Monday, November 30, 2015

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 11/27/2015

"Shields and Brooks on protesting police shootings, sizing up GOP contenders" PBS NewsHour 11/27/2015

Excerpts

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss protests in Chicago against the killing of Laquan McDonald and lethal force by police, how the Paris attacks have affected the fight against the Islamic State, as well as recent remarks by Donald Trump on 9/11 and whether Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are seeing an opening.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  And that brings us to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, welcome.

And I do want to get to the presidential campaign in just a moment, but, Mark, I want to start with a story that we reported earlier this evening, the protests in Chicago about the shooting last year of a young black teenager by a white Chicago policeman who’s now been charged with murder.

What does this and these other police shootings we have seen over the past year say about efforts to heal the relationship between police and the black communities?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist:  Well, it’s — it’s a continuing challenge and a terrible tragedy personally, Judy, in this case, I mean, where we have this — that age-old question, who will protect the people when the police violate the law?

And from every indication here, you have all the evidence pointing to a police officer essentially executing a 17-year-old boy, and the authorities sitting on it for 400 days, the prosecuting attorney in not — not going forward.

And, to me, beyond the tragedy, the other story you reported on was that of Tyshawn Lee, the 9-year-old — a 9-year-old who was killed as a — basically a hostage, as retribution in a gang fight within the community.  There is no tougher job in America than being a cop on the beat in a major city in this country, big and brawling.

And for good cops, what happened in Chicago, with Laquan McDonald’s execution — and that’s I think all you can call it — it makes the job of the cop on the beat, the overwhelming of whom are good, that much tougher.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  David, you know, we keep reporting on these incidents and we think maybe we have turned a corner, but then they just seem to keep happening.

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  Yes.  We need structural change.

Listen, there are — since 2007, there have been 400 police shootings in Chicago, and only one of them has been ruled unjustified.

MARK SHIELDS:  That’s right.

DAVID BROOKS:  That’s just not credible.

And so you have got to have some structural changes.  And, listen, I understand why there has to be loyalty within the police force, basically loyalty within the criminal justice system.  I was a police reporter in Chicago at a time when it was way more violent even than it is right now.

And it’s tough.  And they want to protect each other.  And I get that.  And the situations are often murky.  But you have to build structures so that, when there is something that goes wrong, that there actually is really a prosecutorial force somewhere within the system looking at the system from a hostile eye and saying, did something really bad happen here?

And if they’re exonerating 99.8 percent of the cops who are shooting people, that’s probably not right.  And so there has to be a structure to really investigate these situations.  And, you know, I have been moving on the cop cam issue.

When these things first started happening, I was sort of ambivalent about cop cams, because I think they will affect the civil-police relationship if everyone knows everything is being filmed.  But the evidence is mounting that these cameras — and we happened to have a dashboard cam in this case — the evidence is mounting these are effective, and maybe cops should be wearing cameras everywhere.

I have to disagree with David Books on LEOs wanting 'to protect each other.'   It is the old 'Blue Shield' that wants to protect officers who break the law, and has nothing to do with loyalty.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  David, I want to turn to, this Friday, today, two weeks after the horrible shootings in Paris, the terrorist attacks, is there a sense that these efforts, you know, whether it’s President Hollande of France, President Obama, anyone else, that the efforts to put together some kind of effective coalition, effort to fight ISIS is any stronger today as a result of what happened?

DAVID BROOKS:  Well, we have got a little clarity.

It’s the — what’s the definition of an effective coalition?  To me, the definition of an effective coalition doesn’t involve Vladimir Putin or the Russians, because they want to keep Assad, and most of the rest of the world wants to get rid of Assad, knowing that Assad is the key source of the problem here.  He’s the one who has created the instability and the genocide that leads the Sunnis to radicalize and embrace ISIS.

And so there was this myth, this shimmering of early days that we were going to have a global alliance including Putin.  And, at least according to the words coming of the Kremlin today and according to the controversy that Russia is having with Turkey, that grand dream, which was a bad dream, is falling apart.

Whether we can create a Western alliance with the Gulf states to defeat ISIS another matter.  But the key to it is getting the Sunnis.  We don’t have the boots on the ground.  We’re not going to put the boots on the ground.  If the reasonable Sunnis don’t revolt against ISIS, then nothing will happen.

And they are not going to do it as long as Assad is really raining genocide down upon them.  So, understanding the basic logic of the situation, the complex logic of the situation, is really the key, I think.

PARIS ATTACKS - Survivor's Obligation

"Witness to the Paris attacks embraces his 'survivor's obligation'" PBS NewsHour 11/27/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  How does one recover from the trauma of being caught in the middle of a terrorist attack?  Psychotherapist Mark Colclough, who was in one of the Paris caf├ęs when it was attacked by gunmen two weeks ago, offers some special insight on tools and strategies he has been using to heal.  Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports.

MALCOLM BRABANT (NewsHour):  Back home after witnessing four people being murdered, psychotherapist Mark Colclough is deploying all his professional skills to minimize the anguish.

Two weeks on, how traumatized do you think you are?

MARK COLCLOUGH, Psychotherapist:  I can’t scale that really on a one-to-10 scale.  I still have signs of trauma and shock.  And post-traumatic stress is very much still there.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  Can you describe the sort of things that are troubling you still?

MARK COLCLOUGH:  Sure, flashbacks of the gunmen, very clear.

There's been a dream that’s recurred several times about me being in the hallway of my house and looking down to the sitting room, and I can see shadows on the wall, and I’m with my travel friend who was with me in Paris.

And I turn around to say to him, look, look, like there’s a break-in.  There are thieves in the sitting room.  I turn around to look at him, so I know he’s behind me.  In the dream, I look back and he's not there.  And I look forward again to look into the living room, and the gunman is right in front of me shooting at me this time.  And that’s where I wake up.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  Do you think you are going to be permanently damaged?

MARK COLCLOUGH:  Oh, no.  No.  I don’t think that at all.

MALCOLM BRABANT:  Is that because you personally and professionally have the tools that enable you to deal with this?

MARK COLCLOUGH:  Yes.  I think I have been in and out of therapy since I was 19.  It’s been — always been in my interest has been psychotherapy and psychology.  So I'm aware that I have tools and I have quite a robust sense of self.

RACE MATTERS - Getting Away From Gangs

"Steering young people away from a life mixed up with gangs" PBS NewsHour 11/27/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Naomi McSwain was once a member of the notorious Crips gang in South Los Angeles before leaving that path of violence and drug use to devote her career to helping other young people escape.  McSwain sits down with special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault to discuss her solutions for combating gang violence.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Tonight, we have another look at Race Matters Solutions.

PBS NewsHour special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault is examining specific solutions to racial problems in our year-long series.

As we reported earlier, police in Chicago today announced murder charges against a man for killing a 9-year-old boy as part of what they are calling gang retaliation. Charlayne's conversation tonight focuses on preventing gang-related black-on-black crime.

She traveled to South Central Los Angeles to meet Naomi McSwain and learn about a solution that keeps kids out of gangs, and in doing so, is keeping them alive.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT (NewsHour):  This crime scene, the result of a gang-related shooting, is not unusual here in South Los Angeles.  And, recently, police attributed 80 percent of the homicides in South L.A. to gang violence.

No one knows this violence and its consequences better than Naomi McSwain, once a gang member herself.  Years ago, she was a member of the notorious Crips, still today one of the largest and most violent street gangs in the country.  But, unlike many gang members, McSwain escaped, later finishing college and becoming a journalist who reported on gangs and looked for solutions.

In 2010, McSwain became executive director of the 20-year-old Wooten Center, founded by her late aunt, Myrtle FayeRumph.  She set up storefront havens to get children off South L.A.’s mean streets after her 35-year-old son, Al Wooten, was killed on one of them in a drive-by shooting.

Naomi McSwain, thank you for joining us.

NAOMI MCSWAIN, Executive Director, Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center:  Thanks for having me.

CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT:  I think most of our viewers will want to know right away, how did you get out of the gang life?

NAOMI MCSWAIN:  My mother.  She intervened.  She saw her daughter changing.  I went from a practically straight-A student to a practically straight-F student.  This was in high school.

And I was doing drugs.  She didn't know all of that, but she saw the signs of it, my belligerence, truancy.  She pretty much saw my grades and my attitude changing.  But it was because of the gang activity and the drugs that I was doing.

NEWSHOUR'S TIME MACHINE - The American Pilgrims 400yrs Back

"Were pilgrims America’s original economic migrants?" PBS NewsHour 11/26/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Four hundred years ago, a group of pilgrims founded a colony in Plymouth.  But what did they hope to accomplish there, how did they live?  Economics correspondent Paul Solman jumps back in time to 'interview' some of these early settlers and find out how they made a living.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  But first, our money man, Paul Solman, looks at those original Thanksgiving celebrants — the Pilgrims — and the economic pressures that drove them to America, and defined so much of their time here.  It`s part of our weekly series, “Making Sen$e,” which airs every Thursday on the NewsHour.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  Thanksgiving time at Plymouth plantation, a 17th century living history museum in Massachusetts.  The year?  1624, when, as the story goes:

NARRATOR:  A hundred people landed on a bare and windy shore, seeking freedom from the English church.  For this, they were ready to confront the grim and grisly face of poverty.

MAN:  In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth —

PAUL SOLMAN:  We've long celebrated the religious drive to build a city on a hill for strangers in a strange land.  But it turns out that our pilgrims faced poverty at least as grim and grisly back in Holland, from whence they had fled 16 years earlier to separate from the Church of England.

Patience Prence was among those who came to Plymouth, as played by one of the plantations re-enactors.

PATIENCE PRENCE, Plymouth Colonist, Played by Grace Bello:  We live a humble life, but we work for ourselves.  In Holland, we could put food on our tables, but, it was a very hard labor.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Meanwhile, America was literally, to them, a new world.

GOV. WILLIAM BRADFORD, Plymouth Colonist, Played by Doug Blake:  We will be able to turn a good profit so that it benefits everyone.

PAUL SOLMAN:  The plantation’s governor and chronicler, William Bradford.

WILLIAM BRADFORD:  It might be a place where profit and religion can jump together.  There is no shame in doing well, for one must still exist in this world and thus be comfortable.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY - President Carter's Chief of Staff

"How a boy from segregated South grew up to be Jimmy Carter’s chief of staff" PBS NewsHour 11/26/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Before he was Jimmy Carter’s chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan was just a boy living in a deeply segregated south.  For a decade, he worked on an autobiography about growing up in that place and time, before passing away from mesothelioma.  His daughter, Kathleen Jordan finished the book, and speaks to Judy Woodruff about the work.

HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour):  They were known collectively as the “Georgia mafia” — Washington outsiders who played key roles in the Jimmy Carter presidential campaigns, and in the White House.  Among them, Hamilton Jordan, who was the president`s Chief of Staff and top confidant.  He died of cancer in 2008.  He left behind a mostly finished memoir.

His daughter Kathleen has edited and completed the book, “A Boy from Georgia: Coming of Age in the Segregated South.”  She talked to Judy recently.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  So let me — I have to ask you first, it looks like Hamilton Jordan, Kathleen Jordan, but it`s “Jerden;” where did that come from?

KATHLEEN JORDAN, Editor, “A Boy From Georgia”:  You know, my dad always said it`s the Southern pronunciation of the surname.  If you hear it in old spirituals, you`ll hear it pronounced the “River Jerden.”  So I think it`s a long-standing tradition of the South.  At least that`s what we were told and we've taken that forward with us.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  I knew your father, Hamilton Jordan, because he worked for Jimmy Carter.  I covered Carter as governor of Georgia, then as President of the United States.  Your father was a strategist, he was chief of staff, but this book really is about his growing up in South Georgia, growing up in the segregationist South, isn't it?

KATHLEEN JORDAN:  When political junkies hear that my dad has a new book out, they`re excited because they think it may be about the Carter years, and what I say to those people is that it may not necessarily be about his political years, but it`s about his early indoctrination into politics, and kind of learning about politics from the people around him and about the formation of his political skills.

MUSIC - Aretha Franklin, "I’m Not Ever Going to Retire"

"Aretha Franklin on why she’ll never stop singing" PBS NewsHour 11/25/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Aretha Franklin was honored recently by the National Portrait Gallery with a “Portrait of a Nation” prize, given out to some of the people who appear in its collection.  Gwen Ifill spoke with the Queen of Soul about her career, her voice and her legacy.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Aretha Franklin been given many honors over the years, but, last week, she was honored in a new way, as Gwen and I emceed the inaugural American Portrait Gallery event to honor the portraits of a nation.

Gwen is back with a conversation with the Queen of Soul about her remarkable career and her big plans still coming up.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  It was an evening to honor legends, from designers to heroes from the world of sport and the military.

But it was the Queen of Soul who got the red carpet crowd to their feet. Mid-concert, Detroit’s own Aretha Franklin added another prestigious honor to her extensive collection.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  There is only one Aretha Franklin.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

GWEN IFILL:  The National Portrait Gallery’s first Portrait of America Award.

Franklin’s likeness hangs at the Washington museum.

ARETHA FRANKLIN, Portrait of a Nation Prize Winner:  We were ladies and gentlemen, and we weren’t overnight stars. It was gradual. And, for me, I just try to keep my head out of the clouds, keep my feet on the ground.

GWEN IFILL:  The 73-year-old Franklin has been honored for her jazz, rock, pop, classical, and gospel singing.  She is the first female and just the fourth artist overall to place 100 career titles on Billboard’s hot R&B/hip-hop songs chart.

MUSIC - "Not So" by Magic Reong




I didn't know you could play an electric guitar like a keyboard.  Also note the the instrument being played with the curved hammers is a modern version of the Balinese Reong.

These guys are GOOD!

ANNIVERSARY - Relativity's 100th

"How Einstein’s theory of relativity changed the world" PBS NewsHour 11/25/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  This week marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of papers laying out Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.  In honor of the anniversary, Gwen Ifill examines how Einstein changed our understanding of the cosmos with Einstein biographer Walter Isaacson.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  His work transformed our way of living at the cosmos.

When Einstein put forward his General Theory of Relativity, that gravity itself is the bending of space and time by mass and energy, it was a seminal moment in the history of science.

Today, the importance of his work is even better recognized than a century ago.

“NOVA” pays tribute tonight with a special program called “Inside Einstein’s Mind.”

Here’s a clip about how it’s seen today.

MAN:  The best theories in physics always take to places where the people who invented them didn’t imagine.

And a truly wonderful theory like General Relativity predicts all sorts of things that Einstein didn’t conceive of.  The theory has a life of its own.  We understand General Relativity much better right now than Albert Einstein ever did.

WAR ON ISIS - Turkey vs Russia

"How the Turkey-Russia conflict complicates anti-Islamic State efforts" PBS NewsHour 11/24/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The air war over Syria escalated when a Russian warplane was shot down by Turkey.  To discuss how the incident could affect the fight against the Islamic State, Judy Woodruff speaks to Angela Stent, author of “The Limits of Partnership," and Nicholas Burns of Harvard University.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We return now to the fight against the Islamic State group and how those efforts might be hindered by Turkey’s downing of a Russian warplane.

I’m joined by Nicholas Burns, a career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO.  He’s now a professor at Harvard University.  And Angela Stent, author of “The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the 21st Century.”  She’s a senior fellow at the Transatlantic Academy.

And we welcome you both.

So, just based on what we know, Angela Stent, who do we think was at fault here?  Was it the Turks for allegedly violating Russian airspace or was it the Russians for — I’m sorry — the Russians for going into Turkish airspace, or the other way around?

ANGELA STENT, Author, “The Limits of Partnership”:  Well, apparently, the Russians were only in Turkish airspace for less than a minute.

But this isn’t the first time apparently that Russian planes have violated Turkish airspace.  The Turks claim that they gave the Russians 10 warnings.  The Russians claim that that’s not true.  But it does appear that they were briefly in Turkish airspace.  The question is, could this have been de-escalated?  Could the Turks maybe have offered to escort them out of Turkish airspace?

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, Nicholas Burns, if they were in Turkish — over Turkish airspace, even for less than half-a-minute, was that something that warranted being shot down by the Turkish military?

NICHOLAS BURNS, Harvard University:  Well, the history and circumstances are important here.

They did violate Turkish airspace.  And, as President Obama said, every country has a right, Turkey has a right to defend that airspace.  But the Russians have violated Turkish airspace on several occasions over the last two months.  Russian drones have gone across the border.

And the Turks have warned the Russians both publicly and privately.  The Russians have also been bombing Syrian Turkmen, ethnic Turkmen villages very close to that border, and the Turks warned the Russians about that.  It seems to be the last straw for the Turks.

There are some people who are saying the Turks should have acted differently, as Angela said, that they might have escorted the fighters out, but there was fair warning to the Russians.  And as a NATO ally, it’s very important that the United States defend this right that every country’s border are sacrosanct.

And what the Russians did is clearly illegal under International Law.

REMINDER:  Putin does not care about International Law, only Russian power.  Also note that the "10 warnings" do not refer to this latest incident, it was reference to 10 intrusions.

Open Letter to the President of the United States

11/30/2015

To: President Barack Obama

Sir,

The United States and the world is suffering from the domino effect that started with President G.W. Bush and his decisions made about Afghanistan and Iraq.

H.W. Bush was smart enough to listen to Arab allies during Desert Storm and not to attack Iraq and Saddam Hussein.  He was a counter-force against expansion of Iran influence.

President G.W. Bush made the disastrous decision to invade Iraq which took our focus, and resources, away form Afghanistan which did harbor those responsible for 9/11.  We, and the world, are now paying for that decision.

But, Mr. President, have made a big contribution to the events that plunge us today.  Namely to not get seriously evolved in the civil war in Syria early on.

President G.W. Bush's Iraq war destabilized the Middle East, then the Syrian civil war made the situation even worst.  Your decision not to take direct action in Syria has resulted in even a more destabilized Middle East.

If you had made the decision to bomb Bashar al-Assad's military assets to dust early on, we most likely would not have the rise of ISIS (ISIL), the further destabilization Afghanistan and Iraq, and lately, the problems with Russia in Syria.

Even though it is too late, this should be a warning (or reminder) to all future Presidents of the United States about not taking action when it is needed.  The 'reminder' is that of appeasing the public when it comes to military decisions.  We, the public, may have been tired of our military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, but we are not military experts nor are we likely to take a long view of consequences on non-action.


From a concerned citizen,
Vietnam Vet
USN Retired (22yrs)

AGRICULTURE - Vanishing Bees

"Are pesticides to blame for the massive bee die-off?" PBS NewsHour 11/24/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Commercial beekeepers across America have been struggling with great numbers of bee deaths over the past few years.  What’s behind their failing health?  Some research points to a class of pesticide that’s coated onto a large proportion of corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. Allison Aubrey of NPR reports.

ALLISON AUBREY (NPR):  It’s harvest time at Adee Honey Farms in Bruce, South Dakota.  Bret Adee’s the third generation to manage the 80,000 hives the Adees have scattered across five Midwestern states.  He says beekeeping these days is much harder than it’s ever been.

BRET ADEE, Adee Honey Farms:  In 2010, our bees were just destroyed in a couple of weeks.  Most of our bees died.

ALLISON AUBREY:  Bret says things really haven’t improved much.

BRET ADEE:  I would to see about twice to three times as many bees in most of the hives right now.  It will be a real challenge to keep them alive through the winter.

ALLISON AUBREY:  The Adees are not alone.  According to a preliminary survey from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, commercial beekeepers lost 42 percent of their colonies last year.  Bees are a critical part of agriculture.

Adee trucks his bees out to pollinate California’s almond groves every year.  And it’s not just almonds.  Bees pollinate everything from apples to cherries and squash.  To figure out what’s plaguing the bees, the Obama administration assembled a task force last year.  Scientists at the EPA, USDA and researchers across the country who have been studying the problem are finding there are multiple issues.

Bees have fewer wildflowers to forage on due to a loss of habitat.  There’s viruses that pests pass on to the bees.  Climate change is thought to play a role too.  Another issue is pesticides.  Some studies suggest that a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoid, or neonics for short, are harming the bees.

These pesticides are coated onto the seed of about 80 percent of the corn that’s grown in the United States and about half the soybeans too.  To get a sense of that scale, imagine a cornfield like this taking up the entire state of California.  That’s how much of this re-treated seed is being planted.

CHILDREN - Printer Arms

"3-D printers put limb prosthetics for kids in reach" PBS NewsHour 11/23/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  A professor from upstate New York is transforming the world for young people in need of limbs.  WXXI's Innovation Trail offers his story in his own words.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  A professor from Upstate New York is using technology to transform the world, especially for young people in need of limbs.

He shares his experience in his own words as part of this trip down innovation trail, a series of reports on the economy and technology in Upstate New York.

This report was produced by WXXI in Rochester.

JON SCHULL, Rochester Institute of Technology:  I’m Jon Schull.  I’m a research scientist here at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where I’m in the Center for Magic.  RIT is a center for media, arts, games, interaction and creativity, where I run a lab on access and collaboration technology, which is how I got started founding an organization called e-NABLE — e-NABLE.

And what we do is, we make mechanical hands for children who are missing fingers using 3-D printers, and we give them away for free.  Just like printing a document, you press print and the 3-D printer starts building this object that you designed on the screen by putting down tiny thin layers of plastic like a glue gun, layer by layer by layer, building it up to make the thing.

A prosthetic arm these days costs about $40,000.  One in 2,000 kids are born with some kind of an arm or hand abnormality.  They don’t get prosthetics because it makes no sense to spend $40,000 on something they’re going to outgrow in a year.  With a 3-D printer, we can start making these things almost for nothing.

Instead of $40,000, you can do it with about $10 or $20 worth of plastic.  And it’s not as sturdy as a $40,000 titanium artificial arm.  On the other hand, if you outgrow it or break it, you can make another.

HEALTH - Fighting Ebola

"How to grow an Ebola vaccine with a tobacco plant" PBS NewsHour 11/23/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  What looks like an ordinary greenhouse is actually an around-the-clock Ebola vaccine factory.  At a facility in Kentucky, plants are being injected with a protein in order to spur them into producing one of the three antibodies used in the experimental drug ZMapp.  Special correspondent Mary Jo Brooks reports on how bio-pharming is helping to ramp up the speed of drug production to fight the disease.

MARY JO BROOKS (NewsHour):  It looks like an ordinary greenhouse filled with plants basking under light, but at this facility just outside Owensboro, Kentucky, the plants themselves have become a labor force, working around the clock to manufacture a cure for Ebola.

HUGH HAYDON, CEO, Kentucky Bioprocessing:  These plants are 27 days old.

MARY JO BROOKS:  Three days earlier, these plants were injected with a genetic blueprint for one of three antibodies used in the experimental drug ZMapp.

Hugh Haydon of Kentucky Bioprocessing explains how it works.

HUGH HAYDON:  The plant recognizes that gene and its machinery turns on and it starts to manufacture that protein for us.  And it’s really that simple.  It becomes a little bitty factory.

MARY JO BROOKS:  ZMapp was still in the developmental stage when Ebola first broke out in West Africa in March of 2014.  The disease has since claimed more than 10,000 victims.  But a handful of people were successfully tweeted with ZMapp, including Dr. Kent Brantly.

DR. KENT BRANTLY, Ebola Survivor:  Today is a miraculous day.  I am thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family.

MARY JO BROOKS:  Since then, the drug has being undergoing clinical trials in West Africa and the FDA has granted it fast-track approval status.

Larry Zeitlin and Kevin Whaley are the scientists from San Diego (1) who developed the ZMapp antibodies, which were designed to quickly attack the Ebola virus.

(1) One for my hometown!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

COUNTER TERRORISM - European View

"The View From Counterterror’s Front Lines" by Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica 11/23/2015

Veteran European law enforcement officials, one of them Muslim, reflect on the roots of the Paris attacks, the tense aftermath and the debate about the effectiveness of counterterror forces.

PARIS — Ten days after the Paris terror attacks, Europe remains on edge.  Police in Belgium, anticipating a similar assault, are on highest alert as they press the hunt for the surviving attacker with the help of law enforcement in neighboring nations.  In France, the massive investigation continues.  Spain and other nations have intensified defenses against a terror offensive against the West by the Islamic State.  Weary, tense and somber after the bloodshed, top law enforcement officials from three countries spoke to ProPublica about the threat and response.  Three asked for anonymity because of the dangers they face and because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

Belgium

The counterterror investigator was exhausted.

He had spent days hunting for Salah Abdeslam, the remaining fugitive in the Paris attacks.  The other suspects are dead.  They included Abdeslam’s brother, who blew himself up during the massacre in Paris, and his old friend Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected ringleader from Belgium, who died in a fierce gunfight with French police.

But Abdeslam remained on the run, last spotted in Belgium and believed to be wearing an explosives belt like the attackers who killed and died in Paris.  A human bomb ready to explode.  The fugitive was one of the main reasons Belgian authorities raised the terror alert in Brussels to its maximum level Saturday.  The subway system shut down.  Soccer games were canceled.  Authorities urged people to stay inside and avoid crowded places.  Teams of soldiers and police patrolled empty streets looking for Abdeslam and other Belgians suspected of plotting imminent suicide attacks.

“It’s very weird he’s still alive,” the investigator said.  “Maybe he has another mission. He’s violent.  Very dangerous.”

The investigator had been working in a command post with French police deployed to Belgium to exchange information.  He had participated in raids and searches, poring through data from confiscated phones and computers.  The week had been a blur.  He and his colleagues were still coming to the grips with a grim reality:  The extremist underworld of Belgium had helped spawn the most devastating attack on European soil since the Madrid train bombings of 2004.

In addition to the physical danger, it was demoralizing to see an unprecedented swarm of foreign media on the streets of Brussels, to hear complaints that Belgian law enforcement hadn’t done more to prevent the attacks.

“There has been a lot of criticism of us,” the investigator said.  “But we don’t have big budgets.  We are just a small service.  We are overwhelmed.  We are trying our hardest; stepping on the gas, as we say in Belgium.”

Abaaoud, from the tough suburb of Molenbeek, had been a top investigative target since January, when police killed two Islamic State gunmen in the city of Verviers and foiled a plot launched by the Belgian ringleader.  A court convicted Abaaoud in absentia, making him one of Europe’s most wanted men.  Yet he slipped back from his base in Syria to lead the Paris rampage.

Police believe Abaaoud had been back in Europe for two or three months.  He was part of a team of French and Belgian foreign fighters in Syria who trained and deployed operatives on a string of plots targeting their homelands during the past two years.

Investigators are trying to figure out why Abaaoud shifted from a remote shot-caller to a frontline fighter.  Perhaps senior figures in the Islamic State sacrificed him in order to ensure the success of a terror spectacular, the investigator said.

“He was a member of a command group.  Not the top guy,” he said.  “If he’s the top guy, he’s never going to come back to do some shooting in France.  He was like a field supervisor.  A criminal who had connections in the robbery underworld, who knew France and Europe well.”

“You can’t just leave Syria like that,” he said.  “You need clearance.”

As they hunted for the fugitive Abdeslam, Belgian police were well aware that more suicide bombers took part in the Paris attacks than had ever struck at once on European soil.  The investigator was perplexed about why three suicide bombers hadn’t done more damage at the France-Germany soccer match at the Stade de France the night of Nov 13.  The trio failed to get inside the stadium, and killed only one victim despite the presence of crowds.

“Two of them may have blown themselves up because they were running,” he said.  “TATP [explosive] is unstable if you run and do crazy things; it can blow up.  It may have been unintentional.”

Another Belgian counterterror official said the mindset of his prey was no mystery.

“The Islamic State gives criminals an opportunity to avenge themselves,” the senior official said, his voice full of disgust.  “It’s a pretext for hate.  A chance to shoot cops, the bourgeoisie, the infidels, everyone they’ve always hated and resented.  They have the same psychology as the mass killers you have in the United States.  But they do it as a group, not as individuals.”

France

A few days after the Paris attacks, Commandant Mohamed Douhane talked to two colleagues in the forensic division of the French national police.

They were experienced, hard-nosed crime scene investigators accustomed to all manner of mayhem and bloodshed.  But no amount of experience was enough for the task of working the scene at the Bataclan music hall, a slaughterhouse where three terrorists killed 89 concert-goers.

“It was the ultimate carnage,” Douhane said.  “They were exhausted, obliterated.  They had to go through that scene systematically and collect and record evidence.  Think about what that was like.  They didn’t sleep for two days.”

Douhane, the secretary general of the Synergie Officers police union, has a rare perspective.  He’s one of the highest-ranking officers of Muslim descent in the French police, the son of an immigrant bus driver from Algeria.  He believes the Paris attacks will cause an unprecedented backlash against extremism among French Muslims.

The reaction among Muslims has been stronger than after the attacks in January that killed 17 people at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a Jewish grocery, Douhane said.  One victim in those attacks was a policewoman.

The new strike on Paris, ordered this time by Islamic State leaders, “was an attack on the French people, on young people, working neighborhoods, on the art of French living,” he said.

French Muslims were shocked and saddened after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Douhane said.  But some had misgivings about the worldwide “I am Charlie” campaign in solidarity with the satirical magazine, which published caricatures of the Prophet Mohamed seen as blasphemous by many Muslims.  Feelings were more muted in slums where deprivation and alienation intertwine with criminality and extremism, he said.  Anti-Semitism is a sad reality among angry youths in those areas, Douhane said.

“They think that by attacking a grocery they are fighting for their community,” he said.  “This mentality is well-ingrained.  A rather sizable minority of young Muslims manifests a brutal, violent and cretinous anti-Semitism.”

Terrorists try to worsen divisions in French society, Douhane said.

“The great majority of French Muslims are completely integrated in France,” he said.  “The bad guys want a clash of civilizations.  The Muslim community is taken hostage.  They are viewed with suspicion by non-Muslims, but the Islamists say they are not true Muslims.”

The proximity and power of jihad in Syria has forced French law enforcement to dig in as never before against the nexus of crime and terror.

“The fact is, any little punk from the slums can go off to Syria,” Douhane said.  “There are more dangerous people than ever who are capable of committing an attack.  The border between gangsterism and terrorism has blurred.”

The attacks have highlighted flaws in the French counterterror apparatus.  Like other law enforcement officials, Douhane wonders if a recent major overhaul of the domestic intelligence system may have weakened the defenses.

Until 2008, the counterterror system worked like this:  A powerful agency called the DST conducted both intelligence and investigations of major terrorist activity — a role similar to the FBI’s in this country.  A second agency, the general intelligence division of the national police, played a key part with a far-flung grid of officers monitoring extremism and criminality.

Known as the RG, the intelligence division detected street-level threats with a mix of aggressive spying and open engagement with mosques and Muslim leaders.  At the same time, the RG was the heir of the Napoleonic political police.  The division spied on labor unions, students and politicians, and even did its own opinion polls.  It also fought turf battles with the DST.

Deciding it was time for reform, French spymasters carried out an ambitious fusion of the two agencies.  The result today is the General Directorate of Internal Security, known in France as the DGSI.  The super-agency has consolidated operations, reduced infighting and eliminated political excesses.  But in the process, nationwide intelligence-gathering has suffered at a time of increasing threats, some critics say.

“There has been a loss of effectiveness,” Douhane said.  “The reform was necessary, but it was too fast …  Especially in the provinces, the intelligence units have been destabilized.  They are less operational than before.”

Spain

The counterterror chief was worried about the Madrid-Barcelona soccer game.  And not just because he’s a Real Madrid fan.

The match between rival powerhouses is a soccer classic watched by a global audience estimated as high as 400 million.  After the suicide bombings outside the Paris stadium, it seems clear that Islamic State sees soccer games as vulnerable, high-profile targets.  Spanish authorities deployed more than 2,500 police and security guards for Saturday’s game, an unprecedented show of force at a Spanish sporting event.

“We are ready,” the counterterror chief said.  “We know how bad it could have been if the bombers in Paris had gained entry to the stadium.  That part of the plot seemed amateurish, thankfully.”

The match in Madrid transpired without incident.

The Paris attacks, which killed 130, are not the worst terror strike in the history of mainland Europe.  That sad honor goes to Madrid, where a crew of radicalized Moroccan drug dealers and al Qaida connected militants planted bombs on commuter trains on March 11, 2004.  The death toll was 191.

The skillfully timed attack played a role in the upset victory of the Socialist Party in elections three days later.  Voters expressed anger at the governing center-right party for its military presence in Iraq and initial mixed signals about whether Basque or Islamic terrorists were responsible.  Police pursued the bombers for a nerve-wracking three weeks.  The fugitives blew themselves up during a police siege, killing a SWAT team officer.

“The Madrid attack was more sophisticated,” the counterterror chief said.  “They used technology, telephones that had been altered for the bombs.  They stayed on the loose after the attack, trying to strike again.  And there was the planning to affect the elections.  But what is significant in Paris is that this is an attack by the Islamic State.  It represents a qualitative leap.”

Measured by the number of foreign fighters, the threat in Spain is less intense than in France or Belgium.  Spanish police have identified 138 fighters who have gone to Syria compared to about 2,000 jihadis from France.  Belgium has counted about 500, the largest proportionate contingent from Europe.

Nonetheless, Moroccans are plentiful in the Islamic State.  Abaaoud and other attackers in Paris were of Moroccan origin and had links to the country.  Spain’s geography as a crossroads into Europe from Morocco makes it vulnerable.  Most Spanish foreign fighters come from Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s territorial enclaves in northern Morocco.  They are often grouped with European and Moroccan militants in Syria.

Like many others in European law enforcement, the Spanish counterterror chief is aghast at the ease with which terrorists elude Europe’s border controls.  At least two of the suicide bombers in Paris are thought to have used Syrian documents and entered via Greece in the chaotic flow of Syrian refugees.

“We have the reality of a union like the United States, but different legislation among countries,” he said.  “Entering Europe is easy.”

An urgent question:  How did Abaaoud cross the continent unnoticed to lead the plot?  He may simply have used the authentic passport of someone who resembled him, the counterterror chief said.

“The Islamic State has acquired an enormous amount of blank passports, both Syrian and Iraqi,” he said.  “They are authentic.  They also have a lot of authentic European passports at their disposal.  They confiscate the passport of every foreign fighter who arrives, so they have a stock of nationalities, and they can use them to provide a fake identity based on resemblance.”

The Paris rampage reflected the savagery of the Islamic State’s reign in Syria and Iraq.  Yet, not every foreign fighter returns bent on mass murder.

“We have had guys come back who are repentant,” he said.  “They are disgusted.  They surrendered to police when they got back.  They said, ‘I’d rather go to jail here.  I can’t stand what I saw in Syria.’ ”

Nonetheless, Spanish police have arrested militants accused of preparing attacks after radicalizing on the Internet without direct contact with the Islamic State.  After being arrested at the Warsaw airport upon his return from fighting in Syria, a militant married to a Spanish woman admitted that Islamic State leaders told him to do reconnaissance on potential targets in Europe.  The group’s new aggressiveness requires a higher level of vigilance.

“It’s a new strategy,” the counterterror official.  “They have intensified their activity.  They want to do actions in the West.”

NASA CineSpace 2015

CineSpace is a collaboration between NASA and the Huston Cinema Arts Society that presents "NASA Imagery - Your Vision" and runs a yearly contest.  Here are some of my favorites of 2015:

"EXPLORATION"



"Red Pearl"



"Come Closer"



"Gravitation:  Variation in Time and Space" (for ballet lovers)

Monday, November 23, 2015

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 11/20/2015

"Shields and Brooks on how Paris changed the political debate" PBS NewsHour 11/20/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the political and psychological aftermath of the Paris attacks, 2016 candidates speak out on the refugee crisis and fighting the Islamic State, plus reassessing President Obama’s strategy in Syria.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Welcome, gentlemen.

So, this entire week, we have spent looking at what happened in Paris.

My question is, David, has this — what has this done here in the United States?  Are we now in some kind of new normal, as we were after 9/11?

DAVID BROOKS, New York Times:  I think what ISIS has done psychologically is, it’s like a drug, you have to take more of it to get the effect.

And so their malevolence, their viciousness, their violence, they have ratcheted up a level.  And they started doing that from the first moment we became conscious of them, with the beheadings, with setting people on fire, and then this killing.

And while they haven’t achieved the super al-Qaida 9/11, they have created a more menacing atmosphere, I think, in this country, certainly in Europe and around the world, in Nigeria, Boko Haram.  And so I think there is a sense of living with violence.

And so I think about Israel, with, whatever you think of Middle East policy, the citizens there live with violence.  And you adjust in some ways, you develop rituals in some ways, but it preys on the consciousness in a lot of complicated ways.  And I think we’re now more or less in that world.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  How do you feel it has changed things?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated columnist:  I don’t think it compares with 9/11; 9/11 was a profound traumatic experience in this nation.

And just in the reaction, I think that there’s — you can see what 14 years of conflict has done, and 14 years of being at war has done, as well as what ISIS has done.  Fourteen years ago, when the United States suffered the greatest infliction of loss of life on its own soil in our history, the President of the United States, George W. Bush, visited a mosque.  He said, Islam are our friends.  These are — the people who do this are traitors to their faith, and we must remind and remember that.

He looked like Abraham Lincoln, compared to the reaction of politicians in this city, and particularly in Lisa Desjardins’ piece tonight, which was small, petty, vengeful, un-American, unserious and irresponsible.

ISIS - Recruits More Women

"Why more and more women are drawn to the Islamic State" PBS NewsHour 11/20/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Experts say that more and more women are making the decision to join the Islamic State.  Who are they and what are their motivations?  William Brangham finds out from foreign affairs and defense producer P.J. Tobia, the host of NewsHour’s “Shortwave” podcast.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  When the man thought to have planned the Paris attacks was killed during a raid on Wednesday, a woman who was with him also died in the assault.  It’s not clear what role she played, if any, in planning the attacks.

But experts say more and more women are joining ISIS, traveling to territory held by the group in Syria and Iraq.  Why are they making the trip?  And what do they find when they get there?

William Brangham has more.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  Here with me now to discuss the motivations of the women who join the Islamic State is NewsHour foreign affairs producer P.J. Tobia.  He also hosts our Shortwave podcast, which this week is all about the women of ISIS.

So, P.J., how do we know what we know about these women?  And who are they?

P.J. TOBIA (NewsHour):  Well, first of all, everything that we know pretty much comes from social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.  They’re very active in documenting not only their radicalization in place before they leave their homes in the West or in Asia or really anywhere, their travel to territory controlled by the Islamic State, and then what life is like when they get there.

And as to who they are, it kind of runs the gamut.  Of course, there’s the famous Bethnal Green case.  It was three young women, high school-age girls from Eastern London who journeyed to the territory controlled by the Islamic State earlier this year.

But there are also older women.  There is a story of a 26-year-old woman who is a doctor from Malaysia who relocated to Syria last year.  And she chronicled her journey through social media.  And she says, along the way, that she saw women in their 60s, much older women who were making this journey.

MALI - Radisson Blu Hotel Attack

"Who was behind the Bamako hotel attack?" PBS NewsHour 11/20/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Extremists armed with guns and grenades stormed a luxury hotel in Bamako, Mali, early Friday morning, shooting dozens.  Witnesses said they went room by room, letting guests go if they could recite verses of the Koran.  Malian special forces stormed the hotel, freeing hostages and battling the Islamist attackers into the night.  Judy Woodruff talks to Rudolph Atallah of the Atlantic Council.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  The siege today in the capital city of Mali lasted all day before ending this evening.  Islamist gunmen burst into a hotel and seized up to 170 hostages, many of them foreigners.  In the end, scores of hostages were rescued or escaped, but the estimates of the dead ranged from 19 to at least 27, plus two attackers.

And the State Department said one American was among those killed.

The attack on the Radisson Blu brought security forces on the run early this morning.  Mali’s Defense Ministry said extremists armed with guns and grenades stormed the luxury hotel in Bamako just as guests were beginning their day.

MAN (through interpreter):  At this moment, this morning around 7:30, individuals not yet identified, about three or four, we believe, so far, attacked the Radisson Blu hotel.  Sadly, there are deaths.  People must remain calm.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  By some accounts, the attackers carjacked a diplomatic vehicle, drove up to the hotel, and stormed inside.  Witnesses said they shouted Islamist slogans and went room by room, asking guests if they could recite verses of the Koran.  Those who could were let go.

Early on, the owner of the hotel said the assailants locked in as many as 140 guests and 30 employees.  Hours later, Malian special forces stormed the hotel themselves, freeing hostages one floor at a time.

MAN (through interpreter):  The soldiers were very professional.  They took good care of us.  They came to us.  They knocked.  They said: “It’s the security forces.”  And then I looked.  It was them.  I left the room.  They cleared the whole floor.

MAN (through interpreter):  I heard gunshots very early in the morning.  I thought it was firecrackers and didn’t realize it was a hostage situation.  At one point, the Malian forces came to get us.  They knocked on our doors and evacuated us in small groups.  Thank God we’re safe.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  At least six Americans were evacuated during the operation, with U.S. and French special forces assisting the Malians.

A jihadist group previously affiliated with al-Qaida, al-Murabitun, claimed responsibility for the attack.

In Paris, French President Francois Hollande vowed to help the former French colony.



"The latest on the Mali hotel attack" PBS NewsHour 11/21/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Authorities in the West African nation of Mali say armed Islamic terrorists killed 19 people in Friday’s attack on a Radisson hotel in the capital city of Bamako.  Among the victims were hotel guests from Russia, China, Belgium, Israel -- and one American.  Wall Street Journal reporter Drew Hinshaw joins Megan Thompson via Skype from Ghana with the latest.

ISIS - Why They're Rich

"What’s made the Islamic State one of the richest terrorist armies in history?" PBS NewsHour 11/19/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  How does the Islamic State militant group make money to fund its operations?  A key source is oil extraction, which has helped make the group one of the richest terrorist armies in history.  Economics correspondent Paul Solman takes a look at the Islamic State’s revenue sources, while William Brangham learns more from Cam Simpson of Bloomberg Businessweek.

PAUL SOLMAN (NewsHour):  Since the Paris attacks this weekend, the forces arrayed against ISIS have been pounding the territory it holds, and, specifically, hitting oil it’s been extracting for sale, as oil is a key source of ISIS revenue, having made the group one of the richest terrorist armies in history.

Earlier today, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton insisted the U.S. should be targeting ISIS’ money.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, Democratic Presidential Candidate:  When it comes to terrorist financing, we have to go after the nodes that facilitate illicit trade and transactions.  The U.N. Security Council should update its terrorism sanctions.

They have a resolution that does try to block terrorist financing and other enabling activities.  But we have to place more obligations on countries to police their own banks.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Republican candidate Donald Trump has been even more aggressive.

DONALD TRUMP, Republican Presidential Candidate:  ISIS is making a tremendous amount of money because they have certain oil caps, right?  They have certain areas of oil that they took away.  There’s some in Syria, some in Iraq.  I would bomb the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of them.

PAUL SOLMAN:  Meanwhile, there’s been a debate over just how much money ISIS actually has.

Last year, David Cohen, then with the U.S. Treasury Department, said on the “NewsHour”:

DAVID COHEN, Former U.S. Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence:  In the aftermath of some of the airstrikes that have been taken, as well as some of the efforts that have been undertaken to restrict ISIL’s ability to use these smuggling networks, our estimate is that ISIL is now earning something on the order of a couple million dollars a week.

PAUL SOLMAN:  A report this week in Bloomberg Businessweek suggests Cohen was overly optimistic, citing new data from the Treasury that ISIS actually took in as much as half-a-billion dollars in the past year from oil.

But just yesterday, Army Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the joint task force, said the stepped-up offensive against ISIS’ main source of revenue is paying off.  For the first time, the U.S. is attacking oil delivery trucks.

MELTING POT - Newcomer Education

"For young newcomers, school offers a stepping stone to life in America" PBS NewsHour 11/19/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Around the nation, cities that take in refugees face the challenge of how to educate young people who speak little or no English.  The NewsHour’s April Brown visits Houston, now the most diverse city in the U.S., where Las Americas Newcomer School teaches both the ABCs and the basics of life in a new country.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  As we mentioned earlier in the program, there’s an ongoing debate over whether the U.S. should accept Syrian refugees following the attacks in Paris.

Many American cities already regularly take in refugees, not just from Syria, but from around the world.  One of the major challenges those cities face is how to educate the children, who typically speak little or no English.

April Brown visited one school in Houston, Texas, taking on that challenge.

The report is part of our American Graduate series, a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

APRIL BROWN (NewsHour):  This 12-year old boy is one of thousands of children who’ve made the dangerous journey from Latin America in search of a brighter future.

Jose, who asked us not to use his real name, came to Houston with his brother and aunt from El Salvador, a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

Can you tell me what happened in your city, why you left?

JOSE, Student:  Because there is too much guns, and then they can kill you.

APRIL BROWN:  Jose, who spoke no English when he arrived, is just one of a growing number of immigrant and refugee students finding a new home in Houston.  The city has become increasingly attractive to foreigners fleeing their homelands.

ALI AL SUDANI, Interfaith Ministries For Greater Houston:  The reasons why Houston is a top destination for refugees is affordable cost of living, vibrant economy, welcoming environment, big support from the local communities and from the faith communities.

APRIL BROWN:  Ali Al Sudani is head of refugee services at Interfaith Ministries, a resettlement organization that helps newcomers with everything from housing and job training to finding schools for their children.

Al Sudani is a refugee himself who came to the U.S. from Iraq three years ago after serving as a military translator.  For immigrant and refugee students, he often recommends the Las Americas Newcomer School, where Jose enrolled in August.

WAR ON TERROR - Terrorists Going Dark

"Terrorists hiding behind impenetrable communication, says FBI" PBS NewsHour 11/18/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  How did the Paris terrorists communicate with each other and elude surveillance?  Investigators are eyeing readily available cellphone technologies that defy cracking by intelligence agencies and even the companies that created them.  Judy Woodruff takes a look at some of the encrypted apps and software being used to evade detection.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Since the Paris attacks, there’s been lots of concern in Washington and other world capitals over fears of how terrorists can communicate by going dark, namely, using an array of technologies to hide from law enforcement before and after attacks.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, investigators are still hunting for answers to how the terrorists communicated with each other and eluded surveillance.  But their eyes are on the now ubiquitous cell phone, which can send coded information using free, readily available technologies that defy cracking by intelligence agencies and even the companies that created them.

In Washington yesterday, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Richard Burr, said that very technology was probably at play in Paris.

SEN. RICHARD BURR (R), North Carolina:  Globally, we need to begin the debate on what we do on encrypted networks, because it makes us blind to communications and to the actions of potential adversaries.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  It’s called end-to-end encryption, meaning data gets encrypted or locked away with special codes on one device and is only decrypted when it reaches another.

Popular applications like WhatsApp, Apple’s iMessage, Threema and Telegram all operate this way.  Some of the encrypted apps, like Dstrux, also employ technology that makes messages disappear after they’re delivered, leaving no trace.

Terrorists conceal their work using other sites like JustPaste.it.  It is one place the Islamic State group posts messages and claims of responsibility without having to register.  The TOR browser bounces communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers, hiding both the user’s activity and location.

Terrorist groups have even created their own encrypted software specifically to evade detection by the National Security Agency.



"Do governments need access to encrypted messages to thwart terrorism?" PBS NewsHour 11/18/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  Would greater government access to messages sent through secure communication technology help intelligence agencies fight terrorism?  Judy Woodruff gets views from Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary of Homeland Security, and Kate Martin of the Center for American Progress.

WAR ON ISIS - The Battle as Seen Form the 'West'

"How should the West battle the Islamic State’s shifting strategy?" PBS NewsHour 11/16/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  The attacks in Paris have raised concern about the threat posed by the Islamic State around the world, and how to counter it.  Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff talk with William McCants, author of “The ISIS Apocalypse,” Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Hassan Hassan of Chatham House and Richard Barrett, a former British intelligence official.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  We focus now on the changing nature of the threat from the Islamic State group and how to counter it.

For that, we turn to four people with deep expertise.

Juliette Kayyem was an assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration.  She now has her own security consulting firm.  William McCants is director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic world at the Brookings Institution.  His most recent book is “The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State.”

Richard Barrett is a former director of global counterterrorism operations for the British government.  He’s a founder of the United Nations’ Counter-Terrorism Task Force.  And Hassan Hassan is a Middle East analyst at Chatham House in London.  He co-authored the book “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror.”

And we welcome you all to the program.

Will McCants, I’m going to start here in Washington with you.

What have we learned from the Islamic State group from these attacks?  What new do we know about them now?

WILLIAM MCCANTS, Brookings Institution:  Well, they seem to have shifted and taken on a strategy of global jihad.

They have always had the rhetoric of global jihadism, similar to Al Qaeda.  They have always talked about hitting the far enemy, the United States, France, and others.  But for most of their history, they have focused on state-building.  And for the past few years, they have been pretty successful at it.

But with the attacks over the past two weeks, taking down the Russian airliner, the attack in Beirut, and now in Paris, we believe that its attention has shifted abroad.



"Paris attacks bring migrant crisis, Islamic State strategy to U.S. political forefront" PBS NewsHour 11/16/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  From the campaign trail to the halls of Congress, leaders weighed in on the fallout of the Paris attacks.  Gwen Ifill speaks to Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR about how responses to the tragedy are playing out in the presidential race, calls from some lawmakers to change U.S. policy toward Syrian immigrants, as well as takeaways from the Democratic debate.



"Sanders:  Turning our backs on refugees destroys the idea of America" PBS NewsHour 11/17/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  How would Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders handle terror threats at home and abroad, in light of the Paris attacks and the shifting threat of the Islamic State?  Sanders joins Gwen Ifill to discuss his views on combating terrorism and the anti-refugee backlash in the U.S.



"Carson:  Our first responsibility is U.S. safety, not refugees" PBS NewsHour 11/17/2015

Excerpt

SUMMARY:  What’s Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s views on bringing Syrian refugees to the U.S., in light of the Paris attacks and the shifting threat of the Islamic State?  Carson joins Judy Woodruff to discuss his stance on fighting the militant group.

OPINION - Bernie Sanders

"What Is Actually Radical About Bernie Sanders’ Democratic Socialism Isn’t the Socialism" by Theo Anderson, In These Times 11/19/2015

It isn’t a particularly radical political vision—it’s an unflinching commitment to democracy.

“What you are asking for is a cultural revolution,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders to an overflow audience of students at the University of Chicago on September 28, his voice booming off the massive stone walls of the school’s Rockefeller Chapel.  He was answering a student’s question about how to translate the relatively intimate, small-scale politics of Vermont to the national level.

“I think what you’re talking about,” Sanders said, “is creating a nation— it’s pretty radical stuff—in which we actually care about each other rather than looking at the world as, ‘I’m in it for myself.  And to hell with everybody else.’”

The brouhaha over Sanders’ self-identification as a “democratic socialist” has largely missed what is truly radical about that identity.  It’s not the socialism.  Sanders has never used the “S” word with precision—for him, it seems to be simply a shorthand for robust investment in public services and the common good.

That shorthand has proved remarkably useful, allowing him to distinguish himself from liberals and most Democrats, while pointing out that much of what he calls socialism is already deeply embedded in American society in a variety of popular programs and institutions, most notably in public libraries and parks, in the Social Security and Medicare programs, and in various aspects of the military.  The ambitious agenda he has laid out would amount to “the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history,” as the Wall Street Journal has noted.  At the first Democratic debate, the former senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, used one of his few speaking opportunities to toss a pail of cold water on Sanders’ proposals.  “I don’t think the revolution’s going to come,” he said blandly, “and I don’t think the Congress is going to pay for a lot of this stuff.”

Webb was correct about the odds of Congress passing much of Sanders’s agenda for public spending.  But he was wrong to conflate that agenda with the revolution Sanders has in mind.  What makes Sanders a radical, and what constitutes the essence of his revolution, isn’t his commitment to certain spending priorities or a particular economic plan—it’s his fierce commitment to democracy.

“Change never takes place from the top down,” he told his audience at the University of Chicago.  “It always takes place from the bottom up.  It takes place when people by the millions, sometimes over decades and sometimes over centuries, determine that the status quo—the world that they see in front of them—is not the world that should be, and they come together.  And sometimes they get arrested. …  And sometimes they die in the struggle.  And what human history is about is passing that torch from generation to generation to generation.”

Though they are very different in their approaches to achieving it, Sanders shares this commitment to a radical version of democracy with Saul Alinsky, the activist and organizer who made Chicago his home and has played an outsized role in our recent national politics.  Alinsky’s book Rules for Radicals, the summary of his organizing philosophy that was published a year before his death in 1972, is particularly notorious among right-wing pundits, and he was often invoked by conservatives in the 2008 and 2012 elections as evidence of Barack Obama’s secret radicalism.  Obama was, famously, a community organizer in the 1980s for a Chicago-based organization, the Developing Communities Project, inspired by Alinsky’s strategies.  Hillary Clinton’s ties are even more direct.  She was born in Chicago and grew up in a suburb, and she wrote her thesis at Wellesley about Alinsky.  In a letter she sent him in 1971, Clinton wrote that “the more I’ve seen of places like Yale Law School and the people who haunt them, the more convinced I am that we have the serious business and joy of much work ahead.”  His ghost will no doubt be conjured once again if Clinton wins the Democratic nomination.

As with Sanders, though, Alinsky’s radicalism wasn’t a matter of the specific reforms he pushed for, which were about winning incremental and often relatively modest improvements in the lives of the poor and disenfranchised.  Rather, he was a radical and a revolutionary because he actually believed in democracy.

There are many dimensions to democracy, of course.  But for both Sanders and Alinsky, it is essentially about the distribution of power in society.  As Alinsky explained in Rules, “My aim here is to suggest how to organize for power:  how to get it and to use it.” When Sanders talks about how to end economic inequality, he’s proposing the same project.

To believe in democracy is to believe that a broadly engaged electorate, in which power is relatively equally distributed, fosters a society that works better.  “If you don’t believe in people,” Alinsky once told Chicago radio personality and author Studs Terkel in an interview, “then what you have to believe in, of necessity, is a dictatorship, an elitist society, an aristocracy.”

Few political leaders of any party would say that they doubt the wisdom of “the people.”  But the actual test of that commitment is how well our systems—educational, economic, political—prepare and empower them to contribute to “a common faith,” as the philosopher and theorist John Dewey called his vision of the democratic project.  “The foundation of democracy,” Dewey wrote, “is faith in the capacities of human nature; faith in human intelligence and in the power of pooled and cooperative experience.  It is not belief that these things are complete but that if given a show they will grow and be able to generate progressively the knowledge and wisdom needed to guide collective action.”

For those with power, the dilemma is that sharing it with the people can provoke unpleasant questions about what constitutes the common good.  One convenient solution is to use power to change the subject.  Alinsky was a radical because he—like Sanders—never allowed anyone to change the subject.

He focused relentlessly on the question of power—how it is gained and distributed—and he made concrete demands at the micro level, working for reform brick by brick and block by block.  He kept his distance from electoral politics in the belief that formal political ties and ideological commitments would only hinder his pragmatic approach to organizing.  But he grudgingly allowed that there was no choice but to work within the political system.  “We will start with the system because there is no other place to start from except political lunacy,” he wrote in Rules for Radicals.  “It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceded by reformation.”

That this strategy bore fruit is undeniable.  Alinsky achieved much for neighborhoods in Chicago that had very little, leaving a legacy that has inspired generations of organizers.  But it’s also evident, more than four decades later, that he fell far short of achieving either the reformation or the revolution that he sought.

The divide between those with and without power is starkly, shockingly visible on the South Side of Chicago, where Sanders gave his September speech.  The University of Chicago’s expansive lawns and gothic architecture are set among some of the poorest, most violent neighborhoods in the city and the nation.  On the day that Sanders delivered his speech, 14 people were shot in the city in a 15-hour period.  Six of them died, including a mother and grandmother as they stood outside, preparing to get in a car and visit relatives.

Alinsky likely would not be surprised that the revolution he sought has not been realized.  He was allergic to, and impatient with, the kind of dramatic pronouncements that define Sanders’s style.  All the talk of peace and love and cooperation among young people in the 1960s, Alinsky told Terkel, had a mystical quality that was disconnected from realities on the ground.  “You’re not asking for a revolution,” he said.  “You’re asking for a revelation.”

For all his clear-eyed realism, though, Alinsky, who was a secular Jew, did acknowledge the critical importance of a certain element of faith and hope in the quest for social justice, and his parting words in Rules sum up much of what the Sanders campaign is all about:  “We must believe that it is the darkness before the dawn of a beautiful new world; we will see it when we believe it.”

It may be that neither Alinsky’s ground-level strategy nor Sanders’ effort to build a broad, national coalition can reverse our march toward increasing inequality and the concentration of power among elites.  It may be that a political revolution of the kind that Sanders predicts is an impossible dream.

On the other hand, perhaps only a grand vision of “the world that should be” is equal to the scale of the challenges we face.  Perhaps “millions of people at every level,” as Sanders offered at the conclusion of his University of Chicago talk, can indeed come together to foster a healthy democracy, redistribute power and make the American political system work for all people.

That may require a leap of faith.  So, too, may a radical commitment to democracy.  And given the makeup of Congress and the apparent apathy of much of the electorate, there is ample reason for doubt.  But “if you believe in a free and open society,” as Alinsky once put it, “what are the alternatives?”

CONSERVATION - San Diego's Safari Park, White Rhinos


"NOLA’S DEATH HITS HOME" by KARLA PETERSON, San Diego Union-Tribune 11/23/2015

NOTE:  This is from the online newspaper, so no article link.

She was euthanized at Safari Park, her residence since 1989, leaving 3 northern white rhinos in world.

Nola, one of just four endangered northern white rhinos left in the world, died Sunday at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

The 41-year-old rhino had been under veterinary care for a bacterial infection and age-related health issues.  Her condition took a turn for the worse over the weekend, San Diego Zoo Global said in a statement.  Early Sunday morning, the Safari Park team “made the difficult decision to euthanize her.”

It is a crushing loss for the Safari Park, where Nola had lived since 1989.  The gentle 4,000-pound animal was a favorite with the staff because of her sociable personality and love of back scratches.  She was also a popular attraction for Safari Park visitors, who could always spot her because of her distinctively curved horn.

Nola’s death is also a blow to the northern white rhino sub-species.  After decades of poaching, there are just three northern white rhinos left in the world.  All three — a male and two females— live on the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.

The source of Nola’s lingering infection was recently traced to a large abscess deep in her pelvic region.  Veterinarians performed a minor surgical procedure to drain the abscess on Nov. 13, and the majority of the infected material was removed.  But her condition began rapidly deteriorating on Saturday, and the decision was made to euthanize her.

“It sounds corny, but with her, every day is a blessing,” lead keeper Jane Kennedy said last month, when she and her fellow Safari Park staff members were keeping an eye on Nola’s condition.  “I would call her a symbol of our purpose.  She truly represents what we are all dedicating our lives to.”

Nola had been caught in Sudan when she was approximately 2 years old.  She came to the Safari Park in 1989 from the Dvur Kralove Zoo in the Czech Republic as part of a breeding program.  But she and her fellow northern whites had already made a big impression on her new hosts.

“I met Nola and her group of rhinos in July of 1986, when I traveled to what was then the Czech Soviet Republic.  The Soviet army was there, and so was this group of northern white rhinos,” said Oliver Ryder, director of genetics, Kleberg Chair, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.  “The last week I was there, a baby rhino was born.  It made a big impression on me, because these enormous creatures were so gentle and so cautious and curious with this baby rhino.  I was impressed yet again that there is a depth to their lives that we don’t understand.”

The hope was that Nola would mate with Angalifu, the Safari Park’s northern white rhino male.  The mating happened, but there was never a pregnancy.  At one point, staffers sawed off the horns of Nola and fellow female, Noti, to keep them from fighting Angalifu off.  But without herd behavior to spur more frequent mating, there were never any northern white births at the Safari Park.

Two deaths since December

And then, there were fewer northern white rhinos altogether.  Noti died in 2007, and Angalifu died last December.  And in July, Nabire, a female northern white rhino living in the Dvur Kralove Zoo, died at the age of 32.

So when Nola was put on medical watch this year due to a sinus infection, the whole rhino-watching world began to worry.  In May, she began receiving treatment for an abscess on her right hip.  The life expectancy of the white rhino species, which includes northern and southern white rhinos, is 40 to 50 years.  But when Nola’s abscess and the bacterial infection that it caused came back in September, the Safari Park community was on high alert.

“It’s tough.  It’s like having your 90-year-old aunt get sick, and there is nothing you can do except give her basic care and keep her comfortable,” keeper Kennedy said last month, as she watched Nola recline in the shade of her Safari Park enclosure, with her companion southern white rhino, Chuck, nearby.  “When her abscess came back the second time, you could tell she didn’t feel good.  When her attitude sinks, ours has to jump up because we need to help her.”

For Kennedy and her fellow members of Team Nola, helping the rhino was a priority and a privilege.  And the rhino made it easy.  Due to an irregularity in her hooves, Nola needed regular nail trimmings.  The constant interactions with the keepers made her comfortable with human contact and usually a cinch to work with, despite her massive size.

She did not like being in her boma corral, and she was not at all fond of taking her many antibiotic pills.  But she loved her pedicures and her back scratches and hanging out in her 65-acre African Plains habitat with the equally sociable Chuck, who was very eager to track her whereabouts when Nola was getting her abscess drained last week.

“They are like the elderly couple who met late in life and became friends,” Kennedy said of Chuck and Nola.  “I’ve known Nola for 26 years, and she is truly, truly one of the sweetest animals I have ever worked with.”

With neither of the Ol Pejeta northern white females able to give birth naturally due to advanced age or reproductive issues, it is up to science to save the sub-species.  The San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research’s Frozen Zoo contains viable cell cultures from 12 northern white rhinos.  Genetic materials from Nola have been preserved, and the plan was always to collect her ovaries and any viable stem cells upon her death.  With the help of in-vitro fertilization, the hope is to use the recently arrived southern white rhinos living in the Safari Park’s new Rhino Rescue Center as surrogates for a hybrid rhino, which would be created with northern white sperm and southern white eggs.  San Diego Zoo Global has one of the world’s most successful rhino breeding programs.  To date, 94 southern white rhinos, 68 greater one-horned rhinos and 14 black rhinos have been born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  As the genomic research, technology and procedures become more advanced, the goal would be to create complete northern white rhino embryos, which the southern whites would carry to term.  Nola’s legacy will live on, and not just in the hearts and minds of the people who cared for her.  “The white rhinos represent the wild places and prehistoric animals that are still with us,” said Steve Metzler, interim associate curator of mammals, who accompanied the Rhino Rescue Center’s six southern whites on their 22-hour flight from Johannesburg to San Diego.  “It is devastating to think that in just a few hundred years, we can wipe that out.  That is just wrong, and we need to do something about it.”