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Morning news brief


The head of troubled plane-maker Boeing was questioned pretty aggressively on Capitol Hill yesterday.


Yeah. CEO Dave Calhoun testified in public for the first time since a door plug panel blew out of a 737 Max jet in midair. That incident renewed deep concerns about Boeing's focus on quality control and safety.

FADEL: NPR's Joel Rose has been following all of this and joins us now. Good morning, Joel.


FADEL: So this hearing has been a long time coming. What was it like?

ROSE: It started with a dramatic moment. Before his prepared remarks, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun turned around to face the gallery in the hearing room, and he offered an apology to the families of people who were killed in the crashes of two Boeing 737 Max jets in 2018 and 2019. They killed 346 people in total.

Some of those family members were in the room yesterday when Calhoun testified, holding up photographs of loved ones who died in the crashes. And many still want to see Boeing's leaders held accountable. Nadia Milleron lost her daughter, Samya Stumo, in the crash. She spoke to reporters before the hearing, and she said she believes Boeing and Calhoun are still putting profits ahead of safety.


NADIA MILLERON: When they get pressed for time and they need to produce a lot of planes quickly, they throw all of their safety rubrics out the window. So it isn't about what he has in place. He does have everything in place. He just doesn't follow it.

FADEL: So what did Boeing's CEO have to say?

ROSE: Well, Calhoun said Boeing has heard these concerns about its safety culture, quote, "loud and clear." He talked about the detailed action plan that Boeing has given federal regulators, how it has slowed production of the 737 and other steps that the company is taking to try to shore up quality at its own factories and at its suppliers. And Calhoun also talked about the loss of veteran employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that loss of experience has really hurt Boeing and its suppliers.


DAVE CALHOUN: We turned over a lot of people - and, yes, a lot of experienced people. Our supply chain experienced enormous turnover. This - so much of this relates to an untrained workforce. I - it's all about that, honestly.

ROSE: Calhoun said the company is trying to ramp up training to get younger employees up to speed. Calhoun is, himself, leaving his job at the end of this year. No word yet on who will replace him as CEO.

FADEL: And how did senators react?

ROSE: Senators were very skeptical of Calhoun, I think, on both sides of the aisle. They noted that Calhoun himself has gotten a big raise while most of his Boeing workforce has not. Here's Josh Hawley, a Republican senator from Missouri.


JOSH HAWLEY: I don't think the problem's with the employees. It's the C-suite. It's the management. It's what you've done to this company. That's where the problem is. The problem's at the top. And I just hope to God that you don't destroy this company before it can be saved.

ROSE: Senators also noted that Boeing's leaders have said a lot of these things before. After those two previous Max crashes, senators said they wanted to see fewer promises and more action from the company.

FADEL: Now, Boeing could still face criminal prosecution. Where does that stand?

ROSE: This goes back to those crashes of two 737 Max jets more than five years ago. Boeing struck a deal with the Justice Department to avoid prosecution for misleading regulators about the safety of those planes. Basically, the company was put on probation for three years. Family members of the crash victims have long criticized that as a sweetheart deal, and they want to see Boeing's leaders held accountable.

Federal prosecutors now say Boeing has not held up its end of that deal. They are expected to announce soon what they're going to do next - whether they will take Boeing to court or just extend its probation.

FADEL: That's NPR transportation correspondent Joel Rose. Thank you, Joel.

ROSE: You're welcome.


MARTÍNEZ: Two fast-growing wildfires have upended the lives of thousands of people near Ruidoso, N.M.

FADEL: The village of about 7,000 people remains completely evacuated, and the deadly fires have already burned more than 20,000 acres in just a day.

MARTÍNEZ: KC Counts with member station KRWG in Las Cruces is watching the fires closely. So KC, how did these fires start, and what's the local response been there?

KC COUNTS, BYLINE: Well, good morning. Thank you for having us. The cause is still under investigation, but these fires grew so very fast. There was air support almost immediately, but we had some 20- to 25-mile-per-hour winds that are always a challenge for firefighters. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham gave an update to New Mexicans during a news conference yesterday.


MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM: More than 17 agencies are on the ground, working together, both federal and state. More than 800 personnel are on the ground, providing services, acting as first responders and battling the fire.

LUJAN GRISHAM: More than 17 agencies are on the ground, working together, both federal and state. More than 800 personnel are on the ground, providing services, acting as first responders and battling the fire.

COUNTS: Now, Monday, authorities did an evacuation for all of Ruidoso and several surrounding areas by late afternoon. Yesterday, another 2,600 people were told to leave the community of Ruidoso Downs. Initial response to the fires was from the Mescalero Apache Tribe, on whose land it was first discovered. Yesterday, they called in a lot more help. A federal incident management team has arrived. They'll be taking charge of the fire starting this morning.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Winds make things really difficult to contain and also very dangerous. Do we know how many homes have burned and if anyone has been injured or killed?

COUNTS: Well, Governor Lujan Grisham said one person has died. We don't have confirmed reports of other deaths or serious injuries at this time, and we don't know anything about that person who has lost their life. We do know about 7,000 people in and around Ruidoso are still evacuated. The state forestry division has said about 1,400 structures have been lost.

Now, that's an update by last night. Earlier in the day, it was 500 structures. So you can just see how quickly things are changing there. It's unclear at this point how many of those are homes versus businesses. We've seen pictures and videos circulating that appear to show homes and some well-known businesses that are destroyed.

MARTÍNEZ: So you're in Las Cruces. That's about two hours from the fire. But I understand that you have property in Ruidoso. What's that town like, and what are you hearing from people who've had to evacuate?

COUNTS: Yeah. It's a resort town. So it's a cool place at 7,000 feet in elevation, where people from all over New Mexico and Texas go to cool off from the triple-digit heat in the summertime. And, of course, it's surrounded by pine forest. There's a ski area, and the Mescalero Apache Tribe operates that as well as a couple of popular casinos.

There's also a horse-racing track in Ruidoso Downs. We have our property there. Our tenant, who rents our home full-time, got out safely, but she shared some video with me through the Facebook Messenger app. There was just fire on all sides. It was terrifying. And people are just feeling really anxious to get more information now at this point.

MARTÍNEZ: Oh, of course. I mean, they feel cut off, like any other person would be in a fire like that. What's the outlook for the fire today?

COUNTS: Yeah. There's some good news weather-wise. There are some rain chances for the rest of the week - really strong ones - but, of course, that could bring the possibility of lightning with these scattered thunderstorms. So by tomorrow, we're starting to see some really healthy rain chances. That will be a huge help.

MARTÍNEZ: KC Counts is with member station KRWG in Las Cruces, N.M. KC, thanks.

COUNTS: Thank you.


FADEL: Ascension, one of the country's largest health systems, has been dealing with the effects of a ransomware attack for more than a month.

MARTÍNEZ: The Catholic health system runs 140 hospitals and other facilities in 18 states and Washington, D.C. Doctors and nurses say patients have been put at risk.

FADEL: Kate Wells of member station Michigan Public is joining us from Ann Arbor, Mich. She's been reporting on the national impact of this with Rachana Pradhan of KFF Health News. Kate, hi.


FADEL: So the cyberattack started on May 8. How has it disrupted care?

WELLS: Yeah. So for weeks, it took out all the hospital's access to electronic health records and basically every system that Ascension uses to do everything from tracking patients to ordering labs and tests to just making sure that the right medication goes to the right patient. And right now, things have gotten better. Gradually, Ascension says it's been able to restore access to things like electronic health records. But the staff that we've been talking to say things are not fully back to normal yet. There are still glitches and delays.

FADEL: So tell me more about what the staff has been telling you. You and Rachana talked with nurses and doctors in three states about what happened to patients during the first few weeks of the cyberattack. What did they say?

WELLS: Yeah. The staff that I talked to were genuinely worried about their patients' safety. I talked with a dozen doctors and nurses here in Michigan. And across the board, they described numerous close calls when the wrong medications would be ordered, when labs would just get lost, when patients were being tracked with sticky notes or Google Docs.

An Ascension hospital ER doctor that I talked to in Detroit said one of their patients was given a dangerous narcotic that was intended for another patient because of a paperwork mix-up. And that patient who got the wrong meds had to be put on a ventilator because of that and sent to the ICU. An ER nurse at the same hospital in Detroit told me about a patient of theirs who died. This was a woman who...


WELLS: ...Came in, and she went into cardiac arrest after staff had waited for four hours for these labs that they urgently needed to figure out how to treat her and they just never received. The nurse told me at the time in May - they said, if I started having crushing chest pain in the middle of work and I thought I was having a big one, I would grab someone to drive me to another hospital down the street.

FADEL: So they're describing pretty dangerous conditions. What's Ascension saying?

WELLS: So we ran all of these examples past Ascension, and they declined to comment on them. But they did tell us in an email, quote, "we are confident that our care providers in our hospitals and facilities continue to provide quality medical care." They had said in an earlier statement that their staff was, quote, "trained for these kinds of disruptions." But we spoke with experts who said, you know, this is beyond what most hospitals are probably prepared for.

I talked with John Clark. He's an associate chief of pharmacy at the University of Michigan Health System. And he says, look, his health system can handle 6-8 hours of downtime - no problem. And they've got emergency plans on the books for, like, two to three days. But at Ascension, these systems were down for weeks.

JOHN CLARK: I don't believe that anyone is fully prepared for a long-term process like this.

FADEL: Yeah. And we've been seeing more and more of these massive cyberattacks in health care in the last few years. Why is that?

WELLS: Well, ransomware attackers have figured out that the health sector is kind of like the perfect prey here, right? They may not have the most secure systems. They're big businesses with a lot of revenue, and the stakes are really high for them, right? They've got these patients' lives on the line. So what we're watching in real time here is the hospital industry and also regulators try to catch up with what's been happening.

FADEL: That's Kate Wells with Michigan Public joining us from Ann Arbor, Mich. Thank you so much for your reporting, Kate.

WELLS: You're welcome.


MARTÍNEZ: We end today with the passing of baseball icon and Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays. Many fans that saw him play in person will argue that he was the greatest and most exciting player in the sport's history. He had over 3,000 hits and more than 600 home runs, with a batting average just over 300 in 23 big-league seasons.

And while Mays was a force with a bat in his hands, he was also a graceful speedster with a glove while playing center field, making incredibly difficult plays look easy. His most famous catch was in the 1954 World Series, when he ran down a long fly ball to deep center off the bat of Cleveland slugger Vic Wertz at the Polo Grounds in New York.


JACK BRICKHOUSE: Willie Mays just brought this crowd to its feet with a catch...


BRICKHOUSE: ...Which must have been an optical illusion to a lot of people.

MARTÍNEZ: That play came to be simply known as The Catch. I was lucky enough to meet Willie Mays when I was traveling with the Los Angeles Dodgers as their pre- and postgame show host. We were at the Giants ballpark in San Francisco, and I nervously introduced myself. And my name caught his attention, and it made him laugh because his nickname was the Say Hey Kid, and I'm A Martínez. So it made him chuckle a little bit. Willie Mays was 93 years old. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.