Monday, February 08, 2016

TECHNOLOGY - In Tornado Alley

"In Tornado Alley, using drones to pinpoint severe weather" PBS NewsHour 2/6/2016


SUMMARY:  More than 100 tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma last year, and a new multi-million-dollar grant to four universities in the heart of Tornado Alley may lead to better information about where and when severe weather may strike.  NewsHour's Stephen Fee reports from Oklahoma.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 2/5/2016

"Shields and Brooks on Democrats’ fiery debate, Republican rivalry in N.H." PBS NewsHour 2/5/2016


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including takeaways from Thursday’s Democratic debate showdown between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, plus how Sen. Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio are faring in New Hampshire ahead of the primary.

ESSAY - New U.S. Motto?

"Has the U.S. motto become ‘In Nothing We Trust’?" PBS NewsHour 2/5/2016


SUMMARY:  Only 19 percent of American trust the government to do the right thing most of the time, according to a recent Pew Research poll, down from 77 percent in 1964.  This lack of trust isn’t limited to the government -- Americans today distrust everything from churches to public schools.  Journalist Jeff Greenfield offers an essay on how we became a nation of doubters.

SPORTS - "This is Your Brain on Sports"

"The hidden psychology behind sports teams, coaches and their fans" PBS NewsHour 2/5/2016


SUMMARY:  With the nation tuning in for Super Bowl 50 this Sunday, many sports fans have football on the brain, especially Sports Illustrated editor Jon Wertheim.  He recently co-wrote the book “This is Your Brain on Sports,” a look at the psychology and behavior of sports teams and their fans.  Hari Sreenivasan sits down with him to learn more about how athletes think.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  A TV audience of well over 100 million is expected to tune in to see the Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton go head-to-head with sentimental favorite Peyton Manning leading the Denver Broncos.

Both teams spent this week in preparations.  The game caps a season of big rivalries, bigger setbacks and some surprise comebacks.

In a new book, “This Is Your Brain on Sports,” “Sports Illustrated” executive editor, Jon Wertheim, along with co-author Sam Sommers of Tufts University, explore the psychology and behavior of sports teams and their fans.

For a closer look, Jon Wertheim joins me now.

So, “This Is Your Brain on Sports,” why the book?

JON WERTHEIM, Co-Author, “This Is Your Brain on Sports”:  We all love sports.

There is so much that goes on in sports, it seems irrational or counterintuitive.  And we dismiss that these are just sort of — these are the rules of the road of sports.  And we wanted to dig a little and say, what really explains — what are the underpinnings, everything from the crazy T-shirt cannon that we go crazy about, to the fact that teams seem to elevate when there’s a rivalry?

What is really going on here?  What is the human behavior?  What is the psychology?  What is going on here?

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Let’s talk a little bit about rivalries.

The likelihood is that this might be one of Peyton Manning’s last days.  So, it’s not a Peyton vs. Cam rivalry.  But, sometimes, when two teams get together at the Super Bowl, it’s a much bigger deal for entire cities and fans.  Why is that?

JON WERTHEIM:  Rivalry is one of these essential elements of sports.

And what the research says is that there really is a difference in performance a run-of-the-mill game vs. a rivalry team.  Physiologically, athletes in a rivalry game, testosterone levels are different.  Saliva levels are different.  These scores tend to be closer.

"5 early Super Bowl ads, starring athletes, Amy Schumer and hot dogs" by Larisa Epatko, PBS NewsHour 2/5/2016

Hee, hee, the 'old man' showed the young upstart how it's done.

OREGON - The Hidden Canyon

"A journey to Valhalla, Oregon’s hidden canyon" PBS NewsHour 2/4/2016


SUMMARY:  Few places on this planet have gone unexplored.  Just 60 miles from Portland, Oregon, there's a natural wonder that was first spotted in 2010.  Last summer, an expedition team navigated for three days to reach their goal: Valhalla Canyon.  Oregon Public Broadcasting chronicles that effort in a new documentary.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  There are few places left that haven’t been explored.  But a team in Oregon has documented a natural wonder for the first time that’s just about 60 miles from Portland.  It’s a spectacular half-mile gorge and narrow canyon in the Cascade Range.

It was first spotted in 2010 by a Forest Service employee.  This past summer, an expedition team spent three days navigating through it, including nine major waterfalls and a grotto that ended at a slot canyon.

Oregon Public Broadcasting chronicled that effort in a new documentary (full video).

Here’s an excerpt about trying to reach the Valhalla Canyon.

MAN:  Oh, man.

BEN CANALES, Photographer:  Being in Valhalla, it feels like you have gone into the throat of something, through the stomach and you’re in it.  You know, for myself, as I would say much more a normal person and not a hard-core adventurer, there’s kind of just a low level of panic at the back of the mind.

It’s like, this is not normal.  What’s going to happen here?  What’s going to happen there?

MAN:  Yah!  It’s awesome!

BEN CANALES:  And so there’s kind of always a little fight to keep that quelled down.

And then there’s just this thrilling excitement at the rugged beauty of it.  All the fears just disappeared, and it was like, this is awesome.  You know, the worry was gone, and it was just pure adventure.

NEWSHOUR BOOKSHELF - “When Breath Becomes Air”

"Amid death’s throes, young doctor examines life for meaning" PBS NewsHour 2/4/2016


SUMMARY:  By age 36, neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi had earned five degrees across various fields and was at the end of a residency at Stanford.  Then he was diagnosed with lung cancer, a disease that killed him 22 months later.  Facing death, he wrote “When Breath Becomes Air,” a memoir of his search for meaning in his last days.  His widow, Lucy Kalanithi, joins Jeffrey Brown to discuss the book.

JUDY WOODRUFF(NewsHour):  What makes a life worth living?  What gives it meaning?  And how does that change when the time one has left collapses?  These are some of the profound questions taken up in a new memoir by a doctor who suddenly faced his own mortality.

Jeffrey Brown has our newest addition to the "NewsHour Bookshelf."

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  As a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was used to dealing with life-and-death issues.  He was, by his own account, a driven man who studied literature and philosophy before turning to medicine, earning five degrees along the way.

He was near completion of a rigorous residency at Stanford when, at age 36, he got a diagnosis of lung cancer.

DR. PAUL KALANITHI, Author, “When Breath Becomes Air”:  Five years down the line, I don’t know what I will be doing.  I may be dead.  I may not be.

JEFFREY BROWN:  He would live just 22 months more, and in that time have a child with his wife, Lucy, and write an indelible memoir, “When Breath Becomes Air.”

ALL IN THE FAMILY - 3 'Parent' Babies

"Three-parent DNA treatment for rare defect raises debate" PBS NewsHour 2/3/2016


SUMMARY:  When women have defective mitochondria, their children can inherit terrible, sometimes fatal problems.  A new technology, pioneered in England, adds healthy cellular structure from a third person, meaning that children are born with DNA from three people.  William Brangham learns more from Jeffrey Kahn of Johns Hopkins University and Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Now to questions surrounding a significant advance in reproductive technology with DNA and embryos.

The change on the horizon was pioneered and approved in England and it is now being considered for use in the U.S.  Proponents believe it may eliminate dangerous disease in children, but others have raised ethical concerns.

Today, the National Academy of Sciences recommended that clinical trials go forward in the U.S.

William Brangham has our look.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  This new technology is called mitochondrial replacement technique, or MRT for shot.

Mitochondria are tiny structures that exist in nearly all the cells in our bodies, and have their own unique DNA.  The problem is, a very small number of women have defective mitochondria, and if they have children, those kids inherit their mom’s mitochondria and can suffer terrible, sometimes fatal, problems, including brain damage and heart failure.

This new technology would, in essence, replace that original mitochondria in either the mother’s egg or in the parents’ embryo with healthy mitochondria from a third person.  A child born this way would then be carrying the DNA of three different people.

Earlier today, patient advocate Laurie Strongin told us why the advance was so important for a small group of parents.

LAURIE STRONGIN, Patient Advocate:  One of the things that we have found is that parents’ desire to have genetically related offspring is a widely held desire.  It’s not universal, but it’s widely held.

And the potential to use MRT to have offspring who are genetically related to both parents is something that families who carry mtDNA disease really want.  And not everyone is going to pursue it, but for the family for whom having children who are — who have a nuclear genetic connection to them, this is something that will just be one of numerous options available to them.

SCIENCE - Big Data and Modern Medicine

I have always said "the more tools in your toolbox it is more likely you can fix something."  I am not just talking about physical tools (wrenches, screw drivers, staples) but intellectual tools.  Like more information you have, the better choices you may make.

"Big data meets modern medicine in a life-saving equation" PBS NewsHour 2/3/2016


SUMMARY:  There are so many ways to spend money on health care, but which offer the most bang for the buck?  Dr. Chris Murray is trying to answer that question with an equation that measures the impact of different interventions.  Countries that rely on big data have made big strides in health care, but some say the system ignores the human side of medicine.  Science correspondent Miles O’Brien reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now, using big data to assess medical treatments and interventions and whether decisions for individual patients are the right choice for all of society.

That’s not necessarily seen as the right way of making decisions in science and medicine when lives are at stake.  But some believe it’s a critical consideration.

Our science correspondent Miles O’Brien looks at how some thinkers in the field are challenging long-held assumptions.

The story was produced in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

MILES O’BRIEN (NewsHour):  This is where the line between life and death is drawn, an operating room at a hospital in a remote part of Nepal.

Dr. Shree Ram Tiwari is performing one of the first C-sections in this part of the world, hoping to save the lives of Muna Buhl and her unborn child.  It’s not going smoothly.

DR. SHREE RAM TIWARI, Physician (through interpreter):  The power cut out at such an important time, because the baby should keep crying after it’s born, but it wasn’t.  We needed power for the suction machine.

MILES O’BRIEN:  Bringing C-sections to this remote corner comes not only with risks, but also a hefty price tag.  The bills are paid by Possible, the American charity that runs the hospital.

DR. SHREE RAM TIWARI (through interpreter):  Nepal’s constitution talks about health rights, that every person should have access to health care.  But that is not implemented.

MILES O’BRIEN:  While mother and child remain the focus for Dr. Tiwari as he copes with the power failure, the global health community tries to shed light on whether this surgery should have happened at all.

Medical ethicist Peter Singer is a professor at Princeton University.  He is a leading proponent of a philosophy called effective altruism.

PETER SINGER, Professor of Bioethics, Princeton University:  Effective altruists look for those health care programs worldwide that offer the low-hanging fruit.  Where can you save lives most cheaply?


"Can the U.S. prevent an ISIS haven in Libya?" PBS NewsHour 2/2/2016


SUMMARY:  While Iraq and Syria have been the focus of the coalition fighting the Islamic State, Libya has become a new hotspot for the militant group.  Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports on how American officials are responding, and Judy Woodruff learns more from Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  The coalition fighting ISIS can claim some progress in both Iraq and Syria.  But now Libya, just 300 miles from Italy, has become a new magnet for the militant group.

The threat was very much on the minds of Secretary of State John Kerry and officials of 22 other countries in Rome today.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State:  That country has resources.  The last thing in the world you want is a false caliphate with access to billions of dollars in oil revenue.

MARGARET WARNER:  Yet the conference agreed only to monitor developments.

U.S. military officials say some 3,000 ISIS fighters have carved out territory around the coastal town of Sirte, birthplace of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi.  From there, the group mounts attacks on civilian targets and the country’s oil facilities.  The U.S. has already carried out airstrikes in Libya, killing a top ISIS commander last November, and ramped up reconnaissance missions.

And in Washington today, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter called for a 50 percent spending increase on the broader anti-ISIS campaign.

ASHTON CARTER, Defense Secretary:  We must also take into account in our budget that, as destructive power of greater and greater magnitude falls into the hands of smaller and smaller and more aberrant groups of people, countering terrorists will likely be a continuing part of the future responsibilities.

MARGARET WARNER:  Last month, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, said a decision on how to expand the U.S. role in Libya is coming.  The New York Times quoted him as saying: “It’s fair to say that we’re looking to take decisive military actions In conjunction with the political process.”

For now, Libya’s political process remains in disarray.  Since NATO airstrikes helped oust Gadhafi in 2011, the country has been torn by violence between warring factions.  In December, the United Nations helped broker a new unity government between the two main rival groups.  But they have refused to carry it out.

EDUCATION - Universal Preschool

"Seeing success, conservative Oklahoma banks on universal preschool" PBS NewsHour 2/2/2016


SUMMARY:  Children in Oklahoma don't wait for kindergarten to begin public education; there's preschool for anyone who wants it.  While costly, the government program has been hailed for the long-term benefits and has become a national model. Special correspondent Cat Wise reports from Tulsa.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  There’s growing interest in a number of cities and states to try funding universal pre-kindergarten programs.

Philadelphia is the latest city that wants to create one.  Oklahoma has long been home to early childhood education that’s widely cited as a model.

Special correspondent Cat Wise reports on how a liberal political priority became popular in a conservative state.

It’s part of our education series on Tuesdays, 'Making the Grade.'

STUDENTS:  A is for apple, apple.

CAT WISE (NewsHour):  In Oklahoma, the ABCs start before kindergarten.

STUDENTS:  D is for dog.

CAT WISE:  Children here begin public education at just 4 years of age, some as young as 3.   It’s preschool for anyone who wants it, and it costs the state about $7,500 per child per year.

WOMAN:   I like all those colors you’re using.

CAT WISE:  The program is hailed as a national model by the Obama administration and advocates who believe early education creates long-term benefits.

WOMAN:  What color is that one?  Very good.

CAT WISE:  It’s a costly government program in one of the reddest of red states, but it appears both Democrats and Republicans believe it’s working.

WILLIAM GORMLEY, Georgetown University:  It’s not every day that a very conservative state, like Oklahoma, establishes a new social program.   It’s not every day that a very poor state like Oklahoma establishes a new social program.

CAT WISE:  William Gormley is a professor of public policy at Georgetown University.  He has studied Oklahoma’s pre-kindergarten program in Tulsa for 15 years.

GOP - The Great Divide

IMHO:  Republican Conservatives are frightened people, and their fears are being stoked by rhetoric.  Example; the 'Make America Great Again' slogan.  Just when did America become NOT great?  America IS great, has never stopped being great, except in the minds of the fearful.

Please, Republican Conservatives go back to hiding under your bed and leave the rest of us true Americans alone.

"Fight over core principles exposes deep GOP divides" by Dan Morris, PBS NewsHour 2/1/2016

David Frum's “The Great Republican Revolt” in The Atlantic has garnered lots of attention inside and outside the party.  Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and longtime voice for moderation in the GOP, examines how the party got to the point where outsiders Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the leading candidates for the party’s presidential nomination.  Frum also looks at the impact of the Tea Party and the Freedom Caucus on Congress where, despite achieving a majority in both Houses in 2014, Republicans have failed to end the gridlock of the past seven years.

Frum says Republicans were shocked when Mitt Romney lost to President Obama in 2012.  “The Republican elite had collectively done an analysis of what they believed had gone wrong in 2012.  The only thing the party had done wrong was it had not been open enough on immigration.  Fix that, and everything would fall into place,” Frum told Judy Woodruff.

So the “Gang of Eight” senators, including Republicans Marco Rubio and John McCain, put together an immigration reform bill that passed the Senate but quickly died in the House.  It turned out that a significant number of Main Street Republicans and conservative talk radio hosts actually opposed immigration reform.  “In 2015, that plan ran into the collective mass rejection of the rank and file of the Republican Party,” Frum said.  And this presented an opportunity for Donald Trump.  “The great marketer came along and said, ‘I see a niche.  I see a niche.  It’s the bigger niche.  And I can have it all to myself.’”

Frum says the Republican establishment similarly misread the power of the Tea Party, and subsequently the Freedom Caucus, which led to the government shutdown of 2013, the stunning primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014 and in 2015 the effective ouster of Speaker John Boehner.  Cantor ascribes his and the Speaker’s defeat to an anger in the base, unheeded by the leadership.  “There'd be layoffs, and wage-earners in their 40s and 50s who say, ‘Hey wait a minute, what happened to my job,’ and then didn’t have the skills to go find another job.  Members of Congress going home and seeing that.  And saying, ‘Hey something's broken,’” Cantor said.  “And then that compounds itself, which leads some people to say, ‘Hey wait a minute, we gotta throw it all out and go to the extreme, because we are in that bad of a situation.”

Former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, now president of the Heritage Foundation, is known as the “Godfather of the Tea Party.”  He’s just fine with the departure of Cantor and Boehner.  “John Boehner, we used to be friends, but then we worked together in the House — he saw conservatives and this idea of limited government as more of an obstacle and a frustration.  And he punished conservatives who really tried to push for some fairly simple things.  What John Boehner found is he couldn’t crush the conservatives, but he made it painful for them.”

Frum believes the Republican Party must now preach respect for the work and institutions of government.  “The government has to be made to work.  The government is, I think all Republicans agree, too expensive.  But that doesn’t mean that we’d be better off without one, or that you want to destroy the traditional agreements and understandings that make the American government work.”

NOTE: 'The Godfather' was a Mafia crime lord, that ran protection rackets that used intimidation to rob and influence people.

Monday, February 01, 2016

PIC OF THE DAY - True Friends

MENTAL HEALTH - Schizophrenia Gene

"Scientists open ‘black box’ of schizophrenia by discovering potential genetic cause" PBS NewsHour 1/30/2016


SUMMARY:  Medical researchers have discovered a gene that increases the risk of schizophrenia, a mental illness that afflicts more than two million Americans, sometimes causing delusions and hallucinations.  Associate Professor of Genetics at Harvard University Steven McCarroll joins Alison Stewart to discuss the findings.

OPINION - Brooks and Dionne 1/29/2016

"Brooks and Dionne on GOP debate brawls, the importance of Iowa" PBS NewsHour 1/29/2016


SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne join Hari Sreenivasan to discuss the week’s news, including the last Republican debate before Iowa and whether it hurt or helped Donald Trump to sit it out, the tight race between Democrats Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton and how much the caucuses actually matter.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  I have got to ask, is Iowa worth paying as much attention to?  It’s not by any stretch demographically representative of the entire country.

Perhaps it’s changed over the last 50 years.  And this is now a reflection of how the political system has worked and who tries to game it.  But should we be paying as much attention to this state?

E.J. DIONNE, JR., Washington Post:  Well, since I’m sitting here, I guess I should say the answer is yes.

I think there are two things in contradiction here.  On the one hand, it’s absolutely true that neither Iowa nor New Hampshire are representative of the country as a whole, beginning with the fact that they have a much higher percentage of white voters than the country as a whole.

But I end up — I find myself defending their role, for the following reason.  Campaigns have become so much about advertising, candidates going from airport tarmac to airport tarmac, that there is still something lovely, if romantic, about candidates having to answer questions from actual voters, instead of us in the media.  And that part of it, I really like.


Very briefly, David.

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  I agree.  The process is great, but the results should be taken with a grain of salt.

I would be surprised if especially the Republican campaign was — I think it will be over maybe in April, May.  We have got a long time to go here — maybe the Democratic one, too.

HEALTH - Drug Shortages

"Drug shortages force U.S. doctors into ‘unethical corner’" PBS NewsHour 1/29/2016


SUMMARY:  Shortages of some prescription drugs are forcing doctors to make difficult decisions, in some cases choosing one patient over another, or sharing a dose between multiple patients.  Hari Sreenivasan learns more about the rationing from Sheri Fink of The New York Times.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Now; how shortages of some prescription drugs are forcing doctors to make difficult, often ethically fraught decisions, in some cases, choosing one patient over another to receive a much-needed drug, or splitting a single dose between two, even three patients.

For a look at what’s behind the rationing, how doctors and their patients are coping, and what might be done to correct the problem, we turn to Sheri Fink of The New York Times, who has been reporting on the story. In addition to being a reporter, she is also a medical doctor.

Dr. Fink, what’s interesting is, you’re talking about some of the best hospitals in the country that are going through this, not a small, faraway hospital where you might expect that there would be a shortage.  This is kind of — paint us a picture of how widespread this issue is.

SHERI FINK, The New York Times:  The shortages are affecting all types of hospitals, clinics, broad range of medical specialties.  It has touched — in recent years, this problem has touched just about everywhere in America.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  So, why is it happening?  Is it specific types of drugs?  Is it specific companies?

SHERI FINK:  It has to do with, some of the drugs often are made by only one manufacturer.  So, if something goes wrong in a quality sense, for example, and they have to shut down production, that could leave the market not having enough.

It could be that there’s not an economic incentive for a lot of drug companies to get into this.  It could be that manufacturing chains that — in the factories are running all the time, and if one goes down, it can affect lots of different drugs.

So there are economic reasons, there are regulatory reasons.  There are all sorts of reasons.  And these shortages are becoming a fact of life.  They have increased.  In recent years, the number of new shortages increased.  New federal law requiring manufacturers to tell the FDA if they see something like this on the horizon have decreased the number of new shortages, but the number of existing shortages is quite high.

"Economic incentive" is code for greed.

HEADLINE NEWS - The World Renown Makeover

"On a crowded toy shelf, making room for a new era of Barbie" by Rhana Natour, PBS NewsHour 1/29/2016

Barbie, America’s best-selling doll, is getting a new look.  Mattel announced Thursday that it is introducing three new Barbie’s with different body shapes for the first time in its history.

Barbie’s makeover reflects a changing marketplace where diversity is no longer just a buzzword, but a reality.

“Mattel and toy companies have been challenged by world in which so many ways to play,” says toy industry expert Richard Gottlieb.

Gottlieb is joined by Megan Garber, a culture writer for The Atlantic to discuss the business reasons behind this decision and Barbie’s impact on our culture and young girls.

HEALTH - Zika Virus

"WHO to consider declaring international emergency over Zika virus" PBS NewsHour 1/28/2016


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  United Nations health experts issued a powerful new warning today about the Zika virus.  The World Health Organization (WHO) said it may have mushroomed into a full-blown global emergency.

DR. MARGARET CHAN, Director-General, World Health Organization:  It is now spreading explosively.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The sense of urgency was palpable as WHO Director Margaret Chan addressed a special session on the Zika virus in Geneva.

DR. MARGARET CHAN:  As of today, cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the region.  The level of alarm is extremely high.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Most of the outbreak has been concentrated across Central and South America.  WHO officials estimated today there could be three to four million cases in the Americas over the next year alone.

Brazil, hosting this summer’s Olympics, has been hit the hardest, with more than a million people contracting the virus.  Fear has spiked there with a rise in birth defects apparently caused by Zika, babies born with small heads, known as microcephaly, and with neurological problems.

DR. MARGARET CHAN:  The possible links, only recently suspected, have rapidly changed the risk profile of Zika from a mild threat to one of alarming proportions.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Researchers say it’s still relatively rare that a pregnant woman infected around the time of delivery can pass the virus to her newborn.  There’s also been one report of a possible spread through blood transfusion, and another through sexual contact.

Today, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff announced a meeting of Latin American and Caribbean nations next week on how to eradicate the virus.  In the meantime, some 220,000 Brazilian soldiers are going house to house, checking for stagnant water and fumigating for mosquitoes that transmit Zika.

El Salvador has taken still more drastic measures.  Last week, its deputy health minister urged women to refrain from getting pregnant before 2018.  At least 31 Americans were infected in the past year, but all are believed to have contracted the virus after traveling to affected areas.

For now, there is no cure, and the WHO says it could take years to get a vaccine.

DR. SYLVAIN ALDIGHIERI, World Health Organization:  There is no immunity.  So we would expect huge numbers of infections, some detected, some not detected.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  The agency was criticized for not moving quickly enough on the Ebola outbreak.  But it’s calling a crisis meeting for Monday on whether to declare Zika an international health emergency.

"Why is Zika virus spreading so quickly?" PBS NewsHour 1/28/2016


SUMMARY:  Weeks ago, hardly anyone in the U.S. knew what the Zika virus was.  Now the mosquito-borne illness is raising serious fears, especially for pregnant women.  Judy Woodruff talks to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health about the dangers of the infection and how to prevent it, in absence of a vaccine.

ECONOMICS - End of Growth?

"Are the best days of the U.S. economy over?" by Lee Koromvokis, PBS NewsHour 1/28/2016


Many of us of a certain, ahem, age have a hard time keeping up with the latest technology.  But some of the stuff we do manage to master is often a big improvement, if not downright life-transforming.  When I first started working at the “MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour” in the mid-1980s, in the offices of WNET-channel 13 in New York City, we had no computers, let alone Internet or email.  We received wire service news on teletype machines, wrote our stories on IBM Selectrics, and actually had to make telephone calls or go to the library to fact check.  I recently stumbled on the manila folder file of a story about a scientific advance for which I had communicated with the researchers by hand-typed letters via U.S. Mail!  You can therefore imagine what a difference Google alone has made on my working life, and my productivity.

So it came as some surprise to read in Robert Gordon’s new book, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth,” that, when it comes to the kind of productivity that leads to economic growth, the technological advances of recent decades have nothing on the inventions of the prior century.  Electricity, indoor plumbing, heating and air conditioning, telephone and television, planes-trains-automobiles, the conquest of infectious diseases … the list goes on and on.  Having spent quite a bit of time (in hours) finding the historical footage for this story on the terrific website — a project, by the way, that once would have taken WEEKS in the National Archives — I have newfound appreciation for Prof. Gordon’s “special century” of 1870-1970, and new understanding for why, despite the progress of the digital age, Total Factor Productivity — which measures the contributions of technological innovation to growth — has, since 1970, been rising at only about one third the pace of the previous five decades.  And that really matters for where our economy goes from here, and to the American Dream: The idea that each generation of children will grow up to be better off than the preceding generation.

Note that Prof. Gordon is not saying that technological progress has slowed to a crawl, nor that economic growth has ground to a halt.  He’s saying that the rapid growth of the mid-20th century was a one-time phenomenon, and that the slower growth of recent decades is the new normal.

Is Prof. Gordon right then, that the future ain’t what it used to be?  MIT’s Prof. Erik Brynjolfsson, whom we also interviewed for this story (and in 2014 about his own book, The Second Machine Age) says that just because we’re stuck in a relatively stagnant economy now doesn’t mean we will be forever.  He believes artificial intelligence will be the biggest invention ever, and that when that hits, all bets about productivity and growth are off.

Brynjolfsson's argument about exponential growth — that “it leads us to overestimate what’s going to happen in the short run because at first it’s happening fairly slowly, but then we underestimate what happens in the long run when things really take off” certainly hit home.  In the mid-1990s, Nobel laureate physicist Arno Penzias invited Paul Solman and me to Bell Labs to videotape a demonstration of video conferencing technology.  Embarrassingly for all concerned, it didn’t work.  That was three decades after AT&T had introduced picturephones at the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  Hopeless, right?

And yet, it seemed like suddenly overnight we had Skype, and then FaceTime.  Picturephones at last!  And they worked, at least most of the time.  We use them for interviews now, even on live TV.

Then again, if I had to choose — as Robert Gordon suggests in his dueling Ted Talk with Erik Brynjolfsson — between my iPhone and indoor plumbing, I guess I’d choose the toilet.

FREE - Matthew Trevithick

"American released from Iran prison describes solitary confinement, constant surveillance" by Larisa Epatko, PBS NewsHour 1/28/2016


Matthew Trevithick, the fifth American released from Iran’s notorious Evin Prison this month, described being watched in the months leading up to his detention and the treatment by his interrogators.

Foreigners are openly watched on the streets; their emails and Skype conversations are monitored, he told PBS NewsHour’s Hari Sreenivasan on Thursday.  “You just accept it as the cost of being in Iran.”

A photo Trevithick posted on Twitter perfectly illustrated the combination of Iran’s deep beauty and scrutinizing surveillance, he said.

Trevithick, who was not a part of the prisoner exchange but was released at the same time as the others, was picked up by Iranian authorities as he was leaving Tehran University to buy an airplane ticket home for the holidays.

“I had a simple check-in system with my mother” of texting each day.  When he no longer replied, it triggered her concern, he said.

“I was arrested and accused of trying to overthrow the Iranian government.  They said I had access to bank accounts with millions of dollars in them, and that I knew the locations of weapons caches around the country,” he said, adding that they weren’t happy when he told them all he had were some Farsi textbooks and a pencil.

In all, Trevithick spent 41 days in the prison, 29 of them in solitary confinement.  The six-by-seven-foot cell was empty except for a thin rug.  Everything was worn, including the flip-flops they gave him to wear, indicating that many people passed through before him and many would likely follow.  “In a very bizarre way, you take a small bit of comfort that you’re not alone in being in this less than desirable place.”

TRUTH - I Am NOT a Label

I Am NOT Black, You are NOT White

Thursday, January 28, 2016

DOMESTIC TERRORISM - Oregon Occupation

"FBI:  Several militants arrested, one dead in Oregon occupation" by PBS Oregon Staff, PBS NewsHour 1/27/2016

The FBI and Oregon State Police have arrested several people in connection to the occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  One person was killed.

Ammon Bundy, Ryan C. Bundy, Brian “Booda” Cavalier, Shawna Cox and Ryan W. Payne were all arrested Tuesday night along Highway 395 between Burns and John Day, Oregon, police said.

Everyone arrested Tuesday night will face felony charges, according to law enforcement.

Officials said one person suffered non-life threatening injuries.  The injured person was reportedly transferred to a local hospital.

The arrest of Ammon and Ryan Bundy along with three others took place around 4:30 p.m. PST.  Shots were fired during the arrest.

Law enforcement said no additional information will be released at this time about the deceased person.

In a separate event in Burns, Oregon State Police arrested Joseph Donald O'Shaughnessy, 45, of Cottonwood, Arizona.  They did not give details about the nature of the arrest.  The FBI have also confirmed that Peter Santilli, age 50, of Cincinnati was arrested in Burns.

St. Charles Health System in Bend confirmed a helicopter had been dispatched to Harney County and is on standby awaiting to transport patients to its level II trauma center.  The hospital is on lockdown.

Ammon Bundy and a group of armed activists and militiamen stormed the empty headquarters of the remote wildlife refuge in Oregon on Jan. 2 to protest the impending imprisonment of two ranchers convicted of arson on federal land.

"Militia members hold out at Oregon reserve after highway arrests" PBS NewsHour 1/27/2016

KENYA - The Wildlife Preserves' Army

"Why wildlife preserves in Kenya resemble war zones" PBS NewsHour 1/27/2016


SUMMARY:  With rhinoceros horn now more valuable than gold on the black market, poaching has reached unprecedented levels.  Some wildlife preserves in Africa resemble war zones, as rangers struggle to keep pace with poachers, who may have ties to terrorist groups.  Daphne Matziaraki and James Pace-Cornsilk, students at UC Berkeley, traveled to Kenya to learn more.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Rhino and elephant poaching has reached unprecedented levels, as the black market price of rhino horn and ivory tusk has skyrocketed.

University of California Berkeley students Daphne Matziaraki and James Pace-Cornsilk traveled to Kenya and found that the trafficking networks are often connected to international terrorist groups and, on the ground, the situation resembles war.

NARRATOR:  Ol Jogi Conservancy in Northern Kenya is home to 46 eastern black rhinos.  There are 500 left in the world.

JAMIE GAYMER, Manager, Ol Jogi Conservancy:  We had two rhinos, I believe, to have been shot with a firearm, and one of those rhinos had its horns cut off.

NARRATOR:  Jamie Gaymer manages this rhino sanctuary and protects the surrounding 58,000 acres of land from a major threat, poachers.

JAMIE GAYMER:  The enemy who are trying to come and poach our rhinos are becoming more advanced, investing in higher-tech equipment, automatic weapons.  Perhaps their own intelligence is quite well-established, and we have to evolve our security in order to combat that.

NARRATOR:  Black market buyers from Asia and the United States have driven the price of ivory to $1,000 per pound, and rhino horn used in traditional Chinese medicine and seen as a status symbol to $45,000 per pound, making it more expensive than gold.

JAMIE GAYMER:  I don’t know the definition of war, but certainly there is a very advanced enemy who are putting us under considerable threat.

COMPUTERS - Game of GO: AI 5, Human Master 0

"Google artificial intelligence beats champion at world’s most complicated board game" by Nsikan Akpan, PBS NewsHour 1/27/2016


An artificial intelligence program developed by researchers at Google can beat a human at the board game GO, which some consider to be the most complicated board game in existence.  And this AI program — dubbed AlphaGo — didn’t defeat any ol’ human, but the European Go champion Fan Hui in a tournament last October by five games to nil.  The findings, published today in the journal Nature, represent a major coup for machine learning algorithms.

“In a nutshell, by publishing this work as peer-reviewed research, we at Nature want to stimulate the debate about transparency in artificial intelligence,” senior editor Tanguy Chouard said at a press briefing yesterday.  “And this paper seems like the best occasion for this, as it goes- should I say, right at the heart of the mystery of what intelligence is.”

Known as wéiqí in Chinese and baduk in Korean, GO originated in China over 2,500 years ago.  The board consist of a 19 by 19 grid of intersecting lines.  Two players take turns placing black and white marbles on individual intersection points.  Once place, the stones can’t be moved, but they can be captured by completely surrounding an opponent’s marble.  The ultimate objective is control more than 50 percent of the board, but since the board is so intricate, there are numerous possibilities for moves.

“So Go is probably the most complex game ever devised by man.  It has 10^170 (that's 10 followed by 170 zeros) possible board configurations, which is more than the numbers of atoms in the universe,” said study author and AlphaGo co-developer Demis Hassabis of Google DeepMind.

Here's my take on Artificial Intelligence:  The danger portrayed in many SiFi movies can come about IF we forget that to goal of ALL life is to survive.  Couple this with an intelligent being and you get a being that will do what it needs to survive.  Now comes true AI, this 'being' will also do ANYTHING it needs to survive, and if it sees humans as a threat ........?

EDUCATION - Workforce Training or College?

"Should more kids skip college for workforce training?" PBS NewsHour 1/26/2016

I have long advocated that collage MAY be a scam because it is so money driven.  Especially for private collages.  There has been evidence that some non-college vocations can pay as much, or more, than a college vocation.

For me, my vocational training was the U.S. Navy, which gave me training in electronics and management ('Leadership' in Navy terms), which gave me a very well paying carrier after I retired (22yrs) from the Navy.


SUMMARY:  Of all the U.S. high school students who graduate high school and go on to college, a large proportion will never earn their degree.  How can educators better train those who may struggle in trying to pick a course of study?  One solution may lie in putting greater emphasis on high school vocational training, but critics disagree.  Special correspondent John Tulenko of Education Week reports.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The NewsHour has long been committed to covering that topic.  And starting tonight, we will be expanding our coverage on Tuesdays with a new feature series called Making the Grade.  We will provide in-depth reporting on education issues at every level, from early childhood and preschool, all the way through high school and beyond with the world of higher education.

We will explore the most fundamental concerns in schools, communities and workplaces, and we will also cover plenty of approaches you may not have heard about yet.

Tonight, we focus on vocational education.  There’s a growing recognition of its value for some students.  But how do you determine when it’s working for the long haul?

Special correspondent John Tulenko of Education Week has our story.

JOHN TULENKO (NewsHour):  This year, more than a million students will graduate from high school, and most will go on to college.  It ought to be something to celebrate, but, in fact, nearly 40 percent of those who go to four-year colleges and some, 70 percent of students at community college, will never earn their degree.

DAVID WHEELER, Principal, Southeastern Regional:  It’s the shame of our nation, when you look at, a student comes out of high school, not knowing what they want to do, goes to college, drops out.  Now they’re in debt, without a job, and not knowing what they want to do.  They’re worse off than they were, you know, as little as a year before.  And that’s all preventable, all of it.

JOHN TULENKO:  One solution, principal Dave Wheeler says, lies in schools like his, Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School, south of Boston.

Here, in addition to the regular school subjects, students learn skilled trades and professions, and, if they choose, instead of college, they can go directly into the work force.

"The only girl in school to spark an interest in welding" PBS NewsHour 1/27/2016

(welding is workforce training)


SUMMARY:  Kalei Kipp is the only girl in the welding program at her high school.  Why don't more women go into that profession?  Our Student Reporting Labs report as part of Outside the Box, a series on the ways that young people are challenging traditional gender stereotypes.

EGYPT - Opposition Today

"5 years since uprising, Egyptian opposition demoralized by crackdown" PBS NewsHour 1/25/2016

IMHO this is just more evidence that the 'Arab Spring' is in deep freeze, considering has happened in Egypt and other Arab nations.


SUMMARY:  It's been a tumultuous five years since Egyptians took to the street in mass protest.  Now Egyptians are marking a somber and tense anniversary of a day that led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, the election and then military-led removal of Mohamed Morsi and the subsequent rise of the current president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.  Hari Sreenivasan talks with special correspondent Nick Schifrin.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Five years ago today, Egyptians took to the streets in protest against the government of Hosni Mubarak.  Eighteen days later, Mubarak was gone, a landmark of what became known as the Arab Spring.

But these five years on have been tumultuous and difficult in Egypt, with a presidential election in 2012 that brought Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood to power, and the military-led removal and imprisonment of Morsi in 2013, and the subsequent election of the general who unseated Morsi, the current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.

Egyptians today are marking a somber and tense anniversary.

For more, we turn to Hari Sreenivasan.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  Joining me now is NewsHour special correspondent Nick Schifrin in Cairo.

Nick, you have reported from the region multiple times over the past few years.  Here are you on this anniversary.  What did you see today?

NICK SCHIFRIN (NewsHour):  Yes, Hari, we saw an absolute crackdown in what usually is one of the world’s busiest cities, an extraordinary amount of police guarding stations, guarding government buildings, but also guarding anywhere where demonstrators might actually come together.

And we saw that especially in Tahrir Square this afternoon.  We were there for a little while, met a few hundred people.  The only people allowed in Tahrir Square today were pro-Sissi demonstrators.  And we spoke to them.  And a few of them told me that they believe only President Sissi could defend this country against terrorism.

And where was the opposition?  Well, take a look at this.  This is 21-year-old Sanaa Seif.  She’s a prominent activist.  And, today, she walked alone, just her.  Her jacket says “The Revolution Continues.”

But, Hari, the revolution didn’t continue today.  The opposition was too scared to come out on the streets.  The Muslim Brotherhood, which has officially been called a terrorist organization, has really been — cracked down.  And so, today, at least on the streets, there was zero opposition to President Sissi.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Now, you point out that there’s two different factions that oppose Sissi, the young people that were calling for a revolution five years ago and the Muslim Brotherhood.  What’s happened to them over the years?

NICK SCHIFRIN:  Well, Hari, what is amazing about the revolution from five years ago is that those two groups were together.  There was so much hope and such a feeling that a cross-current of Egypt were going to come together and really depose Mubarak.

It was secular activists.  It was more conservative religious Muslim Brotherhood.  It was even members of the government.  And what has happened is that this crackdown that this government has really undergone has taken away not only that hope, but also the feeling that all of those groups are combined.

And just to give you a sense of how big the crackdown is, there are now 40,000 prisoners, political prisoners, in Egyptian jails.  And just in the last 10 days, there were 5,000 raids in Cairo.  These are raids that lead to arrests or perhaps just some pointed questions.  But that is a raid every two minutes in Cairo.  That sends a very direct signal.

And that is why we saw no opposition on the street.  And that is why one opposition activist put it this way.  There might be freedom of speech in Egypt, but there is no freedom after speech.  And many activists right now are saying that this government is the same kind of government they risked their lives to escape five years ago.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

ABORTION - Texas Grand Jury Decision

"ABORTION OPPONENTS INDICTED OVER VIDEOS" U-T News Service, San Diego Union-Tribune 1/26/2016

NOTE: This is from the on-line print paper, so no links

Group targeted Planned Parenthood

A Houston grand jury investigating undercover footage of Planned Parenthood found no wrongdoing Monday by the abortion provider, and instead indicted antiabortion activists involved in making the videos that targeted the handling of fetal tissue in clinics and provoked outrage among Republican leaders nationwide.

David Daleiden, founder of the Center for Medical Progress, was indicted on a felony charge of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to purchasing human organs.  Another activist, Sandra Merritt, was also indicted on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  It’s the first time anyone in the group has been charged criminally since the release of the videos, which began surfacing last year and alleged that Planned Parenthood sold fetal tissue to researchers for a profit in violation of federal law.  Planned Parenthood officials have denied any wrongdoing and the allegations have not been supported in numerous congressional and state investigations triggered by the release of the videos.

The footage from the clinic in Houston showed people touring the facility while pretending to be from a company called BioMax, which procures fetal tissue for research.  Planned Parenthood has previously said that the fake company sent an agreement offering to pay the “astronomical amount” of $1,600 for organs from a fetus.  The clinic said it never entered into the agreement and ceased contact with BioMax because it was “disturbed” by the overtures.

Organ-buying charges

In a statement announcing the indictment, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson did not provide details on the charges, including what record or records were allegedly tampered with and why Daleiden faces a charge related to buying human organs.  Her office said it could not disclose more information, and a court spokesman said it was unclear whether copies of the indictments, which typically provide more insight, would be made public Monday.

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson, an elected Republican, said in her statement.  “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us.”  In a statement Monday night, Daleiden said: “The Center for Medical Progress uses the same undercover techniques that investigative journalists have used for decades in exercising our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and of the press, and follows all applicable laws.  We respect the processes of the Harris County district attorney, and note that buying fetal tissue requires a seller as well.  Planned Parenthood still cannot deny the admissions from their leadership about fetal organ sales captured on video for all the world to see.”  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said Monday that the inspector general of the state’s Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas attorney general’s office have been investigating Planned Parenthood’s actions.

“Nothing about today’s announcement in Harris County impacts the state’s ongoing investigation,” Abbott said in a statement.  “The state of Texas will continue to protect life, and I will continue to support legislation prohibiting the sale or transfer of fetal tissue.”

The state attorney general, Ken Paxton, said in a statement: “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry.  The state’s investigation of Planned Parenthood is ongoing.”

The Texas video was the fifth released by the Center for Medical Progress.  The videos provoked an outcry from the anti-abortion movement and prompted numerous investigations of Planned Parenthood by Republican-led committees in Congress and by GOP-led state governments.  Congressional Republicans unsuccessfully called for cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood.

Cleared by states’ probes

Officials in 11 states have cleared Planned Parenthood of wrongdoing after investigating claims that they profited from fetal tissue donation, officials said.  The states are Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Washington.  Officials in eight other states— California, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Virginia — declined to investigate, citing a lack of evidence.  Planned Parenthood has said a few clinics in two states used to accept legally allowed reimbursement for the costs of providing tissue donated by some of its abortion clients.  In October, Planned Parenthood announced that it would no longer accept reimbursement and would cover the costs itself.

Federal law allows fetal tissue to be collected and used, but not for profit.  Medical ethics prohibit altering the timing, method or procedures used to terminate a pregnancy purely to obtain fetal tissue.  Planned Parenthood called Monday’s indictments the latest in a string of victories since the videos were released, and pointed to the 11 state investigations that cleared the nation’s largest abortion provider.

“This is absolutely great news because it is a demonstration of what Planned Parenthood has said from the very beginning: We follow every law and regulation and these anti-abortion activists broke multiple laws to try and spread lies,” said spokeswoman Rochelle Tafolla of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast.

Before the Texas video was released, Melaney Linton, president of the Houston Planned Parenthood clinic, told state lawmakers last summer that it was likely to feature actors — pretending to be from a company called BioMax — asking leading questions about how to select potential donors for a supposed study of sickle cell anemia.  Linton said the footage could feature several interactions initiated by BioMax about how and whether a doctor could adjust an abortion if a patient has offered to donate tissue for medical research.

Despite the lofty name of the Center for Medical Progress, public filings suggest only a small number of people are affiliated with the nonprofit, none of whom are scientists or physicians engaged in advancing medical treatments.  The people named as its top officers are longtime anti-abortion activists with a history of generating headlines.

This month in federal court in San Francisco, Planned Parenthood sued the center, Daleiden and other abortion opponents involved in the videos.  The suit accused them of engaging in a three-year criminal enterprise to target the group.

“These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda,” Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement Monday.

“These anti-abortion extremists spent three years creating a fake company, creating fake identities, lying and breaking the law,” said Ferrero.  “When they couldn’t find any improper or illegal activity, they made it up.  “As the dust settles and the truth comes out, it’s become totally clear that the only people who engaged in wrongdoing are the criminals behind this fraud, and we’re glad they’re being held accountable.”

U.S. SUPREME COURT - Juvenile Mandatory Life Terms

"PAROLE RIGHTS EXPANDED FOR YOUNG MURDERERS" by Adam Liptak, San Diego Union-Tribune 1/26/2016

NOTE:  This is from the on-line print paper, so no links.

Supreme Court rules 2012 decision banning mandatory life terms be applied retroactively

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that its 2012 decision banning mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile killers must be applied retroactively, granting a new chance at release for hundreds of inmates serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for murders they committed in their youth.

The vote was 6-3, and the majority decision was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s leading proponent of cutting back on the death penalty and other harsh punishments for entire classes of offenders.  His opinion strengthened the 2012 decision, which merely required new sentencing where life without parole had been imposed automatically, without taking into account the defendant’s youth.

Monday’s opinion indicated that life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders should be exceedingly rare.  Kennedy also gave states a second option — instead of re-sentencing the affected prisoners, they could make them eligible for parole.

The case, Montgomery v. Louisiana, No. 14-280, concerned Henry Montgomery, who was 17 in 1963 when he murdered an East Baton Rouge police officer.  He is now 69.

Kennedy said there was evidence that Montgomery deserved to be released, describing “his evolution from a troubled, misguided youth to a model member of the prison community” and noting that he was a coach on the prison boxing team, had worked in the prison’s silkscreen program and had offered advice to younger inmates.

There are more than 2,000 people serving sentences of life without parole for crimes they committed when they were not yet 18.  Many of them automatically received those sentences for murders, without individualized consideration of their youth and other factors.  It’s not clear how many cases in San Diego County could be affected by the federal ruling.

California law already allows people serving life in prison without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles to petition the court for re-sentencing.  A few defendants have done so, including Oscar Ernesto Rubi Jr., who was convicted of killing a 55-year-old man during a 1993 robbery attempt in Imperial Beach, and Brae Hansen, who conspired in 2007 with her brother to kill her stepfather in Rolando.  Rubi was resentenced to 29 years to life in prison; Hansen to 26 years to life.

In the 2012 decision, Miller v. Alabama, the Supreme Court ruled that automatic life sentences for juvenile offenders violated the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Life-without-parole sentences would remain permissible, the court said, but only after individualized consideration.  But the court did not say whether the decision was merely prospective or whether it required new sentencing hearings or other review for offenders who had already exhausted their appeals.

The decision followed two others concerning harsh penalties for juvenile offenders.  In 2005 in Roper v. Simmons, the court eliminated the juvenile death penalty.  In 2010 in Graham v. Florida, the court ruled that sentencing juvenile offenders to life without the possibility of parole was also unconstitutional, but only for crimes that did not involve killing.

The question of whether the 2012 decision should be applied retroactively turned on whether it was substantive or procedural.  New substantive decisions apply retroactively, while new procedural ones generally do not.

There was some reason to think the 2012 decision was procedural, because it required new sentencing procedures rather than banning the punishment of life without parole for all juvenile killers.

But Kennedy said the decision had been grounded on the diminished culpability of all juvenile offenders, who are, he said, immature, susceptible to peer pressure and capable of change.  Very few, he said, are incorrigible.  But he added that as a general matter the punishment was out of bounds.

“A sentencer might encounter the rare juvenile offender who exhibits such irretrievable depravity that rehabilitation is impossible and life without parole is justified,” he wrote.  “But in light of ‘children’s diminished culpability and heightened capacity for change,’ Miller made clear that ‘appropriate occasions for sentencing juveniles to this harshest possible penalty will be uncommon.’  “As a result,” Kennedy wrote, “Miller announced a substantive rule of constitutional law.”  He added that complying with Monday’s ruling should not be especially burdensome.  “A state may remedy a Miller violation by permitting juvenile homicide offenders to be considered for parole, rather than by resentencing them,” he wrote.  “Allowing those offenders to be considered for parole ensures that juveniles whose crimes reflected only transient immaturity— and who have since matured — will not be forced to serve a disproportionate sentence in violation of the Eighth Amendment.  “Prisoners like Montgomery,” Kennedy wrote, “must be given the opportunity to show their crime did not reflect irreparable corruption; and, if it did not, their hope for some years of life outside prison walls must be restored.”  Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Kennedy’s majority opinion.

Justice Antonin Scalia dissented, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, and Thomas filed a separate dissent.

Scalia wrote that Kennedy had twisted the language in the Miller decision to make it sound categorical when it merely required a new sentencing procedure.  “To say that a punishment might be inappropriate and disproportionate for certain juvenile offenders is not to say that it is unconstitutionally void,” Scalia wrote.

He added that it would be very difficult for juries and judges to decide if defendants were incorrigible many years after their crimes.

“What the majority expects (and intends) to happen,” he said, is for all states instead to allow the affected prisoners to apply for parole.

Monday, January 25, 2016

KARATE - Master Mahiro Takano

Karate Master Mahiro Takano, all of 7 years old!

Her music video:  (she is so good)

OPINION - Brooks and Marcus 1/22/2016

"Brooks and Marcus on GOP backlash to Trump and Cruz, Clinton-Sanders practicality debate" PBS NewsHour 1/22/2016


SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including a new divide opening up between American conservatives over the popularity and electability of Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, plus former Gov. Sarah Palin’s Trump endorsement and a new campaign ad from Sen. Bernie Sanders.

...and, the best political add I've seen so far...


"Why the world could use a Muslim Jedi" PBS NewsHour 1/22/2016


SUMMARY:  How can we relieve anti-Muslim discrimination?  Haroon Moghul says that adding a Muslim character to a certain science fiction franchise (Star Wars) might go a long way in changing perceptions (Islamophobia) and offering a vision of a more united future.

THE DARK SIDE - 9th Planet? Home of the 'First Order'

First Order

"We can’t see this possible 9th planet, but we feel its presence" PBS NewsHour 1/22/2016


SUMMARY:  Most of us grew up thinking there were nine planets in the solar system, but that changed when Pluto got downgraded in 2006.  Now there's news that there might be a ninth planet after all.  Researchers have found evidence of a planet with a mass 10 times that of Earth.  Jeffrey Brown talks to Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Nine planets in the solar system, right?  That’s what most of us grew up thinking.  Well, that ended in 2006, when Pluto was downgraded to a dwarf planet.

But now comes news that there might be a ninth planet after all.  Researchers at the California Institute of Technology (aka Caltech) found evidence of a planet with a mass 10 times that of Earth.

One of the Caltech astronomers, Mike Brown, joins us now.  And I will add that he is also known as the chief culprit in lowering Pluto’s status.  His memoir is titled “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming.”

So, sort of making amends here I guess, Mike Brown?

MIKE BROWN, California Institute of Technology:  You know, it’s — I don’t think of it that way.  I think of it as, this is something I have been working at for 20 years, and Pluto was just collateral damage along the way.

JEFFREY BROWN:  All right, so let’s be as clear as we can about what you have done here.  You have not seen this new planet, right?  This is something you surmise.  Explain to us.

MIKE BROWN:  Yes, that’s absolutely right, and it’s important to know that we — no one has actually seen this planet yet.

What we have done is felt it, or, more precisely, we have seen its gravitational effect on the most distant things in the solar system.  And from those gravitational effects, we can tell that it must be out there.  And this is the same way that Neptune, for example, was discovered, by its gravitational effects on Uranus.  So, there’s a long history of this sort of astronomy.

JEFFREY BROWN:  You’re seeing gravitational effects on several — I gather, six small bodies out there?

MIKE BROWN:  There is actually quite a big collection.

There are six that are doing one thing.  There are five more that are doing something else.  And then there’s another eight doing something.  When you put them all together, it’s a pretty big population that are going in directions and moving in ways that they shouldn’t be doing unless there is something organizing the whole pattern.

CAT WORLD - Strays

"Why activists are fighting over feral felines" PBS NewsHour 1/22/2016


SUMMARY:  With an estimated 80 million feral cats in communities across the United States, there is growing a controversy on how to deal with them.  Euthanizing cats has been the traditional approach, but many animal rights activists believe that approach is cruel and inhumane.  Adithya Sambamurthy of "Reveal" for the Center for Investigative Reporting has the story.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  And now a story about cats, not the ones living in homes, but stray and feral cats that live outside.

By some estimates, there are 80 million feral cats in this country.  And the question of how to control them is sparking controversy.  Animal rights activists, who want to save stray cats, say there is an alternative to euthanizing feral cats, a method they say will control the cat population that’s more humane and effective.  But will it work.

Adithya Sambamurthy from our partner “Reveal” at the Center for Investigative Reporting has the story.

ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY, Reveal:  Americans have long been obsessed with cats in commercials, cartoons and, of course, on the Internet.

But for every cat in our homes, there’s a stray one on the loose, roaming parking lots, alleyways, fields and backyards.  They’re everywhere, and, increasingly, it’s a problem.

Take Antioch, California, about 40 miles east of San Francisco.  The town is home to about 17,000 strays, one cat for every six citizens.

At the local animal shelter, Monika Helgemo is overwhelmed.

MONIKA HELGEMO, Animal Shelter:  This one’s here obviously is saying, pet me, pet me.  This cat here, see the ears go back?  That’s a feral cat.

ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY:  Feral cats like this one are basically wild animals, and so they’re not candidates for adoption.

MONIKA HELGEMO:  We will do what we can and see if we can find a place for her and go live her life.  If not, we’re going to end up having to put her to sleep, euthanize her.

ADITHYA SAMBAMURTHY:  Antioch is typical.  There are an estimated 80 million stray and feral cats in the U.S.  Traditionally, the only way to deal with this overpopulation was to euthanize them.  More than a million cats are killed in animal shelters every year.  And that’s made some cat lovers so mad, they have gotten organized.

MAKING SEN$E - Hotbeds of Genius

"Hotbeds of genius and innovation depend on these key ingredients" by Sandy Petryowski, PBS NewsHour 1/21/2016


Are there really genius clusters?  What is the secret sauce of creative genius?  For his new book, “The Geography of Genius,” best-selling author Eric Weiner traveled the globe from Athens to Silicon Valley to find out why certain places have turned out so many talented individuals at certain times in history.

Weiner says several elements are often at play.  “In order for genius to happen, you need to have almost a chemical reaction going on, you need to have molecules banging against each other, and the more molecules you have, the better,” Weiner told PBS NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman.

“Those collisions are more likely to happen in a city than they are in the countryside.  Silicon Valley is one exception to that rule, it was essentially suburbia when it grew up, but it’s probably the exception that proves the rule.  All of these other golden ages sprang out of urban centers.”

The key to the cultivation of genius is openness to innovation, and to outsiders.  Genius magnets attract talent from far and wide.

“Take Vienna,” Weiner said.  “Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, none of them were from Vienna, they moved there and once they moved there they further magnetized the city, but there always has to be that initial seed in the first place.”

SPY GAMES - Alexander Litvinenko

"Russian security service blamed for defector’s high-profile death" PBS NewsHour 1/21/2016


SUMMARY:  The findings of a British inquiry into the demise of former Russian spy and high-profile defector Alexander Litvinenko were released Thursday, concluding that Litvinenko's 2006 death by polonium poisoning was the result of a Russian government operation, likely personally approved by President Vladimir Putin.  Chris Ship of Independent Television News begins our coverage.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The death by poisoning of a former Russian spy in London was thrust back into the headlines today, as a British inquiry into his killing released its report.

Alexander Litvinenko fled Russia nearly 20 years ago and accused the former chief of Russia’s spy agency, now-President Vladimir Putin, of corruption.  In 2006, he met two Russian spies at a London hotel, and three weeks later, he was dead.

Chris Ship of Independent Television News begins our coverage.

CHRIS SHIP, Independent Television:  We were reminded today that the radioactive poison inside Alexander Litvinenko's body was so strong, he had to be buried in a lead-lined coffin.  Today, the Russian security service the FSB was blamed for his killing.  And the orders, concluded the man who led the inquiry, most likely came from the top, the very top, he said.

SIR ROBERT OWEN, Litvinenko Inquiry Chairman:  The operation to kill Mr. Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr. Patrushev, then head of the FSB, and also by President Putin.

"What the Litvinenko assassination accusation means for the Kremlin" PBS NewsHour 1/21/2016


SUMMARY:  A British investigation is pointing the finger at the Russian state and President Vladimir Putin for the 2006 assassination of a former spy and defector.  Hari Sreenivasan talks to Steven Lee Myers of The New York Times and Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia.

NEWSHOUR BOOKSHELF - "NeuroTribes" Explores Autism

"Author explores life on the expanding autism spectrum" PBS NewsHour 1/19/2016


SUMMARY:  The rate of diagnosed cases of autism has more than doubled since 2000 and researchers have spent millions looking for causes and cures.  In "NeuroTribes," author Steve Silberman explores the history behind this dramatic increase, arguing it's just always been much more common than we realized.  William Brangham sits down with Silberman to discuss his work.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now the first of two looks we’re taking at the history of autism.

There seems to be more and more instances of it, but in this edition of the “NewsHour” Bookshelf, science writer Steve Silberman argues that the rise of autism is not some mysterious byproduct of the modern world, but instead a result of our growing understanding of the full range of the disorder.

William Brangham spoke with him recently in New York.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  The most recent federal data shows one in every 68 American children is diagnosed with autism.  Fifteen years ago, it was one in every 150 children.

In his book “NeuroTribes,” Steve Silberman explores the history behind that dramatic increase.  NeuroTribes” has been lauded as one of the best scientific books of the past year.  It won the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and made the best-of lists for over half-a-dozen newspapers and magazines.

Silberman says the genesis of the book came more than 15 years ago, after he wrote this story ("The Geek Syndrome") for “Wired” magazine about autistic kids in Silicon Valley.  After it ran, Silberman was swamped with e-mails from others who were struggling with the disease.

STEVE SILBERMAN, Author, “NeuroTribes”:  People were wrestling with very profound day-to-day problems with finding health care, finding employment, finding schools for their kids.

Meanwhile, the entire world was having a conversation about autism, but it was a completely different conversation.  It was about whether or not vaccines caused autism.    And that dominated virtually every mention of autism in the media.  Certainly, if there was an article about autism that didn’t mention vaccines, the comment thread on the Internet would be about vaccines.

And so I started to think that there was a disjunction between the problems that autistic people and their families were dealing with every day of their lives and what the whole world was talking about.

I learned that what happened has less to do with the slow and cautious progress of science than it does with the seductive power of storytelling.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Silberman's deep dive into the world of autism took him back to the very first researchers who tried to define and diagnose the condition.

STEVE SILBERMAN:  The true discover of autism was a guy named Hans Asperger in Vienna in the mid-1930s, and he and his colleagues discovered what we would now call the autism spectrum.  It was a very, very broad condition with many different manifestations ranging from kids who couldn’t talk at all and would need help every day of their lives to one of his former patients became an astronomy professor, actually, but he was still autistic.
WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Silberman argues it was this broadened definition of autism, that coupled with better diagnostic tools and better public education, that explains the dramatic rise in the number of diagnosed cases, not the repeatedly debunked theory that vaccines cause autism.

"Telling the story of parents and activists who fought for autism acceptance" PBS NewsHour 1/20/2016


SUMMARY:  The story of autism is many stories -- from doctors, to parents, to the afflicted themselves.  Journalists Caren Zucker and John Donvan examine that history in their new book, "In a Different Key: The Story of Autism."  Jeffrey Brown sits down with the authors to discuss the evolving definition of the diagnosis and the constant of parental love.