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Tribune News Service

News Budget for papers of Sunday, November 17, 2019


Updated at 9 p.m. EST (0200 UTC).


These stories are recommended for weekend release, except where embargoes are noted. Please make sure you are adhering to embargoes on our stories in both your print and online operations.

This budget is now available at TribuneNewsService.com, with direct links to stories and art. See details at the end of the budget.


^How the US betrayed the Marshall Islands, kindling the next nuclear disaster<

ENV-MARSHALLISLANDS-RADIATION:LA _ Five thousand miles west of Los Angeles and 500 miles north of the equator, on a far-flung spit of white coral sand in the central Pacific, a massive, aging and weathered concrete dome bobs up and down with the tide.

Here in the Marshall Islands, Runit Dome holds more than 3.1 million cubic feet of U.S.-produced radioactive soil and debris, including lethal amounts of plutonium. Nowhere else has the United States saddled another country with so much of its nuclear waste, a product of its Cold War atomic testing program.

Between 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated 67 nuclear bombs on, in and above the Marshall Islands _ vaporizing whole islands, carving craters into its shallow lagoons and exiling hundreds of people from their homes.

Now the dome, which locals call "the Tomb," is at risk of collapsing from rising seas and other effects of climate change.

5400 (with trims) by Susanne Rust in Majuro, Marshall Islands. MOVED


^He saw a Marshall Islands nuclear bomb test up close. It's haunted him since 1952<

ENV-MARSHALLISLANDS-WITNESS:LA _ In the summer of 1952, Alan Jones, an industrious redhead with an impish smile, yearned for excitement and adventure. He drove down the California coast from Berkeley to La Jolla, hoping to join an oceanographic expedition heading to the South Pacific.

It wasn't until he was preparing to board the Scripps Institution of Oceanography's research vessel, a rusty old tuna hauler called the Horizon, that he discovered the mission involved more than mapping the ocean floor: The crew of Ph.D.s and handy guys like Jones, who "could fix things," was going to the Marshall Islands to record waves generated by the world's first hydrogen bomb.

Six months later, on Nov. 1, after watching an island get vaporized, Jones and the crew on the Horizon were doused in a shower of radioactive fallout.

1750 by Susanne Rust in Menlo Park, Calif. MOVED



^Okies disappearing from Dust Bowl Festival, replaced by Latino migrants tending California's fields<

^DUSTBOWL-FESTIVAL:LA_< The girl was afraid to speak in class because of her accent.

The clothes sewn by her farmworker mother made her self-conscious. She lived in a field laborers' camp outside the dusty town of Lamont, and many Californians despised people like her. Go back to where you came from, they said.

In the 1940s, Pat Rush's family was part of the wave of migrants who fled their farms in the drought-ravaged South and Midwest after the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, traveling west on Route 66 in search of work, and hope.

They were hated newcomers lumped together _ people from places such as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas _ under a single pejorative: Okies.

Rush is 84 now. It's a hot autumn day at the Dust Bowl Festival, the last one after 30 years because its organizers have grown too old, too tired.

2300 (with trims) by Hailey Branson-Potts in Weedpatch, Calif.. MOVED


^This state pays to help asylum-seekers avoid deportation<

ORE-IMMIGRANTS:SH _ One day five years ago, Alexander decided he'd had enough. Fed up with the culture of extortion in his home country of Honduras, Alexander stopped bribing the gang members who accosted him on his way to pay workers at his father's small ranch.

The police told Alexander to change his phone number, and he did, but within days, the gangs had his new number _ and issued new ultimatums. They vowed to kill him if he didn't pay up.

Alexander fled for Texas, where after three days of detention in the Houston airport, he applied for asylum in the United States. But the same Honduran gangs had a presence in Houston and, reportedly, a list of names and photos of people who had fled north. Once again, Alexander feared for his life, and two years ago, he left Texas for Oregon, where he works as a house painter.

Now, Alexander is represented by Equity Corps of Oregon, the state's new legal defense effort that uses technology to pair immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees with help in immigration court, no matter their ability to pay.

1850 (with trims) by Erika Bolstad in Portland, Ore. MOVED



^Ukraine's young corruption fighters struggle against elites _ and Donald Trump<

UKRAINE-ANTICORRUPTION:LA _ From her second-story walk-up office in Kyiv's old Perchersk neighborhood, Daria Kaleniuk has been fighting the fire-breathing dragons of Ukrainian corruption _ oligarchs and politicians and judges on the take.

Little did she know she would also be going up against the most powerful man on Earth, Donald Trump.

Kaleniuk is one of an entire new generation of Ukrainians who grew up in a freshly independent former Soviet republic that struggled to break free of Russia and to build institutions of basic governance. These young reformers speak English, aspire to Western values, reject their country's Soviet past, have turned away from Moscow _ and now fear that the U.S. has turned away from them.

1500 (with trims) by Tracy Wilkinson and Sabra Ayres in Kyiv, Ukraine. MOVED



^More vapers are making their own juice, but not without risks<

MED-VAPING-JUICE:KHN _ Danielle Jones sits at her dining room table, studying the recipe for Nerd Lyfe (v2) vape juice. The supplies she's ordered online are arrayed before her: a plastic jug of unflavored liquid nicotine, a baking scale and bottles of artificial flavors that, combined, promise to re-create the fruity taste of Nerds Rope candy in vapor form.

This is Jones' first attempt to make her own e-liquid after buying it for the past five years. Jones, 32, wants to be prepared for the worst-case scenario: a ban on the sale of the e-liquids she depends on to avoid cigarettes.

As more states, cities and even the federal government consider banning flavored nicotine, thousands of do-it-yourself vapers like Jones are flocking to social media groups and websites to learn how to make e-liquids at home.

1300 (with trims) by Jenny Gold in Menlo Park, Calif. MOVED




These stories moved earlier in the week and are suitable for weekend publication.


^She feeds Bel-Air's mega-mansion boom. But lunch is a battlefield<

LA-MANSIONS-BOOM:LA _ Twenty-thousand-dollar date palms fluttered in the breeze and cranes glinted against the sapphire sky as Jennifer Ramirez pulled her lunch truck to a stop outside the half-finished mansion on Bel Air Road.

It was her third stop on a balmy Friday, a bustling site packed with construction vehicles and hardhats laboring behind green privacy mesh. One moment, the 20-year-old from South Los Angeles stood alone on the glittering pavement, her 5-foot frame dwarfed by one of the most expensive homes ever built. The next, she was mobbed by a dozen hungry workers scrambling for their 9:45 a.m. lunch.

Her horn signals a 20-minute break in a 10-hour day, a chance to trade gossip with gardeners at the compound next door or the carpenters at the site down the block. Los Angeles is in the midst of a development boom. Ramirez's Munch Truck makes 15 stops in four hours, selling hundreds of meals to men who build homes the size of strip malls.

2250 by Sonja Sharp in Los Angeles. MOVED


^Trump wants to win even more rural votes in 2020. Democrats are scrambling to catch up<

TRUMP-RURALVOTERS:WA _ Corey Bauch is eager to explain why he regrets not voting for Donald Trump.

The 44-year old-agreed to meet with me last week in this rural Wisconsin town (population of 1,500), where he has lived most of his life. As we talked, horse-drawn buggies from the local Amish community rolled past a small outpost of stores, on their way to nearby farms.

The libertarian Bauch was one of the few in rural Wisconsin who didn't support Trump in 2016, saying he reminded him of an arrogant boss. But after the election, he began to see the president's outspoken style as an antidote to Washington's pervasive corruption.

He plans to vote for Trump next year.

Trump can win reelection in a number of ways. But perhaps the most likely way the president can win next November is with voters like Bauch, in rural regions of key battleground states, who didn't back Trump in 2016 but are inclined to do so now.

2700 (with trims) by Alex Roarty in Augusta, Wis. MOVED


^'Trump basically turned me into a Democrat': Working-class white women drifting away from the president<

TRUMP-WOMENVOTERS:WA _ One of the essential storylines of the 2016 presidential election was the hidden Donald Trump voter: the person who wasn't surveyed by pollsters or comfortable telling friends or family about who they thought was best to lead the country.

Three years ago, thousands of these Americans _ many working class, residing in the middle of the country _ helped deliver the most astounding electoral surprise in modern history. Now, as they review the Trump presidency a year before his reelection, some are showing signs of turning on conventional wisdom again.

The 2020 presidential campaign has been engrossed in a debate over which demographic groups Democrats should devote most of their attention to in order to reclaim the White House. African-Americans in urban areas? Rural voters who flipped from Barack Obama to Trump? Newly emerging but unreliable young people?

But the one pivotal group showing the most evident signs of splitting from the president are white working-class women.

2400 by David Catanese in Dubuque, Iowa. MOVED


^In this tiny California 'Trump country' town, folks hear the impeachment talk, but it feels a world away<

CALIF-TOWN-IMPEACHMENT:LA _ On the road into Taft, fields of fruit trees give way to orchards of oil rigs nodding on golden hills that shimmer against a blue sky like creased velvet.

This tiny oil town two hours northwest of Los Angeles has one stoplight and a city center that seems to go dark well before the sun goes down. Friday night football is the hottest ticket around. Children play on the quiet streets without a parent in sight. Taft, with all its 9,400 people, feels a world away from the impeachment drama in the nation's capital.

The city got its name from the 27th president, William H. Taft, who was famous for telling people that "politics makes me sick." Around here, a lot of people would agree.

1450 by Tyrone Beason in Taft, Calif. MOVED


^Ex-felons allowed to vote? Floridians gave the issue national prominence, but it could be in jeopardy<

FELONS-VOTING:LA _ Curtis Bryant Jr. has an evening routine _ he scrolls through the television channels, stopping briefly for headlines on a local station before flipping to the national news.

There's the back-and-forth impeachment drama and all-too-familiar segments about people working full-time jobs yet struggling to make ends meet. And, since the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, he's paid close attention to the fight over gun control.

Bryant, 38, says he is more engaged in social and political issues than ever before and that he's counting down the days until next year's elections.

"Voting is my voice. It's a voice I've never used, but I'm ready."

But that might prove difficult.

Bryant is among the roughly 1.4 million Floridians who had their voting rights restored last year by state voters through a ballot measure.

But within months, the state's Republican-controlled Legislature acted to limit the effect of the initiative.

1550 (with trims) by Kurtis Lee in Orlando, Fla. MOVED


^The tiny plastic packages that are fueling Asia's waste crisis<

ENV-PHILIPPINES-SACHETS:LA _ Two dozen children fanned out along a creek near their elementary school, filling sacks with litter left by residents of the concrete shacks lining the waterway.

When they'd finished the morning cleanup, the students emptied a large garbage bag to study its contents. A stream of shiny plastic scraps spilled onto the school's driveway.

Bearing the names of familiar international brands of coffee creamer, biscuits, laundry detergent and candy, the discarded packaging illustrated one of the biggest environmental challenges facing Asia's booming cities. The palm-sized packets known as sachets have exploded in emerging economies, allowing low-income consumers to buy single servings of almost any product.

But the packaging cannot be easily recycled, and in cities like Manila with spotty waste collection, the used pouches have piled up in empty fields, collected in sewers and spilled into rivers and oceans.

1350 (with trims) by Shashank Bengali in Manila, Philippines. MOVED


^Farmers struggle as hemp harvest winds down<

FARM-HEMP-HARVEST:SH _ Ajit Singh strode across his 16-acre hemp field toward a broken-down harvester. He'd been hoping all day that the mechanic now crouched beside the machine could get it back up and running.

It was late October and Singh still had thousands of stinky green and purple cannabis plants across 425 acres to pick, dry and sell before winter. Like many hemp growers here in Jackson County, Ore., he was harvesting slowly, facing a mold problem and unhappy with prices offered by potential buyers.

"We want a better price," said Singh, a soil scientist and former garden store owner _ and, he said, he was prepared to hold out for one.

Hemp growers nationwide scaled up this year after Congress legalized the non-psychoactive cannabis. They hoped to cash in on the booming market for cannabinoids such as wellness darling CBD, an ingredient in oils, tinctures and salves. But as harvest winds down, it's likely that many growers will go bust.

2100 (with trims) by Sophie Quinton and April Simpson in Phoenix, Ore. MOVED


^Crisis of spirit: An Army chaplain's journey with PTSD<

RELIG-ARMY-CHAPLAIN:SD _ With a name like Robert Blessing, he seemed destined to become a preacher.

But the decision to join the U.S. Army as a chaplain? That was all his doing.

And his undoing.

Like thousands of others, the 61-year-old San Diegan struggles with memories of what he saw while he was away at war, struggles with what was lost.

Eighteen men and women he served alongside during a yearlong deployment to Iraq were killed. Dozens of others were injured.

It was his time-honored job _ Army chaplains have been around since the Revolutionary War _ to lead memorial services for the slain, offer encouragement to the wounded, counsel those who doubted the presence of a holy spirit in a place filled with hatred and violence.

But who comforts the comforters?

1750 (with trims) by John Wilkens in San Diego. MOVED




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