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

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    JOHN YANG: In the day’s other news: Late today, President Trump signed the bill to spend more than $15 billion in Harvey relief. The House had given its final congressional approval earlier in the day. The legislation also raises the federal debt ceiling and funds the government through early December. It’s part of a deal President Trump made with Democrats earlier this week.

    And much of Southern Mexico spent a tense day after a powerful earthquake struck in the middle of the night. It hit the Pacific coast, killing at least 60 people and turning hundreds of buildings into rubble.

    Nick Schifrin has our report.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In the dead of night, the ground shook so hard, the centuries-old buildings crumbled. This was once Juchitan’s city hall. It’s now cut in half, and collapsed. Old structures stood no chance against the strongest earthquake in nearly a century.

    Rescuers frantically tried to save victims. And beneath all that rubble, survivors were trapped alive, at least four under this building alone.

    City councillor Pamela Teran begged for help.

    PAMELA TERAN, City Councilor (through interpreter): Please, the most pressing need we have right now is to assemble enough people to help us. We need volunteers to come and help us. We need more people to come and help.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The nearby hospital also collapsed. Doctors triaged victims in the streets, and used the lights of cell phones to stitch up the wounded.

    By dawn, heaps of rubble had replaced a once proud neighborhood. The mayor called this the city’s most terrible moment. The 8.1-magnitude quake struck just before midnight off Mexico’s Pacific coast. Hardest hit were nearby Oaxaca and Chiapas states, but the ground shook as far as the capital, Mexico City, more than 650 miles away.

    There, tremors lasted for nearly a minute. Panicked residents huddled in open streets.

    WOMAN (through interpreter): It was horrible. I never felt something so ugly. It was small at first, but then it started shaking a lot. Once we went downstairs, it shook even stronger, and it felt like we were being wrung like clothes in a washing machine. That was terrible.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: In Mexico City, local TV showed firefighters beginning to clear collapsed buildings.

    Already, there have been 20 aftershocks. And there may be more to come, warned Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

    PRESIDENT ENRIQUE PEÑA NIETO, Mexico (through interpreter): We have asked the population to be on alert. It’s probable there will be another.

    NICK SCHIFRIN: The earthquake preceded a natural disaster Mexico could forecast, and is bracing for, Hurricane Katia and 110-mile-an-hour winds are expected make landfall early Saturday.

    Back in Juchitan, the damage is daunting. But even as the destruction was still fresh, a resident found a Mexican flag and made sure it could still fly. A city whose center has been destroyed is now promising to rebuild.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Nick Schifrin.

    JOHN YANG: In Myanmar, there is word that, in the past 24 hours, another 100,000 Rohingya refugees fled into Bangladesh. The U.N. reports that makes 270,000 in two weeks. They’re running from army attacks in mostly Buddhist Myanmar.

    Today, thousands of Muslim protesters gathered in Jakarta, Indonesia, demanding that Myanmar’s government stop the violence. Hundreds more in the Philippines demonstrated outside Myanmar’s embassy in Manila.

    The U.S. Supreme Court will have to decide if grandparents of people already in the United States are exempt from President Trump’s travel ban on visitors from six mostly Muslim nations. The administration has interpreted an earlier high court ruling to mean that grandparents and other close relations are not exempt. But, on Thursday, a federal appeals court in San Francisco disagreed.

    And on Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 13 points to close at 21797. The Nasdaq fell 37 points, and the S&P 500 slipped three. For the week, the Dow and the S&P lost a fraction of 1 percent, and Nasdaq was down a little more than 1 percent.

    The post News Wrap: Trump signs $15 billion Hurricane Harvey relief bill appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    JOHN YANG: Tonight, Florida is bracing for what could be its worst hurricane ever. While Irma’s sustained winds have dropped a bit, it is still a Category 4 storm, with at least 22 dead and a trail of destruction in its wake.

    P.J. Tobia begins our coverage from Cocoa Beach, Florida.

    P.J. TOBIA: Snaking lines of traffic and clogged highways, Floridians escaping a storm that’s targeting the entire state.

    Irma blew toward the Florida Keys today. The storm’s center is on track to turn north and make landfall on the mainland by early Sunday, then plow the length of the state and beyond. Heavy winds battered the islands of Turks and Caicos today, and along the Cuban coastline, thousands of tourists were evacuated from beach towns.

    Streets were submerged in the Dominican Republic after Irma’s passage. The governor of Puerto Plata says some were caught off guard.

    IVAN RIVERA, Governor, Puerto Plata (through interpreter): We need to find the people who left the shelters because they thought there was no hurricane, that nothing was going on. We can’t allow people who were ignoring what was happening to be surprised in the middle of a hurricane, so we have to go out and find them again.

    P.J. TOBIA: At an airport in the Netherlands, the military loaded planes today with badly needed supplies, and the French navy sent water bottles and other relief by ship.

    Badly damaged Barbuda was also greatly in need of aid. This woman searched in vain for her 2-year-old, missing since the storm struck.

    STEVET JEREMIAH, Babuda Resident (through interpreter): I can’t find my son and my other friend. I can’t deal with this no more. We didn’t expect anything like this. In all my life, I have never seen a concrete house crumble under a hurricane.

    P.J. TOBIA: But the islands will barely have a chance to begin the long slog of recovery before another major storm rolls in. Hurricane Jose powered up to Category 4 today, with sustained winds near 150 miles an hour. It could blast St. Martin, Antigua and Barbuda on Saturday, before it heads west into the Atlantic.

    With an eye on the damage Irma has already done, and plenty of warning, Florida has been making preparations for days. Many areas across South and Central Florida are already under mandatory evacuation orders. Here in Brevard County, that means homes and businesses boarded up early against the elements.

    But manufactured homes like the ones behind me are often most susceptible to hurricane-strength winds and rain. In the coastal town of Cocoa Beach, many secured their homes before heading inland.

    RORY O’NEILL, Florida Evacuee: I think everyone is just more alert and stocking up more. Then we’re really going to prepare and go.

    P.J. TOBIA: Despite the traffic backups and gas shortages, Governor Rick Scott urged people to leave while they still can.

    GOV. RICK SCOTT, R-Fla.: Evacuations are not convenient, but they are meant to absolutely keep you safe. I’m glad so many are driving to a safe place.

    P.J. TOBIA: Scott also pledged police escorts for gas station workers who stayed on the job to get fuel to as many people as possible.

    Meanwhile, FEMA says up to 100,000 people might need shelter in Florida once the storm hits. This center in Orlando cares for homeless people with special medical needs. Its manager says all of the challenges posed by a monster hurricane are that much harder for those without homes or good health.

    DAWN ZINGER, Pathways to Care: Sometimes they can’t handle the crowd, or they’re on medications and they’re on insulin, and so keeping that cold, all of these things start to play into it.

    P.J. TOBIA: And so they choose to ride the storm out on the street?

    DAWN ZINGER: Yes, they sure will. I don’t think so many are this time. There is truly a sense that this is bigger than what we have seen in the past.

    P.J. TOBIA: This man says some of his homeless friends and family will be weathering the storm in the open, and if it weren’t for the facility, he might be doing the same.

    MAN: My brother right now is out there. He’s taking care of my tent, and making sure it’s all wrapped up in canvases and tied everything down and make sure everything’s secure.

    P.J. TOBIA: In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal is still urging 540,000 people living along the coast to evacuate, but the storm’s shift westward also prompted him to expand the state of emergency to 94 counties.

    As of 3:00 p.m. Eastern time, most of the barrier islands in this area, including right here where I’m standing on Cocoa Beach, have a 24-hour mandatory evacuation order. That means residents have 24 hours to pack up their gear, board up their homes and businesses, and hit the road.

    After that time period, emergency officials told us today they’re not sure they are going to be able to respond to emergency calls or life-threatening situations — John.

    JOHN YANG: P.J., what’s the situation in terms of preparations down there?

    P.J. TOBIA: Yes, prepare, prepare, prepare is the word of the day down here and really the last couple of days.

    Folks have been really boarding up their houses, buying supplies. There’s not a lot of water left on store shelves. There’s not a lot of gas left at what gas stations are still open, and residents tell us that’s because of the memory of Hurricane Matthew, which was a storm that hit here last year and did a lot of damage in the area, never actually made landfall.

    In fact, it just stayed right off there, off the coast for a couple of days. And so they’re worried this storm that will be making landfall and maybe coming through this area could be much worse. And, of course, there’s the memory of Hurricane Harvey that just damaged Houston. No one wants to see that kind of destruction here.

    JOHN YANG: And, P.J., you mentioned an evacuation order for where you are. In Florida, and because of the storm path, there’s only one way to go. That’s north. How are the evacuations going?

    P.J. TOBIA: Well, what officials have tried to do is have a phased zone evacuation system. This is zone one. It’s right on the water.

    That means they’re the first to evacuate. Later, it will fold into zone two further inland and possibly zone three if it comes to that. Still, as we have all seen, lots of traffic on the roads, lots of jammed highways heading north out of the Sunshine State.

    JOHN YANG: P.J. Tobia on what is now a Cocoa Beach in Florida, P.J., stay safe over the weekend.

    P.J. TOBIA: Thanks so much, John.

    JOHN YANG: While the exact path of Irma remains uncertain, one thing is clear. Florida is going to get hit hard.

    Miami is right in the cross hairs. It’s also home to the National Hurricane Center.

    We turn again to its acting director, Ed Rappaport.

    Ed, thanks for joining us again.

    What is the latest on the track of Irma?

    ED RAPPAPORT, Acting Director, National Hurricane Center: We can see Irma off to my shoulder here. And it’s passing now to the north of the eastern part of Cuba.

    And as we said for the past few days, we think that track along the coast there will continue, but then a turn towards the north, and where that turn occurs is going to be critical in terms of the impacts that we will see in South Florida.

    And one of those impacts that we’re most concerned about is storm surge. I have got the video of that behind me, shows just what storm surge is and what it can do. At this point, what we’re concerned most about is surge along the southeast coast, Florida Keys and the southwest coast in this area that’s colored with six to 12 feet of storm surge possible in the southwestern part of Florida and five to 10 feet along the coast in southeastern part of Florida and the Keys.

    JOHN YANG: And given the physical size of this storm and the physical narrowness of Florida, does any little deviation or a possible deviation in the track make much a difference in that storm surge and in what Florida is going to get hit with?

    ED RAPPAPORT: It doesn’t change the amount of storm surge very much, but it does change what people experience in terms of the wind.

    And at this point, we have it forecast for the center, which is these dots here, coming up on the southwest part of the peninsula. Any shift one way or the other makes a big difference in terms of the winds. At this point, the shifts that we have had today have been — made it worse for the Florida Keys in terms of the expectations and have increased the risk for the southwestern part of the Florida Peninsula.

    JOHN YANG: So, it’s getting worse. What you have seen, the changes so far have made things worse?

    ED RAPPAPORT: In terms of the change of the track today, it is worse for the Florida Keys.

    It’s also worse for Southwest Florida, because the track is closer to them. There is some potential that the worst of the weather will not hit Southeast Florida, but we’re still expecting hurricane conditions there overnight Saturday and into Sunday.

    JOHN YANG: And once it gets over land and starts moving up the Florida Peninsula, are winds going to diminish much as the storm goes over land?


    Typically, the winds do diminish very gradually. But, in this case, because hurricane-force winds extend so far that, even when they drop down a little bit, we are still going to see those winds covering almost all of the Florida Peninsula. At least the southern two-thirds will get potentially hurricane-force winds.

    JOHN YANG: Ed Rappaport at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, thanks so much.

    ED RAPPAPORT: Thank you.

    JOHN YANG: Staying in Miami, shelters are rapidly filling to capacity, as officials stressed the importance of making plans ahead of Irma’s arrival.

    A short time ago, I spoke by phone with Major Hector Llevat of the Miami-Dade Police Department.

    Major Hector Llevat of the Miami-Dade Police Department, thanks for joining us.

    I want to begin by asking you about the evacuations. I know that there are about 680,000 people in Miami-Dade under evacuation order right now. How is that process going?

    MAJ. HECTOR LLEVAT, Miami-Dade Police Department: Well, the good thing is that, early on this week, the county government here was urging those that had plans to relocate as part of their hurricane plan to go ahead and initiate those plans ahead of time, and not wait for the evacuation order.

    Obviously, you know, the layout of Florida is a long distance before you can get upstate and out of the state, if that’s your desire. So we put those messages out early, and people have been slowly trickling out. Obviously, it’s difficult to measure numbers.

    But the information that we have been getting from people that we know and what we see here on local TV is that a lot of people have decided to go ahead and either relocate or seek shelter, but, so far, it’s been orderly. We have been working with the Florida Highway Patrol and other agencies to help the traffic flow.

    The governor has to suspended tolls and things like that to try to make the process a little smoother.

    JOHN YANG: Major, we have landfall expected, I understand, Sunday morning. We’re a little bit out from that. What’s your biggest concern right now?

    MAJ. HECTOR LLEVAT: Well, the biggest concern right now, before the storm, is really to urge everybody to prepare, to get those preparations in place.

    Obviously, the window is closing quickly. Make those final arrangements. Make sure you decide what it is you’re going to do, so that when it’s time to bunker down and shelter in place, that everybody’s in a safe location. And that’s really the thing that we’re focusing on now.

    The other side of that as an agency is make sure our employees are prepared and their families are prepared so that they can turn and serve the community in the time of need, making sure our equipment is ready. We’re already mobilized our department, so we’re working two shifts now, the half of the department in the day shift and the other half on the evening shift, 12-hour shifts.

    Obviously, days off have been canceled until further notice, and we are ready to go.

    JOHN YANG: Do you get any sense in any difference in the public response? We have always heard of people talking about riding them out. Are there fewer people talking about it this time?

    MAJ. HECTOR LLEVAT: A lot of people are choosing to not be here when it comes.

    I think part of it is what we saw in Texas recently, which is obviously a tragedy and it’s on everybody’s mind. And on top of that, recently, we had the 25-year anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, which is something that South Floridians remember quite well, and it was a devastating storm.

    And this storm, by all accounts, is much stronger.

    JOHN YANG: And, finally, for those people in Miami-Dade who may be listening to us right now, what’s your message?

    MAJ. HECTOR LLEVAT: Our message right now is to follow the instructions that you’re getting from government officials, to visit the official Web site, which is Miami-Dade.gov/emergency, where we have updated information on shelters and many of the topics that people are searching for answers for, and to follow us on social media @MiamiDadePD, across the major platforms, where we will be sharing up-to-date information as much as we can throughout the event.

    JOHN YANG: Major Hector Llevat of the Miami-Dade police, thank you very much for your time.

    MAJ. HECTOR LLEVAT: Thank you very much.

    The post Florida exhorts residents to prepare and evacuate for destructive Hurricane Irma appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program march to City Hall in Los Angeles, California, September 5, 2017. REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot - RC1EF56DDB10

    Supporters of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program march to City Hall in Los Angeles, California, on September 5, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/ Kyle Grillot

    President Donald Trump this week gave Congress a narrow, six-month window to act to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation, an issue that has bedeviled lawmakers from both parties for more than a decade.

    But after recovering from their initial anger over Mr. Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Democrats and immigration reform advocates — and even some Republicans — now see an opening to achieve a goal that has eluded Congress repeatedly in the past.

    This time could be different, they believe, for a number of reasons.

    After weeks of speculation about how he would handle the issue, Trump ultimately decided to phase out the Obama-era DACA program. But he has broken from the hardline, anti-immigration wing of the Republican Party by expressing support for protecting so-called “dreamers,” young people living in the United States who were brought to the country illegally as children.

    Under Trump’s plan, the program will expire on March 5, 2018. The administration stopped accepting new applicants this week; if Congress doesn’t pass a law to replace it, young undocumented immigrants who are not currently protected by the program would become eligible for deportation in early March.

    Polls shows that a majority of Americans support the program, which was established by former President Barack Obama through an executive order in 2012. The program grants two-year, renewable deferrals from deportation and offers work permits so long as applicants meet certain conditions. Roughly 800,000 people have received protection under DACA since the program started five years ago.

    Today, 58 percent of Americans, including a large portion of Republicans, believe “dreamers” should be allowed to remain in the U.S., according to a Morning Consult/Politico poll taken one week before Trump’s decision.

    “We want to do it as soon as possible and strike while the iron is hot, because public opinion is so in favor” of the program, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday.

    The strong public support for DACA, along with Trump’s short deadline, could also push Congress to act fast, said Clarissa Martinez de Castro, a deputy vice president at UnidosUS, formerly known as the National Council of La Raza, one of the nation’s most powerful Latino advocacy groups.

    U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) (L) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) (R) speak about proposed legislation to deal with so-called "Dreamers," children of undocumented immigrant families who were covered under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RC1431C411A0

    Senator Richard Durbin, D-Ill., left, and Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speak about proposed legislation to deal with so-called “Dreamers” during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on September 5, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

    Some Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have signaled support for legislation that would offer some form of protection to young undocumented immigrants, so long as it includes tougher immigration enforcement measures.

    “We need to respond to this immediately,” Martinez de Castro said. “I think there’s incredible pressure to act, and that presents an opportunity.”

    The biggest question now is whether or not lawmakers will try to attach immigration reform to another piece of major legislation this fall, or try to pass a bill on its own. Ryan and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the Senate majority whip, have said Republicans will not agree to a standalone bill.

    But the packed legislative calendar this fall could work in the Democrats’ favor. If there isn’t enough support among Republicans in Congress for a DACA replacement bill, Democrats will have several chances to attach the measure to legislation that must be approved in the coming months.

    The option that has received the most attention so far is the spending package needed to keep the government funded past the first week of December.

    Democrats will have several chances to attach a DACA measure to legislation that must be approved in the coming months.

    After Trump dealt a blow to Republican leaders by striking a surprise deal with Democrats this week, Congress quickly approved a three-month spending package that included disaster relief and a provision raising the nation’s debt ceiling until Dec. 8. Democrats could hold out for an immigration measure when the spending and debt ceiling debate returns later this year.

    At the same time, Democrats are also eyeing a number of other “must-pass” bills as possible vehicles for a DACA replacement measure. They include the annual defense reauthorization bill, and bills to renew funding for the Federal Aviation Administration and the federal-state children’s health insurance program, to name a few.

    But it’s still too early to tell how the political horse trading would play out. Serious negotiations over a possible compromise haven’t begun yet on either side of the Capitol.

    First, Democrats are planning to test the waters to see if there is enough support to pass a “clean” version of the Dream Act, a bill protecting young undocumented immigrants that was first introduced in 2001. Unlike the DACA program, which offers temporary relief from deportation, the original Dream Act would have granted eligible applicants permanent resident status if they met a complex set of qualifications.

    Protestors gather outside the Trump Hotel to protest President Donald Trump's plan to repeal DACA in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein - RC14330A1CF0

    Protestors gather outside the Trump Hotel to protest President Donald Trump’s plan to repeal DACA in Washington on September 5, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

    Immigration reform advocates said they would pressure Democrats to fight for a standalone bill, in the hopes that the issue is dealt with on its own merits instead of becoming a bargaining chip in a broader policy debate over other immigration issues, such as border security or funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    “We’re pushing for a clean vote on the bill,” Martinez de Castro said.

    The original Dream Act was bipartisan, proposed in the years before the Tea Party movement, when mainstream Republicans could support immigration reform without facing a backlash from the far right.

    But the bill has failed to pass on multiple occasions since it was introduced in 2001. In recent years, the proposal has been blocked by an increasingly vocal anti-immigration wing of the Republican Party, as well as some conservative Democrats.

    The closest it came to passage was in 2010, when the Democratic-controlled House approved the measure by a 216-198 vote, with support from eight Republicans. The bill died in the Senate after it failed to overcome a filibuster.

    READ MORE: Trump’s decision to end DACA, explained

    In 2013, the Senate voted 68-32 in favor of a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform bill that included parts of the Dream Act. Fourteen Republicans — among them 11 who are still in the Senate — voted for the measure, but House Republican leaders did not bring it up for a vote, allowing the bill to expire.

    This week, some Democrats on Capitol Hill said they believed there was a chance Congress would be able to approve the Dream Act or a similar piece of legislation in the next six months.

    “There’s clearly some way to come together on this, and signs that a number of Republicans want to do something,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, said in an interview.

    In July, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced a version of the Dream Act with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a member of the Democratic leadership and one of the co-sponsors of the original legislation 16 years ago.

    In March, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., proposed a bill that would allow young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children to stay in the U.S. The proposal would also allow “dreamers” to obtain citizenship eventually, after meeting certain requirements such as earning a higher-education degree, remaining employed or serving in the military over a five-year period.

    So far, 29 House Republicans have co-sponsored the legislation — including 11 who signed on to the bill starting on Sept. 5, the day after Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally announced the administration’s decision to end the DACA program.

    Rep. Steve King (R-IA) speaks to reporters about DACA and immigration legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC120C7F1EC0

    Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, speaks to reporters about DACA and immigration legislation on Capitol Hill in Washington on September 6, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

    But several conservative Republicans in both chambers came out this week against a “dreamer” program, signaling that a standalone measure could face significant opposition in Congress.

    Last Sunday, three days before the official DACA announcement, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a prominent critic of immigration reform, issued a warning to Republicans.

    “Ending DACA now gives chance 2 restore Rule of Law,” King wrote on Twitter. “Delaying so R Leadership can push Amnesty is Republican suicide.”

    After the decision came down, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark, said in a statement that a proposal shielding undocumented immigrants would have to include other reforms aimed at protecting American workers.

    “For 30 years, Americans have rejected repeated attempts to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants because they know what will follow: pressure on working-class wages, pressure on public schools, and pressure on welfare dollars,” Cotton said. “A standalone DACA amnesty will also be rejected if it is not combined with legislative reforms that lessen those consequences and produce lasting gains for all Americans.”

    The final votes will likely be impacted by cold political calculations on the part of lawmakers who don’t represent large numbers of young undocumented workers.

    The view reflected the right’s fierce opposition to plans that grant protection to undocumented immigrants — opposition that Democrats and moderate Republicans must overcome in order to act in the next six months.

    Whether Congress takes up a “dreamer” bill alone or in tandem with other legislation, many of the final votes will likely be impacted by cold political calculations on the part of lawmakers who don’t represent large numbers of young undocumented workers.

    Approximately 85 to 90 percent of the people who have been approved under DACA immigrated from Mexico, according to Mark Hugo Lopez, the director of Hispanic research at the Pew Research Center.

    Many of them now live in left-leaning states that are dominated by Democrats. A majority of DACA recipients — 424,995 people — applied from the state of California alone, according to the most recent government statistics on the program, which include data through March 31 of this year.

    “California dwarfs everything here,” Lopez said, making it unclear how much Republicans from other parts of the country would gain politically from supporting the Dream Act, or something like it. “The unauthorized immigrant map is largely a blue-state map, and a blue-state metropolitan map,” Lopez added.

    In the end, Martinez de Castro of UnidosUS said, “I don’t think it’s a question of timing so much as it’s a question of will — which could be more difficult.”

    The post Congress has tried to protect ‘dreamers’ before. Will this time be different? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Lamar Alexander speaks during Rep. Tom Price's nomination hearing to be Health and Human Services secretary in Washington.

    Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Lamar Alexander speaks during Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) nomination hearing to be Health and Human Services secretary in Washington, U.S., January 18, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has a problem — and not much time to solve it.

    The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee wants to turn the page on the divisive health debate of this summer. He’s been working with the panel’s top Democrat, Patty Murray (D-Wash.), to craft a bipartisan bill aimed at shoring up the individual health insurance market.

    Alexander has been looking at a proposal that would please Democrats (and insurance companies) by funding contested subsidies that help moderate-income policyholders pay their out-of-pocket health costs. To please Republicans, he has been pushing a plan to give states more flexibility to set up “reinsurance” pools that would help bring down premiums by limiting insurer exposure for the most expensive patients.

    And he has to get the job done with only a handful of legislative days in September before insurers must make final decisions on 2018 coverage.

    Alexander may have an impossible task ahead of him if his committee’s hearings over the past two days are an indication.

    A bipartisan succession of state governors and insurance commissioners told the committee that there is no time for them to get their own reinsurance programs up and running in order to stabilize the market. What would help in the short term, they said, would be for the federal government to step in and do it — temporarily. “For the first year, you’re going to have to have the federal government help on that,” said Gov. Bill Haslam (R-Tenn.).

    But a clearly frustrated Alexander said at the end of Thursday’s hearing that he couldn’t pass that kind of bill. “To get a Republican president, House and Senate to vote for just more money isn’t going to happen in the next two or three weeks,” he said.

    That, however, did not convince the governors, who said this money was essential in stabilizing the markets.

    “One of our great challenges is to get more people participating in the system; a reinsurance pool is one of the best ways to do that,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat from Colorado.

    READ NEXT: An Obamacare win: No ‘bare counties’ for health insurance next year

    He and Haslam were echoed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, both Republicans; and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat.

    Reinsurance provides money to insurers for the sickest and highest-cost consumers. Governors testified that reinsurance would lower premiums, thereby bringing young, healthy people into the risk pool and providing stability to the marketplace.

    Alexander has been a proponent of states setting up their own reinsurance pools by applying for exemptions from the Affordable Care Act’s rules to innovate in their markets. So-called Section 1332 waivers are permitted as long as they don’t cost the federal government more money or cover fewer people. He asked in his opening remarks if there was a way to reform the clunky 1332 process to allow states to create their own reinsurance pools.

    “Whether it’s reinsurance or an invisible high-risk pool or a stabilization fund — we need to think about what the state share of that should be,” Alexander said.

    As written, the health law makes it impossible for states to get waivers for reinsurance pools that could be up and running in time for 2018 enrollment. The waivers require state legislation and six-month waiting periods for final federal approval. The ACA created a federal reinsurance program that ran for three years, expiring in 2016.

    Bullock said the federal reinsurance pool lowered premiums by 10 to 15 percent in 2014.

    Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), a former governor of her state, supported using federal dollars to help states set up their reinsurance programs.

    “At least some of the seed money should come from the feds, because the feds are going to save money if they put in place a reinsurance program and premiums go down,” Hassan said.

    Without reinsurance, the federal government’s costs for premium subsidies will rise as premiums increase.

    But Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said it was unlikely that a federal reinsurance program would be ready in time to affect 2018 premiums.

    “I think we’re on a really tight time frame,” Murphy said after the hearing. “Whatever enthusiasm exists in the Senate for a federal reinsurance program might not exist in the House.”

    Every governor in attendance also advocated for the extension of cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers for at least two years. Those payments, estimated at $10 billion for 2018, reimburse insurers for discounts given to low-income consumers. They are being funded on a month-to-month basis by the Trump administration.

    Some Republican senators have denounced both cost-sharing payments and reinsurance as “insurance company bailouts,” but both the governors and the insurance commissioners told the committee that funding them is essential to keep insurers participating in the Obamacare marketplaces next year and prevent a spike in premiums.

    Two more HELP Committee hearings are set for next week, on Tuesday and Sept. 14 — the first with health care experts and the second with a mixed panel including doctors and patient advocates. Alexander said Thursday that he wants to reach a consensus about stabilizing the individual health market by the end of next week and pass legislation before the end of September. That is when insurers need to submit their 2018 rates to state insurance regulators.

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

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    A giant Facebook “like” seen at the company’s new headquarters in Menlo Park, California. Photo by Robert Galbraith/Reuters

    Facebook announced Wednesday that a Russian propaganda organization used the social media platform to purchase $100,000 of political advertising.

    Here’s what you need to know about this news:

    What was found?

    Facebook found 470 inauthentic accounts associated with approximately 3,000 political ads from June 2015 to May 2017. The ad purchases and accounts are affiliated with a Russian “troll farm,” dubbed the Internet Research Agency, which spreads pro-Russian propaganda and false information across the World Wide Web.

    Most of the ads did not contain references to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, voting or the candidates. “Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum — touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights,” Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said in a blog post on the company’s website.

    Facebook also conducted a wider search for political ads that potentially originated from Russia. The company found $50,000 worth of spending on 2,200 ads. A Facebook spokesperson, however, cautioned that this group of ads carried a low amount of certainty because the company’s search included sources with weak connections to Russia.

    How does the Russian propaganda machine work? Special correspondent Nick Schifrin talked to someone who used to work as a “troll” inside the Internet Research Agency. Watch his July 2017 report from “Inside Putin’s Russia.”

    What is the Internet Research Agency?

    “The agency had become known for employing hundreds of Russians to post pro-Kremlin propaganda online under fake identities, including on Twitter, in order to create the illusion of a massive army of supporters,” journalist Adrian Chen wrote in 2015 in the New York Times Magazine.

    Chen reported that the agency was responsible for false reports of toxic fumes in Louisiana and an outbreak of Ebola in Atlanta, both in 2014.

    Learn more about the Internet Research Agency from this 2015 conversation between PBS NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown and journalist Adrian Chen.

    Why it’s important

    In January, the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Russian President Vladimir Putin led a campaign to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Paid trolls — social media users who were compensated to deliberately post controversial content — and the social media accounts of the pro-Kremlin television network RT were part of this effort, according to their report.

    What Facebook found is “one small piece of this larger, consistent, Russian effort,” John Sipher, a former CIA agent who ran the agency’s Russia program for three years, told the NewsHour.

    “This is a big deal because I think it’s more evidence of a coordinated Russian attack against our system,” Sipher said.

    And for those who suggest that $100,000 in ads is not much: “This is just one troll farm that Facebook has proven” was Russian, Sipher said. “I’m sure there’s all kinds of other stuff that hasn’t been picked up on yet.”

    In addition to the ad buying, an investigation published late Thursday by The New York Times, with research from the cybersecurity company FireEye, detailed other ways that suspected Russian trolls disseminated false and hacked information.

    Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told the Washington Post that Facebook’s disclosure is a “profound warning to us and others about future elections.” A question left to answer, he said, is whether any of the pro-Russian trolls coordinated with President Trump’s 2016 campaign team.

    What’s next?

    Stamos, the chief security officer, said Facebook has since shut down the 470 suspicious accounts and pages.

    “We have shared our findings with U.S. authorities investigating these issues, and we will continue to work with them as necessary,” Stamos said.

    But Facebook has not shared copies of the ads with the public, and does not plan to, a Facebook spokesperson told the NewsHour. A Facebook official told the Washington Post that “our data policy and federal law limit our ability to share user data and content, so we won’t be releasing any ads.”

    Facebook’s refusal to share the ads has drawn criticism from eBay founder, philanthropist and First Look Media founder Pierre Omidyar and former Federal Election Commission Chairman Trevor Potter.

    Stamos noted that Facebook has made improvements to weed out fake accounts based on their activity on the platform and end the spread of fake news in the past year, with more improvements planned.

    “We are looking at how we can apply the techniques we developed for detecting fake accounts to better detect inauthentic pages and the ads they may run,” Stamos said. “We are also experimenting with changes to help us more efficiently detect and stop inauthentic accounts at the time they are being created.”

    The post A Russian propaganda group purchased ads on Facebook during the 2016 election. Here’s what that means. appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting Republican Congressional leaders about tax reform at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts - RC14BA8280A0

    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting Republican Congressional leaders about tax reform at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 5, 2017. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump ignored seething Republicans and made good on his deal with Democrats, signing legislation that links $15.3 billion in disaster aid to an increase in the U.S. borrowing limit.

    The law is a first installment in replenishing depleted federal emergency coffers. Trump signed it Friday as Hurricane Irma approached Florida and as Texas picks up the pieces after the devastation of Harvey. All 90 votes in opposition were cast by Republicans, some of whom hissed and booed administration officials who went to Capitol Hill to defend the package.

    Conservative Republicans were upset that Trump cut the disaster-and-debt deal with Democratic leaders with no offsetting budget cuts.

    “You can’t just keep borrowing money,” said GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina. “We’re going to be $22 trillion in debt.”

    The aid measure, which passed the House on a vote of 316-90, was the first injection of emergency money that could rival or exceed the $110 billion federal response after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, though future aid packages may be more difficult to pass. The legislation also finances the government through Dec. 8.

    In a closed-door meeting before the vote, more than a dozen Republicans stood up and complained about Trump cutting a deal with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi instead of GOP leaders trying to deliver on the president’s agenda.

    READ NEXT: Live map: Track Hurricanes Irma, Katia and Jose as they head for land

    Budget chief Mick Mulvaney, a former tea party congressman from South Carolina who took a hard line against debt increases during his House tenure, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin faced a rough time in pleading for votes.

    Mnuchin elicited hisses when he told the meeting of House Republicans “vote for the debt ceiling for me,” said Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C.

    Republicans were in disbelief after Mnuchin argued that the debt ceiling shouldn’t be a political issue in the future, said Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.

    Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., described a surreal scene with Mnuchin, a former Democratic donor, and Mulvaney, who almost certainly would have opposed the very measure he was sent to pitch, pressing Republicans to rally around the legislation.

    “It’s kind of like ‘Where am I? What’s going on here?'” Costello said. “If it wasn’t so serious it kind of would have been funny.”

    Mulvaney was booed when he stepped to the microphone, though lawmakers said it was good-natured. He defended the deal and Trump.

    [Watch Video]

    “It was absolutely the right thing to do,” Mulvaney told reporters after the meeting. “The president is a results-driven person, and right now he wants to see results on Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma and tax reform. He saw an opportunity to work with Democrats on this particular issue at this particular time.”

    But Mulvaney further upset Republicans when he wouldn’t promise spending cuts as part of a future debt limit vote.

    Trump on Wednesday had cut a deal with Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi to increase the debt limit for three months, rather than the long-term approach preferred by the GOP leaders that would have resolved the issue through next year’s midterms.

    Conservatives disliked both options. Voting on the debt limit is politically toxic for Republicans, and the deal will make the GOP vote twice before next year’s midterm elections.

    Fiscal conservatives have clamored for deep cuts in spending in exchange for any increase in the government’s borrowing authority. The storm relief measure had widespread support, but the linkage with the debt ceiling left many Republicans frustrated.

    “Are we doing anything on fiscal sanity? No,” said tea party Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va. “And so Mick (Mulvaney) came over today, the treasury secretary came over today, and we said, ‘Do you have a plan for fiscal sanity going forward?’ No. Crickets. So that’s the frustration.”

    Democratic votes are invariably needed to increase the debt limit — and avert a potential market-quaking default on government obligations — and Schumer and Pelosi successfully pressed to waive the debt limit through Dec. 8. Democrats are cautious about working with Trump, but hold out hope for legislation on the budget, health care, and shielding young immigrants brought to this country illegally from deportation.

    Moderate GOP Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he’s been encouraging Trump to find ways to work with Democrats. King attended a meeting in the White House on Thursday with lawmakers when the president asked him “how did I feel the bipartisan deal was going. Did I think it was good?” I said, “‘Absolutely, we need more of it.’ I said, ‘You and Chuck. The two of you in the room. We can make some good deals.'”

    Associated Press writers Richard Lardner and Kevin Freking contributed to this report.

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    Florida Gov. Rick Scott strongly urged residents in evacuation zones to leave their homes on Saturday as Hurricane Irma headed toward the state’s southwest coast.

    “If you have been ordered to evacuate anywhere in the state, you need to leave right now. Not tonight, not in an hour, now. You are running out of time to make a decision,” he said.

    The storm was downgraded to a Category 3 Hurricane on Saturday as it barreled toward Florida, with Miami and the Florida Keys already experiencing 60 mph winds. The state’s highways were packed with people evacuating south Florida on Saturday after officials ordered about 6.3 million people to leave their homes. Scott said on Saturday that more than 25,000 homes have lost power.

    About 54,000 people have already moved to more than 320 shelters, with more opening today.

    Weather forecasters are projecting that the hurricane’s path will strike the Florida Keys on Sunday afternoon before moving up the Gulf Coast toward Tampa Bay. Scott also warned of a storm surge that could reach as high as 15 feet in some areas and “will cover your house.”

    Scott said “evacuation routes are moving” as residents continue to flee north, while the state is working aggressively to bring in depleted fuel supplies and prepare for widespread power outages. “The rainfall is already in this area and the wind will begin tonight,” he said.


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    Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov speaks during a news briefing in the main building of Foreign Ministry in Moscow

    Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov speaks during a news briefing in the main building of Foreign Ministry in Moscow, December 15, 2008. Photo by Denis Sinyakov/Reuters

    WASHINGTON — U.S. and Russian envoys are to meet in Finland this coming week in a bid to calm diplomatic tensions that have risen to levels of the Cold War.

    The State Department’s third-ranking official, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, will meet on Monday and Tuesday with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. Shannon and Ryabkov have held several rounds of talks this year focused on resolving irritants in U.S.-Russian relations, such as the tit-for-tat closures of diplomatic missions and expulsion of diplomats. They’re expected to address broader strategic relations and arms control as well.

    On Aug. 31, in response to an order from Moscow to reduce the U.S. diplomatic presence in Russia by several hundred people, the U.S. ordered Russia to close its consulate in San Francisco and two annexes in Washington and New York. Those actions followed the U.S seizure of two Russian compounds in Maryland and New York and the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in retaliation for Moscow’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

    [Watch Video]

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who are expected to meet this month in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, charged Shannon and Ryabkov earlier this year with exploring ways to resolve bilateral disputes that are hindering broader cooperation on strategic and security issues, such as the war in Syria and the conflict in Ukraine.

    Among the top complaints from Washington: the harassment of American government personnel in Russia, a Russian ban on adoptions of children by U.S. families, and Moscow’s halting of plans to construct a new U.S. consulate in St. Petersburg. Russia’s complaints include U.S. sanctions imposed after its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and the seizure of its properties.

    READ NEXT: A Russian propaganda group purchased ads on Facebook during the 2016 election. Here’s what that means.

    Two earlier rounds of talks between Shannon and Ryabkov ended inconclusively.

    The State Department announced the new talks Saturday and said Shannon will also meet Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and other Finnish officials while in Helsinki.

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    Large Outbreak Of Measles Reported In California

    Large and protracted mumps epidemics have been happening with increasing frequency in recent years among college students, sports teams and other communities, but an extra dose of the easles, mumps, and rubella vaccine can help, a study suggests. Photo by Getty Images

    An extra dose of the combined measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine can help to stop mumps outbreaks, a new study suggests.

    The research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and based on analysis of data from a large mumps outbreak at the University of Iowa in 2015-2016, showed that getting a third dose of MMR vaccine cut the risk of contracting the mumps by 78 percent.

    “The thing that this study particularly adds is that a third dose may have a role — at least in outbreak control — for mumps,” said Dr. Saad Omer, a professor of epidemiology and pediatrics at Emory University. Omer, whose work focuses on vaccinations, was not involved in the new study, which was published Wednesday.

    Large and protracted mumps epidemics have been happening with increasing frequency in recent years among college students, sports teams, and communities of people who live in close proximity to one another — even though in many cases people who contract the virus have received both recommended doses of the MMR vaccine. The situation has left the public health officials who set U.S. vaccination policy puzzling over what is happening and how to respond.

    The panel of experts that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccinations, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, has set up a working group to investigate the issue and to recommend changes to mumps vaccination policy, if the evidence supports changes. Those recommendations may be brought forward — and voted on — as early as next month, when the ACIP meets again.

    The mumps virus, which is transmitted in saliva, causes an illness with many common symptoms — fever, headache, muscle aches. But the virus also infects salivary glands, leading to pronounced swelling on one or both sides of the face. In males infected after puberty, it can also induce swelling of the testicles, a painful condition known as orchitis.

    Serious complications of mumps are rare, but can include encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), deafness, and infertility.

    Before the mumps vaccine was introduced in the U.S. in 1967, there were upward of 186,000 cases of mumps a year. Annual case counts plummeted after 1977, when ACIP recommended all children receive a dose of MMR vaccine, and fell further still after a second dose was recommended after 1989.

    More recently, 6,000 or 7,000 cases in a year is deemed a bad year for mumps. So far this year there have been at least 4,240 cases reported nationally.

    In an outbreak at the University of Iowa, 98 percent of the roughly 20,000 students had received two doses of MMR vaccine. Still, 259 students contracted the virus during the outbreak.

    In the new study, researchers — from the CDC and the local and state public health departments — went over the medical records of the infected students and saw a pattern. The longer it had been since the students received their second dose of MMR vaccine, the greater their risk of contracting mumps. In fact, students who had received their second shot 13 years — or more — before were nine times more likely to be infected than students who had been vaccinated more recently.

    “Collectively these data suggest waning immunity from the second MMR vaccine dose,” said lead author Dr. Cristina Cardemil, a medical epidemiologist in CDC’s division of viral diseases.

    One of the senior authors, Dr. Manisha Patel, said the mumps working group is considering these findings and other data as it deliberates on what recommendations to present to ACIP.

    One thing that’s not on the table, Patel said, is proposing a delay to children’s second dose of MMR vaccine. The CDC recommends children get their first dose of the vaccine between 12 and 15 months of age and their second between the ages of 4 and 6.

    “I will tell you the work group right now is not considering tweaking the one or two dose schedule or moving anything around,” Patel said.

    Omer said the group could consider recommending that all teenagers get a third dose of MMR vaccine around the time they get ready to head to college. But he acknowledged the new study doesn’t provide the evidence needed to advocate for an across-the-board third dose recommendation.

    Dr. Stanley Plotkin, who played a key role in the development of the rubella vaccine, said he believes a new mumps vaccine is needed. He suggested that a vaccine made with killed or inactivated mumps virus that could be given to teenagers as a booster shot could increase their level of protective antibodies. (The MMR vaccine is made with live but weakened viruses.)

    “We can respond like firemen to these outbreaks or we can try to fix the problem prophylactically,” said Plotkin, who consults with pharmaceutical companies and was a consultant to the ACIP’s mumps working group.

    Developing a whole new vaccine would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and Plotkin admitted there’s little enthusiasm for his idea. But he insisted highly publicized mumps outbreaks in fully vaccinated individuals carry a cost as well.

    “I’m concerned that the reputation of vaccination is going to suffer if we have these continued outbreaks,” Plotkin said.

    Omer didn’t see that as a solution, saying there aren’t new mumps vaccines in the development pipeline, nor are there the financial incentives for industry to produce them.

    This article is reproduced with permission from STAT. It was first published on Sept. 6, 2017. Find the original story here.

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    Houses are seen partially submerged in flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in Northwest Houston, Texas, U.S. August 30, 2017. Photo by Adrees Latif/REUTERS

    Houses are seen partially submerged in flood waters caused by Tropical Storm Harvey in Northwest Houston, Texas, on Aug. 30, 2017. Photo by Adrees Latif/Reuters

    Before Hurricane Harvey made landfall on Aug. 25, there was little doubt that its impact would be devastating and wide-ranging.

    Unfortunately, Harvey delivered and then some with early estimates of the damage at over US$190 billion, which would make it the costliest storm in U.S. history. The rain dumped on the Houston area by Harvey has been called “unprecedented,” making engineering and floodplain design standards look outdated at best and irresponsible at worst.

    But to dismiss this as a once-in-a-lifetime event would be a mistake. With more very powerful storms forming in the Atlantic this hurricane season, we should know better. We must listen to those telling a more complicated story, one that involves decades of land use planning and poor urban design that has generated impervious surfaces at a fantastic pace.

    As the Houston region turns its attention to rebuilding and other cities consider ramping up efforts to make their infrastructure more resilient, it is this story that can provide valuable lessons for policymakers, planners, engineers, developers and the public. These lessons are all the more important against the backdrop of a Trump administration that has stripped requirements for infrastructure projects to consider climate impacts and may try to offer an infrastructure investment package.

    We draw from our research as a social scientist and an engineer and from our experience helping to lead the Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather Events Sustainability Research Network (funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation). Here are six rules for investing in infrastructure for the 21st century that recognize the need to rethink how we design and operate our infrastructure.

    If we design with the technologies, needs and climate conditions of the 20th century, we will no longer serve society and the hazards we will encounter now and in the future.

    A strong foundation

    Proactive maintenance first. In 2017, U.S. infrastructure was given a D+ by the American Society for Civil Engineering Infrastructure Report Card. The bill to repair all those deteriorating roads, bridges and dams would tally $210 billion by 2020, and $520 billion in 2040. For example, the US Army Corps of Engineers estimates there are 15,460 dams in the U.S. with “high” hazard ratings.

    Yet, when our cities and states spend on infrastructure, it is too often on new infrastructure projects. And new infrastructure tend to emulate the models, designs and standards that we’ve used for decades – for instance, more highway capacity or new pipelines.

    Meanwhile, resources for long-term maintenance are often lacking, resulting in a race to scrape together funding to keep systems running. If we want to get serious about avoiding disasters in a rapidly changing world, we must get serious about the maintenance of existing infrastructure.

    Invest in and redesign institutions, not just infrastructure. When analyzing breakdowns in infrastructure, it is tempting to blame the technical design. Yet design parameters are set by institutions and shaped by politics, financing and policy goals.

    So failures in infrastructure are not just technical failures; they are institutional ones as well. They are failures in “knowledge systems,” or the ability to generate, communicate and utilize knowledge within and across institutions.

    For example, the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina are often interpreted as technical failures. They were, but we also knew the levees would fail in a storm as powerful as Katrina. And so the levee failures were also failures in institutional design – the information about the weakness of the levees was not utilized in part because the Hurricane Protection System was poorly funded and lacked the necessary institutional and political power to force action.

    In the wake of Harvey, basic design and floodplain development parameters, like the 100-year flood, are being acknowledged as fundamentally flawed. Our ability to design more resilient infrastructure will depend on our ability to design more effective institutions to manage these complex problems, learn from failures and adapt.

    Resilience and uncertainty

    Design for climate change. When it comes to infrastructure’s ability to handle more extreme events that are predicted to come with climate change, the primary problem is not bad engineering or faulty technical designs. Instead, it’s that infrastructure are typically sized based on the intensity and frequency of historical events. Yet these historical conditions are now routinely exceeded: since 1979, Houston alone has experienced three 500-year storms.

    Climate change will make preparing for future storms much harder. These events are not just associated with precipitation and inland flooding but include more extreme heat, cold, drought, wildfires, coastal flooding and wind. Buildings, roads, water networks and other infrastructure last decades and designing for historical events may result in more frequent failure as events become more frequent or intense with climate change. Infrastructure designers and managers must shift from risk-based to resilience-based thinking, so that our systems can better withstand and bounce back from these extreme events.

    Manage infrastructure as interconnected and interdependent. In his 1987 essay, “Atchafalaya,” writer John McPhee explores efforts by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to control the Atchafalaya and Mississippi River systems. He brilliantly showed that rather than bringing predictability to a complex and meandering riverine system, the Old River Control system created unpredictability. “It’s a mixture of hydrologic events and human events… This is planned chaos… Nobody knows where it’s going to end.”

    While floodplain management has made advances since then, the impact of development and infrastructure design is still often considered on a piecemeal basis. As Montgomery County engineer Mark Mooney noted in a recent Houston Chronicle article, “I can show you on any individual project how runoff has been properly mitigated. Having said that, when you see the increase in impervious surfaces that we have, it’s clear the way water moves through our county has changed. It’s all part of a massive puzzle everyone is trying to sort out.”

    Infrastructure planning and design must consider the legacy of past decisions and how risks build up over time as ecological, technological and human systems interact in increasingly uncertain and complex ways.

    Infrastructure and equity

    Create flexible infrastructure. Given that our infrastructures are centralized and satisfy demands that don’t change rapidly (we use water and electricity much in the way we did over the past century), they tend to be inflexible. Yet we need our urban systems and the infrastructure that support them to be resilient. And flexibility is a necessary precondition for resilience.

    Current designs favor robustness and redundancy. These infrastructure tend to be difficult to change and the managing institutions are often structured and constrained in ways that create barriers to flexibility. Consider the difference in flexibility of landline versus mobile phones, in terms of both use and changing the hardware. Similarly, new strategies are needed to incorporate flexibility into our infrastructure. In the case of hurricanes, roadways with smart signaling and controls that dynamically adjust stoplights and reverse lanes to allow vehicles to evacuate quickly would be of significant value.

    Design infrastructure for everyone. Large disasters almost always highlight systemic social inequalities in our communities, as we saw in the 1995 Chicago heat wave, Hurricane Katrina and now Hurricane Harvey.

    Yet as cities rebuild and other cities watch to glean lessons, we consistently sidestep the historical legacies, public policies and political-economic structures that continue to make low-income and minority populations, such as homeless people, more vulnerable to extreme weather events. For this to change, infrastructure must be designed with the most vulnerable in mind first.

    Too often the services delivered by climate-resilient infrastructure are first built for the communities that have the economic and political power to demand them, resulting in what some have called ecological gentrification. Policymakers and planners must engage diverse communities and ensure that infrastructure services are designed for everyone – and communities need to demand it.

    The ConversationIn short, being an informed donor is the best way you can start to make a difference for the people who have lost their homes, cars and more.

    Thaddeus R. Miller is an Assistant Professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and The Polytechnic School at Arizona State University. Mikhail Chester is Senior Sustainability Scientist at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    The post Column: Six rules for rebuilding infrastructure in an era of ‘unprecedented’ weather events appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Dark clouds pass over downtown Miami, Florida

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Just two weeks ago, a line of reporting came out of Houston warning of the environmental dangers lurking at EPA Superfund toxic waste sites and what could happen after a catastrophic storm and flood.

    Well, those sites are not limited to Houston. They’re in Florida, as well.

    Jason Dearen of “The Associated Press” has been on the same story the last couple of weeks and joins me now from Miami.

    Jason, give us an idea of how many superfund sites are possibly affected by Irma?

    JASON DEAREN, REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, there are more than 50 superfund sites in Florida alone. In Miami, we have identified with the help of a 2012 EPA internal study, as well as an external study done by two researchers from American University, which of those sites are actually in the flood plain, so the most prone to flooding. And, since Wednesday, I visited six of those sites to see, you know, kind of how they appeared before the storm and what was being done, if anything, to prepare them for the expected storm surges, flooding and winds.

    SREENIVASAN: And what is being done?

    DEAREN: Well, the EPA told us they were securing the sites. They have staff who are monitoring them, checking in with people on the ground. When we went to them, they were in various stages of cleanup. So, you know, some had been cleaned up, and there’s nobody around.

    In one case, I found barrels of contaminated soil and water from one of the superfund sites that were still stored on the site. EPA said that they would be removing those barrels before the storm came when we called them. So, it depended on the site.

    Another is, you know, a 2,000-acre Air Force base down in Homestead which is the lowest lying of all the superfund sites. It would only take about a foot of water to flood that. There are communities around there who could be impacted by that floodwater should it be contaminated from the Air Force base.

    So, there are a lot of questions about just how these sites will handle the storm surge and winds from Irma.

    SREENIVASAN: So, give us an idea of what makes a superfund site a superfund site? What kind of chemicals are we talking about? How dangerous are they?

    DEAREN: They’re superfund sites for a reason. They are all dangerous chemicals, some more than others. For example, the site I mentioned, Anodyne, which had the barrels out yesterday, had been contaminated with DDT, and other pesticides, chemical solvents. Many of the sites here in the Miami area had chemical solvents involved, usually in the aircraft industry, used to clean parts, things like that, and those were dumped into soil and down into the aquifer here in contaminated groundwater.

    And so, that’s one of the big concerns is when you have a lot of rainfall, storm surge, flooding is those chemicals being transported off the site, off the superfund site, down into the water and into the nearby communities. And so, that’s what the EPA is going to be watching for, they say, and what we’ll also be looking at.

    SREENIVASAN: And how do they measure is that, especially if the barrels had been dumped years and years ago. We don’t necessarily know how strong those barrels were, how watertight those barrels were and if the water kind of seeps down there during a flood, whether it kind of picks back up and goes somewhere else or it actually seeps down into the aquifer?

    DEAREN: Well, each superfund site is different, right? So, some have contaminate mechanisms for the pollution, like a pond. So, for example, if that were to be breached, you know, that could spread contaminants. Some have a cap of clean soil over old — older, contaminated dirty soil. And, you know, the worry is if there is significant flooding that can be removed and all that commingling and moving off site.

    In the case of these barrels, those barrels were new barrels. Apparently, somebody who works on the site told us that they had been filled within like the last month, last few weeks, by crews who were out, scooping out contaminated soil and taking tests of water beneath aquifer.

    So, each site is very different, has its own complications, and it will take extensive close monitoring after the storm of each of these sites to see if the contamination has spread. It’s a complicated and long-term project.

    SREENIVASAN: As a result of some of your reporting out of Houston, the EPA came back and said to all reporters and everybody else, do not trespass on any of these sites. It could be incredibly dangerous and harmful to your own body and person.

    The sites that you went to in Miami, were these closed off areas?

    DEAREN: Most of them are closed off areas. One was a private business, and they were clearly marked “no trespassing”. So, as far as we could to those fences, we didn’t trespass by those fences. Others were not fenced off, and there were no “no trespassing” signs. In those cases, I just walked into them and took my photographs and interviewed people who lived or worked around there about their knowledge of the site, and if they’ve been, you know, if people had been in contact with them to warn them about any contamination concerns from the flooding.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. Jason Dearen joining us via Skype from Miami, thanks so much.

    DEAREN: Thank you.

    The post From Texas to Florida, toxic sites risk flooding appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    key west

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The southernmost part of Florida and the United States is Key West, and it’s currently in Irma’s direct path. The keys are a group of small islands connected by bridges, and they’re closer to Havana than Miami. Some 80,000 residents were ordered three days ago to evacuate.

    But staying behind is Craig Cates. He’s been the mayor of Key West since 2009, and joins me now on the phone.

    First, Mayor, the decision to stay, why stay?

    MAYOR CRAIG CATES, KEY WEST, FLORIDA (via telephone): Well, you know, we had to be here after the storm, and we want to make sure we were here right to — at least right up to the storm where we could tell all the residents to keep them going into shelters. We open shelters at the last minute here. And we put a lot of residents in there, and we just need to be here to make sure that we do everything we can for our citizens and their properties.

    SREENIVASAN: You know, we spoke to you a few days ago, and you were trying to make sure that people evacuated, got out to the mainland, perhaps to Miami. Now, you’re saying there are some residents that decided to stay, and how many people are with you in these shelters?

    CATES: Well, we think that maybe less than 20 percent of the city stayed. There’s 25,000 permanent residents. So, a lot of them in the shelters now.

    We don’t have exact numbers, but we have three shelters open right now, but there are a lot of people in them. And a lot of people didn’t have transportation. We ran, you know, 16 buses to Miami for two days to get residents out, but not everybody could get on there.

    So, the ones that stayed thought it was going to be OK, and then they got nervous at the last minute. That’s the way people are sometimes. And so, those are the ones that are going to the shelters.

    SREENIVASAN: Now, how susceptible are you to the type of storm surge numbers that we’re seeing predicted?

    CATES: Well, it depends on what direction it comes from. Our local service, National Weather Service, is saying it won’t have as large an impact with flooding as we had with Wilma, which did a lot of damage back in 2005. Some areas will get flooded, but we’re looking that it’s not going to be near as bad as that.

    But the problem is the wind, and this storm is going to be a wind event for us, mainly. And, you know, we’ve got a lot of boats all through the Keys and Key West and the harbors. They’re secured. We’re afraid they’ll be damaged pretty bad.

    And — but the structures, we’re hoping that we’re not going to get that much structural damage because of the ways the buildings are built. Obviously, they’ll be out a bit, but we don’t believe you’ll see the damage here that you see in other places because of the construction.

    SREENIVASAN: And you mentioned that you had bussed people out of the keys up into Miami. Where are they now? Are they all safe in a shelter there?

    CATES: Yes. Florida International University is our Monroe County shelter out of the Keys. And we’ve bussed many people there, or they could have drove themselves and went there, a lot of people drove up there, or a lot of people kept going, as you know, as they keep evacuating. But the ones that were bussed up there will have to stay there. It’s — I believe it’s a category 5 building with no chance of flooding. So, that’s a safe haven for our residents.

    SREENIVASAN: Mayor, what’s your biggest concern now? I know you said you’re concerned about the wind. This will be more of a wind event for you. But over the next 24, 48 hours, as this storm moves across your islands?

    CATES: Well, our big concern is that we closed our hospital. They evacuated. So, we have no E.R., no hospital. So, if anybody gets injured, we have no way to help them.

    So, obviously, we will not be sending our first responders out in this kind of weather to take a chance of them being hurt. So, we’ll have 911 calls. If we have them, we’ll be recording them and write them down, but we won’t be able to go out and help them until after the storm. That’s my biggest concern.

    SREENIVASAN: All right. I hope you don’t have too many of those. Mayor Craig Cates joining us from Key West tonight — thanks so much.

    CATES: All right. Thank you for having me.

    The post Key West on lockdown as Irma approaches appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts answers questions during a news conference regarding the police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina

    Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts answers questions during a news conference regarding the police shooting of Keith Scott in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S., September 23, 2016. Photo by Mike Blake/Reuters

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An off-year election in North Carolina’s largest city will help determine if a mayor who’s been embroiled in controversies over protections for the LGBT community and her handling of a police shooting will get to vie for a second term.

    When the polls reopen for the mayoral primary on Tuesday after an early voting period, Democratic Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts will be seeking a second term. Roberts faces challenges from Mayor Pro Tempore Vi Lyles and state Sen. Joel Ford, who has received support from some Republicans in the General Assembly. City councilman Kenny Smith leads the GOP primary field. Four additional candidates, two in each party, are also seeking the nomination.

    The primary winners meet in a general election on Nov. 7. State election officials are keeping an eye on Hurricane Irma and its potential impact on voter turnout.

    Supported by local and national gay rights groups, Roberts led the effort in February 2016 to get the city council she leads — but votes on only in ties and for vetoes — to pass a measure that expanded public accommodation protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

    The Republican-controlled Legislature quickly responded with a state law canceling Charlotte’s ordinance and requiring transgender people statewide to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings.

    A standoff between Roberts and other legislative leaders continued for months over the ordinance and the law known as House Bill 2. Businesses canceled expansions or moves to North Carolina because of HB2, and the NBA withdrew its All-Star Game from Charlotte.

    The city council last December repealed its ordinance in an attempt to broker a compromise that initially fell apart. A partial repeal of HB2 in March still prevented Charlotte from passing expanded LGBT protections again until the end of 2020.

    Roberts also faced calls to resign following the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and the ensuing riots, particularly after she and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief refused at first to release police body camera and dashboard camera footage from the shooting.

    Despite the controversies, Roberts still appears to have the best chance to win in the expected low-turnout election. She had raised more money through the first half of the year than any mayoral candidate. The longtime local elected official also has received endorsements from national and local LGBT groups.

    “Almost every Democrat in Charlotte has voted for Jennifer Roberts eight or ten times,” veteran Charlotte Democratic campaign aide Dan McCorkle said. “She has enormous name recognition. … She has an extremely loyal base and her base is basically your most progressive Democrats.”

    But it could be tricky for Roberts should she fail to get more than 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a runoff next month. Lyles likely would stand the best chance to defeat Roberts in a runoff because of her close ties to the city’s establishment, said Eric Heberlig, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. But the two primary challengers have their weaknesses as well.

    “I’m not sure even if Lyles or Ford has gotten through a clear-enough message of how they’re going to be different” compared to Roberts, Heberlig said.

    During a televised debate in the primary’s final days, Lyles said the previous two years in Charlotte showed that the city hasn’t dealt with race and poverty, which she said she would focus on if she’s elected.

    Ford spent the debate attacking Roberts and, occasionally, Lyles, on topics ranging from mass transit to race relations. He made special reference to the Scott case, which he said motivated him to run.

    “The last thing we can afford to do is have the mayor call out the police chief and roll him under the bus,” Ford said. “What we need in the city is strong leadership, leadership that is going to be responsive to the people, answer the questions and making sure we’re listening and doing what the people of the city of Charlotte want us to do.”

    Roberts, who refuted Ford’s charges throughout the debate, said she recognizes there will be a challenge in the primary regardless of how the vote is split.

    “I never take any election for granted, and I have never had an easy election,” Roberts said. “I let my manager worry about the strategy, and about who’s going to win and how many points ahead. I just focus on connecting to voters … I’m focused on priorities.”

    While Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2-to-1, unaffiliated voters comprise 30 percent of the electorate. And Roberts defeated her GOP opponent in 2015 by only 3,700 votes.

    Heberlig thinks the election gives Republicans the best chance at the mayor’s office, and Smith agrees. Charlotte’s last Republican mayor was former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who served from 1995-2009.

    “We feel really strongly about our opportunity to win the mayor’s race,” Smith said after the debate. “We think we’re bringing the leadership necessary, the vision necessary and a thorough understanding of the priorities that Charlotteans want us to focus on.”

    The post North Carolina’s largest city poised for mayoral primary appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    View at check-in counter at Orlando International Airport ahead of Hurricane Irma making landfall, in Florida

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    MEGAN THOMPSON: Hurricane Irma is now blamed for more than 20 deaths across the Caribbean. It made landfall overnight in Cuba as a Category 5 storm. 155-mile-an-hour winds battered the island’s northern coast, and the storm surge reached 12 feet in some areas. In the small coastal town of Caibarien, Irma downed power lines, pounded buildings, and filled streets with debris.

    Today, France deployed more than a thousand recovery workers to aid residents of the French Caribbean island of St. Barts and of St. Maarten, which is controlled by France and the Netherlands. Irma caused more than a billion dollars of property damage, and destroyed 70-percent of the homes on St. Maarten.

    Following right behind Irma is the Category 4 Hurricane Jose. The National Hurricane Center warned Jose, with its 145 mile an hour winds, could make landfall on the St. Barts, St. Maarten, and other parts of the Caribbean in the next 24 hours.

    Heeding the warning, all 16-hundred residents of the tiny, already-battered island of Barbuda evacuated today to nearby Antigua.

    While Hurricane Irma was downgraded to a Category 3 storm, it’s expected to gain strength before making landfall tomorrow morning in Florida.

    Today, Florida Governor Rick Scott said Irma could be Florida’s “most catastrophic storm” ever and told residents in mandatory evacuation zones to get out now.

    FLORIDA GOV. RICK SCOTT: This is a major, deadly storm, and our state has never seen anything like it. Millions of Floridians will see major hurricane impacts with deadly, deadly, deadly storm surge and life-threatening winds.

    MEGAN THOMPSON: As strong winds began pounding Miami and the Florida keys, the state had opened up more than 300 shelters for evacuees. Even the Miami zoo placed its pink flamingos inside a fortified concrete bunker.

    Farther north, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal ordered evacuations along the Atlantic coast. Residents of Savannah lined up to catch buses out of town.

    At Camp David, President Trump and his cabinet members received briefings on the planned response by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA.

    The post Floridians urged to flee Irma’s ‘catastrophic’ path appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    hurricane irma

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    HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: After the Miami-Fort Lauder metropolitan area, Tampa St. Petersburg is Florida’s most populous area, with 2.5 million residents.

    The Tampa area, lying on the state’s western, Gulf of Mexico coast, has not sustained a direct hit from a hurricane since 1921.

    But today, in Tampa and throughout central Florida, storm preparations were in full swing, as Newshour Weekend’s P.J. Tobia reports.

    P.J. TOBIA, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEEKEND: Boarding up, and moving out. This is not a drill.

    MICHAEL O’ROURKE, HOMEOWNER: This morning’s been all about preparation, we’re in a mandatory evacuation zone. And so we have to get out of here.

    TOBIA: Long-time Tampa resident Michael O’Rourke has been fortifying his house ahead of the coming storm.

    O’ROURKE: Boarding up, sandbagging, moving furniture, musical equipment from downstairs to upstairs, wrapping as much stuff up as we possibly can and just preparing to leave.

    TOBIA: A few minutes from O’Rourke’s house, downtown Tampa, normally buzzing, is a ghost town.

    MAYOR BOB BUCKHORN, TAMPA: This is a violent deadly weather occurrence that stretches the entire length of the state. We just hope it moves quickly.

    TOBIA: Mayor Bob Buckhorn says Irma poses massive risks for his city. We spoke in Tampa’s emergency operations headquarters.

    BUCKHORN: Tampa hasn’t been hit in 90 years, but if we we do take a direct hit, a Category 3 in downtown Tampa would put my office 15 feet underwater.

    TOBIA: Over the past decade, Tampa has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on waterfront development, land threatened by Irma’s storm surge. The mayor says construction standards have improved since Florida’s most destructive storm, 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.

    BUCKHORN: People want to live on the water. It’s why they come to Florida. Building codes have increased significantly since Hurricane Andrew. The construction process now is much better than it used to be. Elevations are required above 100 year flood zones.

    TOBIA: Tampa is a 90-minute drive west of Orlando, the central Florida corridor where so many evacuees from south Florida have gone.

    The Ryan family, from the Miami suburb of Doral, managed to book rooms at an Embassy Suites in Orlando. Business executive Chris Ryan said he wasn’t taking any chances with his wife and two kids.

    CHRIS RYAN, EVACUEE: I was living in Miami for over 20 years and never had experience of a Category 4 or 5 direct hit in Miami. I’ve been through a few hurricanes but nothing at this strength and having been hit directly into Miami, and I know people that lived there Andrew, and I have family that live in Houston. And so they were insisting that we leave.

    TOBIA: Ross left his home in Miamia with a few belongings and his dog.

    ROSS, EVACUEE: You gotta err on the side of caution. We got a big storm coming.

    TOBIA: The closest hotel room he could find is in Georgia and it’ll cost him more than $300 a night.

    ROSS: Hotels, you can’t find anything. I was on Expedia trying to book a flight, and it’ll tell you how many people are on. There’s 2000 people searching this hotel right now, and I’m like, you just keep going.

    Tobia: Central Florida wasn’t far enough north for Becky Dykema. Her family let their home near Melbourne for the cheapest hotel they could find, in Alabama.

    BECKY DYKEMA, EVACUEE: We’re leaving here to evacuate from the Hurricane Irma, to get safer away, because we live in a trailer park.

    TOBIA: Today, leaving Orlando by air was not an option. The city’s airport shut down. Tourist attractions, like Disney World, closed.

    An hour east of Orlando, on the Atlantic Coast, officials moved to their highest level of mobilization.


    TOBIA: Brevard county’s emergency management center is housed in a 50-year-old building. Officials there will ride out the storm, sleeping by their work stations.

    WALKER: Everybody is just gonna grab some floor, we brought sleeping bags.

    TOBIA: Tampa’s stunning waterfront draws millions of visitors and the occasional super bowl. But as Irma takes direct aim at Florida’s third largest city, this bay also becomes its greatest threat.

    Tampa Fire Chief Tom Forward says the system of bridges and causeways that connect the city might flood, to deadly effect.

    TOM FORWARD, TAMPA FIRE CHIEF: When the bridges shut down, people cannot move any further, and the last place you want to be is on a major highway, byway, or thoroughfare, in a parking lot with no movement, and no one to come save you. And at that point, there is very little that anyone is going to be able to do for you, you’ve gotten yourself in a situation where flooding is apparent and actually occurring. That’s a very, very dire situation.

    TOBIA: Chief Forward says that while the storm hits, emergency responders will likely be grounded.

    Once the storm is right on top of us, and we start getting winds, especially sustained winds in excess of 39 miles per hour, once they move into 40 mile per hour winds, our emergency responders and resources are not going to be moving out into these conditions. So that’s why the public adheres to the evacuation orders, get out of the area as quick as they can.

    The post Tampa region readies for first major hurricane in 96 years appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Saturday evening that South Florida was already experiencing tropical storm-force winds as the Category 3 hurricane moved toward Florida’s west coast and that it was a priority for people in evacuation zones to leave their homes. More than 6.5 million people in Florida have now been asked to evacuate.

    “This is your last chance to make a good decision,” he said. “Do not put yourself or your family’s lives at risk.”

    Officials said Saturday that the storm could cause a storm surge of up to 15 feet and bring devastating winds through the heavily populated regions of Key West and Tampa Bay, among others.

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    POLK CITY, Fla.– Generators packed. Animals stowed. Rifles loaded. Gas cans filled. And sentimental items grabbed last-minute. Gas stations and rest stops along Florida’s Interstate 4 were packed with people Saturday as many traveled northward, farther away from Hurricane Irma’s destructive path, in what may end up being one of the largest mass evacuations in U.S. history.

    Ten Floridians told the PBS NewsHour why they were on the move and what they left behind — or why they chose not to leave at all.

    John Cook

    Traveling from: Tampa
    Traveling to: North Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee

    I’m transporting eight hot tubs and a 14-foot swim spa. And just trying to get out safely with them. Once I saw the storm was going to come to central Florida, I thought: better instead of staying to get going, try to make it a day ahead of time. If they got ruined it’s about $58,000 worth. I got my house boarded up, the truck is loaded, so I figured why not? People in Indiana want their hot tubs, so I’m going to get them to them hopefully.”

    Travis Gordon

    Traveling from: Palm Harbor
    Traveling to: Orlando

    With me I’ve got water, two generators, food, propane, gas, diesel, a water heater, radio, clothes, rifles, ammunition. And socks, a lot of dry socks. Back where we were, people were getting crazy three days ago. It starts verbal, then once there’s no gas, people move on to just taking things, like plywood, tapcon bits. People gotta board up their stuff, so if they see their neighbors have it, they’re gonna tear down their fences. I’m heading to Orlando, hopefully. It seemed safer. Less people. Not as much to fight over.

    Christopher Raymond

    Traveling from: Polk County
    Staying put

    We’re gonna hole up at the house with the horses.
    We’ve got everything surrounded, the horse trailers, to try to block the wind. There’s nowhere else to take them. The horse parks are full all the way up to Georgia. But the horses are set so if something should happen they can get away, they have breakaway halters. We’ve been hauling people’s stuff from South Florida to Augusta, Georgia, all week. It’s been a long week. We were supposed to go get something in Miami but they wouldn’t allow us down south anymore. They’ve got all the roads blocked and everything is headed north. We’ve basically been trying to help everybody, now we’re trying to help ourselves at the last minute.

    Tanya Skillman and Mitch Christensen

    Traveling from: Key Largo
    Traveling to: Cocoa Beach or Orlando

    Tanya: Our whole life is in these trucks. We brought everything. Our two parrots. Twenty tortoises, in the car. Forty-plus reptiles, snakes, pythons, racers, bearded dragons, in the boat. And some hatchlings. Otherwise everybody would have died. Animals have been our passion our whole life, something that brought us together.

    Mitch: How we fell in love is she brought me a rat for my snakes and I said, ‘That’s my girl.’ (laughs) Growing up in the Keys you’re all about ecology.

    Tanya: He’s from the Keys. I’ve been there since I was 10. I don’t think our home will be there after this.

    Mitch: We have insurance but it’s a mobile home so it’s citizen’s insurance, it’s only going to cover 30 percent. But after this we’re going to go back. All our money is invested in that property. It’s all we have.

    Sharon (and Mark) Sheppard

    Traveling from: Lake Juliana Landings
    Staying put

    We’re from Salisbury, United Kingdom. We’re here primarily on vacation. We have a house at Lake Juliana Landings, we’ve had the house for about 19 years. But this is our second hurricane. We plan to stay put, we’re not going to evacuate, and like everyone else try to stay calm and hope not too much damage. My husband’s going to drink beer the whole time. We have got a shelter in Polk, which, if it gets very bad, I guess we can go to. But we don’t have any friends or relations here really, so apart from the shelter, there’s nowhere we can go. I remember in the last hurricane almost every house had tarpaulins. From the sky everything’s blue, actually. Florida looked completely blue. Every house seemed to have a tarp on the roof. So Florida became blue for awhile. But we have a flight home to the UK on Tuesday. So we’re the lucky ones. We get to go home.

    Michael (and Kristy) Crouse

    Traveling from: His home in Polk County
    Traveling to: His mother-in-law’s home in Polk County

    Michael: I can’t leave the county, because I’m on probation. And I couldn’t get a hold of my parole officer (PO) before the storm. I can’t leave if I don’t talk to my PO. I was in prison when Charley came through so I haven’t actually been through a hurricane. My wife has.

    Kristy: It was crazy. I had little babies at the time. Wood frame house. We were lucky.

    Michael: I’m raised in Polk County. Born and raised. Love it. If we leave, we come back. We were going to stay at home, but my wife didn’t want me to. Our house is a trailer, they didn’t trim the trees, we’re not worried about the flooding, but worried about the trees. If we don’t have a house after this, we don’t. We’ll start over. I’ve started over before. I’ve done it before, I can do it again. I’m used to it.

    Sarah Herrera and son

    Traveling from: Cape Coral
    Traveling to: Orlando

    Cape Coral is in the red zone. It’s in the flood area, they said it’s gonna be like nine feet, the water, storm surge. So we decided last minute to come to Orlando. They told us we have to evacuate now. We took necessities, food, water, medicine. We didn’t take [anything sentimental], didn’t have time, just an hour to get ready. During the storm we’ll play games, pray, be with family. We’ve been through Andrew, we’ve been through Charley, but this one I think is gonna be the big one. Because of the floods. This is the first time we’ve evacuated.

    Becky Garwood and Kamo the dog

    Traveling from: Fort Myers
    Traveling to: North Carolina or Virginia

    Hopefully it’ll be safe up there. Still got family down in Fort Myers that stayed. I’m worried, will be worried til it’s over. Just this morning we decided to go, because the storm is so big, and I’m afraid like in Houston there will be a lot of water. I don’t like water and I can’t swim, so I better go north. I can remember during Hurricane Donna, them hiding me under the bed, it was pretty bad. This time I brought knick knacks, statues, these little Moccasin Indian people from my grandmother and my mom, passed down. And a few pictures. And the doggies.

    Kathy Wallen

    Traveling from: St. Petersburg
    Traveling to: Orlando

    With the change in the track, the storm surge, we decided late last night, early this morning, to leave. Back in ‘85, we evacuated for Elena, went to Orlando, we didn’t take it seriously at all. We went to a hurricane party after work and stayed too long. And we were actually the last car across the Highway Frankland Bridge. Grabbed my swimsuit and towel, thinking it’s just going to be fun. Luckily we just had rain. But lesson learned. This time I brought a cross that means a lot to me. It was a cross that my friend’s father really liked and he’s passed since and so I just grabbed it.

    Sandy Wu

    Traveling from: St. Petersburg.
    Traveling to: Daytona Beach

    I remember sleeping and my friend text messaged me at two in the morning and said, “Wow, it looks like Hurricane Irma is going to hit us head on.” So I decided to pack up everything in the house, tie down my TV, and head to my family’s. We’re going to go to Orlando, and then Daytona Beach, try to book a hotel. I brought homework, because I’m a college student. And pictures of my family, me, and boyfriend. He’s in Indiana, very worried about me. Very unpredictable, this storm is constantly changing. If we don’t find a hotel, we’re most likely going to find a parking lot, a rest area, pretty much just need a toilet.

    The above interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

    Videos by Joshua Barajas

    The post A rifle, a cross and 20 tortoises. What Irma evacuees carried north appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    Heavy wind is seen along Ocean Drive in South Beach as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami Beach

    Heavy wind is seen along Ocean Drive in South Beach as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami Beach, Florida, on Sept. 10, 2017. Photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Hurricane Irma made landfall on Cudjoe Key in southern Florida early Sunday morning, bringing Category 4 winds that reached 130 miles per hour and knocked out power for more than 1 million people.

    The eye of the Irma was located about 20 miles off Key West as of 8 a.m. ET and expected to move over the Florida Keys before heading up the coast toward the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, according to the National Hurricane Center.

    The storm could bring up to 25 inches of rain to portions of the state and the center issued a storm surge warning for rising water that could reach 15 feet, with the deepest water occurring along the coast.

    [Watch Video]

    The National Weather Service cautioned residents should move to interior rooms and stay away from windows.

    “The biggest thing you can do right now is pray for us,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Sunday.

    Scott said more than 400 shelters have been opened across the state, with the path of the hurricane expected to head up Florida’s west coast.


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    MIAMI — Dozens of personnel from the Environmental Protection Agency worked to secure some of the nation’s most contaminated toxic waste sites as Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida. The agency said its employees evacuated personnel, secured equipment and safeguarded hazardous materials in anticipation of storm surges and heavy rains.

    The Associated Press surveyed six of the 54 Superfund sites in Florida before Irma’s arrival, all around Miami in low-lying, flood-prone areas. There was no apparent work going on at the sites AP visited this past week. The EPA said that if there was no activity, a site should be considered secured but would be closely monitored. The sites were in various stages of federally directed, long-term cleanup efforts.

    At the Miami-Dade Emergency Operations Center on Saturday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the EPA workers he’s spoken with seem “generally positive” about the prospects for toxic sites remaining secure in the coming hurricane. But “they can’t guarantee it 100 percent,” he told AP.

    “EPA feels they got a handle on it.” he said. “They think that the risk is real but certainly not as severe as some other places. Not to minimize it — it’s something to think about.”

    AP was not able to fully evaluate each site’s readiness for the hurricane.

    “If any site in the path of the storm is found to pose an immediate threat to nearby populations, EPA will immediately alert and work with state and local officials and inform the public — and then take any appropriate steps to address the threat,” EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said Friday. “So far no sites have risen to this level that we are aware of.”

    A risk analysis by EPA concluded in 2012 that flooding at such sites in South Florida could pose a risk to public health by spreading contaminated soil and groundwater. Flooding could disturb dangerous pollutants and wash it onto nearby property or contaminate groundwater, including personal wells, said Elizabeth “Betsy” Southerland, who retired last month as director of science and technology in EPA’s Office of Water after 30 years at the agency.

    “The agency needs to quickly respond with careful monitoring after the storm,” said Southerland.

    A recent analysis for the Government Accountability Office by two researchers at American University found that a storm surge in South Florida of just 1 to 4 feet could inundate the half-dozen sites visited by AP in recent days. Irma was predicted to push in a wall of water up to 12 feet high.

    Of particular concern was the one-acre Miami Drum Services site. It is located over a drinking-water aquifer in a heavily industrial area of Doral, in west Miami-Dade County. The site was once home to more than 5,000 drums of various chemicals, some of which were dumped onsite after the metal containers were washed with a caustic cleaning solution. That solution, mixed with the chemical residues in the drums, leaked into the Biscayne Aquifer, a drinking water source.

    The EPA’s community involvement coordinator for the site, Ronald Tolliver in Atlanta, told AP he was not sure what the agency was doing to prepare the site or contact residents whose drinking water could be affected by serious flooding from Irma. Bowman said Tolliver was a new employee and may not have been familiar with the EPA’s hurricane procedures for Superfund sites.

    At the Homestead Air Reserve Base Superfund site south of Miami, it would take only about a foot of storm surge to swamp the nearly 2,000-acre Superfund site. Numerous apartments and a shopping center with a supermarket are nearby.

    The EPA needs to do a better job helping people who live near Superfund sites stay informed with accurate information, said Stephen Sweeney, a former graduate fellow in EPA’s office of policy and one of the American University researchers who conducted the Superfund flooding study.

    “These residents need to be aware of their surroundings, and what could be in their water and the floodwater,” said Sweeney, now a private consultant. “There needs to be some sort of public communication. Either mass distribution of information or evacuating residents — it’s up to the agency to make that call.”

    At the Anodyne site in North Miami Beach on Friday, the AP found three sealed steel drums labeled as being filled with “IDW” soil and water in the open, weed-covered field behind a building. IDW is the designation for “investigation derived waste.” The drums were labeled, “Do not disturb.” Bowman said the barrels were low-risk to human health.

    A worker from a nearby building, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said he saw workers putting soil and water into the drums. Soil and groundwater at the former industrial site was contaminated with a brew of toxic chemicals, including pesticides, solvents and heavy metals.

    After AP inquired about the drums, the EPA said Saturday it dispatched workers to Anodyne to remove the containers. They had contained “drill cutting and purge water” produced during the installation of a new monitoring well the prior week, the agency said.

    The EPA has made significant efforts over the last week to publicize its response to flooding at Superfund sites in Texas and allay concerns about similar sites in Florida. That followed an Aug. 26 report by AP that at least seven Superfund sites in the Houston region had flooded during Hurricane Harvey. AP journalists on the scene in Texas surveyed the sites by boat, vehicle and on foot.

    Hours after AP’s story last week, the EPA said it had reviewed aerial imagery confirming that 13 of 41 Superfund sites in areas affected by Harvey had flooded and were experiencing possible damage due to the storm. The EPA also confirmed that its own personnel had not yet visited the Houston-area sites.

    Since then, EPA has been issuing daily updates about its efforts. On Monday, the agency organized a media tour of one of the Houston sites highlighted in AP’s reporting, though AP was not notified about the press event and was not able to attend. After AP informed the EPA in Washington that its reporters had been surveying Superfund sites in South Florida, the agency warned in a press release that “unauthorized entry at any Superfund site, either prior to or following the storm, is prohibited as these sites can be extremely dangerous and can pose significant threats to human health.”

    Following his appointment by Trump, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has repeatedly said that cleaning up Superfund sites is among his top policy priorities. He appointed a task force to study the issue quickly, adopting 42 recommendations and saying he wanted to develop a “top-10 list” of the most dangerous sites.

    Pruitt, who has questioned the severity of consequences from global warming, has been largely silent on the threat posed to Superfund sites by rising seas and more powerful storms.

    A nationwide climate change adaptation assessment conducted by EPA under the Obama administration in 2012 determined that more than 500 Superfund sites are located in flood zones. Nearly 50 are in coastal areas that could also be vulnerable to sea level rise and storm surge, including several located in Florida.

    “There’s a sharp contrast between the recommendations left behind for the Pruitt EPA and what his task force examined,” said Mathy Stanislaus, who served as EPA’s assistant administrator for solid waste and emergency response under President Obama. “They completely omitted any consideration of increasing vulnerability from climate change.”

    The EPA declined to make Pruitt available for an interview with the AP. But asked about the issue by CNN, he said now is not the time to debate the impacts of global warming.

    “To have any kind of focus on the cause and effect of the storm; versus helping people, or actually facing the effect of the storm, is misplaced,” Pruitt said Thursday. “What we need to focus on is access to clean water, addressing these areas of superfund activities that may cause an attack on water, these issues of access to fuel…. Those are things so important to citizens of Florida right now.”

    Biesecker reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Kelli Kennedy in Pompano Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.

    The post AP Exclusive: Toxic sites in likely path of Irma appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

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    baby hand

    The increased burden of preterm birth on low-income, urban and black women in America is 48 percent higher that of white women in every state. Photo by Flickr user Erik Starck

    There are two medications that prevent preterm birth, the most common cause of perinatal death in the U.S. One costs 16 cents a week, one US$285. Poor black women aren’t getting either. Why?

    In 2015, for the first time in eight years, the rate of preterm birth in the U.S. rose, despite increased understanding of preventative measures. By one estimate, preterm births cost us an estimated $26 billion per year.

    Additionally, U.S. maternal death rates are the among the worst for economically similar countries, currently double that of Canada and Spain, and almost three times than for women in Japan. In Texas, they doubled in just over two years.

    When the rates are examined more closely, they reveal an alarming narrative about differences in health outcomes that are systematic, avoidable and unjust. The increased burden of preterm birth on low-income, urban and black women in America is 48 percent higher that of white women in every state.

    As an obstetric provider for women with high-risk pregnancies at Boston Medical Center, the largest safety-net hospital in New England, I witness the tragic outcomes of these health inequities every day. As an investigator tasked with reducing them, I lead teams who have identified several important barriers to access.

    Preventing spontaneous preterm birth

    One potentially preventable cause of preterm birth is recurrent spontaneous preterm birth. That’s when babies deliver early despite attempts to prevent it, to mothers who have a history of early deliveries from the same cause.

    Both the Society of Maternal Fetal Medicine and the American College of Ob/Gyn recommend a specific progesterone preparation called 17P. This medication can reduce recurrent preterm birth in women with a history of spontaneous preterm birth.

    Currently, it’s available only at high cost, between $225 and $385 per week. The cost has profoundly impacted obstetric providers’ ability to obtain 17P for all eligible women – and contributes to the increased incidence of spontaneous preterm birth in black women.

    Most health insurers who enroll low-income and urban women – those seeking low-cost insurance through connectors – require prior authorization or numerous additional communications. These hurdles can be daunting, especially for anyone with competing financial needs and language or literacy challenges.

    In Louisiana, a state with one of the highest rates of preterm birth in the U.S., only 5 percent of women who should be getting this medication are able to obtain it.

    When we started a study at Boston Medical Center, we found that only 37 percent of our eligible patients received 17P. Our patients were not routinely informed that they had delivered preterm and were at risk of recurrence.

    In fact, we found that none of our patients delivering preterm had documented counseling about their diagnosis or recommendations for future pregnancy during their hospitalization for that first preterm baby. Without this information, they were unaware of the risk to their next pregnancy or that they could reduce risk by asking in prenatal care for 17P.

    A cheaper treatment

    17P is expensive, so perhaps it seems reasonable for insurers to restrict it – even from those who qualify for its benefit.

    But what about other preventable causes of preterm birth? Maternal complications of high blood pressure, also known as preeclampsia, can also induce preterm birth.

    Preeclampsia, a disease of constriction of small blood vessels, costs an estimated $2.1 billion per year in the U.S. This is at a time when the poorest women in America are at rising risk of maternal death, of which preeclampsia is a leading contributor.

    The population at highest risk for preterm birth due to hypertensive disorders or placental insufficiency? Black women, especially those with a personal or family history of high blood pressure; first-time mothers; and obese women with low socioeconomic status.

    A medication that costs 16 cents a week is also unavailable to many of the women most likely to benefit. This magical treatment is low-dose or “baby” aspirin.

    In 2014, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a congressionally authorized independent group of national experts, officially recommended low-dose aspirin for pregnant women at high risk of preeclampsia.

    Aspirin in highest-risk women may reduce preterm birth by 62 percent. It can also cut the overall incidence of hypertensive pregnancy complications in half.

    Low-dose aspirin has been used safely for both mothers and babies for more than 80,000 pregnancies over 30 years. But our study showed that only 11 percent of high risk pregnant woman at Boston Medical Center received low-dose aspirin, when our goal is for 90 percent of qualified women to get this benefit. Why aren’t women, especially high-risk women, getting this medication?

    At Boston Medical Center, we are working to address our three specific identified barriers to access. Providers are reluctant to prescribe low-dose aspirin, pharmacists are reluctant to fill it, and, when prescribed, women are afraid to take it.

    Though it hasn’t been fully studied, reluctance on the part of providers and pharmacists likely stems from a lack of knowledge or acceptance about risk factors. Meanwhile, women, eager to have a safe pregnancy, are bombarded by mixed messaging when searching online for information about aspirin in pregnancy.

    Changing the narrative

    The medical community can do better to reduce this racial disparity, but doing so requires focused interventions directed toward those women most likely to benefit.

    At our hospital, we were able to increase our patients’ access rate to 17P to almost 90 percent. We focused on four specific barriers: lack of patient knowledge, lack of provider awareness, suboptimal communication in the electronic health record and insurance challenges in obtaining the medication. This subsequently reduced our preterm birth rate by 62 percent.

    At a time when reproductive health care sites are being closed and preventative care restrictions on poor women are implemented daily, we need to prioritize every woman’s access to interventions that reach high-risk women in order to prevent infant mortality and preterm birth.

    The ConversationIn short, being an informed donor is the best way you can start to make a difference for the people who have lost their homes, cars and more.

    Jodi Frances Abbott is an associate professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Boston University. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    The post Column: Why can’t more American women access medications for preterm birth? appeared first on PBS NewsHour.


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