Today's Top Stories: Texas Abortion Law, Ida Barrels On, Remembering A Fallen Marine

Published September 1, 2021 at 7:44 AM EDT
A family travel by boat to their home after it flooded during Hurricane Ida on Tuesday in Barataria, La.
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A family travel by boat to their home after it flooded during Hurricane Ida on Tuesday in Barataria, La.

Good morning,

Ida is bringing heavy rains on its path north. The Mid-Atlantic and southern New England are on alert for flooding, but power is coming back to New Orleans.

We're watching the storm's movements as well as these other top stories:

Texas abortion law: A law that bans abortions after 6 weeks took effect overnight without intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court. The legislation effectively ends Roe v. Wade in the state.

Fallen Marine: The father of one of the Marines who died in last week's Kabul explosiontells NPR about his heroic son and his message for fellow Americans.

Coronavirus update: Vaccinations are ticking up, but a number of states are running out of ICU beds with new cases, largely among people who didn't get the COVID-19 vaccine.

🎧 Also on Up First, our daily podcast, Texas Republicans have passed sweeping new voting restrictions.

— The Morning Edition live blog team

(Dana Farrington, Rachel Treisman, Nell Clark, Bill Chappell, Manuela Lopez Restrepo)


8 Reading Recommendations For The New Month 📚

Posted September 1, 2021 at 10:35 AM EDT

Even if you're not going back to school, September is a great time to hit the books. The month is traditionally a busy one for publishers, and promises a ton of new titles for our reading lists.

NPR critics are especially excited about these eight. Learn more about them here.

Two overlapping rows of colorful book titles against a blue background.
These are some of the anticipated books coming out in September.


A Man Who Accosted A TV Reporter Covering Hurricane Ida Faces Assault Charges

Posted September 1, 2021 at 10:28 AM EDT

A man who disrupted NBC News correspondent Shaquille Brewster’s live report on Hurricane Ida is now facing an arrest warrant on criminal charges.

Members of the public helped identify Benjamin Eugene Dagley, of Wooster, Ohio, according to police in Gulfport, Mississippi. Dagley is charged with four criminal counts, including two counts of simple assault, one of disturbing the peace and another of violating an emergency curfew, according to theGulfport Police Department.

The incident between Dagley and Brewster took place on Monday, as the reporter was delivering an update on conditions along the coast in Gulfport. Brewster was speaking to anchor Craig Melvin when a white Ford pickup truck could be seen abruptly pulling off the road to park in the background.

A man who has since been identified as Dagley then ran at Brewster, who pivoted to a different vantage point as he sought to minimize the interruption and continue his report. The man repeatedly yelled at Brewster and his TV crew — seemingly concerned about accuracy in the media — before his segment with Melvin was cut short.

“This is beyond unacceptable and disgusting,” Melvin said via Twitter, adding that Brewster was simply doing his job.

Brewster said he and his colleagues emerged unscathed: “Appreciate the concern guys. The team and I are all good!”

Gulfport police are asking for the public’s help in locating Dagley, saying he has seemingly left the Mississippi coast.

In addition to criminal charges in Mississippi, Dagley may also face a probation violation, as he is currently on probation in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the agency said.

Member Station Reports

MLB Fielded The First Starting Lineup Of All Black And Latino Players 50 Years Ago Today

Posted September 1, 2021 at 10:14 AM EDT
The team sits on a field and poses for a picture in commemorative uniforms.
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Members of the 1971 World Series Champion Pittsburgh Pirates are honored during a pregame ceremony at PNC Park on July 17, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The same year, the team made MLB history by starting a lineup of all Black and Latino players.

On September 1, 1971, the Pittsburgh Pirates solidified their place in baseball history. They did it not by winning the 1971 World Series (although they did that too), but by fielding the major leagues’ first starting lineup of all Black and Latino players.

WESA’s Bill O’Driscoll in Pittsburgh dug into the storyand found out something surprising: The players themselves didn't know they'd made history until days after the game.

A few innings into the game, starting first-baseman Al Oliver looked around and said to third-baseman Dave Cash, "Dave, you know, we got all brothers out there on the field."

The groundbreaking lineup signaled the sport was changing. And when the team won the World Series six weeks later, Pirates player Roberto Clemente was named series MVP and spoke his first post-Series words to the media in Spanish.

Click here to read WESA's full story onthenightthatmade sports history.

International Dispatch

Ethiopian Rebels Have Stolen Desperately Needed Aid, The U.S. Says

Posted September 1, 2021 at 10:10 AM EDT

The U.S. says Ethiopian rebel forces have looted humanitarian aid. The announcement comes amid warnings that food is running out in some regions.

USAID mission director in Ethiopia, Sean Jones, told state television the U.S. now has proof that Tigray People's Liberation Front, or TPLF rebels, have stolen badly needed food aid.

"Every town they've gone into they looted the warehouses; they've looted trucks; they have caused a great deal of destruction in all the villages they visited," he said.

The civil war in Ethiopia is now in its 10th month, and the conflict is spreading. Tigrayan rebels have launched offensives into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.

Previously, the international community has accused the government of blocking aid from reaching the Tigray region, and now rebels are being accused of using the same tactics against neighboring regions.

The civil war has displaced almost 2 million Ethiopians, and the World Food Programme estimates that almost 8 million Ethiopians are in need of food aid.


Here Are The Key Provisions Of The Controversial Texas Voting Legislation

Posted September 1, 2021 at 9:58 AM EDT

A voting law that Texas Democrats had tried to block by fleeing the state has passed the Republican-ledlegislature.

Gov. Greg Abbott is poised to sign the sweeping bill.

Ashley Lopez of member station KUT in Austin breaks down the key provisions and arguments around the measure on Morning Edition:

The key provisions

  • New ID requirements for people seeking to vote by mail. 
  • New criminal penalties to the voting process, including for people who help others fill out their ballots.
  • Provisions that empower partisan poll watchers.
  • Bans on drive-through and 24-hour voting options, which were added last year by Harris County — home to Houston — amid the pandemic. Harris County officials have said that voters of color made up the majority of people who took advantage of the 24-hour voting option.

What Texas lawmakers and activists are saying

For Republicans, this a big win, and they say this addresses concerns among their voters about voter fraud, even though proven cases of voter or election fraud are exceedingly rare in Texas or elsewhere.

Democrats continue to look toward Congress for help, to craft an overarching federal solution with voting standards, though that effort has so far stalled.

Activists and some election officials in Texas say they are worried about the effect this bill could have on elections next year. For example, if COVID-19 infections remain high in the state, election officials will have fewer options to make voting safer.

➡️ Plus, 666 other laws go into effect today in Texas, including many conservative priorities.


A Dutch Approach To Cutting Carbon Emissions Is Coming To America

Posted September 1, 2021 at 9:24 AM EDT

The Biden administration has announced in recent months plans to significantly reduce carbon emissions over the next decade or two, and reduce them on a net basis to zero by 2050. Other developed nations have made similar pledges.

But experts say governments have not always provided enough details, or action, to ensure these objectively ambitious targets — entailing massive changes to economies and societies — can be met.

One big obstacle: hundreds of millions of existing homes. Without some form of action, most of today's homes will still be inhabited in 2050,with inefficient heating and lighting that causes unnecessary carbon emissions. Right now the U.N. estimates that residential buildings are responsible for around a fifth of all global emissions.

In the Netherlands, a government initiative forced engineers, architects, entrepreneurs, marketing specialists and financiers to get together and figure out the best way to solve this problem of retrofitting older homes cheaply and quickly.

The result of those meetings was a concept called “Energiesprong” — or ‘energy leap’— that has formed the basis of efforts to mass produce and industrialize the once haphazard and expensive retrofit process. Now that approach has been replicated in several other countries, including the U.S., where New York state is investing $30 million in a similar effort.

🎧 Here's how the process works.

Ida Aftermath

Part Of New Orleans Gets Electrical Power Back After Hurricane Ida

Posted September 1, 2021 at 9:05 AM EDT
The downtown skyline is shown after Hurricane Ida passed through on Monday in New Orleans.
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The downtown skyline is shown after Hurricane Ida passed through on Monday in New Orleans.

After days of blackout conditions, the power came back on for customers in eastern New Orleans today. The affected area is small, but the return of electricity is “the first step in bringing power back” to the city after Hurricane Ida, the utility Entergy New Orleans said.

The area that has resumed electrical service is southeast of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, according to Entergy’s outage map.

Utility crews are scrambling to repair and replace critical infrastructure that was obliterated by Hurricane Ida’s 150-mph winds and floodwaters. Videos from Tuesday showed workers racing across the I-10 Interstate to string new power lines across the roadway, as they strive to build new pathways for electricity to reach communities.

“With extensive damage to the system across the region, much of the redundancy built into the electric system is limited,” Entergy said. “This makes it difficult to move power around the region to customers, and limits options to power customers in the event of equipment failure or additional damage to the system.”

As it announced the resumption of limited service, the utility urged displaced residents to obey local officials’ guidance on when to return to their homes and businesses. Many areas remain off-limits.

Music News

Bonnaroo Is Canceled Again, This Time Because Of Weather

Posted September 1, 2021 at 8:52 AM EDT
A green neon sign spells "Bonnaroo" above a stage with bright yellow and purple lights, against a dark sky.
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Billy Joel performs at the 2015 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.

Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival will not be opening tomorrow as planned. Organizers announced yesterday that they were canceling the Manchester, Tenn., event due to flooded grounds.

"While this weekend’s weather looks outstanding, currently Centeroo is waterlogged in many areas, the ground is incredibly saturated on our tollbooth paths, and the campgrounds are flooded to the point that we are unable to drive in or park vehicles safely," they wrote.

They added that "Mother Nature has dealt us a tremendous amount of rain over the past 24 hours," and they had exhausted their options for putting on the event safely.

Ida has been drenching the Tennessee and Ohio valleys with heavy rains and flooding as it heads north after making landfall as a hurricane on Sunday.

Bonnaroo organizers said on Monday they would reduce the festival's camping capacity and offer refunds, citing "the expectation of significant rain ... and the knowledge that areas of our campgrounds will be rendered unusable."

Now that the event has been completely canceled, people who bought tickets through Front Gate Tickets can get a full refund within 30 days. Tickets will not roll over to the 2022 festival, for which specific dates haven't yet been announced.

"WE WILL SEE YOU ON THE FARM IN JUNE 2022!" organizers promised.

This is the second year in a row that Bonnaroo has not gone ahead as planned.

Last year it was postponed and then canceled because of the pandemic. This year, the festival would have required attendees show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

The festival would have run through Sept. 2-5, and boasted a lineup including
Foo Fighters, Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, Tame Impala, Tyler, The Creator and Lana Del Rey.

For more on what this cancelation could cost vendors and the state of Tennessee, read this story from member station WPLN in Nashville.

Reproductive Health

Texas Now Has A Near-Total Abortion Ban, Effectively Ending 'Roe V. Wade' In The State

Posted September 1, 2021 at 8:18 AM EDT

One of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws has now gone into effect there, despite numerous legal challenges. Senate Bill 8 bans all abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The law bans abortions well before many people know they're pregnant, and providers say it will likely mean most abortion patients in Texas won't be able to obtain services in the state.

The law also enables private citizens to sue providers and anyone else found to help a person obtain an illegal abortion. If they prevail, the citizens can be awarded a minimum of $10,000 in damages, and they aren't required to show any connection to those they're suing.

The law is among the most restrictive abortion laws in the countryand not without legal challenges. The U.S. Supreme Court did not act on an emergency request to block the law, allowing it to go into effect, and other court challenges are ongoing.

When safe abortion services aren't legal and accessible, pregnant people often must travel long distances or undergo dangerous procedures in order to obtain abortions.

🎧 Listen here for more on the abortion law's expected impact.


Multiple States Are Running Out Of ICU Beds — Or Already Did

Posted September 1, 2021 at 8:03 AM EDT
A person wearing a yellow PPE suit, face mask and blue gloves, and another in a white shirt and black pants, stand over a person lying in a stretcher outside the back of an ambulance.
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
Medics transfer a patient on a stretcher from an ambulance at Coral Gables Hospital where coronavirus patients are treated in Coral Gables near Miami, on Aug. 16.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country, overwhelming hospitals and filling up ICU beds. See how your state's hospitals are doing.

It's worth noting that most people hospitalized with the virus are not (fully) vaccinated. And as NPR's Joe Neel reports, nationwide vaccination rates went up in August due to the delta-fueled COVID-19 surge.

Below are updates from some of the states struggling with this influx of COVID-19 patients:


The Alabama Hospital Association said in a Tuesday update that there were 84 more ICU patients than staffed beds in the state — more than half of which are occupied by COVID-19 patients.


Meanwhile, the Florida Hospital Association said that while hospitals are starting to see a decrease in COVID-19 patients and admissions, "we still have 50% more patients hospitalized now with COVID-19 than at the worst of the peak last year."

And as member station WMFE reports, the state has provided hospitals in central Florida with 14 portable morgue units in an effort to relieve local crematoriums and funeral homes overwhelmed by COVID-19 victims.


Kentucky has a record number of 2,198 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and record numbers of intensive care admittances and people on ventilators, Gov. Andy Beshear said on Monday. The vast majority of the state's cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among partially vaccinated or unvaccinated people.

And the dire warnings aren't just coming from the South.


Only four of Idaho's nearly 400 adult ICU beds available were available as of Tuesday, according to Gov. Brad Little.

"Where hospitals have converted other spaces to be used as contingency ICU beds, those are filling up too," Little tweeted. "The vast majority hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated. We simply need more Idahoans to choose to receive the safe and effective vaccine."

NPR Newscast

The Remnants Of Ida Are Bringing Heavy Rains To Tennessee And The East Coast

Posted September 1, 2021 at 7:40 AM EDT
A metal barrier is placed on the middle of a road, with a large puddle of water available in the distance. The gate bears two yellow diamond-shaped signs reading "High Water" and "Road Closed."
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A barricade alerts motorists of floodwaters on the road on Tuesday in Covington, Louisiana.

The remnants of Hurricane Ida are on the move. Ida dumped heavy rain in the Tennessee Valley overnight and is set to pose a flood threat from the Mid-Atlantic to southern New England starting today.

The National Weather Service says the flooding that Ida is likely to touch off could be significant, and has the potential to be life-threatening. Forecasters say Ida's remnants could dump 3 to 8 inches of rain in the Mid-Atlantic and southern New England through Thursday.

Flood watches and warnings have been posted, and forecasters are watching river levels from northern West Virginia and western Maryland into southern Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They are also warning of the possibility of tornadoes.

In Middle Tennessee, rain from Ida slowed down cleanup efforts from deadly flooding more than a week ago, and prompted organizers of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival — southeast of Nashville — to cancel the event.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Is Finally Getting His Oval Office Moment

Posted September 1, 2021 at 7:35 AM EDT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia. Zelensky is meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon on Tuesday in Arlington, Virginia. Zelensky is meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday.

More than two years ago, Ukraine’s newly elected President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had a phone call with Washington that he hoped would lead to an Oval Office meeting.

That call led to impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump after he asked Zelenskyy for help investigating Joe Biden, who at the time was in the race to become the Democratic presidential nominee.

Today, Zelenskyy will finally get that Oval Office meeting. President Biden will meet with Zelenskyy today to show his “ironclad commitment to Ukraine’s security, sovereignty, and Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” a senior administration official told reporters.

➡️ Deep dive from 2019: How Ukraine's President Wound Up In The Middle Of The Trump Impeachment Inquiry

Biden has long expressed concern about Russia’s incursions in Ukraine’s territory, including before his recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Today’s meeting comes at a delicate time. Zelenskyy has been pressing the United States to support Ukraine’s request to become part of NATO, but Biden has said Ukraine needs to first do more work cleaning up corruption.

Ukraine is also concerned about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline — the nearly completed project that bypasses Ukraine to provide Russian natural gas directly to Germany.

Ukraine wanted the United States to stop the project, but Biden lifted sanctions against the company in charge of the pipeline earlier this year.


The Father Of A Marine Who Died In Kabul Talks About His Son And The Importance Of ‘I Love You’

Posted September 1, 2021 at 7:28 AM EDT

When a suicide bomber attacked the Kabul airport last week, the lives the 170 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members were cut short.

One of them was Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz of Wentzville, Mo. He was just 20 years old. Schmitz was only 6 months old when 9/11 happened and the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz
U.S. Marines via AP
U.S. Marines
Twenty-year-old Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz was among the 13 service members killed in a bombing in Kabul on Aug. 26.

From a young age, “Jared was an energetic little guy,” his father, Mark Schmitz, tells Morning Edition. “He was constantly happy. If you had the opportunity to look through our photo albums, you would see that no matter how we captured him on a camera, he was always smiling nonstop.”

Jared wanted to be a Marine from his sophomore year of high school. His father says he was fearful of his son getting into a dangerous type of work, but he knew that being a Marine fit Jared “like a glove.” Jared was never studious, Mark says, but once he set his mind on it, he was laser focused on learning everything he could about the Marines. He had to have his parents’ permission when he signed up at age 17.

Afghanistan was Jared’s first deployment. Earlier, he was at Camp Pendleton in California, then was sent to Jordan. Then he got his orders to go to Kabul.

The last time Mark talked to his son was when he learned where Jared was going. They were still exchanging text messages after that.

He got concerned when he didn’t hear from Jared for a day after the bombing. The news came at 2:40 in the morning when two men came to his door in uniform.

“My heart just sunk,” he says. “You know, I'm like, OK, they're here to tell me he's injured and what his injuries are. And it took forever for them to get me to comprehend that they were there to deliver the most horrific news of his passing and that he had been killed and not injured. I was half asleep initially, of course, and then just obviously in sheer shock that they were even there to begin with.”

A carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of Missouri on Sunday at Dover Air Force Base, Del.
Carolyn Kaster/AP
A carry team moves a transfer case containing the remains of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of Missouri on Sunday at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

In the last few days, Mark has been looking back through his text messages with Jared.

Back on Father’s Day “my son is telling me how proud he is of me. You know, he has no idea. I can't even hold a candle to that young man. He has taught me so much. He's a hell of an American. A true hero in every sense of the word.”

He was glad he sent a last “I love you” before Jared was killed.

Mark Schmitz wants people to know that “these aren't just words. These guys literally are gone. They have sacrificed everything for this country and please respect all of our military for what they put their rear ends on the line to do. This is not a game. This is the real deal.

“I'll never see my son get married. I’ll never see him do anything — provide me grandkids — anything. It's all gone now. It didn't need to happen, it shouldn't have happened. But love our military, support these guys. All of them. And turn out by the thousands when all these brothers and sisters come home to their final resting places.”

Mark Schmitz talks about traveling to Dover and what he told President Biden in the full audio interview. Listen here.