News Brief: Irma Smacks Florida, Netanyahu's Son Posts Anti-Semitic Cartoon
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Hurricane Irma, this massive storm that really appeared on radar to be covering the entire state of Florida, is now finally weakening. But it is still disrupting so many lives.
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
That is right. Here's a little snapshot. There are several million people in Florida without power this morning. We know that tens of thousands of people are holed up in shelters. Now, small piece of good news, which is it has now dropped to a Category 1 storm. But Florida Governor Rick Scott is warning, after the wind comes the surge.
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RICK SCOTT: The storm surge comes after the strongest winds. Do not think this storm is over when the wind slows down.
KELLY: And here's a little bit of what it sounded like when Irma made landfall yesterday as a Category 4 storm on Florida's Gulf Coast.
HAYDEN DEAKINS: Massive wind gusts. And, all at once, the entire forest was just moving parallel to the ground. It kind of sounds like when you're in a car wash. There was just, like, this grumble to it, as if, like, you know, a jet was passing over us.
KELLY: That was Florida resident Hayden Deakins (ph). He called us from his home in Naples. So the question now, David, is, what happens next with this threat of catastrophic rain and winds still very much in the picture and the storm moving farther north?
GREENE: Yeah, moving into the southeastern United States, into other places. We have reporters on the ground in Florida this morning. Lynn Hatter from member station WFSU is in Florida's capital, Tallahassee. And NPR's Leila Fadel is in Tampa. Good morning to you both.
LYNN HATTER, BYLINE: Good morning.
LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.
GREENE: Leila, let me start with you. Tampa - it sounds like, I mean, they thought they were going to really bear the brunt here. And it sounds like that city escaped the worst.
FADEL: That's true. Right now it's pretty calm out there. It may be deceiving. City officials are telling people not to go outside. As you mentioned, the flooding comes next. But this is a particularly vulnerable area with the bay. Yesterday, the storm started sucking up the water out of the bay so quickly that people had to go save a manatee that couldn't keep up with the water disappearing.
GREENE: Yeah, those images were amazing.
FADEL: Yeah. And that had happened in the Bahamas before. And so it was unclear what was coming. And the mayor was warning everyone because this city hasn't taken a direct hit of any kind for over - about a century. But in the end, it seemed to dissipate by the time it got to here. There were strong winds, heavy rain. But right now it's pretty calm out there.
GREENE: Well, let me turn to you, Lynn. You're in Tallahassee at the emergency operations center for Leon County. And you have not felt the storm in its biggest form yet. You're still bracing for the worst of it this afternoon. Is that right? What are people worried about?
HATTER: Yeah. I think the big concern up here in Tallahassee is wind. We're still looking for tropical storm force winds to be coming here over a sustained amount of time. And Tallahassee - we have a lot of hundred-year-old, 200-year-old great oak trees. This is a very heavily wooded city. And so once you start getting into those kind of gusts, especially over a long period of time, it's liable to knock down a lot of power. And so that's really one of the big concerns for us - is the extended power outages.
GREENE: I want to play a little bit of tape. We've been listening to so many Floridians talk about what they've been going through. Some stayed put. Some evacuated. This is Tracy McDaniel (ph). She said the scene at a rest stop off a highway when she was making her way to Gainesville - I mean, it was just something.
TRACY MCDANIEL: There's no place to park. People are just sleeping in their cars, walking around in a daze. There were pets loose. It was just, like, the end-of-the-world type of stuff. It was crazy.
GREENE: End-of-the-world type of stuff. I mean, Lynn, what can you tell us about the evacuation? This was a lot of people on the move.
HATTER: Yeah. You know, about 6 million people have evacuated. That's about a third of the population of the state of Florida - just, you know, for the sheer size of it. And it's interesting because, you know, a lot of those people ended up here in Tallahassee. And sort of as we watched this storm start moving, a lot of our emergency officials were pretty taken aback, you know, because we were prepared to shelter a lot of people. We were never prepared to get sort of a hit from this. And so later on, kind of starting last week, as it became clear and clear that, you know, Leon County and Tallahassee was in the path of the storm, they sort of switched from being in a, you know, welcome to Tallahassee - we will house you - mode to, you know, welcome to Tallahassee. Unfortunately, you get to bunker down with us mode.
HATTER: And so it's been kind of one of those things - just sort of watching where this storm is going to go. And right now I think the entire, you know, Big Bend area is just really in sort of a hurry-up-and-wait-mode because that's all we can do. It's just kind of, you know, we're watching. We're watching. We're waiting. We're waiting. And that's really where we are right now. So we're seeing some gusts of wind. But, again, the big stuff is going to start happening for us probably starting around 10 a.m. this morning, ramping up to about 2 p.m.
GREENE: Do you feel like your state handled this differently? I mean, did more people take this seriously than in past hurricanes?
HATTER: I think so. I think, you know, if you look at the evacuation efforts, South Florida really cleared out. You didn't see a lot of looting. There was no rioting. You know, people got in their cars, and they left. I think the same is true here. Up in Leon, we got hit by Hurricane Hermine last year. I would argue that this region was not prepared for that. If you look at the response, you know, between last year and this year, everything has been a lot more orderly. And I think that Floridians really took this storm seriously. And it really shows. We haven't had a lot of fatalities so far. People got out people. People heeded those warnings.
GREENE: Yeah, that's fortunate. And so you're waiting to see exactly what the storm looks like there in Tallahassee. Leila, it's already moved through Tampa. What are people talking about when it comes to, you know, the coming days, months in terms of recovery?
FADEL: That was the thing that I was hearing most when I was visiting with people on Sunday and on Saturday and this morning - is what is the damage, the real damage? Four million people without power. Where have the trees fallen? Is my house where it was? And so now it's about taking stock of what happened and what the people are going home to.
KELLY: And then this just will be interesting to see what happens when the curfew's lift. We have curfews in effect in a lot of Florida, so we're talking about whether people are moving around or not. And that remains to be seen as we get into the, you know, day - the full day gets underway there.
GREENE: All right. NPR's Leila Fadel in Tampa and Lynn Hatter from member station WFSU in Tallahassee, as Irma continues to wreak havoc on the state of Florida. Thank you both. Be safe.
HATTER: Thank you.
FADEL: Thank you.
GREENE: We're going to turn now to Israel and the criticism surrounding this Facebook post from the son of Israel's prime minister.
KELLY: This is Yair Netanyahu. He is indeed Benjamin Netanyahu's son. He is 26 years old. And over the weekend, he posted a cartoon that seemed to bash his father's adversaries. The cartoon is being characterized as featuring anti-Semitic imagery. Former KKK leader David Duke has shared the post. The neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer has praised it. Netanyahu's son has since taken down the post. His dad, the prime minister, is not commenting. But that lack of comment is stirring up yet more criticism, David.
GREENE: And NPR's Daniel Estrin is on the line from Jerusalem. And, Daniel, when you have former KKK leader David Duke sharing a post from the son of Israel's prime minister, what is going on? What is this post?
DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Right, sharing a post from Israel's prime minister's son.
GREENE: Yeah, sorry.
ESTRIN: Right. If you can picture it, it's a lineup of characters. Each one dangles a rod - kind of like a carrot on a stick - in front of the next. And it suggests who controls the world. So the liberal, American, Jewish philanthropist George Soros is the master manipulator in this cartoon. Netanyahu's government accuses Soros of defaming Israel for his support of liberal groups critical of the Israeli government.
There's also a reptilian character, which comes from a conspiracy theory that reptile-like aliens control the world, and Jews come from reptilians. Also pictured in the cartoon are some of Netanyahu's adversaries superimposed onto classic anti-Semitic caricatures. Now, Netanyahu's son got this cartoon from a satirical, anti-leftist Israeli Facebook page. And that page seems to have adapted the cartoon from one that apparently circulates on extremist, anti-Semitic, "alt-right" websites.
GREENE: So is Netanyahu's son defending this?
ESTRIN: Well, yeah. He took the post down, as we said. But he has posted many defiant and defensive posts since. And Netanyahu himself hasn't said anything. And although many politicians in the center-left in Israel have criticized the post - even the Anti-Defamation League, which tracks anti-Semitism, has criticized it - many commentators who are pro-Netanyahu have said they don't see the anti-Semitism, and they deflect the criticism.
GREENE: OK. So Netanyahu's son is not an elected official. This was not Netanyahu posting this imagery. Is this controversy giving too much weight to a 26-year-old son's Facebook post?
ESTRIN: It's an important point, David. Yair Netanyahu is not an elected official. He's - he may have not understood the subtext of the cartoon he shared. And Netanyahu has argued for a long time that there is an unfair media witch hunt against his family. But Yair Netanyahu does play a role in Israeli politics. He reportedly plays a key role on the prime minister's social media team. He has met President Trump. He's perceived as being groomed to enter politics one day.
GREENE: OK. Interesting story coming from Israel and NPR's Daniel Estrin. Daniel, thanks as always. We appreciate the time this morning.
ESTRIN: No problem.
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