Puerto Rico
Island 'running out of time,' says FEMA head

The administrator of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday it will take up to an estimated $50 billion to help rebuild Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria and warned that the U.S. territory is not ready for another disaster.

William “Brock” Long said his agency aims to make the island’s roads, homes, bridges and electrical grid as strong as possible but noted that the next hurricane season starts June 1.

“We’re running out of time,” he said during a visit to Puerto Rico, adding that much of the island’s infrastructure collapsed. “We have a long way to go.”

Long said his agency also is coordinating a June 14 planning and training exercise with Puerto Rico’s government in which lifesaving supplies will be delivered to the island’s 78 municipalities to ensure better response times for any upcoming storms. Cities and towns will be allowed to store those supplies for future disasters.

FEMA and local government officials already have stockpiled more than 15.6 million liters of water and more than 2.8 million meals in five warehouses across the island.

Long stressed that Puerto Rico’s public and private sectors have to build a strong emergency response network and establish unified plans.

He also said the private sector should ensure that communication systems become more resilient. Maria left nearly all of Puerto Rico without phone service after the Category 4 storm hit Sept. 20.

— Associated Press

Texas
Court halts same-sex harassment suit

A female Texas coach who accused another woman of making objectifying and lurid comments at work can’t sue for sexual harassment because there are no signs the bad behavior was driven by sexual desire, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The accuser’s attorney blasted the 6-to-2 decision as setting an unfair legal precedent for future victims of same-sex sexual harassment in the workplace. And in a pointed dissent, two justices on the all-Republican court suggested there would be little debate if the case had involved a man and a woman.

The decision is timely as companies, sports leagues, statehouses and Hollywood are pledging to take tougher stances on sexual harassment and misconduct on the job amid recent scandals that have toppled many politicians and celebrities.

“It shows that the court is out of touch,” said Brendan K. McBride, a San Antonio-based attorney for the accuser.

Catherine Clark had accused another female coach at their San Antonio middle school of making repeated comments about her breasts starting in 2007, telling her she would think about her during sex and inappropriately grabbing her during a photo. Republican Justice Eva Guzman, one of two women on the nine-member court, called the allegations “repugnant.”

— Associated Press

California
Powerful storm brings destruction, relief

A fierce northern California storm Friday shut down Yosemite National Park, threatened mudslides in wildfire-ravaged wine country and could present the first test of a partially repaired offshoot of the nation’s tallest dam that nearly collapsed last year.

Recent heavy rainfall has led to problems for a state recovering from devastating wildfires, forcing people to flee their homes repeatedly for fear of debris flows tearing down hillsides stripped bare by flames. But the downpours also have provided relief as parts of California plunged back into drought less than a year after a historic dry stretch.

— Associated Press

Millions for New York City subway: Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) says funding included in the recently passed state budget will allow New York City subway cars to be repaired more quickly, improving service for a transit system notorious for frequent breakdowns. Cuomo says the more than $800 million included in the state budget for emergency repairs to the aging subway system will enable the city's transit agency to hire more workers for the 207th Street Car Overhaul Shop and another repair facility in Brooklyn.

— Associated Press