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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

What's left of Hurricane Hilary has been bringing heavy rain to parts of southern California that have rarely, if ever, experienced a tropical storm.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Some roads are underwater. And the nation's second largest school district won't open today. And millions are being told just stay home.

MARTÍNEZ: Erin Stone with LAist has been riding out the storm in Palm Springs. Erin, lots of concerns about high winds, heavy rain in the mountains maybe causing some floods either in coastal cities or desert communities. How bad has it been?

ERIN STONE, BYLINE: Yeah, there was significant flooding across the region. But as expected, mountain and desert communities, especially the San Bernardino Mountains and the Coachella Valley here where I'm at, saw the heaviest impacts and most flash flooding. Here in the desert, the soils are so dry that they can't absorb this much water at once. And many streets are actually part of the flood control system here, so they are expected to flood during heavy rains. But there hasn't been as widespread an impact to life as officials originally worried. It seems like the public largely heard the message to prepare ahead of time and stay home, which helped a lot. So that old adage better safe than sorry seems to have been the wisdom of the weekend.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, I went nowhere on Sunday. Normally, I'd be out, but I didn't.

STONE: (Laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: Now, a lot of rain all over Southern California. What can you tell us about where this storm has maybe packed the biggest punch?

STONE: Yeah, so this is the first tropical storm to actually land in Southern California in several decades. So it's fair to say most residents across the region have no living memory of what it is to experience something like this. The storms have broken daily rainfall records across Southern California, so from downtown LA to Palm Springs. Here in Palm Springs, for example, we saw more than half a year's worth of rain in just one day. And as you know, schools in the region have also decided not to start class today. Roads have turned to rivers, and there have been dangerous muddy debris flows and burn scars and waterways.

Emergency responders have had to rescue and evacuate dozens of people, including a mobile home park here in the Coachella Valley and a homeless encampment along the San Diego River. And the city of Palm Springs even had its 911 call line go down, though people can still text. But, you know, the worst of the storm was largely within what governments and emergency responders have expected and prepared for. And there really haven't been widespread threats to life.

MARTÍNEZ: And then, in the middle of the day yesterday, just as everyone's getting ready for all the weather - all the wet weather - there was an earthquake, which, of course, Erin, I slept right through. And there was this hashtag, #hurriquake (ph). Tell us about that.

STONE: Yeah, that's California for you, right, A? Yeah, a hurriquake. It's been reported it was a 5.1 magnitude earthquake near Ojai in Ventura County. That's about 80 miles northwest of LA. And, you know, there were no immediate reports of major damage or injuries. And it also wasn't related to the storm. It wasn't related to the tropical storm. It was just a good, old-fashioned coincidence.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, it's got to be a six to wake me up, unfortunately. So what's the day ahead look like?

STONE: At this point, we're only dealing with remnants of the storm, which we're anticipating will be downgraded to a tropical depression. And it's expected to continue to die down this morning. Skies down here in Palm Springs are expected to be back to their usual sunny-ness by early afternoon. Through Monday, it'll be moving up into Nevada, into the Pacific Northwest, dying out on the way. So once Southern Californians wake up today, the damage assessments can begin in full.

MARTÍNEZ: Absolutely. Erin Stone with member station LAist. Thanks a lot, Erin.

STONE: Thanks, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: In Guatemala, a reformist candidate beat all the odds and is now the country's president-elect.

MARTIN: Bernardo Arevalo has been an anti-corruption crusader in a notoriously corrupt country, one where people like him have been persecuted by ruling elites. Remarkably, though, it appears that he won in a landslide with a 20 percentage point lead.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Eyder Peralta is on the line with us from Guatemala City. Eyder, let's start with the streets. What's been the reaction to the results?

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: Well, look; right now, it's very quiet because it's early morning here.

MARTÍNEZ: (Whispering) OK.

PERALTA: But just a few hours ago, it was one big party. Thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets. And they waited for their president-elect to emerge from a hotel balcony. And I just want to play some tape of what it was like there.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORNS BLARING)

PERALTA: There's fireworks in the sky. There's motorcyclists. People have the Guatemalan flag. This is a moment for Guatemalan people. I think a lot of people here feel that they have defeated a government that had been taking power for the last few years. And they did it.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORNS BLARING)

PERALTA: (Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken)

PERALTA: So she says that what she's feeling right now is that democracy has been defended.

(Non-English language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

PERALTA: So at the end there, I asked her, do you think tomorrow will be different? And she said, we have faith, and we voted for him on faith.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So tell us about this outsider who won by a huge margin. I mean, who is he? What's his background? What does it mean for the country?

PERALTA: Bernardo Arevalo is a congressman but of a tiny party that no one really knew until a couple of months ago. He's an academic, a sociologist. And he's the son of Guatemala's first democratically elected president. He was also the unlikeliest candidate to win this election. And that's because, one, he had no money. He was the only candidate who didn't have billboards here.

And two, he was running an anti-corruption campaign in a country where the ruling class had been going on a hunt for people fighting corruption. Over the past few years, independent prosecutors, judges, journalists, civil rights defenders have been fleeing Guatemala because the government has been using public institutions to persecute them. And every analyst I've spoken to says Bernardo Arevalo has the chance to be a circuit breaker. He has the chance to stop Guatemala's democratic backslide. And in his victory speech, that's exactly what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERNARDO AREVALO: (Non-English language spoken).

PERALTA: He said the votes were counted and what the people say is enough, enough with this corruption.

MARTÍNEZ: The thing is, though, there's always a lot of hope for change in some Latin American countries. What are the chances, though, of real change coming to Guatemala?

PERALTA: Well, I mean, President-elect Bernardo Arevalo would have a tiny minority in Congress, so he's going to have to make deals to govern. And he also has a justice department that he won't really control, and then in the past few days has been threatening to bring charges against him. It's worth noting that those threats have been widely viewed as being politically motivated. And then there's his rival. Sandra Torres has not yet conceded, but the president of the country has congratulated Arevalo and said he's ready to help him with the transition.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Eyder Peralta in Guatemala City. Thanks for keeping track of this.

PERALTA: Thank you, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: Lawmakers in Tennessee come together this week to talk about public safety.

MARTIN: The governor called a special session of the legislature, this after three 9-year-old children and three adults were killed in a school shooting in Nashville last spring. In the days after the killings at the Covenant School, hundreds of high school students walked out of their classrooms in protest. And large crowds demonstrated for gun control in Tennessee's capital.

MARTÍNEZ: WPLN political reporter Blaise Gainey has been covering all this. He joins us now from Nashville. Blaise, this special session was supposed to be about gun reforms. The republican supermajority in the legislature has been saying for weeks that they want to focus on other public safety concerns. So is meaningful gun reform even on the table?

BLAISE GAINEY, BYLINE: No, nothing meaningful at all, actually. Right now, in the state, there's no permit needed to carry for anyone 18 or older and no penalties for unsafe gun storage. And the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation shows that the state leads the nation in guns stolen from cars. The biggest thing around guns expected to happen is legislation around the promotion of a state-paid PSA that will encourage owners - gun owners, that is - to lock up their guns. Paired with that, the governor wants lawmakers to pass a law that will let the state hand out free gun locks on request and make sales of gun safes tax free.

One thing that many people wanted to see was a red flag law to take guns away from people who are considered a danger to themselves or others. But Republicans have called the idea a nonstarter, and it's not expected to get heard during this special session. And I should mention that this is going to be a short session. We're hearing that it'll wrap up on Thursday.

MARTÍNEZ: Oh, OK, so quick. All right, so if they're not talking about guns, then what will they be talking about?

GAINEY: Yeah, so the main topics will be mental health, juvenile sentencing and background checks. There's one mental health bill that would require treatment facilities to notify law enforcement if they release an individual who was involuntarily committed for psychiatric care. There's a proposal that would raise the age at which youth can have their records expunged and lower the age at which they can be sentenced as adults. Now, juvenile crime in the state is down, but crime committed with a firearm is up. And Tennessee already has some of the strictest juvenile sentencing in the country.

And for background checks right now, it takes longer than the state would like for information to get into the system, so they just want stricter reporting requirements. That way, someone who isn't supposed to have a gun can't go out and buy one before their name is entered into the system.

MARTÍNEZ: I remember, last spring, there were a lot of demonstrations inside the Capitol. Lots of young people especially were demanding gun reform. What are you hearing about what they might be planning now?

GAINEY: Yeah, there are several rallies already scheduled. I know some were taking place this morning ahead of the start of the afternoon session. One is led by Representative Justin J. Pearson, who was a member of the Tennessee Three. Those are the three Democratic lawmakers who led a gun control protest on the House floor. Pearson and Representative Justin Jones, who won back their seats after they were just expelled over that protest, are definitely expected to be there.

Now, I'm not sure how large these demonstrations will be. Last March, after the Covenant School shooting, there were thousands of people outside and inside the Capitol. It's no signs that it'll be that large, but you really never know. And the parents of the schoolchildren who were killed has said that they will be present. And since the shooting, they've held several press conferences calling for gun reform. And they've had several meetings with lawmakers as well.

MARTÍNEZ: Blaise Gainey in Nashville. Thanks a lot for your reporting.

GAINEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. 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 NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
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