TIME weather

Deadly Storms in Texas Test Government’s Emergency Response

US-WEATHER-FLOOD
Aaron M. Sprecher—AFP/Getty Images Vehicles are left stranded on a flooded Interstate 45 in Houston on May 26, 2015

At least 17 people were killed in the Memorial Day weekend storms in Texas and Oklahoma

(WIMBERLEY, Texas)—Deadly severe weather over the long holiday weekend tested government alert and evacuation procedures, as officials scrambled to deal with storms and historic flooding that left more than a dozen people dead and a similar number missing.

Crews will resume searches Wednesday for the 11 people who have now been missing for three days in the small tourist town of Wimberley, where the usually calm Blanco River swelled to an ocean-like squall that crested three times above flood stage. In Houston, where nearly a foot of rain submerged roads and stranded hundreds of motorists, Mayor Annise Parker said two people who capsized in a boat that was helping with rescue efforts Tuesday have not been found.

At least 17 people were killed in the Memorial Day weekend storms in Texas and Oklahoma.

Authorities defended their warnings to residents ahead of the weather, which included alerts via phone and in person, but acknowledged challenges with reaching tourists and said a messaging system in Houston is still waiting for improvements.

“Nobody was saying, ‘Get out; get out; get out,'” said Brenda Morton of Wimberley. “We’re pretty trained, so we were calculating. We knew the flood plain. People who were visiting or had summer homes, you have company from out of town, you don’t know. You don’t know when that instant is.”

Morton lives three houses down from a two-story vacation home that authorities say was swept off its 10-foot pylons by a wall of water early Sunday morning with eight people inside, which included three children, ages 6 and 4. The house slammed into a bridge after being carried downstream on the Blanco.

Authorities in surrounding Hays County said warnings included multiple cellphone alerts and calls to landlines. Some received in-person warnings to evacuate, but officials could not say whether those in the washed-away home talked to police.

“Law enforcement made notification along that street. Whether they made contact with somebody at their residence, I can’t say,” Hays County Emergency Management Coordinator Kharley Smith said.

Wimberley, a popular bed-and-breakfast getaway near Austin and surrounded by wine vineyards, thrives on weekends like Memorial Day. Some of the missing had homes in the area, but officials have acknowledged that their electronic alerts may not reach tourists.

“Most definitely, most definitely that will certainly be part of our discussion,” Hays County Commissioner Will Conley said.

In Houston, warnings from the National Weather Service buzzed on mobile phones, but city officials say they haven’t yet installed a system that would allow them to alert residents with more targeted warnings. The city was still working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get that framework running, said Michael Walter, spokesman for Houston’s Office of Emergency Management.

Floodwaters in Houston affected virtually every part of the city and paralyzed some areas. Firefighters carried out more than 500 water rescues, most involving stranded motorists. At least 2,500 vehicles were abandoned by drivers seeking higher ground, officials said.

“A number that we don’t know, and we will never know, is the number of lives that have been saved by the effective response of first responders,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in Houston.

Small cars weaved between massive 18-wheelers as other drivers stared at them in disbelief. With no end to the backup in sight, some drivers got off the freeway, only to be held up again by water covering nearby access roads. Some motorists were stuck on I-45 all night, sleeping in their cars until the backup was cleared shortly after sunrise.

NBA fans at the Toyota Center, where the Rockets hosted a Western Conference finals game against Golden State on Monday, were asked with about two minutes left in the game not to leave the arena because of the severe weather.

The game ended before 11 p.m., but about 400 people remained in their seats at 1:30 a.m., choosing to stay in the building rather than brave the flooded roads that awaited them outside.

A spokeswoman for the flood district of Harris County, which includes Houston, said up to 700 homes sustained some level of damage.

Abbott said 46 counties in Texas have state disaster declarations. President Barack Obama has said he expressed condolences to Abbott and anticipates significant requests for federal assistance.

Crews were also searching for victims and assessing damage just across the Texas-Mexico border in Ciudad Acuna, where a tornado killed 13 people Monday.

The deaths in Texas included a man whose body was pulled from the Blanco; a 14-year-old who was found with his dog in a storm drain; a high school senior who died Saturday after her car was caught in high water; and a man whose mobile home was destroyed by a reported tornado.

The drenching rain threatened to linger. National Weather Service forecasts called for a 20 to 40 percent chance of thunderstorms through the rest of the week in Houston, and more storms were also in store for Central Texas.

TIME Military

New Rules Mean No More Outside Food for Guantánamo Bay Inmates

Guantanamo Future
Charles Dharapak—AP A soldier stands at the now closed Camp X-Ray, which was used as the first detention facility for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants who were captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, at Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, on Nov. 21, 2013

Critics say the policy severs a valuable emotional link to outside world

New military regulations will prevent attorneys from bringing food to inmates being held in custody at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, reports the Miami Herald.

Effective this week, the ruling will reverse a long-standing policy that allowed inmates’ representatives to bring fast food and homemade treats into their legal conferences at the facility.

Attorneys chided the ruling as another means of cutting off their clients’ few remaining links to life outside of the military prison, where Washington incarcerates alleged al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.

“It’s actually quite tragic for the clients,” attorney Alka Pradhan told the Miami Herald. “Sometimes the food we bring is the only thing from the outside world they’ve seen in months, and they really look forward to it.”

Prison officials have defended the policy citing health and safety reasons.

[Miami Herald]

TIME rick santorum

Rick Santorum Starts Presidential Run Looking Back

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks to guests gathered for the Republican Party of Iowa's Lincoln Dinner at the Iowa Events Center on May 16, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Leaning on Republicans' traditions, he makes the case that 2016 is his turn

Rick Santorum was closing out his speech to the GOP’s governing class at a posh desert resort near Phoenix. His time to address the Republican National Committee coming to a close, he took a moment to remind the party’s elders of their history. “We stick with tradition,” the former Senator from Pennsylvania said in early May.

With restless party chairmen and activists shifting in their seats, the failed 2012 candidate made a not-so-subtle pitch for the Santorum for President, 2016 Edition, which is set to start on Wednesday.

“Since primaries and caucuses went into effect, every Republican nominee has met one of three tests,” Santorum said. “One, they were Vice President. Two, they were the son of a former President. And three, they came in second place the last time and ran again and won.”

If history were predictive of how Republicans pick their nominee, then 2016’s nomination should be Santorum’s for the taking. He came in second to Romney in 2012 and, in his telling, won as many nominating contests as Reagan did during his 1976 bid. (In truth, Reagan won 11 primaries in 23 states, whereas Santorum won a combined 11 contests in states that held primaries and caucuses.)

But history alone is not going to overcome Santorum’s significant obstacles as he seeks the White House for a second time. With a penchant for incendiary language, a stronger crop of likely competitors, an expected nine-figure deficit against his rivals for the nod, few of his competitors now count him in the top tier of candidates, and there are serious questions about him even making the cut for the first debate on August 8.

Much of Santorum’s problem this time is his competition. Fresh-faced newcomers, such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, have the GOP optimistic it can appeal beyond its shrinking footprint. Conservative rock stars such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas can electrify crowds. And former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee can tap into his past as a televangelist and whip the Christian conservative base of the party into a frenzy. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has the pedigree and roster of campaign donors that might overshadow missing other traits voters say they are seeking.

Santorum, out of office since early 2007 after losing reelection by 18 percentage points, can do none of those. He is 57—a decade older than some of his rivals and roughly in the middle of the pack when it comes to birthdays. He fails to energize conservative audiences with speeches that are closer to college lectures than political rallying cries. He speaks about his faith in deeply personal ways but cannot match Huckabee in the pulpit. And Santorum is an admittedly terrible fundraiser, often turning off would-be donors with his contrarian style.

His crowds so far this year have been thin. But Santorum is used to that. He toiled in relative obscurity in 2011, visiting all 99 Iowa counties in the passenger seat of an activist’s pickup. He staged a surprise win in the leadoff caucuses but had insufficient infrastructure to capitalize on Iowa’s enthusiasm.

Instead, he turned to often divisive and cantankerous rhetoric. For instance, Santorum could seldom open his mouth with unleashing an invective about others and cast himself as a victim. He called Romney “the worst Republican in the country to put up against Barack Obama.” He said John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech, in which the future president said “the separation of church and state is absolute,” made the Pennsylvania Senator “want to throw up.” Santorum promised that, as President, he would talk about “the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea.”

Earlier this year, Santorum told NBC News that his 2012 campaign was defined by “dumb things” he said and “crazy stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with anything.” He acknowledges things went off the rails the further into the nominating process he hobbled, even as his campaign was running out of cash and the White House nod grew increasingly impossible to snag.

Even so, Santorum crowed to a tea party crowd in South Carolina earlier this year: “I was the last person standing.” He earned 234 pledged delegates to the party’s nominating convention in Tampa. Romney had amassed more than 1,400.

Even so, Santorum tells voters and reporters his political endurance qualifies him to become the nominee this time. He insists he is battle-tested under pressure, unlike his rivals.

Santorum has his history right. Mitt Romney was rewarded the nomination in 2012 after failing to win it in 2008. John McCain’s 2000 failed run was rewarded with the nomination in 2008. Bob Dole won the nomination in 1992 after an unsuccessful turn as the GOP’s 1976 Vice Presidential nominee. George H.W. Bush was the nominee in 1988 after losing to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 primaries and then serving eight years as his Vice President. Reagan himself won the 1980 nomination after failing to win the nod in 1976. Richard Nixon won the White House in 1968; he served eight years as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Vice President before losing the Presidency as the GOP nominee in 1960.

Only four times in the last 60 years has the Republican electorate nominated a Presidential neophyte—and the most recent examples are suspect at best. George W. Bush, the son of a President, won the White House in 2000 as a first-time national candidate. Gerald Ford rose to the Presidency after Nixon’s resignation and lost the White House in 1976 to Democrat Jimmy Carter as a first-time coast-to-coast candidate. Barry Goldwater came up short as the GOP nominee in 1964, and Eisenhower won the 1952 nomination and Presidency as a first-time political candidate.

But those figures—new and veteran—ran sophisticated campaigns and had not alienated great swaths of the GOP. Santorum’s situation looks different, with several of his former top advisers having defected for other campaigns: 2012 campaign manager Mike Biundo is a Paul senior adviser. Spokespeople Hogan Gidley and Alice Stewart have signed with Huckabee. Even Santorum’s erstwhile driver from 2012, Chuck Laudner, has abandoned him—for Donald Trump.

TIME Education

Penn State Frat in Nude Photo Scandal Shut for 3 Years

The university withdrew recognition of Kappa Delta Rho for three years

A fraternity at Penn State University will be shut for three years following allegations that members posted photos of nude, unconscious women on a private Facebook page, school officials said Tuesday.

President Eric Barron said recognition of the chapter of Kappa Delta Rho would be withdrawn despite a student group’s recommendations for less severe punishment, Philly.com reports. The university’s investigation found some members regularly posted embarrassing photos of women online and used demeaning language to describe females.

“The investigative report makes clear that some members of the KDR chapter promoted a culture of harassing behavior and degradation of women,” said Damon Sims, the university’s vice president of student affairs. “We must respond accordingly, and we hope by doing so it is clearly understood that our university will not tolerate such actions.”

Police had begun investigating in January after a former member reported the private Facebook page to authorities. After the accusations became public in March, Penn State announced it would review its Greek system, while the national office of Kappa Delta Rho suspended the chapter for a year. Hundreds of students and supporters launched protests against the fraternity, urging the administration to take more substantive action at sexual assault on campus.

[Philly.com]

TIME Texas

Drone Footage Shows Extent of Houston Flooding

Parts of Texas were hit by deadly flash floods

A series of flash floods have left parts of Texas submerged under a foot of water. One YouTube user, Bryan Rumbaugh, posted footage shot with a drone of the Buffalo Bayou river region, which received about 11 inches of rain in just six hours overnight. The stunning overhead scenes show the impact of the storms and flooding that as of Tuesday evening had killed at least 14 people and left more than a dozen others missing.

TIME nation

Colin Kaepernick Apologizes for ‘Insensitive’ Instagram of Texas Floods

"I didn't fully understand how many people are struggling in Houston right now"

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick apologized Tuesday after posting a photo to his Instagram that made light of deadly floods in Texas.

“I warned you the #7tormsComing !!! #Houston,” the NFL star wrote alongside the photo showing cars submerged in water. Kaepernick apparently deleted the post shortly afterward, then tweeted an apology, saying he was “so sorry about my insensitive post earlier today.”

Kaepernick, an outspoken, often criticized athlete, previously found himself in a social media debacle in February when he launched a searing verbal attack against a fan on Twitter.

Read next: Colin Kaepernick Opens Up on Quarterback Sociology, Tattoos, Adoption

TIME Education

Robert Redford to Grads: ‘Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Risk’ in a ‘Rough’ World

The 78-year-old actor, filmmaker and activist spoke to 483 graduates of Colby College on Sunday

Robert Redford didn’t hold back when he gave the commencement speech at Maine’s Colby College on Sunday.

The two-time Academy Award winner warned the class of 2015, “You’re stepping into a world that’s, well, pretty rough. It’s pretty chaotic, pretty divisive. You’ve got climate change, you’ve got debt, you’ve got wars, you’ve got political paralysis. It’s kind of a grim story.”

“But the story, I think, can be retold,” he added, “and I really believe that you’re the ones to do it.”

The iconic actor, filmmaker, environmentalist and political activist called on the 483 Colby College graduates to be fearless in the face of these challenges, and to help foster “collaboration and connection,” not only between people, but between people and the environment, the Associated Press reports.

“Don’t be afraid to take a risk, don’t be afraid of failure, be bold,” he told the crowd.

Redford, 78, whose grandson was among the class of 2015, also received an honorary fine arts degree from the school before an audience of thousands on Sunday.

As a young man, the star attended the University of Colorado on a baseball scholarship but dropped out during his sophomore year. He later took classes at Pratt Institute and the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

This article originally appeared on People.com

TIME Immigration

White House Hits Back at Appeals Court After Immigration Ruling

"Today, two judges of the Fifth Circuit chose to misinterpret the facts and the law"

The Obama Administration said it is weighing its options in the wake of an appeals court ruling that kept a block on the president’s executive action on immigration.

On Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to lift an injunction of the president’s action to grant millions of undocumented immigrants temporary reprieve from deportation.

Texas and twenty-five other states are suing the Obama administration over the president’s immigration plan, and a federal judge in Texas blocked the action temporarily in February.

The appeals court on Tuesday rejected the federal government’s argument that the temporary hold is a threat to national security, but the White House accused judges of choosing to incorrectly apply the law. “Today, two judges of the Fifth Circuit chose to misinterpret the facts and the law in denying the government’s request for a stay,” spokesperson Brandi Hoffine said.

“The President’s actions were designed to bring greater accountability to our broken immigration system, grow the economy, and keep our communities safe. They are squarely within the bounds of his authority and they are the right thing to do for the country.”

The lone dissenter on the three-judge panel, Judge Higgison, defended the president’s action, saying that deportation deferrals have existed “for half a century” and that it wasn’t the judicial branch’s place to intervene.

The Department of Justice is evaluating the ruling and considering the appropriate next steps. It’s not immediately clear whether it will appeal. Though the appeals court decided not to remove the temporary block on the immigration plan, the Fifth Circuit Court has yet to rule on whether or not 26 states were right in their initial suit against the President’s order.

The order, it said in a statement, “is consistent with laws passed by Congress and decisions of the Supreme Court, as well as five decades of precedent by presidents of both parties who have used their authority to set priorities in enforcing our immigration laws.”

 

TIME Crime

Thieves Stole 100,000 People’s Tax Info From IRS

The stolen information includes tax returns

(WASHINGTON)—The IRS says thieves used an online service provided by the agency to gain access to information from more than 100,000 taxpayers.

The information included tax returns and other tax information on file with the IRS.

In a statement Tuesday, the IRS said the thieves accessed a system called “Get Transcript.” In order to access the information, the thieves cleared a security screen that required knowledge about the taxpayer, including the Social Security number, date of birth, tax filing status and street address.

The IRS said thieves targeted the system from February to mid-May. The service has been temporarily shut down.

Tax returns can include a host of personal information that can help someone steal an identity, including Social Security numbers and birthdates of dependents and spouses.

TIME Immigration

Federal Appeals Court Refuses to Lift Ban on President Obama’s Immigration Plan

US Immigration Relief
Mary Altaffer—AP Demonstrators chant slogans during a National Day of Action to #Fight4DAPA rally on May 19, 2015, in New York.

The plan could shield as many as 5 million immigrants illegally living in the U.S. from deportation

(NEW ORLEANS) — A federal appeals court refused Tuesday to lift a temporary hold on President Barack Obama’s executive action that could shield as many as 5 million immigrants illegally living in the U.S. from deportation.

The U.S. Justice Department had asked the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a Texas judge who agreed to temporarily block the president’s plan in February, after 26 states filed a lawsuit alleging Obama’s action was unconstitutional. But two out of three judges on a court panel voted to deny the government’s request.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the government would appeal, either to the full appeals court in New Orleans or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The states suing to block the plan, led by Texas, argue that Obama acted outside his authority and that the changes would force them to invest more in law enforcement, health care and education. But the White House has said the president acted within his powers to fix a “broken immigration system.”

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen sided with the states and, from his court in Brownsville, Texas, issued a temporary injunction on Feb. 16 to block the plan from taking effect while the lawsuit works its way through the courts.

Justice Department lawyers sought a stay while they appealed the injunction. They argued that keeping the temporary hold interfered with the Homeland Security Department’s ability to protect the U.S. and secure the nation’s borders. They also said immigration policy is a domain of the federal government, not the states.

But, in Tuesday’s ruling, 5th Circuit judges Jerry Smith and Jennifer Walker Elrod denied the stay, saying in an opinion written by Smith, that the federal government lawyers are unlikely to succeed on the merits of that appeal. Judge Stephen Higginson dissented.

Obama announced the executive action in November, saying lack of action by Congress forced him to make sweeping changes to immigration rules on his own. Republicans said Obama overstepped his presidential authority.

The first of Obama’s orders — to expand a program that protects young immigrants from deportation if they were brought to the U.S. illegally as children — was set to take effect Feb. 18. The other major part, extending deportation protections to parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for some years, had been scheduled to begin May 19.

Hanen issued his injunction believing that neither action had taken effect. But the Justice Department later told Hanen that more than 108,000 people had already received three-year reprieves from deportation as well as work permits. Hanen said the federal government had been “misleading,” but he declined to sanction the government’s attorneys.

The Justice Department has also asked the 5th Circuit to reverse Hanen’s overall ruling that sided with the states. A decision on that appeal, which will be argued before the court in July, could take months.

Along with Texas, the states seeking to block Obama’s action are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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