Morning News Brief

Jul 9, 2018
Originally published on July 9, 2018 11:08 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We know President Trump has a flair for the dramatic. And there are few decisions as consequential and thus as dramatic as a Supreme Court nominee.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

That's right. And it sounds like the president is really taking his time here. He and his top advisers spent a lot of the weekend mulling over their options at the president's golf club in New Jersey. Trump has said he has not yet made a final decision, though he's running out of time. He's expected to announce his pick tonight in a prime-time TV address. And we should say the politics are so crucial here. Republicans have a razor-thin majority in the Senate. They may need every last vote if they don't get Democratic help. Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri told NBC's "Meet The Press" that the president just can't ignore the political reality.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

ROY BLUNT: They're good judges. I think they'd be fine justices of the Supreme Court. I do think the president has to think about who is the easiest to get confirmed here.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Sarah McCammon is with us this morning. Hey, Sarah.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: Let's start with what would make someone difficult to confirm. It's my understanding only reliably conservative folks are being considered. Is that not sufficient?

MCCAMMON: Well, you know, they're going to be looking at more than just how conservative they are. They're going to be looking at their background, their history. Take someone like Brett Kavanaugh, for example. He's a federal appeals court judge in D.C. Going into the weekend, he was seen as one of the top choices on the president's short list. But in recent days, we've been hearing there are some concerns about him for a couple reasons. He was appointed by President George W. Bush, and he's seen as close to the Bushes. That could be points against him in the president's mind, could be seen as too establishment potentially.

And there's also just a lot of material to vet with Kavanaugh. He has written 286 opinions. That's the most of any current judge under consideration. So there's always the risk something controversial pops up during that vetting. For example, he's known for his work on independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation into President Clinton. And that could cut both ways for him potentially.

MARTIN: Right.

MCCAMMON: On the one hand, he wrote a pretty broad-base definition of obstruction of justice that could potentially have implications for the Russia investigation. He's also said that presidents should be free of the burden of criminal investigation. So it's hard to read the tea leaves on that one.

MARTIN: So then who are believed to be the safer picks for the president?

MCCAMMON: Well, Thomas Hardiman is another federal appeals court judge who was the runner-up for Justice Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court nomination last year.

MARTIN: So he's already been vetted. You would think that he would be a sure bet.

MCCAMMON: Right. And he's been through the process. A source close to the White House has described his record as flawless. The New York Times is also reporting that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for either Hardiman or Raymond Kethledge, who's an evangelical Christian and has an established record, no real controversy on Capitol Hill. Kethledge, for example, didn't go to an Ivy League school, could be seen as more of an anti-establishment pick.

MARTIN: Right.

MCCAMMON: But it's hard to know. You know, ultimately, the president has to decide.

MARTIN: Which he likes to remind everybody - that this is his decision at the end of the day. Do we know, though, how much - it's impossible to know, but any indication as to whether or not the president is concerned about getting someone through a Senate confirmation process?

MCCAMMON: Well, he's definitely got to think about that. He has to balance, you know, appealing to the base against just confirmability. And the reality is, though, all of these nominees, potential nominees, have been vetted by conservative groups. So they'll be getting some pushback from Democrats no matter who's chosen.

MARTIN: NPR's Sarah McCammon for us. Thanks so much, Sarah.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: All right, we along with the rest of the world are watching this life-or-death rescue operation unfold in Thailand.

GREENE: Yeah. Four of those soccer players who have been trapped in this flooded cave in northern Thailand have now been rescued. And now there is a second rescue effort underway to try and save the eight other boys who are still down there along with their coach.

MARTIN: Reporter Michael Sullivan has been following all of this, and he joins us from Chiang Rai in northern Thailand where this is happening. Hey, Michael.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: Get us up to speed on how they were able to save these four boys over the weekend.

SULLIVAN: Well, authorities say things went very well yesterday, a lot better than expected. So well, in fact, that as you said the second phase has already begun. And that one is going well, too, they say, which means we could see more boys coming out of the cave later this evening, which is really good news given how extraordinarily dangerous this whole operation is. The cave is still filled with water in many places, so much so that the boys have to use diving apparatus to get out. And some of the passages are also very narrow, barely wide enough to squeeze through. So it's a real challenge. And for them to have this kind of success so far, Rachel, is really extraordinary, and it's heartening, too.

MARTIN: But it took a while, right? I mean, these boys have been under - in these caves for two weeks. They were discovered a week ago. So it's taken authorities, rescuers at least, you know, several days to even lay the groundwork to mount an operation like this. What's so tough about it?

SULLIVAN: Well, it's very, very hard to do. And the way they're doing it is they're taking each boy, and they're being accompanied by two divers each, a team that includes 13 foreigners, specialty divers and five Navy SEALs. And it's pretty much like the buddy system plus an extra buddy - one diver behind the boy, one leading him and sometimes actually wrapping their arm around the boy and holding on when needed. And there's also guide ropes for them to use on the way down.

But it's so frightening 'cause you got to remember there's not a lot of light in the cave. There is a lot of water. And these kids aren't divers. And in some parts of the caves that are severely flooded, they have to be. And despite all of that, it worked yesterday. They got the first four out. And they're in the hospital safe and reportedly recovering. And the same 13 foreign divers and five Thai Navy SEALs are taking the next group out, too. The interior minister says they know the conditions, and they've obviously been successful before.

MARTIN: And just to underscore the danger of this, I mean, we remember that one of these Thai Navy SEALs died in this operation.

SULLIVAN: He did. And then there's the other thing that's hovering over this, and that's the idea of rain. And it's a huge concern. And that's what prompted the decision to go in yesterday or D-day, as the governor called it. He said conditions were as good now as they're going to get. And he was worried that heavy rain that's been forecast could jeopardize the rescue effort by flooding the cave even more and maybe even reaching up to where the remaining boys and their coach are still waiting.

Now, it did rain quite a bit here last night. And officials said today that that did increase the level of water inside, but they were able to pump most of it out. So the search and rescue effort continues, and it looks like they're going to get some boys out today.

MARTIN: Which would be incredibly good news. We will be watching all this unfold. Michael Sullivan is following the story. He is in Chiang Rai near the Tham Luang cave complex. Thanks so much, Michael. We appreciate your reporting on this.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: All right, David, over the past week, heat waves have broken records around the world.

GREENE: Yeah, they sure have. And here are just a couple examples here in the United States. There were all-time high temperatures, the highest ever recorded on any day, in some parts of Southern California, and the Washington, D.C., area saw heat index figures soar well into the triple digits with just punishing humidity. And, you know, for the people experiencing these events, it is more than just about being uncomfortable. Heat is actually the most deadly single form of extreme weather. And this month, NPR's reporting on the impacts of rising heat as the climate is warming.

MARTIN: NPR energy and environment editor Jennifer Ludden is in the studio to tell us more about this. Hey, Jennifer.

JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: All right, so it does seem we've been reporting on record-breaking temperatures, the hottest year on record again and again for years now, haven't we?

LUDDEN: Yes. Record-breaking, record-breaking some years - we see hundreds and hundreds of heat records broken these days, not so many cold records anymore. The latest National Climate Assessment tells us heat waves are happening more often. And all this is projected to intensify as the climate keeps warming. There's a lot of changes also that we may not realize. You know, nights are warming faster than days. This past Friday, Phoenix set another low overnight temperature record of 94 degrees.

MARTIN: A low of 94.

LUDDEN: That's - it only got down to 94. And this night warming has a really big impact, you know, not just on people but plants and animals when they can't cool down.

MARTIN: You mentioned Phoenix. I mean, that's the focus of the first piece in this series, which is obviously accustomed to heat. But now they're seeing heat deaths there.

LUDDEN: More and more of them - a record number last year. Will Stone of member station KJZZ has reported this for us. He says city officials have declared a real public health crisis. They're trying to figure out how to prepare for heat waves like other cities do for, you know, hurricanes. Here's Mark Hartman, the head of sustainability for Phoenix.

MARK HARTMAN: Heat is kind of like a silent storm. You don't see it. Our goal is to actually say, to be heat-ready, here's all the things you need to do - a comprehensive plan to do that.

LUDDEN: You know, one challenge is that most deaths are actually not on the record-high days. Researchers say this long-term, you know, regular heat for an extended period of time can have an impact.

MARTIN: This accumulated effect...

LUDDEN: Yes, it's stress on the body. They're looking at things like text alerts to say, hey, it could be dangerous out there even if there's not an official extreme heat warning, maybe putting monitors in the homes of elderly people who are really vulnerable to this.

MARTIN: What other stories can we look forward to in this series?

LUDDEN: Well, we spent time with scientists 10,000 feet up in Colorado. They're researching how rising heat and early snow melt is basically throwing natural ecosystems out of whack. And we'll also hear how heat's affecting the Michigan apple industry, the Texas dairy economy, worker productivity in Asian garment factories. And we've asked NPR's audience how heat's affecting them, so we're going to bring you some of those stories as well.

MARTIN: All right, we will be following this series. Make sure to check out all of those stories. NPR's Jennifer Ludden giving us a preview. Jennifer, thanks so much.

LUDDEN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREDDIE JOACHIM'S "KOOL IN THE SUMMER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.