Hurricane Maria:

Islands brace for ‘most destructive” hurricane in Puerto Rico history




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    In his first address to the United Nations, President Donald Trump vowed that the United States would ‘totally destroy’ North Korea if that regime seeks to use its nuclear weapons against America or its allies, as Mr. Trump singled out North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela in a wide ranging address to the U.N. General Assembly. In blunt terms, the President zeroed in on North Korea, labeling it a “depraved” regime, referring to its leader as “Rocket Man,” as Mr. Trump said the United Nations must join together to stop the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong Un. “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime,” Mr. Trump declared, making clear the U.S. would not ignore provocations by the Pyongyang regime. “If it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” the President said. Pres. Trump on North Korea: 'Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.' — ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 19, 2017 On Iran, Mr. Trump said the Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama Administration and other American allies was an “embarrassment,”
  • Still working on recovery and relief efforts in Texas after Hurricane Harvey and Florida after Hurricane Irma, federal officials were looking at the chance of even more damage in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, as rapidly intensifying Hurricane Maria seemed to be taking dead aim at an area in the Caribbean which just experienced major troubles from Irma earlier this month. “Maria is likely to affect Puerto Rico as an extremely dangerous major hurricane,” the National Hurricane Center reported in its evening update about the progress of the storm, noting that “all indications are that rapid intensification is continuing.” The forecast showed Maria directly over Puerto Rico on Wednesday with winds of 150 mph, a scenario that could well mean more damage for the U.S. government to deal with. Martinique and Dominica look to get hit first with Major Hurricane Maria. Then true tragedy if it hits US Virgin Islands…again. — Rob Carlmark (@rcarlmark) September 18, 2017 “Maria’s impact on the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico may well make Maria the third Category 4 billion-dollar hurricane for the U.S. this year, in addition to Harvey and Irma,” wrote storm expert Dr. Jeff Masters, on his hurricane blog at Weather Underground. The forecast was especially bad news for the Virgin Islands, which already suffered major damage during Hurricane Irma . With the hurricane heading straight for those American possessions in the northeastern Caribbean, several major airlines joined on Monday to run last minute ‘mercy flights’ from St. Croix to the U.S. mainland. The Tourism Commissioner of the Virgin Islands said the free flights on JetBlue to Orlando, Delta to Atlanta, and American to Miami had all quickly filled to capacity, as people looked to get out of areas that were already suffering from Irma’s damage. “We are trying to accommodate passengers (priority is given to persons with medical needs, pregnant women, the elderly and women with young children)” said Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty, who also had praise for several major cruise ship lines, which also took people away from the Virgin Islands in recent days. Hurricane #Maria up to 130-mph or Category 4 (950 mb central pressure) … satellite suggests that's conservative. Cat 5 signature. — Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue) September 18, 2017 In Puerto Rico, the Governor and other officials were warning residents to find adequate shelter, as the outer bands of Maria were expected to start impacting that island on Tuesday, after hitting other islands in the Caribbean. While the long range forecast was unclear on whether Maria might threaten the East Coast of the United States, it seems very clear that extra disaster relief will be needed in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, making this an even more expensive year in terms of hurricane relief for Uncle Sam.
  • With the clock ticking down on a special expedited legislative procedure that avoids a Senate filibuster, Republicans are trying to rally support for a new plan that’s designed to make major changes in the Obama health law, in hopes of mustering 50 votes for the bill before the end of September. “Doing nothing is not an option,” says Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), one of prime movers – with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – behind a bill that was unveiled just last week, but has picked up support from most Republicans in the Senate. “We are giving the power over health care to the states, not DC,” Cassidy said, labeling his plan a “fundamentally different approach to health care than Obamacare.” We need to return the power back to states and patients. — Bill Cassidy (@BillCassidy) September 15, 2017 So far, the White House has not put a full court press on behind the legislation, as this week, President Trump will be focused mainly on the gathering of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. “As I have continued to say, inaction is not an option,” the President stated in a written statement issued last week. “I sincerely hope that Senators Graham and Cassidy have found a way to address the Obamacare crisis,” Mr. Trump added. The same few Senators who resisted earlier GOP health care bills are again in the spotlight, as Republicans can’t afford to lose more than two of their 52 Senators. Already, one has made clear, he is not on board with the new Graham-Cassidy plan. #GrahamCassidy sales pitch: if you like your Obamacare you can keep your Obamacare. No thanks. — Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) September 15, 2017 “I can’t support a bill that keeps 90 percent of Obamacare in place,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who argues that the Graham-Cassidy plan “is not repeal or replace, it is more Obamacare Lite.” Other GOP Senators on the fence about this plan include Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) – both of them joined with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to torpedo the GOP ‘skinny’ health care bill earlier this summer, when McCain dramatically voted against in a session that ran past midnight. Like other GOP plans, Graham-Cassidy does not ‘repeal and replace’ the Obama health law, as much of the underlying architecture is left in place by the bill. The plan would zero out the penalties under the individual and employer mandates, phase out a few of the taxes enacted under the Obama health law, and most importantly – it block grants money to the states, and allows them to figure out the best way to help individuals get health insurance. “States would have significant latitude over how the dollars are used to best take care of the unique health care needs of the patients in each state,” backers say. If Republican Senators Rand Paul, Lisa Murkowski, and Susan Collins vote against the Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal bill, it will not pass. — Krishan Patel (@IAmKrishanPatel) September 15, 2017 Democrats started to mobilize their opposition over the weekend, worried that Republicans just might be able to thread the needle and get something done before September 30, when authorization under “budget reconciliation” runs out. “This week we need to be focused on defeating the Graham-Cassidy bill. It would end the Affordable Care Act,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). “They won’t stop until the end of September,” said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). “We cannot stop until the end of September.” The reconciliation bill remains on the Senate calendar; Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could force a vote at anytime to re-start debate on health care, and bring up the Graham-Cassidy bill. If the Senate were to approve the plan, it’s thought that the House could still vote on it after September 30 – but no changes would be allowed to the bill.
  • As the House finished work this past week on next year’s funding for the federal government, approving a package of eight different different spending bills, one thing noticeably absent from the debate on the House floor was a successful push to make new cuts in next year’s budget, as efforts to make deeper spending reductions were routinely rejected by a coalition of both parties. It was the first time since 2009 that the House had approved all 12 funding bills before the start of new fiscal year – but none of those plans have yet to reach the Senate floor – as the Congress continues to find it difficult to do the yearly job of passing appropriations bills before October 1. The outcome had conservative groups grinding their teeth, wondering where all the plans had gone for real budget cuts in the federal government. “The House has failed to meet this challenge,” the Heritage Foundation complained about the spending details approved by the House for 2018, arguing the Congress should instead buckle down, “cut wasteful programs and reduce the federal deficit.” There was such an opportunity on the House floor, as members of both parties had the chance to offer amendments to the package of eight spending bills. But amendments designed to make cuts were not destined to be winners on the floor of the House. Some examples: + A plan from Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) to get rid of money to support long distance routes on Amtrak was defeated 293-128. + An amendment from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) to reduce spending on the “Essential Air Service” program by $150 million was defeated 280-140. + A two percent cut in the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development from Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) was defeated 280-140. + Another plan from Grothman to reduce Economic Assistance offered under U.S. foreign aid programs was rejected 307-105. + A plan from Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) to reduce the EPA budget by $1.8 billion was defeated 260-151. + An amendment from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) to cut positions and funding at the Mine Safety Health Administration by 10 percent failed on a vote of 238-178. $20,165,466,677,134.71 (+) #NationalDebt — National Debt Tweets (@NationalDebt) September 15, 2017 + From Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), a one percent overall cut to the spending bill for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education programs was defeated 260-156. + A 1 percent across-the-board cut offered by Blackburn to Interior spending programs was defeated 248-156. + A 10 percent cut in general administrative and departmental expenses for agencies in the Financial Services budget was defeated 241-166. + A 5 percent cut in the budget of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms was defeated 313-98. + A 2 percent cut in certain programs at the Education Department was defeated 285-131. + A plan to cut $99 million from the budget of the National Labor Relations Board was defeated 241-175. Those are some of the highlights of efforts by GOP lawmakers to make cuts – they just did not have anywhere near the votes to knock such money out of these spending measures. That outcome was noticed by some. Frank, after you're done with @realDonaldTrump's lawn, head over to House Appropriations. They could use some cuts too! — Greg Moore Jr. (@VoteMooreUS) September 15, 2017 On the flip side, one can find dozens of amendments that were approved by the full House, which increased funding of certain programs – and they came from both parties. A few examples: + From Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL), an extra $1.5 million to continue research on human impact of contaminated seafood. + From Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL), $500,000 more for the Grassroots Source Water Protection Program. + A bipartisan amendment approved a $7 million increase for “Assistance to Small Shipyards” + Democrats added $2 million more for the Public Housing Capital Fund at HUD. + Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) added $100 million for the Community Development Fund at HUD. The House-passed spending bills now go to the Senate, where they are unlikely to get final action any time soon. A temporary budget kicks in on October 1, and runs out in early December – so, after Thanksgiving, look for a giant catch-all spending bill to fund the federal government.
  • A day after President Donald Trump seemed to muddy the waters on a possible legislative deal with Democrats in Congress on the future of young illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” the White House on Friday promised that officials would clearly set out in the next seven to ten days what items Mr. Trump wants to see on immigration enforcement in any deal on the DACA program. “The President supports the DACA program and supports making a deal on that, but again, that has to include that massive border security,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. On Thursday, the President said he was not for ‘amnesty’ for any of the Dreamers – the White House today made the argument that since DACA is just a temporary way to prevent people from being deported, the issue of a pathway to citizenship for those in the program is not on the table. POTUS 'supports the DACA program & supporting making a deal on that,' but 'that has to include that massive border security,' @PressSec says — CBS News (@CBSNews) September 15, 2017 As to what the White House wants in exchange for DACA, Sanders rattled off a series of items, but said a final list would be set out soon by the Trump Administration. Some of those included: + An end to sanctuary cities + Expedited removal of illegal immigrants + More immigration judges + Reforms in legal immigration (the RAISE Act) Democratic leaders had thought their agreement with the President included his support for the “Dream” Act – which would allow those younger illegal immigrants to reach U.S. citizenship, after a series of hurdles – but that seems to be in limbo at this point. Democrats also weren’t sure what to make of the President’s Thursday statements on DACA, which rapidly moved from ‘no deal,’ to ‘fairly close’ to a deal, to ‘no amnesty.’ Trump's timeline on #DACA: 9/5 am DACA is dead 9/5 pm DACA is dead, unless Congress acts 9/13 pm DACA deal = done 9/14 am 'No deal' 9/15 ??? — Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) September 15, 2017 President Trump has set a deadline for action in early March, but lawmakers in both parties say an earlier resolution would be a better choice.
  • President Donald Trump on Thursday left members of both political parties unsure of his next move on immigration policy, as he repeatedly defended his latest talks with senior Democrats, but left open the question of whether a deal could be reached about the fate of illegal immigrant “Dreamers” in the United States, leaving some Republicans in Congress wary and unsettled about Mr. Trump’s next move. “Typically, a President of our party would work with our party on a proposal that we would be supportive of,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), the Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. Speaking to reporters off the House floor, Sessions said GOP lawmakers were still trying to figure out the President’s overall strategy when it comes to negotiations with Congress – which in the last two weeks have been focused more on Democrats than Republicans. “So, we’re learning now how he wants to operate,” Sessions added in a measured tone of voice. WASHINGTON—Nobody quite knows what's going on. but at least tomorrow is Friday — Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) September 14, 2017 The uncertaintly felt by Republicans – was also one felt by Democrats – and was fueled throughout the day by the President, as he put out a variety of messages on immigration that were seemingly at odds. Before sunrise, Mr. Trump tweeted that there had been no deal reached with top Democrats in Congress about the fate of “Dreamers” under the DACA program, which shielded some 800,000 younger immigrants from being deported. No deal was made last night on DACA. Massive border security would have to be agreed to in exchange for consent. Would be subject to vote. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2017 A few minutes later, the President made clear that he was not in favor of deporting those “Dreamers,” saying in a tweet, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” Not even two hours later, the President told reporters that he was close to reaching a deal with Democrats on the DACA issue, making clear that he could accept the idea of a new law on that subject, in exchange for tougher controls on the border. As for money for his border wall, the President stated, “the wall will come later,” which was basically what leading Democrats had said they had agreed to at a dinner on Wednesday night at the White House. In response to Pelosi and Schumer, Pres. Trump says 'we're working on a plan for DACA,' adds 'wall will come later' — CBS News (@CBSNews) September 14, 2017 But then, on Air Force One, the President sent a different message, telling House Speaker Paul Ryan by telephone that no deal had been struck with Democrats, that his dinner with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer was just a ‘discussion,’ not a negotiation. That message was sent to the Speaker by both the President, and the White House Chief of Staff. But the President wasn’t done. Later, after touring damage in Florida from Hurricane Irma, the President met with reporters for 15 minutes aboard Air Force One, and was asked about the DACA issue, and his outreach to Democrats. “Well, many Republicans really like it,” the President said about DACA. “Many of them agree with what I’m doing.” Asked about the legislative struggle with health care, the President made clear he did not regret his effort to woo Democrats on immigration, tax reform and more. “And if the Republicans don’t stick together then I’m going to have to do more and more,” Mr. Trump said, holding out the possibility of more deal-making with Democrats. But as soon as the President returned to the White House, he added in another wrinkle to the DACA debate, suddenly saying that he was not for a path to citizenship – not for amnesty – for those immigrant “Dreamers.” President Trump on DACA: I think we're moving very rapidly on the wall and 'we're not talking about amnesty at all' — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 14, 2017 The up and down nature of the day left Democrats wondering what Mr. Trump might or might not support, and again had Republicans wondering what was in their future – for a President of their own party. “If they see amnesty coming out of the White House, then that is one thing that will crack his base,” said Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who has championed the President’s tough talk on illegal immigration, which attracted a number of votes in 2016. “They came on board because of build a wall, enforce the border, enforce immigration law, no amnesty,” as King rattled off familiar campaign points from Mr. Trump. The machinations on DACA came in the wake of last week’s surprise deal between the President and top Democrats in Congress, on an aid bill for victims of Hurricane Harvey – which also included a short term extension of the national debt, and a temporary federal spending plan that runs until December 8. While that was hard to swallow for a number of Republicans in Congress, waking up to news on Thursday about a possible DACA deal – and no money for a border wall – created even more cognitive dissonance for the GOP. Just ran into Reps. Jordan and Meadows making an effort to say this is only the start of DACA negotiations. Trump said deal is very close. — Tara Golshan (@t_golshan) September 14, 2017 To be fair, there were some Republicans who brushed off the latest outreach by Mr. Trump to Pelosi and Schumer. “It doesn’t worry me at all,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), who said he had been assured by top Republicans that the President was not going to sell out the GOP. “As long as we put conservative values and conservative ideas and roll back the last eight years of the Obama Administration, them I’m all on board,” Mullin added. But for Republicans, that was the open question – would the President stick with conservative solutions – or cut more deals with the Democrats, pulling Mr. Trump more to the middle.
  • Amid concern in conservative ranks, President Donald Trump said Thursday that he is nearing a deal with leaders in Congress to enact protections for certain younger illegal immigrants in the United States, in exchange for tougher border security measures, though such an agreement won’t include money for Mr. Trump’s wall along the Mexican border. “The wall will come later,” the President said to reporters, as he left the White House to fly to Florida for a tour of damage from Hurricane Irma. After a meeting last night with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer, the President at first rejected talk by Democrats that there had been a deal to condify the DACA “Dreamer” program, but then said an agreement seemed close at hand. “We’re working on a plant subject to getting massive border controls. We’re working on a plan for DACA. People want to see that happen,” Mr. Trump said. In response to Pelosi and Schumer, Pres. Trump says 'we're working on a plan for DACA,' adds 'wall will come later' — CBS News (@CBSNews) September 14, 2017 News of the possible deal alarmed more conservative Republican activists, who have been worried that Mr. Trump might side with Democrats on the DACA program, which allowed some 800,000 younger immigrants – who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents – to get work permits, and avoid being deported. “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?” tweeted Ann Coulter. “He told 63 million who voted for him he’d build a wall.” The website Breitbart, run by former Trump aide Steve Bannon, made clear it’s dislike for the emerging deal, calling the President, “Amnesty Don.” breitbart11 But Mr. Trump has repeatedly made clear that he is ready to support a bill that would put the DACA “Dreamer” protections into law – if he can win concessions from Democrats on border security. Democrats have suggested approving a bipartisan border security bill that won unanimous support in a key House committee earlier this year “Possible proposals were discussed including new technology, drones, air support, sensor equipment, rebuilding roads along the border and the bipartisan McCaul-Thompson bill,” Schumer and Pelosi said in a joint statement issued on Thursday morning. “What remains to be negotiated are the details of border security, with a mutual goal of finalizing all details as soon as possible,” they added. And what seems more and more clear, is that the President wants to reach a deal on the DACA “Dreamers.” Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!….. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2017
  • Before going to Florida to see some of the damage from Hurricane Irma, President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that the case for Congress approving tax reform was even stronger now, as a way to generate new economic growth after two major hurricanes struck the United States in recent weeks, causing billions of dollars in losses. “They were very big and very powerful,” Mr. Trump said of Hurricane Irma and Harvey, as he met with a bipartisan group of moderate House lawmakers, pressing the case for tax reform. “Because of that, more than ever, we now need great tax reform and great tax cuts,” the President added, as urged Democrats to join his push for the first major tax reform effort since 1986. President Trump: Working in a bipartisan fashion on tax reform is “a positive thing” — CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) September 13, 2017 Meanwhile, the scope of the damage in Florida continued to grow on Wednesday – not just for people who had lost their homes and businesses to winds and floods – but also for an economic staple of Florida, the citrus industry, and other agriculture interests. “Loss of life and home are of greatest concern,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioners Adam Putnam. “But it’s clear that our crops have suffered serious losses from Hurricane Irma, too.” Photographic evidence from the heart of citrus country confirmed that, with acres under water, and flood waters still blocking major roads in the agricultural interior of Florida. Florida’s signature crop under water in Hardee and DeSoto counties. Views from the air as we survey the damage caused by #HurricaneIrma — Adam Putnam (@adamputnam) September 13, 2017 “And the images we’re seeing out there – obviously terrible losses in the Keys and flooding in Jacksonville – let’s not forget about agriculture, a cornerstone of our economy,” in Florida, said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). “They’re going to need a lot of help, or we’re going to lose the citrus industry in Florida, and we can’t let that happen,” Rubio said. Along with disaster relief for Florida growers, Rubio and fellow Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) have continued to ask the feds for a variety of disaster relief, including: + The feds picking up a higher share of the costs for public assistance and debris removal + More federal help with roads and bridges that were damaged by Irma’s winds and floods + Senators Nelson and Rubio have asked the Small Business Administration to send officials to the state to help with disaster aid applications + The Senators also want expedited action on a request by the Seminole Tribe of Florida for a major disaster declaration. + Rubio also asked the IRS and Education Department to grant specific relief to Florida taxpayers and students + State officials have also asked the feds for more help to get gasoline supplies into the state, which remain low in hard-hit areas. Today in Belle Glade, alongside @SenBillNelson, was given the opportunity to hand out meals to #HurricaneIrma victims. — Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) September 13, 2017 Asked about federal disaster relief resources, the White House on Wednesday said it was too early to know how much more money the Congress needed to approve – not only to cover damages from Irma, but also Hurricane Harvey. “We’re still in the recovery efforts right now, and until we get a little bit further into the process, it would be premature to put those estimates out there,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Congress last week approved $15.3 billion in new disaster aid resources; officials have said FEMA will need extra money in the months ahead, but no official request has been made as yet by the Trump Administration. Mr. Trump was scheduled on Thursday to fly first to Fort Myers, Florida, and then to Naples, where he will visit some of the areas damaged by Irma.
  • Jamie Dupree

    Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog.

    A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989. Politics and the Congress are in Jamie’s family, as both of his parents were staffers for members of Congress. He was also a page and intern in the House of Representatives. Jamie has covered 11 national political conventions, with his first being the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta. His political travels have had him on the presidential campaign trail every four years since 1992, chasing candidates throughout the primary calendar.

    He is heard on Cox Radio stations around the country: WSB-AM Atlanta, WDBO-AM Orlando; WOKV-AM/FM Jacksonville; WHIO-AM/FM Dayton, Ohio; and KRMG-AM Tulsa, Oklahoma.

    Jamie and his wife Emily live just outside the Beltway with their three children. Some may know Jamie from his other on-air hobby, as he is a licensed amateur radio operator. When not at work or playing with his kids, you can often find him with a golf club in his hands.

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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  •  A teenager is dead and police are searching for a suspect.   Sanford police say a 16 year old boy was fatally stabbed at Stonebrook Apartments in Sanford,  Tuesday afternoon. The victim was found in a car outside a building at the complex and police say he was not a resident of the apartment complex.  Police are searching for someone named Joshua, possibly driving a orange 2 door car in connection with the fatal stabbing. This is a developing story, no other information was avaialble.
  • Two employees of the transit system at Auburn University have been accused of raping an 18-year-old student on one of the buses Friday night.  Tony Martin Patillo, 51, of Columbus, Georgia, and James Don Johnson Jr., 32, of Auburn, are each charged with first-degree rape and first-degree sodomy, according to Lee County Jail records. Patillo is also charged with four counts of public lewdness.  The Opelika-Auburn News reported that the lewdness charges stem from an incident just before midnight on Friday in which witnesses spotted a man exposing himself while standing over a woman on the ground. Patillo was arrested when responding officers found him nearby. Detectives conducting additional investigation into the incident learned that Patillo had allegedly sexually assaulted the woman, who appeared to be incapacitated, while on the bus, the News reported. The woman, who was no longer present when Patillo was arrested, was identified and tracked down by police officers, whom she told about the alleged rape. According to investigators, Johnson drove the bus and “engaged in actions to perpetuate the crime while Patillo was in the rear of the bus, assaulting the victim,” the News reported.  Patillo exited the bus with the woman in the area where the passersby spotted him exposing himself a few minutes later, police officials said.  The Auburn Plainsman, the university’s student newspaper, reported that the alleged assault took place on a Tiger Ten bus that runs from the downtown area to multiple apartment complexes and student housing areas off-campus. The late-night buses are specifically designed to give students a safe ride home.  “Our top concern is the well-being of the victim, and we cannot stress in strong enough terms our shock and distress over this despicable act,” officials with Auburn’s Department of Campus Safety and Security said in a statement. “We immediately provided support and all available resources to the victim and continue to do so.” >> Read more trending news The Plainsman reported that the university operates campus security shuttles to take students to on-campus locations late at night. Tiger Transit and Tiger Ten buses are operated by outside contractor First Transit. First Transit is required in its contract with Auburn University to perform background checks on all of its drivers, the campus newspaper said. Company officials told the Plainsman it is performing its own internal investigation of the alleged assault.  “At First Transit, we are greatly troubled by the events of Friday night,” officials said in a statement. “The safe and reliable transportation of our passengers is our highest priority. It is a responsibility we take very seriously.” Both Patillo and Johnson were immediately removed from service and First Transit has begun termination proceedings, the statement read. Company officials said they are working with campus and city police in the investigation.  Auburn University is re-evaluating its contract with First Transit, the Plainsman reported.  Patillo was being held in the Lee County Jail in lieu of $127,000 bail, the News reported. Johnson was being held in lieu of $125,000 bail. 
  • Duke Energy and FPL will have two ways to pass on the storm recovery costs to its customers.   9 Investigates reporter Daralene Jones has been digging into this issue for two days and learned not only can the utility companies tack on a storm recovery surcharge, they can also sell bonds that the customers would be forced to pay for.   Read: Help after Hurricane Irma   The Florida Legislature approved the measure in 2005.   Duke has not issued bonds and has no current surcharges for storm costs. However, FPL customers are paying for bonds and a surcharge, which equals an extra $5 a month on a customer’s utility bill.   Duke and FPL customers will likely be paying another surcharge for Irma. Both will be allowed to petition the Public Service Commission for a surcharge to pay for the repairs following the hurricane.   >>> Read more Hurricane Irma stories <<<   That money would typically come from the utilities storm recovery fund, but records 9 Investigates obtained show Duke had only $60 million on hand before Irma.   FPL was in the red with $203 million because it wiped out $93 million after Hurricane Matthew, last year.   FPL filed a petition for a surcharge that shows costs related to Hurricane Matthew reached $318 million. The latest earnings reports show Duke Energy earned $686 million in the second quarter of this year while FPL earned $526 million. Both are increases of about 100 million from the same time last year.   >>> Download the free WFTV weather app <<<   Both utilities are in the early stages of hardening its systems against hurricanes, even though the Public Service Commission demanded changes in 2006.   Some state lawmakers said they’re committed to push harder through legislative action.   “Look at the past history of the rate cases that have been granted and what they've been doing with that money. Each storm recovery surcharge typically lasts about a year, but can be renewed,” said Rep. Jason Brodeur, (R) from Seminole County.   The bonds issued are long term. FP&L customers have been paying off the 2006 bond for 11 years and it will stay on the customer’s bill until 2019.   Public utilities like OUC and KUA are eligible to apply for storm recovery costs from FEMA.   A Duke Energy representative apologized Tuesday morning to the 37,000 customers who are still without power.   Duke had originally said it would have power restored Sunday at midnight.
  • Orange County is setting a timeline for debris clean-up from Hurricane Irma. According to county government spokeswoman Doreen Overstreet, Public Works set an “eight week timeline for substantial cleanup.” “We have met with our contractors and are working to meet this deadline,” Overstreet said.  “Citizens should move vegetative debris to the curb now.  Please do not block, gutters, inlets, fire hydrants and sidewalks.” Overstreet says the county estaimtes about 1.3 million cubic yards of debris still needs to be picked up. That’s comparable with the City of Miami, which estimated one million cubic yards still remains.  Miami-Dade County reportedly has triple that amount and set a clean-up deadline for four to six months.
  • Anyone in Central Florida who needs information on obtaining Hurricane Irma recovery assistance from FEMA is invited to a free workshop on Thursday. Orlando Democratic Congressman Darren Soto says it’s a “bi-partisan” workshop where FEMA representatives will go over benefits and help people with applications directly. “If you want to sit down with a FEMA representative and have them walk you through the application process, this would be a good opportunity for you,” Soto says. You can also apply for FEMA assistance at  All Central Florida counties were given the FEMA designation of individual assistance, so all constituents are eligible for potential FEMA relief. The workshop is at Polk State College’s Advanced Technology Center at 310 Technology Drive in Bartow, Florida from 3 to 5 p.m. (Tweet)