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Trump Approves Iowa Governor’s Disaster Declaration Following Catastrophic Storm

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  • Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds asked President Donald Trump for an expedited Presidential Major Disaster Declaration and for nearly $4 billion in federal aid after a derecho hit her state on August 10.
  • On Monday morning, Trump said that he approved the emergency declaration.
  • A derecho is a strong and powerful windstorm. This storm has left thousands without power and killed three people in the state of Iowa. It caused one more death in Indiana.
  • Roughly 14 million acres of crops may have been impacted by the storm, including corn and soybean crops. Over 8,000 homes have also been destroyed, and the state is looking at millions of dollars in damages to public infrastructure.

Iowa Requests Disaster Aid

President Donald Trump said on Monday that he approved Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ request for a disaster declaration following a catastrophic derecho that destroyed land and property across the state.

In Reynolds’ Sunday request to the president, she said the state needed $4 billion in aid to recover.

“From cities to farms, Iowans are hurting, many still have challenges with shelter, food, and power. Resilience is in our DNA, but we’re going to need a strong and timely federal response to support recovery efforts,” she wrote in a statement on Sunday. “I have formally requested an expedited Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to secure this critical federal assistance as quickly as possible.”

Reynolds said she had been in contact with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence since the storm devastated her state on August 10. She said that in those conversations, they pledged their support.

“While it is unconventional for a major disaster declaration request of this magnitude to be assembled and approved within a matter of days, it is essential that our request is expedited and approved as quickly as possible,” Reynolds added.

She was not alone in requesting aid to the state of Iowa. Before Trump approved the declaration, Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst along with Representatives Abby Finkenauer, Dave Loesback, Cindy Axne and Steve King all signed a letter asking him to grant the Governor’s request. 

“The Governor determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the State and affected local governments,” they wrote, “and supplementary federal assistance is necessary to save lives and to protect property, public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a disaster.”

Actor Ashton Kutcher, who is from Cedar Rapids, sent a tweet criticizing the government for its slow response to the derecho and asked that it do more to help the state. 

Storm Damages Crops and Properties

The derecho, which is a powerful and far reaching windstorm, hit the state with winds running over 100 miles per hour. According to USA Today, three people in Iowa have died as a result of the storm, and one more person died in Indiana.

The damage done to the state is extensive. Over the weekend, 160,000 people in the state were without power. As of Monday morning, that number went down to under 70,000. 

The Governor’s Office said that 8,273 homes have either been destroyed or suffered major damage. It is estimated that there was $23.6 million in damages to public infrastructure and it could cost $21.6 million to remove and dispose debris from the storm. 

The state’s prominent agriculture and farming industries were among the areas most severely hit by the storm. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said that approximately 14 million acres of crops could have been impacted by it, including 8.2 million acres of corn and 5.6 million acres of soybeans.

“These farmers put significant resources into this crop and were planning for strong yields,” Naig said in a statement. “Now their crops have been damaged — some destroyed — and the state has lost tens of millions of bushels of grain storage just a few weeks before harvest begins. This is a devastating blow to the agricultural community that is still recovering from the pandemic.”

Concerns have been echoed by farmers as well. While Naig has been visiting farms and communities, he said that multiple people told him their farms will not look the same in their lifetimes. 

“It’s by far the most extensive and widespread damage that we’ve seen on this farm.” Aaron Lehman, the President of the Iowa Farmers Union told Harvest Public Media.

Iowa’s farms are an integral part of feeding the United States. According to the Iowa Area Development Group, Iowa produces one-eleventh of the country’s food supply and is the number one producer of corn and other goods. Over 18% of the nation’s corn supply comes from Iowa. The state also produces 13% of the nation’s soybeans and eggs.

Recovery Efforts

Some recovery efforts are already underway. The Iowa National Guard has been cleaning up debris in an effort to get power back to residents in the state. 

The Iowa Red Cross has opened shelters that are following COVID-19 safety guidelines. Those shelters will have health screenings, isolation areas, and face masks will be required. The Red Cross is also providing meals to those in need. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (The Gazette) (CBS2 Iowa)

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FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses

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The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.


New FDA Authorization

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.

The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.

Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.

Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.

Hazy Recommendations, For Now

Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.

The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.

In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.

However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.

An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.

Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)

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Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities

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The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.


Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”

Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.

Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.

The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone. 

During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program. 

“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”

Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.” 

“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference. 

“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”

Goals of the  Accountability for Congregate Care Act

Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act. 

“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.

“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.” 

Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.

Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change. 

“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”

While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children. 

Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)

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Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human

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The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.


Groundbreaking Procedure

Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.

The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.

With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.

According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney. 

The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.

Concerns and Hurdles Ahead

While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles. 

Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this. 

Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.

“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.

On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.

“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.

“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”

See what others are saying: (CNN)(BBC) (The New York Times)

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