• Border securityCritics question Texas spending on border security

    The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and other state agencies, are prepared to spend between about $500 million and $800 million on border security. Critics maintain that whatever the final amount the Texas state legislature actually spends this year, it is money that would be better spent on items like education or health care rather than poorly defined “border security,” which is not the primary responsibility of either DPS or the state.

  • DroughtWhat would it take to end California’s drought?

    By Faith Kearns and Doug Parker

    The excitement about a potentially rain-bearing El Niño is building, and hopes for a swift end to California’s ongoing drought are multiplying. At the same time, many of us who have worked extensively on water issues in the state fear the momentum and progress made on much-needed water reforms will be lost. This will be unfortunate, because California’s current water situation offers an invitation to expand how we think about water and drought conditions. A more nuanced perspective about what drought means and our water needs can help continue the momentum on the shifts, such as conservation measures and groundwater management, needed to deal with what is certainly an uncertain future.

  • DroughtsPast strategies for managing droughts are obsolete in a hotter, more densely populated world

    California’s current extreme drought must be a lesson for managing water in a warmer, more densely populated world, experts say. The Golden State has a long history of successfully managing droughts, but strategies from the past century are now obsolete, they assert. The current drought, which began in 2012, is a harbinger of what is to come. Engineering our way around periodic water shortages will no longer work in a hotter, drier world with ceaseless human demands on water supplies. Our ever-increasing thirst for water coupled with poor management, aging infrastructure and worsening climate change is a recipe not just for wells run dry, but for ravaged forests, extinct wildlife, and more droughts. Targeted research and public policies that move beyond a crisis response mentality are critically needed, the experts conclude.

  • ImmigrationCalifornia offers driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants

    This year California has begun to offer y undocumented immigrants driver’s licenses, and tens of thousands of immigrants have been standing long hours in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles offices around the state to avail themselves of the new document. DMV officials say that of the 883,000 licenses issued so far this year, 443,000 were issued to undocumented immigrants. The officials estimate that by the end of 2017, the DMV will issue more than 1.5 million driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants in the state.

  • FirefightingHistoric drought complicates firefighting in California

    The twenty-one wild fires which have erupted in different parts of the state have already cost lives, dozens of homes, and millions of dollars in damages. To fight fires, firefighters need water – and although state water and fire officials say that, so far, there is no danger of running out of water, they are conscious of the state’s water predicament and they are trying to be more careful in the use of water. The persistent drought has forced crews to get creative, using more dirt and retardant on wildfires. Firefighting response to several blazes has been slowed down by the drought, because firefighting helicopters found it impossible to siphon water from lakes and ponds where water levels were lower than in previous years. In the past, property owners whose properties were threatened by fire, would allow firefighting crews to tap water on their property, and would then be compensated by cash reimbursements from the state. Now, many property owners demand instead that the state replenish the water used by firefighters to protect the owners’ property.

  • WaterIsrael shares its approach, solutions to drought with California

    Israel has developed expertise in coping with droughts, and a delegation from Israeli water companies recently visited California, meeting with state officials and corporations to propose solutions to the drought, now in its fourth year. It was the latest in a series of consultations and symposiums highlighting Israeli water expertise and its potential to help California.

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  • Counterterrorism grantsNew York state, city officials mismanaged millions in anti-terror grants: DHS IG

    A new report from DHS Inspector General found that New York City and the state of New York have mismanaged millions of dollars in federal grants meant to help improve homeland security. DHS IG found that New York officials spent nearly 10 percent – or $67 million of the $725 million granted during three years by the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) — on questionable costs not in line with homeland security goals or strategies.

  • Public healthCalifornia's strict vaccine bill would not allow vaccination waiver

    Last Thursday, the California State Assembly passed SB227, an amendment to the current vaccine bill which would eliminate a waiver for parents to opt out of having their children vaccinated. The proposal passed on a 46-31 vote and is now going back to the Senate this week to confirm the amendments.Under SB277, students who are not vaccinated would have to be homeschooled or participate in off-campus study programs.

  • WaterCalifornia Republicans introduce bill to improve Western water reliability

    Republican members of the California congressional delegation yesterday introducing a bill to modernize water policies in California and throughout the Western United States. The bill has the support of the entire California Republican delegation, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and chairman of the Western Caucus. The bill’s authors say that H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, aims to make more water available to families, farmers, and communities in California and bordering Western states. The bill takes aim at what the authors describe as the “dedication of vast quantities of water to protect certain species of fish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) [which] is a significant obstacle hindering water delivery in Central and Southern California.” H.R. 2898 will require federal agencies to use current and reliable data when making regulatory decisions, which in turn will provide more water for communities in need.

  • Crude-by-railChicago, center of fracking oil shipments, debates rail safety

    Chicago is home to the busiest crossroads of the nation’s rail network, and the country’s boom in oil fracking has led the city to see not only a massive increase in crude oil transferred by rail in the region, but also debates about the public safety of such an influx. The Windy City has experienced a 4,000 percent increase in oil train traffic since 2008, with many of the densely packed suburbs surrounding the city located very close to rail lines and switches.

  • Flood warningTexas flood exposes serious weaknesses in high-tech warning systems

    The Memorial Day weekend flood in Texas was a test for regional flood warning systems employed by local and federal emergency agencies. Hays County officials issued three “reverse 911” notifications to residents residing in homes along the Blanco River. The National Weather Servicesent out flash flood warnings to registered local cellphones. Yet the disaster flood, which caused tens of millions of dollars in property damage in Blanco and Hays counties and killed more than a dozen people, exposed serious weaknesses in high-tech warning systems.

  • Border securityAbbott signs sweeping border security bill

    By Julián Aguilar

    To Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas), signing a sweeping, multimillion-dollar border security bill hundreds of miles from the Rio Grande made sense. “Here in Houston, there are more than 20,000 dangerous gang members that are associated with cross border traffic-related crime,” Abbott said Tuesday as he was flanked by lawmakers and peace officers at a Texas Department of Public Safety facility. “More than 100,000 of those gang members operate across the state of Texas.”

  • TerrorismIs there a homegrown terrorism trend in Boston?

    Citing several incidents involving Boston-based terrorists, some ask whether homegrown terrorism might be a trend specific to Boston. “Clearly, there have been a number of incidents here, and some of that is because Boston is really an international city,” said former Boston Police Department commissioner Ed Davis. “It seems to be more than a coincidence,” says one scholar. “But there’s no good answer.”

  • Coastal resilienceApp offers St. Petersburg residents information on flood levels, storm surges

    Pinellas County, Florida, will unveil a new Storm Surge Protector computer application which would provide residents of St. Petersburg with realistic views of potential flood levels as the 2015 hurricane season approaches. The app will allow people to enter any Pinellas County address and see the property’s evacuation zone and get an animated view of the structure and the water levels to expect in the area under a range of hurricane categories.

  • WaterCalifornia’s agriculture feels pain of harsh drought

    The California drought is expected to be worse for the state’s agricultural economy this year because of reduced water availability, according to a new study. Farmers will have 2.7 million acre-feet less surface water than they would in a normal water year — about a 33 percent loss of water supply, on average. Reduced availability of water will cause farmers to fallow roughly 560,000 acres, or 6 to 7 percent of California’s average annual irrigated cropland. The drought is estimated to cause direct costs of $1.8 billion — about 4 percent of California’s $45 billion agricultural economy. When the spillover effect of agriculture on the state’s other economic sectors is calculated, the total cost of this year’s drought on California’s economy is $2.7 billion and the loss of about 18,600 full- and part-time jobs.