State / Local

  • 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.

  • 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.

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  • 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.

  • ResilienceClimate change, a factor in Texas floods, largely ignored

    By Neena Satija and Jim Malewitz

    Climate change is taking a toll on Texas, and the devastating floods that have killed at least fifteen people and left twelve others missing across the state are some of the best evidence yet of that phenomenon, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said in an interview last Wednesday. “We have observed an increase of heavy rain events, at least in the South-Central United States, including Texas,” said Nielsen-Gammon, who was appointed by former Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. “And it’s consistent with what we would expect from climate change.” Some Republican state legislators who had opposed including climate change forecasts in state agencies’ planning work, say they are rethinking their position. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) said that after last week’s flooding, he is taking the need for planning for extreme weather seriously. “I’ll certainly have it on my radar,” Hunter said. “When you see these strange weather patterns, it’s important to keep all of these things in mind.”

  • WaterWinners and losers in California’s water crisis

    A recent article highlights the widening gap of inequality between the wealthy and the poor of California, specifically in relation to the State’s current drought. The authors discuss what has caused these inequalities to expand — the outdated and unsupervised water regulations still currently used, combined with decentralized local control means using and sourcing water comes down to the simple matter of what people can and cannot afford.

  • BiolabsGroundbreaking for new Biosafety Level 4 lab in Kansas

    Officials on Wednesday broke ground for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), a $1.25 billion animal research facility near the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. NBAF will be the U.S. only Level 4 biosafety lab – a designation which means that the lab is secure enough to handle, and conduct research on, pathogens that do not currently have treatments or countermeasures. Critics argue that locating the lab on the campus of KSU — in the heart of cattle country and the middle of Tornado Alley – would not be a good idea. NBAF will replace the aging biolab in Plum Island, New York.