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Dispatches Human Race

Disasters strike

A man kayaks to his house in floodwaters caused by Tropical Depression Beta. (Stuart Villanueva/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

Flooded and burned

Streets in Houston and Galveston, Texas, flooded on Sept. 22 after Beta, a tropical depression, made landfall near Port O’Connor. By that afternoon, Beta had dumped up to a foot or more of rain in areas south and east of Houston, on top of storm surges. Forecasters started calling storm systems for letters of the Greek alphabet after going through their predetermined seasonal list of names based on the English alphabet for the second time since the 1950s.

Meanwhile, the Bobcat fire, which began Sept. 6 in northeast Los Angeles, continued to spread, scorching more homes and structures in the mountainous area. The blaze had burned through 156 square miles, and many surrounding communities remained on evacuation alert. Firefighters in late September were still battling more than two dozen major wildfires throughout California.


U.S. Attorney General William Barr accused New York City, Seattle, and Portland, Ore., of “permitting violence and destruction of property” while failing to support the police and protect their citizens. A memo President Donald Trump sent earlier this month would allow the federal government to designate the cities as “anarchist jurisdictions,” which could cost them federal grant money. Barr noted that New York cut its police department budget by $1 billion despite a rise in shootings over the past three months. He also cited Portland’s refusal to accept federal law enforcement support during more than 100 days of violent protests and Seattle’s failure to shut down the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest quickly in June.


A UN investigative team has accused the Venezuelan government of “serious human rights violations,” according to the mission chairperson’s public statement. Marta Valiñas went on to describe crimes including arbitrary killings, the use of torture, and violent government response to opposition protests. The team concluded that these actions were part of a coordinated government policy to terrorize and control the Venezuelan people. The report cites 223 specific cases and nearly 3,000 witnesses against President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist government. The report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council before further action. 


The 53 countries that make up the World Health Organization’s European region confirmed more than 300,000 new COVID-19 cases in the second week of September. More than half of the countries reported a 10 percent or greater jump in new infections in the past two weeks. Of those, seven saw a more than twofold increase. Dr. Hans Kluge, the WHO’s European director, called it “a wake-up call for all of us.” The United Kingdom, meanwhile, reimposed a six-person limit on indoor or outdoor groups in an effort to avoid another nationwide lockdown as COVID-19 cases increased.