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Things to Know in the U.S., World for Sept. 26

Brothers Jose Ramon Rivera and Jose A. Rivera look over their destroyed plantain crops Sunday in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value on the island.
Brothers Jose Ramon Rivera and Jose A. Rivera look over their destroyed plantain crops Sunday in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value on the island.
Published Sep. 26, 2017

'There is no more agriculture'

José A. Rivera, a farmer on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, stood in the middle of his flattened plantain farm Sunday and tried to tally how much Hurricane Maria had cost him. "How do you calculate everything?" Rivera said. For as far as he could see, every one of his 14,000 trees was down. Same for the yam and sweet pepper crops. "There will be no food in Puerto Rico," Rivera predicted. "There is no more agriculture in Puerto Rico. And there won't be any for a year or longer." The Category 4 storm stripped every tree of even the bark, leaving a rich agricultural region looking like the result of a postapocalyptic drought. Puerto Rico already imports about 85 percent of its food, and now its food imports are certain to rise drastically. In a matter of hours, Hurricane Maria wiped out about 80 percent of the crop value on the island — making it one of the costliest storms to hit the agriculture industry, said Puerto Rico's Agriculture Secretary Carlos Flores Ortega. Plantain, banana and coffee crops were the hardest hit, Flores said. Landslides in the mountainous interior also took out many roads, a major part of the agriculture infrastructure there. The island suffered a loss of $780 million in agriculture yields, according to the department's preliminary figures, just after a graze from Hurricane Irma took out about $45 million in production. This comes at a time when a growing farm-to-table movement has generated optimism about an agricultural rebirth. But some see the potential for a positive: Agricultural officials are hoping this will be the chance to modernize. Flores said much of the traditional agriculture in the island had depended on energy-inefficient practices that waste too much water and produce large amounts of waste. U.S. federal funds to help farmers rebuild will present an opportunity to improve the industry, he said. "Now is the moment because we're starting from zero," Flores said. "We're going to rebuild better this time." (Read more on the president ignoring the island's crisis on page 9.)

North Korea

Diplomat says Trump tweet 'declared war'

North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that a weekend tweet by President Donald Trump was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace. It was the latest escalation in a week of undiplomatic exchanges between North Korea and the U.S. during the U.N. General Assembly's annual ministerial meeting. Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters that by tweeting North Korea's leadership led by Kim Jong Un "won't be around much longer," Trump "declared the war on our country." Under the U.N. Charter, Ri said, North Korea has the right to self-defense and "every right" to take countermeasures. "Not at all. We've not declared war on North Korea," said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "The suggestion of that is absurd."

New York

Weiner sentenced to 21 months for sexting

Anthony Weiner's compulsion for sexting cost him his seat in Congress, his shot at becoming mayor and his marriage. On Monday, it cost him his freedom. Weiner, 53, wept as a federal judge sentenced him to 21 months behind bars for illicit online contact with a 15-year-old girl. As his parents — but not his soon-to-be ex-wife, Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin — looked on, the Democrat was given until Nov. 6 to report to prison for misconduct that included getting the teen to strip and touch herself on Skype and Snapchat. Weiner tearfully apologized to her. The judge said he was receiving "effective treatment," including group therapy and Sex Addicts Anonymous, but "this is a very strong compulsion." The judge cited a need to "make a statement that can protect other minors." Weiner also was fined $10,000 and will have to register as a sex offender.

Georgia

Following student's death, advocates want more police training for mental-health issues

Supervisors for the Georgia Tech officer who fatally shot a student thought the officer showed promise, but there is no evidence he received the training advocates say is crucial to effectively interact with people who have mental illnesses. Officer Tyler Beck fatally shot Scout Schultz on Sept. 16. Police have said Schultz had a multipurpose tool and refused to drop it. A lawyer for Schultz's parents has said Schultz appeared to have been experiencing a breakdown, and Beck overreacted when non-lethal force could have been used. Police often "don't have the training to recognize even that there is a medical emergency happening," said Laura Usher of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Crisis Intervention Team training, which began in 1987, is available nationwide, but many officers have not gotten it, Usher said. In Georgia, the 40-hour training is required of state law enforcement, but not for local officers who patrol cities, counties and colleges.

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Mexico

Buildings face delayed collapse risks

As many as 360 buildings and homes are in danger of collapse or with major damage in Mexico City nearly a week after a magnitude 7.1 earthquake completely collapsed 38 structures. The risk of delayed collapse is real: The cupola of Our Lady of Angels Church split in half and crashed to the ground Sunday. There were no injuries. Neighbors continued calling in police Monday as apparently new cracks appeared in their apartment blocks or existing ones worsened. Officials said they had cleared only 103 of Mexico City's nearly 9,000 schools to reopen Monday. At several buildings in the city, employees refused to enter their workplaces Monday. Search teams also were digging through dangerous rubble, hoping against the odds to find survivors.

Egypt

7 gays arrested for rainbow flag at concert

Security officials say seven gay people were charged with "inciting immorality" after a concert at which the rainbow flag was raised in a rare support of gay rights. The officials say the Monday arrests resulted from Friday's performance by the Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila, whose singer is gay. Officials launched legal proceedings against the seven after authorities discovered they "raised the flag of homosexuals." The law doesn't explicitly prohibit homosexuality, so prosecutors use alternative charges including "immorality" and "debauchery." Homosexuality is a taboo in Egypt among both Muslims and the Christian minority. — tbt* wires

Puerto Rico

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