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Ask AP: Candidate languages, emergency personnel
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    If you live anywhere that’s susceptible to tropical weather — even if you just follow the news during hurricane season — you’ve heard the plea from mayors and governors: Once the storm arrives, stay indoors and off the roads, so you can be safe and emergency personnel can do their jobs.
    But what about those emergency personnel — where do THEY hunker down when a massive hurricane blows through?
    Curiosity about how these people stay safe inspired one of three questions in this edition of ‘‘Ask AP,’’ a weekly Q&A column where AP journalists respond to readers’ questions about the news.
    If you have your own news-related question that you’d like to see answered by an AP reporter or editor, send it to newsquestions(at), with ‘‘Ask AP’’ in the subject line. And please include your full name and hometown so they can be published with your question.
    I would like to know if either, or both, of the presidential candidates have a working knowledge of any language other than English. I feel this would be an asset to them.
    Elizabeth Briones
    Shelton, Conn.
    Barack Obama speaks only English. He picked up Bahasa as a child living in Indonesia and took some Spanish classes in high school and college, but he’s not fluent in either. He does, however, agree that being bilingual is an asset and said earlier this year that every child in America should learn Spanish or some other foreign language.
    John McCain isn’t fluent in any language besides English, though he can read some Spanish. He hasn’t said much about foreign languages on the campaign trail, though he did sponsor a 2006 bill that offered illegal immigrants a path to eventual citizenship if they learned English, among other requirements. Obama, McCain’s colleague in the Senate, supported that bill.
    Nedra Pickler and Liz Sidoti
    Associated Press Writers
    I’ve always wondered, where do the emergency personnel stay during a hurricane?
    Mary May
    Astoria, Ore.
    When emergency managers issue mandatory evacuation orders in advance of a hurricane, they’re largely getting out of the most dangerous areas, too. Every state and county is different and every hurricane calls for a different response, but for the most part, state and local emergency personnel spend the storm hunkering down in shelters at least somewhat inland and away from potential storm surge.
    These shelters, which can be the office buildings these people work in on a daily basis, aren’t your average workplaces. In hurricane-prone Florida, for example, they may be built on high ground to avoid flooding, have minimal windows or windows with blast-resistant glass and may even be rated to withstand 200 mph winds.
    Other emergency personnel based farther away from the hurricane may move into areas closer to — but not directly in — the storm’s path. That way they can avoid the brunt of the storm while being close enough to get to the worst-hit areas within a few hours once it’s safe to do so.
    Emergency managers operate on the general principle that they want to be part of the solution after the storm — not the people needing help — so they do what they can to stay out of harm’s way.
    Jessica Gresko
    Associated Press Writer
    There have been a lot of news reports about building more nuclear power plants in the U.S., even though we haven’t dealt with the hazardous nuclear waste generated at existing and decommissioned plants. My question is: Does France, or any country with numerous nuclear power plants, have a permanent solution for dealing with the waste?
    Wendell Cloepfil
    Portland, Ore.
    France does not have a national, permanent facility to store its nuclear waste. But the country, unlike the U.S., reprocesses much of the waste.
    France — which gets more than 70 percent of its power from nuclear plants — uses surface repositories, on-site storage pools and large reprocessing sites to deposit its waste. Some of it also makes its way to Germany.
    France’s nuclear waste agency is researching how to store high-level radioactive material for extended periods of time deep underground.
    But it’s reprocessing that sets the country — and its 59 reactors — apart from the U.S. The procedure extends uranium’s power significantly, and France reprocesses spent fuel from several other countries, including Japan and Belgium.
    President Ford banned reprocessing in the U.S. in 1976, citing a fear of nuclear weapon proliferation. President Reagan gave it the green light in 1981, but not federal funding. Since then, the issue has become a political hot potato, though in recent years the government has inched toward supporting such a project.
    In the U.S., the federal government has began turning Nevada’s Yucca Mountain into a permanent storage facility for nuclear fuel. But the project has run into stiff opposition from citizens’ groups and some politicians — including Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader in the Senate.
    Ernest Scheyder
    AP Energy Writer
    New York
    Have questions of your own? Send them to newsquestions(at)

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