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Notre Dame Cathedral fire: Nearly $1 billion pledged for restoration
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Notre Dame Cathedral fire: Nearly $1 billion pledged for restoration

WATCH: Notre-Dame Cathedral on Fire

Notre Dame Cathedral fire: Nearly $1 billion pledged for restoration

Paris fire officials saved the city’s iconic Notre Dame de Paris cathedral from total destruction Monday after a massive fire engulfed the 865-year-old Catholic church.

>> Read more trending news 

 

Fire officials said the building’s basic structure was saved, BBC News reported, but the historic church suffered extensive damage. Before it was put out, the blaze destroyed the 315-foot spire on top of the medieval Gothic cathedral and spread to one of the building’s landmark towers.

>> Photos: Notre Dame Cathedral after the fire

 

>> Notre Dame Cathedral fire: Social media reacts

Here are the latest updates:

Update 3:10 p.m. EDT April 17: Officials with the Paris prosecutor’s office said Wednesday that the investigation into the cause of Monday’s fire is in its early stages, but that so far it’s uncovered no indications that the fire was a criminal act, The Associated Press reported.

Police have questioned about 40 people as part of the probe, according to the AP, including employees of companies involved in the church’s restoration and security personnel.

Update 10 a.m. EDT April 17: Walt Disney Company CEO and Chairman Robert Iger said the company plans to donate $5 million to help restore Notre Dame after the historic cathedral was devastated by a fire Monday.

In a message posted Wednesday on Twitter, Iger called Notre Dame "a beacon of faith, hope & beauty, inspiring we and reverence."

Disney used the historic cathedral as the setting of 1996's animated film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," based on the 1831 Victor Hugo novel of the same name.

Update 9:35 a.m. EDT April 17: Paris firefighters told reporters Wednesday that the structure that supports the Notre Dame’s famed “rose” stained-glass windows is at risk after Monday’s fire, The Associated Press reported.

“There is a risk for the gables that are no longer supported  by the frame,” firefighter spokesman Gabriel Plus said.

Sixty firefighters remained at Notre Dame on Wednesday, Plus said according to French broadcaster BFM TV.

Authorities continued to monitor the structure for any remaining hot spots. Officials said Tuesday that they expected to monitor the building’s stability for at least 48 hours after firefighters put out the blaze.

Authorities to continue to investigate the cause off the fire, which officials believe was accidental.

Update 7:14 a.m. EDT April 17: Nearly $1 billion has been pledged to help rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, The Associated Press reported.

Stephane Bern told French news outlets €880 million, or $995 million in U.S. funds, have been raised so far and the French government is creating an office just to deal with big money donations, the AP reported.

Some of the money has come from big donors like Apple and owners of Chanel and Dior, but also money has been pledged by people from cities and small towns around the world.

A large crane and wood planks were delivered to the site Wednesday morning as firefighters look at the damage to the cathedral and shore up what is left after the church’s spire fell and the roof was destroyed, the AP reported.

Some restoration experts are questioning French President Emmanuel Macron’s 5-year deadline to get Notre Dame repaired after Monday’s fire, saying it could take up to five years just to secure the structure.

“It’s a fundamental step, and very complex, because it’s difficult to send workers into a monument whose vaulted ceilings are swollen with water,” Pierluigi Pericolo said. “The end of the fire doesn’t mean the edifice is totally saved. The stone can deteriorate when it is exposed to high temperatures and change its mineral composition and fracture inside.”

Despite the 5-year deadline, which coincides with Paris’ hosting of the Olympics in 2024, the cathedral’s rector said he will close Notre Dame for up to six years.

Bishop Patrick Chauvet said “a segment of the cathedral has been very weakened,” but the AP reported he didn’t specify which part.

There will be an international architects’ competition to find someone to rebuild the cathedral’s spire. The announcement was made after a special cabinet meeting held by Macron. 

The competition will be “giving Notre Dame a spire adapted to technologies and challenges of our times,” Edouard Philippe, the prime minister of France, said, according to the AP.

Update 6:45 p.m. EDT April 16: A fundraising effort to help rebuild the fire-damaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, which was almost destroyed by an inferno Monday, raised more than $700 million in just one night, according to news reports, as some of France’s wealthiest families and businesses pledged millions in donations.

 

 

French President Emmanuel Macron announced an ambitious timeline on Tuesday for rebuilding the cultural landmark and World Heritage site.

“We will rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, even more beautiful, and I hope that it will be completed within 5 years,” Macon said.

 

Reconstruction experts told news agencies it could realistically take 10 to 15 years to finish rebuilding it. The cathedral’s interior eaves, which held up the roof and were referred to as “The Forest,” were made of large timber beams from giant oak,  chestnut and other trees that don’t exist in France anymore.

 

Update 3:10 p.m. EDT April 16: Indiana's University of Notre Dame pledged $100,000 to help renovate Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris after a fire caused heavy damage to the historic church’s spire and roof.

The Rev. John Jenkins, the university’s president, announced the planned donation Tuesday. He said the bells of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the University of Notre Dame campus would also toll 50 times at 6 p.m. local time Tuesday, each ring representing the 50 Hail Marys of the rosary.

 

“We are deeply saddened to see the damage to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, a church whose exquisite Gothic architecture has for centuries raised hearts and minds to God,” Jenkins said Tuesday in a statement. “We join in prayer with the faithful of the cathedral and all of France as they begin the work of rebuilding.”

Update 2:15 p.m. EDT April 16: French President Emmanuel Macron praised firefighters for their work tamping down Monday’s blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral and vowed again to rebuild in an address given Tuesday.

“Throughout our history we have built towns, ports (and) churches,” Macron said. “Many have been burned due to revolutions, wars -- due to mankind. Each time we have rebuilt them.”

He said he shares the sorrow and hope of the French people.

“I deeply believe that we are going to change this disaster and work together and reflect deeply on what has happened, what we are and what we can do,” Macron said. “Long live the republic and long live France.” 

Update 12:25 p.m. EDT April 16: President Donald Trump offered condolences to French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, one day after a fire ravaged the historic Notre Dame Cathedral.

“The United States stands with French citizens, the city of Paris and the millions of visitors from around the world who have sought solace in that iconic structure,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday in a statement. “The cathedral has served as a spiritual home for almost a millennium, and we are saddened to witness the damage to this architectural masterpiece. Notre Dame will continue to serve as a symbol of France, including its freedom of religion and democracy. France is the oldest ally of the United States, and we remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame’s bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil. Those bells will sound again. 

“We stand with France today and offer our assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization. Vive la France!”

Update 11:55 a.m. EDT April 16: Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo toured the damage left after a fire sparked at Notre Dame, downing the historic cathedral's spire and charring the building. 

"It's a desolate scene," Hidalgo said in a Twitter post after visiting the church. "Restoration is a huge challenge, but we're determined to meet it."

 

Update 11:15 a.m. EDT April 16: Police and fire officials said Tuesday they will spend the next 48 hours assessing the safety of Notre Dame Cathedral after a fire damaged the building Monday.

“We have identified some vulnerabilities in the structure ... notably in the vault and the north transept pinion that needs securing,” Laurent Nunez, a junior interior minister, said Tuesday, according to The Guardian. The newspaper reported architects had identified three holes in the structure caused by Monday’s fire in the locations of the spire, the transept and the vault of the north transept.

 

French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said Tuesday that reconstructing the building will take “days (and) months,” CNN reported.

Authorities believe Monday’s fire was accidental, but officials have launched an investigation to determine its exact cause.

Update 10:30 a.m. EDT April 16: French cosmetics group L’Oreal, its majority shareholder, the Bettencourt Meyers family, and the Bettencourt Schuller foundation pledged to donate 200 million euros ($226 million) to help restore Notre Dame, according to a report from Reuters.

In a tweet Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the technology company he heads will also donate to help rebuild the cathedral after it was ravaged by flames Monday.

“We are heartbroken for the French people and those around the world for whom Notre Dame is a symbol of hope,” Cook wrote. “Apple will be donating to the rebuilding efforts to help restore Notre Dame’s precious heritage for future generations.”

 

Update 9:10 a.m. EDT April 16: In a message sent Tuesday to Paris Archbishop Michel Aupetit, Pope Francis praised the work of firefighters who fought Monday's blaze at Notre Dame, "the architectural jewel of a collective memory," and offered prayers that the cathedral would be restored.

 

“This disaster has seriously damaged a historic building. But I am aware that it has also affected a national symbol dear to the hearts of Parisians and French in the diversity of their beliefs,” Francis wrote. “Notre-Dame is the architectural jewel of a collective memory, the gathering place for many major events, the witness of the faith and prayer of Catholics in the city.”

He noted that the fire was particularly devastating given that it came during Holy Week, the somber days leading up to Easter during which Christians commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Workers continued Tuesday to move relics and artwork held at the cathedral. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo thanked crews for their work to save the Notre Dame and shared a short video Tuesday of workers moving items that were sheltered as the fire burned overnight.

 

The works will be taken to Paris City Hall and then to the Louvre museum for safekeeping, CNN reported.

Update 8:30 a.m. EDT April 16: The Archbishop of Paris told France's BFM TV that Notre Dame’s three “rose” stained-glass windows were safe after a fire ravaged the cathedral Monday.

>> Notre-Dame Cathedral fire: What religious relics were stored there?

The windows are the centerpiece of Notre Dame’s collection of stained-glass windows. According to CNN, they date back to the 13th century.

 

Update 8:04 a.m. EDT April 16: Paris prosecutor Remy Heintz said officials still believe that Monday’s blaze was accidental and have not found any evidence of arson, The Associated Press reported Tuesday

Meanwhile, Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said the cathedral’s massive organ survived the fire.

>> See footage of the surviving relics here

 

Video also circulated on social media showing the interior of the cathedral following the fire. 

>> Click here to watch

 

Update 4:08 a.m. EDT April 16: A Paris Fire Brigade spokesman told reporters Tuesday morning that “the entire fire is out.”

Authorities are “surveying the movement of the structures and extinguishing smoldering residues,” Gabriel Plus said, according to The Associated Press.

Update 3:32 a.m. EDT April 16: Another French billionaire has pledged a massive donation for Notre Dame’s reconstruction.

According to The Associated Press, Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of LVMH, said he and his company will donate 200 million euros – or about $226 million – toward the efforts to rebuild following Monday’s devastating fire.

>> See the tweet here

 

Meanwhile, the Paris Fire Brigade tweeted Tuesday morning that “the structure of the cathedral is saved and the main works of art have been safeguarded.”

Officials said more than 400 firefighters fought the blaze for more than nine hours. 

Two police officers and one firefighter were “slightly wounded,” the Fire Brigade tweeted.

>> See the tweets here

 

 

Update 10:45 p.m. EDT April 15: As French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to rebuild the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, French billionaire François-Henri Pinault pledged the equivalent of $113 million toward that goal, according to Axios and other news outlets.

 

Pinault is the CEO of the French luxury group Kering and Rennes soccer club. 

He said he planned to provide the funding through Artemis,  his family’s investment firm, according to AFP.

Update 8:45 p.m. EDT April 15: The fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral is now under control, Paris police officials told reporters late Monday.

The blaze burned for hours and destroyed a significant part of the historic building, but it was not a total loss, according to fire officials.

The cause of the fire, which is under investigation, may be linked to the renovation of the spire, which collapsed as it caught fire, according to The Associated Press.

 

French President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to rebuild the landmark.

>> Related: Photos: Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral on fire

“This Notre-Dame cathedral, we will rebuild it. All together. It's part of our French destiny. I commit myself: tomorrow a national subscription will be launched, and well beyond our borders,” he said in a social media post Monday evening.

 

 Also earlier Monday, former President Barack Obama posted a photo of his family visiting Notre Dame and lighting a candle in the famous cathedral.

“Notre Dame is one of the world’s great treasures, and we’re thinking of the people of France in your time of grief. It’s in our nature to mourn when we see history lost – but it’s also in our nature to rebuild for tomorrow, as strong as we can,” Obama said.

 

Update 7:15 pm EDT April 15: Paris officials have launched an investigation into how the huge fire that nearly destroyed the Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday first started.

The building was undergoing renovations and CNN reported the blaze, which spread quickly, may have started in an attic at the church.

While hundreds of fire crews were able to prevent the total destruction of one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, greatest landmarks, the devastation to the building was massive.

The first pictures of the ruination inside shows just how extensive the damage was. 

 

As the inferno raged through the structure, witnesses gathered on the streets around the beloved cathedral and sang hymns, viral video from the scene showed.

 

The cultural treasure drew some 13 million visitors a year, according to Paris officials. 

The church would have been filled with the faithful this week as the Catholic church celebrates Easter Holy Week, which marks the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Update 6:30 p.m. EDT April 15: Paris firefighters managed to save some of the priceless treasures inside Notre Dame Cathedral as a massive fire engulfed the historic Catholic church Monday.

The rector of Notre Dame, Patrick Jacquin, told local reporters that the Crown of Thorns, one of the holiest relics owned by the Catholic church, and the Tunic of St Louis have both been recovered, the BBC reported.

Jesus Christ was crucified with wearing a Crown of Thorns, which some have equated with the Crown Jewels.

“The relic, originally from Jerusalem, was first housed in France in the nearby Sainte-Chapelle, built in Paris by King Louis IX especially for it in the 13th century,”  the Independent reported.

While the authenticity of the crown at Notre Dame cannot be verified with complete certainty, it has been documented as dating back to the fourth century.

 

Update: 6:00 p.m. EDT April 15: French President Emmanuel Macron is pledging to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the world’s greatest landmarks, and is asking for international donations to help in the reconstruction, according to news reports.

Earlier Monday night Paris time, Macron, who visited the site of the fire for several hours, said the massive inferno and burning of such a world treasure is taking an emotional toll on the city, especially because it happened during one of the most important weeks of the year for Catholics.

“Great emotion for the whole nation. Our thoughts go out to all Catholics and to the French people. Like all of my fellow citizens, I am sad to see this part of us burn tonight,” Macron said.

 

Update 5:30 p.m. EDT April  15: Paris firefighters managed to save the basic structure of the Notre Dame cathedral and its iconic towers, but the interior was mostly destroyed, according to news reports and reporters on the scene.

 

A view of the fire from above shows the magnitude of the destruction.

 

A photographer captured the exact moment the spire toppled over.

 

Update 5:00 p.m. Firefighters in Paris have saved the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral from total destruction, according to city officials.

 

Reuters is reporting the mayor of Paris said firefighters are optimistic they can save the cathedral’s two main towers.

Update 4:45 p.m. EDT April 15:  As hundreds of firefighters battle the blaze at Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, the city’s fire chief said it’s unclear if crews will be able  to prevent the fire from spreading and causing more destruction, according to The Associated Press.

“We are not sure we are capable of stopping the spreading” to Notre Dame’s second tower and belfry,” Fire Chief Jean-Claude Gallet said outside the legendary cathedral.

The church’s 315-foot spire collapsed earlier.

 Update 4:30 p.m. EDT April 15: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the fire burning through Notre Dame Cathedral “heartbreaking.”

“ Notre Dame has stood as a beating heart of religion and culture for centuries, inspiring all who have visited her. The footage of today’s fire is nothing short of heartbreaking. To the people of Paris and France: know that America stands with you,” Pelosi said on social media.

 

As the cathedral continues to burn, firefighters are trying to save the building and are also in the process of evacuating the most precious artwork inside, according to media reports.

Update 4 p.m. EDT April 15: The Vatican released a statement Monday as a “terrible fire” continued to burn through the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

“The Holy See has seen with shock and sadness the news of the terrible fire that has devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame, (a) symbol of Christianity in France and in the world,” the statement said. Officials added that the Vatican is praying for firefighters “and those who are doing everything possible to confront this dramatic situation.”

 

Update 3:55 p.m. EDT April 15: After President Donald Trump suggested that French authorities fight a blaze at Notre Dame Cathedral with flying water tankers, a French agency responded that doing so could heavily damage the centuries-old building.

“(A) drop of water by air on this type of building could indeed result in the collapse of the entire structure, officials with the French civil security agency said in a tweet, according to CNN. “The weight of the water and the intensity of the drop at low altitude could indeed weaken the structure of Notre Dame and result in collateral damage to the buildings in the vicinity.”

Earlier Monday, Trump said in a tweet that it was “so horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.”

“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out,” he wrote. “Must act quickly!”

 

Update 3:15 p.m. EDT April 15: Authorities with France's Interior Ministry said 400 firefighters have been mobilized to battle the blaze that broke out Monday at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral.

Authorities continued working to put out the flames Monday night.

Update 3 p.m. EDT April 15: French President Emmanuel Macron is on the scene of a massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France 24 reported.

In a French language tweet shared earlier Monday, Macron said the fire was bringing out the "emotion of a whole nation." "Like all our country men, I'm sad tonight to see this part of us burn," he wrote.

 

Update 2:40 p.m. EDT April 15: Photos from Paris showed people watching in disbelief as firefighters battled a blaze Monday at the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.

>> Photos: Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral on fire

 

Update 2:30 p.m. EDT April 15: A spokesman for Notre Dame told French media the fire had spread to the entirety of the church’s wooden interior.

“Everything is burning,” Notre Dame spokesman Andrew Finot said, according to The Associated Press. “Nothing will remain from the frame.”

Authorities were working Monday to salvage artwork kept in the historic cathedral.

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, although officials told BBC News it might have been connected to renovation work.

 

Authorities said they were evacuating the area around Notre Dame on Monday as the fire continued to burn.

Update 2:15 p.m. EDT April 15: Police said no deaths have been reported in connection to Monday’s fire at Notre-dame de Paris cathedral, according to The Associated Press. Authorities did not immediately say where any injuries were reported.

Update 2:05 p.m. EDT April 15: Videos and photos from Paris showed the cathedral’s spire fall as the fire continued to burn Monday.

 

Original report: Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo confirmed in a tweet around 7:15 p.m. local time that authorities were responding to “a terrible fire” at Notre Dame.

 

Images and videos shared on social media showed flames licking the cathedral.

     

It was not immediately clear what caused the fire, although officials told BBC News it might have been connected to renovation work.

In a tweet as the fire raged, President Donald Trump said it was “so horrible to watch the massive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.”

“Perhaps flying water tankers could be used to put it out,” he wrote. Must act quickly!”

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Washington Insider

  • After weeks of negotiations over a White House request for extra money to deal with a surge of illegal immigrants along the southern border with Mexico, Senators on a key spending panel voted 30-1 on Wednesday to approve a $4.59 billion spending package to insure that various federal agencies have enough money to address what President Donald Trump has said is a crisis at the border. 'This situation as most of us realize is past the breaking point,' said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). 'I believe we must act.' 'The fact is that we do have a humanitarian crisis on the border that does need to be addressed,' said Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), who recounted crowded holding facilities for illegal immigrants. 'We've seen big numbers in the past, but we're going to exceed that this year,' said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO). 'This bill is absolutely necessary,' said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV). 'There are families and children who need our support.' The only 'no' vote in the Senate Appropriations Committee came from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The bill only deals with money to help address the humanitarian needs along the border - it does not address any changes in U.S. immigration laws desired by President Trump. On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee had been scheduled to start work on a bill which would make some of those immigration reforms, but that work will be delayed into July in search of a bipartisan agreement. “This is not a crisis - this is a disaster,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is leading President Trump's charge to change immigration laws. 'Our immigration laws are a disgrace and the Democrats can get together with the Republicans and solve the problem quickly,' the President told his campaign kickoff rally on Tuesday night in Orlando, Florida. It's expected the full Senate could vote on the package next week. It is not clear if the House would follow suit before lawmakers leave town at the end of June for a break during the week of July Fourth.
  • Even as President Donald Trump and top Republicans in Congress call on Democratic leaders in the U.S. House to allow a vote on a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, the President's top trade negotiator told Senators on Tuesday that there's still no set date for when the agreement would be submitted to the Congress 'I believe we're on track, I believe we are making progress,' said United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Asked by a GOP Senator about discussions with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Lighthizer gave no public hint about any problems. 'My hope is that over the course of the next several weeks, that we can make substantial progress,' Lighthizer added, as he said talks with Pelosi had been 'constructive.' Democrats have been pressing the Trump Administration over the enforcement of new labor reforms in Mexico, worried that the government won't adequately enforce the changes. Asked by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) when to expect a vote in Congress, Lighthizer gave no concrete date - as the trade agreement has not yet been formally submitted to the Congress. At a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee, Lighthizer faced some verbal slings and arrows from both parties about the President's trade policies. 'I do not agree that tariffs should be the tool we use in every instance to achieve our trade policy goals,' said Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA). 'China's market is now more closed off to American goods and American agriculture than before the trade war began,' said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), as he complained about the impact of the President's tweets on trade policy. For the most part, Lighthizer did not engage in pitched battles with Democrats over trade matters, repeatedly stressing common ground over trade disputes with China and final talks over the USMCA trade deal. As for China, Lighthizer made clear that President Trump isn't bluffing when it comes to additional tariffs on Chinese goods, acknowledging to Senators that the next round could have a bigger impact, to include items like laptop computers and cell phones. Lighthizer could have a somewhat more partisan reception on Wednesday, when he testifies on the same issues before the House Ways and Means Committee.
  • Five weeks after announcing his intent to nominate Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan for the top job at the Pentagon, President Donald Trump abruptly announced Tuesday that Shanahan was no longer under consideration, and would be replaced by the Secretary of the Army. 'Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who has done a wonderful job, has decided not to go forward with his confirmation process so that he can devote more time to his family,' the President said, announcing that Army Secretary Mark Esper would be named as the new Acting Secretary of Defense. President Trump had announced on May 9 that he intended to nominate Shanahan to the post; he had been acting Secretary since the start of 2019, replacing former Secretary James Mattis, who resigned at the end of December. The move by the President came hours after reports by news organizations that Shanahan's FBI background check had been delayed because of an issue involving a domestic dispute with his ex-wife in 2010. Shanahan had been meeting with Senators in recent weeks as a prelude to his confirmation hearings - but no date for those hearings had been set by the Senate Armed Services Committee, and no formal nomination had been made by the President. It had led to speculation that Shanahan's nomination could be in jeopardy. The move comes at an awkward time for the Pentagon, as Shanahan had been serving as Acting Defense Secretary since January 1, after taking over for ex-defense chief James Mattis. Mattis resigned at the end of 2018 after a dispute with President Trump over U.S. troop levels in Syria and Afghanistan.It means the U.S. will go well over a half year without a Senate-confirmed Secretary of Defense, a point noted by lawmakers on Capitol Hill. “This job should be filled in a matter of a few weeks, not months,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. “We urgently need a Secretary of Defense that has the confidence of the President, the Congress, and the country,” Thornberry said.
  • It was one year ago this week that I returned to the radio after a two year absence, with a new computer generated voice which we call 'Jamie Dupree 2.0' - a high tech invention which has allowed me to continue my radio news work, even after an unknown medical problem took away my voice. After doing your job one way for over thirty years, it has taken a little time for me to get used to operating the controls of Jamie Dupree 2.0, which produces a voice that sounds like me, but no matter how advanced it is, it can also go haywire in a split second and sound like a bad robot. 1. First, a recap for those who might not know the story. In the Spring of 2016, I was covering the race for President. Everything was fine. I took an Easter vacation with my family, got a stomach bug, and suddenly my voice started having problems. It's now to the point where I can barely talk, with the diagnosis being a neurological dystonia - the signals from my brain to my tongue and throat are getting messed up somewhere along the way, and my mouth just won't work correctly to form words and sounds associated with speech most of the time. My company found a firm in Scotland, CereProc, which built a computer version of my voice from my audio archives, using tapes from my old radio news stories. 2.  Jamie Dupree 2.0 just isn't just typing some words. It would be nice if I could just type my radio scripts, hit a button, and magically have a perfect audio file for my next radio newscast. But it's a bit more complicated than that, as the field of computer generated voices is still in its infancy. Luckily, there are special computer commands which can be employed with the Text-to-Speech program that runs with my special voice. Those commands allow you to slow words at the end of sentences, mimic the more natural ways that we speed up and slow down during regular speech, and find ways to make the overall sound less robotic. It makes for some clutter on screen, but this is what one of my typical radio news scripts might look like: 3. Some Jamie Dupree 2.0 words just don't sound right. For whatever reasons, there are some words and phrases which don't come out right when you type them in. The last name of Rudy Giuliani works perfectly, but the last name of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross does not - I have to use 'Ros' instead. Robert Mueller's last name came out as 'Myoo-ler,' so I had to spell it as 'Muller' to get it to sound right. Those are just a couple of examples of how, over the last year, I've had to do a lot of experimenting to figure out how to sound out certain things, which can be frustrating when you need to get a story done for the next newscast. Like one of the Democratic hopefuls for President, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg. That's hard for most people to say, let alone for me to try to figure out how to get my computer voice to say it. So far, I've settled on this: Pete Budda jidge. Here are some other names and words that I have to get creative with: 4. Stumbling on ways to make the 2.0 sound more real. As I did more and more work over the last year with my new voice, one of the most obvious problems was trying to figure out how to mimic our own real voices, as we speed up and slow down certain words and sounds. XML commands dealing with 'emphasis' didn't really work. I tried using my audio editor program to add some emphasis to my words, but that only was a minimal success. By accident, I found that by repeating a word or phrase, it would sound different - sometimes I would get exactly the right feel and emphasis. In the following example, I wanted a little more 'oomph' for the phrase, 'President Trump tweeted from Air Force One.' When you watch the video below, you will hear the original version of the audio produced by Jamie Dupree 2.0, followed by the version where I had it say the same phrase five times in a row. Then the two are compared at then end of the 30 second video. For some reason, the repetition creates a little more emphasis. Why? I don't know. I don't really care.  All I know is that I found a shortcut which makes it sound better. 5. The reaction to 2.0 continues to be mostly positive. Remember, these are the days of social media, so it's not difficult to make your voice heard, and tell me that you never liked me in the first place, and you're happy that my real voice doesn't work.  But those messages only spur me to keep going and to work harder at being heard on the radio.  I don't want to be using this computer voice technology, but thankfully for my family, it's available, and it has allowed me to continue in my career as a radio reporter covering Capitol Hill.   As I have detailed above, it's not a simple process to get a story on the air.  It takes time to mold the words into the correct sounds, and get that into our radio newscasts.   It would be much quicker to just open my mouth, hit the record button, and start talking.  For whatever reason, my brain won't allow that to happen.
  • Unable to fulfill one of his central campaign promises - a repeal of the Obama health law - President Trump is again talking about releasing a plan to replace the current system which forces Americans to buy health insurance coverage, as the President continues to dangle the possibility of setting out a new health care package. In an interview with ABC News broadcast in recent days, the President said that he would unveil a new plan in the next month or two. 'And we already have the concept of the plan, but it'll be less expensive than Obamacare by a lot. And it'll be much better health care,' Mr. Trump said, adding that 'we'll be announcing that in about two months.' 'Obamacare has been a disaster,' the President said, again bemoaning the last second change by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) which defeated a bare bones effort to pass any kind of GOP health care plan in the U.S. Senate in July of 2017. The sudden talk about unveiling a new plan caught Capitol Hill Republicans by surprise - just as the President had surprised the GOP by saying earlier this year that he wanted the GOP to act on health care reform. 'The Republican Party will become the party of Health Care,' Mr. Trump tweeted back in March. But after a few days, the President backed off, and said he would not try to press for major changes in the Obama health law until after the 2020 elections - and only if Republicans take back control of both houses of Congress. 'It will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America,' the President tweeted back in early April. At the time, there seemed to be little appetite on Capitol Hill for tackling the issue again, as the GOP is all for doing something different on health care - but does not have an agreement on what that 'something' should be, in terms of the fine print. Democrats were skeptical that anything has changed. 'Someone tell the President that ripping health care away from 20 million Americans isn’t called a “plan,” it’s called a catastrophe,' said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).