Project Loon partners with AT&T in Puerto Rico

AT&T and a Google-born moonshot project have teamed up to beam cell service to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico from giant floating balloons.

It’s called Project Loon, and it was developed by X, a former branch of Google that became part of Alphabet when the company restructured. The idea is to broaden coverage using balloons that function like mobile cell towers.

To bring the service to Puerto Rico, X needed a telecommunications partner in the area. That’s where AT&T came in. The companies said Friday they are “now supporting basic communication” for “some people with LTE enabled phones.”

People will be able to use the “limited” Loon service to access the internet and send text messages, though the companies couldn’t say how many customers may have gained new access to coverage.

The Federal Communications Commission said up to 30 balloons can fly. An X spokesperson said there’s already a “handful” of balloons in the region and more are on the way.

One month after Hurricane Maria ripped through the island, more than 68 percent of Puerto Rico’s cell sites are still out of service, according to the FCC. (Cell sites are pieces of equipment, like cell towers, that provide coverage.)

The island’s fragile infrastructure continues to impede companies, including AT&T, from restoring service to many areas of the island. So, they’ve turned to alternative technologies.

Temporary satellite-based cell sites are serving some areas. And the goal for Loon is to reach the hardest hit parts of the island.

But there are limitations. A spokesman for AT&T said the balloons work via solar power, so they cannot provide service at nighttime.

Loon did prove to be effective for flooded areas of Peru earlier this year.

Misery in Puerto Rico: No power, no job, ‘enormous’ lines

X said the reason Loon was up and running so quickly in Peru was because the group had already been working alongside Telefónica. Their systems were already integrated and tests were conducted in the months before Loon ramped up its internet coverage.

In Puerto Rico, however, X essentially had to start at square one.

The Federal Communications Commission issued an “experimental license” to X on October 7, and at that point, X still did not yet have a telecommunications partner for the project.

“We’ve never deployed Project Loon connectivity from scratch at such a rapid pace,” Loon project director Alastair Westgarth said in a blog post Friday.

“Project Loon is still an experimental technology and we’re not quite sure how well it will work, but we hope it helps get people the information and communication they need to get through this unimaginably difficult time.”

(AT&T has agreed to acquire Time Warner, the parent company of CNN. The deal is pending regulatory approval.)

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Five former US presidents to appear at hurricane relief concert

It’ll be a rare joint appearance of five members of an exclusive club.

All five living former US presidents will take part in a benefit concert Saturday in Texas to raise money for hurricane relief efforts.

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter will attend the event at Reed Arena at Texas A&M University.

The concert named “Deep From the Heart: The One America Appeal” will feature rock and country musicians such as Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Sam Moore and Yolanda Adams. Country music artist Lee Greenwood will emcee the event.

“It’s important that those affected by these devastating storms know that even if the path to recovery feels like a road that goes on forever, we’re with them for the long haul,” President George H.W. Bush said.

This isn’t the first time the former presidents joined forces.

After Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in September, all five started the “One America Appeal” charity effort and filmed a video urging citizens to help out amid the devastating flooding.

They have since resumed the effort in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“We love you Texas,” the elder Bush said in a video posted to the One America Appeal site. The President raised his family in Texas and also served as a congressman for the state.

Funds collected through concert ticket sales will be distributed through various organizations in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

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South Korea does a sudden U-turn on nuclear power

South Korea is set to power up its nuclear industry again.

President Moon Jae-in signaled Friday he would accept the findings of a government panel that recommended restarting the country’s stalled nuclear power program.

That’s a big U-turn from Moon who in June vowed to pull the plug on new reactors and cancel extensions on older ones. The president had been eager to rebalance the country’s energy needs away from nuclear power and polluting fossil fuels to renewables and natural gas.

The use of nuclear power came into question around the world after the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Some big nations like Germany pledged to do away with it altogether.

Moon’s climbdown gave a big lift to some industrial and energy stocks in the country. The decision came after an official survey found that that nearly 60% of people polled were in favor of resuming construction of two halted reactors.

Winding down South Korea’s nuclear power generation was a campaign promise for Moon, who was elected in May after the impeachment of predecessor Park Geun-hye. Moon has previously said he wants to phase out use of nuclear power in the country entirely.

Park Soo-hyun, a spokesman for the president, told CNNMoney that the presidency respects “the will” of the government panel. Work on the reactors, in the country’s southeast, was about 30% complete before it was halted in July.

Nuclear power is big business in South Korea. The country lacks natural resources and imports nearly all of its energy supply from elsewhere.

According to the World Nuclear Association, 24 nuclear power plants provide about a third of South Korea’s electricity needs.

The country is also a major exporter of nuclear technology to the world. State power company KEPCO has a long-standing $20 billion deal to supply reactors to the United Arab Emirates, while the government said in 2010 it wanted to generate nuclear technology exports worth $400 billion by 2030.

Kerry Anne Shanks, an energy analyst at consultant Wood Mackenzie, said that killing the nuclear power plant plans could have made such deals politically complicated.

“If the government of the country that’s developing the nuclear plant is anti-nuclear, it doesn’t help,” she said.

Ditching nuclear energy would probably have led to an unpopular rise in electricity prices as well, according to Shanks.

Stocks in big South Korean companies involved in nuclear power plant construction surged after the announcement from Moon’s office.

KEPCO’s Engineering & Construction subsidiary soared as much as 20%, and Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction gained as much as 12%.

— Lauren Suk contributed to this report.

Follow this story

South Korea does a sudden U-turn on nuclear power

South Korea is set to power up its nuclear industry again.

President Moon Jae-in signaled Friday he would accept the findings of a government panel that recommended restarting the country’s stalled nuclear power program.

That’s a big U-turn from Moon who in June vowed to pull the plug on new reactors and cancel extensions on older ones. The president had been eager to rebalance the country’s energy needs away from nuclear power and polluting fossil fuels to renewables and natural gas.

The use of nuclear power came into question around the world after the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant following a devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Some big nations like Germany pledged to do away with it altogether.

Moon’s climbdown gave a big lift to some industrial and energy stocks in the country. The decision came after an official survey found that that nearly 60% of people polled were in favor of resuming construction of two halted reactors.

Winding down South Korea’s nuclear power generation was a campaign promise for Moon, who was elected in May after the impeachment of predecessor Park Geun-hye. Moon has previously said he wants to phase out use of nuclear power in the country entirely.

Park Soo-hyun, a spokesman for the president, told CNNMoney that the presidency respects “the will” of the government panel. Work on the reactors, in the country’s southeast, was about 30% complete before it was halted in July.

Nuclear power is big business in South Korea. The country lacks natural resources and imports nearly all of its energy supply from elsewhere.

According to the World Nuclear Association, 24 nuclear power plants provide about a third of South Korea’s electricity needs.

The country is also a major exporter of nuclear technology to the world. State power company KEPCO has a long-standing $20 billion deal to supply reactors to the United Arab Emirates, while the government said in 2010 it wanted to generate nuclear technology exports worth $400 billion by 2030.

Kerry Anne Shanks, an energy analyst at consultant Wood Mackenzie, said that killing the nuclear power plant plans could have made such deals politically complicated.

“If the government of the country that’s developing the nuclear plant is anti-nuclear, it doesn’t help,” she said.

Ditching nuclear energy would probably have led to an unpopular rise in electricity prices as well, according to Shanks.

Stocks in big South Korean companies involved in nuclear power plant construction surged after the announcement from Moon’s office.

KEPCO’s Engineering & Construction subsidiary soared as much as 20%, and Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction gained as much as 12%.

— Lauren Suk contributed to this report.

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A spate of deadly disasters for elderly

Recent wildfires in California and hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico have put a spotlight on vulnerable seniors — including a number of deaths that authorities have said were preventable.

“The bulk of them are in their 70s and 80s, so there is that commonality,” Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said of the first wildfire victims to be identified during a press conference Thursday.

The majority were found in their homes, reduced to “ashes and bones,” Giordano said. Several were identified using medical implants, such as a hip replacement, with unique serial numbers.

On Sunday, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office identified four more victims of the fires, all over the age of 70.

Over a dozen residents of a Florida nursing home died in the month after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning.

Just weeks later, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, some were trapped in homes and shelters, unable to get the crucial medical care they needed.

The elderly have died disproportionately in disasters around the world, including a 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, a 2003 heat wave across Europe and a 1995 earthquake in Japan, according to a United Nations report.

Experts continue to grapple with how best to protect the elderly, who face difficulties evacuating from disasters, more health issues on average and perhaps even a greater share of the psychological impact.

“You can’t always predict an emergency event,” making preparedness key for seniors, said Ashley Chambers, communications director for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

To evacuate or not

Many adults can’t easily evacuate — some because they don’t drive, others because they are physically unable, according to research.

And some people refuse to evacuate in the first place.

“Some seniors don’t want to leave a home that they’ve been in all their lives, because the future may be uncertain,” said Vicki Eichstaedt, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross.

Others feel they might be better off remaining in a facility that has the means to take care of them.

“This is a very nice, sturdy concrete building,” Herbert Dreisbach, a 94-year-old resident of a nursing home in Jacksonville, Florida, told CNN before Hurricane Irma. “It’s still better than being at a facility that would not be properly prepared to take care of us.”

“Not all residents … should be evacuated,” Lisa Brown, a psychology professor and director of the Trauma Program at Palo Alto University, previously told CNN.

Brown, who is also Dreisbach’s daughter, showed in past research that nursing home residents with dementia had an increased risk of death in the months following a 2008 hurricane if they had evacuated.

“Those who can safely shelter in place may fare much better than those who are physically evacuated,” Brown said. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all, is the main point.”

Eichstaedt, who called from the Sonoma County Fairgrounds where there is a makeshift shelter, said that many seniors refuse to evacuate because they have pets, which may be their only companions.

“It may be the only connection they have to their old life,” Eichstaedt said.

The fairgrounds were equipped with a pet-friendly shelter, with veterinarians to take care of sick and aging pets, too. “That’s been a blessing for many seniors,” she said.

A matter of health

In emergency situations, once-manageable health conditions, like diabetes or an infection, can quickly spiral out of control.

CNN previously told the story of Josefina Alvarez, 62, who escaped to a shelter outside of San Juan before Hurricane Maria. She remained stuck there for nearly two weeks before doctors were finally able to treat an abscess that could have turned into a life-threatening infection.

“Nobody is taking care of us,” Alvarez said at the time.

About three out of every four Americans 65 and older have multiple chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure and obesity, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, nearly half of those who died were 75 or older — despite making up less than 6% of the state’s population, according to one study. While most of these deaths were drownings or injuries, 11% were caused by heart conditions.

Before Hurricane Irma, nursing homes in Florida stocked up on supplies, and pharmacies issued early refills of medications for people in evacuation zones.

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents 81% of the state’s nursing centers, instructed each facility to prepare seven to 10 days of medication, oxygen and other medical necessities for each resident, according to spokesperson Kristen Knapp. The association does not represent the Hollywood facility where multiple residents died last month.

Even without a health issue, age can take its toll on the body.

An average healthy person can survive 100 hours without water if they’re not becoming dehydrated because of injury or temperatures, according to Dr. Paul Auerbach, a professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University who worked with rescue teams after earthquakes in Nepal and Haiti. They can even survive two or three weeks without food.

But for the elderly and infants, that time period can be much shorter, he previously told CNN.

Older adults are also more sensitive to extreme temperatures, making them more susceptible to heat stress and hypothermia, according to the CDC.

The exact causes of death of the Florida nursing home residents have not been announced, but a number of the 141 residents who were evacuated were treated for heat-related issues.

In Sonoma, Eichstaedt said that seniors with difficulties breathing or respiratory problems have been affected by “smoke and ash in the air.” Even younger and healthier people are wearing masks to avoid the worst air pollution on record for Northern California.

“It’s a big concern,” said Eichstaedt.

In the aftermath

For many people, a disaster often continues long after the fires have been put out or the flooding has receded.

The shelter in Sonoma is only a temporary fix, Eichstaedt said. Many displaced seniors will need assistance getting back home — if they still have a home to go back to.

Seniors may also be more susceptible to scams that happen after a disaster, said Chambers, including unlicensed contractors or people posing as assistance organizations.

“Our senior population is very trusting, and we want to make sure they know what to watch out for,” she said.

Even years after a disaster, some research has suggested that senior survivors are more likely to develop PTSD and other mental health problems — shown in a study of survivors of a 2008 earthquake in China.

“One of the things that we notice is the emotional frailty of many seniors,” Eichstaedt said, “particularly when they face the unknown.”

The prevalence of PTSD in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi rose from 15% a few months after Katrina to 21% a year later, found a 2008 study. In that study, however, the highest increases were seen among those aged 40 to 59.

In addition, older adults face a number of stresses that healthy, able-bodied people might not, such as fear of losing their independence or financial stability, according to FEMA.

For seniors who are also low-income, it’s an “extra level of concern,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of American Association of Retired Persons Foundation.

Many seniors also deal with social isolation, which has long been flagged as a risk factor for mortality.

Marsh Ryerson, whose foundation launched an initiative last year to combat loneliness and isolation among seniors, said that people don’t always think to reach out to elders in their communities while they’re rushing to prepare for an upcoming disaster.

“Check on your neighbors,” she said. “In times of disasters, or often in everyday living, older adults who are vulnerable can often be invisible, and they may not always ask for the help that they need.”

Vendetta Craig, whose 87-year-old mother was among the survivors of the Florida nursing home, had some choice words about how the deaths at Hollywood Hills reflected society’s treatment of seniors.

“We throw away our elderly,” she said at a press conference in September. “That’s my mother.”

Follow this story

A spate of deadly disasters for elderly

Recent wildfires in California and hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico have put a spotlight on vulnerable seniors — including a number of deaths that authorities have said were preventable.

“The bulk of them are in their 70s and 80s, so there is that commonality,” Sonoma County Sheriff Rob Giordano said of the first wildfire victims to be identified during a press conference Thursday.

The majority were found in their homes, reduced to “ashes and bones,” Giordano said. Several were identified using medical implants, such as a hip replacement, with unique serial numbers.

On Sunday, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office identified four more victims of the fires, all over the age of 70.

Over a dozen residents of a Florida nursing home died in the month after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning.

Just weeks later, after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, some were trapped in homes and shelters, unable to get the crucial medical care they needed.

The elderly have died disproportionately in disasters around the world, including a 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, a 2003 heat wave across Europe and a 1995 earthquake in Japan, according to a United Nations report.

Experts continue to grapple with how best to protect the elderly, who face difficulties evacuating from disasters, more health issues on average and perhaps even a greater share of the psychological impact.

“You can’t always predict an emergency event,” making preparedness key for seniors, said Ashley Chambers, communications director for the Florida Department of Elder Affairs.

To evacuate or not

Many adults can’t easily evacuate — some because they don’t drive, others because they are physically unable, according to research.

And some people refuse to evacuate in the first place.

“Some seniors don’t want to leave a home that they’ve been in all their lives, because the future may be uncertain,” said Vicki Eichstaedt, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross.

Others feel they might be better off remaining in a facility that has the means to take care of them.

“This is a very nice, sturdy concrete building,” Herbert Dreisbach, a 94-year-old resident of a nursing home in Jacksonville, Florida, told CNN before Hurricane Irma. “It’s still better than being at a facility that would not be properly prepared to take care of us.”

“Not all residents … should be evacuated,” Lisa Brown, a psychology professor and director of the Trauma Program at Palo Alto University, previously told CNN.

Brown, who is also Dreisbach’s daughter, showed in past research that nursing home residents with dementia had an increased risk of death in the months following a 2008 hurricane if they had evacuated.

“Those who can safely shelter in place may fare much better than those who are physically evacuated,” Brown said. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all, is the main point.”

Eichstaedt, who called from the Sonoma County Fairgrounds where there is a makeshift shelter, said that many seniors refuse to evacuate because they have pets, which may be their only companions.

“It may be the only connection they have to their old life,” Eichstaedt said.

The fairgrounds were equipped with a pet-friendly shelter, with veterinarians to take care of sick and aging pets, too. “That’s been a blessing for many seniors,” she said.

A matter of health

In emergency situations, once-manageable health conditions, like diabetes or an infection, can quickly spiral out of control.

CNN previously told the story of Josefina Alvarez, 62, who escaped to a shelter outside of San Juan before Hurricane Maria. She remained stuck there for nearly two weeks before doctors were finally able to treat an abscess that could have turned into a life-threatening infection.

“Nobody is taking care of us,” Alvarez said at the time.

About three out of every four Americans 65 and older have multiple chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure and obesity, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, nearly half of those who died were 75 or older — despite making up less than 6% of the state’s population, according to one study. While most of these deaths were drownings or injuries, 11% were caused by heart conditions.

Before Hurricane Irma, nursing homes in Florida stocked up on supplies, and pharmacies issued early refills of medications for people in evacuation zones.

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents 81% of the state’s nursing centers, instructed each facility to prepare seven to 10 days of medication, oxygen and other medical necessities for each resident, according to spokesperson Kristen Knapp. The association does not represent the Hollywood facility where multiple residents died last month.

Even without a health issue, age can take its toll on the body.

An average healthy person can survive 100 hours without water if they’re not becoming dehydrated because of injury or temperatures, according to Dr. Paul Auerbach, a professor of emergency medicine at Stanford University who worked with rescue teams after earthquakes in Nepal and Haiti. They can even survive two or three weeks without food.

But for the elderly and infants, that time period can be much shorter, he previously told CNN.

Older adults are also more sensitive to extreme temperatures, making them more susceptible to heat stress and hypothermia, according to the CDC.

The exact causes of death of the Florida nursing home residents have not been announced, but a number of the 141 residents who were evacuated were treated for heat-related issues.

In Sonoma, Eichstaedt said that seniors with difficulties breathing or respiratory problems have been affected by “smoke and ash in the air.” Even younger and healthier people are wearing masks to avoid the worst air pollution on record for Northern California.

“It’s a big concern,” said Eichstaedt.

In the aftermath

For many people, a disaster often continues long after the fires have been put out or the flooding has receded.

The shelter in Sonoma is only a temporary fix, Eichstaedt said. Many displaced seniors will need assistance getting back home — if they still have a home to go back to.

Seniors may also be more susceptible to scams that happen after a disaster, said Chambers, including unlicensed contractors or people posing as assistance organizations.

“Our senior population is very trusting, and we want to make sure they know what to watch out for,” she said.

Even years after a disaster, some research has suggested that senior survivors are more likely to develop PTSD and other mental health problems — shown in a study of survivors of a 2008 earthquake in China.

“One of the things that we notice is the emotional frailty of many seniors,” Eichstaedt said, “particularly when they face the unknown.”

The prevalence of PTSD in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi rose from 15% a few months after Katrina to 21% a year later, found a 2008 study. In that study, however, the highest increases were seen among those aged 40 to 59.

In addition, older adults face a number of stresses that healthy, able-bodied people might not, such as fear of losing their independence or financial stability, according to FEMA.

For seniors who are also low-income, it’s an “extra level of concern,” said Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of American Association of Retired Persons Foundation.

Many seniors also deal with social isolation, which has long been flagged as a risk factor for mortality.

Marsh Ryerson, whose foundation launched an initiative last year to combat loneliness and isolation among seniors, said that people don’t always think to reach out to elders in their communities while they’re rushing to prepare for an upcoming disaster.

“Check on your neighbors,” she said. “In times of disasters, or often in everyday living, older adults who are vulnerable can often be invisible, and they may not always ask for the help that they need.”

Vendetta Craig, whose 87-year-old mother was among the survivors of the Florida nursing home, had some choice words about how the deaths at Hollywood Hills reflected society’s treatment of seniors.

“We throw away our elderly,” she said at a press conference in September. “That’s my mother.”

Follow this story