Mary Louise Kelly talks to Jim Waterson of BuzzFeed UK, who’s in the British Virgin Islands, about Hurricane Maria, which made landfall in the Caribbean island of Dominica as a Category 5 storm.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/09/19/552006696/maria-downgraded-to-a-category-4-hurricane?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Federal officials obtained a wiretap of adviser Paul Manafort, according to reports. There’s concern he might have been communicating with Russian operatives who wanted to influence the 2016 election.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/09/19/552009390/fbi-wiretapped-manfort-befor-and-after-trump-campaign-reports-say?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Shellfish biologist Sarah Dudas works with an oyster specimen at her Vancouver Island University lab.

Ken Christensen/KCTS Television


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Shellfish biologist Sarah Dudas works with an oyster specimen at her Vancouver Island University lab.

Ken Christensen/KCTS Television

Sarah Dudas doesn’t mind shucking an oyster or a clam in the name of science.

But sit down with her and a plate of oysters on the half-shell or a bucket of steamed Manila clams, and she’ll probably point out a bivalve’s gonads or remark on its fertility.

“These are comments I make at dinner parties,” she said. “I’ve spent too much time doing dissections. I’ve done too many spawnings.”

And lately, the shellfish biologist is making other unappetizing comments to her dinner party guests — about plastics in those shellfish.

In 2016, she and her students at Vancouver Island University planted thousands of clams and oysters across coastal British Columbia and let them soak in the sand and saltwater of the Strait of Georgia. Three months later, they dissolved hundreds of them with chemicals, filtered out the biodegradable matter and looked at the remaining material under a microscope. Inside this Pacific Northwest culinary staple, they found a rainbow of little plastic particles.

“So when you eat clams and oysters, you’re eating plastics as well,” Dudas says.

Funded by the Canadian government and British Columbia’s shellfish trade association, the project aimed to learn whether the shellfish aquaculture industry may be contaminating its own crop by using plastic infrastructure like nets, buoys and ropes. The experiment was a response to those claims by local environmental groups.

But tracking the origins of tiny plastic particles in a big ocean is new territory. So Dudas turned to Peter Ross, who has studied the effects of ocean pollution on sea life for 30 years.

“We’ve long known that plastic and debris can be a problem for ocean life,” says Ross, director of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Pollution Research Program.

In 2013, he began sampling the coast of British Columbia for microplastics. The researchers found up to 9,200 particles of microplastic per cubic meter of seawater — about the equivalent of emptying a salt shaker into a large moving box.

“So, large numbers,” Ross says. “Rather shocking numbers.”

They found plastics that were made small, like the polystyrene beads sold as bean bag filler and fake snow, and nurdles, the hard resin pellets used as a raw material for other plastic products. Microbeads, common in toothpaste and face wash, were also present.

But the majority of microplastics in Ross’s samples resembled those showing up in Dudas’s shellfish. They’re showing up by the thousands along Puget Sound’s shorelines too. They’re microfibers.

“It’s overwhelmingly fibers,” Ross says. “And they’re being readily consumed at the bottom of the food chain, in zooplankton.”

The research is adding to the evidence of a problem that touches every corner of the planet: from the depths of the ocean abyss to the surface waters of the Arctic to an area in the middle of the Pacific Ocean now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Scientists think plastic pollution in the ocean could outweigh the fish there by 2050.

Ross believes locating the source of microfibers will help slow that trend. So lately, his science lab is looking more like a crime lab.

The detective work begins under a microscope. Researchers study a petri dish that looks like an I Spy book — a white background strewn with small colorful items. They note each particle’s size, shape and color and zoom in to study its appearance: the way a fiber drapes across the dish or frays at its tip.

If particles pass the eye test, they advance to a machine called the Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy.

“This is a fancy forensic machine used at police stations,” Ross says.

The majority of microplastic particles found in Dudas’s samples consist of microscopic synthetic fibers.

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The majority of microplastic particles found in Dudas’s samples consist of microscopic synthetic fibers.

Ken Christensen/KCTS Television

The machine scans individual particles with infrared light and generates a line graph on a nearby computer. Then the program cross-references that graph with a global database of other squiggly lines. One piece of fabric pulls up a list of probable matches — fibers with names like Zeftron 500 and Wonder Thread. They’re types of nylon. Other fibers bring up generic and commercial names for olefin and polyester.

The data can’t pinpoint a fiber’s exact source, but taken in aggregate can point to larger trends about the presence of microplastic pollution in the ocean.

In many cases, the research is underlining the fact that many of the fibers ending up in the ocean are starting their journey much closer to home — probably in your home laundry machine.

Outdoor gear manufacturer Patagonia found that the average synthetic jacket releases 1.7 grams of microfibers per load of laundry. Each load may generate hundreds of thousands of fibers, which can slip through filters on washing machines and wastewater treatment plants and eventually make their way into ocean waters.

“The fabrics are degrading over time and getting flushed out into the water system,” says Jeff Crook, chief product officer at Mountain Equipment Co-op, one of Canada’s biggest outdoor retailers. The Vancouver-based co-op paid $50,000 to support Ross’s effort.

Improved filters may be one way to stop ocean-bound microfibers, Crook says, but he’s looking to Ross’s data for other information, like whether some types of fibers are ending up in the ocean more than others. The data could help start a conversation about creating industry-wide standards around fiber shedding, he says.

“The more information we have, the more we can go back and tinker and improve the materials,” Crook says.

Others note that the world consumes hundreds of millions of tons of plastic annually — like food packaging and straws. Dudas said that, while she is finding that farmed shellfish don’t contain any more plastic than non-farmed shellfish, she has no doubt that nets and ropes from shellfish aquaculture sites also shed fibers into the ocean.

“My fear is that we have a latent reservoir of these products that could become our future supply of microplastics,” Ross says. “And they’ll in turn be ingested by zooplankton and move up into the food chain.”

Should we be concerned that we’re part of that food chain?

That research is ongoing, Dudas says, but the answer likely will depend on how much we consume. The clams and oysters in Dudas’s study contained an average of eight microplastic particles each, preliminary results show.

There are some indications that those plastics can act as vectors for chemical pollutants and pathogens, and other researchers are studying whether plastics leave the human body after being eaten.

When in doubt, ask a shellfish biologist.

“I wouldn’t be overly concerned about eating shellfish specifically,” Dudas said. “Microplastics are everywhere.”

This story comes to us from KCTS9 and EarthFix, an environmental journalism collaboration led by Oregon Public Broadcasting in partnership with five other public media stations in Oregon, Washington and Idaho.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/09/19/551261222/guess-whats-showing-up-in-our-shellfish-one-word-plastics?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Hurricane Irma devastated the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, and another major hurricane may be on the way. St. Thomas depends on tourism, and it’s uncertain when the tourists will return.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/09/18/551726456/irmas-caribbean-destruction-sends-tourists-packing-for-other-destinations?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

In India, yoga has been causing some controversy after it became associated with militant Hindu nationalism. NPR’s international podcast follows a yoga-loving Indian Muslim caught in the middle.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/09/18/551726470/rough-translation-why-many-muslims-in-india-feel-yoga-has-been-weaponized?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

President Trump makes his United Nations debut this week and he’s making a big push to cut the U.N.’s budget. The State Department plans to have a smaller footprint as part of this effort.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/09/18/551726550/trump-wants-u-s-delegation-to-the-u-n-to-be-more-cost-efficient?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world



MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now to Florida. It’s been nearly a week since Hurricane Irma made landfall there. Hundreds of thousands in South Florida are still without power. Kat Chow of NPR’s Code Switch team reports that for some Floridians who have family in Cuba, the recovery after Irma is twice as taxing.

KAT CHOW, BYLINE: At a laundromat on Palm Avenue in Hialeah, Fla., the washing machines are whirring at full force. People are heaving dirty clothes into machines. One of those people is Yasmin Gonz.

YASMIN GONZ: I live in Hialeah, west Hialeah.

CHOW: Gonz is 47. And as someone with cousins, aunts and uncles back in Cuba, Gonz’s worries about Hurricane Irma were twofold. The storm hit Cuba a day ahead of the U.S. And before Irma reached Hialeah, Gonz called her relatives in Havana to check in on them.

GONZ: They told me that this is a lot damage in Cuba – no power, no food, no water, a lot illness.

CHOW: She worried about them. And as Irma approached Florida, she worried about herself, her family and the whole state. Irma eventually veered west away from where Gonz lives. But the damage in Gonz’s area wasn’t the catastrophe she had braced for, she says. So I asked her, after hearing how Irma devastated her family in Cuba, has she been able to send money to them like she usually does?

GONZ: Not right now. I can’t do it. Now I spend almost $40 only washing my clothes because no power in my house.

CHOW: Like a lot of people in South Florida, when the storm hit, Gon’z house lost power for four days. She says that the clinic she works at also lost power and closed its doors. And a few days of not being able to go to work means money is tight.

Just across the street, there’s a bustling travel agency named Cubamerica with phones ringing constantly.

MADAY PEREZ: Everyone has come here saying they want to go to Cuba tomorrow.

CHOW: This is Maday Perez. Her aunt owns the agency. Perez tells me after Hurricane Irma, they’ve been swamped with people wanting to book flights or to send supplies to Cuba, except Irma wiped out the travel agency’s Internet. So things are going slow. Still, they’re trying.

PEREZ: Yesterday, there was a lady that sent a packet of food that was like 33 pounds. And the other day, it was 50 pounds.

CHOW: Perez says her family in south Florida dealt relatively well with the storm. Her family in Cuba – they live by the ocean. There was flooding – no power.

PEREZ: Here we have the generators. We have stuff that we could – we can deal with it, you know? It’s not as bad. Over there, on a regular day, they don’t have food.

CHOW: Her aunt, Mercedes Fidalgo, comes over to talk when there’s a break in customers. Fidalgo recalls a moment from the day before. She had gotten a hold of their family in Cuba by phone to let them know that in Florida, they, too, were safe from Irma.

MERCEDES FIDALGO: (Speaking Spanish).

CHOW: Fidalgo says their relatives in Cuba we’re worried for them, too. Though both families in Florida and Cuba face difficult recoveries from Irma, Fidalgo says she’s grateful that at least they’re all safe. Kat Chow, NPR News, Hialeah, Fla.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/09/16/551544771/for-floridians-with-family-in-cuba-recovery-from-irma-is-twice-as-taxing?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

A sign is held up by the White House in support of the DREAMers and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on Sept. 5, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration will “wind down” DACA.

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A sign is held up by the White House in support of the DREAMers and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, on Sept. 5, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration will “wind down” DACA.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Dan Lee rarely talks about his status as a DACA recipient. Apart from having close family and friend confidants, the secret of being in the country illegally has weighed heavily on Lee ever since he learned he didn’t have the proper paperwork in high school while applying for a job.

In an interview with NPR’s Michel Martin, Lee remembers being 15 and thinking “What is the point of me doing anything if I’m not going to able to have a career or be able to, I guess, be ‘normal’?”

Lee’s parents brought him to the U.S. from South Korea in the hopes of giving him an American education. From what he can gather from his parents, they tried to pursue citizenship but ended up falling victim to an immigration scam.

Lee is part of about 20 percent of DACA recipients who came to the U.S. from Asia. South Koreans make up the majority of that demographic.

Because of DACA, Lee was able to get the documents needed to get a job and apply for school. Today he’s a fourth-year political science student at American University in Washington D.C.

With news that President Trump has rescinded DACA with a six-month delay, he wanted to speak out.

“There are 800,000 people just like me,” Lee says. “People who have full-time jobs, attending school. They are the types of immigrants you want in your country.”

Interview Highlights

On why his immigration application didn’t go through

My parents, they were scammed by a supposed immigration attorney and [they] didn’t speak English. They didn’t know how the American system worked. They didn’t know the laws here and they just assumed, “Oh, if we hire an attorney, everything will work out.” Turns out it didn’t.

On his life before DACA was introduced

I see that Congress has tried to tackle immigration reform so many times and they’ve mostly failed over and over again and I realized that there’s just simply no hope and I was going like, “What is the point of me even trying in school? What is the point of me doing anything if I’m not going to able to have a career or be able to, I guess, be ‘normal’?”

On waiting to learn the fate of DACA

It’s like when you’re on a chair and you lean a little too back and you’re just about to fall, right? And it’s like feeling that perpetual falling feeling. I just want to be able to know if I’m going to be able to keep what I built here. I want to be able to one day own a house, have a family, have a job and watch football on Sundays peacefully.

On challenging claims that DACA recipients are criminals and welfare babies

In order to receive DACA, you need to pass a criminal background check. Not only that, you have to pay money to apply for DACA. It’s close to $500, and compounding with the fact that you have to give your biometrics and the fact that you’re not eligible for any sort of social benefit in the United States.

NPR producer Denise Guerra produced the audio version of this story.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/09/16/551544757/daca-a-students-story-they-are-the-types-of-immigrants-you-want-in-your-country?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

The White House has reaffirmed its position on the Paris Climate Agreement despite reports that the United States would stay.

“There has been no change in the United States’ position on the Paris agreement. As the President has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country,” the White House said in a statement Saturday.

A few minutes later, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders followed up with this tweet: “Our position on the Paris agreement has not changed. @POTUS has been clear, US withdrawing unless we get pro-America terms.”

It was in response to reports, in the Wall Street Journal and AFP earlier in the day, that quoted a European official who had attended an environmental summit in Montreal, Canada.

According to AFP, the European Union’s top climate official, Miguel Arias Canete, said, “The U.S. has stated that they will not renegotiate the Paris Accord, but they try to review the terms on which they could be engaged under this agreement.”

That new stance was reportedly vocalized by White House senior adviser Everett Eissenstat, “participants” told the WSJ.

Eissenstat, deputy assistant to the president for international economic affairs and deputy director of the National Economic Council, “outlined a plan to reassure partners that the U.S. would be constructive” in its efforts to fight climate change, “he did not provide clarity on the new emissions-reduction objectives,” the publication said, citing an unnamed official at the Montreal meeting of environmental ministers.

He went on tell the publication “there would be a meeting on the sidelines of next week’s UN General Assembly with American representatives ‘to assess what is the real US position,’ but noted ‘it’s a message which is quite different to the one we heard from President Trump in the past.’ “

Trump announced on June 1 the U.S. would be leaving the Paris Accord, following through on a campaign promise. In a speech delivered in the Rose Garden he said, “Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as $2.7 million lost jobs by 2025.”

But he added that the U.S. would begin negotiations to possibly re-enter the Paris accord or a similar pact that, he said, would result in a better deal for American workers.

Under the terms of the agreement, he wouldn’t actually be able to withdraw until November 2020.

The president is preparing to give his first-ever speech to the United Nations on Monday.

NPR’s Emma Bowman contributed to this report.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/09/16/551551083/u-s-still-out-of-paris-climate-agreement-after-conflicting-reports?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world



ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

As hard as Hurricane Irma hit Florida, it was much worse when it tore through islands in the Caribbean. Many of the 50,000 people who live on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands are in damaged homes without power. They’re also struggling because of the huge amount of debris. It’s everywhere, even blocking major roads. NPR’s Jason Beaubien walked through the port of Charlotte Amalie to take a look.

JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: Sort of all around St. Thomas at the moment you’ve just got piles of garbage in little corners, up against walls. You’ve also got people who’ve got tons of stuff that has gotten damaged and they’re just throwing it out. Like right in front of us at the moment it’s a bunch of Christmas stuff – people’s stockings and their bulbs that they would be putting up on the trees and, like, an old suitcase and some shelves. People are just clearing out all the stuff that was severely damaged in Hurricane Irma.

LATTIE MAY PERCEVAL: The garbage truck wasn’t out there for weeks.

BEAUBIEN: Sixty-eight-year-old Lattie May Perceval, pointing to a pile of trash just down the block from her house, says there hasn’t been any garbage collection in her neighborhood since the storm. She says it’s causing a lot of problems, like for her neighbor next door.

PERCEVAL: The garbage smells so bad. And she get – she having rat coming in her house, a big, big rat, because the garbage truck is not going out to pick up the garbage. It’s time for the garbage truck to go out and pick up the garbage.

BEAUBIEN: But this is more than just a trash problem. Dealing with this issue is critical to the recovery, and crews are making an effort to get to the piles of debris and trash in the streets.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRUCK HORN)

BEAUBIEN: They’ve been working systematically to clear the streets, starting from the port where desperately needed food and fuel are being brought in. And then the crews are moving block by block up the hills of Charlotte Amalie. This is all happening as most of St. Thomas is still without power, and officials say it could be months before the electricity is fully restored. Downed power lines, tree branches, sheets of metal roofing and other debris still block many roads, making moving anywhere hazardous and difficult. Ten days after Irma hit, the main hospital remains shut. People are still being evacuated out of houses and apartments, some of which don’t even have walls. Main roads across the island remain impassable.

ERICSON REVAN: You see, like, the whole island got swashed. So now hard to maneuver, you know?

BEAUBIEN: Ericson Revan is with the private construction company that’s been working to clear the streets.

REVAN: It’s a big job, and it’s really hard.

BEAUBIEN: He says they’re separating the debris, including lots of sheets of galvanized roofing material, as they move through the streets to make it easier to dispose of it.

REVAN: Galvanized, you see? That other truck, it carry galvanized. And there’s another truck I have carry wood. And this one carry the trash. The big green one carry the trash.

BEAUBIEN: Public works officials have set up a dumping site over by the hospital to deal with the huge volume of hurricane debris. Revan’s crew has been working all week through rains that have further hampered cleanup efforts. But his workers, he says, are eager to clear as much as they can.

REVAN: And the guys, them is very young and energetic even though we had this road here, the rain was coming. I asked them if they want to quit for the day. They said no, they want to continue. They’ve got to get the island back in shape.

BEAUBIEN: Getting the island back in shape is the big goal right now. And that starts with just being able to get the streets open again. Revan, however, says it’s unclear exactly how long clearing the streets will take.

REVAN: It’s going to be a long time. It will be a long time.

BEAUBIEN: And that’s what officials are saying about all the other aspects of this recovery – the electricity, the hospital, reconstructing houses. It’s going to take a long time. But to get started, one of the first things you need is for people to be able to move around. Jason Beaubien, NPR News, St. Thomas.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAMIYAM’S “ITALY”)

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Article source: http://www.npr.org/2017/09/15/551339942/st-thomas-starts-to-clean-up-islands-worth-of-debris-after-hurricane-irma?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world