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Florida’s orange crops have been quietly dying for over a decade as growers fight to save them

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By Anthony Pucik

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Florida’s staple crop, citrus, was severely impacted in September 2017 by Hurricane Irma. The deadly storm set records when it plowed through the state as the longest, strongest cyclone in history.

An early estimate of the damage to the state’s agriculture was $2.5 billion, and $760 million of that was citrus, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Irma came after the crop’s production was already slowly worsening. In a little over a decade, Florida has lost more than half of its orange crop, according to the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center.

“We lost the majority of this year’s crop. We’ve been cut in half on a production level because of disease this cuts that half in half,” one orange producer said.

Florida’s orange production, at 68.8 million boxes for the 2016 to 2017, is down 16 percent from the previous season of 81.7 million boxes, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Much of the decline is due to citrus greening, a disease that strikes the orange groves through bacteria that passed onto them by an almost microscopic insect called the Asian citrus psyllid.

The disease starts by killing off the tree’s root system before making its way up to leaves and fruit. And by the time the growers notice the leaves’ discoloration from the greening, they’ve lost 30 to 40 percent of the root system below.

With the drought periods that the grove areas have gone through, the oranges will start to drop off the trees.

“This is my home,” says Florida citrus farmer Scott Young. “I was born here, and this was a thriving beautiful grove four years ago, I’m talking about, this is the best citrus land in the world, still, but you’ve got a pest they can’t overcome.” The inability to grow quality citrus due to citrus greening forced Mr. Young to sell three quarters of his land in Alturas, Florida.

Scientists are working on solutions to save the orange crop that is a large economic force of the state of Florida, making up $8.6 billion dollars of its economy, according to Florida Citrus Mutual.

In this episode of “Food Forecast,” we explore the sunny Florida orange groves to learn more about how the hurricane and pests impact where we get our orange juice.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

Refugee resettlement resumes, but with new conditions

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By Anthony Pucik

ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration announced Monday that it is resuming all refugee admissions, while at the same time implementing new security vetting procedures for 11 “high-risk” countries. The new measures stem from President Donald Trump’s original so-called travel ban, which ordered a 120-day ban of all refugees entering the U.S.

“We will be rolling out new security measures from high-risk countries which will seek to prevent the program from being exploited by terrorists, criminals and fraudsters,” said Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Kirstjen Nielsen during public remarks today.

In October, Trump issued an executive order that resumed refugee processing for most countries. However, at the time, an additional 90-day review was ordered to assess the security risk from the 11 countries, while only admitting nationals from those countries on a case-by-case basis. Individuals from those countries also had to prove that it was in the “national interest” to resettle in the U.S.

At the time, DHS announced that it was enhancing security measures for all refugees entering the U.S.

As a result of the 90-day review, which was done in conjunction with State Department and intelligence community, Nielsen determined that additional screening and vetting are required for nationals of the designated high-risk countries. For example, Nielsen directed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to conduct “even more in-depth interviews” of refugee applicants.

“It will not only help improve security, but more importantly, they will help us better assist legitimate refugees fleeing persecution,” said Nielsen about the changes to the program.

Administration officials would not share additional specifics on the type of security enhancements that are being implemented, citing law enforcement sensitivities.

Officials acknowledged that the implementation of the new security enhancements could have an impact on the speed at which refugees from these countries are processed.

According to senior administration officials, the entire refugee program also needs to be administered in more of a “risk-based manner” when considering overall refugee admissions, regional allocations, and the groups of applicants considered for resettlement.

Lastly, DHS determined that the group of 11 countries, which has not been updated since 2015, needs to be reviewed and selection criteria for additional specialized screening need to be updated.

Though officials won’t publicly confirm that list, ABC News has reported the countries that require extra screening are Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — a group that together made up 43.48 percent of all refugees admitted to the U.S. in fiscal year 2017.

By January of fiscal year 2017, Syrians fleeing the war comprised 15 percent of arrivals in the U.S. compared to .5 percent at the same time this year, according to a new International Rescue Committee (IRC) study.

Only 81 Iraqi refugees have been resettled in the U.S. since October 2017, 1 percent of the total, found the same study.

IRC projects 21,292 refugees will be resettled in the United States in fiscal year 2018, far below the Trump administration’s 45,000 refugee cap, according to a new study by the group.

When asked about the refugee cap, an administration official pointed out that the 45,000 number is a “ceiling not a floor.”

Nielsen also proposed that DHS and the State Department do a “full review” to determine which countries should be on the “high-risk” list, incorporating broader public safety and national security considerations, such as terrorism and transnational organized crime.

She called for a review of the list every six months to be able to adapt to a changing global threat environment.

“We have a huge problem from transnational organized crime,” said one senior administration official. The DHS secretary wants to make sure this is also taken into account, not just terrorism when determining the list of high-risk countries, said the official.

Intelligence has told us that terrorist groups have in the past sought to exploit refugee programs as a way to enable terrorist travel, according to John Cohen, ABC News contributor and former DHS counterterrorism coordinator.

“That is why over the past six years DHS has worked closely with the intelligence community and others to improve the vetting of refugees. Today, as a result of these multiyear efforts, refugees are subject to extensive vetting, which includes collecting biographic and biometric information and checking it against a broad array of classified and unclassified holdings,” said Cohen.

Critics accused the administration of creating unnecessary, bureaucratic roadblocks for refugees in need.

“While DHS did not release details of the new security screening procedures, we fear that, like the series of previous restrictions, these will be unnecessary and dangerous, and leave thousands of people at risk. Adding yet more hurdles to an already overly-bureaucratic process will burden those seeking safety for themselves and their families,” said Ashley Houghton, tactical campaign manager at Amnesty International USA.

Placing additional scrutiny on people based “simply on what country they come from is discriminatory and arbitrary,” added Houghton.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

Suspected gunman in quadruple homicide at rural Pennsylvania car wash dies

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By KT

WPVI-TV(MELCROFT, Pa.) — When Jenna Porterfield first heard through Facebook that her husband of just two months was one of four people shot dead at a western Pennsylvania car wash early Sunday, she says she jumped in her car and raced to the scene, praying it wasn’t true.

“Now, I’m planning my husband’s funeral,” she told ABC News on Monday.

Porterfield, who is pregnant, said she is frustrated that authorities have released so few answers on the circumstances that led a gunman to ambush her husband, Bill Porterfield, and three of his friends at 2:52 a.m. Sunday at Ed’s Car Wash in the Pennsylvania hills town of Melcroft, about 55 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

The suspected gunman, Timothy Smith, 28, died late Sunday night at a hospital after hanging on for several hours with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower told ABC News on Monday.

He said the investigation is in its early stages, and that Pennsylvania State Police will attempt to piece together what prompted Smith’s killing spree and what drew the victims and Smith to the Melcroft car wash Sunday morning.

Sierra Kolarik said her sister, Chelsie Lou Cline, 25, was one of the people killed, and that Smith was her ex-boyfriend. In an interview with ABC station WTAE in Pittsburgh, she described Smith as having “a very obsessive personality.”

Bower said Cline and Porterfield, 27, were the first two victims shot to death when they arrived together at the car wash. He said the other two victims, Courtney Sue Snyder, 23, and Seth William Cline, 21, were killed when Smith — wearing a ballistic vest and wielding three guns, including an AR 15 assault rifle — opened fire on them as soon as they drove up to the car wash in a pickup truck.

A woman sitting in the rear seat of the extended cab truck survived, suffering only minor cuts from shattered glass, Bower said. Police have not identified that woman.

Jenna Porterfield said she last spoke to her husband by phone just before midnight on Saturday, a few hours before he was killed.

“My husband was supposed to come home to me and he didn’t. He didn’t make it home,” she said.

She said her husband and Chelsie Cline were friends, adding that she had heard “rumors and pure speculation” that they were having an affair.

“I confirmed that was false,” she told ABC News, adding that she had gone to school with Cline. “My husband only talked about me and making our family work. He was perfect.”

She said she and Bill Porterfield, a foreman for a tree trimming service, were married on Nov. 18 and were expecting their first child together in August.

“He was excited. He wanted it more than anything in the world,” she said of the expectant baby.

She said she knew Chelsie Cline had recently broken up with Smith, but added that neither she nor her husband had ever met Smith.

She said she had no idea why they all went to the car wash early Sunday.

“I question that myself,” she said. “That was one of the reasons I was angry. They have surveillance cameras all around there. They should have some answers.”

She said State Police have yet to speak to her and shed any light on why Smith targeted her husband and the others.

“It was definitely meant to be a massacre. That’s what he (Smith) went there to do and that’s what he did,” Porterfield said.

“My husband was loved by everyone,” she said. “I can’t imagine anyone would want to hurt him. He was the kindest heart that you would ever meet.”

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

Governor Abbott Names Ritchey Chair of Texas Juvenile Justice Board

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By lauren.mccanse@gov.texas.gov Governor Greg Abbott has named Judge Wes Ritchey presiding officer of the Texas Juvenile Justice Board. Ritchey was appointed to the board in January of 2017. Governor Greg Abbott has named Judge Wes Ritchey presiding officer of the Texas Juvenile Justice Board. Ritchey was appointed to the board in January of 2017. He currently serves as the chair of the Finance and Audit Committee and is a member of the Safety and Security Committee for the board. The board is charged with developing and implementing rules to govern the department, executive director and staff, and to establish the mission and set goals for the department to emphasize keeping youth in home communities while balancing rehabilitative needs with public safety.

Wes Ritchey of Dalhart is the county judge of Dallam County, which among other duties includes hearing juvenile cases for the county and serving as part of the Dallam-Hartley-Sherman County Juvenile Probation Board. He is president of the Dalhart Area Child Care Center Board of Directors, and previously served as Dallam County treasurer which additionally serves as the fiscal officer for the juvenile probation board, president of Dalhart ISD Board of Trustees, and as a certified juvenile probation officer. He is a member of the Texas Association of Counties and the Panhandle County Judge & Commissioners Association and volunteers for the Dallam County 4-H. Ritchey received a Bachelor of Arts from Texas Tech University.

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Source:: Office of the Governor

      

Trial begins for woman accused of killing twin sister by driving off Hawaii cliff

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By KT

iStock/Thinkstock(HANA, Hawaii) — A murder trial is underway for a woman accused of purposefully driving off a cliff in Hawaii, killing her identical twin sister.

On May 29, 2016, Alexandria Duval was driving along the winding Hana Highway in Maui with her twin, Anastasia Duval, in the passenger seat when the car plunged off a cliff.

Alexandria Duval survived the 200-foot fall, but her twin died at the scene.

The sisters ran popular yoga studios in Florida and moved to Hawaii in 2015.

Alexandria Duval, 39, is charged with second-degree murder and has pleaded not guilty.

Maui deputy prosecuting attorney Emlyn Higa said in his opening statement Monday that Alexandria Duval “intentionally or knowingly” drove off the cliff.

Defense attorney Birney Bervar, however, called the deadly car crash a “tragic accident, not murder.”

About an hour before the crash, another driver, Randolph Castro, saw the Duvals’ SUV swerving and saw other cars get out of their way, Higa said. Castro followed them and allegedly saw the Duvals stop a few times, the prosecution said.

At one point Castro allegedly saw the two sisters “physically fighting within the car,” and when Castro tried to find out what was going on, “the defendant just drove off again,” Higa said.

Another witness allegedly heard “screaming coming from within the SUV” and claimed to hear the driver yell approximately three times about needing a psychiatrist, Higa said.

Alexandria Duval allegedly later stopped the SUV with the hazard lights on and continued to physically fight with her sister, the prosecution said.

After that, a witness allegedly said he heard the roar of the SUV’s engine and watched the SUV accelerate down the road, driving straight until it “suddenly jerked” to the left and went over the cliff, Higa said.

Higa said the case comes down to three facts: He alleges there was a hard acceleration, a hard left turn and no braking. Higa said the prosecution will present evidence from the road, the eyewitness who saw the crash and the data retrieved from the SUV that he said “indicated that the brakes were not used and quantifies the acceleration and the turn.”

Defense attorney Bervar in his opening statement said that he will show evidence from witnesses, the road, the car and the victim’s body to prove the crash was not criminal but a “tragic accident.”

Bervar said Anastasia Duval was “violently” pulling Alexandria Duval’s hair in the car.

“Several eyewitnesses … witnessed violent fighting and hair pulling — that the passenger was violently pulling my client’s hair with both of her hands — pulling it so hard it was jerking her head over the passenger side seat,” Bervar said.

The hair pulling was so violent, Bervar said, that found in the victim’s hands were long blonde hairs from Alexandria Duval.

Bervar said photos of tire marks will “show the car not taking a sudden left turn, but just running off the road.”

Duval agreed to waive her right to a jury trial and her fate will be determined by the judge.

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Source:: National News

      

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