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Puerto Rico Has Full Power Restored

Compliments of NBC

Power has been restored to all of Puerto Rico for the first time since Hurricane Maria struck nearly 11 months ago, officials said Tuesday.

The island’s electric utility announced that crews working in the southern city of Ponce reconnected the last neighborhood that had been offline since the Sept. 20 storm knocked out the U.S. territory’s power grid.

Ponce resident Charlie Colon Nazario told El Nuevo Dia that he was looking forward to no longer having to use a generator to light his house.

“No more lamps, no more candles, no more extension cords,” he said as about two dozen power workers completed the connection to his home.

The Ponce neighborhood was the last to be reconnected to the grid because landslides and rough terrain made it difficult for crews from the electrical authority or contractors to reach the area to make repairs, said Carlos Alvarado, chief of technical operations for the power authority.

Utility crews used a helicopter to replace wooden power poles knocked down in the storm with steel ones that officials hope will do a better job staying up during future storms.

“They will have a more robust system,” Alvardo said.

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Southern California Fire Grows ti Over 10k Acres

By: Ruben Vines and Alene Tchekmedyian of LA Times

Firefighters on Friday continued to battle an 18,000-acre wildfire in the Cleveland National Forest after it spread into Riverside County overnight and forced thousands to evacuate.

The Holy fire has destroyed at least 12 structures, but the U.S. Forest Service said that no additional homes had been lost as the fire spread. The fire remains only 5% contained.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Orange and Riverside counties. A suspected arsonist has been arrested in connection with the fire, which began Monday afternoon.

About 1,000 firefighters are on the scene, and more crews and aircraft continue to pour into the area. Officials are expecting another hot day Friday, with temperatures in the 90s.

“These conditions will increase the likelihood of extreme fire behavior as well as heat illness issues for the firefighters and the public,” fire officials said in a statement Friday.

As flames flickered behind Ana Tran’s McVicker Canyon home, she and her friend rushed to their car and sped past firefighters who were heading toward the blaze. Thick black smoke billowed above homes and cars were blanketed in pinkish fire retardant.

The residents, like many others, made a frantic escape Thursday after winds picked up in Lake Elsinore and pushed the raging Holy fire within feet of homes. More than 20,000 residents were urged to leave their homes.

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Accurate Results For Death Toll Released From Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria

By : Frances Roble

The government of Puerto Rico has quietly acknowledged in a report posted online that in all likelihood more than 1,400 people died in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria — a figure that is more than 20 times the official death toll.

Hurricane Maria cut through the island on Sept. 20, knocking out power and initially killing about a dozen people. The government’s official count eventually swelled to 64, as more people died from suicide, lack of access to health care and other factors. The number has not changed despite several academic assessments that official death certificates did not come close to tallying the storm’s fatal toll.

But in a draft of a report to Congress requesting $139 billion in recovery funds, scheduled for official release on Thursday, the Puerto Rican government admits that 1,427 more people died in the last four months of 2017 compared with the same time frame in the previous year. The figures came from death registry statistics that were released in June, but which were never publicly acknowledged by officials on the island.

“Although the official death count from the Puerto Rico Department of Public Safety was initially 64, the toll appears to be much higher,” said the report, titled “Transformation and Innovation in the Wake of Devastation.”

In another section, it said: “According to initial reports, 64 lives were lost. That

estimate was later revised to 1,427.”

The government was widely criticized for undercounting the number of people who died on the island as the power outage stretched for months, causing deaths from diabetes and sepsis to soar. Many people died from lack of access to hospitals, or because there was no power to run the machines they used to breathe.

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Saudi Arabia Revokes International Scholarships

By: Jason Lemon of Newsweek

Saudi Arabia has canceled the scholarships of 16,000 of its students studying in Canada, also ordering them to leave the country and find academic programs elsewhere.

The move comes amid a growing diplomatic row between the kingdom and the North American country, following comments by Canada’s foreign ministry that criticized Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and called on Riyadh to release detained activists. Responding to the criticism, Saudi Arabia also cut diplomatic ties with Canada, frozen all new trade and investment and canceled flights via its national carrier to Toronto.

Now, thousands of Saudi students who were studying in Canada through scholarship, training, and fellowship programs have seen their funding canceled, Saudi Gazette reported. While the kingdom will continue to pay for these students’ academic programs, they will be forced to find new opportunities in other countries. Government sources told the Saudi newspaper this would most likely be in the U.S.

Omar Abdulaziz, a Saudi national who has been a political refugee in Canada since 2014, told Newsweek he was contacted by Saudi authorities, who threatened to arrest his brothers and friends back in the kingdom if he continued to comment on the diplomatic row.

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Uk And EU Join In Agreement To Block Trump’s Iran Sanction

By: Benjamin Kentish of Independent

The UK has agreed to work with the EU to try to block the impact of Donald Trump‘s new sanctions against Iran.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, signed a joint statement with other EU foreign ministers to ensure European companies doing business with Iran will be protected.

The ministers promised to introduce a “blocking statute” to ban European firms from abiding by the US sanctions, which were reimposed by Mr Trump on Monday.

The US president decided to reintroduce the penalties after withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama.

The European foreign ministers said the lifting of Western sanctions was “essential” to the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which involved Iran agreeing not to pursue development of nuclear weapons.

Mr Hunt signed the statement along with EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and foreign ministers Jean-Yves Le Drian of France and Heiko Maas of Germany.

They said they “deeply regret” Mr Trump’s decision to reimpose sanctions and argued that 11 consecutive reports bythe International Atomic Energy Agency confirm the Iran deal “is working”.

The statement said: “It is a key element of the global nuclear non-proliferation architecture, crucial for the security of Europe, the region, and the entire world. We expect Iran to continue to fully implement all its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA.

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Texas High Schools Violate Law By Not Allowing Seniors To Register To Vote

By: Ruben Paquian of Texas Observer

About two-thirds of Texas high schools are not following a state law that mandates giving all eligible students the opportunity to register to vote, according to a new report. That means hundreds of thousands of potential voters have been left off the rolls.

For three decades, public and private high school principals in Texas have been required to distribute voter registration applications to all students who will be 18 years old that school year. The law stipulates that students be offered the applications at least twice per year. But without an enforcement mechanism or sufficient outreach by the state, compliance has been “abysmal,” according to the Texas Civil Rights Project’s report.

Since the 2016 presidential election, only a third of public high schools with more than 20 seniors requested a single voter registration form from the secretary of state’s office, the report’s authors found. In other words, two-thirds of public high schools in Texas didn’t even take the first step in complying with the law, leaving out at least 183,000 students in the last two years alone.

A map included in the report shows that the problem is scattered across the state, from major metros to rural areas. Most students in the Rio Grande Valley, a majority-minority region, aren’t getting voter registration forms at school; neither are those in large swaths of the Panhandle and West Texas.

Beyond school principals, blame also lies with Texas Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, said James Slattery, one of the report’s authors. The law does not include a strict enforcement mechanism and leaves implementation largely up to the secretary of state’s office.

“Instead of working with civic engagement groups, parents and students, the secretary’s office has dragged its feet in implementing common-sense reforms to help high schools comply with the law,” said Slattery, a Texas Civil Rights Project attorney.

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Lab Grown Lungs Successfully Implanted In Pigs

By: Kristin Houser of Science Alert

In the US alone, more than 1,400 people are waiting for a lung transplant – there simply aren’t enough donor lungs available to meet the need. Soon, though, patients might have a new source for brand new lungs: the lab.

On Wednesday, researchers from University of Texas Medical Branch published a new paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

In it, they detail their latest milestone along the path to creating lab-grown lungs for humans: they can now successfully transplant these bioengineered lungs into pigs.

To grow the lungs, the researchers first created four lung scaffolds. To do this, they removed all of the cells and blood from pig lungs using a mix of sugar and detergent. This left them with just the proteins of each lung – essentially, its skeleton.

Next, they placed each scaffold in a tank containing a special mix of nutrients. They then added cells from recipient pigs’ own lungs to each of the scaffolds and let the lungs grow for 30 days. Finally, they transplanted the four lab-grown lungs into the four recipient pigs.

Within two weeks, the transplanted lungs had already begun to establish the robust networks of blood vessels they need to survive.

During two months of post-transplant observation, the researchers found no signs that the animals’ immune systems had rejected the new lungs. But they next want to study the long-term viability of the organs.

Bioengineered organs are something of a holy grail in transplantation research. Because they are grown from the recipient’s own cells, the body is less likely to reject the organ, and we could grow them in the lab as needed – no more organ shortages.

If all goes as hoped with the pig experiments, the researchers believe they could be just five to 10 years away from being able to create lab-grown lungs to transplant into people in compassionate use circumstances (people with life-threatening conditions and essentially no other treatment options).

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Trump Administration With Less Transparency

By: Jon Sopel of BBC

Every now and then a few disparate things collide, and suddenly you see a pattern. And I don’t want this blog to come across as faux naĂŻve. I’ve covered politics for long enough to know that politicians will try to shape and mould truth to best suit their purposes, to allow them to weaponise the facts that will give them greatest advantage.

And I know that politicians love transparency when it best suits them. But in the past two weeks, a line has been crossed.

Let me start with something seemingly minor. I was listening to the president and Theresa May at their news conference in the Chequers garden when Donald Trump, talking about Brexit, suddenly made the statement that he had predicted the result when he was at his golf course in Turnberry for the opening of his wonderful golf course the day before the EU referendum in June 2016.

Anyway back to my tweet saying the president was factually incorrect. Straight back shot Stephanie Grisham, who is the first lady’s director of communications, but more importantly at the time was Donald Trump’s press person for the trip to Turnberry.

She told me on Twitter the president was right to say what he had said – and she had the photos to prove it.

So we produced the tweet from the president on the 24th saying “Just arrived in Scotland…” and from her saying that she had just arrived in Scotland.

Someone else found the flight manifest, confirming that the Trump private jet had arrived on the 24th. I fully agree a storm in a teacup. This is not the sort of thing on which world peace hinges.

But I struggle to fathom Steph’s motives. Why did she go wading in to defend a lie? And why when the proof was provided that she was incorrect did she not just say “fair enough – my mistake”.

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Greece Declares A State Of Emergency

By: Sean Morrison Business Insider

Huge forest fires raging across Greece have killed at least four people and injured dozens more, forcing authorities to seek international assistance as they battle the flames.

A state of emergency was declared in parts of Athens, the country’s capital, as coast guard boats headed out in an attempt to rescue dozens of people trapped on beaches by fire.

Hundreds of firefighters were battling a number of fires across the region and people have been told to leave their homes as authorities desperately try to bring the situation under control.

Gale force winds that frequently changed direction were hampering firefighting efforts on Monday.

Fire Service spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said Greece had called on the European Union for assistance with aerial and ground support in helping battle the flames.

Health ministry and police authorities said at least nine people were hospitalised from injuries in the fires, with three reported in serious condition in intensive care.

At least for people were seen dead in the street of the village of Mati, east of Athens, that was ravaged by fire on Monday evening, Reuters reported.

Three major hospitals in the city were on standby in case of more fire victims.

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Global Amazon Strike

By: Adam Clark Estes of Gizmodo

I know what you’re thinking: Amazon’s got some hot deals for its made-up holiday, and even though you don’t exactly need an AmazonBasics portable air compressor, you would be foolish not to save $14 by buying it on Amazon Prime Day. Resist these thoughts, fellow consumer. Amazon Prime Day is bullshit.

The first Amazon Prime Day happened in 2015, the year of Amazon’s 20th birthday, when the company boldly said “Step Aside Black Friday.” Prime Day deals were going to be so good, the world might run out of money before all the good could be bought. Yes, to celebrate two decades of selling discount books and weird sex toys, Amazon invited its most loyal customers to spend even more money and to do so in a limited amount of time. It was such a fun celebration that Amazon decided to do it every year. Now, Prime Day is even longer than a day. It’s 36 hours of unbelievable deals. And if you’re not an Amazon Prime member, Amazon will let you sign up for a free 30-day trial that you will definitely forget to cancel.

The only problem is that Amazon Prime isn’t necessarily the incredible deal that it used to be. I recently downloaded all of my Amazon data, only to learn that all my Amazon Prime membership seemed to do for me was to make me buy more stuff on Amazon. The fact that there’s now a fake holiday that encourages even more spending seems slightly insulting. Than again, nobody is forcing me to be a Prime member and to buy stuff on Amazon. And I’m certainly not compelled to buy stuff on Prime Day. That’s not what bothers me about this 36-hour bargain bonanza.

I’m actually starting to think that Amazon is a bad company. There must be a reason why Amazon workers in Europe are marking this year’s Prime Day by going on strike. A one-day strike at six Amazon facilities in Germany is currently in effect, while a three-day strike is happening in Spain. Workers in Poland are staging a work-to-rule action, meaning they’ll only do the bare minimum required by their contracts. The workers are universally demanding healthy working conditions, which seems like a reasonable thing for any employee to want. Amazon, however, has developed an infamous reputation as a terrible and dangerous place to work. Pay is so low that many warehouse workers are reportedly on food stamps. Third-party contractors often work long hours with no benefits. People even die in Amazon fulfillment centers from time-to-time.

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