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US House to Vote on Resolution Condemning Trump’s ‘Racist Comments’

The Democrat-led House of Representatives is set to vote Tuesday on a resolution “condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress,” in response to a series of tweets Trump issued attacking four lawmakers of color.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced the vote and said he hoped Republicans would “put country before party” and vote in favor of the measure alongside Democrats.

The text of the resolution “strongly condemns President Donald Trump’s racist comments that have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color by saying that our fellow Americans who are immigrants, and those who may look to the President like immigrants, should ‘go back’ to other countries, by referring to immigrants and asylum seekers as ‘invaders,’ and by saying that Members of Congress who are immigrants (or those of our colleagues who are wrongly assumed to be immigrants) do not belong in Congress or in the United States of America.”

The targets of Trump’s attacks — Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ayana Pressley and Rep. Rashida Tlaib — appeared before reporters Monday in a collective and blistering show of force to rebut Trump’s social media and verbal volleys against them.

“He’s launching a blatantly racist attack on four duly elected members of the United States House of Representatives, all of whom are women of color,” said Omar, a Somalia-born Democrat from the state of Minnesota and a naturalized U.S. citizen. “This is the agenda of white nationalists.”   

Trump set off a firestorm of controversy on Sunday by tweeting that the lawmakers should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came,” even though three of the four were born in the United States. The first tweets came shortly after a segment about the minority congresswomen on the Fox News Channel. 

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

Ocasio-Cortez is a native New Yorker, Pressley was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Tlaib is a native of Detroit, Michigan.

Two of them, Omar and Tlaib, who are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, explicitly called for Trump’s impeachment. 

“I urge House leadership, many of my colleagues, to take action to impeach this lawless president today,” said Tlaib. 

“He does not know how to defend his policies,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters. “So, what he does is attack us personally. And that is what this is all about.”

Earlier in the day, Trump amplified his remarks deemed as racist attacks on the lawmakers, rejecting widespread criticism that his comments run counter to American values.

“It doesn’t concern me,” he told reporters Monday at the White House, “because many people agree with me.”

The president said of the lawmakers: “If they’re not happy here, they can leave,” adding, “these are people that hate our country.”

Asked whether his comments were racist, Trump said, “Not at all.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is among those characterizing the president’s comments as “disgusting attacks.”

“The House cannot allow the President’s characterization of immigrants to our country to stand. Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the President’s xenophobic tweets,” Pelosi said in calling for support for a House resolution to condemn Trump’s tweets. 

Most lawmakers of Trump’s party have stayed silent on the controversy. But four Republican senators — Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Mitt Romney of Utah — are criticizing Trump’s remarks. 

“The president has a unique and noble calling to unite the American people,” Romney, a former Republican presidential nominee, told reporters. “In that regard, he failed badly this weekend and continued to do so today.” 

“There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments — they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop,” Murkowski tweeted.

There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments –they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop.

— Sen. Lisa Murkowski (@lisamurkowski) July 15, 2019

“President Trump was wrong to suggest that four left-wing congresswomen should go back to where they came from,” said Toomey in a statement. “The citizenship of all four is as valid as mine.”

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who golfed with Trump over the weekend, said the president should “aim higher” with his criticism of the four, even as the lawmaker disparaged their views.

On Fox News, Graham said Monday Ocasio-Cortez “and this crowd are a bunch of communists” who “hate Israel. They hate our own country. They’re calling the guards along our border — the border control agents — concentration camp guards. They accuse people who support Israel of doing it for the Benjamins (money). They’re anti-Semitic. They’re anti-America.”

The four female lawmakers, from what is called the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, are known collectively as “the squad.” 

“Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world,” Pressley told reporters. “And that is the work that we want to get back to. And given the size of this squad and this great nation, we cannot, we will not, be silenced.” 

Trump tweeted on Monday morning: “When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said. So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!”

When will the Radical Left Congresswomen apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said. So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 15, 2019

A prominent U.S.-based anti-hate Jewish group is condemning the president’s attempt to use Jews as a shield.

“As Jews, we are all too familiar with this kind of divisive prejudice,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League. “While ADL has publicly disagreed with these congresswomen on some issues, the president is echoing the racist talking points of white nationalists and cynically using the Jewish people and the state of Israel as a shield to double down on his remarks.”

Omar, in particular, has been a frequent topic of critical coverage on Fox News, in part due to her frequent criticism of Israel and comments perceived as anti-Semitic.

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Undersea Quake Near Indonesia’s Bali Causes Panic, Minor Damage

An undersea earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 struck south of Indonesia’s Bali on Tuesday, the European earthquake monitoring agency EMSC said, causing minor damage and prompting residents and visitors on the tourist island to briefly flee buildings.

There were no reports of casualties and no tsunami warning issued by the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center or the Indonesian quake monitoring agency.

The epicenter was 102 km (62 miles) southwest of the island capital Denpasar and was 100 km (60 miles) deep, the EMSC said.

The U.S. Geological Survey recorded the quake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.7.

One resident said people in Denpasar ran out of their boarding house in pajamas after feeling the quake.

A Twitter user with the handle Indounik in the city of Ubud on Bali said the quake was “strong enough to make me adopt the drop, cover & hold approach recommended to survive a quake.”

Another Twitter user, Marc van Voorst, described the quake as feeling like “a heavy truck or train passing by at close range.” He said there was no panic, even though his hotel in the Uluwatu area shook quite a bit.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency distributed a photograph of damage at the Lokanatha temple in Denpasar, showing smashed masonry lying on the ground. Bali is a predominantly Hindu enclave in overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesia.

Lius Winarto, a sales administrator at the Mercure Hotel Nusa Dua, said by telephone a small part of the building’s roof had been damaged.

“We felt the quake quite strongly…but thankfully no one was hurt and there was only minor damage,” he said. “Everything has gone back to normal now.”

There was also minor damage at a school, a house and a temple in different areas on the southern side of Bali, according to online portal Balipost.com.

The quake could also be felt in other cities on the neighboring islands of Lombok and Java, Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency said in a statement.

A roof of a mosque in the city of Banyuwangi in East Java also partially collapsed, another photo from the disaster mitigation agency showed.

The transport ministry said Bali airport was operating normally.

Indonesia suffers frequent earthquakes, sometimes causing tsunamis, because it lies on the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire.

Its Moluccas islands were hit by a powerful 7.2 quake on Sunday that killed at least two people and prompted hundreds to flee their homes.

The most devastating tremor in recent Indonesian history was on Dec. 26, 2004, when a magnitude 9.5 quake triggered a tsunami that killed around 226,000 people along the shorelines of the Indian Ocean, including more than 126,000 in Indonesia.

A tsunami also hit the city of Palu in Sulawesi last year, killing thousands.

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EU Slaps Sanctions on Turkey Over Gas Drilling Off Cyprus

European Union foreign ministers on Monday turned up the pressure on Turkey after approving an initial batch of sanctions against the country over its drilling for gas in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. 

The ministers said in a statement that in light of Turkey’s “continued and new illegal drilling activities,” they were suspending talks on an air transport agreement and would call on the European Investment Bank to “review” it’s lending to the country.

They also backed a proposal by the EU’s executive branch to reduce financial assistance to Turkey for next year. The ministers warned that additional “targeted measures” were being worked on to penalize Turkey, which started negotiations to join the EU in 2005.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu issued his own warning last week that his country would step up drilling activities off Cyprus if the EU moved ahead with sanctions. 

Two Turkish vessels escorted by warships are drilling for gas on either end of ethnically divided Cyprus.

The EU ministers repeated the “serious immediate negative impact” that Turkey’s illegal actions are having on EU-Turkey relations and called on Ankara to respect Cyprus’ sovereign rights in line with international law.

They also welcomed the Cypriot government’s invitation to Turkey to negotiate the borders of their respective exclusive economic zones and continental shelf.

Turkey doesn’t recognize Cyprus as a state and claims 44% of Cyprus’ exclusive economic zone as its own, according to Cyprus government officials. Turkish Cypriots in the east Mediterranean island nation’s breakaway north claim another 25%.

Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. A Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence is recognized only by Turkey, which keeps more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south enjoys full membership benefits. 

Turkey contends that it’s protecting its rights and those of Turkish Cypriots to the area’s hydrocarbon deposits. Cypriot officials, however, accuse Turkey of using the minority Turkish Cypriots in order to pursue its goal of exerting control over the eastern Mediterranean region.

The Cypriot government says it will take legal action against any oil and gas companies supporting Turkish vessels in any repeat attempt to drill for gas. Cyprus has already issued around 20 international arrest warrants against three international companies assisting one of the two Turkish vessels now drilling 42 miles (68 kilometers) off the island’s west coast.

The Cyprus government has licensed energy companies including ExxonMobil, France’s Total and Italy’s Eni to carry out gas drilling in blocks, or areas, off the island’s southern coastline. At least three significant gas deposits have so far been discovered there.  

Meanwhile, Cyprus’ Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades will chair a meeting of political leaders Tuesday to discuss a renewed proposal by Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa AKinci to establish a joint committee with Greek Cypriots on managing offshore gas drilling activities.

Akinci has repeatedly called for the creation of such a committee that he says would give his community a say in how newly found gas deposits off Cyprus’ southern coast are managed and future proceeds are divvied up. A similar proposal was made by Akinci’s predecessor Dervis Eroglu in 2011. 

The Cypriot government says energy discussions with Turkish Cypriots should be part of overarching reunification talks, adding that Turkish Cypriot rights to the island’s energy reserves are assured. The government says future gas proceeds that will flow into an established hydrocarbons fund will be shared equitably after a peace deal is signed.

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Judges to Decide on Bond Hearings for R. Kelly Indictments

Federal judges will decide how to proceed with bond hearings in two separate federal indictments against R. Kelly.

The 52-year-old singer was arrested Thursday night while walking his dog on a 13-count indictment that includes sex crimes and obstruction of justice. A federal indictment was also unsealed in New York Friday that charges him with racketeering and sex-related crimes.

Kelly remained in federal custody over the weekend following his arrest. His attorney denied the allegations Friday.

A status hearing scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday in Chicago will determine if a federal judge will rule Tuesday on Kelly’s bail in both federal criminal cases.

Federal prosecutors have requested Kelly stay in custody, saying he is a flight risk and dangerous.

 

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Biden Cancer Nonprofit Suspends Operations Indefinitely

A nonprofit foundation set up by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden that relies on health care world partnerships to speed a cure for cancer has suspended its operations.

The Biden Cancer Initiative was founded two years ago by Biden and his wife, Jill, as a tribute to his son Beau, who died of cancer in 2015. The nonprofit promoted nearly 60 partnerships with drug companies, health care firms, charities and other organizations that pledged more than $400 million to improve cancer treatment.

Biden and his wife left the group’s board in April as an ethics precaution before joining the presidential race. The nonprofit had trouble maintaining momentum without their involvement. And the roles played by Biden allies and corporate interests continued to raise questions about their interests if Biden wins the presidency.

 

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Codebreaker Alan Turing To Be Face of New British Banknote

Codebreaker and computing pioneer Alan Turing has been chosen as the face of Britain’s new 50 pound note, the Bank of England announced Monday.

Governor Mark Carney said Turing, who did ground-breaking work on computers and artificial intelligence, was “a giant on whose shoulders so many now stand.”

During World War II Turing worked at the secret Bletchley Park code-breaking center, where he helped crack Nazi Germany’s secret codes by creating the Turing bombe,'' a forerunner of modern computers. He also developed theTuring Test” to measure artificial intelligence.

After the war he was prosecuted for homosexuality, which was then illegal, and forcibly treated with female hormones. He died at age 41 in 1954 after eating an apple laced with cyanide.

Turing received a posthumous apology from the British government in 2009, and a royal pardon in 2013.

The U.K’s highest-denomination note is the last to be redesigned and switched from paper to more secure and durable polymer. The redesigned 10 pound and 20 pound notes feature author Jane Austen and artist J.M.W. Turner.

The Turing banknote will enter circulation in 2021. It includes a photo of the scientist, mathematical formulae and technical drawings, and a quote from Turing: “This is only a foretaste of what is to come, and only the shadow of what is going to be.”

Former lawmaker John Leech, who led the campaign for a pardon, said he was “absolutely delighted” by the choice.

“I hope it will go some way to acknowledging his unprecedented contribution to society and science,” he said.

 “But more importantly I hope it will serve as a stark and rightfully painful reminder of what we lost in Turing, and what we risk when we allow that kind of hateful ideology to win.”

 

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Trump Tweets about Non-White Lawmakers Prompt Fresh Outrage

In a series of Sunday morning tweets quickly deemed racist and xenophobic by critics, U.S. President Donald Trump has provoked fresh controversy with taunts at several new members of Congress.

Trump on Twitter, targeted Progressive Democratic Congresswomen, telling them to “go back” and help fix the “crime infested” countries from which they came.

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

Of the four apparently targeted, only one — Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a native of Somalia — is foreign born. The other three are native Americans: Ayana Pressley (who is a representative from Massachusetts) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a native New Yorker (and represents the eastern part of the Bronx and a portion of north-central Queens), and Rashid Tlaib, of Michigan, was born in Detroit.

FILE – Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, Jan. 16, 2019.

The White House has not responded to a request from VOA on whether the president was aware prior to sending the tweets that three of the four are citizens by birth.

The progressives have been squabbling with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over immigration policy and other issues.

The dispute has attracted Trump’s attention in recent days, even prompting him to utter rare public support for Pelosi – at least when it comes to her attempt to rein in the newly elected foursome.

Trump’s tweets about the minority novice female members of Congress, known as ‘the squad,’ came about 20 minutes after a segment about them on the Fox News Channel. The president frequently reacts quickly on social media to what he sees on Fox.

FILE – Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., speaks at the 2019 Essence Festival at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, July 6, 2019.

Omar, in particular, has been a frequent topic of critical coverage on the cable television channel, in part due to her frequent criticism of Israel and comments perceived as anti-Semitic.

Omar and Tlaib are the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress.

In a Twitter response to Trump on Sunday, Omar reminded him that the United States is the only country to which members of Congress swear an oath.

“Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen,” added the Minnesotan.

Mr. President,

As Members of Congress, the only country we swear an oath to is the United States.

Which is why we are fighting to protect it from the worst, most corrupt and inept president we have ever seen. https://t.co/FBygHa2QTt

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) July 14, 2019

Many on social media are condemning Trump’s tweet — which even by his provocative norms are viewed as crossing a new line.

Among the most prominent is Pelosi, who terms Trump’s remark xenophobic, “meant to divide our nation” and “reaffirm his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making American white again.”
 

When @realDonaldTrump tells four American Congresswomen to go back to their countries, he reaffirms his plan to “Make America Great Again” has always been about making America white again.

Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power. https://t.co/ODqqHneyES

— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) July 14, 2019

Trump made the series of tweets prior to emerging from the North Portico of the White House clad in dark pants, a white short-sleeved shirt and a red “Make America Great Again” ball cap.

U.S. President Donald Trump, in golf attire, departs the White House for the drive to his Trump National Gold Club in Sterling, Virginia, in Washington, July 14, 2019.

As his motorcade traveled to one of his private golf courses in northern Virginia, Trump took to Twitter again to refute what reporters described who had accompanied Vice President Mike Pence during a visit to two detention centers for migrants in Texas.

“Great Reviews!” declared Trump of the tour by politicians and media to the facility for children. He characterized the pen holding adult men as “clean but crowded.”

Friday’s tour showed vividly, to politicians and the media, how well run and clean the children’s detention centers are. Great reviews! Failing @nytimes story was FAKE! The adult single men areas were clean but crowded – also loaded up with a big percentage of criminals……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey, who filed the collective print report from the scene, described a guarded area where nearly 400 men were crammed behind caged fences with not enough room for all of them to lie down on the concrete floor.

“A stench from body odor hung stale in the air,” wrote Dawsey, who said some of the men screamed they had been held for more than 40 days.

At the location, Pence had commented “this is tough stuff” as a group of detainees shouted, “no showers.”

Trump has repeatedly warned that if he is unseated by a Democrat in next year’s presidential campaign that the opposition party would turn the United States into a socialist country and open its borders to dangerous immigrants.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of voters released on Sunday shows Trump trailing the top four Democratic Party contenders in a hypothetical matchup.

Trump defied the polls in 2016 to defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the presidency.

 

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Heavy Rain Leaves Scores Dead in Nepal, India, Bangladesh

Flooding and landslides triggered by heavy rainfall have killed at least 50 people in Nepal in the past few days, with more deaths reported across the border in India and Bangladesh, officials said Sunday.

At least 30 other people were missing in Nepal, either swept away by swollen rivers or buried by mudslides since monsoon rains began pounding the region on Friday, Nepal’s National Emergency Operation Center said.
 
The center said nine key highways remained blocked by floods and mudslides, and attempts were underway to open them up for traffic. Among them is the East-West Highway, which connects Nepal’s southern districts.
 
Other roads were being cleared by thousands of police and soldiers. Continuing bad weather has grounded helicopter rescue flights. Workers were also repairing fallen communication towers to restore phone lines.
 
Thirty people have been treated for injuries and more than 1,100 others rescued from flooded areas. More than 10,000 are estimated to have been displaced.
 
Nepal’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology warned of more troubles ahead for the southern region near the main rivers, urging people to keep watch on rising water levels and move to higher ground when needed.
 
Rain-triggered floods, mudslides and lightning have left a trail of destruction in other parts of South Asia.
 
In Bangladesh, at least a dozen people, mostly farmers in rural areas, have been killed by lightning since Saturday as monsoon rains continue to batter parts of the low-lying country, according to officials and news reports.
 
Water Development Board official Rabiul Islam said about 40,000 people have been affected, mostly due to their homes being submerged underwater.
 
Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation of 160 million people with more than 130 rivers, is prone to monsoon floods because of overflowing rivers and the heavy onrush of water from upstream India.
 
Officials in northeastern India said at least 14 people were killed and over a million affected by flooding, state official Kumar Sanjay Krishna said. Six deaths were reported in neighboring Arunachal state.
 
Assam’s Kaziranga National Park, home to the endangered one-horn rhinoceros, has been flooded.
 
Floods and mudslides have also hit some other northeast Indian states, including Meghalaya, Sikkim and Mizoram. In Mizoram, floods have submerged about 400 homes in the small town of Tlabung, police said.
 

 

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Syria Says Militant Attack Shuts Down Gas Pipeline

Militants targeted a gas pipeline in government-controlled central Syria, putting it out of order Sunday, according to state media.

The SANA news agency didn’t name the attackers. The area in the central Homs province is close to where remnants of the Islamic State group are still holed up after losing all the territory they once held in the country.

SANA said technical teams are working to fix the pipeline, which links the Shaer fields to the Ebla processing plant. It did not elaborate on the extent of the damage or the nature of the attack.

The agency said the pipeline carries about 2.5 million cubic meters of gas to the processing plant and onward to power stations.

Islamic State militants briefly seized the Shaer fields in 2014 and 2016 before pro-government forces recaptured them in heavy fighting. Today much of Syria’s oil fields and infrastructure are held by U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led forces in the east.

In recent weeks, IS militants have increased their attacks against government troops, putting up checkpoints and ambushing convoys. While the government now controls over 60 percent of Syria, there is still a rebel stronghold in the northwest, where the government is waging a limited but stalled offensive. Smaller armed groups in northern, central and eastern Syria have vowed to target government and Kurdish-controlled facilities.

 

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Weakened Barry Rolls into Louisiana, Drenches Gulf Coast

Barry rolled into the Louisiana coast Saturday, flooding highways, forcing people to scramble to rooftops and dumping heavy rain that officials had feared could test the levees and pumps that were bolstered after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.

After briefly becoming a Category 1 hurricane, the system weakened to a tropical storm as it made landfall near Intracoastal City, about 160 miles (257km) west of New Orleans, with its winds falling to 70 mph (112km), the National Hurricane Center said.

By early evening, New Orleans had been spared the worst effects, receiving only light showers and gusty winds. But officials warned that Barry could still cause disastrous flooding across a wide stretch of the Gulf Coast and drop up to 20 inches (50 cm) of rain through Sunday across a part of Louisiana that includes New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

“This is just the beginning,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “It’s going to be a long several days for our state.”

Logan Courvlle walks in front of a flooded business after Hurricane Barry in Mandeville, La., July 13, 2019.

Levees overtopped south of New Orleans

The Coast Guard rescued a dozen people from flooded areas of Terrebonne Parish, south of New Orleans, some of them from rooftops, a spokeswoman said. The people included a 77-year-old man who called for help because he had about 4 feet of water in his home.

None of the main levees on the Mississippi River failed or were breached, Edwards said. But a levee in Terrebonne Parish was overtopped by water, officials said. And video showed water getting over a second levee in Plaquemines Parish, where fingers of land extend deep into the Gulf of Mexico. Terrebonne Parish ordered an evacuation affecting an estimated 400 people.

Nearly all businesses in Morgan City, about 85 miles west of New Orleans, were shuttered with the exception of Meche’s Donuts Shop. Owner Todd Hoffpauir did a brisk business despite the pounding winds and pulsating rain.

While making doughnuts, Hoffpauir said he heard an explosion and a ripping sound and later saw that the wind had peeled off layers of the roof at an adjacent apartment complex.

The sky is cloudy over Lake Pontchartrain on Lakeshore Drive as little flooding is reported in New Orleans, ahead of Tropical Storm Barry making landfall, July 13, 2019.

Still filling sandbags

In some places, residents continued to build defenses against rising water. At the edge of the town of Jean Lafitte just outside New Orleans, volunteers helped several town employees sandbag a 600-foot stretch of the two-lane state highway. The street was already lined with one-ton sandbags, and 30-pound bags were being used to strengthen them.

“I’m here for my family, trying to save their stuff,” volunteer Vinnie Tortorich said. “My cousin’s house is already under.”

In Lafayette, Willie Allen and his 11-year-old grandson, Gavin Coleman, shoveled sand into 20 green bags, joining a group of more than 20 other people doing the same thing during a break in the rain. Wearing a mud-streaked T-shirt and shorts, Allen loaded the bags onto the back of his pickup.

“Everybody is preparing,” he said. “Our biggest concern is the flood.”

Many businesses were also shut down or closed early in Baton Rouge, and winds were strong enough to rock large pickups. Whitecaps were visible on the Mississippi River.

Oil and gas operators evacuated hundreds of platforms and rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. Nearly 70% of Gulf oil production and 56% of gas production were turned off Saturday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which compiles the numbers from industry reports.

Vehicles sit in high water after heavy rain in New Orleans, July 10, 2019, in this image obtained from social media.

Barry preceded by deluge 

Barry developed from a disturbance in the Gulf that surprised New Orleans during the Wednesday morning rush with a sudden deluge that flooded streets, homes and businesses. For several days, officials braced for more flooding. But as sunset approached, the city saw only intermittent rain and wind, with occasional glimpses of sunshine.

Elsewhere, more than 120,000 customers in Louisiana and another nearly 6,000 customers in Mississippi and Alabama were without power Saturday, according to poweroutage.us.

During a storm update through Facebook Live, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham pointed to a computer screen showing a huge, swirling mess of airborne water.

“That is just an amazing amount of moisture,” he said. “That is off the chart.”

A man walks through rain in the French Quarter caused by Hurricane Barry in New Orleans, July 13, 2019.

Weekend of heavy rain

Barry was moving so slowly that heavy rain was expected to continue all weekend. Forecasts showed the storm on a path toward Chicago that would swell the Mississippi River basin with water that must eventually flow south again.

For a few hours, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), just above the 74 mph (120 kph) threshold to be a hurricane. Barry was expected to continue weakening and become a tropical depression Sunday.

Downpours also lashed coastal Alabama and Mississippi. Parts of Dauphin Island, a barrier island in Alabama, were flooded both by rain and surging water from the Gulf, said Mayor Jeff Collier, who drove around in a Humvee to survey damage. He said wind damage was minimal.

Flooding closed some roads in low-lying areas of Mobile County in Alabama, and heavy rains contributed to accidents, said John Kilcullen, director of plans and operations for Mobile County Emergency Management Agency.

A flood gate is closed as Tropical Storm Barry approaches land in New Orleans, July 13, 2019.

Governors declared emergencies in Louisiana and Mississippi, and authorities closed floodgates and raised water barriers around New Orleans. It was the first time since Katrina that all floodgates in the New Orleans area had been sealed.

Still, Edwards said he did not expect the Mississippi to spill over the levees despite water levels already running high from spring rains and melting snow upstream. The barriers range in height from about 20 feet to 25 feet (6 meters to 7.5 meters).

Authorities told at least 10,000 people in exposed, low-lying areas along the Gulf Coast to leave, but no evacuations were ordered in New Orleans, where officials urged residents to “shelter in place.”

Despite the apparent calm in her city, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell cautioned that the storm continued to pose a threat.

“The slow pace pushed the timing of expected impacts further into today, tonight and Sunday,” Cantrell said. “This means that New Orleans residents are not out of the woods with this system.”

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