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September 3, 2017

At least 13 "Superfund" toxic waste sites in Houston have been flooded or otherwise damaged by Hurricane Harvey, adding a new element of risk to clean-up efforts. Superfund sites are designated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); they are "the nation's most contaminated land."

Since Harvey flooding occurred, the EPA has made aerial assessments of 41 Superfund locations in and around Houston and identified 13 in bad shape. "Teams are in place to investigate possible damage to these sites as soon as flood waters recede, and personnel are able to safely access the sites," the EPA said in a response to an Associated Press inquiry as to why in-person investigations have not already been made. AP reporters already visited seven sites.

It will take about two weeks for waters to fully recede at these locations, which are contaminated with industrial waste, pesticides, and more. "My daddy talks about having bird dogs down there to run and the acid would eat the pads off their feet," said Houston native Dwight Chandler of the toxic sites. "We didn't know any better." Bonnie Kristian

2:57 p.m.

It looks like Apple Pay is making money moves — by announcing several new partnerships on Tuesday.

Soon customers will be able to use the mobile payment system in all 1,850 Target stores, along with Taco Bell, Speedway convenience stores, Hy-Vee supermarkets, and Jack in the Box. Apple says the addition of these national retailers mean 74 of the top 100 merchants and 65 percent of all retail locations in the U.S. will support Apple Pay.

Vice President of Internet Services at Apple, Jennifer Bailey, cites the system as the easiest and fastest way to pay in stores, in addition to being more secure than using debit or credit cards. And clearly Target agrees, with its Chief Information Officer Mike McNamara describing the move as an effort to begin "offering guests more ways to conveniently and quickly pay."

Target originally partnered with Best Buy and Walmart in 2012 to create payment systems for each individual retailer called the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), reports The Verge. Walmart is still holding out by sticking with Walmart Pay, but by the looks of it, Apple Pay might get to the company sooner rather than later. Amari Pollard

1:53 p.m.

School is almost back in session in Los Angeles.

Teachers reached a tentative deal with the L.A. Unified School District on Tuesday to end their weeklong strike, the Los Angeles Times reports. The city's board of education will likely approve the deal soon, and the strike will end once United Teachers Los Angeles members vote to ratify the deal as well.

The city's teachers union had been negotiating for higher pay in the face of tough job demands for the past few months, and walked off the job last Monday. Schools were open last week, lightly staffed by administrators and employees, but two-thirds of students didn't come to class, per the Times. They're open Tuesday under similar circumstances, but this deal means teachers could return to work Wednesday.

Union leaders and the school district brokered the deal at 6:15 a.m. Tuesday after an all-night discussion, and announced it during a morning press conference with Superintendent Austin Beutner, union President Alex Caputo-Pearl and Mayor Eric Garcetti. The deal includes a six percent raise for teachers and the beginnings of a plan to shrink class sizes, though not many other details were revealed, the Times says. Read more about what caused the strike at The Week, and more about the deal at the Los Angeles Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:47 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is bland, and everyone knows it. But sometimes, McConnell's "blankness" — "like a spy or a pinto bean" — works out in his favor, Charles Homans writes for The New York Times Magazine.

As the chamber's longest-running GOP leader, McConnell has stuck to tradition and learned that running the Senate is about scheduling — or delaying — votes and deliberations. In fact, he calls his "decision not to fill" a Supreme Court vacancy right after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia "the most consequential thing I've ever done," per the Times Magazine. And as former GOP Sen. Slade Gorton puts it, McConnell is "just — there. He's just a fact of life."

At the other end of the spectrum is President Trump. In fact, "it would be hard to find two people by personality, or any inclination, that are more diametrically opposed" than Trump and McConnell, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) tells the Times Magazine. "It is... a safe inference that he knows he is dealing with a child," former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) says of McConnell's interactions with Trump, and yet he's never heard McConnell say a bad word about the president, Ryan adds.

Fellow Republicans — whom McConnell told Homans to interview for his profile — remember McConnell as a policy genius. But retired Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says McConnell "has ruined the Senate," he told the Times Magazine. It's a harsh insult, but one that comes years after McConnell said his "friend" Reid was "going to be remembered as the worst leader here ever." Read more at The New York Times Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:27 p.m.

With just a week left to go until the State of the Union's scheduled date, Republicans and Democrats remain in a state of confusion.

Although House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) last week requested President Trump delay the Jan. 29 address in light of the partial government shutdown, ABC News and Fox News report the White House is still planning to go ahead with that date. They've apparently asked the House sergeant-at-arms to schedule a walk-through ahead of the speech, indicating that they expect it to take place next Tuesday before both chambers of Congress.

But that can't happen unless Pelosi actually brings up a resolution approving the Jan. 29 date for a vote in the House, and it's unclear whether she will do so. Pelosi last week didn't say she was officially disinviting Trump from delivering the address, and her letter to the president was framed as a request, but she does have the power to not invite him. If she goes this route, ABC News reports Trump has a plan B: he may still deliver the State of the Union but would do so at a rally held somewhere other than Washington, D.C.

In fact, ABC News says, the White House is actually writing two versions of the speech, one for if Trump delivers it on the House floor, and one for if he delivers it at a rally. The president had teased a possibly untraditional State of the Union on Twitter Sunday, saying that "there are so many options." Brendan Morrow

11:35 a.m.

President Trump's TV time may be a bigger problem than we thought.

The president is obviously attached to his favorite Fox News programs, tweeting responses to and explicitly mentioning what show he's watching throughout his presidency. But as former White House communications aide Cliff Sims describes, Trump sometimes took his screen time a little too far.

At one point, Trump was supposed to be meeting with then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to hear about his party's replacement for the Affordable Care Act, Sims describes in his forthcoming book Team of Vipers. It didn't work out as Ryan planned, as The Washington Post summarizes below.

Sims recounts one time when Ryan was in the Oval Office explaining the ins and outs of the Republican health care bill to the president. As Ryan droned on for 15 minutes, Trump sipped on a glass of Diet Coke, peered out at the Rose Garden, stared aimlessly at the walls and, finally, walked out.

Ryan kept talking as the president wandered down the hall to his private dining room, where he flicked on his giant flat-screen TV. Apparently, he had had enough of Ryan's talk. It fell to Vice President [Mike] Pence to retrieve Trump and convince him to return to the Oval Office so they could continue their strategy session.

As anyone who watched Ryan's six-part documentary series about himself and tax reform can attest, Trump probably made the right choice. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:28 a.m.

A Star Is Born is looking less and less like a Best Picture Oscar winner.

The film, which was once thought to be the frontrunner for Best Picture at the Academy Awards but came up short at previous awards shows in recent weeks, picked up eight nominations on Tuesday. It came in behind The Favourite and Roma, which each received 10 nominations. Eight isn't a bad haul to be sure, but the film was snubbed in two key categories that bring its Best Picture chances into even greater doubt.

The first is Best Film Editing, a category in which the eventual Best Picture winner is virtually always nominated. That's been the case at every single Oscars in the past 20 years except in 2015 when Birdman was left out, although this made some sense considering the film was presented as taking place in one long shot without any edits. Weirdly, though, Roma was also snubbed for Best Film Editing this year, despite being the clear Best Picture favorite.

More importantly, Bradley Cooper was left out of the Best Director category for his work on A Star Is Born. It's extremely rare that a film wins Best Picture without its director being nominated. Only once in the past 20 years has that happened: with Argo's Ben Affleck in 2013, which was a big deal at the time because of how uncommon an occurrence it was.

Neither of these snubs rule out a win for A Star Is Born. But this, coupled with the movie's disappointing performance at the Golden Globe Awards, the Critics Choice Awards, and the Producers Guild of America Awards, does not paint a pretty picture.

If A Star Is Born is to have any chance of winning Best Picture, it must turn things around at the upcoming Screen Actors Guild Awards and Directors Guild Awards. If it's unable to, this could very well be Roma's year. Brendan Morrow

11:00 a.m.

President Trump's governing style is almost as tumultuous as his easily windswept hairstyle. Perhaps that's because he's relying on a budget product to keep his coif in check.

In his forthcoming book Team of Vipers, former White House communications aide Cliff Sims describes "how absolutely out of control the White House staff ... was at times," per an advance copy obtained by The Washington Post. But Sims did attempt to keep at least one thing in check, as the Post described from the book below.

As White House director of message strategy, Sims regularly met Trump at the private elevator of the residence and accompanied him to video tapings — carrying a can of Tresemmé Tres Two hair spray, extra hold, for the boss.

Judging from the numerous times Trump's hair has been blown off course, it's no wonder Sims was eventually reassigned to the State Department after more than a year in the White House. Hopefully by now, Trump has upgraded from a spray you can get for $2.74 at Walmart. Kathryn Krawczyk

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