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Opinion: Extreme heat kills. What the US can do to protect the most vulnerable | CNN

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Opinion: Extreme heat kills. What the US can do to protect the most vulnerable | CNN

Editor’s Note: Mark Wolfe is an energy economist and serves as the executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, representing the state directors of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and co-director of the Center on Climate, Energy and Poverty. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.



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Summer starts Thursday, and record-breaking temperatures are already cascading across the United States. Triple-digit temperatures have hit the western states, with the Northeast, Midwest and Great Lakes regions expected to see extreme heat waves this week.

Current US strategies for keeping families cool, including access to cooling centers — temporary shelters during heat waves — may have worked when temperatures were lower and the duration of heat waves was shorter, but in today’s climate, these outdated cooling methods are inadequate.

Weather-related deaths from extreme heat are more common than from those from hurricanes, floods, extreme cold and other natural disasters. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1,220 people die from extreme heat every year. And some experts think that these numbers understate the full extent of the problem because of a lack of consistent methods to record these deaths.

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We need a full paradigm shift in policy to deploy the right solutions to the people who need them most.

The cost of home cooling has been rising steadily for the last 10 years, in part because families need to purchase more electricity to cool their homes as temperatures continue to rise. The National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) and the Center for Energy Poverty and Climate project that the financial burden to families of keeping cool this summer will increase by 7.9% across the United States to an average of $719 from June through September. That’s up from $661 during the same period last year.

Low-income families will be at greatest risk of falling behind on their utility bills this summer, and therefore of facing utility shutoffs and suffering dangerous health effects of extreme heat exposure.

The average energy burden for low-income households is about 8.6% of income, three times the rate for non-low-income households (3%). And according to the US Energy Information Administration, almost 20% of low-income families making less than $20,000 per year reported having no air-conditioning equipment in 2020. Increasing access to adequate cooling throughout the summer months for these families is imperative.

As of now, only 17 states and Washington, DC have protections against utility shutoffs during the summer, and many of those protections are limited in scope to periods of extreme temperatures.

To make matters worse, funding for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides formula grants to states to help struggling households pay their energy bills, has been reduced from $6.1 billion in fiscal year 2023 to $4.1 billion for fiscal year 2024, leaving states with few options other than reducing assistance.

Congress must restore the $2 billion that was cut from LIHEAP back to the program this year. But, given that’s not likely, utilities across the United States should agree to voluntarily suspend power shutoffs during the summer.

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They should also add bill payment assistance programs that provide a set of tiered discounts that reflect households’ abilities to pay. Several states have already implemented different levels of utility discounts with successful outcomes, including Connecticut, which just put into effect a program providing a discount on monthly electric utility bills of up to 50% for low-income families.

Long term, we need to invest in solutions that we know work and are cost-effective. Federal programs, like the longstanding Weatherization Assistance Program and the more recently passed Home Electrification and Appliance Rebates program, can lead the way to helping low-income families stay safe in their homes during both the winter heating and summer cooling seasons. But they must be adequately funded to reach their full potential.

During periods of extreme heat, cooling is not just a luxury that provides comfort, but a necessary measure that helps families across all income brackets, and especially low-income families, stay safe.

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More Democratic lawmakers call for Joe Biden to withdraw from election race

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More Democratic lawmakers call for Joe Biden to withdraw from election race

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Eight more Democratic lawmakers, including a third US senator, have called for Joe Biden to withdrawn from this year’s White House presidential race, deepening the peril for his campaign for re-election.

In a joint statement on Friday morning, four US House members — Jared Huffman, Mark Pocan, Chuy Garcia and Marc Veasey — said it was time for the 81-year-old president to “pass the torch to a new generation of Democratic leaders”.

“We must face the reality that widespread public concerns about your age and fitness are jeopardising what should be a winning campaign,” the politicians added. House Democrats Sean Casten, Greg Landsman and Zoe Lofgren also called on Biden to drop out on Friday morning.

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Meanwhile, New Mexico senator Martin Heinrich became the third Democratic member of the upper chamber of Congress to urge Biden to drop out, joining Jon Tester of Montana and Vermont’s Peter Welch.

“This moment in our nation’s history calls for a focus that is bigger than any one person,” Henrich said, adding it was “in the best interests of our country” for the president to end his campaign.

Biden insisted on Friday that he would remain in the race, saying in a statement he “look[ed] forward to getting back on the campaign trail next week to continue exposing the threat of Donald Trump’s Project 2025 agenda”.

The president has been isolating at his holiday home in Delaware since testing positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday. White House doctor Kevin O’Connor said on Friday that Biden’s symptoms had “improved meaningfully” and he would continue taking Paxlovid, the antiviral drug.

The new wave of lawmakers calling for Biden to quit comes as Democratic party grandees such as former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as the megadonors crucial to funding his campaign, heap pressure on him behind the scenes.

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The Financial Times reported on Thursday that donors and other senior party operatives believe Biden is very close to a decision to exit.

Chris Coons, the Democratic senator and close Biden ally, said on Friday that the president was getting the necessary advice to make a decision about his political future.

“I am confident he is hearing what he needs to hear,” he said while speaking on a panel at the Aspen Security Forum.

But Coons — who insisted Biden was “strong” and “capable” enough to carry on — acknowledged the unease within the Democratic party, saying: “There is a lot of concern and anxiety because the stakes are so significant.”

The latest interventions came a day after Trump formally accepted the Republican party’s nomination for president, less than a week after he narrowly escaped assassination in Pennsylvania.

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The former president has surged ahead of Biden in the polls despite his recent criminal convictions, building a lead across the crucial swing states that will decide November’s vote.

About 30 members of Congress have now said Biden needs to drop his re-election bid, a view shared privately by many more who have not yet gone public.

However, some Democrats, including many progressives, have supported him. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used an Instagram livestream in the early hours of Friday to fiercely defend the president and accuse “donors” and “elites” of trying to cast him and vice-president Kamala Harris aside.

Biden’s disastrous debate performance against Trump last month sparked panic in the Democratic party over his age and fitness for office. After testing positive for Covid in Nevada he was seen apparently struggling to ascend a staircase into Air Force One to return home.

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Escaped prisoner found in Georgia 30 years later, using the identity of a dead child

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Escaped prisoner found in Georgia 30 years later, using the identity of a dead child

Steven Johnson escaped from Mill Creek Correctional Facility in Salem, Ore., during a prison work detail in 1994. He was arrested on Tuesday in Macon, Ga., where had had assumed the identity of a dead child.

Oregon Department of Corrections/Bibb County Sheriff’s Office


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Oregon Department of Corrections/Bibb County Sheriff’s Office

An Oregon fugitive that escaped from prison 30 years ago was arrested at his apartment on Tuesday afternoon in Macon, Ga. According to authorities, he had been living under the identity of a dead child.

Steven Craig Johnson, 70, fled from a prison work detail at the Mill Creek Correctional Facility in Salem, Ore., in 1994. He was serving a state prison sentence for three counts of sex abuse and one count of attempted sodomy.

Johnson was listed on the Oregon Department of Corrections “Most Wanted” list. He was described as a pedophile who “presents a high probability of victimizing pre-teen boys.”

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At the time of his arrest, Johnson was using the alias William Cox. According to the U.S. Marshals Service, Johnson stole the identity of a child who died in Texas in 1962 after obtaining the child’s birth certificate and Social Security number in 1995.

Johnson secured a Georgia driver’s license in 1998, and had been living in Macon since 2011. The Oregon Corrections Department requested the U.S. Marshals to take on the search for Johnson in 2015. After pursuing multiple leads, new technology used by the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service helped uncover new leads this year.

The facility Johnson escaped from was a minimum-security prison with no fence around it. Mill Creek prison closed in June 2021 under an order from former Gov. Kate Brown.

Johnson was booked into Bibb County Jail after arrest. He currently awaits extradition to Oregon.

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Video: Trump Accepts the Republican Nomination

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Video: Trump Accepts the Republican Nomination

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Trump Accepts the Republican Nomination

Former President Donald J. Trump concluded the Republican National Convention on Thursday with a speech that ran for more than an hour and a half.

[music: “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood] I am running to be president for all of America, not half of America. Because there is no victory in winning for half of America. So tonight, with faith and devotion, I proudly accept your nomination for President of the United States. Thank you. We will very quickly make America great again. Thank you very much.

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