Wednesday morning news: July 4, 2018

Wildfires scorching western states » Dozens of wildfires continue to scorch large areas of several western states.

Two of the worst are in California and Colorado. A fire in Yolo County in Northern California has now consumed more than 70,000 acres.

ANTHONY: The rates of spread—they were dangerous and they were explosive. 

Cal Fire’s Chris Anthony.

The Spring Fire in Southern Colorado has now burned roughly 80,000 acres and destroyed more than a 100 homes. Police have arrested an arson suspect related to that fire.  

Firefighters aren’t getting any help from the weather, which remains dry and windy.

Still another blaze in Utah is wreaking havoc. “Dollar Ridge” fire southeast of Salt Lake City has forced hundreds of residents to evacuate. Utah Governor Gary Herbert says fire crews have all hands on deck.

HERBERT: I know they’re bringing in a Type-1 team, which is as good as gets, and they’ll bring resources with them. But if we have too much wind, we’ll have a hard time with air support and being able to dump retardant and water in places that need to be done to contain. 

Herbert visited evacuees at a shelter on Tuesday. He said what frustrates him is that 92 percent of all wildfires in his state have been man-caused.

Judge rules against mass detention of asylum seekers » A federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to stop systematically detentaining people who are seeking asylum.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, DC, said the administration’s detention policy violated a 2009 Immigration and Customs Enforcement directive.

He ruled that instead of detaining nearly all asylum seekers, the administration must weigh on a case-by-case basis whether immigrants pose a danger or flight risk.

In previous years, officials have released up to 90 percent of such immigrants. By contrast, the Trump administration has been jailing most asylum seekers who cross the border illegally.

Boasberg said his opinion “does no more than hold the Government accountable to its own policy.”

White House changes affirmative action policies » The Trump administration is reversing some Obama-era guidelines on affirmative action and encouraging schools not to consider race in admissions. WORLD Radio’s Sarah Schweinsberg has that story.

SARAH SCHWEINSBERG, REPORTER: The Justice Department Tuesday rolled back seven policy guidances from the Education Department’s Civil Rights division. That’s according to The New York Times. The move restores Bush-era policies of raceneutral admissions.  

In 2011, the Obama administration encouraged schools to put affirmative action policies in place that were designed to ensure more diversity.

And in 2016 the Supreme Court ruled that schools can consider race as a factor in admissions, in limited ways.

With the new policy, some schools are worried they’ll be investigated for admissions policies that consider race.

A group of Asian-American students is suing Harvard for discrimination. If the case ends up at the Supreme Court, a new ruling could decide the future of affirmative action.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Sarah Schweinsberg.

Thai boys safe for now, but still trapped in cave » Rescuers in Thailand are still trying to figure out how to get 12 boys and their soccer coach safely out of a cave they’ve been trapped in for more 10 days.

A team of international rescuers found the group Monday, but now face several challenges. The escape route includes narrow passages submerged in water and some of the boys don’t know how to swim, let alone dive. And with heavy rain the forecast water levels could rise quickly creating strong currents.

Leading the boys out the cave with diving equipment would be risky, but waiting for water levels to recede could take weeks or even months. And Captain Jessica Tait of the U.S. Air Force says that’s also a bad option.

TAIT: They’ve been isolated, dark, no food. There’s not only physiological considerations, but probably psychological considerations.

Gary Mitchell with the British Cave Rescue Council says rescuers could attempt to lead the boys out in stages.

MITCHELL: So they may start to guide them out into small batches into other chambers, other pockets that are there. And do that over a staggered period of time. 

Seven members of the Thai Navy SEALs, including medics, are looking after the boys, ages 11 to 16, and their 25-year-old coach. All are in stable condition.

Merkel strikes deal on immigration » German Chancellor Angela Merkel is bending to pressure to toughen her country’s immigration policies WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen reports.

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: With many Germans demanding stricter immigration controls, Merkel has agreed to a plan to tighten the country’s borders. The compromise ended a tense stalemate between Merkel and other members of the coalition government. One top official had threatened to resign if Merkel didn’t shift her open-border stance.

The proposal would establish “transit centers” along Germany’s borders. These centers will detain immigrants while officials process their applications. The policy will also turn away immigrants who have already applied for protection in other European nations.

Germany has absorbed hundreds of thousands of immigrants in recent years. Many are refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Anna Johansen.

I’m Kent Covington. Up next, details on the leading candidates to replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. And a special Independence Day feature. This is The World and Everything in It.

(AP Photo/Noah Berger) Firefighters try to stop a wildfire as wind drives embers across Highway 20 near Clearlake Oaks, Calif., on Sunday, July 1, 2018.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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