On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

heavy-rain-night
38°
Showers
H 45° L 42°
  • heavy-rain-night
    38°
    Current Conditions
    Showers. H 45° L 42°
  • rain-day
    45°
    Today
    Showers. H 45° L 42°
  • cloudy-day
    54°
    Tomorrow
    Mostly Cloudy. H 54° L 38°
Listen
Pause
Error

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Local
One Man's Opinion: Disastrous Disaster Relief 
Close

One Man's Opinion: Disastrous Disaster Relief 

One Man's Opinion: Disastrous Disaster Relief 

One Man's Opinion: Disastrous Disaster Relief 

"Today the president acknowledged he was going to fulfill his promise to these disaster victims and have their backs, and I think today, in a bipartisan way, Congress backed him up on that," said U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA), in announcing the long-delayed Senate vote on a $19.1 billion disaster recovery bill which passed 85-8 on May 23, 2019.

Hurricane Michael crashed ashore in Mexico Beach, Florida on October 10, 2018, with winds estimated at 160 miles per hour. Michael is one of only four known Category 5 hurricanes to make U.S. landfall. Within hours the charming vacation, retirement, and beachfront residential community was all but obliterated. That was seven months ago, and with thousands of residents having left their homes and business behind, there are still families, seniors and longtime area residents living in tents, houses without fully functioning utilities or tarped roofs and businesses unable to return to their prior locations.

Close

One Man's Opinion: Disastrous Disaster Relief 

And Michael was not finished on the coast, in addition to causing 74 deaths (59 in the United States), Michael caused an estimated $25.1 billion in infrastructure and property damage. As Michael moved inland, it laid down hundreds of miles of crops in the field, wiping out key cash crops in Florida, southwest Alabama and south Georgia, before farmers could harvest. Agricultural losses approach $4-billion. As Memorial Day weekend and another summer approaches, and vacationers return to Panama City Beach, Pensacola, Seaside and many popular destinations along U.S. 98 and the Florida Panhandle, normalcy appears to have returned. But not for Mexico Beach, other nearby beach communities, nor inland family farmers across three states. 

The farm planting season is not endless, planting cash crops in June is well outside the normal window. But for thousands of family farms who also suffered the loss of their homes, barns and farming equipment, there was also no collateral to make crop loans against. Local and community banks with heavy farm loan portfolios have been flexible and patient, but foreclosures are likely to begin soon for many farms in families for generations, which had no yield income last year from their crops destroyed in the fields as well.

President Donald Trump was quick to visit the disaster scene, promise significant aid and the U.S. House moved unusually swiftly passing two separate aid packages of $17 and $19-billion to assist the region in re-building. 

Yet somehow, as is increasingly the case on Capitol Hill, partisan divides over additional aid for Puerto Rico (which President Trump opposes), and additional funding for the Mexico border wall (which the White House strongly supports), became intertwined with the disaster relief for the Florida panhandle and farmers. Thankfully due to the persistence of several farm state senators, including Georgia Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, a deal was finally reached and passed the Senate on Thursday, May 23, the House is expected to pass soon as well, via roll call vote, as members have already left Washington for the Memorial Day recess, and President Trump has promised his signature despite the absence of any border security funding in the $19.1-billion spending package.

The relief package will provide $3-billion in emergency aid for farmers in Alabama, Florida and Georgia. Additional aid is included for peach and blueberry farmers who were crippled earlier by a late season freeze as well as tornadoes in 2017. The aid package has billions more for restoring highways, wastewater infrastructure and military bases, such as Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City and an additional $900 million in recovery assistance for Puerto Rico, still reeling from Hurricane Maria in 2017. The latter was a key priority for Democrats throughout negotiations.

 

Close

One Man's Opinion: Disastrous Disaster Relief 

Natural disasters are not partisan and they should not be politicized. Just as Americans rush to donate blood, send cases of bottled water, diapers and other packaged goods, our U.S. government should be able to maintain a clear lane and unfettered path to assist those most in need. And just a few more weeks, before these funds actually make local landfall, may mean the difference between bankruptcy and homelessness for thousands in three states, for devastating losses and injury through no fault of their own.

Our people and nation deserve better, from both sides of the aisle. The blame game and finger-pointing will of course follow, but it's beginning to get tedious. Stop linking unrelated battles to force your will. Stop placing partisan point scoring and the next election ahead of the needs of the American people, particularly for those facing down the most grievous injuries. Part of making America great again is responding to natural disaster and caring for our injured and those in harm’s way. We have done this and well for decades now, let's put that priority back in its rightful place.

Read More

News

  • The remains of six victims of a deadly volcano eruption in New Zealand have been recovered. Sixteen people were killed on White Island when a volcano there unexpectedly erupted Monday, The Associated Press reported. Eight military specialists recovered six of the eight victims believed to be on the island, and the bodies will be taken to Auckland for identification, CNN reported. Due to toxic gases still being released from the volcano, the team had to wear protective suits and breathing gear to be on the island, the AP reported. The search had to end as air supplies ran low, the New York Times reported. An additional recovery mission is planned to find a tour guide and boat captain who had taken tourists to the island. At least one of them is expected to be in the water, but the other person’s location is unknown, the AP reported. Forty-seven tourists, many from a Royal Caribbean cruise, and guides were on the island when the volcano exploded. Many of the people who survived were burned. Fifteen tourists not from Australia are in burn units across the country with 11 listed as very critical. Thirteen Australians who were part of the tour have all returned to their home country, the AP reported. Skin banks are sending tissues to hospitals to help treat the burns, as medical teams from Australia, Britain and the U.S. travel to New Zealand to help treat patients, the AP reported.
  • A Minnesota man was sentenced Wednesday to more than 24 years in prison in the death of his 13-day-old son. Michael Herkal, 33, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, nearly 16 months to the day after Apple Valley police responded to an Aug. 12, 2018, medical call for an infant not breathing, WCCO reported. The child died two days later, after doctors determined he had suffered a skull fracture and bleeding in his brain. Herkal was charged initially with felony assault and malicious punishment of a child, but three additional charges of murder were filed after authorities received the autopsy report, KARE11 reported. According to WCCO, Herkal initially told authorities his toddler pulled the newborn off the couch twice but later claimed the baby slipped from his hands and fell onto a coffee table during a diaper change. During his plea hearing, however, Herkal admitted he also shook the infant violently and slapped him, the TV station reported.
  • Major League Baseball announced substantial changes Thursday to its drug use and testing policy, multiple news outlets reported. In addition to removing marijuana from its “drugs of abuse” category – making it the first major US sports league to do so – the organization announced mandatory testing for the presence of opioids, cocaine, synthetic THC, LSD and fentanyl, ABC News reported. Per the policy revisions, players will still be tested for “natural cannabinoids” such as THC, CBD, and marijuana, but punishment for violations will now be treated similarly to those of the alcohol and violence policies, ABC News reported. 'Going forward, marijuana-related conduct will be treated the same as alcohol-related conduct under the Parties’ Joint Treatment Program for Alcohol-Related and Off-Field Violent Conduct, which provides mandatory evaluation, voluntary treatment and the possibility of discipline by a Player’s Club or the Commissioner’s Office in response to certain conduct involving Natural Cannabinoids,” the league, in association with its players union, stated. According to NPR, the policy changes will take effect during 2020 spring training.  “The opioid epidemic in our country is an issue of significant concern to Major League Baseball,” MLB Chief Legal Officer Dan Halem said in a prepared statement, adding, “It is our hope that this agreement - which is based on principles of prevention, treatment, awareness and education - will help protect the health and safety of our Players.” Read more here and here.
  • Seeking emergency mental health assistance could soon be as simple as dialing 988, federal regulators announced Thursday. The Federal Communications Commission formally began the process Thursday to designate 988 as a nationwide suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. “The three-digit number is really going to be a breakthrough in terms of reaching people in a crisis,” Dwight Holton, CEO of suicide prevention nonprofit Lines for Life, told USA Today. “No one is embarrassed to call 911 for a fire or an emergency. No one should be embarrassed to call 988 for a mental health emergency.' According to The Wall Street Journal, the new hotline is intended to simplify access to services available currently by dialing 1-800-273-TALK, the existing National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Once operational, dialing 988 would connect callers to the existing hotline and then route them to nearby crisis centers equipped to provide assistance. “We believe this historical and critical effort will turn the tide on reducing suicides and promote mental wellness in the United States,” said a statement from Kimberly Williams, chief executive of Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit that administers the lifeline, The Journal reported. Read more here and here.
  • An emergency landing by a single-engine plane snarled traffic Thursday night on Interstate 5 in San Diego, multiple news outlets reported. Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, told KNSD the Cessna 182 made a hard landing on the southbound lanes around 7:15 p.m. Within 30 minutes authorities had re-opened two southbound lanes, KFMB reported. Carlsbad Fire Division Chief Mike Lopez told KNSD a man and a woman were on board traveling from the San Gabriel Airport in Los Angeles to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. According to KFMB, no injuries were reported, and the plane did not strike any motorists. “They did a pretty good job landing this thing,” Lopez told KNSD, adding, “The skill of that pilot, he did a stellar job.”
  • A Fort Gibson man recently showed off his blacksmith skills by taking first place in a competition television show. Nic Overton, 23, earned the top spot on the History Channel’s “Forged in Fire,” which is centered around blacksmith work. Along with bragging rights, Overton won a $10,000 prize. Overton told KOKI he’s been fascinated with blacksmithing since he was a child and crafted his first knife out of a railroad spike. He managed to turn his hobby into a career. He owns his own business called Nix Knives.