Drink up
May 6, 2014

After three years of extreme drought, the city of Wichita Falls, Texas, is planning on turning wastewater into drinking water.

Mayor Glenn Barham tells NPR that the situation is serious in his North Texas town, where pools can't be filled after being drained and car washes are closed one day a week to save water. Residents have cut their water use by more than a third, Barham said, but the water supply is still likely to run out in two years. To remedy this, a 13-mile pipeline has been built, connecting the city's wastewater plant to the purification plant. Yes, that means that water flushed down the toilet will wind up being cleaned and sent back out through the tap.

City official Daniel Nix stresses that the water will be safe, and that much of it will come not from toilets, but sinks, bathtubs, washing machines, and dishwashers. After the wastewater is treated, it will be mixed with lake water, and undergo further chlorination, filtering, and reverse osmosis. While many residents still believe the plan is "gross," business owner Julia Spence trusts the city. "You do have to give them the benefit of the doubt, because they've done their research, they've spent a whole lot of money, they've tested, tested, tested," she told NPR. "This is where I was born and raised, and I'm not ready to close my business and pack up and move." Catherine Garcia

refugee crisis
9:49 a.m. ET

Following up a strategic visit to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, Ben Carson blasted Syria's Arab neighbors for their failure to accept and provide for the massive displaced populations flowing over their borders. "The media has focused on Europe and the United States' willingness or unwillingness to welcome these refugees. This focus is all wrong. The solution to the Syrian refugee crisis is with Syria's neighbors," Carson wrote in an op-ed for The Hill.

Syrian refugee resettlement should be concentrated in Arab countries, which are in the best position to help. The rich Persian Gulf states — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates — have the resources to provide services that refugees require. With no language barrier and no religious or cultural gaps to overcome, refugees can find new and fulfilling lives with only enough support to make the transition. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other refugee aid organizations can best use their resources to train these Gulf states to provide housing and social services effectively. [The Hill]

Experts on the refugee crisis disagree with Carson's assessment of the situation, however. Speaking with Reuters, Melanie Nezer, a policy director at the Jewish nonprofit agency HIAS, explained that the neighboring nations of Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have already taken in massive amounts of refugees; one in every four people in Lebanon, for example, is a refugee.

"They can't absorb all these people and they really need help from the rest of the world. We can't just say to these countries that the burden is completely on them," Nezer said. "I could watch brain surgery for a day or two; that doesn't make me a brain surgeon. You cannot get an appreciation for the scale of this crisis and the global implications of it by spending a day or two talking to a few refugees in one location." Jeva Lange

Blank space
9:37 a.m. ET

When Tuesday's edition of the International New York Times hit newsstands in Thailand, a front-page story on the country's economy was nowhere to be seen. In place of the article "Thai economy and spirits are sagging" was a blank white space. Page six — where the article was intended to continue — bore this message: "The article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal."

The cover story reported that "Thailand is in a rut," with its households "among the most indebted in Asia," property crimes up 60 percent in the last year, and the public dissatisfied with the unelected leaders ruling the military junta-led country. "No one feels like smiling anymore," one merchant told The New York Times. "Life is so stressful. I don't know how to explain it, but it feels like nothing is working in Thailand anymore."

In Thailand, it is against the law to "criticize, defame, or insult members of the royal family," and dissenters can face jail sentences of up to 15 years on each count, The Guardian reports. The article's removal marks the second time this fall that the paper's local Thai printer blocked an article. The Sept. 22 Asia edition of the International New York Times was only partially published because it featured an article about Thailand's king's declining health. Becca Stanek

Ted talks
8:40 a.m. ET
Scott Olson/Getty Images

In a Monday interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt, Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz doubled down on his claims that Planned Parenthood shooting suspect Robert Dear is not part of the anti-abortion movement. "Now, listen, here's the simple and undeniable fact: the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats. The media doesn't report that," Cruz said, after agreeing with Hewitt that he had never met a "single pro-life activist who is in favor of violence of any sort."

"And I would note that this whole episode has really displayed the ugly underbelly of the media," Cruz continued. "You know, every time you have some sort of violent crime or mass killing, you can almost see the media salivating hoping, hoping desperately that the murderer happens to be a Republican so they can use it to try to paint their political enemies." At a Sunday campaign stop, Cruz said Dear might be "a transgendered leftist activist."

A request by Politico for the senator's "source of information on the political affiliations of criminals" was not returned. Becca Stanek

AirAsia Flight 8501
8:05 a.m. ET
Adek Berry/AFP/Getty Images

A 2014 AirAsia plane crash resulted from a pilot resetting a circuit breaker connected to the aircraft's computer system, according to Indonesian investigators who announced their findings on Tuesday. "Someone" in the cockpit pulled out and reinserted the circuit breaker in an apparent attempt to reset the flight augmentation computer, which regulated the plane's rudder functions. The attempt caused a series of electronic failures, including disengaging autopilot and the auto-thrust of the plane, and left the pilots without control of the aircraft, The New York Times reports. Investigators discovered the cause by analyzing the plane's recovered flight data.

Flight 8501 crashed on December 28, 2014, en route to Singapore, less than an hour after taking off from Surabaya, Indonesia. The pilots were alerted by four separate alarms in the cockpit that a system controlling the airplane's rudder movement had failed. Removing and reinserting the circuit breaker is thought to have been an attempt to fix the problem. All 162 people onboard died in the crash.

The year 2014 was among the deadliest in recent aviation history. In addition to the AirAsia incident, small commercial and private plane crashes, two Malaysian Airlines crashes, an Air Algerie crash, and a TransAsia crash resulted in the loss of over 1,000 lives. Jeva Lange

7:57 a.m. ET
Thibault Camus/AFP/Getty Images

World leaders arrived in Paris on Monday promising to come up with an accord to stem greenhouse-gas emissions and rescue the planet from climate change. On Tuesday, they got down to brass tacks, beginning negotiations over who will bear the financial and logistical costs of helping developing nations adopt renewable energy sources and protecting them from the worst effects of climate change. French President Francois Hollande, after meeting with 12 African leaders, pledged billions of euros to help Africa adapt, while President Obama is scheduled to hear from island nations facing rising sea levels and increasingly destructive storms.

"You have now started the fundamental work," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. "I implore you to advance on the substance in a way that allows us to respect the strong mandate given by the diverse heads of state and government yesterday." Peter Weber

To your health
7:01 a.m. ET

After 25 years of rising steadily, the number of new U.S. diabetes cases dropped by about 20 percent over six years, from 1.7 million new cases in 2008 to 1.4 million in 2014, according to a new analysis by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It seems pretty clear that incidence rates have now actually started to drop," CDC diabetes expert Edward Gregg tells The New York Times. "Initially it was a little surprising because I had become so used to seeing increases everywhere we looked."

Health officials aren't sure if the drop in new cases is the result of programs aimed at fighting diabetes — which still afflicts about 10 percent of U.S. adults — or if the diabetes epidemic has naturally peaked, or if people are changing their diets and exercising after watching friends and relatives go blind or have limbs amputated because of the disease. Whatever the cause, the success isn't evenly spread among Americas. The new diabetes rate is still flat among the less-educated as well as black and Latino populations, while it is dropping among whites and those with more education. Read more about the diabetes findings at The New York Times. Peter Weber

5:58 a.m. ET

Stephen "Greg" Fisk, 70, was elected mayor of Juneau, Alaska, in October, easily beating incumbent Merrill Sanford. On Monday afternoon, the Juneau Police Department said, Fisk's adult son, Ian Fisk, called 911 to report that he had found his father dead at his home. Mayor Fisk was pronounced dead at the scene. The Juneau Police Department "is aware of rumors that an assault occurred in connection with Fisk's death," the department said Monday night. "Those rumors are speculation." Fisk's body will be sent to Anchorage for an autopsy.

City Assemblywoman and Deputy Mayor Mary Becker will step in as mayor on at least a temporary basis, she told KTVA CBS 11 News, and she's working with the city attorney to figure out what happens next. The autopsy results "are expected within several days and will be used to determine the cause of death," according to the Juneau Police Department. Peter Weber

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