Here and Now

Flooding & Power Loss After Irene, Rising College Costs and Dropout Rates: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm: Flooding from rains dumped by tropical storm Irene have isolated entire towns in the Northeast, and some communities are warily watching swollen rivers for signs of cresting. More than 2 and a half million people from North Carolina to Maine lacked electricity today, three days after Irene churned up the Eastern Seaboard. The storm has been blamed for at least 40 deaths in 11 states. One of the hardest hit is Vermont. We get the latest from Candace Page, senior reporter with the Burlington Free Press.

1:12pm: Community College is supposed to take 2 years, but 80% of the students who enroll fail to graduate even after 3 years. The numbers at 4 year colleges are not much better — only half the students who enroll manage to get their Bachelors’ degrees in 6 years. Statistics like those, says reporter Jon Marcus, “have helped push the U.S. from 1st to 10th in the world” for the proportion of college graduates, and “threaten to make this generation of college-age Americans the first to be less-well educated than their parents.” President Obama vowed to reverse this trend with a major speech at Macomb Community College in Michigan 2 years ago. Marcus visited Macomb this year and found that things have actually gotten “much, much worse” for public and community college students — severe budget cuts have translated into higher tuition and fees and less financial aid, forcing students to work more while they go to school. The budget cuts also mean fewer classes, making it harder for students to find room in required courses. We’ll speak with Marcus about what he found out.

1:50pm: Getting caught up in fictional lives, whether in a book or on TV, or daydreaming about the future may seem like a waste of time. But according to Yale University Psychologist Paul Bloom, getting involved in works of the imagination, whether it be in a daydream or a movie can have value, and people spend more time in that kind of leisure activity as opposed to activities they say they do more, like eating or playing or sex. Bloom writes about the benefits of exploring fantasy worlds as part of his book How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like — and he joins us this hour to explain.

Here and Now

FEMA Money Stretched Thin, Prioritizing Infrastructure Vital in Natural Disaster Preparation: Today on Here and Now

1:06pm: FEMA is running out of cash. The agency has suspended cash payments to tornado ravaged areas like Birmingham and Joplin… so it can spend money on Hurricane Irene relief. But there’s going to have to be more money and that means the Obama administration will need to go to Congress. We’ll get an update.

1:12pm Hurricane Irene wasn’t as bad as predicted, but today is the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. How prepared are we for disasters? We’ll ask Cornell University engineering professor Thomas O’Rourke, who is an expert on the effects of natural disasters on infrastructure. O’Rourke says megadisasters are the “new normal” and not enough critical thinking is taking place ahead of time to decide what top infrastructure priorities are before what he calls “low probability high consequence events” like big storms.

1:20pm And here’s an unintended consequence to a human-made disaster: Archaeologists traveling with BP workers working to clear the oil from beaches along the Gulf Coast have discovered 60 new archaeological sites in Louisiana alone, and artifacts from these sites are shedding new light on the complexity of Native American civilizations that lived along the Gulf as far back as 15,000 years ago.

Local News

How to Track Hurricane Irene

Hurricane Irene made landfall in North Carolina this morning and is moving up the east coast. The storm is among the largest to hit the coast in decades.

To track the storm, you can use the National Weather Service or check reports from the ground on social media. The New York Times has a state-by-state guide to social media storm updates.

As of 5:00 Saturday, an estimated four people are dead, hundreds of thousands of people are without power and more than 9,000 flights have been canceled.

Local News Politics

Businesses and Organizations Prepare for Hurricane Relief

Several Louisville-area organizations are preparing to help eastern states in the path of Hurricane Irene.

Louisville Gas and Electric crews have been sent to Pennsylvania and Virginia to help restore power, should lines be damaged. Crews from other states often come to Kentucky during severe outages.

The Bluegrass chapter of the American Red Cross has sent volunteers to the east as well to help with any necessary relief efforts. While many Salvation Army chapters in the hurricane’s path have been mobilized, the Louisville chapter has been put on standby.