The Atlantic Daily: Fire and Flood

Explosions at a Texas chemical plant, why Trump may be about to revoke DACA, a forensic veterinarian's work, and more

A police officer lays down a safety flare while blocking the road leading to the Arkema SA plant, which was hit by floods caused by Tropical Storm Harvey near Crosby, Texas, on August 31, 2017. (Adrees Latif / Reuters)

What We’re Following

Harvey, Continued: A petrochemical company in Crosby, Texas, experienced explosions and fires due to a power failure caused by flooding—and with multiple energy facilities damaged in the Houston area, more chemical accidents are likely. In the longer term, scientists expect that a “turbocharged water cycle” fed by global warming will lead to more of the extreme rainfall that’s caused historic floods in Harvey’s wake. Already, meteorologists are tracking another hurricane, Irma, which has reached Category 3 status over the Atlantic Ocean. It’s too early to tell where Irma will hit, or how much of a threat it poses—but if it struck a major city like Miami or New York, the results would be catastrophic.

Trump and His Advisers: As early as tomorrow, President Trump is expected to revoke DACA, the Obama-era program that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation—a long-delayed campaign promise that immigration hardliners may have finally forced him to fulfill. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis has called for a policy review of Trump’s ban on transgender troops, which could soon put Mattis at odds with the president.

A Wealth of Knowledge: The Department of Education confirmed it’s hired Julian Schmoke, the former dean of the for-profit DeVry University, to lead its student-aid enforcement unit. He’ll be in charge of responding to allegations of fraud—like the ones DeVry faced during Schmoke’s time there. And a new study challenges the perception that collegiate education is an equalizer, showing that elite schools are far less accessible to low-income students than many people believe.


The town of Simonton, Texas, in satellite photos taken by the imaging company DigitalGlobe in November 2016, and again after Hurricane Harvey. See more before-and-after satellite shots here and the latest photos of flooding here.

Who We’re Talking To

Lena Waithe, the actress and writer nominated for an Emmy for Master of None, discusses how things are changing for black women in Hollywood.

Lisa Keefe, the editor of the meat-processing trade publication Meatingplace, explains the ins and outs of her industry and how it’s evolved.

Alondra Nelson, the president-elect of the Social Science Research Council, describes how genetic testing can help African Americans connect with heritage that was once lost through the slave trade. Watch the interview here.

Evening Read

Stefanie Marsh profiles the investigator Melinda Merck:

An ace at forensics, Merck has helped crack cases involving crimes from pedophilia to drug dealing. She’s credited by the chiefs of both the FBI and the National Sheriffs’ Association with having revolutionized their crime-fighting efforts, and won awards from both the Department of Justice and the U.S. Office of Inspector General.

But Merck isn’t a run-of-the-mill crime-scene investigator. She’s a veterinarian.

For more than 20 years, Merck has been studying and solving animal-abuse cases. Now, she’s going a step further by persuading law enforcement that there’s a link between animal cruelty and other serious crimes, like domestic violence, arson, and murder. It’s CSI for animals, but with a twist: Look closely, says Merck, and you’ll likely find a clue that leads to a whole trail of criminal behavior.

Keep reading here, as Marsh recounts how Merck became a leader in the field of veterinary forensics.

What Do You Know … About Global Affairs?

American politics have always held a special place of interest for many overseas observers. But under President Trump, coverage by foreign outlets of the inner workings of the White House, the administration, and the president himself has increased abroad. Overseas officials have also demanded answers, and during his recent trip to Iraq, Defense Secretary James Mattis sought to reassure nervous allies about Trump’s intentions in the Middle East. Not all U.S. allies in the region are worried, however—for one, Emirati Ambassador Yousef Al-Otaiba says his government admires the president’s “forward-leaning posture” on extremism and Iran.

Can you remember the other key facts from this week’s global coverage? Test your knowledge below:

1. As part of the announced reorganization of the U.S. State Department, Secretary Rex Tillerson has selected ____________ special envoy positions for elimination or retirement.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

2. Every year, thousands of people gather in the Spanish town of Buñol for a festival that involves throwing 150 tons of _____________ at each other.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

3. The ____________—a key work of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah—has been translated into English, illustrating a resurgence in the popularity of Kabbalah.

Scroll down for the answer, or find it here.

Answers: 9 / tomatoes / Zohar

Urban Developments

Our partner site CityLab explores the cities of the future and investigates the biggest ideas and issues facing city dwellers around the world. Gracie McKenzie shares three of today's top stories:

Of the millions battling Harvey right now, many may have ended up in the area during Hurricane Katrina this time 12 years ago. Here’s one reason why Houston evacuees aren’t likely to relocate to New Orleans.

“To live next to a dam and never fathom a breach is not a uniquely Texan brand of magical thinking. Virtually everyone has a hard time imagining enormous natural disasters—even when all signs point to the ‘Big One.’

When you imagine Burning Man, you might picture naked people riding bikes and making out and setting things on fire. But, for a psychedelic, safety-third debauch, it has an awful lot of rules.

For more updates from the urban world, subscribe to CityLab’s daily newsletter.

Reader Response

After Julie Beck wrote about the effort and work required to maintain close friendships, a reader shared a perspective from the LGBT community:

Friendship means something different, in my experience, to LGBT people. A lot of the time, our families aren't going to able to offer us the kind of support we need, either because of negative feelings toward the gay family member or simply because the experience of “not being straight” isn't comparable to the experience of “being straight,” so straight parents and siblings don't know what to do or how to relate. In that way, my friends are my family. I'm closer to them because I chose them, and we chose each other because we have similar life experiences on a level that's impossible for straight people to understand. I love my families, both blood relation and friends, in different ways.

See more readers’ responses on friendships and how they maintain them here.


Devotional apps, presidential splurges, thunderstorm whisperers, Tulip Fever.

Time of Your Life

Happy birthday to Brendan’s friend Lindsey (a year younger than texting); to Ray’s son Paul (twice the age of Twitter); to Kathryn (the same age as the Voting Rights Act); to Amy (a year younger than Barbie); to Barbara’s son Aaron (twice the age of Shark Week); and from Andrew to Jake (a year younger than Amazon).

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