Monday, October 20, 2014

GAS PRICES - Why the Drop?

"What’s behind the sudden drop in US gas prices?" PBS NewsHour 10/18/2014


HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  As you no doubt know, gas prices have fallen sharply in recent weeks.  According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of regular was $3.52 in late July.   Now, less three months later, it’s $3.12.

For more, we are joined now by Isaac Arnsdorf.  He is an energy and commodities reporter with Bloomberg News.

So we’ve seen it decline a lot and sometimes there’s a lag between the price of oil and the price of gas.

So are we likely to see the price of gas go lower?

ISAAC ARNSDORF, Bloomberg News:  It could continue to tick down a little bit.  We are seeing oil prices start to stabilize, significantly lower than they were this summer, but it depends sort of where oil goes from now.  If oil continues to its freefall, really, or finds a floor around $80 a barrel.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  And is it likely to last?

I mean, there are so many different factors that are pushing it down.

ISAAC ARNSDORF:  Absolutely.  We’ve got very soft demand globally and expanding supply from the U.S. and really all eyes are on OPEC now to see if they cut back supply or continue to add supply and let prices continue to fall.

KENTUCKY - Coal Country

Note that is what happens when ANY area/city becomes too dependent on one industry.

"Will Promise Zone initiative lift Eastern Kentucky’s coal country out of poverty?" PBS NewsHour 10/18/2014


NARRATOR:  In this south central mountain country, over a third of the population has faced chronic unemployment.

MEGAN THOMPSON (NewsHour):  For as long as anyone can remember, the coal country of Eastern Kentucky has struggled. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson came through here after he declared the War on Poverty.  This is the area became the face of his campaign.

PRESIDENT JOHNSON:  We are just not willing to accept the necessity of poverty.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  Back then, the poverty rate in some areas was around 60 percent.

Eastern Kentucky has made big strides in the last 50 years since Lyndon Johnson came through here.  But even still, the area continues to struggle today.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  The poverty rate in Eastern Kentucky has dropped, but in some parts still hovers around 30 percent.  Unemployment in some counties is more than 10 percent, much higher than the national average.  And the region is still dependent on coal, which has meant trouble as the industry’s gone south.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  How big is the coal industry?

TOBEY MILLER:  Everything here stems off of coal.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  Like many here, Tobey Miller’s roots run deep, and they run through the coal mines.

TOBEY MILLER:  Well, my Papaw, he worked in the mines.  Used to tell me stories about when he moved here.

MEGAN THOMPSON:  Miller’s papaw – his grandfather – bought the family farm in Knox County in 1941 with the money he earned from coal.  Miller’s dad worked in coal.  And straight out of high school, Miller did too, welding the heavy machinery used in the mines.  Miller’s family – his wife, two daughters and granddaughter – lived well.  He earned more than $50,000 a year.  That’s double the median household income around here.  But then a year ago, Miller was told his job was being cut.

OPINION - Shields and Gerson 10/17/2014

"Shields and Gerson on Ebola as election issue, Florida’s fan fight" PBS NewsHour 10/17/2014


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the response to Ebola in the U.S. and how it affects national politics, as well as the outlook for the midterm elections and the gubernatorial debate in Florida.

NIGERIA - Deal With the Devil

Aha... History repeats, 'Peace for our time.'

"Future of abducted Nigerian girls unclear under Boko Haram cease-fire – Part 1" PBS NewsHour 10/17/2014

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  In Nigeria, surprising news came today that a cease-fire has been reached between the government and militant group Boko Haram.

Jeffrey Brown has more.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Word of the unexpected truce came from Nigeria’s official news agency.

WOMAN:  The federal government and the Boko Haram sect have agreed to a cease-fire deal.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Similar announcements in the past failed to bear fruit.  But this time, Nigeria’s defense chief ordered government troops to halt all action against the militants.  There was no immediate statement from Boko Haram.

It was also unclear whether a truce would mean the release of 219 schoolgirls abducted in April.  They were among about 300 girls taken from this boarding school in the northeast town of Chibok and declared slaves.  Dozens managed to escape. The fate of the others remains unknown.

Chika Oduah is a journalist reporting from Nigeria.

CHIKA ODUAH, Journalist:  What we know is that Boko Haram has promised not to attack civilians and Nigerian troops are not supposed to shoot at Boko Haram strongholds.  So, that’s what we have for now.  As far as the Chibok girls, there are no details, but we do know that talks are ongoing until at least next week.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Boko Haram has carried out a wave of bombings and suicide attacks over the past five years in a campaign to create an Islamic caliphate in northeastern Nigeria.  Tens of thousands of people have died.

That and what’s been perceived as the Nigerian government’s ineffective response has fed a deep public skepticism, as “NewsHour” special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro found on a recent trip.

Sheik Abdur Rahman is the imam of a prominent Islamic charity.

SHEIK ABDUR RAHMAN:  How can you move 300 girls, almost 300 girls, you know, in a state or in a region where you have declared a state of emergency, and nobody challenged the movement of the vehicles?

JEFFREY BROWN:  Dozens of other girls, boys and adults have also been carried away, as Yemisi Ransome-Kuti points out.  She’s a longtime activist from a prominent Nigerian family.

YEMISI RANSOME-KUTI, Nigerian Activist:  Kidnapping is going on almost on a daily basis in the north, not just girls, but boys being recruited into the Boko Haram militia system.

"What’s motivating the Boko Haram cease-fire? – Part 2" PBS NewsHour 10/17/2014


SUMMARY:  What’s behind the timing of the cease-fire between Nigeria and Boko Haram?  Jeffrey Brown speaks with J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council about the motivation for both sides, why the abducted schoolgirls may have become a burden to their captors and what to expect from future talks.

BOOK - Sotomayor and the U.S. Supreme Court

"‘Breaking In’ explores Sotomayor’s Supreme Court disruptions and breakthroughs" PBS NewsHour 10/17/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  President Obama appointed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the court, in 2009.

Since then, she has brought her unique style to a normally cloistered and reserved court.

Reuters journalist Joan Biskupic takes us behind the scenes of the secretive court proceedings to reveal how Sotomayor is shaking things but in her new book, “Breaking In:  The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice.”

Gwen Ifill spoke with her earlier this week.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Joan Biskupic, thank you for joining us.

I want to start by talking about the subtitle of your book, in which you talk about the politics of justice.  When it comes to Sonia Sotomayor, what do you mean by that?

JOAN BISKUPIC, Author, “Breaking In: The Rise of Sonia Sotomayor and the Politics of Justice”:  No one gets to the Supreme Court by accident.

And she, from the start, once she became a federal judge on the lower court, looked forward to that, and she had built networks along the way.  And what I did in the book was sort of trace her trajectory with the rise of Latinos in America, but also through the politics of justice, how one gets on a district court, is elevated to the appeals court, and then, in 2009, is this breakthrough justice, our first Hispanic, appointed by the first African-American president.

GWEN IFILL:  And a disruptive justice in many ways.

JOAN BISKUPIC:  People who don’t realty know the Supreme Court don’t understand the rhythms, the decorum, the hierarchies that exist there.

It really struck me that here was this justice who could have shattered a lot of that.  If you follow her around, as I did, in San Juan, for example, when she was on her own book tour, you saw these throngs of people lining up to see her.

And I was so struck about how different it was in San Juan compared to where she spends most of her time, in this marble palace where everyone lines up by their role, by their hierarchies.  The court police are constantly monitoring who gets in this line, the lawyers, who gets in this line, the public, who gets in this line, the reporters.

But the people who came to see Sonia Sotomayor and who are her people, as she calls them, are all sorts and they all come together.

Friday, October 17, 2014

EDUCATION - A Journey, Homeless to High School Valedictorian to Georgetown University

"‘Terrific students can be found anywhere’:  One scholar’s path from homeless shelter to halls of Georgetown" PBS NewsHour 10/16/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The U.S. Department of Education recently released data that showed there were more than 1.2 million homeless students enrolled in public schools last year, the highest ever.

As the nation’s educators continue to struggle with the problem, the “NewsHour's" April Brown tells the story of one Washington, D.C., teenager who defied the odds and may well inspire other kids in similar situations.

This story is another in our American Graduate series funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

APRIL BROWN (NewsHour):  In many ways, Rashema Melson is a typical Georgetown University freshman.  She graduated top of her high school class last year and now makes it a point to come early every day, so she can sit in the front row.

But Rashema’s path toward success has not been an easy one.  Her father was killed when she was 7 months old, and she spent much of the last three years in a Washington, D.C., homeless shelter with her mother and two brothers, facts that she kept mostly secret while in high school.

RASHEMA MELSON, Georgetown University:  It was nobody’s business.  And if it was, I didn’t want to be pitied, I didn’t want to be looked down upon as if I couldn’t do it, because I’m a strong person.

CHISA PERRY, Anacostia High School:  She was always smiling, very bubbly, very friendly, always the good morning or the hello.

APRIL BROWN:  One person she eventually told was Anacostia High School teacher Chisa Perry, who was Rashema’s track and field coach.  But for a long time, Perry didn’t know.  And she says, regardless of what was happening at home, Rashema always remained upbeat and focused at school.

CHISA PERRY:  The best way to describe Rashema would be determined.  Anything she sets her mind to do, she will do it.

BERKELEY - The Birth of the Free Speech Movement

"Hearing echoes of Berkeley in student activism today" PBS NewsHour 10/16/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour): Now, a look back at a movement some historians believe profoundly changed American culture, politics and education.

NewsHour” special correspondent Spencer Michels reports has the story.

WOMAN:  We’re going to start off by playing a little speech some of you may remember.

MARIO SAVIO, Free Speech Movement:  And I will tell you something.  The faculty are a bunch of employees, and we’re the raw material.

SPENCER MICHELS (NewsHour):  The sounds of a familiar past blared over Sproul Plaza on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley.  The voice, from 1964 was that of the late Mario Savio, the most famous leader of the free speech movement, the first big on-campus student movement in the country.

MARIO SAVIO:  And you have got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, pile on the apparatus, and you have got to make it stop.

SPENCER MICHELS:  These were 20-somethings in the ’60s, civil rights activists who were protesting a university policy forbidding political activity on campus.

Now they were back to keep the past alive and relate it to the present.

JACK WEINBERG, Free Speech Movement:  The most significant student movement of our era is taking place in Hong Kong.


SPENCER MICHELS:  Graduate student Jack Weinberg sparked the rebellion 50 years ago, when he was arrested for refusing to take down an organizing table.

JACK WEINBERG:  They made the mistake of bringing a police car onto campus.  This give me five, 10 minutes to stand up, to draw a crowd, make a speech.

SPENCER MICHELS:  Weinberg spent 32 hours in the car as the crowds swelled to 6,000 and the movement was born.  The university eventually eliminated the restrictions on political activity.

SITCOMS - Creator Norman Lear's Book 'Even This I Get to Experience'

"Sitcom creator Norman Lear talks dangerous television, ‘Family’ inspirations" PBS NewsHour 10/15/2014


JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  “In my 90-plus years, I have lived a multitude of lives,” so writes Norman Lear about a life that’s including bombing emissions over Europe in World War II, the founding of a leading political advocacy organization, and the consideration of some of the most seminal programs in television history, most famously “All in the Family.”

CARROLL O’CONNOR (actor):  What are you kicking about?  Ain’t you your wife always telling me that coloreds and whites ought to work together?


ROB REINER (actor):  Not to stop Puerto Ricans from moving next door!


JEFFREY BROWN:  It’s all captured in a new memoir, “Even This I Get to Experience.”

Norman Lear joins me now.

Welcome to you.

NORMAN LEAR, Author, “Even This I Get to Experience”:  Thank you.  I love being here.

JEFFREY BROWN:  You had been writing television from the ’50s on.  Were you dissatisfied with what television was doing?  Did you want to blow it up in some sense?


NORMAN LEAR:  No, actually, I was writing for live television.  And I said to myself, someday, soon as I can, I have got to do a situation comedy.

JEFFREY BROWN:  And when did you decide though that it had to be a different kind of situation comedy, something that was tackling something really not seen before?

NORMAN LEAR:  I don’t ever recall making such a decision.

I read about a British show called “Till Death Us Do Part” about a father and son not unlike Archie and Mike.  And I said, my God, that’s me and my dad.  I have got to write about this.

TECHNOLOGY - Searching for the ripple effects of history-making tech

This reminds me of the 1978 TV series "Connections" by James Burke.  He had the same idea, showing the surprising sequence of historical (not seeming to be reverent) events that lead to today's innovations.

"Did air conditioning play a role in Reagan’s election?  Searching for ripple effects of history-making tech" PBS NewsHour 10/15/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Finally, an unconventional look at big ideas and how they lead to unintended and transformative consequences.

That’s the subject of a new book and PBS series that debuts tonight called “How We Got to Now.”

The host is a popular science writer, author and theorist, Steven Johnson.

Here’s a clip from an episode about what air conditioning set into motion after Willis Carrier designed the first modern system.

STEVEN JOHNSON, Author, “How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World”: In 1951, Carrier’s company introduces an air conditioning unit that is miniaturized and affordable for a mass market.

And that’s when A.C. starts to go crazy. Now, just see what this does to where people are living. Tucson, Arizona, grows 400 percent in 10 years, Phoenix 300 percent, Tampa, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, population double, triple. And it’s the same story everywhere you look. Carrier’s invention is circulating people, as well as air, changing lives, changing America.

But then something even more interesting happens. You see, people moving to the hot states are older and tend to vote Republican. And the growing population in the conservative South means more Electoral College votes there. So, check out what happens to the political map of America. Between 1940 and 1980, Northern states lose an incredible 31 Electoral College votes, while Southern states gain 29.

GWEN IFILL:  Hari Sreenivasan sat down with Johnson recently in our New York studios.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  The book is called “How We Got to Now:  Six Innovations That Made the Modern World.”

Steven Johnson, why did you pick glass, cold, sound, clean, time, light?  What is it about these innovations?

U.S. DEFICIT - Declines to Lowest Level Since 2007

"Shrinking U.S. deficit shows stability amid market jitters" PBS NewsHour 10/15/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Today was the day the Obama administration decided to draw attention to some good economic news for a change.  It announced the federal deficit has declined to $483 billion, the lowest level since 2007.  The deficit had exceeded a trillion dollars each year during the president’s first term.

But as that news was breaking, the markets embarked on another roller-coaster day, and new polls showed many Americans are skeptical that any economic recovery has trickled down to them.

That was the setting as I sat down this morning with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Budget Director Shaun Donovan.

Secretary Lew and Director Donovan, thank you both for joining us.

You have some good news for a change today, the deficit down and continuing to go down to, what, 2.8 percent?

JACK LEW, U.S. Treasury Secretary:  Correct.

GWEN IFILL:  To what do you attribute that?

JACK LEW:  Look, I think that if you look at where we were six years ago, we had an economy that was collapsing, we had unemployment, 700,000 jobs lost a month, and we had markets in chaos.

The President came into office and took tough action.  He stabilized the economy.  He put in place an economic program to create growth.  He put in a program to reform our financial markets and over a period of years worked with Congress on a bipartisan basis to put in place a balanced set of measures to reduce our deficit, starting with the Affordable Care Act, which reduced the deficit, as well as providing a guarantee of health care coverage, and then doing spending reductions and revenue increases that came by making our tax system more fair.

It’s an enormous amount of progress to have seen the deficit drop by, you know, roughly two-thirds, and to reach a point where it’s — we’re now in a 10-year period, looking ahead, of sustainable fiscal policy, which is good for the economy.  It means that the economy can not worry about crisis to crisis, and the economy can continue to grow.  That’s a very good thing.

PARDONS - Letter to the Next U.S. Attorney General

"For the Next Attorney General, a Modest Suggestion:  Fix Presidential Pardons" by Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica 10/16/2014

More than two years ago, a ProPublica series showed that white applicants were far more likely to receive clemency than comparable applicants who were black. Since then, the government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a study, but the pardons system remains unchanged.

Dear Possible Attorney General Nominees (You Know Who You Are),

Now that President Obama has put off nominating his new Attorney General until after the Nov. 4 elections, there's some extra time to immerse yourself in the issues you will confront during your confirmation hearing while, of course, waiting to see if you make the final cut.  Right now, you're probably scrambling through your personal records for the name, Social Security number and address of every nanny or lawn guy your family ever employed.  But as you study up on the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, the War Powers Act, the future of Guantanamo and recent history of voting rights, I'd like you encourage you to bookmark a little something for reading once you're confirmed.

If things go well, you'll have about two years as attorney general – a blink of an eye when weighed against the glacial pace at which policies and laws change in Washington.  What I'm writing to you about, amazingly, is one thing that you and President Obama can do without the support of Congress.  Attorney General seems like an incredibly powerful position but there are actually very few issues on which you, personally, can make a lasting difference.  It feels early to begin thinking about your legacy before you're confirmed, but considering how the last two years of most administrations go, now is actually an excellent moment.

Here's the details. More than two years ago, ProPublica reporters Dafna Linzer and Jennifer LaFleur revealed that white applicants were nearly four times as likely to receive a presidential pardon as were comparable African Americans.  The story appeared on the front page of The Washington Post, our publishing partner.  I know, I know, this seems improbable but LaFleur spent many months doing a statistical analysis that eliminated every other factor we could imagine that might explain this disparity.  We sent our findings and methodology to several leading experts in the field.  All agreed that race was the only factor driving the vast difference.  We published our methodology and you can read it here.  Linzer's reporting on the pardons process suggested that it was far more subjective than you might have thought. We wrote about how race creeps into decision-making even when no one is overtly biased. It's worth a look.

Given the starkness of these findings, we at ProPublica thought, naively, that your predecessor and his boss would move immediately to address this problem.  As I'm sure you're aware, a president's authority to grant pardons is one of the only unchecked powers in our constitutional system of checks and balances.  When it comes to pardons, President Obama can do whatever he wants.

We were told by several political insiders that the pardon stories did not prompt reform because of their timing.  They appeared in late 2011, just as the president was gearing up for what was expected to be a bruising campaign for a second term.  It was not considered the politically ideal moment for the nation's first African-American president to make the justice system fairer for people of color.  And so the government did what it so often does in such circumstances:  It commissioned a study to see if our findings were correct.

Since all of the data we used came from government records, we wondered why the Justice Department didn't simply hire some experts to review our conclusions.  Department officials said at the time that they preferred to start from scratch.

Moving at a leisurely pace, the government did not even issue its formal request for bidders on the work until July 2012.  The Rand Corporation won the $350,000 contract.  The plan was to use pre-sentencing reports sent to the Department's pardons office.  But it turns out that federal court procedures bar the release of the data to outsiders without an OK from each of the chief judges in the nation's 94 federal judicial districts.  You can imagine how long that will take.  Rand has asked for an additional $69,000 to complete the study.  It likely won't be done before next year, more than three years after our first story appeared.

Along the way, we did some follow-up stories that suggested the problems in the Justice Department's pardons office are deeply rooted.  Linzer revealed that the pardon attorney, Ronald L. Rogers, had misled the Bush White House about the facts of a request for presidential clemency from Clarence Aaron.  (Yes, he's African American.)  An internal investigation concluded that Rogers had fallen "substantially short of the high standards to be expected of Department of Justice employees and of the duty he owed to the President of the United States."  This year, Rogers resigned as pardon attorney.

Aaron finally received clemency late last year. As you're undoubtedly aware, the Justice Department also has announced a new initiative to use the president's powers to release federal prisoners who have served more than 10 years with good behavior for non-violent crimes.  Still, President Obama's rate of presidential pardons remains historically low.

If history is any guide, you'll be getting a tsunami of pardon requests in the last months of the administration.  It might be nice to have come up with some serious reforms by then to fix a process that is so demonstrably flawed.  There are lots of ideas about what could done, from setting up an independent pardons commission to taking the pardons office out of the Justice Department.

Good luck with the confirmation hearings.  And remember, two years can fly by a lot quicker than you'd ever imagine.  Just ask the folks at Rand.

Best Regards,

Stephen Engelberg/Editor in Chief, ProPublica

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

BOOK - 'Innovators' aka Geeks of the Digital Age

"In ‘Innovators,’ Isaacson tells story of digital revolutionaries" PBS NewsHour 10/14/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  He’s written books about individuals who changed the game, from Benjamin Franklin to Albert Einstein to Steve Jobs.

But in his latest work, “The Innovators,” Walter Isaacson pulls together a story about the group of creative minds who brought us into the digital age, from an English countess to a California hippie.  Isaacson weaves the tale of the inventive thinkers who programmed computers and gave us the Internet.

I spoke to Walter Isaacson a few days ago.

Walter Isaacson, thank you for talking with us.

WALTER ISAACSON, Author, “The Innovators:  How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution”:   It’s great to be back with you, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, congratulations on the book.

You have mainly written about one person at a time.  And you have mainly focused on history, politics.  Why science and technology and why everybody who was involved?

WALTER ISAACSON:  You know, those of us who are biographers know that we distort history sometimes, and we make it sound like it’s a gal or a guy in a garage or a garret with a singular lightbulb moment, and one person changes things.

As you know, most innovation comes from people working together, collaborating in teams.  So I wanted to show how groups of people brought together to form teams that created the digital revolution.  I also think it’s fun to understand where our technology comes from.

I mean, you and I love understanding American Revolution, but let’s also understand the digital revolution, because that makes us more comfortable with our technology.

END OF LIFE - Should You Have the Right to Decide When You Die?

QUESTION:  Is what you do with your own life (live or die) a human right?

My answer is yes.  So government at any level should not interfere with your decision on when you want to die.

"Should terminally ill patients be able to choose when they die?" PBS NewsHour 10/14/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  How we choose to deal with the end of life and the decisions patients and families face are difficult subjects that are often hard to discuss.  But there are moments when they capture headlines and spark a national conversation.

We have recently heard from a number of voices grappling with these tough questions.

Tonight, Jeffrey Brown looks at a high-profile case in the Northwest.

BRITTANY MAYNARD:  I can’t even tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to know that I don’t have to die the way that it’s been described to me that my brain tumor would take me on its own.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  Brittany Maynard’s video has thrust the issue of end of life decisions back into the national spotlight.

The 29-year-old has terminal brain cancer, and, last spring, doctors gave her six months to live.  Instead, she’s decided to die on her own terms, November 1.

BRITTANY MAYNARD:  I hope to enjoy however many days I have left.

JEFFREY BROWN:  And her online video has been viewed more than seven million times since last week.

BRITTANY MAYNARD:  I will die upstairs in my bedroom that I share with my husband, with my mother and my husband by my side, and pass peacefully with some music that I like in the background.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Maynard and her husband moved from California to Oregon to utilize the state’s death with dignity law.  It allows her to take lethal medication prescribed by a doctor.

The Oregon law, which calls this aid in dying, has been around since 1997, and since then, more than 750 people have used it to end their lives.  All told, only Oregon, Washington and Vermont have laws allowing the practice that’s sometimes referred to as doctor-assisted suicide.

Court decisions in Montana and New Mexico have also authorized it, but those rulings have not yet been codified into law.  The nonprofit group that posted Maynard’s video, Compassion & Choices, is working to expand the option of death with dignity in more states.

Maynard’s husband and other relatives also appear on the video supporting that right.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

VATICAN - Shift on Homosexuality and Divorce? Not Really

"Interpreting the Vatican’s language shift on homosexuality, divorce" PBS NewsHour 10/13/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now, possible signals that the Roman Catholic Church may be softening its attitudes on gays and divorced Catholics.  That’s what some observers are taking from a report out today marking the midway point of a two-week meeting of bishops at the Vatican.

Joining us from Rome to fill us in on all this is John Allen.  He covers the Vatican and the Catholic Church for The Boston Globe and its Web site, Crux.  He also serves as senior Vatican analyst for CNN.

John Allen, welcome back to the “NewsHour.”

I was just reading, some gay rights groups are calling this a seismic change in a positive direction.  How do you see it?

JOHN ALLEN, The Boston Globe:  Well, Judy, I think it’s important to be clear about what this is and what it is not.

What it is not is a change in Catholic teaching on marriage.  The bishops at this gathering, which is called a synod, have made it abundantly clear there is not going to be any change in Catholic doctrine, which is that marriage is a relationship between a man and woman that is permanent and it’s open to life.

Now, that said, the bishops have also made clear that they want a more positive way of engaging people who don’t live that teaching, whether we’re talking about gays and lesbians, whether we’re talking about people who are cohabitating outside a marriage, whether it’s people who have divorced and remarried or whatever.

They don’t want the first thing they hear from the Catholic Church to be a note of condemnation.  They want it to be a note of friendship and then, after that, we will see where the conversation goes.  So, fundamentally, this is a change in tone, rather than a change in content.  But given the fact that gays and lesbians in particular have become quite accustomed to hearing messages of condemnation and disapproval from the Catholic Church, I guess, you know, you could call that a seismic change in tonality, if not a dramatic change in content.

CBS 60 MINUTES - 'War on Leaks'

"The war on leaks" CBS 60 Minutes 10/12/2014


What happens when the demands of national security collide with the rights of a free press?  Lesley Stahl finds out

You've just heard FBI Director Comey discuss the NSA surveillance program with Scott.

This is a story about another facet of the NSA program, involving wiretaps, and what happens when the demands of national security collide with the public's right to know.

That dilemma is at the heart of the case of James Risen, a Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter for the New York Times.

Risen was the first to break the story about the NSA's secret wiretapping program that monitored Americans' phone calls without a court warrant.  He's been subpoenaed to divulge his confidential sources in a separate federal criminal trial.  He appealed the subpoena all the way up to the Supreme Court, but the court turned down his petition.  Now, if he doesn't name names, he could go to jail.

Monday, October 13, 2014

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 10/10/2014

"Shields and Brooks on same-sex marriage sea change, politics of Ebola prevention" PBS NewsHour 10/10/2014


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the Supreme Court decision not to hear cases on gay marriage bans, criticism for the government’s handling of and response to the Ebola epidemic, plus a tribute to former White House press secretary and gun control activist James Brady.
JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Just quickly, one other issue the court rule on, or made itself — declared itself on this week, Mark, was voter identification.  They basically said that they blocked — they blocked a tighter voter I.D. law in the state of Wisconsin.

So are we — do you have a sense that this makes a difference, that other states will be reluctant to pass these laws because of what the court does?

MARK SHIELDS:  I’m not sure.  This is such an aberration from American history, if you think of it.  Only white male property owners over the age of 21 could vote when this country began.  It eventually expanded to all males and even nonwhites and then eventually to women.

And, you know, then in 1965, Judy, the Voting Rights Act came and said that the federal government has a responsibility to make sure that everybody can vote.  And 96 percent of Republican senators voted for the Voting Rights Act, only 73 percent of Democrats.

I mean, it was a great Lincoln issue.  And what happened in 2010, when the Republicans swept all these statehouses and state legislatures, they did two things in shorthand.  They made it easier to buy a gun and tougher to vote.  And this week, the Government Accountability Office, nonpartisan research, found that, in a study of voter I.D. laws, that it actually lowered the turnout in Tennessee and Kansas, two states studied, among minority voters and younger voters.

And I hate to say it, but that was the objective of those people who pushed it.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  What effect do you see on the…


DAVID BROOKS:  Yes.  I confess I was persuaded by that study.

I had assumed, looking especially at the national election results, that it had this backfiring effect, that the voter I.D. laws had so mobilized especially African-American voters that they had swamped, that it was actually harmful.  And I think a lot of people believed that after the 2012 — or 2012, 2008 election.

But the GAO support — study suggests that it actually did suppress votes.  The other thing the GAO study said, which I think is the key to a lot of this — and I oppose these laws — is that the assertion that there’s a lot of fraud out there is just not true.  There’s scattered fraud.  But the idea that there is systemic fraud that you need the picture I.D.s to combat is just not out there.

Nobody has ever been able to find it.  And so it does lead to the worst assertions of why the people — these laws are being passed.

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE - Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi

"Looking back at the peace-promoting work of Malala Yousafzai, Kailash Satyarthi – Part 1" PBS NewsHour 10/10/2014


THORBJOERN JAGLAND, Chairman, The Norwegian Nobel Committee:  The Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 is to be awarded to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  For Malala, the announcement in Oslo, Norway, came two years and a day since a Taliban attack propelled her to prominence.  She’d begun advocating education for girls at age 11.

In a 2009 documentary, New York Times correspondent Adam Ellick profiled Malala struggling in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where her school was shut down by the Taliban.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI:  In the world, girls are going to their schools freely.  And there is no fear.  But in Swat, when we go to our schools, we are very afraid of Taliban.  He will kill us. He will throw acid on our face.  And he can do anything.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  The Taliban threats turned to action on October 9, 2012, when masked gunmen boarded Malala’s school bus and shot her in the head.

She was flown to Birmingham, England, for multiple operations, but she eventually made a full recovery and with her family settled there.  Last month, she told the NewsHour she has no regrets about the choice she made to speak out.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI:  And at that time, I had really two options.  One was to remain silent and wait to be killed.  And then the second was to speak up and then be killed.  And I chose the second one, because I didn’t want to face the terrorism forever.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Ironically, the attack that was meant to silence Malala thrust her into a global spotlight.  In the two years since, she’s campaigned for women’s rights and universal access to education, penned her own memoir and created her own charity.

She also delivered an impassioned appeal to a youth assembly at the United Nations.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI:  Let us pick up our books and our pens.  They are our most powerful weapons.  One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Today, in Pakistan, people from all walks of life celebrated news of the Peace Prize.

"Nobel Peace Prize honors activism to empower most vulnerable children – Part 2" PBS NewsHour 10/10/2014


SUMMARY:  One's a global icon.  The other is largely unknown, even in his home country.  This year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi, have been leading advocates for the rights of children on issues like child slavery and universal education.  Hari Sreenivasan speaks with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon of the Council on Foreign Relations about the significance of their activism.

BOOK - 'Worthy Fights'

President Obama was not elected as a 'war President,' he is not Dwight D. Eisenhower and defiantly not 'Mission Accomplished' (NOT) Bush.  So I don't expect him to be good at war.

"Panetta:  Time of unprecedented threat calls for debate on leadership" PBS NewsHour 10/9/2014


SUMMARY:  Leon Panetta was involved in the war on terror, the assassination of Osama bin Laden and the wind-down of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Now the former CIA director and defense secretary is out with a memoir that has made headlines for its criticism of President Obama’s leadership.  Panetta joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his book, “Worthy Fights,” the Islamic State and Washington dysfunction.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We turn now to a memoir from an Obama administration insider that’s gaining headlines for its critical assessments of the president.

The author, Leon Panetta, spent decades in Washington, first as a legislative assistant, later a congressman, and then President Clinton’s chief of staff, before retiring to his home state of California.  He was coaxed back into government by President Obama, who persuaded Panetta to serve as director of the CIA and then secretary of defense.

In those roles, he was involved in the war on terror, the assassination of Osama bin Laden, and the wind-down of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He writes about all of this in “Worthy Fights:  A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace.”

I spoke with him earlier this afternoon.

SAN FRANCISCO BAY - Restored Wetlands

"Restored wetlands welcome wildlife and protect against future floods in San Francisco Bay Area" PBS NewsHour 10/9/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Much of our reporting on climate change has focused on the impact it could have on people or on the environment in which they live.

But one area that tends to get less attention is how climate change will affect wildlife.  There’s a major habitat restoration project in San Francisco Bay that’s trying to address that very issue.

The NewsHour’s Cat Wise has our report.

RACHEL TERTES, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:  So, welcome, everyone, to our first morning of trapping.

CAT WISE (NewsHour):  On a recent morning, a small group of volunteers clad in rubber boots gathered at a park on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

RACHEL TERTES:  So when the animal walks in, he sets the trap off.

CAT WISE:  They’d come to help U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials gather traps in a restored tidal marsh to determine if an endangered species, found only in this area of the bay, is making a comeback.

Wildlife biologist Rachel Tertes carefully opened the first trap and out spilled a tiny creature, just what they were hoping to find.

RACHEL TERTES:  This cinnamon belly would tell us pretty much right away that this is a salt marsh harvest mouse.

CAT WISE:  The endangered harvest salt marsh mouse is, well, pretty cute.  It’s lost about 90 percent of its habitat due to human development along the bay, and now, according to Tertes, it faces a new threat, climate change.

RACHEL TERTES:  The mouse is really tied to this habitat of pickleweed.  They live on this plant.  They move up and down the plant throughout the tide cycles.

One of the concerns with the climate change is really going to be the sea level rise portion of it, so, as the tide increases, you have more water covering more plants, and so they have less areas for those — for the mice to move up.


COMMENT:  This is something I totally agree with.  For me, it is more important that I enjoy the rest of my life (I'm 69) that if I live past 70.  I do have family genetics on my side, all my relatives, on both sides, live into their early 80s.

"We all die, so why don’t we die well?" PBS NewsHour 10/9/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Finally tonight: deciding what’s important, and preparing for the inevitable, a conversation about the end of life.

Jeffrey Brown has that.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  “I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them,” words written by a surgeon, but if you take out the reference to medical school, probably true of most of us.  We might learn to live. Few of us learn to die.

That is the subject of a new book titled “Being Mortal.”  And the aforementioned surgeon is also the author, Atul Gawande.

And welcome to you.

DR. ATUL GAWANDE, Author, “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End:  Thank you.

JEFFREY BROWN:  There are two facts of life you seem to focus on.  One is that, yes, we all age and die, and the other is that we don’t seem to understand it very well.


Medicine has taken over mortality in some sense.  We are responsible more and more for trying to fix the problems of aging and dying.  But we don’t know how to do it.  And I think the thing that I discovered was, we have a fundamental failure.  We don’t recognize that people have priorities besides just living longer.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Why do we not understand that, I mean, that we want to live longer, but we want to live longer in a certain way with certain values and beliefs?

DR. ATUL GAWANDE:  Yes, I think you’re exactly right.

Some people will say it’s really important to me that my brain work, that I am who I am.  Other people will say, look, I just want to know that I’m not suffering and that I’m not in pain.  Others will say, I have a life project that’s really important to me.

And the fact that we in medicine, we prioritize health, safety, and survival.  We think that that must be what people place first.  But, in fact, we make choices all the time in our own homes about risks we take.

And one of the consequences is that, in medicine, as we face problems we can’t fix, like aging or a terminal illness, we often sacrifice the very reasons that people want to be alive.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

WAR ON ISIS - The Turkish Border

My answer, NO.  It will require boots-on-the-ground, the question is whose boots.

And Turkey may be foolish to think ISIS will stop there.  Turkey can be on the ISIS list force conversion.

"Can air power alone stop advance of Islamic State militants?" PBS NewsHour 10/8/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  President Obama’s meeting at the Pentagon today comes as there are considerable doubts over whether the U.S.-led coalition can stop and roll back the Islamic State group’s advances.

To help assess the campaign against the militant group, I’m joined by Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy during the first term of the Obama administration.  She’s now chief executive officer at the Center for a New American Security.  And Colonel Derek Harvey, he was an intelligence officer and special adviser to the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq.  He’s now director for the Global Initiative on Civil Society and Conflict at the University of South Florida.

And welcome both of you back to the program.

Colonel Harvey, to you first.

The reports we had earlier in the program are that it looks as if the town of Kobani on Syria’s border with Turkey may be about to fall to the Islamic State.  Is that what you’re hearing and, if so, how big a loss is this?

COL. DEREK HARVEY (RET.), Former Army Intelligence Officer:  Well, I think that’s what is happening in Kobani.

And it’s unfortunate for that population there.  There is significant offensive activity by the Islamic State.  They’re using combined arms.  That’s tanks, mortars, artillery and infantry.  And they’re coming in on the city from at least three directions.

It is expected to fall some time in the next three to five days, according to the sources that I’m talking to.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And how big a loss, Michele Flournoy, if this happens?

MICHELE FLOURNOY, Former Defense Department Official:   I think it’s worsened because it is right up against the Turkish border, and that will ISIS that much more room to operate along the border and possibly even do cross-border incursions in some areas.

But — so it’s of concern, but I think we have to be realistic in our expectations.  This campaign, no matter how effective, is not going to be able to stop every ISIS movement or to roll them back in every place.  Where we need to focus is really on the most strategic areas and, importantly, building up the ground forces that can retake and hold territory.  Airpower alone cannot do that.

POLITICS - Do We Burden the Presidency with Impossible Expectations?

"Stop expecting American presidents to be great and allow them to be good, says author" PBS NewsHour 10/8/2014


JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Do Americans expect too much from their Presidents?  And what makes a great commander in chief?

Margaret Warner explores those questions with the author of a new book.

MARGARET WARNER (NewsHour):  Aaron David Miller is known for his decades of work on U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East in four administrations.  But now he’s returned to his training in American history with a new book, “The End of Greatness:  Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President.”

He argues there have only been three truly great Presidents, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt, and that Americans should stop searching for another one.

We spoke about this at Mount Vernon, home of George Washington.

Aaron Miller, thanks for joining us.

AARON DAVID MILLER, Author, “The End of Greatness”:  Pleasure, Margaret.

MARGARET WARNER:  You write in this book that Americans, we Americans need to get over our obsession — you actually call it an addiction — in seeking out, also searching for a great President.  Why not?  Why not the best?

AARON DAVID MILLER:  Well, you could search, but what if you search — and it be ennobling — what if you search for something you cannot have?  That’s the predicament that we’re in.

We have created a sense of expectation in a job that’s already, some would argue, impossible.  Let’s just say it’s implausible, given the nature, the complexity of the presidency, the terrifying contingency about politics, so many factors beyond our control, and yet we want to turn the president into a kind of a combination between Harrison Ford in “Air Force One” and Superman.  And the realty is, we can’t have presidents like that anymore.

That’s the real issue.  We have to stop pining for the presidents, the great transformative ones, because those are not going to come back, it seems to me, and allow the presidents who we do elect to be good.  Stop expecting them to be great, and allow them to be good, in the meaningful sense of the word.

MARGARET WARNER:  What did the three greats, Washington, Lincoln, and FDR, have that the others didn’t or achieve that the others didn’t?

AARON DAVID MILLER:  Transforming a nation encumbering crisis.  That defines greatness.

Without crisis — and I’m not talking about marginal crisis or a serious crisis — I’m talking about a crisis that encumbers the nation for a sustained period of time.  That is what separates the capacity of the greats, the undeniable greats — I call them the indispensables — Washington, Lincoln and FDR, the three greatest challenges the nation faced produced, fortunately for us, our three greatest presidents.

MALAYSIA - 6mths After Disappearance of Flight MH370

"Will flight tracking evolve in wake of Malaysia Air mystery?" PBS NewsHour 10/8/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  Now the continuing search for a missing jetliner that captured the attention of the world.

More than six months ago, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 mysteriously disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, triggering a massive search.  The plane was thought to have crashed somewhere in or near the Southern Indian Ocean with 239 people on board.  A nearly two-month-long search for wreckage and clues proved futile, yielding no definitive answers about just what happened to the plane.  It’s been months, but now the search is back on.

Jeffrey Brown has more.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  The break gave investigators time to create a kind of map of the understood water seabed, and the search resumed on Monday.  Three ships will be involved in this next phase, which could last as long as a year.

Last spring, ships and planes from 14 countries served vast areas of the South China Sea and other regions.

Tonight’s “NOVA” focuses on the continuing investigation and many questions that remain and the technology of tracking planes.

Our science correspondent, Miles O’Brien, is the producer and reporter for the report titled “Why Planes Vanish” and he joins me from Boston.

So, Miles, as the search restarts, where do things stand?  What exactly are they focused on now?

MILES O’BRIEN (NewsHour):  Well, they’re focused on a very big area.

And, Jeff, it’s hard not to say that we’re sort of still at square one on this one.  And that’s an amazing thing to say so many months after the loss of MH370.  The search zone has been defined by some ingenious mathematics.  Essentially, engineers in this company Inmarsat, which operates communications satellites, which was part of what was equipped on MH370, were able to turn a communications capability into a positioning tool and were able to define this location in the Southern Indian Ocean as a search zone for the flight, which flew on seven hours after it disappeared from radar screens.

But we know it’s in that hemisphere by virtue of this mathematics, but it’s in a very, very big region, a big swathe.  They can’t define a bullseye.  So we have got to be ready for a long search here.

WAR ON ISIS - Women, Use of Sexual Violence

COMMENT:  Considering the many instances in the past on Islamic fanatics and their treatment of women (example, fathers murdering their daughters for disobedience), this should not be a surprise.  These people are male chauvinists who believe they own women.

"How Islamic State uses systematic sexual violence against women" PBS NewsHour 10/7/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  We return now to the Islamic State group and its brutal tactics.

Much is known now about the group, also known as ISIL, and its high-profile beheadings of Westerners, mass executions of civilians and forced conversions.  Less well-known is the extremist group’s horrific treatment of women and girls.

Last week, the United Nations reported thousands of women had been abducted by the group, some handed over to fighters as a reward or sold as sex slaves.

The NewsHour sent a crew to meet a 15-year-old girl, a member of the Yazidi sect, who was captured and held by the Islamic State before managing to escape.  She now lives at a camp with others who’ve been displaced.

We withheld her identity for her and her family’s safety.

GIRL (through interpreter):  They kept us in a house, the girls and the women.  And then they killed all the men, including my brother.

GWEN IFILL:  She and the abducted women were taken by truck east to a house in Mosul.  There, they were ordered to convert to Islam.  More kidnapped girls joined them.

GIRL (through interpreter):  They separated the women and the girls.  Some of the girls were taken by ISIL.  They gave some of us to the guards and they sold some of us, too.  And some were given as a gift.

If we didn’t do what they asked, they would have hit us.  We did everything because we were threatened.  We had to.  They were very bad to the girls.  They were doing bad things to the women, illegal things.

GWEN IFILL:  That’s only one story.

To help us understand the depth and scale of the Islamic State’s treatment of women and girls, we turn to Manal Omar, acting vice president for the Middle East and Africa Center at the United States Institute of Peace, and David Jacobson, professor of sociology and founding director of the Citizenship Initiative on Civil Society and Conflict at the University of South Florida.

NOBEL PRIZE - For Physics Goes Inventors of LEDs

COMMENT:   At home I am replacing most of my light bulbs (including CFLs) with LEDs lights.   Example, 75w equivalent LED spot lights that consume 18w and should last 5yrs.

"How many Nobel Prize winners does it take to improve a light bulb?" PBS NewsHour 10/7/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  The Nobel Prize in Physics is often awarded to work that can be tough to explain to anyone who isn’t actually a physicist.  But this year’s winners, announced earlier today, won for research that actually affects our everyday lives.

Jeffrey Brown has the story.

JEFFREY BROWN (NewsHour):  A trio of scientists won for the invention of blue light-emitting diodes, often referred to as LEDs.

The blue LEDs, first created in the early 90s, paved the way for brighter and more energy-efficient white lights, the kind now seen on the screens of phones, TVs and computers, even signs on the subway.

Two of the scientists were from Japan, one from the U.S.

Our science correspondent, Miles O’Brien, joins me now from Boston to tell us about it.

So, Miles, the invention of blue light-emitting diodes, what exactly does that mean?

MILES O’BRIEN (NewsHour):  Well, we had red and we had green, and we needed blue the take it over the top.

Let’s step back for a little bit.  Back in the ’60s, when they created the first light-emitting diodes, red was the first one because it was the easiest to make.  The semiconducting material that makes that particular color was much easier to make in an efficient way.  Then came green.  And you can think about the first calculator you got, which was always with a red light emitting diode.  And eventually we got into green.

But blue was difficult because the material that creates that particular color, that wavelength, was hard to work with.  Gallium nitride was the tricky thing that was difficult for scientists and engineers to efficiently turn into the crystals to mass produce.

But once you have red, green and blue, put them together, you have white light, and that’s created a revolution.

JEFFREY BROWN:  Well, that’s the word that the Nobel committee used, revolutionizing lighting.  So it has seeped into all facets of life.

MILES O’BRIEN:  Well, think about the incandescent lightbulb, which is just a hot, glowing filament in a vacuum tube.  Then we went to fluorescent lights, much more efficient.

And now we’re in the world of LEDs, which if you go back to the incandescent bulb, comparing it, 20 times more efficient, and lasts much longer.  You know, a quarter of the energy on our planet is spent in creating light.  And in order to reduce all of our need for energy and our carbon footprint, LEDs make a huge, significant impact.

TECHNOLOGY - Drivers More Destracted

Duh... It is the lack of attention to driving!  It does not matter if it's a phone call, the burger you're eating, a heated argument with a passenger.

"Why hands-free tech doesn’t necessarily make driving safer" PBS NewsHour 10/7/2014


GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  In the age of the mobile phones and smart devices, today’s drivers are increasingly tempted to take their hands off the wheel and their eyes off the road.

Many of us take comfort in newer hands-free technology that allows us to stay connected, but with fewer hand and eye movements.  But a new study out today finds talking, texting and changing the radio dial even without using your hands may not necessarily make driving any safer.

Such distractions, in fact, may be make the process of getting from here to there more dangerous.

The study was conducted by AAA and the University of Utah.

Jake Nelson is the director of traffic safety advocacy and research for AAA, and he joins me now.

So, how distracted are we, Jake Nelson?

JAKE NELSON, Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy and Research, AAA:  It’s a lot worse than we thought.


JAKE NELSON:  It’s really important to remember that the auto industry has done a great job at helping to mitigate manual and visual forms of distracted driving by allowing motorists to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

Our concern at AAA is that there is the third leg of the stool here, which is the mental or cognitive piece, that also needs to be addressed.

GWEN IFILL:  And so technology may be hurting more than it’s helping?

JAKE NELSON:  Well, certainly, from a mental standpoint, using voice commands to do things like tune the radio and to send and receive text messages and the latter are actually more distracting than — from a mental standpoint than using your handheld device.

THE THEY DON'T GET IT FILES - More Ferguson Police Crackdown

IMHO Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson needs to be fired.  This 'police' organization would make Adolf Hitler proud.

"Ferguson police continued crackdown on protesters after federal, state interventions" by Kimberly Kindy and Wesley Lowery, Washington Post 10/9/2014

Despite federal and state attempts to intervene during the two months since 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed, the Ferguson Police Department continued — and even accelerated — efforts to suppress peaceful protests using arbitrary and inconsistently applied arrest policies, according to Justice Department officials who are investigating the department and county police officials who have since taken over for the city.

A Washington Post review of county and state arrest records, and interviews with Justice Department officials, Ferguson and St. Louis County police chiefs, dozens of protesters and several civil rights officials reveal that:

Hundreds of protesters have been arrested since August for violating unwritten rules and committing minor offenses, such as failure to disperse or unlawful assembly, and for violating a noise ordinance.  Many have been taken to jail without being told what charges they may face and are often released without any paperwork.  For weeks, officers employed a “five-second rule” under which any protester who stopped walking was subject to arrest — a policy ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge this week.

A least one officer patrolling protests wore a wristband that said “I am Darren Wilson,” referencing the officer whom protesters want to see jailed and prosecuted for the Aug. 9 shooting of Brown.  County Police Chief Jon Belmar confirmed that an officer policing the protests wore one of the wristbands and said he understood why protesters felt taunted.

And, in recent weeks, protesters have complained that bail amounts are rising, jail time has increased and that their organizers were being singled out and routinely plucked from crowds of 100 to 300 people and arrested.

The controversial practices continued into October until Belmar stepped in — stripping jurisdiction for policing the protests from the thinly stretched Ferguson station.  In an interview with The Post, Belmar said that, under the Ferguson Police Department’s command, laws and policies were being enforced arbitrarily.

“We have a real issue when we start taking away people’s ability to express their opinions,” Belmar said.

Belmar’s team takes over as the black residents of greater St. Louis remain intensely skeptical of officers.  Tensions again flared Wednesday night when residents got word of another police shooting.  Dozens of protesters surfaced in St. Louis where an 18-year-old black man was shot and killed after allegedly fleeing and shooting at an off-duty officer.  The man’s family members and protesters insist he was unarmed.  Police say they’ve recovered a weapon.

And there is potential for more tension this weekend when hundreds of out-of-town protesters are expected to flood Ferguson and the St. Louis metro area for a series of organized demonstrations against police mistreatment.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson has consistently defended his department and continued to do so even after their authority over the protests was taken by county officers.

“Even if it’s a small group, there’s a very effective group of violent individuals who are looking for confrontation and the best way to avoid that confrontation is to bring in assistance from other agencies,” Jackson said.  “So although it doesn’t feel good to need to have assistance, I am deeply grateful to those who have come to help us, and I’ll never be able to fully express my gratitude or make it up to them.”

The breaking point for Belmar came last week, when arrests that were captured on video by a CNN freelance journalist showed a loud but otherwise peaceful group of protesters demonstrating outside the Ferguson police station.  The protesters were ordered to move from the street to the sidewalk, and as the group raced back, an officer in a brown uniform was recorded saying, “Get them.”

Belmar said he watched the video at home and decided that night that his department would take over the crowd-control efforts.  He said the incident illustrated problems he hopes to “shore up,” where protesters are arrested based on an arbitrary application of rules and laws, a frustration also held in the halls of the Justice Department.

“They were arrested for violating a noise ordinance.  I hadn’t noticed us enforcing that,” he said.  “So I wondered why, all of a sudden, why are we doing this now?”

Two months ago, Belmar’s team would have seemed an unlikely solution to burning tension between protesters and police.

Ferguson Police Chief Jackson immediately handed control over to Belmar after the shooting, and it was Belmar’s officers who rolled into Ferguson in armored trucks, wearing helmets and camouflage, carrying automatic rifles during the protests that immediately followed Brown’s death.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International all sent legal teams to document the response and criticized the department for inciting rather than quelling violence.

Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency in the days that followed, giving the Missouri Highway Patrol command of the protests for two weeks.

On Sept. 3, Nixon lifted it, shifting control for the first time to the Ferguson Police Department.

Things quickly deteriorated, according to records and interviews with federal and St. Louis law enforcement.  Ferguson’s force of 54 people was spread too thin.

During the weeks that protests were policed by the Ferguson department, arresting officers sometimes weren’t wearing name tags, prompting repeated reprimands from the Justice Department.  Meanwhile, protesters say their organizers were being singled out and targeted for arrest.  On nights when crowds of more than 100 people stood chanting “We’re Young.  We’re Strong.  We’re marching all night long” and “Indict Darren Wilson.  If we don’t get it, shut it down,” there would be just a handful of arrests — almost always of the protest organizers.

Even though they were in charge, just three or four Ferguson police officers were able to staff nightly protests, Belmar said.  “They couldn’t provide the majority of resources down there,” he said.

Members of the community who have been regulars at the protests said the problems with Ferguson officers went beyond staffing.

Protesters described being taken from demonstrations in handcuffs by officers who couldn’t decide what to charge them with — a problem that Belmar investigated and confirmed was an issue.

“They were asking each other, ‘What is the charge?’  They couldn’t figure it out.  I’m being taken away in handcuffs, and they don’t even know why,” said Gwen Cogshell, 57, of Ferguson, who was arrested and charged with “unlawful assembly” at a Sept.  10 protest where demonstrators tried to shut down Interstate 70.  “They really are not trained to do anything but give tickets.”

It’s difficult to know precisely how many people have been arrested in Ferguson protests and on what charges.  An assortment of law enforcement agencies have been conducting arrests, with detained protesters sometimes being held in the Ferguson Police Department’s jail and other times being sent to a county facility.

A Post analysis of arrest records from county police and Missouri Highway Patrol shows 258 people have been arrested — 95 percent of them booked on either a charge of refusal to disperse or unlawful assembly.  Less than a dozen were for more serious charges, such as disorderly conduct.  No one was booked on charges of assault against an officer.

Ferguson Police Department, which has carried out a number of arrests during the protests, has not released such records.

Cogshell was also one of more than a dozen people, interviewed by The Post, who said they left jail with no paperwork, still not knowing what charges they might face.

Anthony Rothert, ACLU’s legal director in Missouri, described it as a “catch and release program,” adding that his organization has “never seen mass arrests where people are released without any paperwork and then told charges may come later.”

Although some of the complaints have to do with the competency of police, most focused on targeted efforts by Ferguson police to quash dissent.

On nights when dozens of protesters — and sometimes more than 100 — locked arms and joined in chants, only a handful of people have been arrested.  And that handful, protest organizers allege, is disproportionately made up of protest leaders.

“This is a logical extension of the militarized response, part of what we’re seeing is kind of par for the course, it’s how the state deals with dissent,” said the Rev. Osagyefo Sekou, a Boston minister with St. Louis ties who has been active in the protests, who was the first protester arrested on a recent night.

And, protesters allege, the targeting extends beyond arrests and influences how protesters are treated once they are taken into custody.  Sekou said that after his arrest he was placed in the back of a police van where the walls had blood smeared on them.

On some nights, Ferguson Police officers bartered with protesters — offering to release those arrested sooner if the remaining protesters would disperse.

“It’s a hostage negotiation, plain and simple,” said Umar Lee, an independent journalist and Muslim activist who has been arrested twice while documenting the Ferguson protests.  “Any time you randomly arrest people and tell people ‘we’ll let them out if you go home’ that’s a hostage situation.”

Belmar said the incident was “not appropriate” and that protesters should never be used as “a bargaining chip” to end demonstrations.

In the days since taking over for the Ferguson Police Department, county police have maintained what appears to be a less-hostile relationship with protesters — making not a single arrest during the first four nights that they were in charge of crowd control.

But on Friday, Belmar and his officers are expected to start dealing with some of the largest demonstrations since the Brown shooting, with a series of protests scheduled Friday through Sunday called “Ferguson October:  A Weekend of Resistance.”  Crowds could match the size and furor seen last during the days immediately after Brown’s shooting.

Even with massive protests looming, Belmar vows that efforts to stop peaceful protests are a thing of the past and said the “five-second rule” and other arbitrary efforts to move protesters around and keep them from organizing and communicating will not be tolerated under his command.

“If you want to protest and you are on a public sidewalk or easement, there are not issues, period,” he said. “We want to take a relaxed attitude.”

ARIZONA - Attack of the Killer Bees (no kidding)

"Thousands of bees kill landscaper in Arizona" SFGate 10/9/2014

DOUGLAS, Ariz. (AP) — Thousands of swarming bees have left one landscaper dead and another critically injured after the men were stung in southern Arizona.

Douglas Fire Department officials say the landscapers were working on a home around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday when they were attacked by the huge swarm of bees.  One man later died at a hospital.

The names of the victims weren't immediately released.

A hive was found inside the home's attic and a beekeeper later exterminated it after parts of the roof of the home were torn off.

NASA - Mars Journey and SETI

"How NASA crews could sleep for 6 months on the journey to Mars" by James Rogers, Fox News 10/8/2014

Existing medical techniques are laying the foundations for an ambitious research project to send astronauts into a deep sleep on a six-month journey to Mars, according to the engineer leading the study.

"There's technology being used in the medical community that could support this - there's a wealth of data out there to support it," John Bradford, president of Atlanta-based SpaceWorks, told  "It's a big step, but it could be adopted for space flight."

The NASA-funded study began 12 months ago, and conjures up images of science fiction - putting astronauts into a deep sleep, or torpor, during the long six-month journey to Mars.

“I don’t think that we could go to Mars without something like this technology,” Bradford said.  Putting the crew into a deep sleep, he explained, would significantly reduce the amount of supplies and infrastructure needed to support the long space journey, from food to onboard living space.

The study predicts that putting a spacecraft’s crew into torpor, or stasis state, would cut the mission requirements from 400 tons to 220 tons of equipment and supplies.

Bradford told that the torpor could be achieved by a technique called therapeutic hypothermia, which is already used in hospitals, albeit for a much shorter time period.

Therapeutic, or protective, hypothermia lowers a patient’s body temperature to reduce the risk of tissue injury following, say, a cardiac arrest when blood flow is limited.

In the thermal management system envisaged by SpaceWorks, a tube inserted into an astronaut’s nasal cavity will emit a cooled gas, lowering their temperature by about 10 degrees.  Low-dose drugs will also be administered to suppress their shiver reflex and ease their passage into a deep sleep.

"Other than the duration, the procedural aspects of this are pretty benign," said Bradford.

Technologies are already commercially available in this area, such as the RhinoChill IntraNasal cooling system, which is used to induce therapeutic hypothermia after cardiac arrest.

However, SpaceWorks acknowledges that there's a lot more research needed before someone is placed in a six-month sleep.  Up to now, the longest torpor induced by therapeutic hypothermia is 14 days, according to Bradford.

The engineer told that, while the research aims to wake astronauts just once, at the end of their journey, other sleep durations may be used.  The crew, he explained, could sleep in shifts, with each astronaut in torpor for about two weeks and then conscious for two days, ensuring that one crew member is always awake during the mission.

While in stasis state, astronauts would be fed intravenously with an aqueous solution of carbohydrates, amino acids, dextrose, and lipids, according to Bradford.  "They would not have any solid waste - it would be strictly urine," he said, noting that a catheter would be used to dispose of the liquid.

The medical industry is also developing technologies such as infection-resistant IV lines that could prove useful during the flight to Mars, Bradford said.

The crew could be brought out of their torpor by turning off the cooling gas and shivering suppressant.  "Nominally, it would take about two hours to wake somebody," said the SpaceWorks president.  "It would probably take a couple of days [for the astronauts] to get [fully] acclimated - our testing will include cognitive tests to examine their mental faculties when they wake up."

Bradford estimates that a typical Mars mission will involve a six month journey, followed by a year and a half on the red planet, and a six month journey back to earth.

While NASA has successfully completed unmanned missions to Mars, such as the Curiosity rover, putting humans on the planet is a much more challenging endeavor.  NASA, for example, has a 2035 target for landing humans on Mars, although SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has predicted that people could be on Mars within 10 to 12 years.

SpaceWorks’ Bradford expects to see human Mars missions in 20 years, noting that the deep sleep research project is still in its infancy.

“There’s a ways to go,” he told  “We have concluded the phase one effort, which is developing the initial design, the engineering details, and medical plausibility - we’re now looking at the next steps, which will be continued studies of the engineering challenges.”

"Here's How NASA Is Expanding Its Search For Alien Life" by Eric Mack, Forbes 10/8/2014

Over the next five years, NASA and seven partner institutions will be taking on new projects to help paint a more complete picture about how life comes to be in the universe.   The projects include preparing to bring back samples of the Martian terrain to Earth, investigating the role of comets and asteroids in delivering water and organic compounds around the solar system and researching how our own planet has managed to sustain life for so much of its history.

This week, NASA announced the winners of its seventh Cooperative Agreement Notice grant competition (CAN7), who will receive $50 million between them to conduct their research.

There are no plans to build a Starship Enterprise to hop from galaxy to galaxy in search of aliens among the projects, rather they will all take place here on Earth.

A team at the SETI Institute will be looking into the best ways to ensure that a planned 2020 NASA mission to bring back samples from Mars selects the ideal scoops of Maritan soil or rock and takes the best care of that precious cargo.  Another project based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. will use natural hydrothermal chimney systems on our own planet as models to investigate how conditions on icy worlds such as Europa, Ganymede, and Enceladus might be able to support life.

A team from the University of Colorado at Boulder will examine the potential of how rocks might power life on planets such as Mars when their chemical energy is released through interaction with water.  Others will look at how Earth’s history might hold key secrets to the search for E.T., like a University of California at Riverside project to examine the history of oxygen in our own atmosphere and oceans.

“The intellectual scope of astrobiology is vast, from understanding how our planet went from lifeless to living, to understanding how life has adapted to Earth’s harshest environments, to exploring other worlds with the most advanced technologies to search for signs of life,” said Mary Voytek, director of NASA’s astrobiology program.

Each project team will receive about $8 million and join five continuing astrobiology project teams already participating in the program at the University of Washington in Seattle; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge; University of Wisconsin, Madison; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; and University of Southern California, Los Angeles.