Friday, August 28, 2015

CALIFORNIA - Water Use Mandate

Note:  This is from the online version of the paper, therefore no article link.

"State Cuts Water Usage 31%, Beating Mandated Target" by BRADLEY J. FIKES, San Diego Union-Tribune 8/28/2015

California’s urban water agencies — including most in San Diego County — comfortably beat the state’s conservation mandate for July, collectively reducing use by an average of 31.3 percent compared with two years ago.

Added to June’s performance, the agencies have cumulatively reduced water consumption by 29.5 percent, the State Water Resources Control Board said Thursday.  The governor’s threshold is an average statewide savings of 25 percent.

By exceeding the conservation order for both months since it took effect, the districts together have built a buffer of sorts in case they slip in later months.

Gov. Jerry Brown imposed the mandate, which will last until at least February, as an emergency measure in response to the state’s ongoing drought.  Each water agency, including major cities such as San Diego that operate their own water system, was given a conservation goal— from 8 percent to 36 percent.

Water agencies are expected to meet their mandates both monthly and cumulatively.  Districts that fall short in a particular month are expected to make up the deficit in later months so their total conservation over the emergency period meets their assigned target.

Four districts in San Diego County missed their marks, according to cumulative totals for June and July released by the state.

The Rainbow Municipal Water District fell short of its 36 percent mandate by 8.4 percentage points.  The Fallbrook Public Utility District failed to meet its 36 percent benchmark by 7.6 percentage points, while the San Dieguito Water District lagged its 28 percent mandate by 5.8 percentage points.  And the Carlsbad Municipal Water District fell short of its 28 percent goal by 1.2 percentage points.

But the Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District, which in June fell 2.2 percentage points short of its 32 percent mandate, more than made up the deficit with better conservation in July.  The agency surpassed its cumulative June-July target by 1.4 percentage points.

The best performer in this county, California American Water’s San Diego District, blew past its 8 percent mandate by a cumulative total of 22 percentage points.

Conservation performance in August could be more difficult because it has been a mostly dry and hot month, compared with July’s ample rainfall in certain parts of the state.

Water experts also caution that people shouldn’t rely on the possibility of the atmospheric phenomenon El Niño providing major relief from the drought or even ending it.

Only the strongest El Niños bring abundant precipitation and snowfall to the Sierra mountains in Northern California, the source of water for the state’s biggest reservoirs.   Average El Niños tend to channel rain mostly toward Southern California, which doesn’t help nearly as much in battling a prolonged drought.

But so far, residents have been meeting the conservation challenge.

“Californians’ response to the severity of the drought this summer is now in high gear and shows that they get that we are in the drought of our lives,” Felicia Marcus, chair of the state water board, said in a statement Thursday.  “This isn’t your mother’s drought or your grandmother’s drought, this is the drought of the century.”

Praise for customers

The number of water agencies that met or surpassed their state conservation target increased from 265 in June to 290 in July.  Only four districts, out of a total of 402, missed their state-imposed mandate by more than 15 percent last month.

“I’m surprised but gratified that people are getting it,” said Rita Schmidt Sudman, an adviser to the Sacramento- based nonprofit Water Education Foundation.

Sudman and other water experts were interviewed for this story during the annual conference of the Urban Water Institute, which is taking place this week in San Diego.

David Drake, a director of the Rincon del Diablo district, said the conservation success shows what Californians are capable of doing when they’re motivated.

“What’s also striking is what it says about how much water we waste,” he said.  “How many leaks do we have?  In my home and my mom’s home, I detected five leaks this year. ...  And on top of that, what can we do to reduce the normal use of water?”

Jack Hoagland, board president of the Rancho California Water District in southwest Riverside County, praised the consumer commitment but said the mandate was unnecessary.

“It’s a great response from customers throughout the state to the governor’s unreasonable request,” he said.

As with officials for water agencies in San Diego County, Hoagland said the conservation order is inflexible and doesn’t take into account local circumstances, such as various projects undertaken to create a more stable water supply.

“Our customers have been extremely cooperative and have invested a lot of their time and effort and money in changing out front yards and just being very reasonable,” Hoagland said.

Greater enforcement

On the state’s end, enforcement is ramping up after an initial educational period.

The state water board said it contacted water districts that did not meet their required conservation targets, with many told to give information about their conservation programs and what steps they are taking to increase conservation.

The board said that for July, it gave 37,170 formal warnings for water waste among 323 suppliers.  In June, it gave 36,302 formal warnings.

The board said it also issued 15,845 penalties among 79 suppliers last month, compared with 8,876 penalties issued in June among 54 suppliers.

EUROPE - Migrants

"Grisly Discovery in Migrant Crisis Shocks Europe" by ALISON SMALE and MELISSA EDDY, New York Times 8/27/2015

Excerpt

The legions of desperate migrants fleeing war and mayhem in the Middle East and Africa have long known they were risking harm from unscrupulous smugglers and death at sea to reach the safety of Europe.  But it became shockingly clear on Thursday that they now face the same dangers within Europe’s own borders.

A white truck filled with the decomposing bodies of as many as 50 smuggled migrants was found abandoned on the outskirts of Vienna in the summer heat.  The discovery came just as European leaders were meeting in a nearby palace to devise new ways to cope with the migration crisis.

News about the corpses instantly overshadowed the meeting and transfixed Europe with new worries that the scope and complexity of the crisis had escalated.

European Union officials have been struggling for ways to control the tens of thousands of migrants who are now reaching the continent, without forfeiting the free movement between member countries that is a fundamental part of life in the 28-nation bloc.  Now its members are confronting human traffickers who are exploiting the open borders.

“We are all shaken by this terrible news that up to 50 people have lost their lives because they got into a situation where smugglers did not care about their lives,” said Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, at a news conference at the Vienna meeting.  “Such a tragic death.”

Ms. Merkel emphasized what she called the need for Europe to pull together and ease the migration crisis, part of the biggest wave of migrants since World War II.  But the meeting ended on a discordant note with no apparent consensus on how to proceed.

The death toll at sea is already greater than 2,500 and is rising almost every day, with news reports on Thursday that a ship carrying hundreds of migrants had sunk off the coast of Libya.  Now the truck discovery has made it clear that the illegal trade in humans has broadened from arranging perilous journeys across the Mediterranean to profiteering from the tens of thousands now pouring in through the Balkans.

Until recently, the flow was mostly restricted to the southern countries, particularly Italy. But as new routes through Greece and the Balkans have become popular, the pressure to stem the flow has broadened and deepened.

The people in the truck were thought to be among the migrants on their way through Central Europe and toward the wealthier countries — particularly Germany — in the north.

The precise death toll had yet to be determined by Thursday night, but more than 20 bodies — and as many as 50 — were believed to be in the truck, said Hans Peter Doskozil, director of the police in the eastern state of Burgenland.  He added that the count was hindered by the advanced state of decomposition.

The discovery was made after a highway worker alerted the police around 11:40 a.m. that the truck, with Hungarian license plates, was parked in the emergency lane of a highway that links Budapest and Vienna, in the Neusiedl am See region, near the Hungarian border.  Mr. Doskozil said the truck had probably set off from east of Budapest on Wednesday, and was abandoned either late that night or early Thursday.

Janos Lazar, chief of staff to Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, said that the authorities believed the truck had been part of a human trafficking operation, and that the victims “were illegal migrants who were trying to reach the West through Hungary or with the help of Hungarians.”

Hungarian officials said they had assigned investigators to help the Austrians with the case.

Mr. Doskozil said the investigators would comb the cab of the truck to establish the identity of the driver.  By afternoon, the authorities said the truck had been towed to an undisclosed location where the bodies could be removed and identified.

“It is clear that this is a case of organized criminality where a lot of money is at stake and business is made out of human suffering,” Mr. Doskozil said.

The discovery was a new twist on a summer of tragedy for migrants, who have drowned at sea by the hundreds and been injured or worse in accidents during their attempts to reach safety and jobs in the European Union.

Just a day earlier, Italian officials announced the discovery of 50 bodies in the hold of a ship that appeared to have departed Libya bound for Italy.

The Balkan overland route has replaced the Mediterranean passage as the favored route for migrants this summer.  The change has severely affected Austria, which has been struggling to cope with the masses of migrants, and officials have grown increasingly concerned about smugglers.

Monday, August 24, 2015

OPINION - Shields and Gerson 8/21/2015

"Shields and Gerson on Trump’s immigration politics, Carter’s cancer news" PBS NewsHour 8/21/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the response to Donald Trump’s immigration policy and his effect on Republican race, whether Hillary Clinton can defuse the attention paid to the investigation into her handling of email, plus bad health news from former President Jimmy Carter.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Well, we saw this week someone who was President decades ago, former President Jimmy Carter, I think, very gracefully handled the bad news, the bad medical health news he got in terms of a diagnosis of cancer, melanoma that has spread to his brain.

Mark, this is somebody who’s been — he’s been out of the White House for 35, 40 years.  And yet — I mean, what do you make of this?  It was quite a remarkable performance, that news conference yesterday.

(CROSSTALK)

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist:  It was, in fact, Judy.

We’re in an era — I think Michael would agree — totally, aggressively secular, where church membership is in decline.  And yet, in the last couple of months, we have seen two examples of the value, the social value, as well as the individual value, of religious faith.

We saw it at the AME Church, the families, survivors of those victims forgiving the killer who was racially motivated.  And we see it in Jimmy Carter, who has devoted his post-presidency to improving the cause of those less fortunate, but showed such grace and courage and humor and faith in the face of this just daunting and dooming news.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  As somebody who covered the Carter White House a long time ago, Michael, I was struck by the humor — as Mark says, the humor.

He said he’d gotten calls from former President — both Presidents Bush and President Obama and Secretary — he said, “Of course, I hadn’t heard from them in a long time.”

MICHAEL GERSON, Washington Post:  Right, yes.

Well, we often get examples of how to live, live healthy, how to live successfully.  There’s a lot of emphasis on this.  But we don’t really get examples of how we approach death.  This is a really good example.

Now, he — it’s not imminent in his case.  He’s seeking treatment.  He wants to live longer and may well live longer.  But there is a calmness, there is a grace, and there is a courage about what he said that’s an example of how you deal with the end.

And he also dealt with it with gratitude, talking about how grateful he was for his life.  That’s a real model for all of us.

INTERNET - Not Private, Not Safe

IMHO:  As a computer specialist and IT Technician (retired) I can tell you that ANYTHING on the Internet is never safe and therefore not private.  Pay attention to the hacking going on world-wide.  Governments are hacked, military sites are hacked, businesses are hacked, and more.  Being on the Internet and expecting privacy is like holding a conversation in Central Park (New York) and expecting that no-one will overhear you.

"Is the trail of secrets we leave online ever safe?" PBS NewsHour 8/21/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Hackers dumped troves of personal information stolen from the adultery website Ashley Madison this week.  Millions of names, email addresses and partial credit card numbers were released, raising alarms about how much privacy any of us enjoy online.  Hari Sreenivasan discusses the fallout with Neil Richards of Washington University and Julia Angwin of ProPublica.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Internet hackers dumped troves of personal information this week stolen from an adultery Web site, raising new questions about online privacy and the ability of Web sites to protect it.

Hari Sreenivasan has our look.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The hackers said the attack on Ashley Madison was motivated by the failure of its parent company to deliver on a service that promised to erase users’ information for a fee.  Millions of names, e-mail addresses and partial credit card numbers were released, a public outing that has raised questions about how much privacy any of us enjoy online.

Joining me to discuss this are Neil Richards, a professor of law at Washington University in Saint Louis, where he studies privacy and the Internet.  His recent book is “Intellectual Privacy:  Rethinking Civil Liberties in the Digital Age.”  And Julia Angwin, who covers privacy for ProPublica, her most recent book is called “Dragnet Nation:  A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance.”

All right, so, Neil, I want to start with you first.

We have had the Sony Pictures hack, where thousands of employees of a corporation had their communication and their information released.  We have had the Office of Personnel Management hacked, 22 million employees of the federal government, right?

We have also had celebrity hacks before, where unsuspecting celebrities had their photos from iPhones or iClouds released.  What makes this different?

NEIL RICHARDS, Washington University:  Well, it’s certainly different because it’s more salacious.  Right?  It involves sex and betrayal.

I think the magnitude of the hack and the sensitivity of the information that is being exposed.  I think it’s important that we think about these questions, because this is a little more juicy in terms of — maybe like tabloid news, than some of the other hacks, but it’s important to draw attention to what is an increasingly enormous problem.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, Julia, I want to ask.  There is this notion that your information, especially on a sensitive site like this, sits in a lockbox.  And to credit this site, this digital set of locks that they had was actually better than average.

But is there such a thing as true security?  As soon as you type something, is it out there forever?

JULIA ANGWIN, ProPublica:  Sadly, what we’re learning is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of true security out there in the real world.

IRAN - Mossad Chief on Nuclear Deal

"Expecting Iran to cheat is why we need this deal, says former Mossad chief" PBS NewsHour 8/21/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Efraim Halevy, former director of Israel’s intelligence and special operations agency Mossad, is breaking with his country's government and public opinion to support the Iran nuclear agreement.  He joins Judy Woodruff from Tel Aviv to discuss his stance.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Tonight, we continue our series of conversations on the agreement as part of our Deal or No Deal series.

Earlier this week, we heard from an Israeli scientist who was opposed to the deal.

This evening, we hear from the former head of Israel’s intelligence and special operations agency, the Mossad, Efraim Halevy, who is breaking with his country’s government and public opinion to support the agreement.

Mr. Halevy, thank you very much for being with us.

Given that you disagree with your government, why do you?  What do you see in this agreement that makes you support it?

EFRAIM HALEVY, Former Director, Mossad:  I believe this agreement closes the roads and blocks the road to Iranian nuclear military capabilities for at least a decade.

And I believe that the arrangements that have been agreed between the parties are such that give us a credible answer to the Iranian military threat, at least for a decade, if not longer.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  You have said that this agreement is historic from the Iranian point of view.  What did you mean by that?

EFRAIM HALEVY:  Up to a couple of years ago, the Iranians refused to discuss their nuclear programs on the basis of a negotiation, international negotiations.  They said that this was their sovereign right to do whatever they wished.

They have caved in.  They have entered into a detailed discussion of their capabilities.  They have agreed to an agreement which lists their various facilities in Iran.  They have agreed to knocking out the first and foremost important element in it, their location in Arak, which is a plutogenic-producing facility in potential.

The core of this particular aspect is going to be destroyed.  And that means that there will be no capability of the Iranians to ultimately weaponize whatever they are doing for the purposes of attacking anybody around the world for the next decade.  If only for that element alone, I would say this is an agreement worthwhile accepting.

WOMEN'S HEALTH - Breast Cancer, Early Treatment or Not?

"Study raises questions about treatment for early breast cancer" PBS NewsHour 8/20/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  A new study has found that women who received lumpectomies and mastectomies for very early stage breast cancer had similar survival rates to those who had less radical treatments.  Dr. Steven Narod of the Women's College Research Institute and Dr. Monica Morrow of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center discuss the findings with Judy Woodruff.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  There was other big news today related to cancer.

A study published in “The Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology” found that women given lumpectomies and mastectomies as treatment for very early-stage breast cancer had similar survival rates to those patients who had less radical cancer treatments.  Those findings may call into question some of the standard assumptions on how to treat the disease.

For a closer look at the study and its potential implications, we turn to two cancer specialists.  Dr. Steven Narod is a researcher at the Women’s College Research Institute in Toronto.  He was the study’s lead author.  And Dr. Monica Morrow is chief breast cancer surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

Dr. Morrow, Dr. Narod, welcome to you both.

I’m going to start with you, Dr. Narod.

On this study, we did read that it’s the most extensive collection of data ever analyzed on this particular type of cancer.  Boil down the findings for us.

DR. STEVEN NAROD, Women’s College Research Institute:  We focused on 100,000 women with the earliest form of cancer.  Some say it’s not even cancer.  It’s a precursor lesion.  We call it DCIS, or ductal carcinoma in situ.

So, this, because it’s a very good prognosis, we followed the 100,000 women for up to 20 years and we found that, at 20 years, about 3 percent of them had died of breast cancer.  Roughly a third of the patients were treated with lumpectomy alone, which is removing the DCIS, the focus of cancer.  One-third of the patients, probably, had a lumpectomy plus radiotherapy, and one-third of the patients approximately had the entire breast removed through mastectomy.

And what we found, that there was no difference in the survival at 20 years between women treated with any of the three ways.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  What is the — you said one-third, one-third, one-third.  What do these findings tell you that the treatment should be?

DR. STEVEN NAROD:  Well, it tells us about — something about the early stages of breast cancer.

The reason I say that is because, of those 3 percent of the women who died of breast cancer, most of them, 54 percent of them, between the time they had DCIS and the time they had a distant recurrence or a metastatic disease, never experienced another breast — cancer in the breast.

BUSINESS - The Counterintuitive Business Model

"How a clothing company’s anti-consumerist message boosted business" PBS NewsHour 8/20/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  High-end outdoor clothing company Patagonia outfits mountain climbers, snowboarders, surfers and trail runners -- athletes who subject their gear to abuse.  Each day, some of that clothing makes its way back to the company's headquarters, where workers extend the life of their customers’ products by making free repairs.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports on the company’s ethos.

WOMAN:  Are you guys sitting down, because this is pretty horrifying.  OK?  Dog bite?  Shark attack?

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  Seamstress Cathy Averett couldn’t care less.

CATHY AVERETT, Patagonia:  When I get something like this, I do my best to make it kind of special, you know?  It doesn’t look new, but so what, OK?  I don’t look new anymore.  It’s OK.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Averett stitches for Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company high-end enough to have earned the nickname Patagucci.  Downstairs, the company’s Reno, Nevada, warehouse and distribution center sends its garments hither and yon, to be worn by rock and mountain climbers, skiers and snowboarders, surfers, trail runners, or folks who just want to dress as if they do all that stuff.

And each day, some of those clothes make their way back to Reno, to what’s billed as the largest clothing rehab facility in North America.

WOMAN:  They mess them up and we fix them up.

(LAUGHTER)

DOUG FREEMAN, Chief Operating Officer, Patagonia:  Behind me are 55 people extending the life of our product for our customers.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Doug Freeman is Patagonia’s chief operating officer.

DOUG FREEMAN:  We want our customers to invest in great product, and when it’s worn out, we want to repair it for them.

PAUL SOLMAN:  It doesn’t sound economical for the company.

DOUG FREEMAN:  I can understand why you would say that.  But the way we view it is that we want to reduce consumption.

IRAN - Nuclear Deal in U.S. Congress

"Where does the Iran nuclear deal stand in Congress?" PBS NewsHour 8/19/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Congress will vote next month on a measure to disapprove or block the Iran nuclear deal.  But will opponents have enough votes?  Gwen Ifill talks to chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner and political director Lisa Desjardins.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The Associated Press reports today that under an agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran will be allowed to use its own inspectors to investigate one location it has been accused of using to develop nuclear arms.

This comes about halfway through the 60-day period that Congress has to scrutinize the Iran nuclear deal with the U.S. and five other countries, a period in which we’re seeing a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign.  Both houses of Congress plan to vote next month on a measure to disapprove, or block, the deal.  But opponents face a few hurdles.  They first need 60 votes in the Senate.  And then, if they get a disapproval bill to the President, he’s expected to veto it, meaning they would then need a two-third vote to override him.

Joining me now for a midway check up on all this, our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, and our political director, Lisa Desjardins.

Welcome to you both.

So, Margaret, I will start with you.

Where do things stand right now?

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  Well, Judy, the White House has given up all hope that in fact this deal might be considered on the merits with no partisan consideration and they might actually get an endorsement or some Republicans.

So they are focused, as you said, on just making sure they have a rock-hard 34 votes to override a veto.  And the President is right now working overtime, both from his vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard and before that in lots of meetings, to try to get at least 34 to come out publicly.

That said, right now, they only have 23 to 24 publicly declared supporters.  But they did get a boost today when a conservative Democrat from Indiana, (Sen) Joe Donnelly, who had been on the fence, came out late today and said he would support the deal.

EDUCATION - Rethinking College

also from 'Greed Files'

"Should financial aid only go to college students in need?" PBS NewsHour 8/19/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  At many colleges and universities, merit-based scholarships are meant to attract the best and the brightest students.  But opponents say they can inadvertently end up rewarding the richest applicants.  That’s why some schools have started giving out need-based aid only.  Hari Sreenivasan explores how Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania made the jump to improve its economic diversity.

MAN:  Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Michael DiAntonio is the face of a new college bidding war.  A gifted student in high school, DiAntonio was offered thousands of dollars in merit scholarships at several universities, even though his family was wealthy enough to pay full tuition.

MAN:  Michael Anthony DiAntonio III.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

HARI SREENIVASAN:  DiAntonio turned down the scholarships and chose instead to attend Franklin & Marshall, a private college in Pennsylvania, that offered him no aid at all.  His family paid full tuition, room and board, $60,000 annually for four years.

This spring, DiAntonio graduated, and despite the high costs, he and his family say the education here received was well worth the investment.

MIKE DIANTONIO, Franklin & Marshall College Graduate:  I would say it’s worth it 100 percent.  I could really excel and push myself as hard as I could and come out of it with an amazing education.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Education experts say a growing number of colleges across the country are offering their precious scholarship money to families who can already afford it.

MICHAEL DANNENBERG, Education Reform Now:  The concept of using financial aid as bait has been increasing, bait for upper-income families.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  According to Michael Dannenberg with Education Reform Now, more affluent students means a better bottom line for schools.

MICHAEL DANNENBERG:  Colleges are kind of in a competitive market, competitive game to get high-paying students.  So they use financial aid as a tool.

Basically, a college that’s got $20,000 to give out in financial aid, so it can get four students who will pay $15,000 out of pocket, as opposed to one very needy student who can pay nothing.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, what could have cost the college $20,000 for one student instead earning the college $60,000.

In fact, that’s the path Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was on, until five years ago, when the school took a hard look at the low-income students they were excluding.

EDUCATION - Early College

"Does early college for high school students pave a path to graduation?" PBS NewsHour 8/18/2015

Excerpts

SUMMARY:  In a Texas border town where nearly all high school students live in poverty, the school district is trying an experiment to get more kids into college.  Instead of waiting until students graduate to enroll them in higher education, the school is pairing with a local college to offer courses for free.  Hari Sreenivasan looks at whether this method for closing the college graduation gap is working.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  When superintendent Daniel King walks the halls of his South Texas high schools…

DANIEL KING, Superintendent, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo Independent School District:  How it’s going?  How are you guys doing?

HARI SREENIVASAN:  … he’s not focused on the fact that nearly all of his students live in poverty or that almost half learned English as a second language.  What King talks about almost exclusively is college.

DANIEL KING:  Have you started college classes already?

STUDENT:  Yes.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  In a district on the Mexican border where most adults have no college education, Daniel King is intent on ensuring that their children get one before they even leave high school.

DANIEL KING:  What are you going to study?

STUDENT:  In the medical field.

DANIEL KING:  In the medical field?  Any idea what yet or…

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Seven years ago, King’s district, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo, partnered with South Texas College to offer classes for free to all 8,000-plus high school students.

DANIEL KING:  It brings a lot of purpose to high school, because college becomes something concrete for them.

Are you going to have an associate degree or…

DANIEL KING:  These students have the potential to leave here with two years of college under their belt.  So, that’s a big economic savings.
-----
HARI SREENIVASAN:  So far, more than 95 percent of the students who graduated Pharr-San Juan-Alamo District with an associate’s degree have gone on to pursue their bachelor’s.

TECHNOLOGY - Telemedicine

COMMENT:  This article has personal significance for me.  My sister died in 2007 in similar circumstances.  She was in her early 80s with cancer and her prognosis was having to spend her remaining 6mths of life mostly hospitalized.  She and her husband made the decision to NOT take the treatments, to go on hospice care, and enjoy her remaining life visiting people and places she loved.

"When patients live far from care, video conferencing can be a palliative support lifeline" PBS NewsHour 8/18/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  People facing life-threatening illnesses often access palliative care to ease their pain and help with difficult end-of-life choices.  But for those living in remote, rural areas, getting that comforting care can be unwieldy.  Special correspondent Joanne Elgart Jennings reports on how one doctor in Northern California is trying to come up with innovative ways to ease the process.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  People facing life-threatening illnesses often turn to palliative care, not only to address their pain, but also to navigate end-of-life choices.  It’s never an easy process, but it’s even harder for those living in remote rural areas.

One doctor in Northern California is finding innovative ways to help ease the burden.

Special correspondent Joanne Jennings reports from Humboldt County, California.  It’s the latest in our Breakthroughs series on invention and innovation.

JOANNE JENNINGS (NewsHour):  Dr. Michael Fratkin, an internist specializing in palliative medicine, is making a house call to a terminally ill patient.

WOMAN:  This is where I would like to die when I die, in my own bed, in my own home.

JOANNE JENNINGS:  At 73 years old, Kristi Goechel is confronting her mortality.  Six months ago, the retired school guidance counselor was diagnosed with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer.  Her oncologist recommended surgery and chemotherapy, but Goechel to forgo treatment.

KRISTI GOECHEL, Retired Guidance Counselor:  My husband was in the hospital for a long time before he died.  And it was painful.  I don’t want to live the rest of my life like that.  If I have three months, six months, I don’t care.  I want quality of life with my family.

JOANNE JENNINGS:  Now home, Goechel is savoring every moment.

KRISTI GOECHEL:  I get a lot of pain.

DR. MICHAEL FRATKIN, Resolution Care:  And then where’s the pain?

JOANNE JENNINGS:  Like most palliative care doctors, Fratkin does manage pain.  But he also tries to get his patients to focus beyond the physical.

DR. MICHAEL FRATKIN:  How are you feeling inside yourself?

KRISTI GOECHEL:  Well, I’m feeling better.  I was feeling pretty crazy inside myself for a while.  And I’m trying to work that out now emotionally.

JOANNE JENNINGS:  To offer this kind of personal care requires time.  But with most of his patients living off the beaten path, far from Fratkin’s office in Eureka, that’s almost impossible.

TOXIC SPILL - The Consequences

"Toxic spill causes hardship for the Navajo farmers and ranchers downstream" PBS NewsHour 8/17/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  It's been nearly two weeks since an EPA accident at a defunct Colorado mine fouled rivers in multiple states, and among the hardest hit residents are the Navajos.  Special correspondent Kathleen McCleery reports from New Mexico.

Editor’s note:  We originally reported that the San Juan River flows into Arizona and then enters Lake Powell.  In fact, it joins the Colorado River in Utah, then flows into Lake Powell, which straddles the Arizona border.  Also, in a map of the Navajo Nation, we incorrectly illustrated the northern border, which more closely follows the San Juan River than our depiction.  We regret the errors.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  It’s been 12 days since an accident at a defunct Colorado gold mine fouled rivers in three states.

Special correspondent Kathleen McCleery has an update on the impact the spill has had on Native Americans and others in Northwest New Mexico.

KATHLEEN MCCLEERY (NewsHour):  The sunflowers in Upper Fruitland, New Mexico, are drooping.

LORENZO BATES, Speaker, Navajo Nation Council:  When you look at them now, they’re all hanging over because they haven’t — they need water.

KATHLEEN MCCLEERY:  On LoRenzo Bates’ farm, it’s not just sunflowers in trouble.  The alfalfa, key for feeding his animals, is stunted.

LORENZO BATES:  This is right now 12 days behind.  This hay has to get me through the winter season.

KATHLEEN MCCLEERY:  Bates, the speaker of the Navajo Nation, tallied his losses so far at $1,000 in just one week, no small amount in this poor region.  It’s all because Bates and thousands of others here couldn’t pull water from the San Juan River, which abuts his land.  Irrigation ditches were shut down after the mine accident earlier this month 100 miles north in Silverton, Colorado.

Efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up one mine resulted in a breach at another, the Gold King Mine, which has been inactive since 1923.  A three million gallon toxic stew of heavy metals poured downstream, turning the Animas River a shocking yellow.

WAR ON ISIS - Islamic Teenage Brides

"What motivated these teenage girls to become Islamic State brides?" PBS NewsHour 8/17/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  In London, three seemingly normal and high-achieving teenage girls recently left their homes to join the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria, leaving their families to grapple for answers.  Their story is the subject of a new multimedia report by The New York Times.  Judy Woodruff talks to New York Times video journalist Mona El-Naggar and Steven Simon of Dartmouth College.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Last week on the program, we heard about the Islamic State’s practice of institutionalized sexual slavery of non-Muslim women.

Tonight, we focus on another New York Times report about three seemingly normal and high-performing teenage girls who willingly left their homes in Great Britain to join the terrorist group.

We begin with a video excerpt that shows the family of one of the girls grappling for answers.

WOMAN:  This is Kadiza’s room.  Very neat and tidy.  She is very organized.  But she wasn’t sleeping here on the night that she left.

NARRATOR:  This was Kadiza Sultana’s home in London before she left to join ISIS.  Her sister has been devastated ever since Kadiza disappeared.

WOMAN:  The yellow jumper, that is her.  So, she selected all these to put in — we went to Bangladesh.  That was in 2009.

WOMAN:  How did she get the money?

WOMAN:  We asked the question.  We asked it of the police, and they haven’t got it for us, really.

NARRATOR:  Kadiza was 16 and a straight-A student at this school.  One morning, she told her mother she was leaving to study.  But she never returned.  The next time the family saw Kadiza was on the news.

WOMAN:  International hunt for three young girls believed to be on their way to join ISIS.

MAN:  At Gatwick, they boarded a Turkish Airlines plane for Istanbul.

WOMAN:  Police are out in Turkey trying to find them.

NARRATOR:  The girls weren’t even old enough to drive, but they traveled thousands of miles to Syria and handed themselves over to ISIS.

SCANDAL - Missing Pentagon Money


"The Biggest Scandal in US History That We're Still Not Talking About" by Mtosner, Daily KOS 8/18/2015

Excerpt

The above is roughly what 8.5 Trillion dollars would look like... and those are $100 bills.  Take another look and let that sink in for a bit...   I find it absolutely astonishing that the pentagon could lose track of this much money and for there to be no MSM coverage of this scandalous amount of mismanagement and fraud.  Where is the demand for accountability?  Why is the first question to ANY candidate for president not "What would you do about the massive fraud and waste at the Pentagon?"  Where are the hearings, nay indictments, that are warranted when a sum equal to 1/2 of our national debt can be sent to the pentagon to never be accounted for.

We progressives need to work this scandal into every political conversation we engage in, especially when we talk to conservatives.  Cutting government spending and accountability are supposed to be core GOP values.

Combine "Known" Pentagon waste (like the 1.5 Trillion dollar F35) with missing pentagon money and you have a good chunk of our entire national debt represented.

"What's that?  Body cameras for all cops will be too expensive?  How bout we find 1/10,000th of the money we sent to the pentagon."

"Oh really?  There's 500 million in provable food stamp fraud going to poor people how bout the 8.5 TRILLION the pentagon can't account for?"

"Oh really?  You think Obama care is going to cost us almost a trillion dollars over 15 years?  How about the 8.5 Trillion that just disappeared into the ether at the pentagon?  What's you're take on that?"

"Oh really, you're concerned about deficit spending and the debt?  Fully 1/3 of the national debt it is money we sent the Pentagon and they can't tell us where it went.  It's just gone."

"College for everyone will cost too much?  You must be really pissed at the 8.5 Trillion, with a 't', dollars the pentagon's spent and can't tell us where it went."

Bringing up this "open secret" exposes their hypocrisy, and draws attention to the lack of corporate media attention to this HUGE SCANDALOUS level of waste by the Military/Industrial/Media complex ownership of government.  It seems for few hundred million in "be all you can be" ad buys the MSM will keep it's mouth shut.  We need to press so called journalists to bring this issue front and center.  No candidate should be allowed to talk about government waste or big government with out being asked the follow up "What would you do about the massive 8.5 Trillion dollars the pentagon can't account for?"

In short; nothing reinforces our position that the money for valuable social and infrastructure programs (that have provable returns on investment) is actually there than this scandal.  We need to harp on this until we get some answers and we need to leverage it more to shut down debate about desperately needed social program spending.

Monday, August 17, 2015

OPINION - Brooks and Corn 8/14/2015

"Brooks and Corn on Cuba as campaign issue, Jeb Bush on Islamic State blame" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2015

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SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and David Corn of Mother Jones join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, why Jeb Bush is calling out the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton for the rise of the Islamic State, including how 2016 candidates are responding to renewed relations with Cuba, whether Hillary Clinton is losing ground in the 2016 race, plus the appeal of Donald Trump.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Well, something else Jeb Bush brought up this week was — as an issue in the race was going after Hillary Clinton, blaming her and the Obama administration for — essentially for helping create ISIS.

And he said that with the Obama administration did under her leadership as secretary of state was to leave an opening, pulling the troops out, he said, too early in 2011.  Is this something, David Corn, that he can get some mileage?

DAVID CORN, Mother Jones:  I mean, I have to laugh a little bit, because I think he was setting a record for chutzpah.

I mean, it wasn’t until after his brother’s invasion of Iraq that you had something called al-Qaida in Iraq.  And that was the group that morphed into ISIS.  So ISIS is a direct result of the war in Iraq right there.  And so he’s wrong on the history.

But then he said what happened was that Obama and Hillary Clinton orchestrated this quick withdrawal after everything was secure.  Nothing was really secure in 2009-2010.  You can ask Tom Ricks about that.  But it was George W. Bush in December 2008 who created the agreement with Prime Minister Maliki that said that U.S. troops had to be out by 2011.

And then Obama didn’t renegotiate that.  And there is a lot of question as to whether he could even have, given the political situation in Baghdad itself.  So Bush is totally — Jeb Bush is totally rewriting this.  And my question is, why is he even talking about Iraq?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  Yes.  He wants to have an anti-terror foreign policy.

I give him a little more credit, of course.  I think the war did help create al-Qaida in Iraq.  So, both parties have something to answer for.  Ultimately, ISIS created ISIS.  It wasn’t us, but allowing the environment — so the Bush administration, the failed war, that had a — some contributory factor.

I do think that we abandoned Iraq too quickly, left too quickly, left a void in the Sunni areas, which ISIS was completely happy to fill.  But more important — and this is a bigger indictment of the Obama administration — we did nothing about the Syrian civil war.  And that created the biggest void.

And that’s not necessarily Hillary Clinton’s fault because she was arguing for a more aggressive policy.  Nonetheless, we did nothing.  Even today, our attacks on ISIS are paltry, and we have continue to do nothing.  And there are strategic issues.  There are just moral issues.

Today, my newspaper had a front-page story on just rape academies, this institutionalized rape.  And the fact that we can stand by and do nothing while this is happening, to me, that’s an indictment of the sitting administration.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Extraordinary story.  We interview the reporter, Rukmini Callimachi, last night.  It is just such a disturbing story.

But does he have a point, though, David?

DAVID CORN:  I think you can have a policy dispute or debate, a discussion about what should be done, what has been done in the last three, four years regarding ISIS and Iraq.

You can’t blame Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for giving us ISIS, which is what Jeb Bush did.  And if he wants to get to brass tacks and talk about what he’s willing to do in terms of putting in troops and taking on targeting that hasn’t been done already — I mean, Barack Obama has mounted thousands of airstrikes.

And the real question is, at the end of the day, can the U.S. go in and make a difference?  We have learned with the invasion of Iraq that military might doesn’t always give us what we want in this region.

CHILDREN'S TV - Sesame Street, HBO

It's all about money.

"Does Sesame Street’s new address change its mission?" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Sesame Street, the beloved children's television series and PBS staple since 1969, will have a new address coming this fall.  A five-year partnership with HBO means episodes will air first on the premium pay cable channel before appearing on public television nine months later.  Judy Woodruff discusses the changes with Gary Knell, former CEO of Sesame Workshop.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Finally, big changes at “Sesame Street.”

Yesterday, the long-running PBS children’s television series announced a new five-year partnership with HBO starting this fall.  New episodes of the show, a PBS staple since it premiered in 1969, will appear first on the premium pay cable channel.  Then it will air for free on their traditional public television home nine months later.

To help us explore what led to this change, and what it means, we turn to Gary Knell.  He was CEO of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit group behind the show, from 2000 until 2011.  Then he was head of NPR, before moving to his current job as president of the National Geographic Society.

Gary Knell, great to have you with us.

GARY KNELL, Former CEO, Sesame Workshop:  Thanks for having me back.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, tell us, what was behind this?  Now that we have a day to digest the news, what do we attribute this to?  What were the forces at work?

GARY KNELL:  Well, I think you have got to look at this three ways, Judy.

For HBO, this is about streaming.  They’re competing with Netflix, and for them — and Amazon Prime — and this is a way of getting a number-one quality brand onto their streaming platforms.

For “Sesame Street”, this filled an economic gap.  And their economic model for many years has really been filled by home video and toys and books and other things that they were able to monetize off the brand to pay for the production in a lot of ways from — for PBS.  And this is a way of plugging that gap and giving them running room.

And I think, for PBS, it’s a little bit of an admission that maybe they’re a little bigger than “Sesame Street.”  They have 19 preschool and kids shows on PBS.  And PBS KIDS has become a robust network that is bigger than “Sesame Street” now.  It includes “Sesame Street.”  That’s an important component, but it’s bigger than.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  But why HBO?  We think of this as a — frankly, a channel that appeals to adults.  It’s a premium pay cable thing.  It’s something people are going to have to pay for.  Why — couldn’t it work at PBS?

GARY KNELL:  Well, it could, but I think, for HBO, this is quite a brilliant move, I think, to go after millennial audiences and young parents who grew up with “Sesame Street.”

(like I said, it's all about the money, for HBO)

And, again, they’re in a fight to the death now, not so much about their cable channel, so to speak, but it’s much more about streaming.  It’s this a la carte world, where we’re now competing against every piece of content ever invented, from a cat video to “Gone With the Wind,” every night, and unless you have great a la carte programs, you’re going to be in a competitive disadvantage to the Netflixes and the Amazon Primes of the world.

AT THE MOVIES - Straight Outta Compton

"‘Straight Outta Compton’ calls out racial divide that lingers today" PBS NewsHour 8/14/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The album "Straight Outta Compton" by rap group N.W.A. burst onto the hip hop scene in 1988, evoking the turmoil of gang violence, crack cocaine and poverty and the tension between young black Americans and the police.  A new movie, borrowing the same name, details the rise of those musicians and resonates with ongoing struggles today.  Jeffrey Brown reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  But, first, a new movie opening today revisits a key period in the evolution of hip-hop music, as well as present-day issues of race and justice.

Jeffrey Brown previews “Straight Outta Compton.”

MAN:  You are now about to witness the strength of street violence.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  It was music with attitude, aggressive, angry, sometimes funny, always profane.

The album “Straight Outta Compton” burst on the hip-hop scene in 1988 from the rap group N.W.A.  It described a place reeling from gang violence, crack cocaine and poverty, a war zone between young black men and women and the Los Angeles police.  The new movie, which borrows the album’s name, details the rise of N.W.A.

ACTOR:  What’s N.W.A stand for anyway?  No whites allowed?

ACTOR:  No, Niggaz Wit Attitudes.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The group included D.J. Yella, M.C. Ren and Eazy-E, a drug-dealer-turned-producer and rapper who would die from AIDS in 1995, as well as Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, who’ve gone on to enormous fame and who served as producers for the film.

ICE CUBE, Producer, “Straight Outta Compton”:  It’s been a long, long road, but now is the time.

And I think, you know, America really, really wants this story because it’s really a slice of American history.

JEFFREY BROWN:  The movie, spanning a decade, was directed by Compton native F. Gary Gray.

It shows how N.W.A established itself at a time when New York rap was dominant and how the group responded to its environment, as when its members are detained by police outside a music studio as they’re recording their first album.

CALIFORNIA - The Wild Fires

"Why California’s fires are burning longer and harder" PBS NewsHour 8/13/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  High temperatures, unpredictable winds and extremely dry conditions caused by the relentless drought have made managing this summer's blazes particularly challenging and unpredictable in California.  The NewsHour's Cat Wise reports from Lake County, one of the state's hardest hit areas.

WOMAN:  Is there a fire by you?  Someone just called one in.  And they said they’re seeing flames and black smoke.

CAT WISE (NewsHour):  Rancher Lonne Sloan is keeping a close eye on the horizon these days.  For the past week, Sloan and her husband, Larry, have been on the front lines of wildfires raging across California.  Their 340-acre ranch, near the town of Lower Lake, went up in flames last Wednesday during one of the state’s biggest fires so far this year called the Rocky Fire.

WOMAN:  This was our equipment shed.  And the fire started over the hill.

CAT WISE:  The Sloans, who managed to save their home with the help of nearby fire crews, estimate they lost about $150,000 worth of equipment, most of it uninsured.

WOMAN:  And this was my horse trailer that is melted.  I compete professionally in parades.

CAT WISE:  Their property, like so many in the area, is now a moonscape totally devoid of any vegetation, a sign of the intensity of the blaze that went through here.

The Rocky Fire began July 29 and burned nearly 70,000 acres and 43 homes.  It’s now almost fully contained.  But on Sunday, a new wildfire, called the Jerusalem Fire, broke out nearby and quickly began spreading.  It’s now about 30 percent contained, and has burned more than 20,000 acres.

The fires are burning in hilly terrain with heavy brush known as chaparral.  High temperatures, unpredictable winds, and extremely dry conditions in the area have been a bad mix for firefighters.

IRAN NUCLEAR PROGRAM - Deal or No Deal

"Why the president of a group opposing the Iran agreement decided to call it quits" PBS NewsHour 8/12/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Gary Samore helped establish the advocacy group United Against a Nuclear Iran in 2008, before serious negotiations began over the nation's nuclear program.  When the nuclear deal was signed last month, the group offered a near-unanimous opposition to the pact.  But Samore disagreed; satisfied with the agreement, he stepped down as the group's president.  He joins Hari Sreenivasan for a conversation.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Gary Samore helped establish the advocacy group United Against a Nuclear Iran in 2008, before serious negotiations had begun over Iran’s nuclear program.  The goal?  Strengthen sanctions against Tehran in the face of what Samore and others believed was a clandestine nuclear program.

From 2009 to 2013, Samore served as President Obama’s White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, while serious talks between the so-called P5-plus-one and Iran were under way.

After leaving the White House, Samore went to the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  When the nuclear deal was signed with Iran last month, there was near-unanimous opposition to the pact from Samore’s fellow members of the anti-Iran-nuclear advocacy group.  It is resuming a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign denouncing the deal.

But Samore’s judgment was different.  He was satisfied with the Iran agreement, and he has now stepped down as the group’s president.

On Monday, former Connecticut Democratic and independent Senator Joseph Lieberman, a decided opponent of the Iran deal, was named as the chairman of United Against a Nuclear Iran organization.

And Gary Samore joins me now.

BOOK - Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic

"How the ‘quietest’ drug epidemic has ravaged the U.S." PBS NewsHour 8/12/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Former Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones examines the dramatic surge of heroin use in the U.S. in his new book, "Dreamland:  The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic."  Quinones paints a graphic portrait of the national problem in a conversation with Jeffrey Brown.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Now the latest addition to the NewsHour Bookshelf.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, heroin usage in the U.S. has doubled among young adults in the last decade and deaths have quadrupled.

Former Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Quinones looks at what’s driving that surge in his new book, “Dreamland:  The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic.”

He recently talked with Jeffrey Brown and painted a graphic portrait of a national problem.

SAM QUINONES, Author, “Dreamland:  The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic”:  This is the quietest epidemic, drug epidemic or drug scourge, we have ever had in this country, certainly in the last 50, 60 years.

No public violence is associated, not like crack, where the people were battling for street corners and this kind of thing.  People are dying alone in their bedrooms, in a McDonald’s bathroom.  And there’s no publicity.  Families are stigmatized, horribly mortified that their kids are addicted and then that their kids die of this stuff.

JEFFREY BROWN:  So, this came from reporting on the drug trade in Mexico and the U.S. What grabbed your attention?

SAM QUINONES:  Well, I discovered in the course of my reporting the story of one small town in Mexico on the Pacific Coast, where everybody in that town had migrated to the United States, had developed a system for selling heroin.

They were master heroin retailers in the United States, selling heroin like pizza, like delivery model.  And they had used this system to, first of all, employ hundreds of people in the town and spread across the country, so they were in like half the country.

What I also came to understand, though, was that they had this enormous market for heroin.  This one small town became one of the major suppliers of heroin to the United States.  That market was due entirely to a whole new supply of addicts who got addicted to prescription painkillers.

AFRICA - The Black Mambas

"All-women team goes on the hunt for poachers in South Africa" PBS NewsHour 8/11/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Named for the most feared snake in Africa, the Black Mambas are a specially trained all-female anti-poaching team.  Day and night, they sweep through a South African game reserve, protecting rhinos and other endangered species and looking for any signs of poachers.  Special correspondent Martin Seemungal reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  But, first, the high-profile killing of Cecil the lion by an American dentist in Zimbabwe recently has put the spotlight back on big game hunting and poaching in Africa.

Today, Zimbabwe lifted the ban on lion, leopard and elephant hunting, which it imposed after the killing and worldwide attention which followed.

Tonight, we take a look at efforts to stop illegal poaching in neighboring South Africa, with a one-of-a-kind group which is fighting to protect endangered species.

NewsHour special correspondent Martin Seemungal has our story.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL (NewsHour):  They take their name from the most feared snake in Africa.  The Black Mambas are a specially trained all-women anti-poaching unit, protecting rhinos and other endangered species.

FELICIA MOHAKANE, Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit:  I wanted to protect the rhinos.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  Mm-hmm. .

FELICIA MOHAKANE:  Because I heard a lot about people, those who are killing rhinos.  So I just had an interest that I must have and work here and — and protect those rhinos.

MARTIN SEEMUNGAL:  Right.

They’re critical eyes and ears on the ground, patrolling the perimeter fences, looking for any signs of poacher incursions.  They walk 20 miles, often longer, during the day, and they work at night, a loud, very visible display that they are still watching after dark.

They use a vehicle at night because it is far too dangerous to come out on foot.  But there are still threats.  The wild animals — that’s an elephant they have to back off.  Lions and leopards hunt at night.  Poachers are usually heavily armed.  All of the women admit it wasn’t easy in the beginning.

Siphiwe Sithole is one of the Black Mamba veterans.  She runs the operation center, but spent three years on the beat in the bush.

WORLD ECONOMICS - The China Effect

"China rattles markets by devaluing its currency" PBS NewsHour 8/11/2015

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now to China’s decision to devalue its currency, the yuan.  This effort to revive economic growth in the country shook up global markets today and sparked fears among U.S. exporters.

The decision to devalue had an instant effect: the yuan currency fell nearly 2 percent against the U.S. dollar, the most in a decade.

Beijing’s goal, to make China’s exports cheaper and boost an economy that’s been slowing markedly.

WOMAN (through interpreter):  The export sector is facing great pressure.  Inventories are high.  Manufacturing, including investment, is facing overcapacity.  So, in order to stop sliding export figures, we need to adjust the currency rate.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Indeed, China’s exports were down sharply in July, by more than 8 percent.  Even so, reaction to the currency move was mixed on the streets of Beijing.

MAN (through interpreter):  It should be a good thing for the people’s lives.  Exports will be easier to export, and it will be easier to sell things.

MAN (through interpreter):  In the short term, it doesn’t look like it will have any particularly obvious impact.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Meanwhile, the European Commission welcomed the prospect of a weaker Chinese currency.

ANNIKA BREIDHARDT, European Commission Spokeswoman:  To the extent that the changes announced overnight reflect a shift in operating regime, allowing the daily fix to better reflect the balance of demand and supply in the foreign exchange market, we consider that this is a positive development.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  U.S. exporters have long complained that China’s currency valuation is already too low, giving its goods an unfair advantage.

But, in Washington, the State Department was reluctant to criticize today’s move.

MARK TONER, State Department Spokesman:  We have pressed China to continue financial reforms.  And while we want to see additional economic reforms we believe that are needed, but we have seen progress.  And that has included the recent commitments by China that were secured at the most recent security and economic dialogue.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  China is the latest large economy to devalue its currency.  In the past two years, Japan and the European Union took similar steps.


"What does the yuan’s decline mean for the U.S.?" PBS NewsHour 8/11/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  What does a weaker yuan mean for China and the global economy?  Greg Ip of The Wall Street Journal and Orville Schell of the Asia Society join Judy Woodruff to discuss the economic and geopolitical factors.



"Sudden Chinese currency devaluation has global consequences" PBS NewsHour 8/12/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Following market forces, China again devalued the yuan, rocking world stock and currency markets for a second straight day.  According to some analysts, the change could hurt U.S. companies that do a lot of business inside China, like Apple and Coca-Cola.  Judy Woodruff gets analysis from Eswar Prasad of Cornell University and Michael McDonough of Bloomberg.

VIOLENCE IN AMERICA - Ferguson, Again

"How peaceful Ferguson anniversary protests turned violent" PBS NewsHour 8/10/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Police critically wounded an 18-year-old black man overnight in Ferguson, Missouri, where mostly peaceful protests marked the anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown.  Authorities say Tyrone Harris Jr. and others shot at officers, who in turn shot back, wounding Harris.  Judy Woodruff learns more from Yamiche Alcindor of USA Today.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Authorities in Saint Louis County, Missouri, imposed a new state of emergency today after police critically wounded an 18-year-old black man overnight.

It happened at the end of protests in the town of Ferguson marking the death of Michael Brown one year ago.  Police said a late-night demonstration got rowdy, and Tyrone Harris Jr. and others opened fire on them.  They said officers shot back, wounding Harris.

The incident drew the attention of U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who was at a police convention today in Pittsburgh.

LORETTA LYNCH, Attorney General:  I strongly condemn the violence that was perpetrated against the community, including the police officers, in Ferguson last evening.  Not only does violence obscure any message of peaceful protest.  It places the community as well as the officers who are seeking to protect it in harm’s way.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  There were new protests around Ferguson and Saint Louis today.  Some 100 people rallied at the county courthouse.  Nearly 60 were arrested.

I spoke a short time ago with reporter Yamiche Alcindor, who’s covering the story for USA Today.

Yamiche, welcome.

What is the situation right now?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, USA Today:  Well, moments ago, several protesters were arrested outside a federal courthouse building.

And some of them are really people that are really prominent protesters, along with Cornel West.  So, right now, they’re being processed at that federal courthouse and they’re actually facing federal charges.  But it’s going to be really a $125 fine.  They wouldn’t really say whether or not it’s a misdemeanor or a felony, but of course it’s a $125 fine.

So, it’s not — it’s still a summons.  It’s not going to be anything too serious, but this is still part of the Moral Monday that people had here today, where it was really a series of civil disobediences that they wanted to have in coordination and really in memory of Michael Brown.

RELIGION - "Relax, It's Just God"

"The secular parent’s guide to talking to kids about faith" PBS NewsHour 8/10/2015

Excerpts

SUMMARY:  How do you explain religion to your kids when you don't follow a specific faith?  Author, journalist and NewsHour online parenting columnist Wendy Thomas Russell sits down with Jeffrey Brown to discuss her new book, "Relax, It's Just God."

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now the latest addition to the “NewsHour Bookshelf.”

Raising children is a journey generously sprinkled with what many view as teachable moments, perhaps none as challenging as those surrounding faith and religion.

Author, journalist and NewsHour online parenting columnist Wendy Thomas Russell comes at this from a different angle in her new book, “Relax, It’s Just God:  How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You’re Not Religious.”

She recently talked with Jeffrey Brown and explained how the book came to be.

WENDY THOMAS RUSSELL, Author, “Relax, It’s Just God:  How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You’re Not Religious”:  I was in the car, and my daughter announced to me that God had made her and that God had, in fact, made all children and all people.  And…

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  And you thought?

WENDY THOMAS RUSSELL:  And I was so — you know, she was so incredulous because she just thought, this seems like really big news, and how you don’t know it, mommy, is really beyond me.

So — but it did. It struck me.  I was really caught off guard by it.  And it…

JEFFREY BROWN:  And what did you say to her?

WENDY THOMAS RUSSELL:  I didn’t say much at the time.  I sort of stumbled through the conversation, oh, who is God?  And I sort of stumbled through the conversation, and then later went home and talked to my husband.

And he said, you know, it’s not what Maxine believes, but what she does in life that matters.  And it was a turning point for me, this idea that, if we raise kids to be moral and ethical and kind and generous, then what they believe is secondary.  And it was — it’s been a guiding force to the book.
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JEFFREY BROWN:  This word indoctrinating is an important one, because it comes up time and time again here.  What’s the difference between indoctrinating and guiding children, right?

WENDY THOMAS RUSSELL:  Right.

Indoctrination, I see, as almost the antithesis of critical thinking.  Of course it’s fine to guide your children, but I see indoctrination as sort of this middle ground between full-on brainwashing and guidance. it’s stronger than — it’s stronger than just merely guidance.

I see indoctrination as telling children that there is only one way to believe, and that all other ways and people who believe all other things are less worthy of our respect, less intelligent, less moral.  It’s that — that’s the crucial issue, because I think that, when you do that, you set up your child to be bigoted against those who don’t believe the way that you do.  You know, we are — it’s not a black-and-white world.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Well, so give me an example of the most basic question of — your child says, mommy, does God exist and what is God or who is God?

WENDY THOMAS RUSSELL:  The way that I go about it is to say, that’s a great question, and I’m glad you’re thinking about it, that there are a lot of different ways that people describe God and describe what God is.

And this is what some people believe, and this is what other people believe.  And this is — and I don’t believe in God, but that’s OK.  It’s all OK.  And you get to make up your own mind about what to believe.

BOOK - Called for Life

"Missionary recounts Ebola fight as both doctor and patient" PBS NewsHour 8/10/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Dr. Kent Brantly contracted Ebola while treating patients during last year's epidemic in West Africa.  He was airlifted from Liberia back to the U.S. and received an experimental drug and other treatment at Emory University Hospital.  Brantly joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss his experience, faith and new book, "Called for Life.”

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Next, the medical doctor who was airlifted from Liberia to the U.S. one year ago this month after he contracted Ebola while treating patients in West Africa.

Kent Brantly and a medical missionary colleague, Nancy Writebol, who was also infected, were treated with the experimental drug ZMapp at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.  Both eventually recovered.

Now Dr. Brantly and his wife, Amber, have written a book about the experience.  He recently sat down with Hari Sreenivasan in our New York studio.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  So, it’s almost exactly a year ago, after you quarantined yourself.  You have got all the symptoms.  You have got the vomiting, the diarrhea, the bloodshot eyes, things that you have been seeing in patients and treating.  And, for the most part, those patients have been dying.  What’s going through your head?

DR. KENT BRANTLY, Author, “Called for Life”:  Before I received my diagnosis, the main symptoms I had were fever, fatigue, body aches and diarrhea.

When the diarrhea started, that was more mounting evidence that this really is probably Ebola.  But I held on to that hope that it was something else until we had the definitive test result.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  You were the first human to get ZMapp.  Before that, I think it’s been a dozen, maybe 18 monkeys had got it.  What went through your mind in making that decision to say either yourself or your colleague at the time Nancy should take this?

DR. KENT BRANTLY:  Nancy and I actually talked on the phone.  I remember she called me and said, after we had the kind of informed consent discussion with the doctor that was in charge of our care, she said, “Kent, what are you going to do?  Because I’ll probably do whatever you do.”

And I said, “I think I would be willing to receive it.”

But it was — you know, I thought, otherwise, I’m probably going to otherwise, and this may or may not help, but at least I could be a guinea pig and let the world know whether there is any benefit to it or not.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Once you get this special air ambulance that is arranged, the State Department, lots of people working to try to make this happen, it’s a bit cloak and dagger.  You’re literally taken to the airport at night.  There’s — before this, there are countries that don’t even want you flying over their airspace.

DR. KENT BRANTLY:  It did seem like something from a movie.

Friday, August 14, 2015

PERVERSION OF ISLAM - Slavery and Rape (Updated)

"SLAVERY AND RAPE BECOME RELIGION FOR ISIS" by Rukmini Callmachi (New York Times News Service), San Diego Union-Tribune 8/14/2019

NOTE:  This is from the online print version of the newspaper, therefore no article link.

In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin.  Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Koran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her.  Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, book-ending the rape with acts of religious devotion.  “I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl.  “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever.  He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution.  Interviews with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets.

The trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.

A total of 5,270 Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3,144 are still being held, according to community leaders.  To handle them, the Islamic State has developed a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the Islamic State-run Islamic courts.  And the practice has become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.

A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month.  Repeatedly, the Islamic State leadership has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Koran and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.

“Every time that he came to rape me, he would pray,” said F, a 15-year-old girl who was captured on the shoulder of Mount Sinjar one year ago and was sold to an Iraqi fighter in his 20s.  Like some others interviewed by The New York Times, she wanted to be identified only by her first initial because of the shame associated with rape.

“He kept telling me this is ibadah,” she said, using a term from Islamic scripture meaning worship.

“He said that raping me is his prayer to God.  I said to him, ‘What you’re doing to me is wrong, and it will not bring you closer to God.’  And he said, ‘No, it’s allowed.  It’s halal,’ ” said the teenager, who escaped in April with the help of smugglers after being enslaved for nearly nine months.

Calculated conquest

The Islamic State’s formal introduction of systematic sexual slavery dates to Aug. 3, 2014, when its fighters invaded the villages on the southern flank of Mount Sinjar, a craggy massif of dun-colored rock in northern Iraq.

Its valleys and ravines are home to the Yazidis, a tiny religious minority who represent less than 1.5 percent of Iraq’s estimated population of 34 million.

The offensive on the mountain came just two months after the fall of Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq.  At first, it appeared that the subsequent advance on the mountain was just another attempt to extend the territory controlled by Islamic State fighters.

Almost immediately, there were signs that their aim this time was different.

Survivors say that men and women were separated within the first hour of their capture.  In village after village, the men and older boys were driven or marched to nearby fields, where they were forced to lie down in the dirt and sprayed with automatic weapons fire.

The women, girls and children, however, were hauled off in open-bed trucks.

“The offensive on the mountain was as much a sexual conquest as it was for territorial gain,” said Matthew Barber, a University of Chicago expert on the Yazidi minority.  He was in Dohuk, near Mount Sinjar, when the onslaught began last summer and helped create a foundation that provides psychological support for the escapees, who number more than 2,000, according to community activists.

Tried to escape

Fifteen-year-old F says her family of nine was trying to escape, speeding up mountain switchbacks, when their aging Opel overheated.  She, her mother, and her sisters — 14, 7, and 4 years old — were helplessly standing by their stalled car when a convoy of heavily armed Islamic State fighters encircled them.  “Right away, the fighters separated the men from the women,” she said.  She, her mother and sisters were first taken in trucks to the nearest town on Mount Sinjar.  “There, they separated me from my mom.  The young, unmarried girls were forced to get into buses.”

F’s account is echoed by a dozen other female victims interviewed for this article.  They described a similar set of circumstances even though they were kidnapped on different days and in locations miles apart.

F says she was driven to Mosul, about six hours away, where they herded them into the Galaxy Wedding Hall.  And in addition to Mosul, women were herded into elementary schools and municipal buildings in the Iraqi towns of Tal Afar, Solah, Ba’aj and Sinjar City.

They would be held in confinement, some for days, some for months.  Then, inevitably, they were sent in smaller groups to Syria or to other locations inside Iraq, where they were bought and sold for sex.

“It was 100 percent preplanned,” said Khider Domle, a Yazidi community activist who maintains a detailed database of the victims.  “I spoke by telephone to the first family who arrived at the Directory of Youth in Mosul, and the hall was already prepared for them.  They had mattresses, plates and utensils, food and water for hundreds of people.”

Detailed reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reach the same conclusion about the organized nature of the sex trade.

The girls described how three Islamic State fighters walked in, holding a register.  They told the girls to stand.  Each one was instructed to state her first, middle and last name, her age, her hometown, whether she was married, and if she had children.

For two months, F was held inside the Galaxy hall.  “They laughed and jeered at us, saying ‘You are our sabaya.’  I didn’t know what that word meant,” she said.  Later on, the local Islamic State leader explained it meant slave.

Religious tradition

In much the same way as specific Bible passages were used centuries later to support the slave trade in the United States, the Islamic State cites specific verses or stories in the Koran or else in the Sunna, the traditions based on the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, to justify their human trafficking, experts say.

Scholars of Islamic theology disagree, however, on the proper interpretation of these verses, and on the divisive question of whether Islam actually sanctions slavery.

“In the milieu in which the Koran arose, there was a widespread practice of men having sexual relationships with unfree women,” said Kecia Ali, an associate professor of religion at Boston University and the author of a book on slavery in early Islam.  “It wasn’t a particular religious institution.  It was just how people did things.”

Cole Bunzel, a scholar of Islamic theology at Princeton University, disagrees, pointing to the numerous references to the phrase “Those your right hand possesses” in the Koran, which for centuries has been interpreted to mean female slaves.  He also points to the corpus of Islamic jurisprudence, which continues into the modern era and which he says includes highly detailed rules for the treatment of slaves.

“There is a great deal of scripture that sanctions slavery,” said Bunzel, the author of a research paper published by the Brookings Institution on the ideology of the Islamic State.  “You can argue that it is no longer relevant and has fallen into abeyance.  ISIS would argue that these institutions need to be revived, because that is what the Prophet and his companions did.”

One 34-year-old Yazidi woman, who was bought and repeatedly raped by a Saudi fighter in the Syrian city of Shadadi, described how she fared better than the second slave in the household — a 12-year-old girl who was raped for days on end despite heavy bleeding.

“He destroyed her body.  She was badly infected.  The fighter kept coming and asking me, ‘Why does she smell so bad?’  And I said, she has an infection on the inside, you need to take care of her,” the woman said.

Unmoved, he ignored the girl’s agony, continuing the ritual of praying before and after raping the child.

“I said to him, ‘She’s just a little girl,’” the older woman recalled.  “And he answered:  ‘No.  She’s not a little girl.  She’s a slave.  And she knows exactly how to have sex.’ ”  “And having sex with her pleases God,” he said.


"How Islamic State systematically turns girls into sex slaves" PBS NewsHour 8/13/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The Islamic State militants have imposed a brutal, ritualistic sex slave trade on thousands of women and girls who belong to the Yazidi sect, a persecuted religious minority.  Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times joins Judy Woodruff from Northern Iraq to discuss her reporting on the human toll of the Islamic State’s rule.