Chemical Explosion, Harvey Rains On
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Vol. 6, No. 232
Collateral Damage: Two explosions have been reported at the Arkema chemical plant 30 miles northeast of Houston. The company had warned that floodwaters created the danger and Harris county had ordered the evacuation of a 1.5-mile radius around the plant. The company says more explosions could follow.
Arkema makes peroxides used in plastics that must be kept cool to prevent them from becoming volatile. The plant lost all power and has had trouble with backup generators.
Harvey: The storm named Harvey, now a tropical depression, has surpassed 50 inches of rain in some areas, breaking the record for a single storm. An additional 6 to 12 inches are expected north and east of Houston from far east Texas into southwestern Louisiana, as the storm begins to wander north into the Ohio Valley.
A sampling of rainfall totals:
- Bayou Conway, La., 22.25
- Beaumont, Tx., 47.35
- Cedar Bayou, Tx., 51.88
- Houston, Tx., 43.38
Rescues by air and water continued all day yesterday. At least 33,000 people have taken refuge in 230 shelters with 11,000 in Houston’s biggest sports arena.
Authorities found the bodies of four children and their two great-grandparents in a van swept away by rushing water. A three-year-old was found clinging to the body of his drowned mother who had fallen into a flooded drainage canal.
Presidential Vision: President Trump tweeted after his visit to Texas on Tuesday that, “After witnessing first hand the horror & devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, my heart goes out even more so to the great people of Texas!” CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller pointed out that, “Press pool with him yesterday say he never saw any flooding or hurricane destruction during his Texas visit.”
The Tax Man: Trump announced plans for an overhaul of the tax code yesterday, a long-sought goal of the Republican party. He said he wants to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15.
Manmade Disaster: As the Gulf Coast stews in floodwater, there’s a debate about how much global warming contributed to the severity of Hurricane Harvey. The Gulf of Mexico is seven degrees warmer than its historical norm. Warmer water makes for more moisture in clouds, which may account for the Biblical rains that have fallen on Texas and Louisiana.
But there’s little doubt that human ignorance and denial of reality have been the primary contributor to these floods. Much of the flooded area is below sea level, and cities have been built on land where even in a state of nature, water did not drain easily away. Houston has filled in and developed 38,000 acres of wetlands, the natural sponge that absorbs storm water.
A Washington Post editorial says, “As the country’s fourth-largest city expanded, replacing prairie with impermeable surfaces such as pavement and concrete, the land was rendered less and less capable of absorbing floodwater. Without proper adaptive measures, this made an already flood-prone place more vulnerable. A ProPublica and Texas Tribune investigation found last year that those who have overseen Houston’s flooding issues discounted scientists’ warnings as ‘anti-development.’ In the coming months and years, the city may pay a high price for such shortsightedness.”
Pyongyang Provocation: President Trump and his defense secretary are giving opposing messages about the situation with North Korea. After the Hermit Kingdom fired a missile over Japan, Trump tweeted, “The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!”
Defense Secretary James Mattis, a cooler head with actual experience in war, said yesterday, “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”
Permawar: The Pentagon acknowledged that there are more US troops in Afghanistan than previously announced. The number had been given as 8,400, but as the defense department plans to send even more, the actual current number is 11,000, the Pentagon says.
Politigation: A federal judge has blocked Texas from enforcing its ban on sanctuary cities, the local governments that refuse to turn over illegal immigrants for deportation.
On the matter of former Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a federal judge has set aside Arpaio’s request to have his criminal contempt conviction expunged after President Trump’s granting of a pardon.
Also, the organization Protect Democracy sent a letter to the Justice department criminal division arguing that the pardon exceeded constitutional limits. “Due process requires that, when a government official is found by a court to be violating individuals’ constitutional rights, the court can issue effective relief (such as an injunction) ordering the official to cease this unconstitutional conduct,” the letter says. “And for an injunction to be effective, there must be a penalty for violation of the injunction—principally, contempt of court.”
The Medical Front: The Food and Drug Administration for the first time yesterday approved a treatment that genetically alters a patient’s white blood cells to find and kill leukemia, the cancer of the blood.
It’s a harbinger of what is to come in medicine, bolstering the body’s own ability to fight disease.
In testing, the treatment had a success rate of 83 percent within three months. Some young patients have been leukemia-free for years.
The downside is that the single-shot treatment costs $475,000 dollars. The drug company Novartis says there will be no charge if a patient sees no results within a month.
The Tabloid Report: Rob Kardashian is gaining weight again after breaking up with Blac Chyna — Jennifer Garner is dating and can’t do anything about her ex Ben Affleck going back to the bottle after a stint in rehab — The latest cover of the outrageous French satire magazine portrays flooded South Texas as a cluster of Nazi flags, up to half-staff in water. The headline says, in French, “God Exists! He Drowned All the Neo-Nazis of Texas.” That’s the magazine that was the target of a terror attacks for similar treatment of Muslims.