The citrus industry is facing a crisis. It's called citrus greening — a disease that has devastated orange production in Florida since it first showed up eight years ago. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced a new effort to try to control the disease before it destroys the nation's citrus industry.
Citrus greening is carried by psyllids, tiny insects no bigger than a pinhead. It is caused by a bacterium that makes the fruit bitter and unmarketable. In California, Texas, and especially in Florida, where it first took root, many fear the disease could wipe out America's production of oranges, grapefruits and lemons.
It's a disease imported from Asia. Since its was first discovered in Florida in 2005, citrus greening has cost the industry $4 billion and 6,000 jobs, says Jack Payne, the senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Florida. Payne says all of Florida's citrus groves are infected.
"We have so many growers now in a $9 billion industry just hanging on by their fingernails, literally, trying to get a cure for this terrible disease," he says.
In Florida, because of the disease, USDA says the orange crop will be off 9 percent from last season. It's the second straight year that production has declined and the lowest citrus harvest in Florida in nearly 25 years.
Scientists are trying to develop disease-resistant trees. They're experimenting with different rootstocks and genetically modified trees. But so far, there hasn't been a breakthrough.
To help the effort, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday that several agencies within USDA are coming together to coordinate research and the fight to stop citrus greening. He said, "We felt it was necessary for us to have a more coordinated effort with the state and local partners and with the industry."
Vilsack says USDA has already spent $250 million combating citrus greening. With this announcement, he says, the agency is making an additional $1 million available for research immediately. And $9 million more in research funding is in the farm bill that's currently before Congress.
A spokesman with Florida Citrus Mutual, a grower's group, said they welcome the additional funding and the new coordinated approach to citrus greening. But a priority for Florida growers is the creation of a federal Citrus Research Trust Fund that could provide $30 million in funding to stop greening before it wipes out the industry.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., one year ago sparked a national conversation about the country's troubled mental health system. Politicians convened task forces and promised additional funding and new laws. But today, despite those promises, patients and advocates say treatment for mental health is still in shambles.
Rheanna Kathleen Morris, 18, was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder at the end of her sophomore year of high school, and has spent the past two years in and out of psychiatric units and residential treatment facilities near her home in the suburbs of Richmond, Va.
Her mother, Peggy Sinclair-Morris, is a former special education teacher with a network of contacts. But even for this family with the know-how to work the system, helping Rheanna get treatment has been a constant challenge.
"It's scary. It's very fragmented," says Sinclair-Morris. "There's not a one-stop shop. You have to call people. You have to network. You have to find someone who might have had [an] experience similar to yours. "
From the family's perspective, not much has changed in the year since the shooting at Sandy Hook; recent events in Virginia seem to support that conclusion. Just last month, state Sen. Creigh Deeds' 24-year-old son stabbed his father several times before killing himself. Austin Deeds had struggled with serious mental health problems; he was denied a bed in a psychiatric facility the day before his death.
The rate of violent crimes among the mentally ill is very low, but Rheanna Morris says the story hit home anyway.
"I almost cried, actually," she says. "I was reading about it in a newspaper, and I thought, 'What if that had been me?'
"I know I would never hurt my family," Rheanna says, "but if it had been me you wouldn't hear about it all over the news, you know. Nothing would have happened."
The last time Rheanna was hospitalized, she waited in the emergency room for eight hours before a bed was found in a psychiatric ward. Both Rheanna and her mother worry that next time, they might not be as lucky.
After the Sandy Hook shootings, Virginia officials talked about the state's mental health system, and ended up boosting funding by about 5 percent. A similar conversation took place in state legislatures across the country.
In 2013, a total of 36 states increased funding for mental health. But Sita Diehl, director of state policy and advocacy at the National Alliance for Mental Illness, says that was a drop in the bucket after four years of steep cuts during a recession that brought the system to the brink of collapse.
"After these sorts of shootings, there's a lot of talk, and a lot of policymakers saying we need to do something about the mental health system," Diehl says. "But then, when push comes to shove and the budget debates occur, mental health seems to lose out."
Most of the additional funding in 2013 came through state bills that were already being considered before the Newtown shootings, Diehl adds. The events there just gave legislators the push they needed to pass the bills. Still, she says, that's a lot more than was done by federal legislators.
"I give the states a B-plus," says Diehl. "I give the feds a C-minus; maybe a D. [There's been] lots of talk, no action."
Despite all the dialogue and consternation, Congress didn't pass mental health legislation following Sandy Hook. Instead, it tied possible changes to a gun control bill that never passed the Senate. Several other bills are still in the works.
On the other hand, Diehl says the Obama administration did quite well by recently publishing the long overdue set of mental health parity rules. The administration has also been pushing states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which would infuse new money into the system. So far, Virginia has declined the expansion.
But overall, Diehl says, the national response to Sandy Hook was disappointing. That hasn't come as a shock to Virginians, says Mira Signer, who runs the Virginia chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. In 2007, the state was the site of the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history on the campus of Virginia Tech. The attack left 33 people dead at the hands of a man with a serious mental illness.
During the legislative session immediately following the shooting, elected officials in Virginia added $42 million in new mental health funding. But then the recession hit, and they cut about $38 million from mental health. "So we were kind of back to square one," says Signer.
Then this week, following the Creigh Deeds tragedy, Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell pledged to add $38 million back in the system. Signer says this sort of roller coaster in the way mental health services are funded is typical. But it's no way to run a system, she says, because in the end, little changes.
"I can look at reports and studies that were done ... 10, 15 or 20 years ago, and I'm looking at the recommendations, and they're still true today," Signer says. "You just have to slap another date on it — because they all say the same thing."
Cutting mental health funding, she adds, is foolish because mental health expenses then just show up in other ways.
"It shows up in the criminal justice system," Signer says. "It shows up in homelessness. It shows up in high emergency room usage. It's an illusion to cut it."
As Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy sped from Hartford to Newtown nearly a year ago, the death toll kept rising. When he arrived on the scene, he found himself in charge — and it fell to him to answer the question: How long should family members have to wait to learn that their loved ones were gone?
Malloy decided that he was going to do what he thought was right. Still, standing in front of more than two dozen families gathered in a firehouse, he doubted that it was.
"I tried to explain, in words less obvious, that everyone who was going to be united with their loved one had been united with their loved one, and that what we had at the school was a crime scene," he says.
Saturday marks the anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 children and six educators dead. And a year later, questions still remain about gunman Adam Lanza, who committed suicide that day and worked hard to obscure his motives.
Malloy says now that he may never know why Lanza did what he did. The prosecutor investigating the case has released his report, and it doesn't answer the "why" question. But it does include details about a young man obsessed with guns, mass shootings and violent video games — someone who had, by the end of his life, isolated himself entirely.
Here's how Malloy understands Lanza: "A deeply disturbed human being who should never have been around guns and clearly did not receive the type of attention that he required."
Much of the governor's past year has been consumed by Newtown and the aftermath. He has delved deeply in the gun debate, as well as discussions on school security and mental health.
Throughout, he and others have sought to learn more about Lanza. But it turns out there may not be much more to know. There may be no surprises.
"There's no one coming forward that says ... 'This is really surprising because he was getting so much better,' " Malloy says.
But at least one person was hoping for Lanza to get better: His mother, Nancy Lanza. Adam killed her while she slept.
"She was a wonderful friend, a kind woman, loving, very gentle," says John Bergquist, a friend of Nancy Lanza. "Whatever monster Adam turned out to be was the exact opposite of what Nancy was."
Bergquist lives a few blocks away from My Place, the restaurant and bar where he and Nancy would meet up a few times a week for dinner. He said his friend never spoke of fearing her son. Mostly, she feared for him and for his future.
"He would probably never live a life that you and I might think of as normal," Bergquist says. "But I think she always had hope — he was a whiz with computers — that he would do something with that and get into that and always live with her."
Bergquist loathes guns. But Nancy Lanza grew up with them, and he understands why she bought them — Adam was isolating himself, and it was something they could do together.
As Bergquist sees it, Nancy was yet another victim of a crime that he doesn't understand. "A why — if it's there — it might be nice to know," he says. "But I'm not sure that there is even a why."
Hank Schwartz, a psychiatrist and a member of Malloy's advisory commission on Sandy Hook, has thought a lot about that. Schwartz has looked at Lanza's history of mental illness and has not found much that's useful.
But Schwartz says that won't stop people from trying to understand what drove Lanza.
"Our fates seem just a little bit less random and a little bit more within our own grasp if we can at least understand why something has happened," Schwartz says.
Malloy says people may just have to be satisfied with what they've known from the beginning — that on Dec. 14, 2012, a horrible thing happened "in a fabulous, beautiful, bucolic community where no one would have ever imagined it was possible."
Malloy has asked that church bells across the state be rung at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. The town's leaders have made a plea for privacy.
Three years ago, Maria Vasquez-Rojas received news to celebrate: After many attempts to conceive, she was going to have a baby. But while pregnant with her daughter, Ellie, Maria was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.
"If I had not gone in for that ultrasound they would have never caught it. [Ellie] saved my life," Maria tells her brother, Francisco Vasquez, on a visit to StoryCorps in Los Angeles.
"Ellie's just been a miracle to our family," Francisco says. "Back then, I was not in a good place. I was addicted to meth, stealing. And then after you had Ellie and you were just going through your chemotherapy, I would come on my days off, and our parents would come, and having Ellie around — she was able to pull me out of the dark moments."
"I want to tell you, Frankie, that I am just so proud of you," Maria says. "You've grown up to be such a wonderful man and a wonderful human being. And I know you don't like to hear this, but if one day I'm not here, you have to be there for Ellie so that she feels her mom and what her mom represents."
"And I promise you that this change has been forever and it's made me who I really am," Francisco tells his sister. On Friday, Francisco will become Ellie's godfather.
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman.
On Saturday, Army and Navy will take the field to renew their legendary football rivalry for the 114th time. The teams are playing in Philadelphia, which is also where they faced off in 2001, just weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. The players that year faced a sobering new reality: the nation was at war and they'd soon leave the football field behind for the battlefield.
In All American, author Steve Eubanks recalls that game through the eyes of two players — Army quarterback Chad Jenkins and Navy linebacker Brian Stann. Jenkins and Stann didn't go to military academies purely to serve; these were places that offered a free, quality education and gave them the chance to do what they love — play football.
Jenkins, a stand-out high school quarterback from Ohio, tells NPR's David Greene how he told his parents about his decision to go to the U.S. Military Academy:
"I come home, I'm like, 'Mom, Dad, I've finally figured it out. I'm going to West Point.' And, you know, my mom was quickly breaking down into tears, like, 'What are you talking about? You're not going into the Army.'"
Stann, a Pennsylvania native, recalls choosing the U.S. Naval Academy.
"It wasn't one of those things where I thought, 'OK, I'm going to go to war,'" he tells Greene. "It was one of those things where I thought, 'Hey, a guy as serious as me, I think the military would be a good fit for me.' But I certainly went there first to play football."
Fast forward to 2001: Stann was a junior at the Naval Academy and Jenkins was a senior at West Point. They were just beginning the football season when Sept. 11 happened. Weeks later, Jenkins led West Point to victory against the Naval Academy.
The game had more television viewers than any other college football game that decade, Eubanks says, but it wasn't because of the football.
He tells Greene, "The Navy wasn't very good and the Army was having a losing season, so these were two losing football teams. But [the audience] wanted to see the men who were playing it, and that Army-Navy game more so than any other — because the people understood who they were watching, if they didn't understand what they were watching."
On their eagerness to join the war effort after Sept. 11
Jenkins: We were ready to go right then and there. I mean, it just lit a fire underneath you. It was such an anger of what had happened. So I think the realization and, you know, the mindset of what it was to ... be at West Point ... well that's what it was for, you know. The culminating event is to go and ultimately defend our freedoms and defend our way of life and that was becoming a real possibility by the minute.
Stann: This is going to sound a little odd and I certainly don't mean to come off egotistical, but, honestly, I was afraid it would end before I served. I did not want to be someone who went to the Naval Academy, there was a conflict and I wasn't involved in it because I graduated late. And that's a horrible thing to say, but it's kind of how you have to think if you're going to be a warrior.
On how game crowd reactions changed after Sept. 11
Stann: That year we played at Notre Dame Stadium which, you know, for anybody who's a football fan and plays, there's so much history there that it was a really cool experience for all of us. And for me, I kind of took it all in.
But when we came out onto the field, the entire stadium gave us a standing ovation. And it was incredible. I mean it was moving, I mean everything stopped. We kind of all started looking around; we didn't expect it. And we played really, really hard and I think that they noticed that and obviously recognized the fact that most of the men they were watching play were going to go on to do something much larger than themselves and certainly larger than a football game.
On the locker room visitors each team had before the 2001 Army-Navy game
Jenkins: We were first visited by Gen. [Norman] Schwarzkopf. ... What a pivotal moment. I mean it's, you know, forever burned in my memory, just him walking through. And he said, "Gentleman, today the Army's at war. You guys are at war with Navy. ... The Army does not lose wars."
And he gave that look to you like, You better not disappoint me, you better not let me down. And it was just so neat because it was simple but it summed it up perfectly: What our mission was, what we needed to do that day. And, you know, we were going to fight to the end to try to make it happen.
Stann: Let me address this real quick: I think this game should have an asterisk on the W for Army now, since they had the general come in and give them a motivational speech. I mean, you know, Sen. [John] McCain came in. He's a fantastic human being; motivational speaker he is not. ... George Bush comes in — the president, that's really cool. Like I said, no motivational speech, though. We didn't get the rev up from a general. That's wrong.