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Cost of flood buyouts rising over decade

MOSBY, Mo. — The residents of this small riverside town have become accustomed to watching floods swamp their streets, transform their homes into islands and ruin their floors and furniture.

Elmer Sullivan has replaced his couch, bed and television. He's torn up water-buckled floorboards. And he put a picket fence against the front of his house to cover up a gap left when waters washed out part of the stone foundation.

"I just don't want to mess with it anymore. I'm 83 years old and I'm tired of it, and I just want to get out of it," Sullivan said.

Finally fed up, Sullivan and nearly half of the homeowners in Mosby signed up in 2016 for a program in which the government would buy and then demolish their properties rather than paying to rebuild them over and over. They're still waiting for offers, joining thousands of others across the country in a slow-moving line to escape from flood-prone homes.

Patience is wearing thin in Mosby, a town of fewer than 200 people with a core of lifelong residents and some younger newcomers drawn by the cheap prices of its modest wood-frame homes. Residents watched nervously this past week as high waters again threatened the town.

"It really is frustrating, because here we are, we're coming through a wet season. There's a chance that we could possibly flood, and we're still waiting," said Jason Stooksbury, an alderman who oversees the town's efforts to curb flooding. "It's not a good situation, but what are you going to do — it's the government process."

Over the past three decades, federal and local governments have poured more than $5 billion into buying tens of thousands of vulnerable properties across the country, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The AP analysis shows those buyouts have been getting more expensive, with many of the costliest coming in the last decade after strong storms pounded heavily populated coastal states such as Texas, New York and New Jersey. This year's record flooding in the Midwest could add even more buyouts to the queue.

The purchases are happening as the climate changes. Along rivers and sea coasts, some homes that were once considered at little risk are now endangered due to water that is climbing higher and surging farther inland than historic patterns predicted.

Regardless of the risks, the buyouts are voluntary. Homeowners can renew taxpayer-subsidized flood insurance policies indefinitely.

With more extreme weather events, flooding "is going to become more and more of an issue, and there will be more and more properties that are at risk of total loss or near total loss," said Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio of Oregon, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which has jurisdiction over FEMA. "Then the question is: Are we just going to keep selling them insurance and building in the same place?"

DeFazio wants to expand and revamp a buyout process that he describes as inefficient and irrational. He's backing a proposed pilot project that would give homeowners a break on their flood insurance premiums, as long as they agree in advance to a buyout that would turn their property into green space if their homes are substantially damaged by a flood.

Buyout programs rely on federal money distributed through the states, but they generally are carried out by cities and counties that end up owning the properties.

Most buyouts are initiated after disasters, but Congress has become more proactive. Appropriations for FEMA's Pre-Disas-ter Mitigation Grant Program— which funds buyouts and other precautions, such as elevating homes before disasters strike — have risen from $25 million in 2015 to $250 million this year.

Patriotism and heritage honored in Ironton

IRONTON — At the corner of Quincy Street and South 6th Street in Ironton, the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade turns south. It's a prime spot because the parade frequently stops here, with VFW members firing off 21-gun salutes and marching bands playing.

It's also at this spot every year for the past 33 years that the Catholic community, supporting St. Lawrence and St. Joseph schools, host the Charity Fair. Coinciding with Memorial Day events in Ironton, the Charity Fair is a weekend-long event with rides, games, food and ending with a raffle during the parade.

Chris Monty, co-chair of 2019's fair, said the event is the largest fundraiser for the schools.

"We have a lot of people who are in town so it's the perfect weekend to do it," Monty said, pausing to cheer with the crowd as St. Joe's cheerleaders passed by on the parade route. "It's a homecoming for Ironton, really. Overall it's a good community event for Ironton."

Ironton has been celebrating Memorial Day with a parade for 151 years. The two-mile parade lasts about three hours, and it touted as the longest continually running Memorial Day parade in the country.

This year's parade featured approximately 1,500 entries, including area high school and middle school marching bands, fire and police departments, and veterans groups. Schools had produced floats, like Ironton Elementary School, which honored the Ironton Tanks, a semi-professional football team that played in town in the 1920s and 1930s.

The theme for this year's parade was Tribute to Patriotism, which means different things to different people living in Ironton.

For Mike Haney, a Vietnam War veteran and lifelong Ironton resident, patriotism means defending our beliefs and defending others, while also remembering those who didn't make it home, like a classmate of his wife who didn't return from the Korean War. Patriotism also means honoring your heritage, he said.

"I've had family in all (the wars)," he said. "Can you believe it? I hope my grandkids don't have to go. I hope they are reading the news."

Laura Bush, an 18-year-old lifelong Ironton resident, said growing up in a town with such strong traditions of honoring those who have served has shaped how she views patriotism.

"I feel like a lot of people just come to the parade because it's a tradition, they don't really understand what it's actually for," Bush said. "I do love veterans, I respect veterans very much. This is something I can do to be respectful."

She said to her, patriotism is about being grateful for the sacrifice others made for her and not taking that for granted, like she feels many do.

Similarly, Dani Owens, a parent volunteering at the Charity Fair raffle, said patriotism is loving the country and honoring the sacrifices made for us.

Monty said honoring history is patriotism.

"Seeing here, all the generations of people going all the way back to when the parade started and before that — we have a lot of history here in Ironton," he said. "It's nice to recall that."

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

Trump in Japan: Pomp and tense circumstance

TOKYO — All the pomp and pageantry in the world couldn't paper over the tensions between President Donald Trump and Japan's Shinzo Abe on two of their most pressing issues: North Korea and trade.

The president and prime minister tried mightily to minimize their differences during Trump's four-day state visit to Tokyo, while playing up their close personal friendship and their countries' long-held ties. But tension abounded, with Trump on Monday brushing off the significance of North Korean short-range missile tests that have rattled Japan and reasserting his threats to hit Abe with potentially devastating auto import tariffs.

Asked if he was bothered by the missile tests, Trump said: "No, I'm not. I am personally not." Abe, in contrast, said the missile tests were "of great regret."

The conflict demonstrates the limits of Abe's long-term strategy of showering Trump with affection in hopes of extracting benefits.

Trump appeared uninterested in concessions despite a program tailor-made for the president that included a showy visit with the new Japanese emperor, a round of golf and prime seats at a sumo tournament where Trump got to present a "President's Cup" to the winner,

Trump also demonstrated again that he is willing to turn his back on long-held norms as he assailed Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic hopeful whom North Korean leader Kim Jon Un recently criticized as having a low IQ.

"I don't take sides as to who I'm in favor or who I'm not," Trump said when asked

whether he was favoring a violent dictator over the former vice president. "But I can tell you that Joe Biden was a disaster."

Indeed, Trump also sided with Kim on the question of whether the short-term missile launches violated U.N. Security Council resolutions, as both Abe and Trump's own national security adviser, John Bolton, had stated.

"My people think it could have been a violation," said Trump. "I view it differently. I view it as a man — perhaps he wants to get attention and perhaps not. Who knows?"

Japan has long voiced concern about short-range missiles because of the threat they pose to its security. Kim's decision to lift the pause in ballistic missile launches that began in late 2017 alarmed North Korea's neighbors.

Most analysts believe the missiles were ballistic missiles, which are not allowed under U.N. resolutions.

Trump's visit to Japan was designed to highlight the U.S.-Japan alliance and showcase the warm relations between the two leaders. Trump said he and Abe deliberated over trade, Iran and more during hours of talks at Akasaka Palace.

Trump was invited to Japan to be the first world leader to meet the country's new emperor. But despite being far from Washington, Trump didn't hold back in his criticism of Biden, telling the world he agreed with the North Korean leader's assessment and declaring himself "not a fan."

"Kim Jong Un made a statement that Joe Biden is a low-IQ individual," Trump said. "He probably is, based on his record. I think I agree with him on that."

Pressed on whether he was supporting a dictator over a former U.S. vice president, Trump recited a host of complaints about the Obama-Biden administration.

U.S. off iceholders have in the past generally avoided engaging in politics while on foreign soil, hewing to the adage that politics stops at the water's edge.

But Trump's sharp attack on Biden, through his declaration of agreement with Kim, cast aside that tradition.

Biden, during a recent campaign event, accused Trump of cozying up to "dictators and tyrants" like Kim.

Trump continues to hold out hope of getting Kim to agree to give up his nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, even though the two summits he's had with the North Korean leader have produced no concrete pledge to denuclearize the Korean peninsula.

Trump nonetheless praised Kim, calling him a "smart man" who was intent on making his country better.

"All I know is there have been no nuclear tests, no ballistic missiles going out, no long-range missiles going out, and I think that someday we'll have a deal," Trump said, adding that he is in "no rush."

Trump is correct that North Korea has not recently tested a long-range missile that could reach the U.S. But this month, North Korea fired off a series of short-range missiles.

"This is violating the Security Council resolution," Abe said, adding that, as North Korea's neighbor, Japan feels threatened. "It is of great regret."

Sti l l, Tr u mp a nd Abe pledged to work closer together as they attend to North Korea and move forward with trade talks.

Earlier Monday, Trump said he backed Abe's interest in leveraging his country's good relations with Iran to help broker a possible dialogue between the U.S. and its nemesis in the Middle East. Abe said he is willing to do whatever he can to help to reduce tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

"Peace and stability of (the) Middle East is very important for Japan and the United States and also for the international community as a whole," Abe said.

Abe could visit Iran next month.

Trump also said his only aim is to prevent the country from obtaining nuclear weapons.

"We're not looking for regime change," he said. "I just want to make that clear. We're looking for no nuclear weapons."

D-Day memories fade as the war's witnesses die

PARIS — One more funeral, one less witness to the world's worst war.

Bernard Dargols lived almost long enough to join the celebrations next month marking 75 years since the D-Day, 75 years since he waded onto Omaha Beach as an American soldier to help liberate France from the Nazis who persecuted his Jewish family.

Dargols died just shy of his 99th birthday. To the strains of his beloved American jazz, he was laid to rest earlier this month at France's most famous cemetery, Pere Lachaise.

An ever-smaller number of veterans will stand on Normandy's shores on June 6 for D-Day's 75th anniversary. Many will salute fallen comrades from their wheelchairs. As each year passes, more firsthand history is lost.

Less than two weeks from now, U.S. President Donald Trump and other world leaders will pay homage to the more than 2 million American, British, Canadian and other Allied forces involved in the D-Day operation on June 6, 1944, and the ensuing battle for Normandy that helped pave the way for Hitler's defeat.

Dargols outlived most of them, and knew the importance of sustaining their memory.

"I'm convinced that we have to talk about the war to children, so that they understand how much they need to preserve the peace," he wrote in a 2012 memoir.

Until the end, Dargols battled complacency, intolerance and Holocaust deniers who claim that D-Day was "just a movie."

"I'm convinced that we have to talk about the war to children, so that they understand how much they need to preserve the peace."

Bernard Dargols

WWII veteran

In recent years, "seeing any type of violence, of anti-Semitism and racism, either in France in Europe or in the U.S." really upset him, granddaughter Caroline Jolivet said.

Normandy schoolteachers, veterans' families and military memorials are laboring against time to record survivors' stories for posterity.

In history's biggest amphibious invasion, on that fateful June 6, some 160,000 Allied forces came ashore to launch Operation Overlord to wrest Normandy from Nazi control. More than 4,000 Allied forces were killed on that day alone. Nearly half a million people were killed on both sides by the time the Allies liberated Paris in August 1944.

It's unclear exactly how many D-Day veterans are alive today. The survivors are now in their 90s or 100s.

Of the 73,000 Americans who took part, just 30 are currently scheduled to come to France for this year's anniversary. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that about 348 American World War II veterans die every day . All but three of the 177 French forces involved in D-Day are gone.

Every day, the names of the departed accumulate, tweeted by veterans groups, published in local newspapers.

Dargols might have made it to Normandy this year. It meant a lot to him.

His story is both unusual and emblematic: Born in France, he left Paris in 1938 for New York to learn his father's sewing machine trade. He watched from afar, sickened, as the Nazis occupied his homeland. His Jewish relatives were sent to camps, or fled in fear.

Determined to fight back but skeptical of French General Charles de Gaulle's resistance force, he joined the U.S. Army instead.

With the 2nd Infantry Division, Dargols sailed from Britain on June 5 and only made it to Normandy on June 8, after three interminable days on choppy seas. The road he took inland from Omaha Beach now carries his name.

The battle to wrest Normandy from the Nazis took longer than the Allies thought, but for Dargols the prize at the end was invaluable.

When he made it to Paris, he went to his childhood apartment and found his mother — unexpectedly alive.

For four decades, he didn't talk much about the war. But as more and more survivors died, and at his granddaughter's urging, he realized the importance of speaking out and sharing his stories with schools and journalists.

Friends and family remembered him Thursday as shy but courageous, a lover of oysters and pastrami sandwiches, known for his mischievous smile.

Jolivet, his granddaughter, told the AP of his yearning for leaders who "bring people together, instead of divide them."

Dargols would have had a clear message for the D-Day anniversary, she said: "Never take democracy for granted. Dictatorship is always a bad solution. Violence is always a bad solution. Keep democracy alive. Fight for democracy, for freedom, for peace."

The cultural director at Normandy's World War II memorial in Caen, Isabelle Bournier, frets about this fading message, as she watches schoolchildren cycle through her museum every day.

"The parents and grandparents of 13-year-olds today didn't experience the war, so the family stories, the family history — where helmets are brought out, where we spoke about what it was like — has been lost," she said.