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Louisiana Declares State of Emergency as Residents Brace for Tropical Storm Barry

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  • A state of emergency has been declared in Louisana and thousands have been evacuated as the state gets ready for Tropical Storm Barry.
  • Forecasters have said the storm could be upgraded to a hurricane when it makes landfall late Friday or early Saturday, but most officials and residents are more worried about the flooding the storm could cause than wind damage.
  • One of the biggest threats is the Mississippi River, which is typically at 6 to 8 feet in New Orleans this time of the year, but is now at 16 feet due to record flooding.
  • New Orleans already experienced massive flash floods earlier this week, and many view Barry as the first real test to the levees which broke during Hurrican Katrina in 2005, destroying the city.

Flooding in New Orleans

Louisiana has declared a state of emergency as residents prepare for Tropical Storm Barry which has already caused flash floods and inclement weather throughout the state.

The storm is expected to make landfall late Friday or early Saturday, and forecasters anticipate that it could be upgraded to a hurricane before then.

The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning Thursday for the areas between Intracoastal City and Grand Isle, about 50 miles south of New Orleans.

Thousands of people are already under mandatory evacuations, while others have been told to prepare for an intense rainfall, strong winds, and enormous storm surges. Around 3,000 National Gaurd members have been deployed for search and rescue efforts.

If Barry does become a hurricane, it would likely be a fairly weak one in terms of wind speeds. 

As of Friday afternoon, wind speeds had reached 65 miles per hour, with forecasters predicting it will make landfall just above 74 miles per hour, the speed required to be categorized as a hurricane.

Flood Conditions

As Louisiana prepares for the incoming storm, many are far more concerned about the flood risks and storm surges from Barry’s heavy rains than the damage its winds could create.

“This is going to be a major weather event for a huge portion of the state of Louisiana,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday. “The more information we get, the more concerned we are it’s going to be an extreme rain event for large portions of the state.”

“There are three ways that Louisiana can flood; storm surge, high rivers, and rain. We’re going to have all three,” Edwards continued.

Forecasters have predicted that the storm could bring a three-to-six-foot storm surge to coastal areas. The Mississippi River represents one of the biggest risks to the state at large.

Between 10 to 20 inches of rain are expected across Louisiana, posing a dangerous threat of flooding from the Mississippi River, which is already inundated with unusual amounts rainwater.

The Mississippi River, which is usually at 6 to 8 feet in midsummer in New Orleans, is now at 16 feet because of record flooding along the waterway.

“This is the first time we’ve had a tropical system with water levels on the river this high,” Jeffrey Graschel, a hydrologist with the weather service’s Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center told CNN.

Low-lying parts of New Orleans have already flooded earlier this week in the wake of heavy storms ahead of Barry. It was reported that 10 inches of rain had fallen in parts of the city by noon on Wednesday. 

Many streets were covered with dangerous amounts of water, and power outages were also reported.

On Friday, the National Weather Service of New Orleans issued an alert on Twitter warning that the city was “looking at potential for life-threatening flooding in some areas.”

A Test for New Orleans

Regardless of Barry’s strength, many view the storm as the first real test of the storm system improvements put in place after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Specifically, many New Orleans officials and residents are concerned about the levees that protect the city, and that infamously broke during Katrina, causing massive flooding and damages that New Orleans has still not fully recovered from.

Experts expect rainwaters to push the Mississippi River to swell to 19 feet, just a foot below the tops of the shortest levees. 

The Army Corps of Engineers has said that the Mississippi River will likely be contained by levees that protect New Orleans, and many of the floodgates near the river have already been closed.

However, officials still warned that the system of levees and drainage pumps have limited capacity. New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Thursday that the city’s pumps were operating at “optimal capacity,” but also added that Barry’s downpour could outpace the pumps ability to move the water.

Still, Cantrell stopped short of mandatory evacuations in the city. On Friday, Cantrell announced a voluntary evacuation for the areas outside of the protection of the levees, noting on Twitter that certain areas could expect “a surge between three to six feet.”

Cantrell has also asked New Orleans residents to shelter in place starting at 8 p.m. local time.

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (CNN) (NPR)

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Nearly 700,000 People to Lose Food Stamp Aid Under New Policy

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  • A new rule was finalized on Wednesday that tightens work restrictions for the federal food stamp program.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 688,000 people will be cut from the program when the rule takes effect next year.
  • Those in favor of the change argue that it will push unemployed individuals to find jobs, while critics say it will hurt them more than it will help them.

New Rule

Trump administration finalized a new rule that could remove almost 700,000 people from the federal food stamp program. The rule, announced in a press release on Wednesday, creates stricter work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rule promotes work for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents,” the press release said.  

Under current regulations, this demographic can receive three months of SNAP benefits throughout a three year period, unless they work or undergo professional training for at least 20 hours a week. 

States have had the ability to waive this time limit to account for economic turbulence, and counties with unemployment rates as low as 2.5% were eligible for these remissions. The new rule will make 6% the minimum unemployment rate to qualify for these waivers, according to the Washington Post.

It will take effect on April 1, 2020.

Impact on Americans

While the USDA originally estimated that up to 750,000 people would be cut from SNAP with this change, now they have adjusted that number to 688,000. 

The finalized regulation is the first of three proposed measures to limit access to the federal food stamp program. A new study by the Urban Institute found that if the other two rules are approved, nearly 4 million people would lose access to food benefits.

After the new rule was proposed in February, there was an abundance of public comments imploring the administration not to go through with it. 

But the USDA was not swayed and held strong in their argument that SNAP should be a form of temporary assistance instead of a long-term lifestyle. 

“Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream,” said Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture. “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”

Those who support the rule are optimistic that it will push unemployed individuals to find jobs. 

“The changes reflect the belief that more Americans can enter and reenter the workforce,” Brandon Lipps, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary, told the Washington Post. “So they can know the dignity of work.”

Critics of the change were extremely disappointed upon the news of the rule’s finalization, deeming it a step in the wrong direction.

“The Trump administration is driving the vulnerable into hunger just as the Christmas season approaches,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, said on the floor Wednesday. “It is heartless. It is cruel. It exposes a deep and shameful cruelness and hypocrisy in this administration.”

Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee on nutrition, released a press statement on Wednesday after hearing the news.

“The Administration refuses to take an honest look at the people they are targeting with this rule and what challenges they face that contribute to their hunger…” she said. “…Instead of considering hungry individuals and their unique struggles and needs, the Department has chosen to paint them with the broadest brush, demonizing them as lazy and undeserving.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (NPR) (NBC)

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Melania Trump Blasts Law Professor for Dropping Son’s Name in Impeachment Testimony Joke

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  • Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan made a joke referencing President Donald Trump’s son in her impeachment hearing testimony on Wednesday. 
  • Melania Trump criticized Karlan on Twitter for bringing her child into a political matter.
  • Some condemned Karlan while others thought her wordplay was harmless. 
  • Many Twitter users called the FLOTUS hypocritical for defending her child but staying silent on her husband’s treatment of other minors, including teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and migrant children experiencing inhumane treatment at the border.

Karlan’s Joke

Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor, dropped a controversial joke while testifying in the ongoing impeachment hearing against President Donald Trump on Wednesday. 

While explaining the difference between the POTUS and a king, she used a play on words with the name of his teenage son, Barron.

“The constitution says there can be no titles of nobility,” Karlan said. “So while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”

Karlan’s joke received a scattering of laughter around the room, including a chuckle from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who posed the question of how the president compares to royalty.  

Melania Trump took to Twitter to defend her son, condemning Karlan’s name-dropping comment. 

“A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics,” the first lady wrote. “Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

Further Backlash

Karlan was put on blast by other prominent figures for her mention of the president’s son. Vice President Mike Pence called her joke a “new low.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida who strongly supports the president, chastised her directly on the floor Wednesday. 

“Let me also suggest that when you invoke the President’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump, that does not lend credibility to your argument,” he said. “It makes you look mean.”

The Trump campaign released an official statement on the topic.

“Only in the mind of crazed liberals is it funny to drag a 13-year-old into the impeachment nonsense,” National Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

Karlan’s Apology

Later in the day, Prof. Karlan apologized for her remarks, but not without mentioning that she wishes Donald Trump would also admit to his faults. 

“I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son. It was wrong of me to do that,” she said during her testimony. “I wish the president would apologize obviously for the things that he’s done that’s wrong, but I do regret having said that.”

Defense of the Professor

While some were outraged by Karlan’s play on words, others spoke up to defend her, deeming the joke harmless.

Some Twitter users criticized the FLOTUS for being quick to defend her own son but staying silent on her husband’s treatment of other minors, including teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and migrant children experience inhumane treatment at the border.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NBC) (Newsweek)

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George Zimmerman Sues Trayvon Martin’s Family for $100M, Citing Defamation

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  • George Zimmerman is suing Trayvon Martin’s parents, their lawyer, and a publishing company for $100 million, citing defamation relating to the 2013 case involving Martin’s shooting.
  • The lawsuit cites a documentary titled The Trayvon Hoax, which accuses Martin’s parents of falsifying testimony.
  • Ben Crump, a lawyer for Martin’s parents, called the lawsuit unfounded and reckless.

Zimmerman’s Lawsuit

The man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin is now suing Martin’s family, their lawyer, and a publishing company for allegedly engaging in false testimony during the 2013 trials related to Martin’s death.

According to reports, George Zimmerman and his lawyers are alleging defamation, saying that Martin family and their prosecutors “have worked in concert to deprive Zimmerman of his constitutional and other legal rights.” Because of this, Zimmerman is asking for $100 million in civil damages.

Zimmerman’s suit cites information from a documentary titled The Trayvon Hoax. It also claims that the Martin family lied in court. 

Zimmerman’s suit cites information from a documentary titled The Trayvon Hoax. It also claims that the Martin family lied in court. 

On top of suing Martin’s family, Zimmerman is also suing the publisher Harper Collins after it released a book titled Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People, which was written by Ben Crump, the lawyer who represented Martin’s family in the case against Zimmerman.

While The Trayvon Hoax was scheduled to be screened at the Coral Gable Art Cinema Thursday following a noon press conference giving more details about the lawsuit, the theater later canceled the screening as news of Zimmerman’s lawsuit surfaced.

In a statement responding to the allegations, Crump said he hoped the lawsuit would soon be thrown out.

“I have every confidence that this unfounded and reckless lawsuit will be revealed for what it is – another failed attempt to defend the indefensible and a shameless attempt to profit off the lives and grief of others,” he said.

Trayvon Martin’s Death

Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in Florida on Feb. 26, 2012. At the time, Martin had been visiting his father.

The night he died, Martin had reportedly been walking home after buying candy and a drink at a gas station. Zimmerman, who was part of the community’s volunteer neighborhood watch, then called the police to report a suspicious-looking person in a dark hoodie.

“These assholes, they always get away,” Zimmerman told the dispatcher.

About two minutes into the call, Zimmerman said he saw Martin then began to run. He then chased after Martin despite the dispatcher telling him not to.

Soon after the phone call ended, Zimmerman and Martin reportedly engaged in a violent altercation that ultimately led to Martin’s death.

Zimmerman was then arrested and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

In the months that followed, the trial gained national scrutiny as many waited to see what would happen to Zimmerman after shooting an unarmed black teenager.

Ultimately, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in 2013 after claiming self-defense in court.

See what others are saying: (Miami Herald) (Washington Post) (NBC News)

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