/Start Here: Hurricane Dorians destruction and Walmarts new gun policy

Start Here: Hurricane Dorians destruction and Walmarts new gun policy


It’s Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. Let’s start here.

1. Death and destruction

As Hurricane Dorian battered the eastern coast of Florida overnight, officials in the Bahamas are beginning to assess the widespread destruction left behind by the storm earlier this week.

Dorian blasted parts of the island nation as a Category 5 hurricane, stalling overhead for more than 48 hours and killing at least seven people. Prime Minister of the Bahamas Hubert Minnis said the Abaco Islands were “decimated” and to “expect more deaths to be recorded.”

ABC News’ Marcus Moore, who rode out the storm with a team in Marsh Harbor as it was devastated by the hurricane, describes to “Start Here” the scope of the emerging humanitarian disaster.

“Some of the residents told me they just don’t recognize their home anymore,” he says, adding, “Every single building that I saw was either damaged or destroyed.”

Dorian is forecast to move off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida by this afternoon and pass Savannah, Georgia, tonight before inching toward the Carolinas.

2. Walmart‘s gun policy

A month after a gunman killed 22 people inside a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, the nation’s largest retailer has ended its sales of all handgun ammunition and ammunition used in assault-style rifles.

“Walmart currently sells 2% of handguns that are sold in the United States and about 20% of ammunition,” ABC News Chief Business and Economics Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis says. “That is one in five bullets sold in the United States that are currently sold at a Walmart and will be reduced under these changes.”

Walmart is also asking customers not to openly carry firearms into its stores where it’s permitted by the state, unless the shoppers are authorized law enforcement officers, while still allowing shoppers to carry concealed firearms. Kroger followed suit on Tuesday with its own open-carry ban.

In a letter to employees citing the El Paso attack and a shooting at a location in Southaven, Mississippi, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon outlined the company’s role “in helping to make the country safer” and encouraged lawmakers to “move forward and strengthen background checks.”

The National Rifle Association accused Walmart of bowing “to the pressure of the anti-gun elites,” saying in a statement, “Rather than place the blame on the criminal, Walmart has chosen to victimize law-abiding Americans. Our leaders must be willing to approach the problems of crime, violence and mental health with sincerity and honesty.”

PHOTO: A woman touches a cross at a makeshift memorial for victims outside Walmart, near the scene of a mass shooting which left at least 22 people dead, on Aug. 6, 2019 in El Paso, Texas.Mario Tama/Getty Images, FILE
A woman touches a cross at a makeshift memorial for victims outside Walmart, near the scene of a mass shooting which left at least 22 people dead, on Aug. 6, 2019 in El Paso, Texas.

3. Deadly boat blaze

Thirty-four people on board a diving boat in Santa Barbara Harbor are presumed dead after the vessel burst into flames, blocking a stairway and an escape hatch from below deck where they slept in tight quarters, according to officials in Southern California.

Five crew members escaped the massive inferno from the top deck of the 75-foot charter boat when the fire broke out early Monday morning, officials said. One crew member who was asleep in the lower deck quarters is believed to be among those who died.

Amid reports of mayday calls questioning whether a hatch door had been locked and if the passengers could’ve escaped, officials on Tuesday clarified that there were curtains, not doors to the sleeping quarters.

“This fire was burning so fiercely on the top deck that it likely trapped all 34 passengers down below in those sleeping quarters,” ABC News’ Will Carr tells the podcast. “It’s unclear if they ever even had a chance to try to get out before the boat ultimately sank.”

PHOTO: A boat burns off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, Calif., Sept. 2, 2019.Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department/AFP/Getty Images
A boat burns off the coast of Santa Cruz Island, Calif., Sept. 2, 2019.

4. Deal or no deal

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plans to leave the European Union by the Oct. 31 deadline with or without a deal suffered a major defeat on Tuesday night.

Members of British Parliament voted 328 to 301, including 21 members of the ruling Conservative Party joining the opposition, to take control of the parliamentary agenda, and will plan to introduce a bill today to block a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson also threatened to trigger a vote on a new government, but he needs the support of the Labour Party to call an election. Labour wants to take no-deal off the table first, according to ABC News Foreign Correspondent James Longman in London.

“What MPs are hoping to do today is to extend the deadline for Brexit from Oct. 31 right the way down three months to Jan. 31,” he explains. “If they manage to do that, it looks like all MPs will agree to having a general election.”

PHOTO: A video grab from footage broadcast by the Parliamentary Recording Unit shows Britains Prime Minister Boris Johnson gesturing toward the opposition benches while speaking in the House of Commons in London, Sept. 3, 2019.Paliament TV via AFP/Getty Images
A video grab from footage broadcast by the Parliamentary Recording Unit shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson gesturing toward the opposition benches while speaking in the House of Commons in London, Sept. 3, 2019.

“Start Here,” ABC News’ flagship podcast, offers a straightforward look at the day’s top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or the ABC News app. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content and show updates.

Elsewhere:

‘Making the Trump family richer’: Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday defended visiting his family’s Irish hometown and staying at President Donald Trump’s property there at taxpayer expense, arguing the resort was a “logical” choice that let him highlight Irish-American ties.

‘Committed to fighting intolerance and bigotry everywhere’: A University of Illinois student was charged with a hate crime on Tuesday for allegedly placing a noose in a campus residence hall.

‘No water for 18 hours’: A 9-month-old French bulldog puppy named Roger has died on an international KLM flight from Amsterdam to Boston after allegedly being left without water for 18 hours.

‘Junk food diet’: A new report found that a teenager with an extremely limited diet was vitamin deficient, leading to blindness as well as other health issues, including hearing loss.

From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

If the most ideological voters tend to be the ones who are most politically engaged, what does that mean for Democrats at this point in the campaign? Plugged-in voters appear to be coalescing behind Elizabeth Warren.

Doff your cap:

Using service dogs to help war veterans and first responders cope with PTSD is a good idea — but how about having the dogs trained up by inmates in correctional facilities in order to give them their own sense of fulfillment?

This double dose of goodwill is the work of a program called Puppies Behind Bars, which just held its biannual puppy graduation ceremony at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in Westchester County, New York.

“It’s pretty phenomenal to be walking away with this partner for the rest of my life,” said a 25-year Air Force veteran.

And the inmates? “Training a dog that’s going to help somebody else, there’s no words to explain how that makes me feel,” one puppy trainer said. “That is my reward.”

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