydrogen bomb — potentially vastly more destructive than an atomic bomb. It was the North’s sixth nuclear test since 2006, but the first since Trump took office in January.

    Trump, asked by a reporter if he would attack the North, said: “We’ll see.”

    No U.S. military action appeared imminent, and the immediate focus appeared to be on ratcheting up economic penalties, which have had little effect thus far. Members of Congress expressed alarm at the North’s test and emphasized strengthening U.S. missile defenses. Leaders in Russia, China and Europe issued condemnations.

    Trump said he was meeting at the White House with chief of staff John Kelly, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis “and other military leaders.” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also attended, according to his spokesman.

    The precise strength of the underground nuclear explosion had yet to be determined. South Korea’s weather agency said the artificial earthquake caused by the explosion was five times to six times stronger than tremors generated by the North’s previous five tests.

    North Korea’s state-run television broadcast a special bulletin to announce the test, and said leader Kim Jong Un attended a meeting of the ruling party’s presidium and signed the go-ahead order. Earlier, the party’s newspaper published photos of Kim examining what it said was a nuclear warhead being fitted onto an intercontinental ballistic missile.

    Sunday’s detonation builds on recent North Korean advances that include test launches in July of two ICBMs that are believed to be capable of reaching the mainland U.S. The North says its missile development is part of a defensive effort to build a viable nuclear deterrent that can target U.S. cities.

    [Watch Video]

    The Arms Control Association said the explosion appeared to produce a yield in excess of 100 kilotons of TNT equivalent, which it said strongly suggests the North tested a high-yield but compact nuclear weapon that could be launched on a missile of intermediate or intercontinental range.

    Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of American Scientists, said the North probably will need to do more tests before achieving a functioning hydrogen bomb design.

    Beyond the science of the blast, North Korea’s accelerating push to field a nuclear weapon that can target all of the United States is creating political complications for the U.S. as it seeks to balance resolve with reassurance to allies that Washington will uphold its decadeslong commitment to deter nuclear attack on South Korea and Japan.

    That is why some questioned Trump’s jab Sunday at South Korea. He tweeted that Seoul is finding that its “talk of appeasement” will not work. The North Koreans, he added, “only understand one thing,” implying military force might be required. The U.S. has about 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea and is obliged by treaty to defend it in the event of war.

    Patrick Cronin, an Asia expert with the Center for a New American Security, said Trump’s comment on South Korea was probably “intended to stiffen the spine of an ally.” He said he agreed with the intention.

    “I think Washington is very serious about showing some unexpected resolve,” he said. “We need our ally and we need to remain ironclad. But at the same time, we can’t afford South Korea to go weak in facing down this growing danger.”

    Trump also suggested putting more pressure on China, the North’s patron for many decades and a vital U.S. trading partner, in hopes of persuading Beijing to exert more effective leverage on its neighbor. Trump tweeted that the U.S. is considering “stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea.” Such a halt would be radical. The U.S. imports about $40 billion in goods a month from China, North Korea’s main commercial partner.

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was calling counterparts in Asia, and Trump’s treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said he was putting together proposed new sanctions for Trump to consider that would seek to cut off trade with North Korea.

    It’s unclear what kind of penalties might make a difference. Lassina Zerbo, head of the U.N. test ban treaty organization, said sanctions already imposed against North Korea aren’t working.

    China’s official Xinhua News Agency said President Xi Jinping and Russian leader Vladimir Putin, meeting on the sidelines of a Beijing-led economic summit, agreed “to adhere to the goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, have close communication and coordination and properly respond” to the test.

    Experts have questioned whether the North has gone too far down the nuclear road to continue pushing for a denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, an Obama administration policy goal still embraced by Trump’s White House.

    “Denuclearization is not a viable U.S. policy goal,” said Richard Fontaine, president of the Center for a New American Security, but neither should the U.S. accept North Korea as a nuclear power. “We should keep denuclearization as a long-term aspiration, but recognize privately that it’s unachievable anytime soon.”

    Trump warned last month that the U.S. military was “locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely” and that the U.S. would unleash “fire and fury” on the North if it continued to threaten America. The bellicose words followed threats from North Korea to launch ballistic missiles toward the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, intending to create “enveloping fire” near the military hub that’s home to U.S. bombers and other aircraft.

    This report was written by Robert Burns of the Associated Press. Associated Press writers Eric Talmadge in Tokyo and Catherine Lucey contributed to this report.

    The post Trump raises stakes in escalating North Korean nuclear crisis appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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