Archive For The “News” Category

On Ukraine Call, Biden Says Trump Is ‘Violating Every Basic Norm Of A President’

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On Ukraine Call, Biden Says Trump Is ‘Violating Every Basic Norm Of A President’

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says President Trump’s call with the Ukrainian president was “an overwhelming abuse of power.”

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Joe Biden, the former Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate, is accusing President Trump of “an overwhelming abuse of power.”

Biden’s comments on Saturday come amid reports that President Trump urged the leader of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate Biden’s son during a phone conversation this summer.

According to multiple reports, what was allegedly said during that July 25 conversation between Trump and the Ukrainian president is now at the center of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint that has roiled the White House.

Speaking to reporters at the Iowa Steak Fry, Biden said that if the reports are true, Trump crossed a line.

“Trump’s doing this because he knows I’ll beat him like a drum,” Biden said. “And he’s using the abuse of power and every element of the presidency to try to do something to smear me.”

Trump and his allies allege that while vice president, Biden sought to have a Ukrainian prosecutor that was reportedly looking into his son Hunter’s business affairs fired. In 2014, Hunter Biden was a board member of a Ukrainian energy company called Burisma Holdings.

According to a report by Bloomberg in May, the prosecutor general in Ukraine said there was no evidence that either of the Bidens committed any wrongdoing.

The older Biden was asked by reporters Saturday if he ever had discussions with his son about Hunter’s business dealings. He denied ever doing so.

He then turned the discussion back to President Trump.

“I know Trump deserves to be investigated,” Biden said. “He’s violating every basic norm of a president.”

….story about me and a perfectly fine and routine conversation I had with the new President of the Ukraine. Nothing was said that was in any way wrong, but Biden’s demand, on the other hand, was a complete and total disaster. The Fake News knows this but doesn’t want to report!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 21, 2019

Biden has called for the release of the phone transcript of the Trump conversation.

Earlier Saturday, Trump in a series of tweets doubled down on his stance that he did nothing wrong in his conversation with the Ukrainian president.

He called it “a perfectly fine and routine conversation” where “nothing was said that was in any way wrong.”

As NPR reported Friday, President Trump dismissed the whistleblower allegations as a “political hackjob.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Trump “repeatedly pressured” the Ukrainian leader “about eight times” to work with his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, on a probe of Hunter Biden.

The Washington Post reported that the conversation also included an unspecified “promise” made by President Trump.

A little more than two weeks after that conversation, on Aug.12, the acting Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, said his office received a disclosure involving an alleged “urgent concern.”

The Trump administration has so far ignored calls to release the contents of the whistleblower complaint, even though congressional Democrats say they are legally entitled to the information.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement Friday, that Congress “must be sure” the administration is engaging in national security and foreign policy that’s “in the best interest of the American people.”

“The Administration’s blocking of Acting [Director of National Intelligence] Joseph Maguire from providing Congress with the whistleblower complaint violates the federal statute, which unequivocally states that the DNI ‘shall’ provide Congress this information,” Pelosi said.

Trump on Saturday accused the media and Democrats of trying to protect the Democratic front-runner.

He even gave the controversy a new moniker: the “Ukraine Witch Hunt.”

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SUV Drives Through Chicago Mall, Prompts False Claims Of Active Shooter

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SUV Drives Through Chicago Mall, Prompts False Claims Of Active Shooter

A state police officer stands outside of a Woodfield Mall entrance on Friday, in Schaumberg, Ill. An SUV drove into the mall through one of the Sears’ entrances and crashed into several stores and kiosks.

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A 22-year-old man was taken into custody Friday afternoon after he drove his SUV through a mall in Schaumburg, Ill., police said, causing panic as social media erupted with reports of an active shooter.

The man drove through the Sears entrance of Woodfield Mall, about 13 miles from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, and continued through a hallway lined with kiosks until he was detained by mall patrons and two off-duty officers, Schaumburg Police Chief Bill Wolf said in a press conference.

“I am happy to report that there were only very minor injuries from this incident,” Wolf said. No patrons were hit by the vehicle, he added.

The driver’s identity will not be released until charges are authorized by Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Wolf said, adding that the police are also investigating a connection to the driver’s possible medical condition.

A video posted on Twitter Friday shows the black Chevrolet Trailblazer erratically weaving through the mall as bystanders run from the car and yell at the driver to stop. After crashing into a Hollister store, the car backs up, stops for a moment and continues driving. Wolf said that the police and fire department were dispatched at 2:21 p.m. local time, and were on the scene within two minutes.

The first reports on Twitter warned of gunshots and an active shooter situation inside the mall. Wolf said that police originally responded to reports of shots fired, but said that the claims were ultimately unsubstantiated.

“Although we did originally receive those reports, we did not see any shell casings or anything that would report that there were any shots fired,” Wolf said in the press conference, adding that “it appeared that what people heard as shots fired was from the broken glass in the mall.”

Wolf said that some evidence pointed to the driver’s presence in the mall prior to driving through the Sears, but denied any connection to terrorist acts.

“There is no indication that this was a terrorist attack, there is no indication that this was something pre-planned, no indication that the mall itself was a target,” Wolf said.

The false claims of an active shooter in the mall came as Americans still reel from the mass shootings in El Paso, Midland and Odessa, Texas; Dayton, Ohio and Virginia Beach, Va. Last Saturday, Arlington County Police responded to calls of an active shooter in a theater in Ballston Quarter mall, but police later said that the incident was caused by a juvenile male shouting a false shooter warning.

The incident still created panic as moviegoers ran from the theater yelling for other patrons to evacuate and call 9-1-1, Arlington County police said.

On Aug. 9, NPR reported that 20-year-old Dmitriy Andreychenko was charged with making a terrorist threat in the second degree after he entered a Walmart in Springfield, Mo., with body armor, a loaded rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition less than a week after the El Paso Walmart shooting that killed 22 people.

Andreychenko said in a police statement that he “wanted to know if that Walmart honored the Second Amendment.”

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Trump Deploys Troops To Middle East After Attack On Saudi Oil Facility

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Trump Deploys Troops To Middle East After Attack On Saudi Oil Facility

The president authorized the deployment of additional U.S. forces to strengthen air and missile defenses around Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Pentagon announced late Friday.

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U.S., El Salvador Sign New Asylum Deal To Stem Tide Of Migrants

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U.S., El Salvador Sign New Asylum Deal To Stem Tide Of Migrants

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan, right, with Alexandra Hill Tinoco, left, minister of Foreign Affairs for El Salvador, after signing an asylum agreement in Washington, D.C.

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The United States and El Salvador signed an agreement Friday aimed at deterring the flow of migrants seeking to enter this country by requiring them to seek asylum in that Central American nation on their way here.

In a signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Alexandra Hill Tinoco, El Salvador’s foreign minister, inked a “cooperative asylum agreement.” But they provided no details about how the agreement will work, when it goes into effect, or who it will be impact.

“This agreement today is one significant step forward,” McAleenan said in a live-streamed press conference. “El Salvador is a critical partner for the United States in promoting the security and prosperity of Central America.”

“We are working every single day to try to solve this issue of people, who by various reasons, reasons of insecurity or reasons of death threats are forced to leave our country,” Hill Tinoco said.

The agreement appears to put in El Salvador in the position of accepting migrants from third countries who would otherwise seek to enter the U.S. Hill Tinoco said El Salvador wants to cooperate with the U.S. and that economic investment in El Salvador is key to improving her country’s ability to keep its own citizens from fleeing.

The agreement also aligns with the administration’s “third country” asylum rule, although that term was not used in the press conference.

The administration signed a similar agreement with Guatemala in July, but questions remain about that country’s capacity to comply. Lawmakers there have yet to ratify it.

Immigrant advocates denounced the deal.

“If this agreement goes into effect, the U.S. will be forcing the most vulnerable communities to seek safety in a country that is not equipped to protect its own citizens or provide economic opportunity,” said Oscar Chacon, executive director of Alianza Americas, a network of immigrant-led organizations.

A 2018 State Department report on human rights in El Salvador cites allegations of unlawful killings and torture by security forces, as well as forced disappearances by military personnel. The report describes a “lack of government respect for judicial independence” and “widespread government corruption.”

“Impunity persisted despite government steps to dismiss and prosecute some in the security forces, executive branch, and justice system who committed abuses,” the report added.

It is not clear whether El Salvador’s cooperation on asylum is tied to other bi-lateral issues, most prominently, the status of some 200,000 Salvadorans living in the Unites States under temporary protected status. The administration sought to end that program for Salvadorans and citizens of three other countries, but a federal judge has intervened. The temporary protections are due to end in January 2020.

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U.S., El Salvador Sign New Asylum Deal To Stem Tide Of Migrants

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U.S., El Salvador Sign New Asylum Deal To Stem Tide Of Migrants

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin K. McAleenan, right, with Alexandra Hill Tinoco, left, minister of Foreign Affairs for El Salvador, after signing an asylum agreement in Washington, D.C.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP


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Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

The United States and El Salvador signed an agreement Friday aimed at deterring the flow of migrants seeking to enter this country by requiring them to seek asylum in that Central American nation on their way here.

In a signing ceremony in Washington, D.C., Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Alexandra Hill Tinoco, El Salvador’s foreign minister, inked a “cooperative asylum agreement.” But they provided no details about how the agreement will work, when it goes into effect, or who it will be impact.

“This agreement today is one significant step forward,” McAleenan said in a live-streamed press conference. “El Salvador is a critical partner for the United States in promoting the security and prosperity of Central America.”

“We are working every single day to try to solve this issue of people, who by various reasons, reasons of insecurity or reasons of death threats are forced to leave our country,” Hill Tinoco said.

The agreement appears to put in El Salvador in the position of accepting migrants from third countries who would otherwise seek to enter the U.S. Hill Tinoco said El Salvador wants to cooperate with the U.S. and that economic investment in El Salvador is key to improving her country’s ability to keep its own citizens from fleeing.

The agreement also aligns with the administration’s “third country” asylum rule, although that term was not used in the press conference.

The administration signed a similar agreement with Guatemala in July, but questions remain about that country’s capacity to comply. Lawmakers there have yet to ratify it.

Immigrant advocates denounced the deal.

“If this agreement goes into effect, the U.S. will be forcing the most vulnerable communities to seek safety in a country that is not equipped to protect its own citizens or provide economic opportunity,” said Oscar Chacon, executive director of Alianza Americas, a network of immigrant-led organizations.

A 2018 State Department report on human rights in El Salvador cites allegations of unlawful killings and torture by security forces, as well as forced disappearances by military personnel. The report describes a “lack of government respect for judicial independence” and “widespread government corruption.”

“Impunity persisted despite government steps to dismiss and prosecute some in the security forces, executive branch, and justice system who committed abuses,” the report added.

It is not clear whether El Salvador’s cooperation on asylum is tied to other bi-lateral issues, most prominently, the status of some 200,000 Salvadorans living in the Unites States under temporary protected status. The administration sought to end that program for Salvadorans and citizens of three other countries, but a federal judge has intervened. The temporary protections are due to end in January 2020.

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Texas Cities Try To Assess Scope Of Damage In Imelda’s Wake

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Texas Cities Try To Assess Scope Of Damage In Imelda’s Wake

A school bus makes its way through a flooded section of Hopper Road in Houston on Thursday. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has declared much of southeast Texas disaster areas after heavy rain and flooding from the remnants of Tropical Depression Imelda.

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Large areas of southeast Texas remain flooded Friday as officials work to get a broader sense of the damage left by Tropical Depression Imelda — a catastrophic weather event that swamped hundreds of cars and homes and claimed the lives of at least two people.

The storm has dropped massive amounts of rain, drawing comparisons to the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Harvey two years ago.

The National Weather Service in Houston said in a tweet that the amount of rainfall in Houston and Galveston on Thursday was “one for the record books.” It said Galveston had gotten 17.77 inches of rain just in the past four days.

Some areas saw as much as 20 to 40 inches of rain — North Fork Taylors Bayou near Port Arthur, Texas, topped more than 43 inches of rain as of Friday morning.

While Imelda has dissipated, the National Weather Service says “remnants will still bring heavy rain and possible flash flooding” to portion as far away as the Texas-Arkansas-Louisiana border.

Authorities are grappling with just how much destruction the storm caused.

In this photo provided by the Chambers County Sheriff’s Office, floodwaters surround a home in Winnie, Texas, after Imelda raked the area.

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Brian Hawthorne/AP

“The damage assessments are going on,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo tells NPR’s Here & Now. “I know in the city itself [Houston], we’re going to have upwards of 200 structures [destroyed], which compared to Harvey is negligible. But as we spread out from the the city of Houston and go east … to Beaumont, that count is going to be much much higher.”

FIRST LOOK! If you’re traveling east out of Houston today, you’re about to be in a traffic nightmare. Call your family or friends. Let them know. #BREAKING #abc13 #hounews https://t.co/JboldDCkdf

— Steve Campion (@SteveABC13) September 20, 2019

The U.S. Coast Guard says surging currents caused nine barges to break away from their moorings in the San Jacinto River. At least two barges crashed into a bridge over the river, shutting down a major east-west highway just east of Houston.

“The bridge is off limits until highway officials determine the bridge is safe for traffic,” Joseph Leahy of member station KUT reports. “Several other stretches of [Interstate-10] and other local highways are impassable this morning due to flooding. Flash flood warnings remain in effect across the region as high water from the storm moves downstream.”

At least two deaths have been attributed to the storm.

Here are some additional rainfall records for Houston Hobby and the city of Galveston. #houwx #glswx pic.twitter.com/E5OzdwAwmL

— NWS Houston (@NWSHouston) September 20, 2019

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez says a man in a his 40s or 50s drowned Thursday when he attempted to drive his vehicle though floodwaters that some 8 feet deep near Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

“According to witnesses for some unknown reason, he just punched it and tried to drive through it some more,” Gonzalez told reporters. “They did try to go into water to see if they could pull him out to no avail.”

#USCG Air Station Houston and Air Station New Orleans have completed multiple medevacs and rescues in the Beaumont area due to flooding caused by Tropical Depression #Imelda.

🎥: @USCGHeartland pic.twitter.com/wGfV7tdGOG

— U.S. Coast Guard (@USCG) September 20, 2019

A second man was electrocuted and drowned while trying to move his horse, according to a message from the family of the 19-year-old victim, Hunter Morrison, that was shared by the Jefferson County’s Sheriff’s Office.

“Right now my family and I are going through one of the most horrific times in our lives with losing Hunter,” the family message said.

The Houston Fire Department says its crews performed more than 900 water rescues on Thursday and were dispatched to nearly 1,800 emergency calls.

On Friday, the U.S. Coast Guard tweeted out a short video of people being helped off a helicopter, adding that crews in Houston and New Orleans have “completed multiple medevacs and rescues”

“USGC Air Station Houston and Air Station New Orleans have completed multiple medevacs and rescues in the Beaumont area due to flooding caused by Tropical Depression #Imelda,” it said.

People in Houston navigate the floodwaters on Thursday. The city got more than 9 inches of rain on that day alone, according to the National Weather Service in Houston.

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Far Right Makes Gains In 2 German State Elections As Centrists Hang Onto Power

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Far Right Makes Gains In 2 German State Elections As Centrists Hang Onto Power

Andreas Kalbitz, an AfD leader in Brandenburg, speaks to supporters after exit poll results in state elections on Sept. 1 in Werder, Germany.

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Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

For as long as Germany has been a unified country, since 1990, the center-left Social Democratic Party has helped govern Brandenburg, a state in the country’s east that surrounds Berlin. Tina Fischer, an SPD member of Brandenburg’s state parliament, is concerned about how long that will last.

On Sept. 1, voters in her town of Zeuthen helped the far-right Alternative for Germany, the AfD, double its share of the vote in Brandenburg from 12.2% to 23.5%, nearly defeating Fischer’s party. In the state of Saxony, to Brandenburg’s south, the AfD managed to secure 27.5% of the vote, a 17.8% increase over the last election five years ago.

The center-left coalition governments in both Brandenburg and Saxony managed to hold onto power by just single percentage points. The two state elections confirmed what political analysts have been warning for years: that the AfD is rapidly gaining popularity among German voters.

In 2013, when the party was founded, it didn’t have enough votes to sit in Germany’s Bundestag or parliament. Six years later, the AfD is now the third-largest party in Germany, winning 94 of the Bundestag’s 704 seats in the last federal elections. The rapidly growing party has center-left politicians like Fischer concerned.

The SPD’s Tina Fischer believes her party should have reacted more quickly to voters’ concerns when Germany took in large numbers of migrants in 2015.

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Rob Schmitz/NPR

Fischer, a 48-year old mother of two, believes her party should have reacted more quickly to concerns about a surge of around a million migrants that Germany began taking in four years ago. Instead, Fischer recalls telling voters, “No, you don’t have to be worried, there are not so many foreigners, what are you talking about?”

Around 2% of the migrants who have moved to Germany, fleeing wars and instability in Iraq and Syria — roughly 28,000 — chose to settle in the bucolic towns of Brandenburg. Fischer and her party colleagues have learned the hard way that their constituents are still uneasy about these asylum seekers, and the AfD has successfully campaigned on these fears.

“If our children say, ‘I’m frightened,’ you can’t say, ‘You don’t have any reason to be frightened,'” says Fischer. “That’s wrong. It would have been much better to say ‘OK, we do something.'”

Fischer, sitting in an outdoor cafe, says her city government should have hired more police officers to patrol public squares, trains and buses to help residents feel safer.

As she explains what she could have done better, a man on a scooter recognizes Fischer, beeps his horn and screams, “AfD is good!” before riding off.

Fischer sighs and shakes her head. She says an emboldened AfD has become popular not only through its anti-immigration message, but by how it delivers that message: through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, in a style Fischer calls “Diktatur der lauten menschen,” dictatorship of the loud.

“And they are loud and they are noisy and they are in the newspapers and they are on Facebook,” she says, “and then you lose your course.”

AfD supporters and politicians cheer results of the state elections in Brandenburg on Sept. 1.

Gregor Fischer/dpa/picture alliance via Getty I


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Gregor Fischer/dpa/picture alliance via Getty I

She says she’s worried that AfD’s surge in popularity in Brandenburg will turn away multinational companies — the region is home to big employers like Rolls Royce and engine maker MTU, some of whose employees she imagines might be scared of settling down in what she calls “Nazi-land.”

AfD voter Peter Scheppert objects to the way the party is characterized. “It’s astonishing. I can say that we are not just one class of the population who are very stupid and who have no education,” he says. “We are highly educated, we are professors. Our opinions are shared by all classes of society.”

The 65-year-old retiree says his family – all of whom, he says, voted for AfD – have a global mindset. His 45-year-old daughter works for Bayer and speaks Mandarin. His son-in-law has lived in Japan and Spain and wants to complete his Ph.D. in England.

Scheppert says he and his family voted for the Social Democrats for decades — but switched to the AfD in this election because they’re frustrated with what he calls “an unchecked flow of asylum seekers” into Germany. He’s also frustrated with the election results. “The AfD should have had more votes,” huffs Scheppert. “Now, unfortunately, the SPD is still ruling.”

At a grocery store across town, Hendrik Böheme is on a coffee break from his construction job. He believes that the AfD’s popularity is surging because the government “mismanaged” an influx of refugees.

“There are refugees all over the world who have to be taken care of,” says Böheme. “Real refugees, with families and children, of course they should stay here. But the single men who can rebuild their home countries should go back.”

Other AfD supporters in Zeuthen refused to be interviewed by NPR, accusing it of being part of a lying, fake news establishment that would portray AfD supporters as Nazis.

Roman Kuffert, a spokesperson for the AfD in Potsdam, Brandenburg’s capital, says such suspicions are rooted in the way German media and rival politicians portray AfD members — as extremists.

“We have no problem with the press. The press has a problem with us and always tries to blame us,” says Kuffert. “It’s wrong to assume we are right-wing radicals. We have Jews in the AfD. We have homosexuals in the AfD. We have migrants. I see people who want to build a reasonable Germany. This certainly has nothing to do with the dark Nazi period.”

A few dozen Jews from the former Soviet Union joined the AfD last year, which caused outrage among Germany’s Jewish community. Many migrants, especially from Russia, have also joined the AfD. The leader of the AfD in the Bundestag, Alice Weidel, is a lesbian.

Kuffert says Germany’s political and social elites will continue to get his party wrong until they come to the realization that the AfD represents what he calls “the country’s middle.”

Polling data released this week shows that while the AfD may not represent “the middle” nationwide, the party is rapidly gaining in national popularity. A monthly survey by the Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach shows the AfD achieving its highest popularity score all year among voters throughout Germany, reaching 14% from just 1.5% in August.

Political analysts will be closely watching the upcoming state elections in the eastern state of Thuringia on Oct. 27, where the AfD is polling neck-and-neck with centrist and leftist parties.

NPR Berlin bureau assistant Anna Noryskiewicz contributed research to this story.

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To Better Understand The Arctic, This Ship Will Spend A Year Frozen Into The Ice

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To Better Understand The Arctic, This Ship Will Spend A Year Frozen Into The Ice

The German icebreaker Polarstern sits in Breivika harbor in Tromso, Norway, on Tuesday. If all goes according to plan, it will spend the next year frozen into the Arctic sea ice.

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Ravenna Koenig/NPR

The mission is known as the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, or MOSAiC. Its overarching goal is to collect a vast trove of data that can help improve how the Arctic is represented in climate models.

To do that, a group of scientists will try to freeze an icebreaker into the ice — for an entire year.

On a recent day in Tromso, Norway, around 200 people are cycling through the German icebreaker Polarstern as it sits docked in Breivika harbor. They’re moving massive amounts of equipment on board, unpacking instruments and starting to install and test them.

A row of snowmobiles sits on the concrete down below, ready for loading. A massive orange crane is lifting shipping containers, some of which will even be used as lab space, and placing them on the boat.

One of the people involved in these preparations is Matthew Shupe, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Excited and nervous,” he says. “I’m both of those things.”

Shupe is a co-coordinator of the project. With hundreds of researchers from some 19 countries involved, it will be the largest Arctic expedition in history.

Matthew Shupe, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is a co-coordinator of the MOSAiC mission.

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Ravenna Koenig/NPR

The project will study the ocean, the atmosphere and the sea ice. Researchers will be digging into all kinds of questions about the physics, the biology and the chemistry of those systems.

“The science is extremely diverse,” Shupe says. “It’s all kind of focused on the sea ice, though. The sea ice is the centerpiece of it all.”

As the Arctic has warmed over the past few decades, the sea ice on the Arctic Ocean has gotten thinner and now covers a lot less area.

The last time researchers took such a comprehensive look at the Arctic Ocean system was through a project called SHEBA, more than two decades ago. Back then, the Arctic was a totally different landscape, and the picture they captured is rapidly becoming outdated.

“As we have a thinner ice pack, that changes the way energy transfers through the ice,” Shupe says. “It changes how the ice breaks up, how the ice moves around. There’s so many different kinds of new behaviors of the ice because it’s taking on a new character that we really need to study.”

The sea ice, the atmosphere and the ocean are linked. So changes in the ice could mean a cascade of changes in everything from how clouds are formed to how much carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the ocean to how organisms that depend on the ice are functioning.

One of the projects Shupe is working on involves looking at aerosol particles in the atmosphere, which act as seeds for clouds. Byron Blomquist, another researcher at the University of Colorado, will be part of an effort to measure how gases such as carbon dioxide and methane travel between the ocean and the atmosphere throughout the year. Other researchers will be looking at the abundance and composition of algae in the ice and water and how algae operate within the larger food web.

A crane moves a shipping container, some of which will be used as lab space, onto the front of the Polarstern. The German icebreaker will need to cozy up to a big ice floe in the Arctic Ocean and then freeze in next to it over the winter.

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Scientists need to observe how all these things interact in the “new Arctic” so they can better reflect them in climate models. That will lead to a better understanding of things such as how fast the Arctic sea ice could melt and the effect that a warming Arctic could have on global temperatures.

Here’s the catch: What these scientists are about to attempt is dicey.

“I think we’ll find a nice situation, but it’s not clear yet,” says Markus Rex, an atmospheric scientist with the Alfred Wegener Institute, which is spearheading the mission. “I am nervous about it, of course.”

To study how the sea ice system evolves over an entire calendar year, the ship will need to cozy up to a big ice floe and then freeze in next to it over the winter. After that, the scientists will just have to go where the ice takes them.

“The selection of the starting point is really the main parameter that determines how the expedition will go. That’s the only degree of freedom we have,” Rex says.

It’s possible that the ice they pick could melt too early. Or it could wind up taking them somewhere they don’t want to go, like into Russia’s exclusive economic zone, where the ship would have to stop taking measurements, or into a spot called the Beaufort Gyre.

“That’s a large gyre of ice where the ice just circles around for many years north of Greenland and north of Canada — we don’t want to get stuck in that,” says Rex.

Mission planners have studied over a decade of satellite data to help them get a better sense of drift patterns they might follow, and they’re looking at daily high-resolution satellite images of the ice to help them identify floe candidates.

But they won’t really know what they’ll find until they get out there. The Polarstern is expected to reach the edge of the sea ice within a few weeks.

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Trudeau Apologizes But Sidesteps Questions On Number Of Blackface Incidents

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Trudeau Apologizes But Sidesteps Questions On Number Of Blackface Incidents

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the media Thursday in Winnipeg, Canada, regarding photos in which he is seen wearing dark makeup.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized after after photos surfaced showing him wearing brownface and blackface as a young man, saying he has no plans to resign and vowing to continue his campaign for re-election in October.

“Darkening your face, regardless of the context or the circumstances, is always unacceptable because of the racist history of black face,” Trudeau said at a news conference Thursday in a public park in Winnipeg. “I should have understood that then and I never should have done it.”

His remarks came as a third image surfaced, video apparently showing him wearing dark makeup and a white T-shirt, laughing with his hands in the air. News of that incident, reported to have occurred in the late 1990s, was first reported by Global News.

Trudeau, 47, sidestepped questions Thursday about how many times he has worn blackface or brownface.

“Obviously, this is deeply regrettable,” Trudeau said. “I’m wary of being definitive about this because the recent pictures that came out I had not remembered. And I think the question is, how could you not remember that?”

Pausing, he added, “I didn’t understand how hurtful this is to people who live with discrimination every single day.”

The prime minister said that with his privileged upbringing came “a massive blind spot.”

The first controversial image surfaced late Wednesday, when Time magazine published a photo of a 29-year-old Trudeau wearing a feathered turban and with a darkened face, neck and hands at an “Arabian Nights” costume party in 2001.

In his initial comments Wednesday, Trudeau also admitted that he had worn blackface at a high school talent show.

Trudeau’s main political opponent, Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, said Thursday that he was “extremely shocked and disappointed” in the prime minister, calling Trudeau “unfit” to lead the country.

Reactions from the ranks of Trudeau’s Liberal Party seemed to be mixed.

Greg Fergus, a black member of Parliament and fellow Liberal, said told the CBC that black Canadians were confused, offended and hurt, but that he still had confidence in Trudeau.

Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, who is Sikh, told the broadcaster that the prime minister’s actions were wrong, but that Trudeau has a record of promoting diversity. Other Liberals said they, too, were disappointed and called on Trudeau to own up to his mistakes.

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As Vaping Illnesses Rise, Doctors Warn Of Possible ‘Irreversible Damage’ To Lungs

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As Vaping Illnesses Rise, Doctors Warn Of Possible ‘Irreversible Damage’ To Lungs

Patients hospitalized with vaping-related illness often have severe pneumonia, and this kind of inflammation can create long-term damage, doctors say.

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Nationwide people who vape continue to sicken with severe and unexplained lung illness, leaving doctors and patients concerned about both the acute and long-term effects of the injuries.

The CDC announced Thursday there are now 530 confirmed or probable cases of lung injury associated with vaping, a jump from 380 cases reported last week. Seven people have died.

“We at CDC are very concerned about the occurrence of life-threatening illness in otherwise healthy, young people,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principle deputy director, during a call with reporters.

She said this is an ongoing outbreak: “States continue to get new cases reported.”

The CDC has ramped up its investigation, activating its emergency operations center earlier this week in an effort to nail down the cause of the sicknesses, which remains unclear. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has enlisted the help of its office of criminal investigations, the law-enforcement arm of FDA.

“We are in desperate need of facts,” FDA’s Mitch Zeller said during a call with reporters Thursday.

So, far, it appears most patients have fallen ill after vaping THC, a psycho-active component in cannabis, nicotine, or a combination of both. Symptoms include severe pneumonia, in many cases. Patients can recover from the acute problem that led them to the hospital, but long-term impacts are unknown.

One patient, Adam Hergenreder, 18, of Gurnee, Ill., who was hospitalized with a severe vaping-related respiratory sickness in August said his doctor told him that he has the “lungs of a 70-year-old.”

It’s “terrifying to think about,” Hergenreder told NPR. He was vaping THC, but says he did not know it could be dangerous. He says he’s feeling better since his hospitalization, but he still gets winded going up stairs.

In the hospital, he says, “they caught an image of the bottom portion of my lungs and that’s when they realized the severity of the damage.”

His story has garnered a lot of media attention, in part, because he’s part of a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the vape products he used.

His case raises an important question: Can the patients who’ve fallen seriously ill after vaping expect to make a full recovery? We spoke to doctors who have treated some of the patients.

WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh, N.C., has treated seven patients who became ill after vaping. “All of the patients we’ve seen here have improved,” says Daniel Fox, a pulmonologist and critical care expert at WakeMed. “All have been able to leave the hospital,” he says.

Many of the patients were diagnosed with lipoid pneumonia which means that “oils or fats have entered the lung that should not be there,” Fox explains.

This is usually seen in elderly patients, related to choking or aspiration. So Fox says it was a surprise to see this in younger patients. But, it adds up, given that different types of oils are used in vaping cartridges and other delivery devices.

Fox says it is not clear which substances or compounds in the vaping products are leading to harm. But, “when these substances enter the lungs it can cause a profound inflammatory reaction — that makes people really sick,” Fox says.

The patients will continue to be monitored. And Fox says, while it’s unclear whether there are any long-term health impacts, acute lung illnesses like these can put people at risk.

“There is probably at least some irreversible damage that is done every time you have a significant inflammatory reaction within the lung tissue,” Fox says.

“Inflammation can cause scarring in the lungs,” agrees Scott Schroeder, a pediatric pulmonologist at Tufts Medical Center, where two patients with vaping-related lung injuries have been treated.

He says, depending on the severity, these illnesses may increase the risk of a developing a range of lung conditions down the road, including signs of COPD or asthma. But, he says it’s too soon to say if the patients sickened in this outbreak will suffer long-term damage.

Patients’ outcomes will depend on how much and what they vape, combined with their other behaviors and risk factors, he says.

Though it may sound scary to hear that an 18-year old patient has been told he has the lungs of a 70-year-old, this may not mean very much, Schroeder says.

“I mean there’s very healthy 70-year-olds out there,” he says. “Do you have a lungs of 70-year-old smoker or the lungs of 70-year-old athlete?”

Schroeder says both vaping patients treated at his hospital are doing very well, and that they’ll continue to monitor their progress.

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