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Three U.S. trouble spots

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Calif. drought
California rancher Nathan Carver (NOT SEEN) drives his truck delivering hay which he now has to buy to feed his herd of beef cattle, seen giving chase across the brown-dirt fields of Carver's ranch on the outskirts of Delano, in California's Central Valley, on February 3, 2014. At this time of the year normally, the fields would be covered in lush green grass, but the western US states' worst drought in decades has reduced the land to a parched moonscape.

We've recently highlighted some of the trouble spots abroad on The Daily Circuit. Now we take a look at three spots in the United States that have been making headlines: California, Puerto Rico and Vermont.

California's drought:

• California's drought-prone pattern forcing farmers to adapt
As California gets drier and hotter, no one is more vulnerable than farmers. And no one is likely to have to do more to adapt to what many experts fear will be a more drought-prone environment. (San Francisco Chronicle)

• Severe drought? California has been here before
The skinny rings of ancient giant sequoias and foxtail pines hold a lesson that Californians are learning once again this winter: It can get very dry, sometimes for a single parched year, sometimes for withering decades. (Los Angeles Times)

Puerto Rico
The La Perla shanty town sits just a few steps from the upscale neighborhoods of Condado and Old San Juan on November 12, 2013 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The island territory of the United States, Puerto Rico, is on the brink of a debt crisis as lending has skyrocketed in the last decade as the government has been issuing municipal bonds.
Christopher Gregory/Getty Images

 Puerto Rico's economic hardships:

• Puerto Rico may have $70 billion in debt. But it didn't have a problem getting a loan
As a territory, Puerto Rico is unable to file for bankruptcy -- unlike Detroit, where officials are attempting to force bondholders to take an 80 percent haircut in bankruptcy court. But analysts said Puerto Rico's downgrade meant the cash-strapped island would be charged exorbitant rates if it could borrow money at all, making the threat of default all the more real. (Washington Post)

•  Economy and Crime Spur New Puerto Rican Exodus
In the past eight years, Puerto Rico's ticker tape of woes has stretched unabated: $70 billion in debt, a 15.4 percent unemployment rate, a soaring cost of living, pervasive crime, crumbling schools and a worrisome exodus of professionals and middle-class Puerto Ricans who have moved to places like Florida and Texas. (New York Times)

Vermont heroin use
A user addicted to heroin shoots up on February 6, 2014 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin recently devoted his entire State of the State speech to the scourge of heroin.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Vermont's heroin epidemic:

• In Parts Of Vermont, Heroin Is 'The Easiest Drug To Get'
You might picture snowy mountains, beautiful woods, apple-cheeked skiers. But Gov. Peter Shumlin is thinking of something else. Last month, he dedicated his entire State of the State address to what he called the rising tide of drug addiction and drug-related crimes. (Tell Me More)

•  How Did Idyllic Vermont Become America's Heroin Capital?
Two million dollars worth of heroin is pumped into Vermont each week, he said, and 80 percent of the state's inmates are in prison for drug crimes. The highways running into Vermont from cities like Boston, New York, Holyoke and Springfield have become heroin pipelines. As Shumlin noted, heroin-related deaths nearly doubled in the last year alone, and the number of people treated for heroin addiction has increased an eye-popping 770 percent since 2000. (Politico)