Monday, December 06, 2021

SAN FRANCISCO - Largest Afghan Population in the US

"Local community, businesses in the Bay Area band together to aid Afghan refugeePBS NewsHour 12/5/2021


SUMMARY:  The San Francisco bay area has the largest Afghan population in the US, making it an obvious place to resettle Afghan refugees.  But it also has one of the country’s most expensive and competitive housing markets.  Special correspondent Mike Cerre speaks to new arrivals and those helping them make the transition to life in the US, as part of our ongoing series, ‘Chasing the Dream: Poverty, Opportunity and Justice in America.’

MEMORIAM - Bob Dole of Kansas dies at 98

"Remembering Bob Dole: Veteran, GOP presidential nominee, Kansas senatorPBS NewsHour 12/5/2021


SUMMARY:  Robert “Bob” Dole, who led the Republican party in the Senate for decades and was its presidential candidate, died on Sunday at 98.  A veteran who was injured in World War II, and a politician for more than 50 years, he had been suffering from lung cancer.  Known for his bipartisan abilities, he helped pass the Americans With Disabilities Act in 1990.  Barbara Perry, Director of Presidential Studies at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia, joins.

MARYLAND HEALING OLD WOUNDS - Maryland's Truth and Reconciliation Commission

"Maryland is the first state to formally reckon with its history of lynching and racial violencePBS NewsHour 12/4/2021


SUMMARY:  Healing wounds over and violence from years past can be an extremely difficult endeavor.  South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission was the most famous attempt of its kind—but now, Maryland is the first U.S. state using the resolution model to reckon with its history of racial violence.  Charles Chavis, assistant professor at George Mason University and the vice-chair of Maryland's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, joins.

DICTATORS - Like a MOB Don, Long Reach to Silence Enemies

"Dictatorial governments are reaching beyond their borders to silence criticsPBS NewsHour 12/4/2021


SUMMARY:  Paul Rusesabagina, whose heroic efforts during the Rwandan genocide were depicted in the film “Hotel Rwanda,” was living in the U.S. when he was brought to Rwanda, against his will, to stand trial on charges of terrorism.  Human rights advocates say the trial, riddled with violations of due process, is an example of “transnational repression.”  Special Correspondent Benedict Moran reports.

OPINION - Brooks and Capehart 12/3/2021

"Brooks and Capehart on the future of abortion rights, government funding brinkmanshipPBS NewsHour 12/3/2021


SUMMARY:  New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the omicron variant, U.S. government funding, and a major abortion case before the Supreme Court.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  With the Omicron variant, a near government shutdown, and a major abortion case before the Supreme Court, it has been a busy week in Washington [DC].

To examine it all, we turn to the analysis of Brooks and Capehart.  That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart.

Hello to both of you.

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post:  Hi, Judy.

Judy Woodruff:  Haven't you both together in a long time.  It's good to have you here.

Let's start with the Supreme Court, Jonathan, that long awaited Mississippi abortion case, intense oral argument.  It was — once you started listening, it was hard to turn away.  A lot of people are saying they think they know what's going to happen based open that.

What did you make of it?

Jonathan Capehart:  You don't know what's going to happen based on the — based on those arguments.  We have been down this road before with the Affordable Care Act, when people listened to the or arguments and they thought for sure Obamacare [Republican name for ACA] was going to be the declared unconstitutional, and the decision came out months later, not the case.

But I do think that the concern, after listening to those oral arguments about the constant, what's going to happen to Roe v Wade, whether Roe v Wade will be overturned, is real and it's serious, primarily because, when Donald Trump was President, running for President, he said he would appoint justices to the court who would overturn Roe v Wade.

That was during the campaign.  He got three appointments to the bench.  There is now a 6-3 conservative majority.  And that is why, after listening to those oral arguments, I'm concerned and a lot of people are concerned that a constitutional right is — could be on the verge of being overturned.

And I think that's why Justice Sotomayor's question is the defining one for me, where she asks:  "Will this institution survive the stench this creates in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?"

Judy Woodruff:  A lot of people are quoting that "survive the stench" line.

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes.

Well, I think Roe is in danger at some point.  Once the thought is expressed as clearly as it was expressed, I think, eventually, they're going to get around to it.

And I have, frankly, been someone who has always supported the overturning of Roe, not because I'm necessarily pro-life, but because I think the court should not decide it.  I think the legislatures, and it should be decided by the democratic process.

And I have always believed — I used to believe, I should say, that, if it went back to legislators, the legislators would settle where the American people have settled.  The majority of American people do not want to ban abortion.  They want to restrict it in some way.  And different states would restrict it.

And I have always assumed that we would wind up where Europe is, with tighter laws than we have, but not a ban.

I am no longer so sanguine that our political system can handle a massive debate over an incredibly hard, incredibly complicated question.  And I say that with the awareness that majorities don't seem to rule anymore.  Polarized minorities rule in our politics very often.

And so we may wind up, if Roe is overturned this year, next year with just vicious cultural, moral, political battles at a time when our democracy is extremely fragile.  And that has got to be worrying.

Judy Woodruff:  What do you see the ramifications, Jonathan?  We don't know what's going to happen.

Jonathan Capehart:  Right.

Judy Woodruff:  But if it goes in the direction it seems to be headed, even if it's something short of completely overturning Roe?

Jonathan Capehart:  Yes, the political ramifications are huge, and I think part of the reasons that David was talking about.

I mean, for Democrats, I'm sure — if we want to get baldly political, for Democrats it could be a way of galvanizing the base at a time when the midterm elections are coming.  Democratic voter turnout traditionally is lower during midterm elections.  And they could possibly be on the verge of losing the majority in the House.  For Republicans, this could be a galvanizing thing for them in 2022 and 2024.

But, in addition to all the things that David said, the question then becomes, it's also a very personal decision.  When we're talking about a woman's reproductive health, it isn't just whether — does she have access to abortion?

No, this is one of the most personal things that she might have to endure, or will have to endure.  And I look at the possibility of the overturning of that precedent, and I look at other precedents out there that could also — with a 6-3 conservative majority, that could also be in danger.

I'm thinking about ObergefellI could be looking at a possibility where my marriage could be nullified by the Supreme Court.


Judy Woodruff:  Upholding same-sex marriage.

Jonathan Capehart:  Yes, upholding same-sex marriage.

So, what happens with the Mississippi case — in the Mississippi case, but also we haven't even talked about Texas.  And we're still waiting to hear what the court has to say about that, which actually has even more implications for, I think, things like same-sex marriage and other precedents.

Judy Woodruff:  David, your point about whether the country can withstand that kind of a — can the court withstand the perception that decisions are made based along party lines?

I know Justice Breyer and others have said, oh, no, that's not what's going on here.

David Brooks:  Yes, of course, those on the pro-life think the court got into this in 1973 with Roe and they politicized it, and they invented a right.  That would be the pro-life argument.

And since then, our court and our judicial nomination system has become hyper-divided, hyperpolarized, because — basically because of that issue.

Can the credibility of the court — Justice Breyer and Justice Barrett said, we're not political creatures.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

David Brooks:  And, from their day-to-day perspective, that may appear to be true, because there are a lot of decisions that we don't talk about.  They're not the big major decisions that are 7-2, 8-1, 9-0.

But I have to say, when I reflect back on the big decisions that really make the headlines and really shift American history, from Bush v Gore on to what's about to come, I'm stunned by how incredibly easy to predict the votes based on their partisanship.

And so, on the big issues, I think the court has become quite predictable and quite partisan, like the rest of America.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, speaking of partisanship, Jonathan, the Congress this week — I guess the Democrats just barely got out of town, at least for the weekend, without having the government shut down.  They were able to reach agreement over government spending.

But what — the Democrats still have some — and the President still have some big agenda items before them this month.  What does it look like is going to happen?


Jonathan Capehart:  Chaos, Judy.  Chaos.

We have got — so we avoided a government shutdown, actually, a day early, if you really think about it.  But we now have a debt ceiling deadline, December 15, according to the Treasury Secretary.  The National Defense Reauthorization, that's supposed to be at the end of the year; Build Back Better, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says, oh, we're going to get it done by the end of the year or Christmas.

OK.  Sure, if you say so.

But — and that's just, that's the stuff on the table.  You have got Republicans who, on all of these things, are — basically, they're not there.  They're not a governing partner.

The problem comes when you have got Democrats talking to Democrats, and especially with Build Back Better.  So I said chaos, I have no idea how this is going — how this is going to turn out.  But if it does turn out, it's just going to be messy, and it will bleed into next year, into 2022.

And that's a problem for Democrats, because — well, for the country, because, once we — once 2022 is on the calendar, everything is going to grind to a halt, because nobody's going to want to get anything done.

Judy Woodruff:  What does it look like to you?

David Brooks:  Yes, and I saw a quote, an unnamed quote from a Hill staffer, saying the odds of getting Build Back Better this year were like 20 or 25 percent.

So that — because you got to have CBO scoring.  You got to figure out what Joe Manchin wants.  And so that's — it would be very bad for Democrats.  Joe Biden was elected to be competent, to show it would be calm, we'd have a master — the hand on the tiller, blah, blah, blah.  And the longer Democrats go on, then the worse that claim looks.

But I would say one thing in defense of the Democrats.  (A) it's basically a 50/50 Congress.  That's hard.  (B) if you look back at American history, the Great Society took years to pass.  The New Deal took years to pass.  Our system was not built for speed.

What worries me most — and this is about the government shutdown — like, they're now capable of doing nursery school level legislative activities.  And you feel like they're just barely doing that.

I had a dentist once who was in my mouth and said:  "I'm on the edge of my skill level here."  And she is in my mouth.  And I'm like, "What?"


David Brooks:  So, I feel like the skill level on Capitol Hill is not where it should be, because they don't have experience of successful legislation.

That — Teddy Kennedy did it.  Back in those days, they really know how to do this stuff.  And so that's the big worry to me.

Judy Woodruff:  That's an image Jonathan and I are going to keep in our — we're going to keep that in our minds.


Judy Woodruff:  But members of Congress you know may remember the nursery school level.

David Brooks:  Oh.

Judy Woodruff:  The President, Jonathan, has one other thing on his plate right now.

And that, of course, is the is the variant, the new variant now.  On top of Delta, we have Omicron.  It's everywhere in the world.  It's in multiple states.  He's done a few things, travel ban.  We're going to have increased testing.

How does it look?  How does his management of this look?  How much is riding on his management of this?

Jonathan Capehart:  Well, a lot is riding on his management of this, but I do think he is striking the right tone.

When we were talking about this last week, it was like, oh, my God, what is this thing?  It's super contagious.  I even mispronounced it because it was so new.

Judy Woodruff:  A lot of us did.

Jonathan Capehart:  Right.

But the President comes out and he says, don't panic.  Get vaccinated.  Get your booster.  Wear your mask, basically saying to the American people, look, we have the tools to be protected against this.

And I also think that the American people, after a year-and-a-half of doing this, no one wants to go into a shutdown, not the President, not — and certainly not the American people.  So we know how to protect ourselves.

So I think, if the President and the administration, as much as it can, project calm, but also clarity in what we need to do to protect ourselves from Omicron, he will be OK.

But, yes, everything is riding on this, because if we do get to a situation where he has to come to the American people and say, we have got to lock down again, even if it's for a good reason, I don't know how that's going to go over.

Judy Woodruff:  It was something the NIH Director, Francis Collins, who I talked to today, said it's something they don't want to do.

David Brooks:  Right.

And Francis said, we're not powerless.  I think that's the big story here.  We're not where we were a year ago.  And, to me, the best thing the administration has done is buy millions of doses of this Pfizer and Merck treatment regimes.  So, you get a positive test, you get five days, and you take 30 pills.  I think that's the Pfizer one.

And it has like an 85 percent of reducing — chance of reducing your hospitalization and death.  So that suggests we're going to enter a phase where we're not going to kill COVID the way we wish, but we're going to learn to live with it, the way we live with the flu.

And I think we're sort of at that point.  And we're going to — we're — if you're fully vaccinated and you're under 50, your odds are quite good.  It's still the folks who need the continued care.

And so I think we're just going to be in a country with a lot of COVID around for a long time.  But we have tools now to make it a lot safer.

Judy Woodruff:  We do have the tools.

And, again, Director Collins saying, if we — as you said, he said, we just need to keep doing what we do — doing what we know how to do, which is the testing and pills.

All right, we're going to leave it there.  Jonathan Capehart, David Brooks, so good to have you back again.

Thank you.

Jonathan Capehart:  Great to see you, Judy.

Judy Woodruff:  Thank you.


"Analyzing the shipping backlog from one of America’s busiest portsPBS NewsHour 12/3/2021


SUMMARY:  Friday's jobs report offered mixed signals about the state of hiring, but one thing was clear: more people are trying to get back into the labor force.  Supply chain issues are one key challenge as companies compete for workers and wait for products to reach customers.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman reports from the Port of Los Angeles, where container imports have been clogged for months.


"A Brief But Spectacular take on talking to children about sexPBS NewsHour 12/2/2021


SUMMARY:  For more than 25 years, Peggy Orenstein has broken new ground with her intimate explorations of adolescence.  In her bestselling books “Girls and Sex” and “Boys and Sex,” she dives into the lives of young people to unravel the hidden truths, hard lessons, and important realities of their lives.  This is her Brief But Spectacular take on talking to kids about sex.

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN - Temporary Funding Deal

Reminder, this shutdown threat is caused by the GOP (like the others) because they want their way or no-way.

"Last-minute temporary funding deal may help U.S. government avoid shutdownPBS NewsHour 12/2/2021


SUMMARY:  Funding for the federal government runs out Friday at midnight.  House Democrats passed a short term measure Thursday to keep the government funded through February, but a group of Republican lawmakers in the Senate are threatening to force a shutdown over President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.  Judy Woodruff and congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins to break down the latest negotiations.

ANOTHER SCHOOL SHOOTING - Suburban Detroit Schools

"Dozens of suburban Detroit schools close amid threats after high school shootingPBS NewsHour 12/2/2021



SUMMARY:  Dozens of schools across suburban Detroit canceled classes Thursday, two days after four students were killed in a shooting at Oxford High School.  The alleged shooter, who is 15, remains held without bail, charged with murder and terrorism.  The prosecutor is considering charging his parents, saying their actions went "far beyond negligence," making guns "freely available."  John Yang reports.



"‘All kinds of red flags’ as parents of accused Michigan high school shooter are chargedPBS NewsHour 12/3/2021


SUMMARY:  There were dramatic twists and turns Friday in the aftermath of this week's shooting attack at a Michigan high school.  The parents of the accused 15-year-old killer were charged with involuntary manslaughter and declared fugitives by authorities a short while later.  Russ McNamara, host of "All Things Considered" for Detroit Public Radio, joins John Yang to discuss.



"How Michigan educators are talking to students about the Oxford school shootingPBS NewsHour 12/3/2021


SUMMARY:  This week's shooting at a Michigan high school was the deadliest school shooting in three years and has led to fear, anger and anxiety at school districts around the state.  And so have closings in dozens of schools because of threats and out of an abundance of caution.  Our Student Reporting Labs and colleagues at Detroit Public TV talked to educators about how they are talking to students.

IRAN VS UNITED STATES - 2015 Nuclear Deal Talks

"Officials pessimistic about agreement between U.S. and Iran amid tense talksPBS NewsHour 12/1/2021


SUMMARY:  For the first time Wednesday, the recently elected Iranian government is negotiating its nuclear program with the world powers who signed the nuclear deal back in 2015.  Iran wants relief from economic sanctions.  The U.S. and Europe want Iran to roll back nuclear advancements.  Nick Schifrin is covering the talks and joins Judy Woodruff with more.

NEW EXHIBIT - Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach

"How Judy Baca’s murals help recover history through ‘public memory’PBS NewsHour 11/30/2021


SUMMARY:  A new exhibit at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, California, looks at the monumental scale and achievement of an artist capturing the untold stories of Los Angeles.  Jeffrey Brown took a look at the work of Judy Baca for our arts and culture series, CANVAS.

'SILICON VALLEY' TRIAL - Elizabeth Holmes Fraud Trial

"How new revelations in the Elizabeth Holmes fraud trial reflect on Silicon ValleyPBS NewsHour 11/30/2021


SUMMARY:  Elizabeth Holmes, founder of the former health technology company Theranos, faced cross-examination Tuesday in her fraud case.  Federal prosecutors have alleged deception that led investors and patients to believe the company could conduct a range of tests using a few drops of blood.  Rebecca Jarvis, chief business, technology & economics correspondent for ABC News joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

RULE BY THEOCRACY - Imposition of a Religious Belief on When Life Begins

An assault on Freedom of Religion by making a religious belief law of the land.

"How pregnant Americans may be affected by Supreme Court ruling on Mississippi abortion lawPBS NewsHour 11/30/2021


SUMMARY:  In one of the most aggressive challenges to Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in America, justices will decide the constitutionality of Mississippi's 2018 law banning most abortions after 15 weeks.  If the court overturns Roe, abortion bans passed in a dozen states since the 1973 ruling would immediately go into effect.  Amna Nawaz reports.


"Remembering Virgil Abloh and how his path-blazing career influenced the fashion industryPBS NewsHour 11/29/2021


SUMMARY:  The fashion world is mourning the loss of one of its most influential and contemporary Black designers, Virgil Abloh.  The artistic director for Louis Vuitton menswear, Abloh died yesterday at the age of 41 after battling a rare type of cancer.  Stephanie Sy has more on his legacy.

AMERICAN HISTORY - ‘The 1619 Project’

"How ‘The 1619 Project’ underscores connection between slavery and modern AmericaPBS NewsHour 11/29/2021


SUMMARY:  Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones' 1619 Project has become a topic of much debate in recent years.  Amna Nawaz spoke with her about expanding upon that original work, the importance of looking back at how our nation's history unfolded, and its relevance today.


"How the world is responding to the omicron variantPBS NewsHour 11/29/2021


SUMMARY:  A growing number of nations imposed travel restrictions Monday to try to slow the spread of the new coronavirus variant, omicron.  The moves came as more cases of the variant were confirmed internationally.  But some warned the travel bans — including those imposed by the U.S.— would not be effective and could even be counterproductive.  White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor reports.



"Will the omicron variant require a new vaccine?  An expert weighs inPBS NewsHour 11/30/2021


SUMMARY:  A growing number of countries are reporting cases of the coronavirus' omicron variant, and many are mandating travel bans.  Meanwhile, advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have now endorsed drug maker Merck's pill to treat COVID-19 in high-risk adults.  All of this comes as public health officials are emphasizing the need for global cooperation.  Nick Schifrin reports.

Dr. Richard Hatchett (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations):  What we think we're seeing, at least based on what we understand right now, is that this virus, this variant has emerged in countries that have had very limited access to vaccine.

And that means that COVID has continued to circulate at high rates in these countries, which provides it opportunities to mutate.  And so scientists for months have been predicting that the inequity of vaccine distribution was creating the exact kind of circumstances that would promote the emergence of new variants, potentially with the ability to evade our vaccines.

The inequity that has characterized the global response to date has now come home to roost.



"U.S. to release new rules for foreign travelers amid growing concerns over omicron variantPBS NewsHour 12/1/2021


SUMMARY:  The first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus was detected in the U.S. Wednesday — a discovery most health officials had said was inevitable.  A case was confirmed in San Francisco, California, on the eve of new requirements for travelers arriving in the U.S. William Brangham reports.



"India extends door-to-door vaccine campaign as omicron variant worries officialsPBS NewsHour 12/1/2021


SUMMARY:  The trajectory of omicron infections is being watched closely in India, where the official death toll from COVID-19 is approaching half a million.  The true toll is likely much higher.  Memories are still fresh of the devastation caused by the delta variant last spring.  Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on efforts to combat the new variant.



"Vaccinated Americans reflect on breakthrough infections, ‘infuriating’ anti-vaccine viewsPBS NewsHour 12/1/2021


SUMMARY:  Even as Americans are trying to prepare for omicron, many parts of the country are still reeling from the delta variant.  More Americans died of COVID this year than in 2020, despite the wide availability of free vaccines.  The pandemic's lingering, deadly grip has left many frustrated.  We hear from viewers about how the continued spread of the virus has impacted them.



"Does South Africa’s COVID uptick signal greater threat from omicron?  Here’s what we knowPBS NewsHour 12/2/2021


SUMMARY:  While we don't know whether the omicron variant will lead to more severe cases of COVID-19, its ability to spread is becoming clearer.  Cases in South Africa are spiking at the fastest rate since the pandemic began, and European officials said their modeling found that omicron would likely be responsible for more than half of their cases this winter.  William Brangham looks at the global picture.



"NIH director on the spread of the omicron variant amid the ongoing pandemicPBS NewsHour 12/3/2021


SUMMARY:  Maryland, Nebraska and Pennsylvania are the latest states reporting cases of the new omicron variant in the U.S., while it has now spread to more than 40 nations worldwide.  And the CDC director said Friday the omicron variant could become the dominant COVID strain in the U.S. this winter.  Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss.

MILITARY.COM - Russian Military Movements

"US ‘Very Concerned’ About Russian Military Moves Near Ukraine, Austin Says" by Rebecca Kheen, 12/4/2021

SIMI VALLEY, CALIF.  -- U.S. officials are "very concerned" about Russia's massing of troops near the Ukrainian border, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Saturday.

Austin's comments at the Reagan National Defense Forum come amid reports that U.S. intelligence has found Russia is planning a military offensive for early 2022 that could include as many as 175,000 troops.

"As we look at the numbers of forces that are in the border region, as we look at some of the things that are occurring in the information space, as we look at what's going on in the cyber domain, it really raises our concern," Austin said.  "It's something that we're gonna remain focused on going forward."

U.S. and NATO officials have been issuing increasingly stark warnings in recent weeks as Russia builds up forces near its border with Ukraine, which it invaded in 2014.

Russia also concentrated thousands of troops near its border with Ukraine in the spring, raising alarms in the international community of the possibility of an invasion.  Russia insisted those troops were conducting routine exercises and eventually pulled many of them back, but U.S. officials fear the latest deployments are more than a bluff.

Ukrainian officials have said about 115,000 Russian troops are amassed near the border, while U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville on Saturday estimated the number is "somewhere around 95,000 to 100,000."

"I don't know what they're going to do, but I'm very, very concerned about their posture," McConville said during a morning panel at the Reagan forum.  "That gives a lot of options to the Russians."

President Joe Biden himself vowed Friday to make it "very, very difficult" for Russia to invade Ukraine.

"What I am doing is putting together what I believe to be will be the most comprehensive and meaningful set of initiatives to make it very, very difficult for Mr.  Putin to go ahead and do what people are worried he may do," said Biden, who is scheduled to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.

Pressed Saturday on what specifically the United States will do, including whether it will send military advisers and weapons to Ukraine, Austin would only refer back to Biden's comments.

"You heard the President say yesterday that he's looking at a number of initiatives, so I won't get out ahead of my boss," Austin told Fox News host Brett Baier, who interviewed Austin at the conference.

Russia isn't alone in its provocative posturing, as Austin described alarm at increasingly aggressive Chinese military exercises near Taiwan.  China set a record in October with 56 military flights around Taiwan in one day, part of a total 149 flights over four days.

While he said he did not want to speculate, Austin said the Chinese activity "looks a lot like rehearsals" for an attack.

Austin also reiterated that the United States is committed to helping Taiwan defend itself and said officials are looking at ways to do more to support Taipei.  But he also stressed that U.S. policy -- which is intentionally ambiguous about whether the U.S. military would actually intervene if China tries to invade Taiwan -- has not changed.

"Nobody wants to see things develop into a conflict in this region," Austin said.  "So we're going to do everything in our power to help prevent conflict and dial down the temperature whenever possible."

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

U.S. ARMY - Sniper Training Course

"Woman Graduates Army Sniper Course for the First Time" by Chad Garland (Stars and Stripes), 11/9/2021

A Montana Army National Guard soldier has become the first woman to complete the seven-week U.S. Army Sniper Course at Fort Benning, Ga., military officials said.

The service is withholding the identity of the soldier, who graduated Friday.  While she's the first woman to complete the intensive Army training, several have completed a shorter Air Force course to qualify as snipers over the past 20 years.

"We are extremely proud of this soldier's achievement and recognize that this is a milestone for not only Montana, but the entire National Guard and Army," said Maj. Gen. J. Peter Hronek, the state's adjutant general.

The soldier, who enlisted last December, was recommended for the sniper course by her training staff and chain of command during Fort Benning's 22-week One Station Unit Training.

Their endorsement was based on her superior performance, including qualifying as an expert shooter, during that initial schooling that combines basic training with advanced instruction in infantry skills.

"We're all incredibly proud of her," said Capt. Joshua O'Neill, her OSUT company commander.  "There wasn't a doubt in our minds that she would succeed."

She arrived prepared and "met every standard required to graduate" the course, said Capt. David Wright, battalion commander at the U.S. Army Sniper School.

The intensive program trains and tests students on fieldcraft, camouflage techniques, marksmanship, concealed movement, target detection, intelligence preparation and other tactics and techniques necessary to deliver long-range precision fire and collect battlefield information, according to a course description on the Fort Benning website.

"We wish her luck as she heads back to her unit as a U.S. Army Sniper Course qualified sniper," Wright said.

It's the latest in a series of firsts for women since all combat jobs in the military were opened to them in 2015.  But female snipers in particular have a long history of defying traditional stereotypes.

During World War II, Ukrainian-born Soviet Army sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko visited Washington to rally America's support for a "second front" in Europe and was invited by first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on a tour of the country to discuss her combat experience, the Smithsonian Magazine said in a 2013 profile.

Called a "girl sniper" in the American press, which obsessed over her appearance and makeup, she was taken more seriously by the Nazis, who purportedly knew her as "Lady Death."  By the time she reached Chicago, she had some strong words for the large crowd there.

"Gentlemen, I am 25 years old, and I have killed 309 fascist (occupiers) by now," she said.

But the U.S. military did not graduate its first female sniper until 2001, when an enlisted female security forces airman with the Illinois Air National Guard completed the service's pilot Counter Sniper School at Camp Joseph T. Robinson in Arkansas.

Jennifer Weitekamp "could put a bullet through an enemy's head from nearly a mile away," the Illinois National Guard said in a statement in 2018, when she was a first lieutenant.  "Such is life for the Air Force's first female sniper -- friendly and easy-going on the outside, but with killer skills inside."

She had responded to a call for volunteers ahead of the 2001 course, she said, but was initially denied entry because it wasn't open to women.  Officials later changed their minds.

That 19-day training program was later renamed the Close Precision Engagement Course and relocated to Fort Bliss, TexasAs of 2012, at least nine women had graduated.

"The school was not easy and there were days I wanted to go home," Weitekamp said in the 2018 statement.  "I was the first woman to go through, it was because of that and the opportunities it would open up for future women that helped me get through the training and kept me motivated."

Monday, November 08, 2021

HOUSTON’S ASTROWORLD - Music Festival Fire

"Houston music reporter’s eyewitness account of concert tragedy and investigationPBS NewsHour 11/7/2021


SUMMARY:  A chaotic crush of fans rushing toward the stage at a Travis Scott show at Houston’s Astroworld Music Festival is being blamed for a ‘mass casualty event,’ that killed at least eight people and injured dozens more.  Houston Chronicle music reporter Joey Guerra was there — he joins Hari Sreenivasan to explain what he saw and what videos are showing as the investigation continues.

WORLD OF CONSTRUCTION - Mass Timber Building Material

"Is mass timber the building material of the future?PBS NewsHour 11/7/2021


SUMMARY:  A new kind of construction with a not-so-new material is taking off in the U.S. Mass Timber can replace steel and concrete in large buildings and proponents say it's greener and faster to build with.  NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Megan Thompson recently visited the Ascent building in Milwaukee, a 25 story mass timber tower that will open next summer.

CURMUDGEONLY LIBERTARIAN - 'Ron Swanson' (Nick Offerman)

"The hilarious Nick Offerman on acting, the pandemic, and hiking ‘on purpose’PBS NewsHour 11/6/2021


SUMMARY:  Most widely known as the curmudgeonly libertarian Ron Swanson on NBC’s hit comedy ‘Parks and Recreation,’ Nick Offerman admits to several similarities with his character: a love of carpentry, whiskey, and the great outdoors.  Now, Offerman is turning his attention to a new cause: environmental activismHis new book, ‘Where The Deer and Antelope Play,’ is a meditation on our relationship to the natural world.  He joins Christopher Booker to discuss.

OPINION - Capehart and Abernathy 11/5/2021

"Capehart and Abernathy on Virginia elections, Build Back Better plan, Colin PowellPBS NewsHour 11/5/2021


SUMMARY:  Washington Post columnists Jonathan Capehart and Gary Abernathy join Judy Woodruff to discuss Tuesday’s surprising election results, the fate of the infrastructure and Build Back Better bill, and reflect on the life and legacy of Colin Powell.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  Democrats and Republicans across the country are examining Tuesday night's surprising election results, with an eye toward crafting their strategies for next year's crucial midterm election races.

Meanwhile, dignitaries in Washington today gathered to remember the life and legacy of former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Here to add perspective on all this and more are Capehart and Abernathy.  That's Jonathan Capehart, columnist for The Washington Post, and Gary Abernathy, an Ohio-based writer and contributing columnist for The Washington Post.  David Brooks is away.

It's very good to see both of you.

And, Gary, you're here from Ohio, and we're glad to see you.

Gary Abernathy, Washington Post:  Thank you for having me.

Judy Woodruff:  So, what a week, as the three of us were just saying.

Jonathan Capehart, you have now had three whole days to think about what happened, what the voters said on Tuesday, and what do you think it was?

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post:  So, I split it between Virginia and New Jersey.

With Virginia, governor-elect Glenn Youngkin showed that it's possible to embrace Trump voters with — but, at the same time, keep Donald Trump out of your — physically out of your state.  He showed, as I mentioned last week, the role of playing on racial fear to drive people out to the polls, particularly when it comes to so-called Critical Race Theory.

In New Jersey, the near political death experience of Governor Phil Murphy, Democrat, to my mind shows the larger, bigger national — the problem that the national Democratic Party has.  Governor Murphy is popular in New Jersey.  He was running on the President's agenda, basically, and the fact that he squeaked it out says that folks in New Jersey are tired, seemingly, of the dysfunction of Democrats arguing with each other over bills, not being able to show they can get anything done.

Judy Woodruff:  We saw more of that today.

Jonathan Capehart:  Yes, and still going on today.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Jonathan Capehart:  And so the party has to figure out how to reach those voters that Glenn Youngkin reached, be able to talk to them, but also show the country that they're competent, that they are worthy of being entrusted with governing.

Judy Woodruff:  Gary Abernathy, what messages do you think the voters were delivering?

Gary Abernathy:  Well, a lot of Democrats are saying that the message was:  We need to do more.  We haven't done this.  We were punished for not passing these bills we promised we were going to pass.

I think it's the opposite.  I think voters were saying:  We don't like what you're doing.

Now, there are two different things here, and the Democrats try to tie them together, the infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better bill, two different things.  The infrastructure bill has tremendous bipartisan support.  They should pass that.  They should pass that tonight and show they're doing something, not just politically, but the country needs this infrastructure bill.

But people thought — we have to remember, the 2020 election was a referendum on Donald Trump.  It was not about issues.  It was not about what Biden was promising to do.  It was, we either want Trump, more of him, or we're going to kick him out.  They voted to kick him out.  The majority did.

But they thought they were getting a safe alternative with Joe BidenAnd he turned out to be a guy who's been much more aggressively liberal with the Bernie Sanders wing than people were voting for.

One key thing from the exit polls on — the Edison exit polls that I think The Washington Post used and other networks…

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Gary Abernathy:  … said that Trump is still unpopular in Virginia.  Seven out of 10 voters thought that Youngkin's policies and ideas were much like Trump's.  Didn't hurt him a bit.  He won.

People are OK with Trump's policies.  They just didn't like Trump.

Judy Woodruff:  But what about what the Democrats are offering?

I hear you, the two of you, saying different things about whether Americans want what the Democrats are debating and still haven't been able to pass yet, Jonathan.

Jonathan Capehart:  Well, I think that's the problem.  They still haven't been able to pass it.

If you tease out every little thing out of both the infrastructure bill, which we know has bipartisan support, but even what's in the Build Back Better Act, last I checked — there are so many things in it — but if you tease out the individual pieces, they have popular support.

It's just that, if you're going to go for it, and you have got the House and you have got the Senate and you have the White House, to the larger American public who doesn't follow the stuff the way we do, they sit back and think, why can't you get anything done if you have all three of these branches?

And that is why this is such a problem for Democrats and the President.

Judy Woodruff:  What I hear you saying, Gary, is, even if they pass this other piece of legislation, that may not help the Democrats.

Gary Abernathy:  I think it hurts them.

I think that it's — again, I'm going to say — and Jonathan and I are disagreeing on this, but the message Tuesday was:  We don't like the direction you're going.

The Democrats, really, if they stopped to evaluate what happened Tuesday, they would be better off sitting and letting Joe Manchin lead the discussion, while Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez kind of sit to the side a little bit and listen, because I think Manchin, to his credit, kind of has a pulse on where America is at now.

And, no, the Democrat Party doesn't have to become the Republican Party, but Joe Manchin is a pretty centrist Democrat who's trying to wave the red flag and ring the warning bells, and no one's listening to him yet.

Jonathan Capehart:  OK.

The Democratic Party, in the Build Back Better plan, for instance, would love for there to be paid family leave.  And I guess conservatives look at paid family leave as paying people to stay home, instead of looking at the domino effect of what it means in order for a family to not risk their job in order to stay home for whatever — for whatever reason, grieving the loss of a parent, a new child coming into the family.

Judy Woodruff:  Right.

Jonathan Capehart:  There are economic benefits that the American people want, the Earned Income Tax Credit for children, any number of things.

It's not — I don't think it's that the American people don't want these things and that these aren't a grab bag of things to just give away.  They have a benefit for the long-term health and security, economic well-being of this country.

Gary Abernathy:  I think Americans do want a lot of those things, and they do poll as popular item by item.

But Americans love ice cream.  If you did a poll, you would find out almost 100 percent of Americans love ice cream.  It doesn't mean they approve of spending trillions of dollars to give everyone free ice cream.  Not everybody can have things that we all agree, gee, that would be nice.

But, at some point in time, there comes a point where we have to say, we don't have any money.  I mean, we're — I don't care if we're talking $6 trillion, $3 trillion, $1 trillion.  It doesn't exist.  So I think the American people know that too.

Yes, we'd like to have all these things, but our great-grandchildren pay for it?

Judy Woodruff:  One other piece of analysis that's been out there, and it came from James Carville, a longtime Democratic strategist on this program Wednesday night, Jonathan, essentially said this woke business has gone too far, the focus on injustice in our society.

Does he have a point or not?

Jonathan Capehart:  He has a point up to a point.

I understand where James Carville is coming from.  I have heard the quote in full and in context, I get where he's coming from.

But what he's done is, he's basically said to the base of the Democratic Party:  Who cares what you think?

He calls it wokeness.  Is it — it's not wokeness to want to be treated fairly by the police.  It's not wokeness to want law enforcement to not view you instantly as a criminal, instantly as a bad guy.  It's not wokeness to demand that our nation's history be taught and reflected accurately.  That's not wokeness.

That's — at a minimum, it's asking for dignity and respect.  And so for someone, a Democratic strategist like James Carville, to say those things basically to the base of the Democratic Party is really unfortunate, because I think we can talk about these issues of injustice and talk about how to move the country forward together.  These don't have to be two separate conversations.

Judy Woodruff:  This is a larger debate that's been out there, Gary.

Gary Abernathy:  And I actually agree with a lot of what Jonathan just said.  I think that we can talk about the role of slavery, the role of racism in this country.  And we should do more of that.  I agree with that.

But there doesn't have to be — I think what happens is with the wokeness, what a lot of us think of as the wokeness, the cancel culture, is that we have to create villains.  We have to demonize.  To lift up one set of people means we have to demonize another set of people.

And that's what turns a lot of people off to having the conversation.

Jonathan Capehart:  No, I mean, I understand where the sentiment comes from about demonizing people.

But — the people I talked to and the people who I'm associated with and related to, we're not about demonizing anybody.  We're about — could you recognize for a hot minute what we go through?  Can you recognize that there was a clip of a Youngkin supporter saying, well, if young people just treat police with respect when they're stopped, everything will be OK?

No, that is not true.  That is not true.  And so for — until someone like her is able to see that perspective, we're always going to have this problem.

Judy Woodruff:  Like that young person.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes.

We tend to — on all things, whether we're talking about Critical Race Theory, which is not a thing being taught in Virginia schools, but it's a thing.  I mean, it's a theory that a lot of people would like to have taught.

Jonathan Capehart:  In — well, it…

Gary Abernathy:  Go ahead.

Jonathan Capehart:  It's taught in law school.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes.  But there have been — I mean, there have been pushes to get it more into curriculums.

Jonathan Capehart:  Well, that's a larger conversation that we don't have time for.

Judy Woodruff:  It's a larger conversation.

Gary Abernathy:  But there are — it's like one extreme and the other — or the other.

We need to talk, to recognize more about what?  As I said, slavery and race and racism have played a role throughout history in the building of this country, and do that honestly.  And white people shouldn't be afraid to say, you know what, we really haven't done that well, and we need to do a better job of that recognize it, but without making us feel like the villains for doing it.

And I think there is a lot of that.  There's a lot of emphasis on white people need to feel a certain amount of guilt over this.  And we need to get past that.

Judy Woodruff:  I want you to make a comment, and then I want to bring up something else.

Jonathan Capehart:  Sure.  Yes.

I'm not — I'm not asking for guilt.  But I do think white people have to get over the — feeling villainized just even when the word race is used in a sentence.  That's all.

Gary Abernathy:  And you may be right.

Judy Woodruff:  It's a conversation we should continue to have next Friday.


Judy Woodruff:  But speaking of all this, someone who I think represents what black Americans have meant to this country was memorialized today.  And that was, of course, Colin Powell.

There was a service for him.  He was remembered as someone who is an example for generations to come, someone who worked across party lines.

In just a few words, Jonathan, what is his legacy?  What should we take away from this man?

Jonathan Capehart:  He was a statesman.  He was a warrior statesman.  He was the best of this country.

He — when he was thinking about running for President in 19 — in the '96 election, you know what?  I was a young editorial writer at The New York Daily News.  I was a big fan of President ClintonBut the idea that a black man would run for President and had a chance to win left me a little conflicted, because he was a walking role model of who we should be as Americans, but also a walking role model for me, a young black man, seeing a black man like him walking through the corridors of power as if he was just walking in the park.

We need more — we need more people like Colin Powell, regardless of party.

Judy Woodruff:  Admired by so many.  Just 30 seconds.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes, I can't improve on that, but — other than to say, to me, Colin Powell always represented a very classy person, just conducted himself with class.

Even when he was upset about something, even when he was angry about something, even in his criticisms of people, it was done with style and class, which is why I think he was so widely admired across the divide.

Judy Woodruff:  Well, we remember him fondly today.

Gary Abernathy:  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  Gary Abernathy, Jonathan Capehart, thank you both.

Jonathan Capehart:  Thanks, Judy.

Gary Abernathy:  Thanks, Judy.